Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Nov 27, Acts 18-19

Today's readings are Acts 18-19. Tomorrow's are 1 Cor 1-4. 

After leaving Athens, Paul goes to Corinth, a bustling trade city through which much of the goods moving from the East to the West travel. 

Corinth was a large city dominated by a number of very large temples dedicated to pagan gods like Diana and Apollo. The Temple of Diana, one of the largest in the world, was dedicated to carnal love. That temple had thousands of courtesans who would venture out into the city at night to proselytize men. The Temple of Apollo was devoted to homosexuality and functioned in a similar manner.

Paul taught at the local synagogue and lived nearby while he was in Corinth. Here's the synagogue in Corinth as it looks today. This is where Paul preached, at first:

In Acts 18:17, we see that those associated with Paul and with the local churches are beginning to suffer persecution and physical harm. The violence against the church is spreading.

Acts 19 begins with Paul in Ephesus, another major trade hub and port for the Western world, similar to Corinth but significantly larger and richer. Worship of pagan gods was an even bigger issue in Ephesus. Here's the main thoroughfare of Ephesus, looking over the Library, at the end of the avenue, toward the Aegean Sea. The structures to the right were a series of temples and public bath houses. The ruins on the left were a row of luxurious townhouses with amenities like running water and built in baths.

Acts 19 has a curious passage concerning some disciples Paul encounters. While Paul was still in Corinth, his friend and co-workers in the gospel, Priscilla and Aquila met Apollos, who knew something of Jesus but needed further instruction. Apparently the young churches in Macedonia, Greece and Asia are sharing the gospel. People are being changed but need further instruction and clarification to fully understand. These disciples Paul meets seem to be even less informed than Apollos was (Acts 19:2-3). 

This is important. The disciples of John "believed" but not in Christ. They believed in the baptism of John. That belief is not salvation. It is merely preparing the way for salvation. These disciples were not yet saved. This is why Paul, upon hearing what they believe, presents the gospel to them (Acts 19:4). Paul completes the teaching and the disciples receive salvation. There is an undeniable supernatural manifestation that accompanies their salvation. It comes as a sign that the spirit has truly converted them. Perhaps, because they thought they were already converted, they needed a sign.

Here’s why this is important. Some look at this passage and say, "Look! Here is proof that there is a 'second blessing.'" Others make a similar claim, "This is an example of believers being 'baptized in the Spirit." Note, these disciples were not yet  truly believers and, whatever happened with the tongues and prophesying, it happens at the point of salvation, not at some point afterwards. Paul does not say, "Oh! You were baptized by John. You need to be baptized with the Spirit." Instead he shared the gospel with them then baptized them (a sacramental baptism) in the name of Christ. The speaking in tongues are a valid manifestation but not a necessary one. Notice there was no record of tongues in Samaria when the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit nor of Corneluis and his family when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit.

It is most probably, given the intense pagan spirituality of Ephesus, that God was giving these first converts (12 of them, BTW) undeniable proof of His sovereign presence in Ephesus. To make this a template for all believers would contradict what we've seen elsewhere. It would be much safer to assume that conversion is sometimes accompanied by supernatural signs, but not always.

This passage also supports the Scriptural principle that believers receive all of the Holy Spirit upon receiving salvation. The Spirit does not come in stages. There is no bifurcation of the body of Christ, no "have" and "have nots". We are all equal and precious to the Father.   

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