Handling Aright the Word of Truth (VIII)

By Morris W. R. Bailey

In our previous article, it was pointed out that handling aright the word of truth requires that we make the proper distinction between miraculous phenomena and the permanent order which said miracles were instrumental in establishing. Examples given were the miracle of creation which brought the universe into existence, and the miracles of Christ during His personal ministry which were to prove his claim to be the Son of God (John 20:30,31). In this article we pursue the same line of thought as we discuss another miraculous phenomenon . . .

Holy Spirit Baptism

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was foretold by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:14-18). In the New Testament it was first spoken of by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:11). During Jesus’ personal ministry He spoke in general terms of the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Luke 11:13). As the time for His crucifixion and subsequent departure from this world drew near, He was more specific with regard to the recipients of the Spirit and of the Spirit’s mission. John records Jesus as saying, “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you” (John 14:26). And again, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (John 16:12,13).

In a conversation with his apostles just prior to his ascension, Jesus said, “. . . But ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). The context (verses 2-4) shows beyond doubt that this promise was made only to the apostles.

From the above scriptures the following salient facts are evident:

1. Jesus’ promise concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit was addressed only to the apostles.

2. The purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles was (a) To call to their remembrance the things He had taught them while with them. It would be impossible for the human mind to remember all this without supernatural help. (b) To guide them into truth yet to be revealed.

The Promise Fulfilled

The promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection of Christ from the dead, when “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Again the context (Acts 1:26-2:1-4) with its use of the pronouns, “they” and “them,”‘shows conclusively that it was the apostles on whom the Spirit came.

Since the stated purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles was that of calling to their remembrance the things that Jesus had taught them during His personal ministry, and to guide them into truth yet to be revealed, it is thus we see that this aspect of the Spirit’s work was connected with revelation. Moreover they were to be guided not only into truth, but into all truth. This leads us to conclude that, (1) If all truth was not revealed to the apostles in the First Century of the Christian era, then the Holy Spirit failed in his mission. Or, (2) If all truth was revealed to the apostles in the First Century, that aspect of the Spirit’s work was completed and does not have to be repeated, for we have that truth today in a permanent record in that part of the Bible called the New Testament. Therefore for men today to pray for, or lay claim to the baptism of the Holy Spirit to guide them into truth is to pray for, and lay claim to something that was never promised to them.

Confirmation Of The Word

Another supernatural influence that was exerted upon the apostles was the ability to work miracles. While it is true that they worked miracles during the personal ministry of Christ (Matt. 10:8), it was after the Holy Spirit came upon them in baptismal form that “They began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 1:4). From Acts 2:43 we learn that “Many signs and wonders were done by the apostles.” And we are told in Acts 5:12, “By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people.” Thus, up to this point, it is obvious that only the apostles were able to work miracles. These miracles were referred to by Paul as “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:13).

The purpose of these signs was the confirmation of the message preached by the apostles. Mark tells us that following the giving of the great commission to the apostles, “They went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed” (Mark 16:20). The writer of Hebrews asks, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his own will” (Heb. 2:3,4).

Since there were false apostles in those days (2 Cor. 11:13), it was necessary that the true apostles of Christ be identifiable. That was the purpose of the miracles wrought by the apostles. They were thus identified as apostles of Christ, and they confirmed the message they preached as being, “Not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13). They bore witness to the fact that the gospel which was preached was, “not from man . . . but by revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12).

A witness, once sworn in, in a court of law, does not need to be sworn in again. A message that has been confirmed does not have to be confirmed again and again. The New Testament message, having been confirmed by the signs and wonders wrought by the apostles, thus stands as a permanent record. The purpose of the miracles having been fulfilled, the need for them ceased. What further proof could miracles today offer that the gospel was from heaven than has already been given?

The Case Of Cornelius

Some eight or ten years after the events of Pentecost, another case of Holy Spirit baptism occurred. This was at the house of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christianity. Up to his time the gospel had been preached only to the Jews. Because they regarded the Gentiles as unclean, the Jews had no social intercourse with them, not even to so much as eat with them. By means of a vision-a miracle-Peter was convinced that he should no longer regard the Gentiles as unclean (Acts 10:28). Moreover he was told to go to the house of Cornelius, who, in turn, had been instructed to “Send to Joppa, and fetch Simon, whose surname is Peter: who shall speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house” (Acts 11:13,14).

The coming of the Holy Spirit upon the house of Cornelius is recorded by the writer of the book of Acts in these words. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46). It is thus seen that the effect of the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon the house of Cornelius was to cause them to speak with tongues.

When later called to account by the Jews for going into and eating with uncircumcised Gentiles, Peter, in his defence, expounded the matter unto them in order (Acts 11:2-4). Verse fifteen records him as saying, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them even as on us at the beginning.” The expression, “at the beginning” referred back to the baptism of the Holy Spirit experienced by the apostles on the day of Pentecost. From this we conclude that during the intervening years between Pentecost and the conversion of Cornelius no one else had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If it had been given to Christians all along, why did Peter go back to Pentecost for an example? The obvious answer is that the events of Pentecost was the only example to which he could refer.

The Purpose

But we are interested in the purpose of this miraculous event. Bearing in mind the fact that Cornelius and his house were to be saved by the words spoken by Peter, Acts 11:14, it thus becomes obvious that the baptism in the Spirit was not to save them. Nor was it to demonstrate that they had been saved, since it came before the saving words were spoken (Acts 11:15).

We can determine the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the house of Cornelius by the use that was made of it. Acts 10:47 records Peter’s asking the question, “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?” After Peter’s recital of the events as recorded in the eleventh chapter of Acts, verse eighteen says, “And when they heard these things, they held their peace and glorified God, saying, Then unto the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life.” In the light of these plain passages of Scripture is it not obvious that the baptism in the Holy Spirit at the house of Cornelius was for no other purpose than to convince the Jews that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews? Since that was the use that was made of it, that is obviously the purpose for which it was intended. That purpose having been accomplished, the miracle does not have to be repeated.

Holy Spirit Baptism And Water Baptism Compared

Since there are some who confuse Holy Spirit baptism with the water baptism of the great commission, it is pertinent to this study that we notice a few points of distinction.

1. Holy Spirit baptism was a promise. Jesus charged his apostles to “Wait for the promise of the Father . . . for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (Acts 1:4,5).

Water baptism, however, was a command. “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48). No one, however, was ever commanded to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

2. Christ was the administrator of Holy Spirit baptism. John the Baptist said of Christ, “He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire” (Matt. 3:12).

Water baptism, however, was administered by man. Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:38); Ananias baptized Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:18).

3. Holy Spirit baptism conferred miraculous powers on the recipients (Acts 2:4; Acts 10:45,46).

Water baptism confers no miraculous powers (Acts 8:14-17), but does confer remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

In an article to follow we shall discuss other miraculous phenomena in the form of spiritual gifts.

Truth Magazine XXI: 40, pp. 634-636
October 13, 1977