Acts 19:1-7 - Our Experience of the Spirit.
Welcome to our Bible Study. We are studying Spiritual Applications from the Book of Acts. Today, my subject is "Our Experience of the Spirit." My text is Acts 19:1-7 which deals with the outpouring of the Spirit in Ephesus.
When the event in Acts 19:1-7 took place, Paul was on his third missionary journey. Luke tells us (Acts 19:1-7) about the disciples that Paul found at Ephesus. They were lacking in both knowledge and experience. They had been baptized into John's baptism. Paul taught them further, baptized them in the name of Jesus, and led them to receive the Holy Spirit. Thus, the disciples were led to take definite forward steps in their Christian experience.
1. The Disciples in Ephesus were True Believers.
When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he found "some disciples." Much discussion surrounds the spiritual condition of these disciples. Various scholars have held that they were not Christians, that they were almost Christians, or that although they were Christians, they lacked much in knowledge and experience. Paul asks them about their experience in the Spirit. This leads some scholars to think that Paul suspected that they were not truly saved.
This view overlooks two important facts. First, when people come to faith, they are not fully mature. They must grow in faith, understanding of the Word, and in their experience. Second, when people believe in Christ, they do receive the Spirit, but they can receive the Spirit again. As I understand this story, the disciples at Ephesus were true believers, but they were immature in their understanding and experience. This will be evident as we review the story.
2. Paul Asks an Experiential Question.
Luke records the dialogue between Paul and the Ephesian disciples. The dialogue begins (verse 2) with Paul asking this question: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when [or after] you believed?" Literally, the meaning is "having believed," did you receive the Holy Spirit?
Many commentators believe that Paul suspected that these disciples had not received the Spirit and, therefore, were not truly Christians. They do not allow for more than one reception of the Spirit. Along with them, we believe that a true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit, but we hold that one may receive the Spirit more than once and even in an ongoing way.
As I see it, Paul observed that the disciples were lacking in their Christian experience. He perhaps suspected that they had not received the Spirit in a way that they could know they had received Him. Therefore, he asked them whether or not they had received the Spirit in an experiential way. Paul is asking, "Having believed, have you had a recognizable, experiential reception of the Spirit?" The question stresses the importance of our relationship with the Spirit and having a vital awareness of His presence always.
3. Paul Baptizes the Disciples in the Name of Jesus.
The disciples replied to Paul's question with this comment (verse3), "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." They meant, I believe, that they had not heard that the Holy Spirit had been poured out in an experiential way. This led to Paul asking a second question, "into what then were you baptized?"
In the early church water baptism and baptism in the Spirit were usually closely connected. So, this may have led Paul to ask about their baptism. We see the connection between baptism and being filled with the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:38), in Paul's life (Acts 9:17), at Samaria (Acts 8:15-16), and at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:47-48).
Our baptismal services ought to be times when the Spirit is powerfully present among us. Indeed, the baptismal service should be a time when believers are baptized in the Holy Spirit. In baptism in water we confess our faith in Christ. When the Spirit comes upon us, we are empowered to witness.
4. The Holy Spirit is Outpoured Upon the Disciples.
When Paul laid hands on the disciples, the Holy Spirit came on them. Luke writes (verses 6-7): "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." When they spoke in tongues and prophesied, they gave a powerful witness to their conversion and allegiance to Christ.
The reception of the Spirit at Ephesus was highly experiential. The apostle Paul had asked them an experiential question: "Having believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?" Obviously, they had not received the Spirit in this way. In addition they had not been baptized in the name of Jesus. Paul baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then he prayed for them and they received the Spirit. This was a major forward step in the spiritual experience of the disciples.
God is always ready to strengthen us in our faith. We can come to Him with our weakness, and He will make us strong. Let us open up our lives always to the dynamic presence of the Spirit. He will empower us in all that we do.