The Book of Acts (Chapter 19:1-22) (Part 30)
It is one thing to be born again by the Holy Spirit and something further to be filled or baptised with the Holy Spirit. Multitudes of ministers, preachers, teachers and full-time workers involved in their calling and ministry to the Body of the Messiah have never been baptised with the Holy Spirit. They may be eloquent in speech and knowledgeable in scripture and fervent in the zeal as Apollos was but in reality have not had their personal Pentecost. They know they are saved and know the Holy Spirit lives in them but have never experienced the mighty Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
A definite experience
Scripture is clear that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is just as a definite experience than that of the new birth. When we are born again a well of living water is put within us but when we are baptised with the same Holy Spirit that living water within overflows and the outlet is the tongue. The Lord Jesus Himself said this would be so. Concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit He said; “If anyone is thirsty (is thirsting), let him come to Me and drink. He who believes (is believing-present tense) in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow (future tense) rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed (were believing-present tense) in Him were to receive (future tense); for the Spirit was not yet given (for witness and testimony), because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39).
The New Birth
As to the life-giving ministry of the Holy Spirit, namely the new birth, the Holy Spirit was doing his work such as He had done with the woman at the well and with others who had been saved by faith in the Lord Jesus during His ministry. This was the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that the Lord Jesus had spoken to Nichodemus about. He should have known that this new birth from above was the circumcision of the heart by the Spirit that was taught and experienced by many in the Old Testament (John 3:3) (Romans 2:28-29).
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit
As to the Baptism with the Holy Spirit for witnessing and service this experience could not happen until the Lord Jesus had died on the cross, had been resurrected and had ascended into heaven (Acts 1:8) (Acts 2:33) The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is not the new birth, although it can occur simultaneously, but for the purpose of witnessing and service for the Lord Jesus. This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost and to the Samaritans and to the Household of Cornelius. Now it happened again!
(Vs.1) “It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples.”
These disciples were undoubtedly saved men, they were disciples. Most probably they had been saved under the preaching of Apollos who had previously been at Ephesus preaching the scriptures but at that time knowing only the baptism of John and not experience the Baptism with the Holy Spirit even though John had taught that it was coming. These disciples were born again but not baptised with the Holy Spirit. There are many in this category today in the wider Body of the Messiah who know they are saved but lack spiritual power in their testimony and service for the Lord Jesus. They may well be members in good standing in their local assembly but know they lack spiritual power in their work for the Lord Jesus if they are honest.
Many ordained clergy are in the same boat and in many cases their theology of the Holy Spirit is more theoretical theologically than experiential. They may testify to a born again experience but have never experienced the deeper work of the Holy Spirit in empowering them for their ministry and service to the local Body of the Messiah to which they are called to minister. Paul was an apostle with authority from the Lord Jesus to pray for believers to be baptised or filled with the Holy Spirit. And so we read…
(Vs.2-4) “He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit. And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
Many get confused with terminology when speaking about this experience from the Holy Spirit. The Bible uses different terms when speaking about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. When John the Baptist spoke about this experience he referred to is as being “Baptised with the Holy Spirit.” The Lord Jesus called it “being endued with power from on high.” He also called it “the Promise of the Father.” On the Day of Pentecost when they were all baptised with the Holy Spirit we read where “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Then in the case of the Samaritans they “were receiving the Holy Spirit” or “received the Holy Spirit.”
Then in the case of the household of Cornelius we read where “the Holy Spirit fell upon them.” Later in relating this experience to the leaders at Jerusalem Peter referred to it as “received the Holy Spirit” and said it was “the like gift” that he and the others had received at Pentecost. In all of these cases even though there are different terms used they all refer to the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. In the case of the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house they were born again and baptised with the Holy Spirit simultaneously but in all of the other cases they were baptised with the Holy Spirit sometime after they had been born again by the same Holy Spirit who regenerates and empowers.
Everyone who is born again receives the Holy Spirit as a well of eternal life within. Everyone who is baptised with the same Holy Spirit receives the Holy Spirt from above. The Holy Spirit comes down upon them while overflowing from within them and the outlet or the tap is the tongue (Acts 2:4) (Acts 10:46). In the case of the Samaritans we are not specifically told that they spoke in tongues but we are told that they received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by the apostles sometime after they had been saved or born again by the same Holy Spirit working through Phillip’s preaching.
Paul’s question is perfectly logical. He knew something was missing in the spiritual experience of these disciples. They were saved, having believed in Jesus and were spiritually regenerated but have never experienced the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Now the text should read more accurately “No, we have not even heard whether the Holy Spirit has been given.” They would have known about the promised Holy Spirit because they were disciples of John the Baptist who taught about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit to come. Also Apollos would have known about this as he accurately taught the scriptures but like these men had only known the baptism of John. So these disciples would have known about the promise of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit but not known that this gift was available to every believer. (Acts 2:33, 39)
Well it was their privilege to know this and an experience that was essential to their walk with the Lord Jesus and Paul knew this as well as he himself had been baptised with the Holy Spirit three days after his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. If you have been born again and know this as a definite spiritual experience but have never been baptised with the Holy Spirit then it is your right and privilege to know this in your own life. Without this mighty empowering work of the Holy Spirit you will not be able to effectively witness for the Lord Jesus nor move fully in the gifts of the Spirit practiced Biblically of course.
(Vs.5-7) “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men.”
In the book of Acts we see believers being baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Some, who deny the Triune nature of God also called the Trinity, try to tell us that baptising in the name of Jesus was the normal thing to do and that baptizing new believers in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit was not the norm. What they do not realise is that when the Bible speaks of believers being baptised in the name of Jesus it was to distinguish this baptism from other forms of baptism which would have included John’s baptism. It was to identify the believer specifically with the Lord Jesus Christ. This in no way does away with the command of our Lord Jesus to baptise in the name of the Trinity. This is why believers today are baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
While the word Trinity is not specifically mentioned in the Bible does not mean that it is not there. In fact the Triune nature of God is all the way through the whole Bible. The Lord Jesus Himself clearly spoke about His relationship with the Father and with the Holy Spirit from all eternity. And so we read that after these disciples had been baptised that Paul laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came on them. The clear evidence that this had occurred was that they spoke with tongues and prophesied. These 12 disciples also spoke with tongues. In Acts the 120 on the Day of Pentecost spoke in tongues boldly declaring the mighty works of God. They were praising and extolling God in languages they had not learned although some of them would have understood what they were saying but not all. However, those listening heard very clearly those declarations in their own languages. The miracle was not so much in what was spoken but in what was heard.
Likewise, in the case of Cornelius, we read where those who had received the Holy Spirit were praising God in tongues. So then tongues may be praise or prophecy. Of course later when Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth he also said that tongues spoken publicly were a sign to unbelievers who would hear the works of God in their own languages and respond to Him. Not everyone who is baptised with the Holy Spirit will speak with tongues but there will be an impartation of spiritual power and an enablement to testify and to witness and to work for the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we look at the gift of tongues in the New Testament we are told that it is one of the gifts of the Spirit and that when it is exercised publically it must be understood otherwise the speaker should keep quiet and speak only to himself and to God. As with all gifts of the Spirit they are given severally as He wills. We do not dictate to Him what gifts we would like but our responsibility in this matter is to yield completely to His control. Just as we receive the new birth by faith in the same way we receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. (This subject is dealt with fully in our series on the Holy Spirit )
(Vs.8-11) “And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.”
As was his custom Paul first of all went to the Synagogue and spent three months trying to persuade his brethren in the flesh concerning things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. As in other places the Jewish religious leaders became hardened and disobedient to what they were hearing about the Lord Jesus and started to spread malicious talk denigrating the message Paul was proclaiming. At this time believers in Jesus were known as “the People of the Way.” It was at Antioch where they were first called Christians and that was a nick name that over the centuries has stuck but in the early days of the Body of the Messiah the assemblies were called people of the Way.
Paul did not want those who had been saved to be swayed and influenced by false, deceptive and malicious teaching so he took them away from the Synagogue. He went to the school of Tyrannus for two years. We are not told who he was but Paul was able to acquire the school to use for his Bible School. Many Jews and Gentiles came to hear the Word of God and many would have been saved. This will become the pattern of the Church in the last days. Jesus true followers will be marginalized by the denominational institutional system to the point where they will be forced to leave. As far as institutionalised Christendom it is finished. Like Mosaic Judaism prior to 70AD it is spiritually bankrupt and the axe of God’s judgement has been already laid to the root. It is only a matter of time before institutionalised Christian denominationalism goes to Babylon lock, stock and barrel!
For two years Paul taught Jews and Gentiles until the school of Tyrannus became widely known and sought after by many in the Asian provinces and beyond. Unlike the rigid and spiritually lifeless religious system of Judaism the Bible school of Tyrannus was a power house of the Holy Spirit. People were hungry for the Word of God and over the two years multitudes came to the Bible school. God was confirming the Word with signs following. Of course the genuine and Biblical miracles of healing and deliverance always follow the preaching of the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. They are not substitutes for preaching the Word of God. The miracles that the Holy Spirit was performing through the hands of Paul were being done among those who were being saved as a testimony that God was at work and that His Word had power to save, to heal and to deliver sinners from their sins, their sicknesses and their slavery to demon spirits.
Just like Peter’s shadow had fallen across sick people in the past making them well so handkerchiefs of aprons were carried from the body of Paul to those who were sick and under the influence of evil spirits. This was the true power of the gospel at work as Paul later wrote to the believers at Thessalonica “our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Those who were being saved, healed and delivered for the most part were unsaved people who were being saved. This kind of ministry will be conspicuous and widespread in the days just prior to the return of the Lord Jesus in great power and glory.
(Vs.13-17) “But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.”
Today there are those in the Body of the Messiah who are preoccupied and in some cases obsessed with demons to the point where they are always trying to cast them out of Christians. Nowhere in fact are we taught in the New Testament that the apostles went around casting demon spirits out of believers. There is plenty of evidence for demon possessed unbelievers but not believers. Paul was oppressed and at times afflicted by a demon spirit; a messenger from Satan sent to harass him. However, this was an exception rather than the rule. Of course we must not underestimate the power of Satan being unleashed against the body of the Messiah especially as his time is now short. A believer can be oppressed by an evil spirit but not possessed. The only way a believer could be possessed is if they have been in a spiritually backslidden state for some time. In the Christian life we are either progressing or regressing as there is no stagnation in spiritual matters. Either we are growing in our experience and knowledge of the Lord Jesus and the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God or we are going the other way.
It is possible that a backslider in heart can get to the point where they become so hardened to the voice of the Holy Spirit that they are taken over by an evil spirit as was the case with King Saul. Once this occurs then most probably that person is no longer saved. After all, our spiritual wrestling match is not with flesh and blood (mere humans) but with principalities and with powers and with the dark forces of spiritual wickedness in high places. We have a new nature as well as the old nature and the nature we feed the most is the one that will ultimately control us. This is why the dictates of the flesh in us are constantly at war with the dictates of the Spirit in us. If we have this conflict within then it is a sign that we are spiritually alive (Galatians 5:16-18, 24-26). It is also possible to come to a place where we experience the rest of faith despite what may or may not be happening to us, in us and or in our circumstances. After all we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Now we read that there were certain Jewish exorcists who went from place to place trying to use the name of Jesus that Paul preached to drive out evil spirits. Most probably it gave them an emotional ‘rush’ of some kind to be involved in this so called ministry of casting out demons. Who knows how long these guys plied their trade. It is clear that when they encountered the real deal they were shocked! Sadly and even tragically you have many Christians coming forward to have demons cast out of them on a regular basis usually by a man or a woman who claim to have this power and are experts in using the name of Jesus to do it.
Many who come forward to not have a demon hassling them but are fighting against the desires and appetites of the flesh and there may be areas where they are struggling spiritually and that with demonic forces taking advantage of their situation. What they really need is not a demon cast out of them but to be taught how to walk in the Holy Spirit in such a way that they can overcome the desires of the flesh that are constantly at war with the desires of the Spirit. Satan will always take advantage of our fleshly indulgences but a demon from Satan cannot possess a true believer who is seeking to walk moment by moment by faith in the Lord Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit as difficult as it may be for them.
More pastors should spend more time teaching their flock how to resist temptation and to overcome the desires of the flesh rather than spending hours upon hours trying to drive demons out of genuine believers. In many cases if these pastors and so called travelling prophets of one sort or another really experienced a demon possessed person many of them would not know how to handle it.
So it was with these seven sons of Sceva. They may well have put on a good show but when they encountered the real deal the demon actually beat them up! After that a Holy reverence for God fell upon all of the believers as the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Paul was dealing with the occult and he needed the power of God to deal with it. His method of doing this was not ‘to speak into the heavenlies’ and to take ‘spiritual dominion over territories’ as such but to preach the gospel and teach the Word of God in the Spirit’s power that broke demonic powers and principalities over the lives of men and women at Ephesus! Deliverance from demons for many was the result of faithfully preaching the Word of God.
We should not go ‘demon hunting’ especially in the local fellowship but if and when we do come across it we need to deal with it in the name of Jesus. Multitudes of pastors today would rather have Alpha and Purpose Driven programmes to try to get people saved with their seeker friendly approach but it is the work of the flesh and man and in no way can substitute for the genuine power of the Holy Spirit. The first thing the blessed Holy Spirit does is to convict men and women of sin, righteousness and judgement. Anything less is not the true work of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit really deals with a person they may or may not have an emotional experience but if the work is genuinely the work of the Holy Spirit there will be a change in the will of that person. They will want to be saved at all costs without any conditions and be saved from a crooked and depraved generation!
(Vs.18-19) “Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”
It was the faithful preaching of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and with signs following that the power of the occult was broken in people’s lives. Obviously many had spent loads of money with these religious shysters and con artists who had seen a good thing in promoting religion and supplying an endless run of books, charms and potions. We see the same kind of thing happening today on TV and over the Internet as so called ‘gospel preachers’ rake in the money from gullible people, mostly Christians looking for a quick spiritual fix. Covetousness, self-aggrandisement and power and a love for money is always at the root of this kind of thing. Just look at the Word of faith-prosperity money preachers today “fleecing the sheep on the blood of the lamb!” People being saved, is not revival but the results of revival.
A true and genuine spiritual revival will see sinners saved and saints sanctified. The first thing the Holy Spirit does is convict people of their sin to the point where they repent of their unbelief in Jesus and cast themselves upon the mercy of God and by faith receive the Lord Jesus into their heart and life and embracing the spiritual power of the blood of Jesus that atones for their sin and cleanses them from all of it (1 John 1:7-9). It is the power of the blood of Jesus applied to the heart and the mind by the Holy Spirit that breaks the power of the occult over a person’s life.
It was the exact case at Ephesus as scores of people repented and believed and freely confessed their sins and practices. Burning their idols, their occult books, charms, bracelets and their Ouija boards as well as any other occult trinkets in the fire cut them off completely from their past involvement with the occult. In the very last days just before the Lord Jesus comes back this kind of revival will be common place as we are now living in a world steeped in the occult especially through television, video games and the Internet. Many today are in fact demon possessed and do not even know it. The genuine preaching of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with a strong emphasis on the power of the blood of Jesus will deal a deadly and decisive blow to Satan’s kingdom, save sinners and sanctify backslidden saints! Something that Alpha and Purpose Driven or a seeker friendly programme for church growth will never do!
(Vs.20-22) “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.”
There is nothing like the Word of God to break up Satan’s kingdom and to pull down spiritual; strongholds! As God said “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29). CH Spurgeon said “the Word of God is the anvil upon which the hammers of men’s opinions are smashed!” God’s Word preached under the anointing power of the Holy Spirit can smash the rocky hearts of men and women. What is impossible with man is possible with God. If the blessed Holy Spirit does not empower our testimony and service for the Lord Jesus then we will see no spiritual power or effectiveness in the lives of others.
Unless God’s word is growing mightily in us and prevailing over the spiritual forces of darkness arrayed against us we will always be out manoeuvred by the devil. Already he has many churches and ministers in his hip pocket! One thing to remember is that after spiritual victories there will always be physical, mental and emotional exhaustion to a greater or lesser degree because we have been battling with wicked supernatural forces in the atmosphere just above the surface of the earth. Elijah experienced this after his great spiritual victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Paul was no exception.
Paul had a working relationship with the Holy Spirit and by this time in his ministry conversed with the Holy Spirit freely and could hear His voice very clearly. In consultation with the Holy Spirit he had decided to go to Jerusalem with his ultimate goal to visit Rome itself, the heartbeat of the Roman Empire. After the revival Paul had been ministered to by Timothy and Erastus whom he eventually sent on to Macedonia. He himself stayed in Asia for some time continuing his ministry to the saints there at Ephesus. We are not told how his two brethren had ministered to him but it was obvious that Paul was most probably spiritually exhausted after his encounter with the occult at Ephesus. It was a temporary reprieve at best as there were many tribulations that lay ahead through which he had to pass before he would finally enter the kingdom of God and into the rest from his labours in this life.