Salvation and the Baptism… (discussion of Acts 2)

American Civil war 1861-1865We have within this topic a North vs. South, almost civil war divide in denominational theologies; the same God, the same Holy Spirit, the same Savior in Jesus Christ (similar to one nation), but civil war differences. This article is not intended nor is it an attempt to sway one’s opinion, but is determined to provide a challenge to study for one’s self. It is also not an exhaustive commentary on this subject. Many will finish reading the following and not be swayed. However, that is the role of the Holy Spirit, not this author.

Comments made in this article are referenced by supporting scripture. Knowledge is powerful. Seek it not to find only what supports a preconceived position, but to be in tune with what the Word of God says and does not say.

On one side of this Mason-Dixon theology line are those who think salvation MUST include some type of baptism in the Holy Spirit as stated to occur in Acts 2:4

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

However, beware of the “taken out of context” caution in study of anything. It is the “THEY/ALL” here that is so important to understand.

On the other hand[s], and there is more than one “other hand”, there are those who are followers of Christ, born again believers, who do not subscribe to “speaking in tongues as [the] evidence of his or her salvation.” To some major denominations it is the act of baptism, submersion in water that is the demonstration, public notice, and evidence of one’s decision to follow Christ. This is the starting point in the Book of James when ‘works’ becomes the proof in the pudding, so to say. However baptism in water is not the salvation. One must become a believer (change in a way of life) first then be baptized (Acts 2:38).

In the Book of Acts the disciples were gathered in a room shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus. This moment in history is identified as Pentecost. An honest reader must not isolate this verse in Acts 2:4, as in to take out of context from the rest of this text.

In verse 5 (Acts 2) the scenario moves outside the gathering room shifting to the gathering of people not in the room but in Jerusalem; “..devout (Jews) men from every nation under heaven.” The word devout is eulabēs in Greek. It means to be circumspect, pious, careful and sure in religious practices (Thayer; G2126).

This verse also says, “..out of every nation under heaven.” Taking this for what it literally says, we have many good men in Jerusalem who are deeply religious in life affairs. There could easily be dozens of different languages present all in Jerusalem at this time. It was not uncommon during these times in history for people to be fluent in more than their native tongue. This is contrary to the USA today. Most Americans speak one language – English. SAD!

People With Speech Bubble And Cloudy SkyHowever, to suggest that the 11 disciples mingled with this diverse crowd or stood on a given platform to speak addressing only 11 different tongues at the same time simply ignores verse 6. This verse reads (ESV):

And at this *sound the multitude(s) came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them (disciples) speak in his own language [emphasis mine].

In a literal take on this verse, they were gathered together and hearing the disciples [speak] in his own language. Now jump to verse 8… (ESV) and how hear we everyman in his own tongue? The emphasis is on their hearing the words in their own language, not that 11 disciples were preaching simultaneously in multiple languages. This is not the work of man, but of the Holy Spirit addressing each person with the message (legō) in his/her language. The Greek emphasis is not on the speaking but the hearing.

We must keep in mind that in verse 6 of Acts 2, the people in Jerusalem also heard the noise (phōnē). Either they too heard the same burst of wind as did the disciples back in 2:2 or, they heard that the same disciples were speaking but it was being understood in every listener’s language. There was a large gathering of men hearing a common message but in his or her tongue. It makes no sense that chaos existed. The crowd was together, but each HEARD in his own language. They didn’t have United Nation headphones to distinguish between multiple languages being spoken at the same time.

I Corinthians 12:10 might be a word of caution for those of *us who think that without the ‘evidence’ of speaking in tongues one cannot be saved.

*Us: This is inclusive of Christians called the church and not meant to be exclusive of a segment or denomination within the church.

But, let’s not dismiss tongues altogether. Read on.

I Corinthians 12:10 states… “to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits (Satanic or Holy Spirit), to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” [not inclusive to all but exclusive H.S. gifts].

This passage lists the gifts of the Holy Spirit. All gifts are not bestowed upon one. There simply is no scripture to support this thought. Anything that cannot be supported by scripture is, even though well meaning, an opinion; speculation. This is a dangerous path that can only serve self interests and divide the church. The gifts of the Holy Spirit blessed upon individuals are purposeful. The church needs each and every member of its Christian membership. Gifts are sent to individuals but they must be used to benefit the body of Jesus Christ on earth. To think that every born again believer has all of the gifts is ignorance of full disclosure. “To another the gift of tongues” is not universal. It is but ONE of the spiritual gifts.

However, one must also consider Romans 8:26, 27… “…but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings (unknown language) too deep for words (ESV). This is prayer in a language that we do not understand but the Holy Spirit intercedes to convey our deepest of thoughts, requests, and that which we do not understand but for which we pray. We are told in John 4:24 that God is Spirit so we must also pray in spirit. This is sometimes an unknown or unfamiliar tongue.

Before one buttress the denominational Mason-Dixon and people run to their defensive personal corner, lets return to the opening passage; Acts 2. Those who were outside the meeting room of the disciples also heard the commotion be it either the talk on the street or the rushing wind. If speaking in tongues is meant to be universal to all Christians, why did all of these other (pious) men outside the meeting room not also share in this one gift of the Holy Spirit?

The mixed crowd was stunned to hear “the message of Jesus” in their preferred native tongue. Yes, I am quite aware that there are about 35 references in scripture per tongues. In I Corinthians Paul states that an interpreter is required as “most cannot understand” what is being said. He also identifies tongues as a gift that is useless if others cannot grasp what is being said. But each HEARD in his own native language. No interpreter was needed.

The PTL is found in Acts 2:41. 3,000 New Christians were baptized that day. The word baptized as used in this passage is baptizō. This word in the Greek means: “to be submersed or overwhelmed as in fully wet” (Strong #907). These new believers did not begin to speak in a langue that they did not understand or know. Nothing is recorded in scripture to indicate this. They were baptized as a public sign of their conversion to Christianity from Judaism. However, once they began their personal prayer lives, the Holy *SPIRIT, was now available to interpret the wonting of each personal or God-petitioning prayer heart.

* God is spirit (John 4:24) so we must pray in spirit (I Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20). This means to let the Holy Spirit move us to conviction and desire to be in a deep relationship with the God-head.

This issue is one of the great divides that split the Church of Jesus Christ. Study the Word of God to personally become more than simply aware; to grasp at a minimal understanding of what is said. Seek to develop one’s relationship with other believers and God the father. Study content and context then decide if the Gift of Tongues is central to worship or is it a harbinger that some are given and some are given other spiritual gifts to support the church body.

Rev. Dr. James StarkDr. jStark

December 22, 2015

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