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Simon Peter, Saved by Grace (Part 7)

It has been a long journey for Peter and his colleagues and then the Jewish Believers in Jerusalem to understand that the Gospel Message is for all people everywhere irrespective of ethnicity, language, religion, culture or colour. Although that journey was long … in relation to the Twenty-First Century Church it was short. It’s so sad that after 2000 years we still struggle with discrimination in the Church in so many countries. In Acts 11:16-18 we find four significant principles that ought to help the Church to avoid discriminating against any person when it comes to hearing the Gospel or joining the Church.

1) Being baptized by the Holy Spirit. Although this statement introduces all sorts of ideas … some of which are not Biblical … to be part of the True, Invisible Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the need to be baptized by the Holy Spirit.

Ac 11:16 “Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”

Water baptism, be it John the Baptist or subsequent Christian baptism, signifies one is identifying themselves with Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. This is necessary because one baptized would demonstrate to the Visible Church, the World, their Family, their Friends and their Colleagues that they have changed. They have repented of their sin, believed on the Lord Jesus and their way of living may now be monitored by all to see they have a new Master and Lord who is Jesus Christ. So what does Baptism in the Spirit refer to? There are a variety of explanations, yet Biblically it can only mean one thing. Remember that speaking in tongues (known earthly languages) by the apostles accompanied the conversions at Pentecost as a confirmation to the apostles that the Promise Holy Spirit had arrived for them and for those who believed. Then at Cornelius’ house, once salvation come to all there, they spoke in their native languages confirming to Peter and his colleagues that salvation was for the Gentiles too. The point I am making is that what is called “speaking in tongues” today has absolutely nothing to do with salvation today. Some encourage people to “force” so called gibberish to filter out of their mouths saying that is prove of salvation. The fact is that is far from the truth as is the so called modern “speaking in tongues”. Neither of these two points match up to Biblical scrutiny. So what does the baptism of the Holy Spirit mean? Let us consider two passages to help answer the question.

[1] Through the prophet Ezekiel God gives a prophecy about the restoration of Israel after the exile.

Eze 36:24 “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Restoration was not just a return from exile, it was a return to God! Notice the symbolism of “sprinkle clean water, be clean, cleanse you, impurities, idols, new heart, new spirit, heart of stone, heart of flesh, my Spirit move you, follow decrees and keep my laws.” This is the Old Testament looking at the new birth … cleanse, new heart, new flesh and new spirit because God would put His Spirit in them. This is equivalent of being Born Again.

[2] Through the apostle John’s Gospel we hear Jesus saying to Nicodemus including anyone wanting salvation. Consider the following verses …

Jn 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’”

4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

This passage is not complicated. Nicodemus could not grasp the term “Born Again” so Jesus explains it to him (and for us). Before anyone can be Born Again they need to be born human … flesh gives birth to flesh. You see, being born human means you are born with a sinful nature, separated from God. Before anyone can know God they need to know they are a lost sinner destined for eternal hell. Then they need to hear the Gospel and how the Holy Spirit takes a lost soul and through confession of sin, repentance proving faith, comes upon that soul and births them into God’s Kingdom. The soul was lost in sin and hopelessness and then that soul had life and knows God personally through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit takes the Gospel, convinces the soul of its truth causing faith. This is an act of God’s grace realized in salvation. In a nutshell, being Born Again is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Water Baptism identifies you with Jesus for the benefit of the visible Church, where Spirit Baptism incorporates you into God’s Eternal Spiritual Family. Note that Water Baptism, whether an infant of believing parents or someone of a riper or adult age who understands the Gospel and surrenders to Jesus, does not save. Spirit Baptism as in being Born Again saves. As Bible believers we need to make certain professing Christians understand this for if they don’t they might find themselves trusting in either Water Baptism or “so called speaking in tongues” as the proof of their salvation. Neither saves!

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for fulfilling Your promise by sending the Counselor … Your Blessed Holy Spirit into this world to apply the Gospel to all who repent and believe the Message of Jesus. Amen.

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