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It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus and found some disciples. 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.” 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 Acts 2 the Spirit came upon the believers in Jerusalem. In Acts 8 the Spirit came upon the believers in Samaria. In Acts 10 the Spirit came upon the Gentile believers at the house of Cornelius. Now here Paul discovers a group of John’s disciples who had not received the word of the Holy Spirit. They immediately understood and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And after that, Paul laid his hands on them and the Spirit came upon them. NOTE that the only group that did not have the experience of tongues was the Samaritans, yet it was somehow clear that the Spirit also came upon them. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. It was a threat. It was also a promise of the Messiah Who was to come. Being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus was a baptism of fulfillment and was nothing negative, but was unto the Good News. To be baptized is to be “identified with”, a new identification as a follower of Jesus in this case.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit had 3 meanings here in Acts: 1. The unity of the Spirit of God. Before Acts, believers had the Spirit of God come on them for special tasks and missions, but only temporarily. In Acts the Spirit came upon the them permanently and pulls all believers into an inseparable union.
2. The mission. The Spirit came upon them for a special mission–an ongoing mission of spreading the message of Jesus. We are to be witnesses of Jesus, meaning to hold him up to the light for people to examine him and him alone, not another doctrinal stance or another church or denominational flavor.
3. The power to carry out this mission. The Spirit came upon believers permanently to empower us to bear witness of Jesus. All of this is what Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witnesses.”
This same unified mission with power to bear witness of Jesus is ours today and it began in the Acts of Jesus. Encouraged by the experience with the disciples of John, Paul goes back into the synagogue and spoke boldly for 3 months–speak of the Way and of the kingdom of God. And, again an opposition rose up within the synagogue and Paul pulled out of the synagogue with a few disciples and went back to teaching at the school of Tyrannus building next door. He did this for two years. It was so powerful 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. 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. 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. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. Many are persuaded to come toward God by the evil they encounter. Here the power of evil and the power of God come into contrast. And as the local exorcists tried to use the name of Jesus to free a man from demonic captivity, but these men were overpowered by the power of this man with the demons inside and left them naked and wounded.
I see an interesting principle here. Using the name of Jesus as a mantra may be counterproductive. When you do anything in the name of Jesus, you must align yourself with Jesus so that you are working in concert with him. As Jesus made very clear throughout his ministry it’s all a matter of the heart! This reminds me of the passage at the end of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, I never knew you.'”
Get this now. These people will come to Jesus and say: 1. We have spoken in your name 2. We have cast out demons in your name 3. We have performed miracles in your name
So, who are these guys? Well, the truth is we don’t know, because people don’t wear FT or FP for False Teacher or False Prophet on their foreheads. But these people Jesus speaks about here are people who are using the name of Jesus–speaking in his name, casting out demons in his name and doing miracles in his name. The measuring stick all comes down to the heart. Is your heart bent toward God, counting on his grace for your life now and for eternity? Well is it?