Charismatic Doctrine In The Light Of God’s Word

Acts 8: The Samaritans

 The next text is Acts 8:12-17. Philip had preached the Gospel in Samaria, many had believed in the Lord Jesus, and these new converts had been baptized (Acts 8:12). Then, when Peter and John came down to them, they "prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." These believers, too, were saints in the same way as the Old Testament saints, just as the 120 had been before Pentecost: they were regenerated, they had believed savingly on Christ, and thus the Spirit had worked in them; but they had not "received the gift of the Holy Ghost" in the fulness of the New Covenant sense as yet (just as the 120 had not, prior to Pentecost). It was only when the apostles laid hands on them, that they "received the Holy Ghost" in this sense.

  Why? Why did the Lord do it this way?

  The Jews were very prejudiced against the Samaritans. They had no dealings with them (Jn.4:9). But the Lord had said that the Gospel was to be preached to Samaria (Acts 1:8). This Philip did, and many were converted, and baptized. But as a sign to the Jews that the Lord had, indeed, granted repentance unto life to the Samaritans, the gift of the Holy Spirit (in the New Covenant sense) was only received when the apostles laid hands on them, and there was a visible demonstration that the Spirit had been given (Acts 8:14-18)! This is why there was the delay between their calling by grace, and their reception of the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant sense. But from then on, any Samaritan converted to Christ received the Holy Spirit at that very moment; just as, from the time of Pentecost onwards, any Jew converted to Christ received the Holy Spirit at that very moment. The events which transpired in Acts 8 were for a specific purpose, which has now been fulfilled. In no way, then, do these events support any Charismatic notion of a "second blessing" for believers today.

Acts 10: the Household of Cornelius

  Now we must move on to Acts 10:44-48. In this passage, as Peter was preaching to the Gentile Cornelius and his family, the Holy Spirit fell on them, and they spoke with tongues; whereupon Peter commanded them to be baptized in water.

  Cornelius was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house" (Acts 10:1,2). He had forsaken the idols of the Romans, and worshipped the true God, the God of Israel. He looked by faith to the Messiah he knew would come, just as all God's people did in the ages before Christ came; but he did not know that Jesus of Nazareth (of whom he had heard–vss.36,37) was the Christ, until Peter told him (Acts 10:36-43). It was while Peter was preaching to him and his household, that the Holy Ghost was "poured out", and they were "saved" in the fulness of the New Testament sense of the word (Acts 11:14; Eph.2:8,9). That this was the case, is made plain by Peter's command for them to be baptized (vss.47,48); for baptism is to follow faith in Jesus Christ. Cornelius and all his household were saints in the Old Testament sense, having believed in the Christ to come; but they now believed that Jesus was the Christ, and thus became New Testament saints, "baptized with the Holy Ghost" (for, as explained above, "receiving the Holy Ghost", as these people did [vs.47], is the same as being "baptized with the Holy Ghost"); and so submitted to baptism in accordance with God's Word.

  But something else also occurred at this time–and for a very specific reason: in addition to the "baptism with the Holy Spirit," (which, as explained above, is now the experience of every believer the moment the Lord saves him, but which the Jewish disciples at Pentecost, and these Gentile disciples here, received at a later stage because they were caught in that transitional period between the Old and the New Covenants), they also spoke with tongues at the same time (vs.46)!

  Why were they enabled to speak with tongues? The tongues-speaking confirmed to Peter that the Lord had truly led him to preach to this Gentile household; this is clear from his words in Acts 11:15-17. And also, it confirmed that God was granting repentance unto life to Gentiles as well as Jews–a lesson the Jewish believers needed to learn; for if the Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans, they were even more prejudiced against the Gentiles (Acts 10:45-47; 11:1-3,18)! Acts 11:18 is especially relevant here. They could not deny that the Lord was granting salvation to Gentiles, when the selfsame gift of tongues which they had been given at Pentecost was given to the Gentiles (Acts 11:15-18)!

  But again let it be noted very clearly: in no way does Acts 10:44-48 give justification to those who would seek a similar experience today! Firstly, it was a sovereign act of God, neither sought by the Gentiles, nor by the Jewish believers who were present (Acts 10:44-46; 11:17). Secondly, the tongues were for the benefit of the Jewish believers, as has been explained; and thus this was a unique event, designed to remove the prejudice of the Jewish believers at a time when much prejudice still existed. And thirdly, Peter himself had to cast all the way back in his mind to Pentecost, years before, to find an experience with which this event could be compared (Acts 11:16,17); which would be most strange (to say the least!) if such events had been occurring regularly in the churches between Pentecost and this visit to Cornelius' house! It is the general Pentecostal belief that, having been "baptized in the Spirit," one should experience further "baptisms" as the need arises; but Peter had not seen anything like it since the day of Pentecost! Even the Samaritan event was not the same; for Peter and John had deliberately gone there to lay hands on the disciples, that they might receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:5-17); but in Cornelius' house, the Holy Spirit "fell" in sovereign power, unexpectedly, suddenly, just as at Pentecost, upon people who, although regenerated just as all saints were who lived prior to Pentecost, were nevertheless not yet New Testament saints. This is why Peter was reminded of Pentecost, and not Samaria. It is true that the 120 at Pentecost had believed in Jesus as the Christ, and already been baptized, whereas those of Cornelius' household had believed in the Christ to come, not being aware that Jesus was the Christ, and had therefore not been baptized–but both were believers in the Old Testament sense: regenerated, converted, their faith being in the Messiah, but not "baptized with the Holy Ghost". Today, the elect who hear the Gospel preached, and who are enlightened by the Holy Spirit to exercise faith in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation, are "baptized with the Holy Ghost" at that very moment, and are then to be baptized in water; but the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer given, as shown not only by the texts examined thus far, but by those we shall yet examine.

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