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For the last few years I have posted the top 10 books I have read from the year. I have decided to shorten the list to 5 this year, primarily to apply something I learned about reading this year: Slower reading and meditating proved more fruitful for me this year. 2017 was not just a slower year for me in regards to reading, but I also was given the gift of a 3 month Sabbatical. Part of the goal in my Sabbatical was to slow down and process what I was reading. Less information, more space for heart-change. In God’s grand providence, the books I am listing below had an internal role in a season of rest and trust in God that I previous lacked. I am so very thankful to God for the timing of these books and how they shaped me in 2017 and will continue to do so in 2018. So, here they are:
You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith
I cannot remember a book that was so welcoming and thoughtful, yet abrasive and convicting. Numerous times I would read a paragraph and have to put the book down, leading me to pace the hallway and reexamine my life. And when I say reexamine my life, I mean that with a legitimate desire to change and be better. Better at what? Loving. Smith’s main thesis throughout the book is that our habits reveal the things we love most. He also has a very convicting picture of our culture, describing how we have put a majority of emphasis on being “thinking things” while having little heart. Yet, the Christian faith and all it’s practicalities should be driven by love. He describes this love we so desperately need in the context of our relationship with God, the church, kids, culture, etc. Pick this one up in 2018 and make sure you have a pen and paper ready as you reorientate your loves.
Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne
This book is true treasure and a delight that will be opened again many times. Wilbourne takes one of the most beautiful truths in all of Scripture (Union with Christ) and highlights what is so beautiful and sacred about it. Yet, as he heightens our love for Christ and our union with him, he does not stop there. The author cares deeply in driving us from knowing we are united to Christ to living out the grand reality of that union (Phil. 3:12-16). Christ is both our anchor and our engine, our security and our motivation.
Reading this book on my first Sabbatical has brought a deep joy to my heart and mind while also making communion with God a true delight and pleasure (Ps. 16:11). The greatest truth in all the world is: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Steal Away Home by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey
I laughed, cried, clapped, and cried some more. I truly believe this is a masterpiece and has been written so wonderfully in a way that makes much of God and the delight he has in using weak things for his glory. Surveying the lives of English preacher, Charles Spurgeon and the American slave, Thomas Johnson, the authors create a beautiful patchwork of how God can bring together two unlikely individuals and create a lifelong bond of love fostered through suffering and the gospel. A true delight.
Echoes of the Scripture in the Gospels by Richard B. Hays
This one I recommend with the disclaimer that it will take some work to read but pays off that work ten-fold. Now, my favorite thing to read is the topic of Bible interpretation, especially Christ in the Old Testament and how the New Testament authors use the Old Testament. There were quite a few times where I thought to myself, “Wow! I’ve never seen that before.” Yet, through careful exegesis and biblical theology, Hays shows how the Evangelists were writing their Gospels out of a deep understanding of Israel’s Scriptures. I cannot recommend this great work more highly. As I usually argue, you really cannot grasp the depth and brevity of the New Testament without understanding the Old. This work will greatly advance that understanding.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This has topped my favorite novels chart. The writing is so beautiful and fluid, vividly descriptive in a way I have not read before. The characters quickly grab your affections or capture your anger. Every page is leading you thirsting for answers and drawing you to wait with excitement to see how it will all unfold. There is no wonder in my mind why this novel won the Pulitzer Prize.
-Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Swine
-Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David P. Murray
-Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God by Dane C. Ortlund
-The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
-Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit by Eric L. Haney
Wes Van Fleet is Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership at Kaleo Church. He a
I will never forget the moment when hope died in me. Over and over the cadre in the Army school I previously attended would yell, “Hope is not a course of action.” Within this frame of mind, I began to believe that hope was nothing more than a fancy pipe-dream that placed my trust in something outside of my control. Where hope was once the illusion that if I could place my hope on a night off from patrolling the desert looking for enemies, life would be good. If I could not eat an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) and get an actual meal, things would be better. And then it happened. In the middle of a infiltration in the middle of the night, where every single plan was failing to come to fruition, hope died inside of me. I came to really believe that hope was not a course of action. If my team was going to succeed in effectively accomplishing our mission, it was in our hands, not some illusion of hope.
Years late when the Lord Jesus Christ called me to himself, there was an inescapable pattern of hope in his authoritative Word. In fact, hope seemed to be one of the primary attributes of the believer (Hebrews 11). The more and more I wrestled with this idea of hope, I was brought back to the crossroads of competing philosophies of hope versus no hope. Even harder to grasp was embracing hope in the midst of suffering. Deep down, if we are honest, suffering has a way of igniting in us a way to put in any and all effort possible to escape the pain of suffering.
The problem with this view of working our way out of suffering is that it is a conscious effort to cut off the road of hope that God often intends to use to reveal more of himself and conform us more and more into the image of his Son (Romans 12:1-2). In his grace, God is jealous for us and will wage war against our efforts when they get in the way of his Sovereign purposes.
HOPE IN LAMENTATIONS
Recently I have been spending some time studying Lamentations. This vivid book about the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar has been a means to God giving birth and growing the seeds of hope in my life. In fact, the Gospel Project video on Lamentations says, “God’s judgement is the seedbed of hope.” In this eyewitness testimony of lament, the prophets, priests, and kings have become nothing (2:9-10), the glory of the Temple lay in ruins (2:7-8), and everything else that the people of God could attempt to white-knuckle onto for hope has been removed. The daunting reality is that God’s people cannot escape this judgment by their own power and everywhere they look, there is nothing that can help them escape this suffering.
BUT GOD. Throughout the book of Lamentations, you see a glimmer of hope properly placed on their covenant God. All hope is properly diverted towards God and God alone. We see the plead for God to look upon them several times (1:11, 20; 2:20; 5:1). Empty handed, weak, and broken-hearted, God’s people cry out for God to look and see their plight. This is exercising hope as the course of action God intends from his people. It is a hope that places all trust and dependance upon God himself for rescue and joy.
CHRIST OUR HOPE
The good news is that we are not the first to wrestle with suffering and the function of hope. After defining faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” in Hebrews 11:1, we get a picture of our hope and the joy that follows suffering in the person and work of Christ. In Hebrews 12:2 we hear about Jesus as the Suffering Servant who endured the cross for his people. But we also get a glimpse of the joyful hope that resided in his soul on the cross. The author of Hebrews writes, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The Lord Jesus Christ saw hope as a joyful course of action, firmly believing that his Father would raise him from the suffering of the cross to eternal bliss. Likewise, in our suffering we are to be a people that fix our eyes on Jesus (Col. 3:1-4) and joyfully put our hope in him as the promise-maker and promise-keeper whom we will one day see face-to-face.
Wes Van Fleet is the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Kaleo Church. He is married to Jenn and has two little girls, Olivia and Hadley.
The last year has been a new experience for me in regards to relationships in ministry. Going on my fifth year as a full-time pastor, this year has brought a new definition of loss for my family and me. What began as some acquaintances and some friends leaving Kaleo Church began a snowball effect of really close friends leaving. A lot of these came as a shock to me because of the deep friendships I thought I had with so many of these people. People whose friendships were grounded on and sustained by our union with Christ. To be fair, the reason that these people moving on had such a deep effect on me was because I had an unfair view that we would spend the rest of our lives worshipping together and enjoying life together. Yet, this did not make it easier when person after person left, not just the church, but what I thought were deep friendships.
Lately the questions have continued to run through my mind, “Did they really love me the way I loved them? Were they using me to get something from me? Would they have still been my friend if I was not their pastor? After years of friendship, how could they leave without any words of gratitude or endearment? Can I love that way again? How much more can I take? Is this fair to my family?”
One of the hardest parts of the transitionary nature of people is answering the questions of your three-year old and explaining these things to her. When she asks, “Daddy, why did they leave? I thought they were family?” What about when you explain for the tenth time to her that sometimes people move, or get married, etc. and her little feet pitter-patter down the hallway with tears streaming down her face at the loss of another friend? What about when your wife cries so often because of the loss of family and friends that you are not sure this is the right life for her? Should you quit? Should you run and find something new to numb the pain? Or would that make you like everyone else?
That is the one temptation in ministry in a season like this, to run to something new. That’s what our culture teaches us, right? Try a new place, get a new car, get some new clothes, find some new friends. In fact, a lot of the conversations I had over the last year when people leave can be summarized by them looking for something “new.” Sure, some of these reasons are a good type of “new” like getting married, new callings, etc. But many are running from the lack of contentment in the present (Phil. 4:11-13) trying to find that “new” person, place, or thing that promises happiness and joy.
Yet, that is the temptation this season has brought me as well. What if somewhere else could make me happy? What if I could get that nice house for a reasonable price? What if I took that private contracting job that would promise all my college loans going away? What if?
All of these thoughts have led me back to the Scriptures again to ask, “What is this newness we so strongly desire, like a dehydrated man in the desert? The more and more I read and prayed through this, the more the phrase, “already-not-yet” came to mind. The already-not-yet is a theological term used to describe many realities in the Christian life. For instance, we are already raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1) but we are not-yet fully raised with Christ (1 Corinthians 15:50-53). In the same way, newness has an already-not-yet reality to it. It is not wrong to long for newness because it is a part of us. But it is wrong to chase every new thing hoping to find the fullness of that newness now.
Throughout the book of Hebrews, we read about a struggling church that is enduring persecution. They are tempted to go back to Judaism and find relief in the comfort of their persecutors. The answer throughout the whole book is that Jesus is better, he is what they are longing for. In fact, in Hebrews 11 is a chapter about the faith of many followers of Jesus who did not get what they desired in this life time because they were not meant to:
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Again in Hebrews 11:39-40, the author writes,
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
It appears that within God’s grand design for his people that we are not meant to find the newness we long for this side of eternity. We all know this because the “new” things we could not live without a year ago are stuffed in a closet somewhere, or have become just like the rest of the stuff we accumulate. We are still longing for new.
This also means that tears will come to all of us who lose the people we love most when they leave looking for this newness. This means that tears are a normal part of the already for us and our families. In Psalm 56:8, the Psalmist assures us that tears are normal but God is keeping count of every one that falls from our eyes. He writes, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”
Where to Go Right Now?
If we are all going to deal with the loss of relationships in the pursuit of the new, where do we take these tears? Is there a proper place or person in the already who understands us? Yes. It is the same God that keeps a count of our tears. The good news is that in those times where the tears fill our eyes and blur our vision, when the lump rises in our throat and we can’t speak, the Spirit of God intercedes for us. Romans 8:26 says,
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Just a couple verses later, Jesus himself is offered to us as an ear that offers to listen and make our requests known to God,
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
No matter what loss we are experiencing, the place we go with our tears as we ourselves long for newness is the throne of our gracious God who counts all our tears and listens intently. Not only that, when everything around you seems to be changing the One we find at the throne of grace keeping count of our tears and hearing our cries is unchangeable. Hebrews 6:17-18 says,
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
I said earlier that we were all created with a longing for newness. This should make us sympathetic towards those that keep chasing new in the already. However, when we find comfort in the already at the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16), it moves us to hope in the not yet. The same Savior that raised from the dead as the prototype for the rest of redeemed humanity, is the same one who will enthrone and reign in the New Heavens and New Earth when he brings it down to us (Revelation 21-22). The New we were made for is found in the Fountain of Life Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. The One who raised from the dead as a loud proclamation that your sins are forgiven and you are righteous in him, is the same one who will satisfy you with newness in full while also wiping away every single tear from your eyes:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voicefrom the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Can you imagine that Day? All those tears blurring your vision and the fingers of the One you have been longing for your whole life gently wipes away the tears? The first clear sight you get is the glorified King of kings, the newness that you have desired and will never ever fade away. We might not know what we will say or do in that moment when it comes but I can assure you the weight we have carried in this life through loss and sorrow will seem like a feather blowing off in the distant winds. As Paul writes about this moment, he says,
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
So, cry those tears, long for newness, and be sure that one Day those tear ducts will be wiped clean and the sight of your Savior will so satisfy all those longings for newness with himself. I am pretty sure that those tears will be replaced with tears of joy, causing us to need a second wiping from our God. Or, as Burk Parsons writes, “When we see Jesus, He’ll dry every tear from our eyes, not just the sad ones but our tears of joy, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see him.”
Wes Van Fleet is the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Kaleo Church. He is married to Jenn and has two little girls, Olivia and Hadley.
Ed Welch writes, “Depression is a form of suffering that can’t be reduced to one universal cause. This means that family and friends can’t rush in armed with the answer. Like most forms of suffering, [depression] feels private and isolating” (Welch, Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness 4). Most people struggling with depression do not understand the cause of it, begging the question of, “why is this happening to me?” Hopelessness is a dark friend to the depressed. It sounds off in a subtle series of indifferent thoughts on life and relationships. This essay will attempt to provide a counseling plan moving forward from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, not primarily to eliminate depression, but to encourage faith in objective hope for the depressed.
One thing is sure; depression gives the impression that you are alone and without hope. Additionally, though many people suffer from depression, the depressed often believe that they are without sympathizers because they feel understood by no one. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” In this passage, Paul alludes to Christ suffering for the sake of redeeming the saints. This he provides as a concrete example as one who knew suffering, physically, emotionally, psychologically, as he was beaten and crucified, abandoned by all his closest companions, mocked and ridiculed by his countrymen, and separated from his Father to whom he was in perfect communion for eternity past. The point here is that there is one who knows intimately how the depressed feel, and went deeper into that feeling, for their sake, then they ever will.
Depression has a way of darkening the realities of the past. It depicts itself as the biggest problem, both past, present, and future, but neglects to remind them of their past relationship with God. Ephesians 2:1-3 comes to remind the saints of who they once were before their regeneration in Christ. The reminder comes to tell the saints that they once walked in opposition to God, and thus were dead men, objects of God’s wrath. The image that is communicated here is that, though men walked, breathed, ate, slept, thus very much alive, from the eternal perspective, they were dead. Worse still, they were objects of God’s eternal wrath. This eternal death is certainly the epitome of hopelessness. However, Ephesians 2:4-5 reminds the depressed that, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Having been redeemed from your worst in this life, there is hope for future glory, happiness, and joy in the life to come (Eph 2:6-7).
Depression also has its way of deceiving the depressed by communicating that even God doesn’t care, and therefore, doesn’t listen to their pleas for help. Ed Welch says, “all suffering is intended to train us to fix our eyes on the true God.” (Welch, Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness 31). The Scriptures make abundantly clear that God does hear his children’s pleas, but also that he knows what is best for them (Ps 18:6; Is 55:8; Prov 16:9). But the narrative of depression that God does not care and therefore doesn’t listen, tends to drone out the objective truth in the Scriptures, resulting in asking the question, “Why pray and cry out to him?” However, having faith in the God of the Bible is trusting that he “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph 3:20). Those in depression can either believe in the object truth that God is working in their suffering to help them see himself, or drown in the falsehood that God does not care or listen to the depressed. In one there is hope, in the other, there is only more darkness.
Lastly, though previously mentioned, the great hope for the suffering saint is in the future glory to be had in Jesus Christ, sealed now with the guarantee of Christ’s Spirit living in them (Eph 1:11-14). By the seal of the Spirit on this guarantee, the hope that suffering and depression will actually end is an inevitable future event. Though suffering is real now, it will not be a factor when the saints are ushered into the glory of Christ. Having now a redeemed heart and new life in Jesus, the saint then, is to push past the alter-reality of current suffering, and live in a manner consistent with the promise of future glory (Eph 4:22-24; 5:1-2; 6:10-11).
David Mishler is a Missional Community Leader at Kaleo Church, a seminary student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has a passion for serving the local church in organization and administration.
In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul writes to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” Most people I know that are desiring the office of elder/overseer are often starry-eyed about the work of the ministry. Sure, the majority of intentions behind desiring such an office is a desire to see God glorified, to serve Christ, and to love the church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those are the things that make the calling of elder a noble task to desire. However, like any other job or pursuit in this life, there can also be other desires underneath the noble ones. For some men it may be to change the things he sees wrong in the congregation he is a part of it. For other men it can be to get to a place of recognition and power.
A Theologian of Glory
A man seeking to be a minister of the Gospel must understand that he is not seeking an office of self-glory, but one of service, one that follows in the ways of the cross. The office of elder is not one to build your reputation, to fix the things that are wrong with the church, nor to feel good about yourself. In Gerhard Forde’s famous book exploring Martin Luther’s distinctions between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross, Forde writes,
“A theology of glory…operates on the assumption that what we need is optimistic encouragement, some flattery, some positive thinking, some support to build our self-esteem. Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not seriously addicted to sin, and our improvement is both necessary and possible.”
The theologian of glory is pursuing life and satisfaction through building their own platform, driven to make much of their own name and ministry. The path to self-glory is dazzling and drawing, but only leaves you thirsting for more like a dehydrated man tirelessly chasing a mirage.
The reason I can say these things is because my heart so desperately longs for self-glory. Deep down inside of me is this longing for acceptance, the praise of man, and a platform where people would finally see and acknowledge my worth. In my head I often daydream of finally getting my break, writing a book everyone loves, and so hushing the whispers about me being the “other pastor.” But let me assure you, the little sips of glory never satisfy you and keep you longing for more. If you do not believe me, let me assure you that the ministry is not for you, and if you think it is, you ought not trifle with the glory that belongs to God alone.
A Theologian of the Cross
Over and over throughout my years in ministry, I have found that God himself loves his children enough to not let them continue in such desires of self-glory. Whether it’s in the ministry, family, finances, etc., I have witnessed a jealous God who loves me enough to crush my self-glory and bring me over and over again to the foot of the cross. It is there, that I rightly see the cost of self-glory: The innocent Son of God bleeding for me. It is there that I see what true glory looks like, lifted up for all to see. As John 3:14-15 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
The Son of God himself turned the world upside down when he was humiliated and lifted up for all to see. No longer are those who build a name for themselves the ones worthy of following, but one who was crucified and resurrected. And the call for all Christians, but especially elders, is to lead in being a theologian of the cross. As Luke 9:23-34 affirms this upside-down theology of the cross, Jesus proclaims, 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” The life of a man who desires the noble task of elder is one who is called to daily model death and resurrection in his own life. As Forde writes,
“Theologians of the cross operate on the assumption that there must be a ‘bottoming out’ or an ‘intervention.’ That is to say, there is no cure for the addict on his own. We must come to confess that we are addicted to sin, addicted to self, whatever form that may take, pious or impious. So theologians of the cross know that we can’t be helped by optimistic appeals to glory, strength, wisdom, positive thinking, and so forth because those things are themselves the problem.”
The man who desires to be elder is voluntarily joining a band of brothers that agree to lead the bride of Christ in daily killing self-glory and finding forgiveness and any righteousness whatsoever as a gift from Christ himself. To desire the office of elder is a noble task and is not affirmed through the church affirming your worth, but affirming your character (1 Tim. 3:1-7). Godly character that is worthy of imitating is one that moves out of the way so people do not make much of you but make much of the Christ and his cross (1 Cor. 2:2). To all of you men desiring the office of elder, it is not a place for you because the cross is a place where you die and Jesus lives through you (Gal. 2:20). If that sounds like a worthy calling, also know, it is a daily dying that must take place because self-glory blossoms often like weeds and only the theologian of the cross knows what to do with those weeds. I read this quote every morning and I hope it serves you as it has me:
“Pastor, take your ego out to the woodshed, then, everyday. And don’t just whup it. Put a gun to its head and blow its brains out.”
Wes Van Fleet is the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Kaleo Church
Gerhard Forde, On Being A Theologian of the Cross.
Jared Wilson, A Pastor’s Justification
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.