Outside Our Box

17. April 2024 Acts 0

Text: Acts 19:1-7

Theme: God loves to move us out of our comfort zones into new realms with Him.

Key verses: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? he asked them. “No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked. And they replied, “The baptism of John.” Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.” As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all (v. 2-7).

What I believe God said to me: I know this doesn’t exactly jive with your upbringing and your denominational beliefs. But to that I would say, get over it. Quit putting me inside your theological boxes and running my Word through your experiential and preferential filters. I appreciate you doing due diligence to run cross-references on this passage and try to let scripture interpret scripture. You can and should continue that valid practice. Read commentators you trust. Ask others what their take is on this passage. But at the end of the day, you may just need to take some things face value. The passage is clear. It’s in no way ambiguous. It wasn’t cleverly written to hide certain “deeper” truths for specially enlightened people. It says what it says. Let’s take a closer, more analytical look at it. First, Paul “found” 12 guys who had never heard of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t get a convention meeting together and invite everyone to come. He happened on to them. There was no scheming on Paul’s part or a hidden and deeper agenda. Second, these men had not been baptized in the name of Jesus. They had only had “the baptism of John.” John didn’t save; he said so himself. Only my Son can forgive sin and save one’s soul. It seems pretty clear that these men were not yet followers of Jesus; they had not been born again. By wanting to be “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” they were in essence putting action to their faith. This was their outward expression of their inward trust in Jesus to save them. Third, it’s important to note that they received Jesus as Savior and followed him in believer’s baptism. They were new creations, my children. This is where the story gets a bit sticky. This is the part where you may just have to take some things as they appear. In verse 6–after they were born again–it reads that the Holy Spirit “came on them” when Paul laid his hands on them. What that means is the Holy Spirit came on them when Paul laid his hands on them. You may wish it meant something else, something less obvious, something different in its application and inference. But it says what it says, because that is what actually happened. You teach and believe that my Spirit moves into a person at the moment they pray and believe for salvation. I’m not saying you’re wrong. Other scripture passages and biblical instances would seem to support that belief. But the reality of the Spirit coming “on” someone can–and in this case apparently did–happen after the initial step of faith and salvation. Deal with it. Fourth, there is no denying “they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.” Again, I know this goes against your personal experience and understanding. But since when should my infallible, eternal Word be subjected to your limited experience and finite understanding? You can try to soften this moment by claiming they spoke in other national languages of the time. But in light of other passages, that doesn’t seem to make sense. At Pentacost they spoke in the languages of those watching them, so that they could know and accept the Good News about my Son. But here in Acts 19, there is no indication that anyone else was standing around witnessing this stupendous occasion. Chances are better than not that they spoke in tongues that no one there knew or understood. What are you going to do with that information? Are you going to condemn it because you think it’s not biblical? It’s in the Bible, so it’s very biblical. Or, do you question its authenticity or validity because there were no interpreters? In this case, there were only 12 men. They were all speaking in other tongues, so they didn’t really need interpreters. Besides, the same Paul who taught us the need for interpreters in 1 Corinthians 14 was the Paul who laid hands on these men and was part of this tongue-speaking, boldly-prophesying extravaganza. What are you going to do with that? You may just have to accept a few things in my Word on pure faith, trusting my Word rather than man’s explanations of it.

What I said to God: Wow, I am speechless. I’m still not sure what just happened. Please allow me some time to digest what I just felt like You spoke to my heart. I am far from ready to stand and declare that what I believe and understand about this passage is in fact the golden truth and the only way to interpret it. I don’t want to compromise Your Word, and I’m more than willing to draw theological lines in the sand and stand firmly on convictions and beliefs. But I also want to remain humble enough to admit when I don’t quite grasp something. I want to be open to the fact that I could be wrong in certain ill-conceived notions and long-standing beliefs. I know what I know. But I also know that I don’t know everything. Some things we may have to wait to fully know until we meet You face to face. As the old song goes, “We’ll understand it better by and by.”