Bob's Sermon for Sunday, May 20, 2018

 

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“What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

 

Acts 10:44-48 NIV

 

     (Acts 10:44-48 NIV) “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. “The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. (46) For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

     “Then Peter said, (47) ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’

     (48) “So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”

 

     As the Book of Acts tells us, from the very first, the apostles boldly declared the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. The Jewish high court ordered the apostles not to talk any more of Jesus or his resurrection. Despite being beaten, jailed, and issuing death threats, the apostles did not quit preaching. They courageously and openly preached. But here is a strange fact. After about ten years of preaching, the apostles had not fully obeyed Jesus; they were not completely carrying out his orders.

 

     Jesus specifically, repeatedly told them what to do; they did not follow his directives. That disobedience led to the events in our text.

 

     In some seminaries and Bible colleges, students and professors hotly debate the question posed in today’s sermon. Suppose you ask in the halls of congress, on Wall Street, in most colleges, in stadiums, on basketball courts, in bars, and in the majority of homes, “What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”? Would you hear an insistent, “I don’t know and I don’t care!”? 

 

     Imagine asking those same groups a different question. You inquire of the same politicians, academics, money people, sports fans, ordinary moms, dads, and young folks: “Are you interested in a simple, equitable, fair way to find peace?” Not everyone cares whether people get along and value one another. Some are so filled with hate they think only of vengeance. But sincere, honest people would like to know: is there a fair, unbiased solution to the all divisions and hate in society?  

 

     A simple way to solve the division is available. God made it possible in Christ, but most folks do not honor God and so the world becomes further divided. You may be thinking, “How can Christ unite the world? Christianity is just another conflict-ridden, partitioned religion.” 

 

     If we fully practice Christ’s way as the Bible teaches, divisions, conflict, acrimony, and disruptions end. We must seriously follow his simple pattern. We do not do as we feel like doing or as any person thinks.    

 

     How serious are you about living and acting as Jesus showed us and taught us? You can probably quote John 3:16: “God so loved the world (cosmos) that he gave His only Son (the only one of his kind) that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” On the cross, Jesus paid the total cost of every person’s sin in every part of the world for all eons.

               

     How do we take advantage of Christ’s gift? This is the hard part for most of us.

We have likes and dislikes; we have our ways of doing things, and we do not like to change. Jesus insisted that we change our ways of thinking and acting. “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”[1]

           

     Jesus taught us to lay aside selfish ambition and pride. When any person anywhere, anytime dies to his/her selfish ways and puts Christ on in baptism, a new being is created, we are born again. As born again people, we model ourselves after Christ, exalt God and wear Christ’s name only. Doing this is clearly an adult decision. That is why the Bible never speaks of infant baptism. Believers made an adult choice to deny themselves and unite with Christ. Through immersion they “died” in a watery grave and were raised to new life in Christ.

 

     Paul reminded Christians in Rome of the decision they all made: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”[2] Many folks think this is an archaic, humiliating, old fashioned religious rite and they do not want to do it. If, however, we refuse to follow what Jesus did and taught, the “old person” has not died—we are not denying ourselves.  

  

     Paul explained the content of the new life: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

(2) Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (3) For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  .  .”

 

(8) But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (9)  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices (10) and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (11) Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” [3]

 

      All must put on of the new person in Christ. All of us are servant sinners saved by grace. In Christ only one class exists.  As the German scholar, Otto Michel wrote:

“All distinctions between men of the old aeon in respect of nationality, salvation history, or social status are done away in the act of baptism.”[4] Jesus is the Shepherd; we are the sheep. I do not know much about sheep or any other type of animal, but it is hard to imagine on what grounds one sheep could look down on anther sheep.

 

     But it was this very matter where the apostles failed. They did not preach the good news to Gentiles; they considered them unclean. Before he left the earth, Jesus gave two major commandments to his disciples.

1.      Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[5]

2.      Do not leave Jerusalem until you experience Holy Spirit baptism:

(5) For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”[6]

     

     A short time later, Jesus gave more info:“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The disciples would become his witnesses in Jerusalem and all over the earth.  (Ends of the earth included Gentiles).

              

     Acts 1 informs us that the apostles waited and prayed.

 

     Acts chapter 2 opens:

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. (2) Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. (3) They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

     “(4) All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (5) Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.

     “(6) When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. (7) Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?

     “(8) Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  . . . we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! (or languages).”

 

     To some Holy Spirit baptism involves a phenomenon known as “speaking in unknown tongues.” They highly prize the experience. Some people have accused me of being hard to understand. My tongue does get confused, but I have not spoken in tongues as some term the phenomenon.

 

     What is baptism of the Holy Spirit? 

 

     We can easily discern what happened at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came on the disciples. Extraordinary events definitely took place. In Iowa we hear wind howling around the house perhaps a day or two a year. On Pentecost the sound was as if a wind was blowing within the house—not a gentle breeze—a violent wind—out of heaven.    What appeared as a tongue of fire sat on each person. “All were filled with the Holy Spirit and  . . . began to speak as the Spirit enabled them.” 

                  

     At that time, not all Jews lived in Israel. It was Pentecost, a holiday held 50 days after Passover; many Jews were visiting Jerusalem. Two different disasters had scattered Jews all over the world.[7]  Think of Chicago based armies taking folks from Ames, Fort Dodge, Mason City, and Waterloo, and resettling them in Ohio.

 

     Later another enemy destroys Des Moines and takes its population to Alabama. Few of those captured people ever move back to Iowa; they learn the languages spoken in the area where they are taken, but they hold to their Iowa family religion. A few times a year, their descendants return to Des Moines for religious celebrations.

 

     Move forward a few hundred years in time. At one of those celebrations, an event like Pentecost occurs.

 

     People fail to grasp this truth concerning the original, Jerusalem, Pentecost tongue speaking in 30 AD: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? (8) Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  . . . we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Freely translated it says: “The apostles all speak in that hillbilly Galilean Hebrew (or Aramaic). But each of us hears in his own native language.”

 

     The miracle of tongue-speaking on Pentecost was a United Nations effect. If you had been a Swede, you would have heard the apostles in Swedish. Germans would have heard it in Deutsch, French in French, and if you spoke Spanish; that is what you would have heard. It was the opposite effect as Babel where God confused the language of mankind.[8]

 

     Remember, Jesus the Messiah had come and taught the disciples: Go teach all nations. The disciples had not done that. They were stuck in the old way of thinking. The disciples were preaching only to fellow Jews. Ten years passed and the church was accepting only Jews and their Samaritan cousins. No one preached to Gentiles.  

 

     In a Roman city on Israel’s coast named after Caesar, a Roman military officer named Cornelius was praying.[9] The gentile Cornelius was noted for his generosity—he gave to the poor. He knew about God only through his contact with Jews. The Lord answered Cornelius’s prayer saying:

       A)       Your prayers and gifts went up as a memorial to God.

 

B)      He was to send for Peter, who was about 35 miles away in Joppa. 

 

     In the meantime, it was about noon, and in Joppa, Peter was hungry. God gave Peter a vision of various kinds of clean and unclean animals and a voice told him: “Peter get up and eat.” “Frog legs, rattlesnake steak, or hog jowls, whatever you like, eat.”     

Three times Peter refused: “Lord I have always been kosher. I do not eat unclean food.” A trio of times Peter heard the Lord say: “What I have cleansed, do not call unclean.”  

 

     As Peter came out of his trance, Cornelius’s guys showed at the gate. He returned with them to Caesarea, taking six witnesses with him.   When he spoke in Caesarea, Peter covered the same essentials he and the other disciples had in Jerusalem ten years prior.[10] As he preached to Cornelius and all those with him, the Holy Spirit fell on them as happened at Pentecost. 

  

     “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. (45) The circumcised believers (Jewish) who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. (46)  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

     Then Peter said, (47) ‘Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.

     (48) So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”

 

     Now they heard God praised in Latin and other languages as happened on Pentecost. Cornelius and those with him were immersed into Christ. Centuries old hatred and division were abolished. Jews and gentiles enjoyed fellowship no one believed possible before.

 

     Questions for next week:

 

1)      If there was a United Nations effect in Jerusalem on Pentecost, why were interpreters needed for tongue speaking in Corinth?

2)      Should we expect Holy Spirit baptism today?

3)      How does being in Christ solve all divisiveness?

4)      Is there a difference between everlasting life and eternal life?

 

Please read John 3, Acts 11,

I Corinthians 12-14, and 

Galatians 3:23-29 by next Sunday.


[1] Mark 8:34 NIV

[2] Romans 6:3, 4 NIV

[3] Colossians 3: 1-4, 8-11 There is a curious fact about the word barbarian, which God willing, we shall point out next week.

[4] TDNT, Vol. VII, p 449, Otto Michel, Tubingen 

[5] Matthew 28:18-20

[6] See Acts 1:4, 5, 8 NIV

[7] The Assyrians invaded Northern Israel in about 732 BC dispersing their population throughout the Ancient Near East.  In 586 BC, the Babylonians defeated southern Israel and destroyed Jerusalem.   

[8] Genesis 11:1-9

[9] Caesarea

[10] See Acts 10:1-43

 

 

 

Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014

 

 

 

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