Journal Acts 19 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
And (Paul) said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”
On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.
And (Paul) entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” Acts 19:1-8
Observation: Two things I noticed: 1) I guess it is OK to ask about the personal history of believers/disciples and OK to talk about it in a candid and transparent manner; 2) These twelve talked freely and accepted what Paul had to add for their growth.
I wonder what would have occurred if any of these guys said, “I’m sorry, that is something personal for me—I don’t want to share”, or otherwise walked away from Paul, saying, “I reject that; that is not for me.”?
Analysis: I find that the current cultural environment is generally one of intense personal decisions and convictions; that is, “I believe what I believe—it may not be what you believe—that’s ok, you do you and I will do me…”
When it comes to salvation through the Gospel, I have seen mild responses of “keep your nose out of my business; it is between God and myself…” and the most foolish response of, “We have an understanding…” or some rot like that. Mild in this case doesn’t mean light importance, it is still of great importance to address somehow. Note: Rarely have I been able to. Takes ears to hear, you know.
However, on the subject of the Holy Spirit? That can have some violent reactions meted to it, especially on what side of the aisle someone happens to be on.
Full disclosure: I fancy myself embracing Reformed Doctrine (as a doctrinal framework) and having a significant charismatic component. Maybe I should call myself a thinking man’s charismatic (work in progress). To be able to categorize the Gifts of the Holy Spirit accounted for in the Scriptures, I have started to think of them as Jesus’ Toolbox to Believers.
Nevertheless, in these eight verses we have God (not Luke, not Paul, but God the Holy Spirit) indicate in His Word, that there may be (is) a differentiation between a baptism of repentance and reception of the Holy Spirit. It is clear and should be non-arguable IF I am a student of His literal Word.
So, we have Paul, investigating these twelve men who identify as disciples, inquiring about the kind of baptism they had and, seeing that they were deficient, re-baptized them in the Name of Jesus AND laid hands on them. Period.
I have to stop there because there are circles in which flesh and blood think they can bestow the Holy Spirit on someone. Frankly, I think they are in error and should perhaps be avoided. It is the principle of being a vessel, someone that God uses, a willing servant, etc. and that is all. Somehow, believers are the instrumentality that God uses to dispense miracles of every kind. Note that because God is omnipotent, He doesn’t need man for this; He could do stuff out of thin air—but according to His mysterious Wisdom, chooses to use believers. Emphasis on mystery….
In this section of Scripture, I can confidently infer that Paul was what I would call a charismatic. But while the Gifts are fully in His repertoire, he doesn’t haul them out of his toolbox every moment he can. He relies upon speaking boldly, reasoning back and forth, and persuasion in the local synagogue.
Another way of saying this is that Paul immerses himself in the Word of God, increasing in knowledge and wisdom, developing/discovering the doctrines and precepts that he could use in reasoning and persuasion and preaching about the Kingdom of God and the Savior, Jesus Christ.
I lament that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are not respectively practiced; shucks, they are not even promoted much in the local church. Where are we to find someone to teach about being filled, baptized, or receiving the Holy Spirit that doesn’t sound off his rocker or says, “Don’t worry about this subject, it is not that important…”, “It’s already been done at conversion…”, or otherwise explains them away.
The Scripture shows that there are circumstances where an encounter with the Holy Spirit is a separate encounter—one size doesn’t quite fit all…
Prayer: Lord God, this is a contentious subject, I get it. Once upon a time I didn’t “get it” because I would say, “Look, it is in the Scriptures, here and here and here.” Fear does lousy things with our thinking.
Please allow me to continue to say, “Anything You will, O God. I am open to being your disciple in everything You say in your Word. Help me to discern properly, with wisdom that is only from You.”
Ricky Two Shoes