…and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” – Acts 19:2 NIV
Please click on the link above to download the full text of this Ministration.
The Apostle Paul during his third Missionary journey had arrived Ephesus where he met some disciples and asked them the two major questions that every Christian should be asked or ask themselves, to assure themselves of their state of their Christian belief.
1. He asked them the first question which was to know whether they received the Holy Spirit when they believed – Acts 19:2. Same question is being asked of anyone reading or listening to this devotion today which is: Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
2. The second question in his case was a follow up to the response that he got from the first question which was to know which baptism they got – Acts 19:3. To today’s Christian, the question will be two-pronged:
a. Did you receive any baptism?
b. If yes, which baptism did you receive?
For the Apostle Paul to ask those questions, he must have noticed somethings that seem to be lacking in amongst or in the lives of the brethren in Ephesus and there is no doubt that such may just be the case amongst or in the lives of Christians today.
The absence of the activities of the Holy Spirit and/or lack of consciousness of its activities is very obvious amongst so many Christian groups today. At best, what is recognised and almost adored are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, with those having them being treated like some gods. There is no doubt that most Christians need to be brought to speed on the critical role the Holy Spirit has to play in the development of the Christian nay the Church. It is not too much of an effort to identify a Christian group that has no special and deserved recognition for the Holy Spirit as the fruit of the Spirit is hardly found amongst them. Where it is found, it is either brought in from another location which makes its survival, very difficult in such spiritually hostile locations, or it is the product of a lot of work similar to planting on a rock as its chances of survival after the initial appearance remains very slim. There will always be a question mark on every claim to Christianity that any one will make when such a person does not give total recognition to the very important role that it should play in the Christian life.
Just like the Apostle Paul, the only conclusion that can be made when there is obvious absence of the consciousness of the Holy Spirit in a Christian or a Christian group is a questioning of the baptismal status of the Christian. Was any act of baptism carried out at all? If it was, what kind of baptism?
Baptism which literally means dipping into something remains an important exercise that must be carried out on all converts for them to enjoy the full value of their belief. Most Christian groups today,
1. Emphasize baptism into their fold a lot, by drilling into the new convert the rules and tenets guiding their local congregation or their denomination. These rules are so emphasised that the impression given is that their violation will mean express denial of salvation. They vary from what you eat, to what you wear, to who you associate with and other similar restrictions and most times, are not difficult to observe but the growth of the Christian cannot be effective on that basis alone. Christian Baptism will have to proceed beyond the stage of just dipping the new convert into the rules, tenets and traditions of a Christian denomination.
2. Most, if not all the Christian denominations go further to emphasise the water baptism which the Ephesian Christians and all Christians today refer to as the Baptism of John. Just as the Apostle Paul describes it, it is baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins – Acts 19:4. There is no doubt about its importance for the development of the Christian, but when baptismal exercises are limited to mere fulfilment of this act, then there will also be a limitation to what the Christian can achieve in life. There will always be the need to take this baptismal exercises, another notch higher.
3. Not taking this exercise a notch higher seems to be the issue that the Apostle Paul had to address with the Ephesians. In his reaction to their responses to his questions, he informed them that they will need to have the third baptism which is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. With this baptism, they are to be dipped into the Holy Spirit – Acts 19:5-6. This is an action that demonstrates the progress made by the new convert on his/her Christian journey and is usually an indicator of success of the two earlier baptismal exercises.
Unlike the Ephesians, there is hardly any Christian today who has not heard about the Holy Spirit but the challenge remains the low number of such Christians who are properly indoctrinated on how to experience it, or have actually experienced it. This remains a major limiting factor amongst Christians today as the result is the rarity of the manifestation of the fruits of the Holy Spirit amongst Christians.
In some cases, the challenge will not be whether the exercise was carried out but will be the spirituality behind the exercise. In such situations, the baptismal exercise becomes a mere formality done to fulfil all righteousness, with the one carrying out the exercise and/or the one being baptized not appreciating the spiritual significance of the exercise due to bad preparation. The result is a church that is filled with people who have carried out the physical exercise of baptism, but lack the manifestation of its spiritual effects. The Christian life will remain impotent if this major exercise is missing or has been carried out poorly, and such a Christian will always remain a loser in life battles. Answer those questions honestly and where you believe there is a deficit, you are better off making the necessary adjustments as that may be the key to your victory over all situations now and in the future. May God baptize us with the Holy Spirit in Jesus name. Amen.