Fundamental Questions of The Christian Life # 8
(2) Disciples, continued -
But Aquila and Priscilla, that fine Christian couple who had accompanied Paul to Ephesus from Corinth, soon detected the flaw and the lack, and took him and expounded to him the way of God more carefully (vs. 26). His ministry enlarged greatly after that. Soon afterwards he left Ephesus and crossed over to Corinth, and it is interesting to follow the wonderful ministry of Apollos from this point. But I just mention it for this reason: that when Apollos got beyond John the Baptist to the real meaning of the Holy Spirit and of baptism into Christ, it made an immense difference to his ministry. Paul was able to say: "I planted, Apollos watered" (1 Cor. 3:6), and much more. That is no small thing. It illustrates the vital importance of having the Holy Spirit. Now these disciples knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. Although they had dwelling in their midst a man mighty in the Old Testament Scriptures, and familiar with the teaching of John the Baptist and his baptism, they could not be led any further by him. They knew nothing vital concerning the way of the Lord, although such a man had been ministering to them.
These disciples, then, represented a kind of parenthesis,an interlude,a discontinuity; something held in suspense, as it were, between John the Baptist and Jesus. And I am not sure that are not many such disciples today, suspended in that gap. Yes, they know something of the Bible; they know something about Jesus. They have been 'taught by word of mouth.' But I fear there are multitudes of those who have the name "Christian," and who would be called, or would wish to be called, disciples, who have no real, personal experience of receiving the Holy Spirit. They belong to this kind of parenthetical Christianity. It has not gone through, not gone right on; it has stopped, it is a discontinuity. But these at Ephesus did go on, as the record shows us - they did bridge the gap.
We now turn briefly to the third matter - that of baptism. For it was up to that that the Apostle led them. From their reply, "We did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was," we are not quite sure whether they meant that they had not heard that there was such a thing or person as the Holy Spirit, or that they had not heard whether the Holy Spirit had come. But it is not of great importance. It is perfectly evident that they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. And so Paul says, 'Well, then, into what were you baptized?' That is the point upon which the big question turns. "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? Into what then were ye baptized?' These two things go together; the one question is within the other - the one resolves itself into the other. "Into what...were ye baptized?"
What, then, we have to ask, did baptism into Christ mean? To put it in another form: Why did the Holy Spirit wait for that testimony? And in answering this question we touch the greatest things in the Christian life. Here we really do come to the "seal" and the "constitution" mentioned in our title. I do not mean that baptism is that, but look behind it and see what it really meant. You have to go a long way back to answer the question. What did baptism into Christ mean? You have to go right back to the beginning. What was it that happened in the garden, when man disbelieved God? When man, at the suggestion of satan, disobeyed God, he opened as it were a door into his own being - a door into which satan put his foot, and from which he has never withdrawn it. Through man opening himself to satan, satan got a purchase in man's soul, obtained a foothold in the very heart of man, upon which all the evil powers have fulfilled the work of satan in man and through man ever since!
Make no mistake about this: the soul of the unregenerate man and woman is in alliance with the evil powers! It is not a matter of how conscious you are of it. Try to get away and turn to the Lord Jesus, and you will become aware that you are not as free as you thought you were, you have not the ability that you thought you had. You will wake up to the fact that you are a prisoner, and that, unless a mighty deliverer and rescuer comes to you, there is no escape. That foothold was given; that alliance and link with satan was formed; and it remains. The soul of this unregenerate is linked with satan, and the evil powers fulfill all the purposes of satan in this life.
What is the way out? The only way out is through death. God pronounced that upon man. "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4). But "one died for all" (2 Cor. 5:14). Jesus took the place of the sinner, and died that death; and in His death He broke that link. He severed that union: He stripped off the principalities (Col. 2:5); He 'nullified him that had the power of death, that is, the devil' (Heb. 2:14). One died for all. Baptism is our testimony, the believer's testimony to the double fact that, in the death of Christ, the man in union with satan has been removed and satan with him, and that, in resurrection-union with Christ, the Holy Spirit constitutes inwardly a new relationship. Death is the great divide. Resurrection is the great new union. Through this new link or union, Christ and His Kingdom operate. All the purposes of God are realized - but only realized through and upon the ground of this union effected by receiving the Holy Spirit.
[finally! an understandable explanation of what satan's lie and resultant works, in man achieved such a tremendous hold on mankind. And, as importantly, how Christ's death and resurrection broke the link satan had on man! And note too, the absolute importance of the indwelling Holy Spirit! Not just the initial filling of the Holy Spirit at repentance, and baptism, but since then, when the Holy Spirit fills those of us who desire to grow in grace and continue onward with Christ, to the fullest.]
(continued with # 9 - The Vital Value of Understanding The Word of God)