Religion & Spirituality:Christianity
For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Acts 8:16
The previous verses told of Peter and John being selected to go down to Samaria. When they had done so, it says that they prayed for those of Samaria who had received the word so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. With that, Luke now continues, saying, “For as yet He had fallen upon none of them.”
The idea of the Holy Spirit falling on someone is first used here, but it will be seen again in Acts 10:44 and 11:15 when referring to the conversion of Cornelius and those with him. HELPS Word Studies says that the specific word used, epipiptó, comes from epi, on or upon, and pipto, to embrace (with affection) or to seize (with more or less violence, literally or figuratively).
It is remarkable that such a term is used when referring to Samaritans and later those Gentiles in Caesarea. It is as if the Holy Spirit was there anticipating the right moment to respond with the greatest of all affection in welcoming these people into the family of God. What occurred with the Jews in Acts 2 seems like an anticipated event that was the fulfillment of the hope that had been in them all along. But with these unsuspecting people, the use of this word provides a sudden and overwhelming embrace in an unexpected union with God.
For now, Luke next notes, “They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The preposition is into, not in. It is the same preposition used in Matthew 28:18 when the Lord commanded this rite in the first place –
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations; baptize them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Weymouth
The significance of the use of this preposition is not to be overlooked. The baptism was done at the command of the Lord, it was done to non-Jews in accordance with that word, and it sets the tone for a normative pattern that is developing in the book of Acts. Even though each instance of conversion is different (Such as in Acts 2, 8, 10, etc.), the same pattern of obedience to the word of the Lord is seen – give the gospel, when it is received, baptize. This is exactly what the Lord stated, and it is exactly what is expected even to this day.
Further, using the word “only” in this verse (They had only been baptized) demonstrates that there is a lack that needs to be filled. In other words, something is occurring in the sequence of events that is not normative, but purposeful. In Acts 2, it said –
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’” Acts 2:38, 39
Those in Jerusalem were told they were to 1) repent; 2) be baptized upon (epi), not into, the name of Jesus Christ; and then 3) they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now in Acts 8, nothing has been said of repentance. Instead, it notes the people heeded (8:6), believed (8:13), and received the word of God (8:14). After this, they were baptized. However, that was all that happened – highlighted by the word “only.”
It is of note that Paul uses the same preposition, into (eis), as is used here when writing to the Gentile believers in Romans 6 –
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3, 4
Such small details in the words used give great insights into sound doctrine. When properly considered, they will dispel wrong ideas about doctrine, including several insidious heresies that have arisen within the church. As for those in Samaria, a lack exists that still must be filled. This is obviously purposeful. What do you suppose the reason for this is?
Life application: Using individual accounts from Acts to set doctrine will inevitably lead to unsound doctrine. Some churches say that baptism is mandatory in order to be saved based on Acts 2. But that is dispelled in the next chapter, and it continues to be dispelled throughout the rest of the book of Acts.
Some heretics say that baptism is not applicable to Gentile believers, in direct opposition to the word of the Lord in Matthew 28. Again, this is dispelled through a careful study of Acts and the epistles. Though not required for salvation, it is expected for obedience.
Some heretically say the church began with the apostle Paul and that the gospel is different for Jews and Gentiles. But that is dispelled by understanding the descriptive nature of the accounts of Acts and why those accounts are given, all of which follow a different order of events, in the first place. Acts is a tool to see what God did and why, but it is not specifically calling for any of these events to be taken as normative. And yet, by reviewing all of them as a whole, a normative doctrine can be elicited from what is provided.
Be sure to consider everything that is stated in its proper context. Only after that can a sound and reasonable evaluation of the whole package be more clearly understood. In other words, read your Bible, and keep reading your Bible – again and again. Only in thoroughly knowing its contents can you weed out the error that so many fall into.
Lord God, help us to not be swayed by false teachings. Rather, give us wisdom as we read Your word so that we will be grounded enough to weed out such falsities. May it be so to Your glory. Amen.
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