The Baptism of the Twelve Ephesians

At the end of Acts 18 and the beginning of Acts 19, we have a very interesting account of salvation. The account is one in which those who were candidates of salvation submitted to two different baptisms, the baptism of John, and then, the baptism of Jesus. This account is an interesting one, because it teaches us some things about baptism that are not found anywhere else in the Bible. Let’s study this passage together and see if we can learn some things from God’s word.

First, we see that one can teach that Jesus is Lord, yet teach baptism wrong. We read in Acts 18:24, 25 the following: “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.” Notice the facts that we find here regarding Apollos. First, he was a Jew. Second, he was born at Alexandria. Third, he was an eloquent man. Fourth, he was mighty in the scriptures. Fifth, he came to Ephesus. Sixth, he was instructed in the way of the Lord. Seventh, he was fervent in spirit. Eighth, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord. Ninth, he knew only the baptism of John. Apollos was both instructed in the way of the Lord, and taught the things of the Lord, yet, he did not know the Lord’s baptism? How can this be? Evidently, Apollos had been around Jerusalem sometime during the earthly ministry of both John the baptizer, and Jesus, but Apollos had missed the Lord’s critical teaching about baptism during the period of the Great Commission. Therefore, he did not know that baptism was now being administered by the authority of Jesus. Those who submitted to the baptism that Apollos knew, were not submitting to the authority of the Lord. Did Apollos teach that Jesus was the Lord? Yes. Did he teach others to believe in the Lord Jesus? Yes. It should be obvious that just because one believes in Jesus doesn’t mean that one’s baptism is correct.

Second, we see that if your baptism isn’t right, you’ve got to get it right! It is interesting that Paul came after Apollos to the same city, Ephesus, and inquired about the baptism of these disciples. We read in Acts 19:1-3 “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.” Paul used a process of discovery to determine if their baptism was valid or not. He first asked if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed. (Again, we note that the text says that they had believed. They believed that Jesus was the Christ, but their baptism was not right.) Their response was that they had not heard of the Holy Spirit. This response was indicative of their baptism, because Paul then asked, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” They should have heard of the Holy Spirit at their baptism because the baptism that Christ commanded in Matthew 28:18-20 was “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The fact that they did not hear about the Holy Spirit, indicated to Paul that they were not baptized correctly. Their baptism wasn’t right and they had to get it right!

Third, we see that to get their baptism right, it had to be by the authority of Jesus. Paul explains in Acts 19:4, 5, “Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus” means by the Lord’s authority. John’s baptism was not based upon the authority of the Lord Jesus. Was it based upon the belief that the Messiah was coming? Yes it was (Luke 2:4). Was it based upon repentance unto remission of sins? Yes it was (Luke 3:3). Was it water baptism? Yes it was (Luke 3:16). Was it immersion? Yes it was (John 3:23). What was different about the baptism of John from the baptism of Jesus? The baptism of Jesus was based upon the authority of Jesus as given in the Great Commission. Jesus said, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” This meant that after this time, John’s baptism had no more authority. Only the baptism commanded by Jesus, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit had the authority of Christ. This authority was powerfully demonstrated in the resurrection of Christ of which baptism is a likeness (Romans 6:1-10). If our baptism is not based upon the authority of Christ, then all we did was get wet like these men at Ephesus. What is baptism based upon the authority of Christ? It is baptism for salvation (Mark 16:16); it is baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38); it is baptism for discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20); it is baptism for washing away sins (Acts 22:16); it is the point at which we believe God forgives us of sins (Colossians 2:11-13); it is baptism that saves (1 Peter 3:21). John’s baptism did not have THIS authority-the authority to grant salvation! We must understand that to be baptized right, we must acknowledge what Christ has authorized baptism to do-forgive sin and grant salvation! The beautiful results of the reception of the Holy Spirit by these disciples indicated this very fact. Verse 6 states, “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” The prophecy made by Joel and quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17-21 proved the relationship of the miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit with individual salvation. These men were now saved.

Let us always respect the authority of Christ in baptism and understand that one may teach that Jesus is Lord, yet teach baptism wrong. Let us understand that if your baptism is not right, you’ve got to get it right! And let us understand that correct baptism only comes as authorized by Jesus today and that His authority has placed baptism and salvation together (Mark 16:16).

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I Don’t Want You to Join My Church

We run into people on a more or less frequent basis that are looking for a church. Many times you will hear people who are undergoing this process say things like, “How do I know which church to join,” and “How do I choose the right church?” It is well understood that these individuals are looking to be a part of a particular church but they just do not know which one they should be a part of. However, I submit to you that this type of terminology when looking for a church is foreign to the Bible. In fact, let me emphatically say that I don’t want you to join my church.

I don’t want you to join my church because it is not my church. It may be the church I attend or the group of people with whom I assembly, but technically speaking, it is not my church–it is the Lord’s church. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “And I say unto you that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The church belongs to Jesus; it is His church; He is the Owner. The Bible also says that Jesus is the Head of the body (Eph.1:22, 23), the Savior of the church (Eph.5:23), the King of the kingdom (1 Tim.6:15), the Husband of the bride (Eph.5:21ff), the Foundation of the church (1 Cor.3:11) and the Chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:5, 6). So I want you to be part of the church that belongs to Christ, not “my church.”

I don’t want you to join my church because you can’t join the church. One will search the scriptures all day long and never find an instance of a person “joining a church.” We read of the church having members in 1 Corinthians 12:12ff and Romans 12:4ff. However we never read of someone “joining” the church. Rather we read where God adds a person to the church. In Acts 2:47 we have, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” The Lord adds those who are saved to the church. If you are saved you already have membership within the church. The question that stands before you is whether or not you will worship with God’s church. If you are not a Christian, the question that stands before you is “Will you be added to God’s church?” I don’t want you to join my church; I want you to be added to the Lord’s church.

I don’t want you to join my church because you nor I have a right to determine the characteristics of the church. Many people visit different churches in their search for a church. They look at the church and weigh the differences and then determine which characteristics most please them. This is not, however, how we should view the church. We should look for the church whose characteristics most please God! God has given us His word so that we can know about His church and He has given us His church so that we can know about His word (Ephesians 3:10). It is God’s church that we should be seeking. I don’t want you to join my church; I want you to seek God’s church (Matthew 10:33).

There are some things that I do want. I DO want you to be obedient to God. I DO want you to worship God. I DO want you to be a faithful Christian. I DO want you to be saved. I DO want you to be a member of the Lord’s church for which He shed His blood (Acts 20:28). Take the necessary measures today to ensure that you are part of the church that belongs to Jesus–the church of Christ (Romans 16:16)!

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Our Attitude Toward Correction

In our lifetime we are going to sin (1 John 1:7-10). Undoubtedly, some of those sins are going to be committed in the presence of others. There are going to be times when we either do not recognize that what we did was a sin, or that we understand it to be a sin but do not want to take the appropriate action to correct it. In either of these situations, the opportunity for another person to come to us and point out our personal sin exists. What should our attitude be toward someone who approaches us with our sin and suggests correction? Let’s look at some attitudes that we might have toward personal correction in our lives.

“I haven’t done anything wrong.” Often when confronted with personal sin this will be the first response. This attitude, however, is a mistake. Even when we are reasonably sure that we have not done anything wrong, our attitude should not be that of Bart Simpson, “I didn’t do it; nobody saw me do it; you can’t prove anything.” Even popular culture recognizes the error of this fatalistic response. When confronted we should be open to the possibility that we have sinned. When it is demonstrated that we have sinned, many times the difficulty comes in swallowing the hard conclusion that I did something wrong. It takes humility and meekness to even admit the possibility and much more to admit the actuality. At this point a correct response should be, “Let’s sit down and see what the Bible has to say about the subject and if I am wrong, then I will try to make things right.”

“You don’t have a loving attitude.” This is a popular response when we confront someone who needs to be corrected. That is because it is a legitimate concern. The Bible speaks clearly that those who are going to attempt to offer correction to others must have the right attitude when so doing (Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:15). We must both look to ourselves and speak the truth in love when engaging in personal correction. However, to use this expression as a statement of defense falls short because it does not deal with the issue at hand. It is a diversion away from the original problem and those who say this generally are trying to avoid the real issue. Some even go to the point of saying that suggesting any form of correction is not loving. The scriptures, however, simply do not teach this and we recognize this to be true in our lives as well specifically in relationship to our children. The parent who wields no discipline upon their child is really the parent who does not love his child (Proverbs 13:24; Hebrews 12:5-11). In loving adult relationships also, reproof is required when sin is involved and this is not an indication that someone does not love another, but that they do (Galatians 4:16). When confronted with correction, we should assume that the person coming to us has the best of intentions in mind.

“The preacher is wrong.” Well, that may be the case. Sometimes preacher’s make mistakes and say things that are not correct. However, the Bible is not wrong. When the preacher sets forth scripture regarding the truthfulness of his statements and one disagrees, the proper course of action is to go discuss things with the preacher. This, however, is the last thing that the one with the incorrect attitude toward correction wants to do because if one sits down and engages in a study of the Bible, one is usually going to find things that one does not want to admit. Part of the requirements the Bible places upon preachers is to rebuke and reprove (2 Timothy 4:2). When this illuminates our personal sin, self-reflection is the appropriate course of action (1 Corinthians 13:5), not castigation of the preacher. Remember that the preacher (if he is a good one) is not setting forth his own personal opinions, but the word of God (2 Timothy 4:1).

“No one cares about me and my problems.” Many times, individuals will state these particular words out of an attitude of selfishness. “Woe is me; no one loves me; aren’t I a wreck!” We used to sing a song in grade school about eating worms. The chorus went like this, “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms.” The point of the song was that self pity usually results in actions that are self destructive. The truth is that someone does care. When we hear teaching on subjects that are uncomfortable to us it is because someone cares enough for us to present what the Bible says on the subject. Since the Bible is the ultimate standard by which we will be judged (John 12:48), it is the ultimate loving and caring thing to do. What is really meant by this statement is that no one is trying to comfort me in my sinfulness. In contrast our attitude should be, “I have problems; help me to resolve my problems.”

“Look at all the other hypocrites who need to repent too.” Similar to the “you are not being loving” line, this is a diversion. When we are confronted with the issue of our own personal sin, we have the responsibility to examine ourselves and make correction (James 1:22-25). Whether or not another person in the church is a hypocrite has nothing to do with our own personal attitude toward correction. The assertion may be true that there are others acting hypocritically, but this does nothing to correct the problems in our own lives. Pointing to others in the church who are acting hypocritically as a defense against our own personal correction simply increases bitterness in our lives toward those around us as well as toward our own personal sin. No doubt if a hypocrite is involved in the correction process, he should recuse himself until he gets his own personal sin resolved (Matthew 7:1-5). However, this does not mean that one is “off the hook” from being confronted with sin. One still must deal with the problem of one’s own personal sin.

“You just are refusing to forgive.” When the result of personal correction ends in the right way there should be forgiveness. This does not imply, however, that there will be further teaching on the subject. To the contrary, usually when a person sins this means that there needs to be additional teaching on the subject. This is the correct and appropriate response. When a child comes home with an “F” on a test paper and asks Mom and Dad for forgiveness, and forgiveness is granted, this does not mean that all study on that particular subject should cease. To the contrary, the parents will probably spend MORE time in the pursuit of that particular subject with the child. Does this mean that they have refused to forgive the child? Of course not, in fact we recognize just the opposite. True forgiveness implies that the one in need of forgiveness needs help and that the one’s who are doing the forgiving have an obligation to help. Additional studies on the subject are the natural result of forgiveness whether it is in regard to a child’s test results or an individual’s personal sin. Unintentional sin many times is due to ignorance. This implies the need for further education on the subject. So when the general subject comes up, it is not because we are refusing to forgive, but because we have actually forgiven in the way that God wants us to forgive (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

Our attitude toward personal correction will determine our ultimate estate in heaven. It is part of God’s plan that we accept the corrective efforts of our fellow Christian when it comes to personal sin (Matthew 18: 15-17). While it is not comfortable for us to do this and while sometimes it is a painful experience, we can be assured that God will bless those who appropriate display the right attitude toward personal correction. Ultimately, we will stand before God in judgment as to how we received these efforts. On the day of judgment, do we really want to stand before God and say that we were not receptive to other’s efforts to provide personal correction? Do we really want to face God with that attitude? How much more better is God’s plan to face our own peers now and make correction than to face Him when no more opportunity for correction is available.

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