Acts 18:19-19:7: In this sermon, we’re gonna discover 3 nuggets of truth that we would do well to let sink in to our hearts and submit to and obey them, not for acceptance from God, but so that we would be built up and mature for the sake of the whole body of Christ being healthy, for the glory of God and for our good (sermon notes adapted from the Bible Exposition Commentary):
Nugget # 1 – Submit to God’s Will: Acts 18:19-22: If God wills… “If God wills” (Acts 18:21) was more than a religious slogan with Paul; it was one of the strengths and encouragements of his life and ministry. Paul knew that doing God’s will is one of the blessings of the Christian life. In some of his letters, Paul identified himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1). At a most critical time in his life and ministry, Paul’s friends found courage in affirming, “The will of the Lord be done!” (Acts 21:14). After eighteen months of ministry, Paul decided that it was God’s will for him to leave Corinth and return to his home church in Antioch. Even in his brief visit with the Ephesians, he was sure to teach them submission to God’s will.
Read James 4:13-17: We are a mist, God is eternal. For us to pray and desire to dictate God around with great prayers of faith is to presume that we are wiser than God. How foolish of us. Instead, James tells us to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. Do not boast in your arrogance of thinking you know what’s best.” (Is. 55:9)
We must also remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ when he was teaching His disciples how to pray, He said: 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. (Matt. 6:7-13)
I would also add to that and say we can use this the opposite way it was intended to be used as well. We can want something so bad that we become blinded by lusts/desires of the flesh and stop seeking God’s will and then move and make a decision and say the Lord willed it. It’s like the Christian crusaders in the 12th century, they and were hungry for power and arrogantly and foolishly went into war with the Muslim saying “The Lord wills it!” thinking God would fight for them as He did for the Israelites in Joshua.
Now getting back to Acts 18:22-23: Arriving at Caesarea, Paul went up to Jerusalem and greeted the believers there. He then went to Antioch and reported to his home church all that God had done on this second missionary journey. He had been gone from Antioch for some time, and the saints were no doubt overjoyed to see him and hear all that God’s done.
Nugget # 2 – Correct with truth and love; be teachable: Acts 18:24-28: Apollos’ incomplete message… When Paul departed from Ephesus for Jerusalem, he left his friends Aquila and Priscilla behind to carry on the witness in the synagogue. Imagine their surprise one Sabbath to hear a visiting Jewish teacher named Apollos preach many of the truths that they themselves believed and taught!
Apollos knew the Old Testament Scriptures well and was able to teach them with eloquence and power. He was passionate in his spirit and diligent in his presentation of the message. He was bold enough to enter the synagogue and preach to the Jews. The only problem was that this enthusiastic man was declaring an incomplete Gospel. His message got as far as John the Baptist and then stopped!
Apollos knew nothing about Calvary, the resurrection of Christ, or the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He had zeal, but he lacked spiritual knowledge. The ministry of John the Baptist was an important part of God’s redemptive plan. God sent John to prepare the nation of Israel for their Messiah (John 1:15–34). John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance; those who were baptized looked forward to the coming Messiah (Acts 19:4). John also announced a future baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8) which took place on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5). Apollos knew about the promises, but he did not know about their fulfillment which is essential for salvation. (Rom. 10:5-13; Eph. 1:3-14; Heb. 5:7-9; 1 Pet. 1:3-9)
The correction of Aquila and Priscilla… They did not instruct him in public because that would have only confused the Jews. They took him home to a Sabbath dinner and then told him about Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. They lovingly and truthfully led him into a deeper knowledge of Christ; and the next Sabbath, Apollos returned to the synagogue and gave the Jews the rest of the story and became a very effective communicator of the Gospel.
Nugget # 3 – Know the Gospel before you preach it: Acts 19:1-10: The twelve men’s incomplete message… Paul arrives back in Ephesus and meet twelve men who profess to be Christians, but whose lives gave evidence that something was lacking (Read Rom. 10:1-4). Paul asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” The question was important because the witness of the Spirit is the one indispensable proof that a person is born again (Rom. 8:9, 16; 1 John 5:9–13), we receive the Holy Spirit when we believe on Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:13).
Their reply revealed the vagueness and uncertainty of their faith and of the gospel. They did not even know that the Holy Spirit had been given! As disciples of John the Baptist, they knew that there was a Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit would one day baptize God’s people (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:32–33); so it is possible that these men were Apollos’ early “converts” and therefore did not fully understand what Christ had done.
So why did Paul ask about their baptism? Because in the Book of Acts, a person’s baptismal experience (spiritually) is an indication of his or her spiritual experience. Acts 1–10 records a transition period in the history of the church, from the Apostles’ ministry to the Jews to their ministry to the Gentiles. During this transition period, Peter used “the keys of the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19) and opened the door of faith to the Jews (Acts 2), the Samaritans (Acts 8:14), and finally to the Gentiles (Acts 10).
The pattern of salvation: It is important to note that God’s pattern for today is given in Acts 10:34–48: Proclamation of the Gospel, sinners hear the Word, they believe on Jesus Christ, they immediately receive the Spirit, and then they are baptized out of obedience to Jesus to show what the Spirit did inwardly, sealing them as God’s children.
The fact that these men did not have the Spirit dwelling within was proof that they had never truly been born again. But they had been baptized by John’s baptism, the same baptism that the Apostles had received! (see Acts 1:21–22) What was wrong with them?
Some people say that these men were already saved, but they lacked the fullness of the Spirit in their lives. So Paul explained how to be “baptized in the Spirit,” and this led to a new life of victory. But that’s not what the record says. Paul sensed that these men did not have the witness of the Spirit in their lives, and therefore they were not converted men. He certainly would not discuss the fullness of the Spirit with unsaved people! No, these twelve men had been baptized and were seeking to be religious, but something was missing. Alas, we have people just like them in our churches today!
Paul explained to them that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance that looked forward to the coming of the promised Messiah, while Christian baptism is a baptism that looks back to the finished work of Christ on the cross and His victorious resurrection. John’s baptism was on “the other side” of Calvary and Pentecost. It was correct for its day, but now that day was ended.
Keep in mind that John the Baptist was a prophet who ministered under the old Covenant (Matt. 11:7–14). The Old Covenant was ended, not by John at the Jordan, but by Jesus Christ at Calvary (Heb. 10:1–18). The baptism of John was important to the Jews of that time (Matt. 21:23–32), but it is no longer valid for the church today. In a very real sense, these twelve men were like “Old Testament believers” who were anticipating the coming of the Messiah. Certainly Paul explained to the men many basic truths that Luke did not record. Then he baptized them, for their first “baptism” was not truly Christian baptism.
What God did through Paul for these twelve men was not normative for the church today. How do we know? Because it was not repeated. The people who were converted in Ephesus under Paul’s ministry all received the gift of the Holy Spirit when they trusted the Saviour. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 1:13–14, and this is the pattern for us today.
In Acts 19:6, we have the last instance of the gift of tongues in the Book of Acts. The believers spoke in tongues at Pentecost and praised God, and their listeners recognized these tongues as known languages (Acts 2:4–11) and not as some “heavenly speech.” The Gentile believers in the house of Cornelius also spoke in tongues (Acts 10:44–46), and their experience was identical to that of the Jews in Acts 2 (see Acts 11:15). This was of historic significance since the Spirit was baptizing Jews (Acts 2) and Gentiles (Acts 10) into the body of Christ (see 1 Cor. 12:13).
Today, the gift of tongues is not an evidence of the baptism of the Spirit or the fullness of the Spirit. Paul asked, “Do all speak with tongues?” (1 Cor. 12:30) and the implied answer is no. He goes on to say in chapter 14 to tell the Corinthians that he wished they spoke in tongues, but that tongues weren’t to sought after more than other gifts or elevated over others. When Paul wrote to his Ephesian friends about the filling of the Holy Spirit, he said nothing about tongues (Eph. 5:18).
Nowhere in Scripture are we admonished to seek a baptism of the Holy Spirit, or to speak in tongues, but we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. Read Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church and note the many references to the Holy Spirit of God and His work in the believer. We must not confuse being filled with the Spirit and the baptism in to the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 5:18 and 1 Cor. 12:13: “13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
Conclusion: Okay, let’s pull all these pieces together here in these passages. Paul tells the believers in Ephesus, “I’ll be back if God wills it…” He took the time to teach of the ways of God. He didn’t have to say that because he knew that in his heart that if God wills, but he outwardly said it for their good so that they would know God’s character. Remember Jesus: John 11:41-42: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Then we see Priscilla and Aquila lovingly confront and correct Apollos on his incomplete message. This was not a pleasant thing to do, but out of love for Jesus more than themselves, they taught the correct truth of God so that others would not be misled.
Finally, Paul encounters 12 men who seem like Christians and are religious in every way, but out of his love for God and a desire to speak the truth in love, he doesn’t settle for the answer, “Oh yeh, I’m a Christian.” and then say, “Great, want to be a Bible study leader?” No! He questions them essentially, “Are you saved?”
Some of us need to be asked this same question. “Are you saved? Have you receive the Holy Spirit?” I have no problem standing here tonight making you wonder if you are truly saved. If you thought you were saved but realized you weren’t, then glory hallelujah, all praise to God!
But what if you were playing the game or acting religious hoping to get by with following the crowd and doing the right thing, and you were never truly baptized into the body of Christ by and in the Holy Spirit. Then this question is vital to you!
It is so important that we teach the whole truth…the eternal fate of humans depends on it. This is not a game and it is not something to take lightly.
This is the Gospel message that saves men from eternal hell.
Where do you stand tonight? Have you received the Holy Spirit?
If not, receive Him tonight. You have heard the Word of God tonight. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved and receive the Holy Spirit.