A while back I was walking out of the grocery store when an older lady walked up to me and asked me if I had heard the good news known as the Gospel. Interested to see what she believed, I told her that I had but that one could never hear good news too many times. She proceeded to tell me about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the place of sinners. I smiled and thanked for telling me the good news. I then explained that I am a pastor and it was really nice to know she loves Jesus. What I thought would have ended there was quickly followed up with, “But have you received the second baptism?” Knowing exactly where she was going, I explained to her why her interpretation of the Bible was off and exhorted her to reread some of those passages that have formed her theological position.
“What would the average church member say to her,” I thought? Would the newer members in our church listen to her and wonder if they were missing something? Well, this morning in our Kaleo Bible Reading (KBR), we come across Acts 19. As I read through the narrative I was reminded of my time with this woman, and even friends who believe in a second baptism, and felt compelled to write a quick help for all of us.
What is the Second Baptism?
There are some evangelicals that read Acts 19:1-10 and interpret it as a second baptism. When asked about this, they see Christian conversion in a few stages. They would argue that the first stage of conversion is when one puts their faith in Jesus for salvation and is baptized. However, they see a second stage of conversion happen when the Holy Spirit “falls on them” resulting in speaking in tongues. In fact, they would consider a Christian without the gift of tongues, no Christian at all. As you read Acts 19:1-10, you might think at first glance that an interpretation like that seems possible. And yet, I bet you instinctively know it’s not possible because of the rest of Christian Scripture.
In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus tells his disciples that they would be given the great task of taking the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (1:8). In Acts 2 we see the Holy Spirit come just as Jesus promised and takes his residence inside the people of God. From that point forward we see Acts 1:8 fulfilled as the Gospel expands to further off geographical locations. After the Gospel reaches the immediate context of the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea, the Spirit comes upon God’s people. Then the Gospel goes out to the Samaritans in chapter 8, followed by a mini-Pentecost in that geographical region. The pattern continues with other Gentiles in chapters 10-11. Then, in our chapter today, the Gospel expands to Ephesus and we have another mini-Pentecost as the spirit indwells believers.
So why do some Christians hold to a second baptism idea, primarily formed from this passage? If you look at the discussion, line by line, it’s a bit easier to follow Luke’s telling of the event as well as Paul’s theology:
-Paul’s first question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
–Their answer: “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
–Paul’s second question: “Then what baptism did you receive?”
-Their answer: “John’s baptism.”
-Paul’s response: “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
What often happens is a person can read the word “disciples” and automatically conclude that it means they are disciples of Jesus. But Acts 19 is helping is see that these were disciples of John the Baptist, completely unaware of the person and work of Jesus. In fact, it is an anomaly of sorts because they are disciples that were baptized, but they had not believed in Jesus yet. The truth of the matter is that there is only one stage in Christian conversion, upon which these “disciples” had not yet experienced. A true disciple is one whom has believed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and so simultaneously receives the Spirit of God.
What About those Tongues?
Tied uniquely to the conversion of these believers is the gift of tongues. The temporary nature of these phenomena is signaled for us by the fact that each time in Acts these two gifts (which always go together) take place “with the personal presence or oversight of the apostles” (Acts 2; 8:14-19; 10:44ff.; 19:6). Again, the Spirit and these gifts were tied together in the expansion of the Gospel and the church to an unreached people at the time.
There is far more to being a disciple than supernatural gifts. In fact, the presence of the Holy Spirit is a downpayment and evidence that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ. The litmus test to know whether or not you are a true believer is that you have placed your faith in Christ alone for salvation. Wherever there is a person that believes in Jesus, there you will also find a person filled with the Holy Spirit.