Intro. Paul has left Corinth and sailed for Ephesus with Pricilla and Aquilla, who will remain in Ephesus starting a home Bible study, as Paul spending a few days there will continue to Jerusalem for the feast. As Paul was waiting for a ship to go to Caesarea, he went to the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews, who desired that he remain with them for a while, but he was determined to get to Jerusalem in time for the feast, so he promised to return to them, if it was God's will. We are told nothing of Paul's visit to Jerusalem and the feast, except that he greeted the church and went to Antioch. After spending some time there, he took off again passing through Galatia and Phyrgia ministering to the churches. He finally made his way back to Ephesus where he found certain disciples.
I. PAUL'S QUESTION. "HAVE YOU RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT SINCE YOU BELIEVED?"
A. Some say that it should read, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed."
1. The authorized translation reads "since" while the Revised Standard version reads "when."
2. Whichever reading you accept, they both infer the same thing, that the gift of the Holy Spirit is not necessarily bestowed at the time of conversion.
B. The scripture does teach that there is a special gift of the Holy Spirit, that is separate, distinct, and subsequent from conversion.
1. The three Greek prepositions.
a. Para (with). Prior to conversion. Convicting you of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.
b. En (in). Upon conversion. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit conforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. Our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit.
c. Epi (upon or over). The baptism of the Spirit where He now flows out of our lives like a torrent of living water, enabling us to be witnesses for Christ.
2. Stephen went to Samaria and preached Christ and many believed and were baptized in water.
a. When the church in Jerusalem heard that the Samaritans had received the gospel, they sent unto them Peter and John, for as yet the Holy Spirit had not come upon them (epi).
b. Their receiving the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by Peter and John was separate from and subsequent to their believing and being baptized.
3. Paul became a believer on the road to Damascus, but did not receive the Holy Spirit until Ananias laid hands on him.
B. Why would Paul ask this question?
1. There no doubt seemed to be something missing in their experience.
a. Perhaps a spark of life and enthusiasm.
b. Perhaps love.
c. Perhaps joy.
d. Maybe a zeal for the things of God.
e. Maybe a love for the Word.
2. These are things that transpire in the life of a believer when they are baptized with the Holy Spirit.
II. THE RESPONSE, "WE HAVE NOT HEARD IF THEIR BE ANY HOLY SPIRIT."
A. What they are saying is that they did not know the Holy Spirit had been given.
1. The Holy Spirit is spoken of in the Old Testament, so they knew of the Holy Spirit.
2. John had testified of the Holy Spirit. Speaking of Jesus, John said, "There is One coming after me, Who is preferred before me, for He was before me, and He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
3. They did not know that this had happened. That the disciples were given the gift of the Holy Spirit.
B. Paul then asked, "Unto what then were you baptized?"
1. Were you baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
2. There is a group today known as United Pentecostals, along with others such as the William Branham cult who believe and teach the "Jesus only" doctrine.
a. This is a doctrine that is fraught with biblical error.
b. They deny the trinity of the Godhead, saying that Jesus is the Father and the Spirit also, that it is Jesus only.
c. One of their main points has to do with baptism.
d. They believe and teach that unless you were baptized in the name of Jesus only, you do not have a valid baptism.
C. Their response was unto John's baptism.
1. John's baptism was a baptism of repentance from sin.
2. John the Baptist preached "repent for the kingdom of God is at hand."
3. To be baptized unto John's baptism was to renounce sin, I am not going to live in sin any longer. There are going to be some changes in my life.
4. As John was preaching and baptizing, he said that another One was coming after him Who was mightier than he, and that He would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
5. Perhaps this small group had been in Jerusalem for the feasts at the time that John was baptizing, and had heard John's message and had been baptized by John.
6. Returning to Ephesus from the feast, they possibly heard nothing further of John, but were still seeking to live a life pleasing to God.
D. Paul explained to them that John in his preaching told the people that they believe on Him who was coming after him; that is, on the Messiah, Jesus.
E. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of Jesus.
III. THE RESPONSE OF THE PEOPLE, "THEY WERE BAPTIZED IN THE NAME OF JESUS."
A. It would appear that Paul is the one that baptized them.
1. It is interesting in the light of the letter of Paul to the church in Corinth in which he said, that he thanked God that he had not baptized any of them but Crispus and Gaius, for the Lord did not send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel.
B. Paul then laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them.
1. Once again we see the gift of the Holy Spirit imparted by the laying on of hands.
2. On three occasions we find the Holy Spirit imparted by the laying on of hands.
a. The Samaritans.
b. Paul himself.
c. Now Paul laying his hands on them.
3. In two major cases there were no laying on of hands.
a. The original outpouring of the Spirit.
b. The house of Cornelius.
4. Note that the Holy Spirit came upon them. Epi.
C. The evidence, "They spoke in tongues and prophesied."
1. These are two of the vocal gifts of the Holy Spirit.
2. Paul devotes the 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians to these two gifts.
3. It does not say that they all did both, or that some spoke in tongues and others prophesied.
4. In the Old Testament the evidence of a person being filled with the Holy Spirit was the gift of prophecy.
D. The number being about twelve.