Intro to A Walk Through Acts
John 20:22-23 – And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
What an enigma this scripture has become in "Christianity" today. This scripture is used as the crux of position that receiving Jesus into your heart is separate, different and distinct from receiving the Spirit (or the baptism in the Spirit). In other words, you can be saved without receiving the Spirit of Jesus by His baptism. It is explained, as I understand it, that the baptism of the Spirit is a separate and distinct part of the salvific experience. This "experience" being defined as receiving Christ into your heart after you have invited Him in or after you have simply made a profession of faith. This stance teaches that you can receive the Spirit in your heart without experiencing the baptism in the Spirit because they separate Jesus and His Spirit and say they are two different persons of the Godhead. "They" say it's good to have the baptism in the Spirit, if God chooses to give it to you, but it is unnecessary for salvation. This is the gospel message I hear preached today.
Is this true? All I have to do is ask Jesus into my heart, and even though I experience nothing, I am to trust that salvation is signed, sealed and delivered to me? The question that should always be asked is this: Does this line of reasoning or my experience measure up in line with the Word of God, with what Jesus said? How can I tell if my experiences are really true? Biblical? How do I know? All of us are raised in a particular paradigm of belief, and as the scripture says, when we grow old, normally, we do not depart from it. But what if that belief paradigm was founded on a false premise?
If I had grown up in family structure that believed it was alright to lie or steal occasionally to protect myself or loved ones and I was in a neighborhood that thought the same way, does it make it O.K.? Am I not held accountable to a higher standard if I am in Jesus? By searching the scriptures, I can discern that lying & stealing are not acceptable, period. Do I see people in the scriptures lying & stealing and seemingly getting away with it? Yeah! Does that make it O.K.? No! But when I take what the majority of scripture says on the subject of lying & stealing, I can see that God does not approve.
I cannot take one or two verses of scripture and believe that I know everything about a particular topic [for instance the above referenced scripture]. I need the wisdom of God by His Spirit to discern between the legality of the word and the spirit of the word. So I must study more on the subject to see if these verses can be taken at face value or if more of the totality of scripture needs to be taken into account. For the most part, scripture is straightforward on practical issues. It is when we ascend to spiritual issues that we have such a problem because our flesh hinders us. But it is never impossible to find truth, by the Spirit of God, if one will seek His face.
Let us search together and see if this scripture and the prevailing message of today’s gospel is true.
If you read the chapter of the scripture reference above, it says that Jesus is speaking to 10 of His disciples. Thomas was not there and Judas committed suicide. Thomas later saw Jesus and believed, but what is interesting to note, is that it never says that Jesus breathed on Thomas to receive the Spirit. So was Thomas left out of this? If John 20:22-23 is the precedent for how one should receive the Spirit, then what happened to Thomas?
Notice, also, that this was the 40 day period after Jesus' resurrection. The period that He was seen by at least 500 people after He was raised from the dead. In chapter 21 we read that the disciples followed wherever Peter led them. That meant going back to fishing and catching nothing. Their fishing experience was fruitless and so was their life at that point. Following Peter (a man without the Spirit, at the time), was fruitless. Then one day, they saw Jesus on the shore and after obeying Him caught an incredible amount of fish. Now, if the Spirit had indeed been received by the disciples in John 20, why were they not about the Father’s business? Why was their life directionless, fruitless, and dreary? Not until Jesus came on the scene, followed by their trust and obedience to Him, did there life (present situation) turn around.
These events in the latter part of John do not fulfill the words that Jesus spoke of when referring to the Comforter. Jesus said, "...He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance..." If they had received the Spirit already, is this what the Spirit led the disciples to do? To go back fishing? Right back in the same place many of them were before Jesus called them from their lives, just 3 1/2 years prior to?
Let us get a little more specific about what exactly Jesus said about the Comforter. He said,
John 16:7,8,13 - Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [Emphasis added are mine]
It says here that unless Jesus would GO AWAY, the Comforter (the Holy Spirit - Jesus - see I John 2:1) would not come. But when Jesus departed, then, He would send the Comforter to us. Had Jesus left yet to send the Comforter to the 11 disciples? No. He was on the beach waiting for them to come back from fishing because He had some unfinished business and last minute commands to give them. To fulfill the promise of sending the Comforter, He had to fulfill His word first and GO AWAY. Then, and only then after, would the Comforter come.
Let us recap the other 3 gospels (the parallel verses of scripture) to see what Jesus said or did before His ascension.
I have taken the liberty to put the following references in a particular order. I always, in all of my writings, suggest you read for yourself the verses before and after the scriptures referenced to get a better view of what is unfolding in context and feel free to research other scriptures on your own before reading further.
Luke 24:45-47 - Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [Emphasis added are mine]
Here we read that He opens the minds of the disciples to understand that what just took place (His death, burial, and resurrection) was necessary and prophesied in the scriptures to take place. It was simply a fulfillment of prophecy. Then He commands that repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name (Jesus) be preached among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Which corresponds with the scripture that says, first the Jew, then the Gentile. Jesus qualifies and conditions that the "great commission" (as it is popularly known) must start from Jerusalem. Now go to the end of the book of Mark.
Mark 16:15-18 - And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. [Emphasis added are mine]
I believe this is just a little more detail of the same period of time as the previous scripture (parallel passage). It says, whoever believes and is baptized is saved. Whoever disbelieves is condemned. Believe or disbelieve what exactly? The gopsel they preached (during our walk together here we will see what was and is the gospel that must me preached). After preaching the gospel how will you know the ones who believe? These signs will follow them who believe (remember, the witness that testified of Jesus was the works fulfilled by the Father in Him -the Spirit of God-): In the name of Jesus they cast out demons, speak with new tongues, handle serpents, if they drink poison it will not harm them, and they will lay hands on the sick and they will become well. These are the signs and the witness of those who believe. Just like the sign and the witness for John the Baptist (that Jesus was the Immanuel promised) was seeing the Spirit descending upon Jesus, so will it be for the one who believes according to the apostles gospel. And as we will see ahead, when someone was baptized in the Spirit, there was always a specific, particular manifestation from that person. Let us continue in Matthew.
Matthew 28:18-20 - And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. [Emphasis added are mine]
Again, a continuation of commandments given by Jesus, to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, to observe whatever Jesus commanded them. Their seems to be a contradiction amongst the writers of the gospels. Two of them say that Jesus said, "...in His name..." or "...in my name...", yet Matthew said, "...in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost...". We will focus on this a little more later, but suffice it to say that we will see not only what the apostles commanded all people to do, but also in what name did they use when they baptized them.
Notice that in the passage Matthew wrote that "in the name" is singular, not plural (as if their is a name for the Father, and another name for the Son, and yet another name for the Holy Ghost). There are not three different names for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or, for that matter, God. These are titles or roles that refer to only one God. Later, we will see what is the one name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is not done yet for He gives yet another most important command.
Luke 24:49 – And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. [Emphasis added are mine]
So Jesus gives His commands of going out and preaching the gospel to all nations... to repent and baptize in the name of Jesus unto the forgiveness of sins and that these signs will follow them that do believe in the gospel preached: In the name of Jesus they will cast out demons, speak with new tongues, handle serpents, if they drink a poison it will not harm them, and they will lay hands on the sick and they will become well. However, after all this He says, "But you, wait in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high." This "great commission" for the body of Christ could not be fulfilled until dunamis (power) from on high was imparted to them. The dunamis from on high came with and is the promise of the Father - the Holy Spirit. Up to this point, the disciples could not say that they received the Spirit for he had not been sent yet. Not only that, the fruit of their life in the 40 days after Messiah’s resurrection was barren, unless Jesus was present and obedience was given unto Him. So let us continue.
Luke 24:50 – And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
Mark 16:19 – So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
Luke 24:51-53 – And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
Mark 16:20 – And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
Now how did all this play out? For that we need details, so let’s take A Walk Through Acts.
For another confirming perspective, on the issue presented in this intro and the rest of A Walk Through Acts, please read Bro. Blume's article on the apparent "automaticity" of receiving the Holy Spirit entitled,
© copyright 2000, revised 2011 Jesus M. Ruiz