Posts Tagged ‘conversion’

Answering Common Sense Questions – #13

October 2, 2007

This is the final blog dealing with several supposedly “common sense” questions that a church of Christ preacher or member would allegedly find difficult to answer.  These questions were dreamed up by Mr. David Martin of the Solid Rock Bapist Church and have been widely spread across the internet and are used in debates about the churches of Christ on various christian themed message boards.  The final question which Mr. Martin asks is:

The “Church of Christ” teaches that “obeying the Gospel” includes being baptized in water in order to be saved. If this is true, then how is it that the converts of Acts 10 were saved by faith before and without water baptism? The Bible says in Acts 5:32 that only those who obey God may receive the Holy Ghost – so what did those in Acts 10 do to obey and receive the Holy Ghost and be saved? In the light of Acts 10:34-48, Acts 11:14-18, and Acts 15:7-11, how can anyone honestly believe that water baptism is necessary to salvation? Simon Peter said their hearts were “purified by faith” (Acts 15:9) and that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like they were (Acts 15:11); that is, before and without water baptism! We know that unsaved people do not receive or have the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). We know that the Holy Spirit is given only to those who have believed on Christ (John 7:39). We know that the Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner the moment he puts his faith and trust in Christ as Savior, before he is ever baptized in water (Ephesians 1:12,13). How does the warped theolgy of Campbellism explain away these clear passages of Scripture without “muddying the waters” of truth and drowning its members in eternal damnation?

For once Mr. Martin accurately conveys the beliefs fo the churches of Christ that “obeying the gospel” includes water baptism.  In an attempt to disprove this belief he then claims that in Acts 10 the gentiles present were saved before and without water baptism. He makes this claim based on the fact that they recieved the baptism of the Holy Spirit and performed miracles before their water baptism.

First we need to begin by examining Mr. Martin’s claim that only those who obey God may receive the Holy Spirit and that unsaved people never recieve or have the Holy Spirit.  If he is wrong about this claim then his entire argument here fails.  Let us begin by looking at the four verses that he uses to support this statement.

Acts 5:32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

This passage doesn’t help Mr. Martin’s argument as it only says that God gives the Holy Spirit to those that obey him.  If I say that I gave my children gifts on Christmas that does not mean that didn’t give gifts to others as well, I just simply did not mention any others that I may have given gifts to.  So, while this passage is an excellent passage proving that the saved will recieve the Holy Spirit it does nothing to prove the unsaved do not in any way do so.

John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

Here it is important that we notice that Jesus is speaking about the recieving of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is an important distinction as we shall see later.  Jesus is telling his disciples here that those of the world will not recieve the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  If the Spirit is ever recieved in a way that does not involve the indwelling, which we will see later that it has been, then this passage would not apply to that situation.

Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Once again we see that this is speaking of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within us and that if God’s Spirit does not dwell in us then we are not his.  Thus we can infer from this that those who are not Christ’s do not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, we see this passage doesn’t indicate that a manner of recieving the Holy Spirit that does not involve its indwelling has not been given to unbelievers.

John 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

This passage as with Acts 5:32 only says that believers were going to recieve the Holy Spirit and does not comment one way or the other regarding unbelievers.  Yes believers are going to recieve the Holy Spirit.  This does not mean that there is not nor will there ever be a circumstance under which an unbeliever will in some way recieve the Holy Spirit.

Now that we have examined the passages that Mr. Martin provided let us look at scripture and see if we find any instances where one who is unsaved has recieved the Holy Spirit or performed miracles by the Spirit?  Caiaphas the high priest prophesied about the death of Jesus (John 11:49) before he and the others had Christ put to death and according to Peter all prophecy is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20).  Thus we see here one person who was unsaved yet recieved the gift of prophecy by the Holy Spirit.  Baalam’s donkey recieved the spirit and spoke to Balaam (Numbers 22:28). Would Mr. Martin argue that this was a saved donkey?  So the idea that the spirit is never recieved in any way by the unsaved is untrue.  However, the Spirit did not dwell within either Caiaphas or the donkey.  Thus we see there is a difference between recieving the Holy Spirit in such a way as to perform miracles and recieving the spirit to live within us.

To further demonstrate this point let us consider the Samaritans that were converted by Philip’s preaching (Acts 8:5-12).  At this point they had believed and been baptized thus according to Peter they had recieved the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the seal of our salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13).  Yet we find that they had not yet recieved the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirt as displayed by those who recieve Spirit baptism (Acts 8:14-17). So we see that recieving the indwelling presence of the Spirit as a seal of our salvation and recieving the miraculous manifestation of the Spirit are two different things.  According to John 14:17 and Romans 8:9 only the saved receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a seal of their salvation but there is no such passage regarding the miraclous manifestation of the Spirit.

So were Cornelius and his household saved when they recieved the baptism of the Spirit?  The first thing to note is that Cornelius was told to send for Peter and that Peter would tell him what he must do (Acts 10:6) and speak words by which he and his household would be saved (Acts 11:14).  In Luke’s account of the events he says that while Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles, however, he does not specify at what point in Peter’s speech this happened (Acts 10:44).  Peter, on the other hand, when he recounted the events for the Jews back home described the events in order (Acts 11:4).  Peter says that as he began to speak the Spirit fell upon the Gentiles (Acts 11:15).  Thus if this reception of the Holy Spirit was a sign of their salvation then they were saved before hearing the words by which they were supposed to be saved. Furthermore, Peter doesn’t mention Christ or explain the gospel until the end of his speech (Acts 10:38-40). Thus if these people were saved upon being baptized with the Holy Spirit then it was without believing in Christ or hearing the gospel, which Paul says is the power of salvation (Romans 16:16).  Finally Peter states that this baptism of the Spirit had not occured since the beginning, the day of Pentecost, until then (Acts 11:15).  So this was not a common occurance that happened to all Christians as is the reception of the indwelling Spirit as a seal of our salvation but was a seperate event for a particular purpose.   On the day of Pentecost the baptism of the Holy Spirit was given to establish God’s church and open its doors to the Jews.  In Acts 10 the same baptism of the Spirit, which had not occured since as seen above,  was poured out upon the Gentiles in order to open the doors to them as well.  In neither instance was salvation the intended purpose of the Spirit baptism.  Thus Cornelius and his house were not saved before and without water baptism but were saved when they believed the gospel preached by Peter and baptized in water as he commanded them (Acts 10:48).