• Christ Church, Willesborough

Epiphany First Sunday Morning Service (9 January 2022) Acts 19:2,3


https://youtu.be/6Ge6KEPc7AM


We are very familiar with Saul’s transformation to Paul. Saul was a Pharisee who troubled the early Christians. When God met him on the road to Damascus, his life was transformed. God chose him to spread the gospel among the gentiles. He established the early churches among the gentiles. Ephesus was one of the early churches established by Paul.


In Acts 18:19–28, we read that Paul spread the Gospel in Ephesus and went to Caesarea and Antioch. After he left, “a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:24, 25). Apollos was very bold and was fervent in the spirit. He had experienced the baptism unto repentance but did not experience the anointment of the Holy Spirit. We know that John the Baptist gave baptism unto repentance in river Jordan. Many Jews were baptised by John and He prepared the way for Jesus. Jesus was also baptised by John but the baptism was not unto repentance but to receiving the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ expectation on baptism was not only repentance but also receiving the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Holy Spirit was poured on the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. Although Paul and Apollos were involved in preaching to the early church, they differed in this point. Apollo preached about the baptism unto repentance but Paul was firm in receiving Holy Spirit. When Paul returned to Ephesus, he said unto the people in Ephesus, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism”. These verses are part of our New Testament Reading today, in Acts 19:2 and 3.I would like to meditate on three keywords in these verses: Believer, Baptism and the Holy Ghost. These three are linked to one another.


BELIEVER

According to the world’s terminology someone who believes is a believer. According to our Christian belief, someone who believes in or one who puts their faith on the Lord Jesus is a believer. John 3:16 says that God the Father sent His only begotten son and whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. When sin was covered the whole earth, God the Father sent His only son as the one-time sacrifice for the remission of the sins of the whole world. When the Son Jesus Christ came into this world, He broke the bondage of sin. Jesus came as Messiah but His own people did not accept Him as Messiah. When Jesus ministered in this world, the people who were living in the darkness of sin saw a great light through Jesus. Jesus performed many miracles: He turned water into wine, healed the sick, cast away the devils and fed many. Jewish leaders crucified Jesus on the cross. Jesus died and was buried, but He rose again on the third day. After ascension, He is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty. The precious blood that He shed cleanses us and brings us close Him. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. We did not witness Jesus’s miracles or His crucifixion. There is a lot of evidence and argument against this belief. In spite of this, if we believe that Jesus came and sacrificed His life for us, we are His believers. In his epistle to Romans, chapter 10, verse 9 Paul said, “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”. We can confess is Lord with our mouth only when we maintain a good personal relationship with Him. James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also”. Ezekiel 18:27says the work that is required to build our relationship with the LORD Jesus: “when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive”. We cannot call ourselves as believers just because we believe in Jesus. If we repent and accept the salvation that He offers, we are His believers. If we are continually washed by His blood to be a holy nation for Him, we are His believers. If we have a personal relationship with Jesus, we are called believers. Transformation and enduring unto the end are the works that give life to faith or belief.


BAPTISM and HOLY SPIRIT

Colossians 2:12 says, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead”. John the Baptist gave this baptism . During confirmation and immersed baptism, we are doing the same. We acknowledge that we are dead and buried for our sins and born as a new creature with Jesus for righteousness. But Jesus’ baptism was very different. When Jesus was baptised, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit came down like a dove. Jesus lived a sinless life. Jesus receiving the Holy Spirit is the only difference between the Old Testament and New Testament practices. When we are born again, our sinful body needs to be dead and buried. As the Father rose Jesus up from the dead, we should raise up for Jesus. Our lives must witness the resurrected Jesus. Most importantly, we must receive the Holy Spirit when we repent and turn to the LORD Jesus.


The purpose of the comforter Holy Spirit is explained in John 16. Verse 8 says, “when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment”. Verse 13 says, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come”. We need comforter Holy Sprit to preserve us in this world for our eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. That is why Paul asked the early believers in Ephesus about the baptism and Holy Spirit. We must receive the Holy Spirit for our baptism or confirmation to be meaningful in the sight of God.


Let us self-examine ourselves. Are we a true believer of Jesus? Or a name-sake believer? Do we have a personal relationship with Jesus? Does Jesus have control over all areas of our lives? Or is He a person we think of on Sundays and other times of our need? Is there a real repentance in our lives? Have we really died and buried our old sinful selves? Have we received the Holy Spirit’s anointing? Do we strive to live our lives following the Holy Spirit’s guidance? Are our robes washed by the blood of the Lamb of God whenever the Holy Spirit convicts us? It was the Almighty Father’s grace that sent His only Begotten Son for us. It is purely His grace that we have knowledge of His love for us to lay down His life for us. It is definitely His grace that we have been given the gift of salvation. Ephesians 1:7 says “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”. Let us be careful not to take this grace of our Lord in our lives lightly. If we have not received the Holy Spirit, let us pray and ask for the Holy Spirit. Ask and it shall be given unto you. Let us follow the comforter Holy Spirit’s guidance that preserves us to inherit our eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. Amen!

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