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originally by the preaching of John the Baptist to consider their ways, they had been baptized with the baptism of repentance. And they give an example of the fulfilment of what was predicted concerning John by the angel who announced his birth. "Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God."1
But these, like Apollos, had yet much to learn. They had not been instructed in all the mysteries of God, or received the full measure of the doctrine of Christ. Especially, they had not known that the prophecy of Joel was now accomplished, and that God had " poured out of his Spirit upon all flesh ;"s thus explaining the assurance of their own master, John the Baptist, concerning him who was to come: "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." They had not known, that the promise made by Jesus himself was now fulfilled in those who believe in him: the promise which he made when "the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified."3
Paul, therefore, asks, You are disciples of Christ: you believe in him as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world:" Have the gifts of the Spirit been bestowed on you, as on other congregations of disciples? Have any prophesied? any spoken with tongues? any done wonderful works?
1 Luke i. 16, 17. a Ch. ii. 17.
3 John vii. 39. The phrase in the Evangelist is the same as the phrase in this passage. There it is, To irvevfia dyiov 6vk rjv eri. Here it is, OvSe ei Trvevfxa aywv eariv, ^Kovaafiev. There is nothing, therefore, to warrant the insertion of the word, any. The more exact rendering would be, We have not even heard whether there is an effusion of the Holy Ghost.
Their answer signifies that they had not heard whether such a power of the Holy Ghost was granted at all. The Holy Ghost they knew. His power had always been exerted. "Holy men spake of old time as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." But they had not heard of such an effusion of the Spirit as Paul alluded to, or known that they were to expect it.
4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people. That they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
7. And all the men were about twelve.
Paul did that here which Peter had done in Samaria; using the same power which had there excited the envy of the impostor Simon, and which he desired to purchase by money, (viii. 19,) " saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay my hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost." That which money could not buy, Paul here bestowed " without money and without price:" those special gifts of the Spirit which accompanied the first preaching of the gospel, and which the apostles were commissioned to confer.
In a different sense it may be asked of all, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? The promise is general to all believers: "Ye shall receive the Holy Ghost." He is the Sanctifier, who crowns the work of the Redeemer. By him is the Christian "sealed unto the day of redemption," having " the earnest of the Spirit in his heart."4 So that the apostle addresses the Corinthian disciples: "Know ye not, that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you ?" 5
The signs of this, no doubt, are very different from the signs here described. The signs at Ephesus were extraordinary. When Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied. The ordinary signs are, a life led "in the faith of the Son of God:" a heart "not conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of the mind." The proofs of the presence of the Spirit, are "the fruits of the Spirit," which are " love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." 6 If these fruits do not appear, we may ask with the apostle, Unto what then were ye baptized? This is the end, the object of baptism. It is " the washing of regeneration, the renewing of the Holy Ghost."7 We are "buried with Christ by baptism into death;
* Eph. iv. 30; 2 Cor. i. 22. 5 1 Cor. vi. 19.
6 Gal. v. 23. i Tit. iii. 5.
that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."8
May the power of the Spirit of God be as evident in all who profess and call themselves Christians, as it was in the case of those twelve, who were now baptized in the name of the Lord Jems, and not improbably became the appointed elders of the rising Ephesian church.
PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL AT EPHESUS. -a. D. 58. Acts xix. 8—20.
8. And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.
9. But whgn divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.
10. And this continued by the space of two years: so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
11. And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:
8 Rom. viii. 4.
12. So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
Unusual opposition on one side ought to be met by unusual exertion on the other. The Jews here at Ephesus showed more than common obstinacy, so that Paul after a while separated the disciples altogether.1 He, on his part, wrought more than ordinary miracles. When divers were hardened and believed not, to these he was able to appeal, and so to confirm the wavering, and convince the reasonable. Like Samuel of old, when more than a thousand years before this same people had shown the same perverseness: (1 Sam. xii. 16 :) Samuel said, "Stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest to-day 1 I will call unto the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain, that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great which ye have done in the sight of the Lord. So Samuel called unto the Lord: and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel." In like manner might Paul say, I preach unto you the words of eternal life. Ye cavil and deny. Stand, therefore, and see these "mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God." 2 Is there any other power by which diseases depart and evil spirits go out of those who are oppressed by them? Could a man perform these wonders by any virtue of his own? God
1 As at Antioch in Pisidia. Ch. xiii. 42, 43.