Thursday, March 13, 2014

Paul finds some odd disciples

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
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 Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Act 19:1-6)

This is such a peculiar story.  First, Paul finds “certain disciples.”  Considering what we read about how little they knew, I have to wonder how he determined they were disciples.  They only knew the baptism of John (or thought they had it), yet they didn’t even have the essentials of John’s message about the coming Messiah who would baptize them with fire and the Holy Ghost.  It is when Paul starts probing into their foundational religious experience with ordinances that he discovers their ignorance.  A real disciple of John would have known about that promise of the Holy Ghost.

What are we to make of this?  I personally think this indicates there were people running around claiming authority to administer baptism, claiming to be disciples of John, yet who had discarded the essentials of John’s message about the coming of the Messiah and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  One of these false teachers seems to have gotten to these people and made converts of them. 

Paul had to fill them in on what they didn’t know about John’s baptism and testimony of Christ.  Happily, they were sincere and honest of heart, so they listened and submitted to be re-baptized (since their previous baptism was invalid) and received confirmation.  They could easily have refused with suspicion, wondering if Paul was yet another false teacher.

From this story we can detect how Satan works in the background to try to keep people from the truth.  He presents counterfeits of the truth or partial truths, knowing that when people encounter the truth they will wonder how to know it isn’t just another counterfeit.  He knows people worry about being “taken in again” once they discover they were deceived.

Thankfully, this story also shows how one can know one is gaining the truth.  Paul explained to these disciples the missing information about John’s baptism and the purpose behind it.  Truth reveals missing info and missing purpose.   Also, when they received the ordinances, they received the Holy Ghost which manifested itself in the gift of tongues and prophecy.  This was the Lord’s sign to these disciples that they had found and obeyed the truth and it was from God.  They could know for themselves and not just what some person had told them.  True ordinances bring true spiritual manifestations from God.

I love this story because it shows that this is not the work of man, but the work of the Lord and He is the one that fulfills the promises.  The Lord is still at work today in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and fulfills His promises in the holy ordinances.  Our church can add many missing pieces to what other Christians are missing, helping them to understand where they come from, why they are here in this life, what this life is for, and where they will go in the afterlife.  If you want to know, ask your Mormon friends, or chat with the missionaries or come to one of ourchurches and ask us.