Saturday, February 11, 2023

2023.02.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 18:24–19:7

Read Acts 18:24–19:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What ethnicity of man does Acts 18:24 talk about? What was his name? Where was he born? What was his speech like? How does the apostle describe Apollos’s Bible knowledge? To where did he come? In what had he been instructed (Acts 18:25)? What led to him speaking and teaching? What did he teach? With what quality of teaching? But what limitation? Where does he speak in Acts 18:26? In what manner? Who heard him? What do they do with him? Where/how? To where does he go in Acts 18:27? What do the brethren from Ephesus do? What does the letter ask the Corinthians to do? What is the result, when he arrives? How does the apostle describe the Christians that Apollos helped? What did he do publicly with the Jews (Acts 18:28)? In what manner? By showing them what? From where? When Apollos was there, who arrived where (Acts 19:1)? Whom did he find there (Acts 19:2)? What does he ask them? But how do they respond to the idea of the Holy Spirit? What question does this provoke from the apostle (Acts 19:3)? How do they answer? What does Paul call John’s baptism (Acts 19:4a)? But what does he say that John had preached (verse 4b)? What baptism do they know receive in Acts 19:5? Then what does Paul do to them in Acts 19:6? And what else happens to them? With what effect? How many of them were there (Acts 19:7)?

How is baptism useful for explaining the way of God to us more accurately? Acts 18:24–19:7 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twelve verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that baptism identifies to us that it is not we who produce repentance, but the triune God Who saves us, even to the point of giving us repentance and faith through grace by His Spirit. 

It has been part of the joy of the last several paragraphs that the Holy Spirit has been bringing Jews to the Lord Jesus Christ. However, in the passage before us we see one of the weaknesses of Jewish thinking. Even a Jew like Apollos tended to think in terms of the repentance that we need to give God, rather than the repentance that God has provided to us in Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

Even a man like Apollos. Praise God for Apollos. He is a Jew, but even God’s judgment upon the Jews to scatter many of them has resulted in Apollos being born at Alexandria, a city of learning. By this providence, he himself was eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures. But this was no mere head knowledge. Having been instructed in the way of the Lord Jesus, and knowing the truth about Jesus with some accuracy, the Spirit had blessed him to be fervent—boiling over—with these glorious truths.

Needed the lesson of Christian baptism. The latter half of Acts 18:25 tells us the weakness in Apollos’s thinking. He was full of zeal, but he only knew the baptism of John. We see this corrected in two different ways in our passage. In Acts 18:26, Aquila and Priscilla hear him, take him aside, and explain to him the way of God more accurately. Note that “the way of the Lord” in Acts 18:25 and “they way of God” in Acts 18:26 are the same. The Lord Jesus is God. This much Apollos knew. But what was it about God’s way of salvation that he needed to learn better? 

We see it in the second correction in Acts 19:4. The implication is that these men have this flaw of only knowing John’s baptism because they had been converted under Apollos’s preaching before his encounter with Aquila and Priscilla. Apparently, Apollos was preaching clearly that Jesus is God but failing even to mention the Holy Spirit, because these Ephesian “disciples” had never even heard of Him! Of course, they had heard of the Spirit of God; but, they did not know that the Spirit is a Person of the Godhead Who brings people to believe through grace (end of Acts 18:27), and Whom Jesus has poured out from heaven, just as the water of baptism is poured out upon the earth.

Indeed, Paul reasons that if they have not heard of the Holy Spirit, then they have not received the naming ceremony of Christian baptism, because when we are baptized into the Name of Christ, we are baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christ is the great self-disclosure of the triune God. 

What is the lesson of Christian baptism. Christian baptism does more than just mark off the members of Christ’s church, by placing the Name of the triune God upon them, and imitating Jesus’s pouring out of God the Holy Spirit. Christian baptism announces that the repentance that we so desperately needed, the triune God Himself has provided.

The apostle describes John’s baptism as a “baptism of repentance.” It was an acknowledgement that they had sin that they needed to do something about. But he was not the Christ. The gospel was not that God is angry with sin, and that we need to turn from it and do better. Those things were true, but those things couldn’t save. In fact, acknowledging that they needed repentance was unable actually to give the repentance that they knew that they needed!

So John’s greater message was not the repentance that they presently needed but the faith that they would soon be able to exercise more clearly. They were to hope in the Messiah Who was coming—the Christ Whom John identified to them as Jesus. The message of the gospel was not that they needed to repent and to be forgiven, but that in Christ Jesus they would find and receive everything that they needed—especially this forgiveness, and including this repentance. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus pours out, Who gives both repentance and faith (Acts 2:38–39; Acts 11:18; cf. Luke 24:47).

The effectiveness of Christian baptism. The Lord uses baptism both retrospectively and prospectively. In Cornelius’s house, Jesus baptized them first by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44–46; Acts 11:15–16), and then the water baptism was poured on the earth (Acts 10:47–48; Acts 11:17–18). Here, the sequence is reversed. The water is poured on earth first (Acts 19:5), and then the Holy Spirit comes upon them (Acts 19:6). 

The efficacy of a believer’s baptism is not tied to the time of its administration. It is a sign and seal unto faith, but it often comes after faith—affirming that what the Lord has done was really and truly the work of the Lord. But it always comes before faith. For, the Lord continues to give us increasing repentance and faith throughout this life. And, the pouring out of the waters of Baptism remind us that it is the enthroned Lord Jesus Who keeps pouring out His Spirit upon us to complete the work that He has begun. 

So, we may bless God for giving us baptism, which the Spirit (and His servants through whom He teaches us) uses to “explain to us the way of God more accurately.” For, we are always needing more and more to grow in finding our repentance and faith from the Lord Jesus Christ, by His Spirit. 

When were you baptized? What does this tell you about the nature of God? What does it tell you about what was happening in your life before you first came to faith, and Who was doing it? What does it tell you about what has been happening in your life since you first came to faith, and Who is doing it? From where do repentance and faith come? In what situations in your life, recently, have you most needed to be reminded of this? How can you make use of your baptism to help at those times?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You and praise You for Your glorious, triune nature. Father, we praise You for loving us from before the world began, and determining to conform us to the image of Your Son, so that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Lord Jesus, we praise You for coming into the world to save sinners, so that You might purchase us and present us to the Father. Holy Spirit, we praise You for Your almighty work and divine fellowship, as You apply Christ to us by His Word. Now we ask, Father, that You would continue to work in us by Your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH193 “Baptized into Your Name Most Holy” 

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