Charismatic Chaos - Part 8
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/02/2003
The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama
City, California, By John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from the tape,
GC 90-59, titled "Charismatic Chaos" Part 8. A copy of the tape can be
obtained by writing Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.
I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the
original tape was made. Please note that at times sentence structure may
appear to vary from accepted English conventions. This is due primarily to
the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in
placing the correct punctuation in the article.
It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription
of the sermon, "Charismatic Chaos" Part 8, to strengthen and encourage the
true Church of Jesus Christ.
Charismatic Chaos - Part 8
"What was Happening in the Early Church?"
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
Tonight we are going to go back to our study of this matter of Charismatic
Chaos. The message tonight will be a bit more technical and deal more
closely with the texts of Scripture than some of ours in the past, in which
we have been assessing the movement from a somewhat theological point of
view. Tonight we want to look a little more tightly at the Book of Acts,
because the Book of Acts is basically the location for most of the
Charismatic defense of their doctrine. Experience is the foundation upon
which much of the Charismatic system is built, and it is very important to
identify that. Experience is the authority that Charismatics most frequently
cite to validate their teachings. They have an experience-centered approach
to truth that even influences the way they approach the Bible. In fact, the
Book of Acts, which is a journal of the Apostle's experiences, is where
Charismatics usually turn in search of Biblical support for what they
Now, I want you to look with me to the Book of Acts tonight; we are going to
be looking at a couple of chapters, just giving you a feel for some very key
ones, in light of the Charismatic theology. The Book of Acts is a
historical narrative, in contrast, for example, to the Epistles of the New
Testament which are didactic, or doctrinal, or instructive to the Church.
This is a chronicle. It is a story, really of the early Church experiences.
The Epistles on the other hand contain detail instructions for believers
throughout all the Church Age. So in the Epistles you have the rather
permanent instruction and doctrine for the Church. In the Book of Acts you
have a chronicle of the history of the Early Church experiences.
Historically, Christians committed to a Biblical perspective have recognized
the difference. And it is an important difference to recognize. Evangelical
theologians, through the years, have drawn the heart of their doctrine from
Bible passages intended to teach the Church. They have understood that Acts
is an inspired, historical record of the Apostolic period, not necessarily
viewing every event or every phenomena that occurs there, as normative for
the entire Church Age.
But, on the other hand, Charismatics who have an insatiable craving for
experiences and particularly for the experiences described in the Book of
Acts, have assembled a doctrinal system that views the extraordinary events
of the early Apostolic Age as necessary and continuing hallmarks of the Holy
Spirit's work. They view the Book of Acts as normative, or what should be
normative for all Christians in all ages. They see the workings of the Holy
Spirit in the Book of Acts as tokens of spiritual power that are to be
routinely expected by all Christians living in all times. Now, that is a
rather serious interpretive error. In fact, it undermines the Charismatic's
comprehension of Scripture. It muddies several key Biblical issues, crucial
to a right understanding of Scriptural doctrine.
Gordon Fee, a writer, who himself is a Charismatic, commented on the
hermeneutical difficulties posed by the way Charismatics typically approach
the Book of Acts, with these words, and I quote,
If the primitive church is normative, which expression of it is
normative? Jerusalem? Antioch? Philippi? Corinth? That is,
why do not all the churches sell their possessions and have all
things in common? Or further, is it at all legitimate to take
any descriptive statements as normative? If so, how does one
distinguish those which are from those which are not? For
example, must we follow the pattern of Acts 1:26 and select
leaders by lot? Just exactly what role does historical
precedent play in Christian doctrine or in the understanding of
Now, he introduces a very important point. If we are going to take the Book
of Acts as normative, then we must take the Book of Acts in its total as
normative, and we are going to have some immensely difficult issues to deal
with. The fact of the matter is, that Acts was never intended to be the
primary basis for teaching doctrine to the Church. The Book of Acts records
only the earliest days of the Church Age and shows the Church in tradition,
coming out of the old age into the new, coming out, as it were, of the Old
Testament into the New Testament. The apostolic healings, and miracles, and
signs, and wonders evident in the Book of Acts were not even common to all
believers even in those days, but were uniquely restricted to the Apostles
and those who worked alongside of them. They were exceptional events, each
with specific purposes and always associated with the ministry of the
Apostles; and their frequency can be seen decreasing dramatically even from
the beginning of the Book of Acts to the end.
It seems as though, at the opening of the Book of Acts, there is a flurry of
the miraculous, and towards the end it's absent. The Book of Acts was
written by Luke, the physician, as you know. Acts covers a crucial period
that started with the Church at Pentecost and ended about 30 years later with
Paul in prison, following his third missionary journey. Transitions are seen
from beginning to end in the Book of Acts. Changes come in almost every
chapter as the old covenant fades away and the New Covenant comes in all its
fullness. Even the Apostle Paul was caught in some of those changes, which
can be witnessed as you look into chapter 18 of Acts and chapter 21, and see
him, although he is fully under the New Covenant, still exhibiting ties to
the old, as indicated by his taking certain Jewish vows which were prescribed
in the Old Testament.
In the Book of Acts we are in a transition which moved from the Synagogue to
the Church. We are in a transition which moves away from an order of law
into an order of grace. The Church is transformed from a group of Jewish
believers to a body made up of Jews and Gentiles united in Christ. Believers
at the beginning of Acts were related to God under an old pattern. By the
end, all believers were in Christ, living under a new pattern, indwelt by the
Holy Spirit, in a new and unique relationship.
Acts, therefore, covers an extraordinary time in history. A time of
transition from the old to the new. And the transition it records, listen
carefully, is never to be repeated. There is only one time frame in which
you move from the old to the new, that history does not come again. It never
will come again, and those elements that are true of that transition are not
repeatable, for the transition itself needs no repetition. Therefore, we
must say, the only teachings in the Book of Acts which can be called
normative for the Church are those that are explicitly taught elsewhere in
Now, as you look at the Book of Acts from the Charismatic viewpoint, looking
at it as it were through their eyes, the major theological distinction of
that movement has to be supported in the Book of Acts, and they think they can
do it. It is what I would call the doctrine of Subsequence. That's a term
that others have used. The doctrine of Subsequence. What that basically
means is, that you get saved and sometimes subsequent to that, some later
date, hopefully, you get the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. That is primarily
the distinctive doctrine of Pentecostal Charismatic theology; that when
you're saved you receive the Lord Jesus Christ, you are redeemed: at some
later time you get the Baptism of the Holy Spirit--subsequent to that saving
They will also say, secondly, that it is often, some of them will say,
always, associated with speaking in tongues. Old line traditional
Pentecostalism for the most part said, "The Baptism of the Spirit is
subsequent to salvation and is always identified by speaking in tongues,"
some will say, "Often identified by speaking in tongues." The third
component is that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit often manifests, or always
manifests by speaking in tongues, is something to be earnestly, zealously,
and passionately sought for. Now, that is really the essence of the
distinctive kind of Charismatic doctrine that so many of us are familiar
They go to the Book of Acts to endeavor to prove this Subsequence doctrine,
this tongues as an attendant proof of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and for
some strange reason to even verify the seeking after the gift or the Baptism.
The doctrine of Subsequence [which says] that there is for Christians, a
baptism in the Spirit, distinct from and subsequent to the experience of
salvation, and that that is somehow associated with the matter of tongues, is
at the very heart of their theology. And so we must be able to deal with
this and I want us to do that tonight because we are really cutting into
the very core of what they historically have taught.
In his rather thorough investigation of Pentecostal theology, Frederick Dale
Bruner wrote, "Pentecostals believe that the Spirit has baptized every
believer into Christ's conversion, but that Christ has not baptized every
believer into the Spirit Pentecost." Not only do most Charismatics believe
that the Baptism of the Spirit happens at some point after salvation, but
that it only happens to those who seek after it diligently, passionately, and
zealously. And then as I said, when it does come it is usually, if not
always attended by speaking in tongues. Now, they are very definitive, may I
say, about this doctrine. May I also say, they are very vague about most
other doctrines. In most other areas of theology they are vague, but in this
one they usually speak a clear word regarding what they believe.
Now, some of them attempt to support their doctrine of Subsequence from the
Book of Acts because they really can't go anywhere else. Some of them don't
attempt to support it at all: they just say it's true. But the ones who
attempt to support it have to go to the Book of Acts because there is no
where else to go. Let me show you why. Maybe you say, "They ought to go the
First Corinthians, doesn't that talk about the Holy Spirit and Tongues?" It
does. Open your Bibles for a moment to 1Corinthians, chapter 12, and let's
see how well they would fare with that doctrine in 1Corinthians 12.
1Corinthians 12, verse 13 says, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into
one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all
made to drink of one Spirit." Now, there you have the Holy Spirit as an
agent in baptism, there you have the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, but you
have absolutely nothing about Subsequence. You have absolutely nothing about
tongues, and you have absolutely nothing about seeking. It is a fact that is
stated. There is no indication that it is subsequent to salvation; in fact,
the very statement that it has happened to all of us, indicates that it is
concurrent with salvation. It cannot take place at some point after
salvation or Paul couldn't say it was true of all Christians--but he does!
You say, "Well, maybe they ought to go 1Corinthians, chapter 14, doesn't that
talk about tongues? And doesn't that talk about the Holy Spirit?" Yes, but
if you go to 1Corinthians 14, you are not going to find any Subsequence
there. You are not going to find any discussion of the Baptism of the
Spirit. You are not going to find any connection of tongues with the Baptism
of the Holy Spirit, and you are not going to find any authorization to seek
after tongues or to seek after the baptism. So you can't find any of that in
1Corinthians 12 or 14, and if you have exhausted that section there isn't
anything else in the New Testament that mentions tongues, except Acts. So
they are stuck with Acts, even though the clear teaching of 1Corinthians 12
is that every believer has been baptized by the agency of the Holy Spirit,
Christ using the Spirit to place the believer into the Body, and that occurs
at salvation and it is true of every Christian. There is no connection to
tongues and it isn't something you seek for, it's something that god does for
you at your salvation.
And so they are left with no where to go but Acts. And so they violate the
nature of the Book of Acts, which is a historical record of the Early Church
and the unique transitional apostolic period, and make it normative for
everybody, because that is the only place they can go to defend their unique
theology. Now, when you go into the Book of Acts, and I want you to go there
with me, Acts, chapter 2 to start with, when you go to the Book of Acts,
you go to four chapters, chapter 2, chapter 8, chapter 10, and chapter 19.
Obviously, we can't cover all of that, that would be an absolute
impossibility; but those are the places that they go to support their view,
and I want to give you a little bit of a feeling for this because you need to
be able to understand and grasp this.
The truth of the matter is, that even the Book of Acts fails to support this
Charismatic theology of Subsequence, proof by Tongues and the need to seek.
For example, they want to go to Acts 2, 8, 10, 19, because those record four
different occasions in which the Holy Spirit came. In some of those
occasions there is Tongues. In some of those occasions there is the coming
of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation. But those four occasions are not
uniform. The first one describes the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of
Pentecost, the second one the coming of the Holy Spirit to the new group of
believers in Samaria, the third one, Acts 10, the coming of the Holy Spirit
to the Gentile converts, Cornelius and his house. The fourth one, chapter
19, the coming of the Holy Spirit to some hangover disciples of John the
Baptist, who were still living under an Old Testament economy, because they
didn't know the gospel yet; somehow it had missed them.
All four of these groups have unique experiences of receiving the Holy
Spirit, but their experiences are different. For example, in Acts, chapter
2, and Acts, chapter 8, believers do receive the Holy Spirit after salvation.
In Acts, chapter 10, and chapter 19, believers received the Holy Spirit at
the moment of salvation, so they are not in agreement on that issue. The
doctrine of Subsequence then cannot be convincingly defended even from the
Book of Acts, because it isn't consistent. You say, "What about Tongues?"
In chapter 2, chapter 10, and chapter 19, tongues are mentioned, but in
chapter 8, they are not. So you can't even find anything that is normative
at that point, at least that is written in Scripture. You say, "Well, what
about seeking after it?" The believers in Acts 2, they say, were in the
Upper Room seeking the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. There is no seeking in
chapter 8, there is no seeking in chapter 10, and there is no seeking in
chapter 19. The truth of the matter is, there is no seeking in chapter 2
either; they were in the Upper Room doing nothing but patiently waiting. It
doesn't tell us that they were seeking; no seeking is mentioned.
Now the point is clear. To say that the Book of Acts presents a normal
pattern for receiving the Holy Spirit attended by Tongues and for seeking
that, presents a major problem because these separate accounts of four
different groups who received the Holy Spirit are all different. So if you
are going to make the Book of Acts normative, which group is the normative
group? It is true that Christians at Pentecost, in Acts 2, and that Gentiles
in Cornelius' household, in chapter 10, and the Jews at Ephesus who had only
the Baptism of John, did receive the Holy Spirit and Tongues or languages
followed, but because those three events occurred doesn't mean that they are
to be the standard for every other Christian.
In fact, none of these passages, 2, 8, 10, or 19, give any indication that
they are to be the norm for all believers for all time. In fact, there is
plenty of indication that they are not. If Tongues were to be the normal
experience then why aren't they mentioned in chapter 8, when the Samaritans
received the Holy Spirit? And why does the text of Acts 2 not say that
everyone who believed, following Peter's sermon, and received the Holy
Spirit, spoke in Tongues? Do you remember when Peter preached on the day of
Pentecost? Three thousand people believed; it says in Acts 2:38 that they
received the Holy Spirit. Remember that? Why didn't they speak in tongues?
In order for something to be normative, it has to be common to everybody.
And if the Holy Spirit wanted to say that Tongues was a normative attendant
to the coming of the Holy Spirit, the normative time for it to happen would
have been among the 3,000 that were converted. Right?
John Stott reasons,
The 3,000 do not seem to have experienced the same miraculous
phenomena, the rushing mighty wind, the tongues of flame, or the
speech in foreign languages; at least nothing is said about
these things. Yet because of God's assurance through Peter, they
must have inherited the same promise and received the same gift,
that is, the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, there was this
difference between them: the 129 were regenerate already and
received the Baptism of the Spirit only after the waiting upon
God for 10 days; the 3,000 on the other hand were unbelievers,
received the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit
simultaneously, and it happened immediately--they repented and
believed without any need to wait at all.
This distinction between the two companies, the 120 and the
3,000, is of great importance for the norm for today must
surely be the second group, the three thousand, and not as is
often supposed, the first group. The fact that the experience
of the 120 was in two distinct stages was due simply to
historical circumstances; they could not have received the
Pentecostal gift before Pentecost. But those historical
circumstances have long since ceased to exist. We live after
the event of Pentecost, like the 3,000 did. With us therefore,
as with them, the forgiveness of sins and the gift or Baptism of
the Spirit, are received together.
Without question, Acts 2 is a key passage from which Pentecostals and
Charismatics develop their theology of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and it
would be worth our while to just look briefly at it. Look at the first four
verses of Acts 2,
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in
one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a
violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they
were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire
distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak
with other tongues (or languages) as the Spirit was giving them
Now, that describes what happened on the day of Pentecost. As noted before,
the Pentecostals and Charismatics say that is the doctrine of Subsequence.
Look, these people were already believers. They had already
been saved. And so they were saved first, at some earlier time,
and here they are sitting around waiting for the Holy Spirit.
But the obvious answer to that is, "Well, of course, because the Holy Spirit
hasn't yet come at all, and doesn't come until the day of Pentecost."
Certainly there is subsequence here, and certainly we would agree with the
Pentecostal theology that they had experienced salvation. I mean, you can go
all the way back into Luke 10:20, where Jesus tells His apostles to,
"Rejoice, that your names are recorded in heaven." You can go back to John
15:3, where Jesus says to the same apostles, "You are already clean because
of the Word which I have spoken to you," so He affirms that they have a right
relationship to God. We could call them saved. And so people say, "Well,
they were saved way back then, and see, the Holy Spirit comes later!" But,
how much insight do you have to have to realize that, of course it's
subsequent to their salvation because they were really saved prior to the
arrival of the Holy Spirit! Once the Holy Spirit came, there is no need for
a waiting for Him to come again, because He already comes to indwell His
Church on the day of Pentecost, and from then on continually indwells His
Church from the moment of salvation forward.
Most Charismatics would even go a step further. They would suggest that not
only were the disciples saved before the day of Pentecost, but watch this,
that the disciples also received the Holy Spirit before the day of Pentecost.
But they just got a little bit of Him. You need to remember this, if you
confront a Charismatic sometime and you say, "You don't believe that when
you're saved you received the Holy Spirit." They will say, "Yes, we do. Oh,
yes we do." And it's true they do. They believe that you receive the Spirit
in some small measure, but the Baptism of the Spirit is an explosion of the
Spirit's power in fullness that comes into your life. So you don't want to
accuse Charismatics of denying that a Christian has the Holy Spirit. They
would say that you have the Holy Spirit in a limited way, but you don't have
the fullness of the Spirit and the power of the Spirit. They would go back,
for example, to John, chapter 20. And in John 20, verses 21 and 22, Jesus
looks at His disciples, and the Scripture says "Jesus breathed on them, and
said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit." Wow! That's interesting.
Way back in John 20, He's saying that to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit,"
that's before the Holy Spirit is even sent on the day of Pentecost. And
according to standard Charismatic interpretation of that text, they say,
"Jesus then, was giving them the Holy Spirit, in a limited way. They had to
wait for the higher level explosion of the Baptism of the Spirit that gave
them their real power." We have to ask the question, "Is that really
correct?" When in John 20:21-22, Jesus said, "Receive the Holy Spirit," was
that a statement of fact? If you look very carefully at that text, the
Charismatic view doesn't really hold up under scrutiny. The passage doesn't
say the disciple actually received the Holy Spirit, it doesn't say that. It
simply said that Jesus blew on them, a graphic sort of an illustration, and
said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." We would have to conclude that it was a
pledge, that it was a promise that wasn't fulfilled until the day of
Pentecost. In fact, all you have to do is look at them to know that they
hadn't received the Holy Spirit. Ensuing statements in John 20 seem to
confirm the disciples didn't receive the Spirit in the Upper Room, because
eight days later, [when] He came to where they were, they were hiding. They
were full of fear, they were in a locked room. This is more than a week
after He breathed on them, and more than a week after He promised them, and
they hadn't gone any where or done anything that would manifest the Spirit's
The strongest arguments, however, appear in the early verses in the Book of
Acts. Verse 4,
Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave
Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised,
"Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; for John baptized with
water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many
days from now."
Jesus said it hasn't happen yet, it's been promised, but it hasn't happened.
It's yet to come. That goes all the way back to John 14:16, where Jesus
said, "I will ask the father, and He will give you another Helper, that he
may be with you." They are still waiting. He gave them the promise when He
breathed on them, but it hasn't yet been fulfilled. Acts 1:8, "You shall
receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." Which means, He
hasn't come yet. If the Spirit had come upon them in John 20, He wouldn't
have said, "He hasn't come yet."
Two other passages demonstrate very clearly that the Holy Spirit wasn't come
until the day of Pentecost, John 7:39, listen to what Jesus said, "This He
spoke of the Spirit," you know when He said, "out of you bellies shall flow
rivers of living water." "This He spoke of the Spirit," writes John, "whom
those who believed in Him were to receive," but listen to this, "for the
Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet," what? "glorified" (that
means ascended). That passage explicitly states that the Spirit would not
come until Jesus had been glorified, and He wouldn't be glorified until He
ascended into heaven. So until Jesus ascended there in Acts 1, went into
heaven and sent the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit had not
In John 16:7, Jesus told the disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is to your
advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come
to you; but if I go, I will send Him." The same thing, He's not coming until
I get there. So the Holy Spirit had not come, they did not receive a little
bit of the Holy Spirit, only later to get an explosion. They didn't receive
any of the indwelling of the Spirit of God until the day of Pentecost. At
that point the Spirit of God took up residence in them and they were baptized
by Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit into the body. So we are at
a transition period, an obvious transition period between the old economy and
the new. And these apostles are caught right in that transition with the
others who made up the 120.
Now, what about the Charismatic idea that the Holy Spirit is to be sought,
eagerly sought? We have no indication in the Upper Room that anybody was
seeking anything. There is no evidence that they were pleading or seeking
anything; they were just waiting. Nor is there any indication throughout the
entire Book of Acts that anybody was seeking after some baptizing work of
the Holy Spirit. There is not one incident, not one incident, even where the
phenomena of the coming of the Spirit and tongues occurs that indicates that
anybody in the Early Church ever sought such an experience. Not one. This
must effect somehow the Pentecostal doctrine!
When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost a new order was established and
since that time the Holy Spirit comes to every believer at the moment of
faith and indwells that believer in a permanent, abiding relationship.
That's why Romans 8:9 says, "If anyone doesn't have the Spirit of Christ, he
does not belong to Him." Conversely, if you belong to Christ, you have the
Holy Spirit. Paul even says to the Corinthians, who were so fouled up,
"What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which you
have of God, and you are not your own? You have been bought with a price,"
chapter 6. We have all been made to drink of the same Spirit--every
So, what you have in Acts 2 then, is the initial reception of the Holy
Spirit. The disciples were baptized by the Spirit accompanied by a sound
from heaven like a mighty rushing wind, cloven tongues as of fire, rested on
each of them. At that point, they being filled with the Spirit, began to
speak in other languages. The miraculous ability to speak the languages of
the people who gathered for Pentecost, to declare to them the wonderful works
of God, had a definite purpose: it was to be a sign of judgment on
unbelieving Israel. It was and unfolded to be, a sign of inclusion of the
other groups into the one Church, and we will see that in a moment, and it
confirmed the Apostles' spiritual authority. It had a very distinct purpose.
First of all, as I said, it was a sign to unbelieving Israel. Do you
remember that the prophet Isaiah had said, "If you don't listen to God when
He speaks a language you can understand, the day is going to come when he
speaks a language that you can't understand." That's a judgment. And when
they began to speak languages that were foreign to the dwellers of Jerusalem,
God was saying that it has come; the time has come. You have committed the
ultimate atrocity in the crucifixion of the Messiah; you didn't listen when I
spoke in your language; now, here's a language you won't understand. And
this was an indication of God's judgment about to fall on them as a nation,
which judgment fell in no small way in 70 A.D. Also, this unique gift of
tongues acted as a verification sign of the legitimacy of each new group
that was added to the one Body of Christ, as we shall see.
And so it had some very specific and wonderful purpose. It was a unique
wonder associated with Pentecost. Pentecost is not repeatable, and so
neither is the necessity of such a sign, except on very rare and unique
occasions also recorded in the Book of Acts. By the way, an interesting
footnote, in 1976, Pentecostals held a world conference in Jerusalem. A
world congress in Jerusalem, and I am quoting the program, "To celebrate the
ongoing miracle of Pentecost." Delegates came from all over the world and
had to use interpreters and headphones! Now, just think that one through:
so they could understand in their own language! That is not the ongoing
miracle of Pentecost.
Now, let's go to chapter 8, and see what happens in Acts, chapter 8, and why
that's important. They use this as a proof text. It discusses the
persecution of the Church in the early part of the chapter, and the
scattering of the disciples out of Jerusalem throughout Judea and Samaria.
Now, the result comes down in verse 14; they go into Samaria, receive the
Word of God; they believe. And you remember there was a choice preacher in
Samaria. Who was he? Philip. "And when the word came back to the Apostles
in Jerusalem," verse 14, "that Samaria had received the Word of God, they
sent them Peter and John." They are going to send the Apostles to find out
about this. "They came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the
Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply
been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their
hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit."
You say, "Now wait a minute, this proves their point, there is Subsequence
here." Yes, I didn't say there wasn't; there is Subsequence in chapter 2,
there is Subsequence in chapter 8, there just isn't any in chapter 10 or
chapter 19, so it's not normative; but here it has a very distinct purpose.
The Charismatics would say, "See, here's Subsequence. They had been
baptized, they had been saved, and later on they get the Holy Spirit. They
were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but they hadn't received the
Holy Spirit. That proves the point." It does not. There is a reason for
this, let me tell you what it is.
The Jews hated the Samaritans. Would you understand that to be true from you
knowledge of New Testament times? A Samaritan was a "half-breed." A
Samaritan was a Jew who thought so little of being Jewish that he
intermarried with the Gentile, and polluted, from the Jewish viewpoint, his
race, his racial identity. Samaritans were hated. It is said that Jews
traveling from the south to the north would go clear around Samaria just so
they wouldn't have to walk through it and pollute themselves by being there.
That's what made it so unique when it says in Scripture that, "Jesus must
needs to go through Samaria," Jews didn't do that. They looked down on
Samaritans. And the reason for this little interval between the Samaritan
salvation and the coming of the Spirit was in order that the Apostles might
Why? So that the Apostles would see the Samaritans had been saved, and that
they would see that the Spirit of God came upon them. Now it is possible
that they spoke in tongues and it is not recorded here. It is possible that
there were other phenomena that occurred which made it manifest to the
Apostles that they were indeed receiving the Holy Spirit. The point is, God
didn't want those Samaritans receiving the Holy Spirit until two Jewish
Apostles were there, because if the Samaritans had their own little private
Pentecost, it would be very hard for the Jews to accept them as one in the
same body and the same Church, the hatred of the Jews towards them being so
great. If the Samaritans had received the Holy Spirit at the moment of
salvation without any supernatural sign or fanfare, without the visible
presence of the Apostles to mark it and see it and note it and report it;
if it had been purely a Samaritan event, the Church born at Pentecost of the
Jews would never have accepted it as bonafide, or with great difficulty done
that. If the Samaritans would have started their own Christian group, the
age old rivalry and hatred could have been perpetuated with the Jewish Church
competing against a Samaritan Church.
And so God waited until the Jewish Apostles, the most significant ones, Peter
and John showed up, and then he demonstrated that these had truly been
converted, and they were being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the same body
as the Jews were in; the same Body of Christ, the same Church. It was also
important that the Apostles be present so that the Samaritans would
understand the power and authority of the Apostles, for they needed to be
subject to the Apostles' doctrine.
Now, because of all of these matters in the transition, there was
Subsequence, and there was an interval between the time they received Christ
under the ministry of Philip, and the time they received the Holy Spirit when
the Apostles could be there, because the crucial transition going on in the
Early Church was so essential to Church unity and Apostolic teaching and
authority. The amazing thing, first of all, was a revival among the
Samaritans, and even more amazing, these outcast "half-breeds" received the
same Holy Spirit we have and were placed into the same Body, and now we have
to love them and accept them as brothers and sisters. That's why the Holy
Spirit delayed that. It was an audio-visual lesson, if you will, that the
middle wall of partition that Paul talks about in Ephesians 2 was broken
I say there must have been some powerful demonstration, I don't know what it
was; otherwise Simon wouldn't have come along and tried to buy the power. So
when the Holy Spirit came upon them there must have been some visible
manifestation of that and it could well have been similar to what occurred on
the day of Pentecost; that would make sense. What was really crucial though,
was that everybody understand that there weren't two churches, there was just
one--both had received the same thing.
Now go to chapter 10. Chapter 10 takes us the next step in the unfolding of
the Book of Acts. It starts in Jerusalem and goes to Samaria, and then it
begins to move out to the uttermost part of the world. And now we meet the
first Gentile convert in Acts chapter 10. And you know the wonderful story
about Cornelius. God gives a vision to Peter. Tells him that I am no
respecter of persons. And after the vision, three men came to the house
where Peter was staying and explained that they had been sent by Cornelius,
this Gentile, and that Peter was supposed to go and teach Cornelius about
God. Now, Peter had just had a vision, in which God had set him up for this.
Peter swallowed his Jewish prejudice, which already had been dented severely
by Samaritan conversions. And now he agrees to accompany these Gentiles back
to Caesarea, where Cornelius lived.
Now, you've got to understand, that for a Jew to get near a Gentile is a
serious thing. They didn't ever want to eat a meal cooked by a Gentile; they
didn't want to eat with a utensil touched by a Gentile; they didn't go into a
Gentile house; they didn't even want Gentile dust on their feet: when they
came back into Jerusalem they shook the dust off of their feet so they
wouldn't carry Gentile dirt into the Holy Land. They looked down on
Peter goes there. It says, "The Holy Spirit," verse 44, "fell on all those
who were listening to the message. And all the circumcised believers who had
come with peter were amazed." They couldn't believe it! What's happening?
Gentiles are getting the Holy Spirit! And they said, "The gift of the Holy
Spirit is being poured out on Gentiles also." You know, they are kind of
like Jonah; they were looking for somewhere where they can cry. "For they
were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. And then Peter
answered," I love this answer, "Well, surely no one can refuse the water for
these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can
he?" It's almost like he said, "I wish there was some way out of this guys,
but there isn't. It has happened. It's tough to swallow, but it has
happened." "And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ."
Would you please notice here that there is no subsequence. They were saved;
the Spirit came; they were placed in the Body. There is no Subsequence here,
but again they received the Holy Spirit attendant with tongues. Why? So
that Peter, and John, and all the circumcised (that's all the Jewish
Christians) would know that the Gentiles got the same thing the Samaritans
got, and the Samaritans got the same thing we got. Guess what? We are all
what? We are all one. We are all one. Gentiles are now a part of the Body
Peter, I love it, in chapter 11, Peter goes back to give his report. It's
almost comical. He goes back to give his report. Here's his report, verse
15, he says,
Well, as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just
as He did upon us at the beginning! Can you believe that? The
same thing. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used
to say, "John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized
with the Holy Spirit." If God therefore gave to them the same
gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus
Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?
And you can know why he said that, as soon as he said "they got the same
thing we got," somebody on the council would have said, "Well, why didn't you
stop them? Peter, how could you let it happen?" And Peter said, "I couldn't
stop it, I couldn't stop it! It just happened. I'm sorry fellows, God was
doing it, I couldn't stop it." Shocked as they were they couldn't deny what
happened. They held their peace, they glorified God, they acknowledged that
God had graciously granted life and salvation to the Gentiles. Verse 18,
"When they heard it, they quieted down," and you know it that there was noise
going on in there, "and they glorified God, saying, 'Well then, God has
granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life."
God made sure that the Apostles were there to see it, the Jewish Apostles.
God made sure the Spirit came. God made sure the tongues were there, so
nobody would think it was any different than Pentecost, so that everybody
would understand: "Jew, Gentile, Samaritan--one in Christ." But these
Gentiles received the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion, they were
baptized with the Spirit of God at that very moment. Then they spoke with
tongues to prove that there was no difference, they were part of the Church,
and there is no Subsequence here at all. None whatsoever. The norm then,
from here on out, is that at the time of salvation, the reception of the
Spirit comes at the same time.
Now, there is one final group in the Book of Acts, chapter 19, we can briefly
look at this group. This is a fascinating group. These are just some loose
people roaming around, who somehow missed the whole deal that was going on.
This is another group in transition. It is a fascinating group. Verse one,
"And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed
through the upper country came to Ephesus, and he found some disciples."
Here's some people around Ephesus. "He said to them, 'Did you receive the
Holy Spirit when you believed?' And they said to him, 'No, we have not even
heard whether there is a Holy Spirit. What are you talking about?' 'Well,
into what then were you baptized?' And they said, 'Into John's baptism.'"
Oh, we know who they are. They were, when John the Baptist was preaching in
the wilderness, baptized by him in preparation for the Messiah. But they
didn't have television, radio, newspapers--they hadn't heard that the Messiah
came and went! "We were baptized into John's baptism, and Paul said, 'Well,
John baptized with the baptism of repentance, (you know, turning from your
sins) telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is,
in Jesus.' And when they heard this, (and by the way, a lot more, they got
the whole gospel) they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when
Paul laid hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began
speaking with tongues and prophesying. And there were in all about twelve
Fascinating, fascinating; just a loose group of Old Testament Saints roaming
around waiting for the Messiah to arrive, and He had come and gone and they
didn't know about it. Now they weren't seeking the Holy Spirit, they weren't
seeking the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I will tell you something else--they
weren't even saved, in New Testament terms. "They said, 'We don't even know
anything about a Holy Spirit.'" They certainly knew there was a Holy Spirit,
but what they were saying was, "We didn't know about His coming, we don't
know what you're talking about." They hadn't even heard about this, because
they didn't even know about Jesus Christ. And Paul began to probe and he
realized they were disciples of John the Baptist, not Jesus Christ. Old
Testament people, Old Testament Saints in transition, still hanging on,
looking for the Messiah, twenty years after John the Baptist had died. He
says, "You're to be commended," Paul does, "You know, I mean, you're to be
commended. You repented as John taught, but now you have got to go the next
step, and that is, you have got to receive the One that John predicted was
He spoke about Christ. By the way, he didn't speak about the Holy Spirit, He
spoke about Christ. They received Christ and God gave them the Holy Spirit.
You don't seek the Holy Spirit, you seek Christ and He gives you the Holy
Spirit. Paul wasn't trying to teach them how to get to a second level.
There is no Subsequence here. What was missing from them was not information
about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, as some Charismatics would want us to
believe. What was missing was information about Jesus Christ. When they
believed they were immediately baptized. Paul laid his hands on them, making
an apostolic identification with them: they received tongues. Why? So they
would also be included as sort of the last group. You had Jews, you had
Gentiles, Samaritans, and even had a group of Old Testament "Hangover
Saints," and they were all in one Church.
You might even say that the whole theme of the Book of Acts, is to show how
Jesus' prayer in John 17 was answered. Remember His prayer in John 17?
Jesus prayed, "Father, that they may be one, even as Thou Father, art in Me,
and I in Thee, that they may also be one in Us." That was His prayer and I
really believe that you see in the Book of Acts the answer to that prayer
as the Lord puts the Church together, baptizing by the Spirit into the Body,
Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, and these wonderful Old Testament Saints. That
brought everybody together.
Now these events, beloved, are not to be the Church's pattern as a whole. As
I said a long time ago, there is no specific pattern in any one case that is
airtight. They don't reflect to normal experience of Christians today. Get
this: they don't even reflect to normal experience of Christians in the Early
Church. After the few who had that experience on the day of Pentecost, and
the few in Samaria, and the household of Cornelius, and this small group of
twelve people, we don't know about any other believers who had that same
experience, even during the Book of Acts! And Paul goes many places. And
Peter and John went many places, and we don't see the pattern of this being
repeated over and over and over again. You can't make the tragic mistake of
teaching the experience of the Apostles, but rather you must experience the
teaching of the Apostles. Acts reveals a new era, a new epoch, a new age,
and not what is to be the constant pattern for every Christian throughout
Are we supposed to seek the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? No, Simon tried
that. He wanted the power; he wanted to buy it. Still people do that, they
want the power; they want to buy it. We are not to seek it. Charismatics
seem always out for more, and Paul was always insisting that Christ was
enough, wasn't he? Any doctrine that adds something to Christ, as some
Charismatics seem to desire, stands self-condemned. Michael Green wrote,
The Charismatics were always out for power. They were elated by
spiritual power and were always seeking shortcuts to power.
It's the same today. Paul's reply is to boast, not of his power,
but of his weakness through which alone the power of Christ
could shine. Paul knew all about the marks of an Apostle and
Signs and Wonders and mighty deeds, but he knew that the power
of an Apostle or of any other Christian came from the patient
endurance of suffering such as he had, with his thorn in the
flesh, or the patient endurance of reviling and hardship, such
as he was subjected to in the course of his missionary work.
The Charismatics had a theology of the resurrection and its
power; they needed to learn afresh the secret of the Cross and
its shame, which yet produced the power of God. The
Charismatics were always out for evidence. That's why tongues,
and healings, and miracles are so highly esteemed among them,
but Paul knows that we walk by faith while we are in this life,
not by sight. There are many times when God calls upon us to
trust Him in the dark, without any supporting evidence.
Charismatics today, of course, share those same shortcomings that Michael
Green points out. The thirst for something more, the quest for greater
power, the desire to see evidences as familiar today as in the apostolic
time. They are more compatible, by the way, I think, with the spirit of
Simon, than they are with the Spirit of God. Instead of seeking for power
and miraculous evidences and the repetition of the unique events of a
transitional apostolic era, all Christians, Charismatics and non-Charismatics
should seek to know Christ, the fellowship of His suffering, the conformity
to His death, because that is what releases resurrection power that is
already resident in the indwelling Holy Spirit.
I just want to say this; I don't want to be misunderstood. I don't for one
moment disregard the fact that the Spirit of God can, while indwelling the
believer, uniquely fill, empower, direct, lead, and touch the Christian. I
don't want to use my own experience as a basis for that, but I am very
confident by reading the New Testament that the resident Spirit of God, who
lives within you, longs to fill your life, Ephesians 5:18. And what that
tells me is though you have the Holy Spirit, you may not be experiencing the
fullness of His power. And there are those times in our Christian
experience, when by our obedience and by the Word of Christ dwelling in us
richly, and by our yieldingness to the way of God, the Spirit of God's power
is released, and we feel the unique touch of His power in our ministry, in
our witness, and in our lives. And we seek those times. They are not
mystically apprehended. They come as we yield ourselves to Him and He works
His sovereign way with us.
And so I don't want to be misunderstood, as if to say, that the Spirit places
you into the Body of Christ, as it were, at the moment of your salvation and
then just hangs around to watch what's going on. He doesn't. He's active in
ministering in marvelous and thrilling ways, enabling and ennobling you to do
those things which otherwise would be impossible: gain victory over your
flesh and accomplish the purpose of God through ministry. And so we seek the
full expression of the Spirit of God in the life of every believer. We are
not seeking Him; we are seeking to know His fullness as we yield ourselves to
Well, I hope that helps you to get a grip on a very important issue. There
is more that I could say--time is gone. Let's bow in a word of prayer.
Father, thank you for the clarity, with which the Word of God yields its
truth; that if we simply read it and look openly and honestly at it, it will
show us the truth. Father, we do pray for dear brothers and sisters who get
caught up in wrong theology. And the great tragedy of it is twofold. One,
they therefore, cannot glorify you for what you are truly doing; and
secondly, they cut themselves off from the genuine means of sanctification,
and so they forfeit the true power.
Father, how deceptive this process is, of operating under illusions about how
you work, about your truth, and about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. How
dishonoring to you and debilitating to the believer, to so live and to try to
order his Christian experience. We pray Lord that you will give us clarity
of mind, that you will help us to discern your truth and walk in it, for your
glory, in the Savior's Name. Amen.
Transcribed by Tony Capoccia of
Bible Bulletin Board
Columbus, NJ 08022
....online since 1986
Sysop/Webmaster: Tony Capoccia
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