Which baptism? — Acts 19:1ff
There are a number of baptisms mentioned in the Bible.
- Of Moses— 1 Corinthians 10:1,2. As Israel was surrounded and protected by a cloud from God (Exodus 13:21 and Psalms 105:39) and later walked through the midst of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:22,29) they were immersed (baptized) in the cloud and the sea to become the chosen people of God.
- Ceremonial Jewish washings (Hebrews 9:10)—Throughout the book of Leviticus and also in some of the other Old Testament books (Leviticus 15:10, for example) there are commands from God to literally wash in water as part of being ceremonially “clean” in God’s sight.
- Of John—John came to prepare men’s hearts for the Savior who was coming in the very near future, and his baptism was an immersion to show repentance (which was required for forgiveness of sins).
- Of suffering—This sort of immersion is used in a metaphoric way by Jesus, an immersion in suffering as inMark 10:38-39. Here Jesus is referring to His own suffering and the fact that His disciples will also suffer.
- Of the Holy Spirit—There are two ways this baptism can be seen in the New Testament. One baptism of the Spirit is the sort seen in Acts 2, accompanied by miracles, as proof of God’s approval. The second sort isn’t accompanied by miraculous signs, but is a description of our immersion into the life of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 5:16–26, and Romans 8:1–28).
- Of fire—This baptism was mentioned by John the Baptist as an alternative to baptism with the Holy Spirit, Hell. According to the New Testament we will be immersed in the life of the Spirit or in fire.
- Of Christ—This baptism is twice commanded by Jesus — Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15,16. And many times over it can be seen as the obedient response of faith from people desiring to be saved and become Christians in the book of Acts.
I mention these to note that baptisms have meanings, it’s not just about getting wet. When the 12 disciples that Paul discovered spoke of their baptism from John the Baptist, Paul commanded them to be baptized again, because they believed and had repented, into Christ for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). This is Christian baptism and apparently it really does make a difference for what reason you are baptized. How were you baptized?
Seven Sons of Sceva — Acts 19:14ff
I find this story such a scream! Here are a bunch of charlatan exorcists trying leverage Jesus’ name as just one more magical incantation (Ephesus was big into magic, as the rest of the passage tells us). But rather than exorcising the demon, the evil spirit says, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the demoniac leaps on them and and beats them up, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded! There are a couple lessons here: 1) don’t mess with evil spirits (Jude 8), because you don’t know what you’re getting into and 2) Jesus’ name is not one to use lightly or as some sort of magical incantation (like I’ve heard some televangelists use it). Jesus is after all the King of kings and Lord of lords.
A resurrection on Sunday — Acts 20:7ff
OK, this story could be poorly used as a warning against falling asleep in church, but I’ll not go there. I think it is on the other hand a great lesson about dedication to coming to the assembly. Poor Eutychus gets a raw deal lots of times, because he did fall asleep, but lets look at all the facts. The church was meeting on what we’d call Saturday evening, because they were using Jewish time, in which a day started 6PM. The early church, being peopled by a number of slaves, would meet in the evening after work was done. Eutychus, we might imagine, had been working all day long. The church was meeting in an upper room, which was doubtlessly warm. Oil lamps were the light in this early worship assembly, which were using up some of the oxygen in the room. Combine weariness, a naturally warm upper room, plenty of body warmth from a crowded room, a late hour, and oxygen eating lamps and you get plenty sleepy. To his credit, Eutychus probably sought out the window to get some fresh air and stay awake to hear what Paul was saying and participate in worship, but his weariness apparently got the better of him and fell asleep and out the window. Fortunately Eutychus was able to be raised from the dead, to everyone’s great relief; but consider the dedication that Eutychus had to just be there. It would have been easy and even understandable for Eutychus to excuse himself from the assembly, or go home early. But he not only came, but did his best to stay awake. Are you a Eutychus or a drop out (no pun intended), when you’re a little tired from a day’s work? Do you strive to hear God’s word and learn, or do you figure that you don’t really need what’s being taught or preached? I’d rather be a Eutychus than an absentee.
Shepherd the flock of God — Acts 20:17ff
This ought to be a regular study for any eldership. Paul masterfully outlines the responsibilities and critical nature of the ministry of the eldership (also known as shepherds and overseers, see the whole context). Too often elderships become more like a governing board, which may betray less noble reasons for aspiring to the office of an elder — getting to make the calls for the church. While authority to direct the affairs of the church is undoubtedly in the hands of the overseers of the congregation, knowing the flock, teaching the flock, healing the flock, feeding the flock, and defending the flock are priority responsibilities.
Arrest at the Temple — Acts 21:27ff
Paul’s arrest in the Temple was just one more time that this dedicated servant of God was arrested or otherwise persecuted in his lifetime. This arrest ultimately put him in continual custody for over four years — from Jerusalem to Caesarea to shipwreck to Rome. This tribulation had been prophesied for him, but instead of kicking dirt and complaining that it wasn’t fair or questioning God’s desire to save mankind (because, after all, Paul was doing so much successful missionary work), Paul clearly figured that God had some greater plan in mind for him — which indeed He did. May we have the same spiritual vision to see our own troubles in this way.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.