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Why people in Samaria and Ephesus received the Holy Spirit only in the second laying of hands?
All the passages below are taken from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “God the Holy Spirit,” published as Second Edition in 2002 with the first Edition in 1997.
We are still considering, you remember, the apparent conflict in the Bible over the coming of the Holy Spirit, and we are looking now at the biblical evidence for the fact that He had been at work in the world before the Day of Pentecost. We have seen three aspects of His working: that He was operative at creation, that He sustains the universe and that the work of common grace is His.
Let me give you further evidence. The fourth is this: there is plain scriptural teaching to the effect that the Holy Spirit has given special gifts to certain men. Take, for instance, Samson. He was a man of unusual strength and physical vigour and power. Now that strength, we are told, was given to Samson by the Holy Spirit (Judges 13:25) and it was because he had not realised that the Lord, or the Spirit, had left him after his hair had been shaved that he was finally captured and overpowered by his enemies the Philistines (Judges 16:20). Then there is a very interesting incident in the life of Moses when he complained that the work was too much for him, and we are told in Numbers 11:17 that God said to him, ‘I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them,’ namely, the seventy elders who were going to share the work with Moses. Now that is very striking. It was the Spirit who had enabled Moses to do the work and some of that Spirit was now taken and put upon the seventy elders in order that they might assist Moses in the carrying out of this work.
Then there was a man called Bezaleel who had certain abilities in connection with the building and furnishing of the tabernacle. You will read about him in Exodus 31:2—5. It was the Holy Spirit who gave him the skill to do that work. And the same thing, of course, is true of Joshua. Joshua’s military strategy and ability was the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon him. Now I simply take those examples at random to illustrate the point that, away back there in the old dispensation, the Holy Spirit came upon these men and gave them these particular powers.
Then, fifthly, we have to deal with the whole gift of prophecy; it is the teaching of Scripture everywhere that prophecy is made possible by the activity of the Holy Spirit. The first instance of this is the case of two men called Eldad and Medad. These two men began to prophesy, causing some of the people to become rather jealous for Moses’ reputation, and this led Moses to make one of the greatest statements he ever made. He recognised that Eldad and Medad were able to prophesy because God had put His Spirit upon them and he said to his supporters, Don’t be jealous for my sake---‘Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!’ (Numbers 11:29)
The same thing is true, of course, even of a hireling prophet like Balaam. Balaam was enabled to say, and had to say, what he said because the Spirit of God was upon him (Numbers 22—24). Furthermore, we read about Saul---the first king of Israel---that the Spirit came upon him and people said, ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’ (1 Samuel 10:12). That was because Saul, under the influence and the power of the Holy Spirit, had been prophesying. And this is obviously true of all the prophets whose works are recorded in the Old Testament canon. Indeed, when we were dealing with the doctrine of Scripture we went further. We said then that all the writers of the Scriptures, both of the Old Testament and the New, were under the influence and the power of the Holy Spirit. These ‘holy men of God’---that refers especially to the prophets---‘spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’ (2 Peter 1:21); but ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God’ (2 Timothy 3:16)---all scripture. So it is good to include that under this particular heading of prophecy and it is, therefore, another very powerful argument for showing that long before the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit had been coming upon these men and enabling them to act as they did.
But for the sixth piece of evidence, I refer you to something that seems to take us even further. In Psalm 51:11, David says, ‘Take not thy holy spirit from me.’ Now here was a man under the Old Testament dispensation, a man before Pentecost, and he prayed that God would not take His Spirit from him. And what was true of David was, of course, equally true of all the Old Testament believers such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All these Old Testament saints were believers and citizens of the kingdom of God, and obviously you cannot be either of these things without the Holy Spirit. But David’s striking statement focuses attention upon this matter: ‘Take not thy holy spirit from me.’
But now, coming on to the New Testament---I am taking this, as you can see, in a chronological order---we come to John the Baptist. And the statement that the angel made to Zechariah the father of John the Baptist is this: ‘And he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb’ (Luke 1:15). Now that is a very important statement but there is also another which says, ‘Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matthew 11:11). Yet we are told of John that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.
Then it is said about John’s mother Elisabeth: ‘And Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost’ (Luke 1:41). Now this was all before Pentecost, remember, so we must test any theory we may have about the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost by a statement like that. And we are told the same thing about Zacharias in Luke 1:67: ‘And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying. . .’; and then follows the account of what he said. Furthermore, we have a similar statement about Simeon, the old man who held the infant Lord Jesus in his arms. In Luke 2:25 we read, ‘And the Holy Ghost was upon him,’ and in verse 26 we are told, ‘It was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost. . .’. Then, verse 27 reads, ‘And he came by the Spirit into the temple’.
And as you read in the Gospels about the disciples sent out by the Lord to preach and to cast out devils, you realise that they were enabled to do all that they did by means of the Holy Spirit. Their ability to preach and the power to exorcise devils was given to them by the Lord through the Holy Spirit. So that everything they did was by, and in, and through the power of the Spirit.
But there is the final statement in John 20:22, which is so important as one considers this doctrine of Pentecost. After His resurrection our Lord appeared to the disciples in the upper room. The doors were all shut, but suddenly He appeared among them, and eventually we are told this: ‘And, when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.’
There, then, is the evidence. Now the previous evidence was all to the effect that the Day of Pentecost had not yet come, that ‘the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified’ (John 7:39). Our Lord also said, ‘It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you’ (John 16:7), and He gave them this injunction: ‘Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). In Acts 1 Luke writes, ‘[He] commanded that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me’ (v. 4). So that is the problem which seems to confront us---statements which imply that the Holy Spirit had not come and statements which teach plainly that He was active and operative and that mighty things were happening in Him and through Him.
So how do we reconcile these things? Obviously there cannot be a contradiction and there must be some way of understanding these two groups of statements. Let us try to approach the solution by putting it like this. There are certain things which are abundantly plain and clear. First: The coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ into the world made a vital difference in this whole question of the work and the operation of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, we must go further, and say that His death, and especially His resurrection and His ascension, made a still more vital difference. The moment you turn to the New Testament, the moment the coming of the Lord begins to be talked about, there seems to be something new, something special and additional. As we have seen, He Himself often says, ‘Yes, but there is going to be more,’ and there is the prophecy of John: ‘He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire’
The second thing we notice is that in chapter 2 of the prophecy of Joel, which was quoted by Peter in his sermon on the Day of
Pentecost, the emphasis is placed upon the word pour out: ‘It shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh’ (Acts 2:17). Now that is surely significant. The emphasis is upon the extent, the giving of the Holy Spirit is going to be more general. Also there is an emphasis upon the fact that it is going to be upon all types and kinds: ‘... your sons and your daughters... your young men.., your old men... and on my servants and on my handmaidens, [on all these] I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy’ (Acts 2:17—18). Now in the Old Testament the giving of the Spirit is something unusual, and these people on whom the Spirit came were exceptional persons. But the emphasis here (New Testament) is upon the generality; upon this whole idea of pouring out, the largeness, and the freeness, and the fullness of the gift. Not only that, there is an emphasis upon a further fact, which is that it is no longer going to be confined to the Jews. You will actually find that in the prophecy of Joel, at the end of that chapter. And, of course, you will find it worked out still more fully in the book of Acts. The gift of the Spirit is no longer confined to the Jews but is for all nations. There is this largeness and this freeness---He will pour out His Spirit upon all people. There is an all-inclusiveness which we must note.
So we notice those bits of evidence which are perfectly clear. But there is one other to which I must refer, and that is a word spoken by our Lord Himself. You will find it in John 14:17. Referring to the Holy Spirit, He says, ‘He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.’ Now a distinction is made there by our Lord which obviously must be of vital importance. ‘He dwelleth with you,’ He says, and there has been proof of that, of course, in the works that the disciples have been enabled to do. But He says, ‘He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.’ He makes this prophecy with regard to what will happen after the Day of Pentecost.
In order to make our evidence still more complete and that we may now come to a suggested synthesis of these two groups of statements, I must call your attention to three incidents. One took place in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10), another in Samaria (Acts 8), and the third in Ephesus (Acts 19). Now I shall take chapters 8 and 19 together; chapter 10, I put in a category on its own. But first I would like to look at the three together because there is one factor which is common to them all, and that is the element of unity which is emphasised in all three in exactly the same way as it is emphasised in the events of the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2.
Unity is the big thing in Acts 2, is it not? There were these different people up at the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. They were ‘Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians’ (vv. 9—11). There were all these different nationalities, these different tongues and languages, but they all said, ‘We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God’ (v. 11). That obviously stands out, that amazing oneness, that extraordinary unity. And of course the same unity was displayed in the apostles themselves. There was a coming together, a drawing together. And you find the same unity in Samaria, among the Gentiles in the household of Cornelius, and among the believers who were in Ephesus.
Now surely it is there that we find the key to the solution of this problem. When the Holy Ghost descended on the Day of Pentecost, when the Lord Jesus Christ baptised with the Holy Spirit, as He had said He would do, what was happening was the formation of the Church as the body of Christ. Now, before this there were believers. The apostles were obviously believers before the Day of Pentecost; you must not regard them as unbelievers before then. We know perfectly well that though they were imperfect and unclear in many respects, nevertheless they did believe in our Lord, and when He appeared to them, you remember on the day He rose from the dead, He breathed upon them and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost.’ So if you do not believe that they were believers before that, they must have been believers then. But that was before the Day of Pentecost.
So, then, what was it that happened on the Day of Pentecost? Well, I would suggest that the believers were welded together as members of the one body of Christ. Before that they were separate believers, even as the believers in the Old Testament were believers and were citizens of the kingdom---Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and David and the patriarchs and so on---but they were not members of the body of Christ. On the Day of Pentecost the primary event was that all these became one. This is something which we can understand if we see that it could only happen after our Lord’s ascension. While He was here in the flesh and teaching His followers, the Church as His body had not yet been formed. In the book of Acts, we read a statement, do we not, that He has ‘purchased [the Church] with his own blood’ (Acts 20:28). Thus the Church in that sense could not have existed before our Lord had completed the work which He had come to do. And He only completed that work as He ascended into the presence of the Father, but the moment He did that, He completed the work which was necessary for the purchase of the Church. He was made the head of the Church and as the head of the Church, the Holy Spirit was given to Him that He might give it to the Church which is His body.
So the point I am emphasising is that all that could not have happened before the ascension, but you would expect it to happen after it. And that is precisely what happened---ten days after the ascension, our Lord, now the head of the body which is the Church, sent His Spirit into and upon the body, to fill it. It was the gift that He gave, the promise of the Father was sent by the Son who had completed the work that was necessary in order that it might happen. So on the Day of Pentecost the Church was established as one unity, as the body of Christ.
Now, let me give you a verse which will explain all this: ‘For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Now, there it is, ‘by one Spirit’---the Holy Spirit---we are all ‘baptized into one body’. And it was on the Day of Pentecost that all these believers were baptised into one body, all the apostles together with the three thousand other people from different parts of the world, who believed their preaching. Later, in the house of Cornelius, and again, in Samaria and Ephesus, all people, Jew and Gentile, were baptised into one body. The Church is one and there is only one Church, this invisible Church, the mystical body of Christ---that is where the division between the visible and the invisible Church becomes important---but what I am emphasising here is that there is a unity in the Church and that unity was brought into being when all these people were baptised into the one body on the Day of Pentecost.
Let me put it in different language. You can say that the Day of Pentecost was the day of the public inauguration of the Church as the body of Christ. There was something new there which had never been before. There is a sense in which you can speak of the Church in the Old Testament, yes, but it is not the same as the Church was subsequent to the Day of Pentecost. The unity was established. Then you see the significance of what happened in the house of Cornelius, and how important that was. Peter, of course, as a Jew would obviously have found it very difficult to believe that Gentiles could really come into this unity. That was why the vision was given to him as he was there on the top of the house. As he was praying he saw a great sheet coming down with clean and unclean animals and birds upon it and he heard God’s voice telling him to kill and eat. God said, ‘What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common’ (Acts 10:15). But is there not a further suggestion that even that vision was not enough? Certainly it was enough to take Peter to the house of Cornelius and to preach as he did. But you will notice that, even while Peter was yet preaching, the Holy Spirit descended upon Cornelius and his household. And Peter and the Jews, especially, were amazed at this. They could not quite understand it but they had to face the facts as they heard these other people speak with tongues and magnify God. ‘They of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost’ (Acts 10:45).
Not only that, the next chapter tells us that when all this was reported in Jerusalem, the believers there were a little troubled about it, so when Peter went up he was cross-examined. ‘When Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him’---‘they of the circumcision’, remember, means the Jewish Christians---‘saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them...’ (Acts 2:2—4). But the thing that Peter emphasised was that while he was speaking the Holy Spirit had descended upon them:
As I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed, on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. Acts 11:15—18
Now you see what was happening. God was declaring that they were to be baptised into this same body, that the Church was to consist of Jews and Gentiles. That is the great theme of Paul, is it not, in Ephesians? The mystery that had been hidden from the previous generations was that the Gentiles were to be made fellow heirs, that they were to be brought into the kingdom, that they were to be welded, baptised into the body, and that, therefore, as one body, they would be there for Him to function through them in this world of time.
But for me to complete my evidence, let me give you one further most significant scriptural quotation and this time it is from Hebrews 11:39—40. You remember the great list and gallery of the heroes of the faith in the Old Testament that appears in that chapter? Then this is what the writer says: ‘These all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.’ Oh yes, he says in effect, they were believers but everything was not given to them; they were held back, as it were, until this should happen, so that they and we together should be made perfect. They were believers but they had not been baptised into the body of Christ. The Church had not yet come into being in this sense, because Christ had not yet ascended, He had not done the work, He had not returned to the Father. But they were believers, they were being reserved, they were being held, they were being kept, so that when our Lord did ascend, then they were welded, baptised into the body; and the Church is one and has remained one ever since. Now that, I suggest to you, is the real meaning and significance of what happened on the Day of Pentecost, and what happened in the household of Cornelius is comparable to it. It is really the same thing, as Peter argues in that eleventh chapter of Acts. And indeed you will find that he had to bring out the same argument in the fifteenth chapter, at a great council of the Church in Jerusalem.
Then, finally, what about the events recorded in Acts 8 and 19? You notice that I separate them from Acts 10, and it is for this reason: in the household of Cornelius, just as Peter began to preach the Holy Spirit was poured out. But that is not what happened in Samaria and Ephesus. In Samaria Philip went down and preached and evangelised and a number of people believed and were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But Peter and John had to go down and pray for them and lay their hands upon them before they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. When Paul visited Ephesus, he asked the people the question which in the Authorised Version reads: ‘Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?’ In the Revised Version it is: ‘Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?’ It does not really make any difference; they mean the same thing. And these men said, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost’ (Acts 19:2). In other words, they had received John’s baptism only. And there Paul preached to them and baptised them in the name of Christ. He placed his hands upon them and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Now you see that we must put these events in a different category because the Holy Spirit was received by these people in a different way. The question is often asked: ‘Why did it happen like that in Samaria and Ephesus? What is the difference between those two groups and Cornelius and his household?’ Well, I suggest to you, it is this: Cornelius and his household were Gentiles; they were not actually proselytes, but they were Godfearing and they were seeking. The people, in Acts 8 were Samaritans. You will find the history of the founding of the Samaritan country in the Old Testament. They were, in a sense, neither Jews nor Gentiles. They had the five books of Moses but none of the remainder of the Old Testament. But they regarded themselves, you see, as being equal to the Jews. The woman of Samaria said to our Lord, ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship’ (John 4:20). There was a great feud between the Jews and the Samaritans for that reason. The Samaritans felt they had a perfect religion, but the Jews knew that it was imperfect. Now it seems to me that is the key to the understanding of what happened.
The Holy Spirit did not fall upon the Samaritans as Philip preached; envoys, emissaries, had to be sent down from the church---the headquarters at Jerusalem---to give them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Why? Well, surely, to establish the fact that the Samaritans must recognise their allegiance to the church at Jerusalem. The church at Jerusalem was the logical sequence and outcome of the Old Testament faith in its completeness, in its fullness. The Samaritans had to recognise that their religion was incomplete and that the Christian Church had come out, as it were, of the Jewish Church, the Church in the Old Testament. They had to realise that there is a continuity in God’s way of salvation, that you have to accept the whole of the teaching of the Old Testament if you are to be truly Christian. You cannot suddenly come in into the New Testament, as it were; you cannot come in by some other way into the kingdom. No, this is God’s way. So the Samaritans had to submit themselves to all of this teaching and to the church at Jerusalem which was first of all a Jewish church---to the Jew first, then to the Gentiles. They had to recognise and submit to all that and then they were given the gift of the Spirit.
In the same way, the people at Ephesus, in Acts 19, had a religion which was all right as far as it went. They were disciples of John and had been baptised into the name of John, but they were not clear about the gospel. So in their case again, this had to be made clear, it had to be put straight. In the case of Gentiles, like Cornelius, there was no error to correct---they had nothing---so as Peter preached the Holy Spirit descended, but in these other cases there was an incomplete religion, an imperfect understanding. That had to be put right before the gift of the Holy Spirit was given, and that is a very important distinction. In the case of Cornelius and his household God was simply making this great demonstration to the effect that the Gentiles had to come in and to be baptised into the body. In these other cases what was necessary was that they should believe the truth clearly and get rid of certain prejudices and false ideas.
We sum it up by saying that the great purpose of Pentecost is to give the final proof of the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. That is declared. The second thing is the great inauguration of the Church as His body, and thirdly it is a proof of the fact that these various people who are added to the Church are members of the body. In addition, there are various other things which we shall have to come to later but the main one is this: in the Old Testament we are told that the Holy Spirit was with the men, or that He came upon them. He worked upon them from without, as it were, and what David even said, you remember, was, ‘Take not thy holy spirit from me’ (Ps. 51:11), as if the Holy Spirit was with him---that is the Old Testament terminology. The New Testament terminology is in, within; He works from within, and He abides. In the Old Testament He came upon men and left them. He comes, in the New Testament, because we are members of the body of Christ and because the Spirit is in Him in His fullness and comes from Him through the whole body. Because we are members of the body, the Spirit abides in us---perfectly; and that, it seems to me, is the essence of the teaching with regard to this matter.
Confusion has often arisen because, in addition to all this, on the Day of Pentecost the disciples in the upper room were at the same time filled with the Spirit, and as the result of the filling with the Spirit, they were able to witness, but you notice that that was repeated several times. I hope to come back to the teaching concerning the filling with the Holy Spirit at a later point---it must obviously come after justification and sanctification---I just mention it at this point. There is often confusion because of the term filling. They were filled with the Spirit, but they were repeatedly filled with the Spirit, and, because of that, were enabled to witness with boldness.
But on the Day of Pentecost the rushing mighty wind and the cloven tongues as of fire specially emphasised, not the filling with the Spirit, but the baptising into the unity of the body, the inauguration of the Church---that is why you have the special phenomena. The cloven tongues of fire were never repeated again. The walls were shaken on another occasion, but this particular sound, this noise, the gathering together of the special phenomena, places a uniqueness upon the event on the Day of Pentecost which was never repeated. It was never necessary to repeat it because it was something once and for all. The filling with the Spirit is something which can be, and often is, repeated, but that is not the vital thing which happened at Pentecost. As we have said, what happened there was something that could only happen when our Lord had finished the work for His people and risen and become the Head of the Church. The Church became His body and the Spirit was given to fill the body---that is what is emphasised at Pentecost. And so, having dealt with that, we shall now be in a position to go on to consider in detail the work of the Holy Spirit as He comes to deal with and to apply the work of redemption completed by our Lord and Saviour. (30-41)
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