Promise of the Father

Dear Brethren,

Why were some New Testament Christians given God's Holy Spirit before they were baptized?  Isn't the usual and expected order of events that we are first baptized, before receiving the Holy Spirit?  How can someone receive God's Holy Spirit before they repent, or before they have faith in Jesus Christ?  The normal way that God's Spirit is bestowed on individuals is after ;God's calling (John 6:44, 65).   God works with us with His Spirit before His Spirit is in us (John 14:17).  God grants us repentance toward God, and faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.  Repentance and faith are not something we develop ourselves (Acts 11:18, Ephesians 2:8).  God, through His Spirit, begins working with every person that He is calling to conversion.  Then, as a general rule, it is after baptism that we receive the promise of the Father – an earnest of His Life – His Holy Spirit in us, making us His children.

However, in some special and extraordinary cases, God reversed the order of things, giving His Holy Spirit before baptism.  Only God knows the heart and mind of a person.  In establishing the Church of God, it was necessary for God to demonstrate His will by pouring out His Spirit in some cases before individuals had entered into a covenant relationship by going down into a watery grave.  Though, in every case where God first gave His Spirit, baptism followed immediately so that all righteousness might be fulfilled.

Today, we are privileged to hear the Gospel preached, have the Word of God expounded in publications, and often, come into contact with a minister or other brethren before baptism.  But, at the inauguration of the Church of God in the first century, there were few or no ministers or brethren to explain how God was working.  God poured out His Spirit in power and gifts in order to show clearly that great changes were taking place.

"When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit."  (Acts 2:1-4)

The Bible does not tell us if most of the one hundred and twenty faithful brethren were already baptized or not.  Perhaps many, if not all of those brethren were already baptized.  We know from John 4:1-2, that the apostles were already baptized before the coming of Pentecost.   "...Jesus baptized more disciples than John [the Baptist], though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples [did the baptizing.]"

But, here is a case in point.  Paul received God's Holy Spirit before he was baptized.  "Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him [Paul] said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized."  (Act 9:17-18)

Paul's rage against the Church was immediately and irrevocably turned around by the action of God's Spirit working in him.  He made a one hundred and eighty degree turn.  It is God's Holy Spirit that opens our minds to know God, and to recognize the will of God.  Repentance and baptism were still absolutely necessary, as was obedience to God.  These require the interaction of God's Holy Spirit.  In Paul's case, God desired immediate and decisive service that would come with express intervention on God's part.

Here is another example of many people receiving God's Holy Spirit before they were baptized:  "There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house..,  And Cornelius waited for [Peter], and had called together his kinsmen and close friends..,  While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all of them which heard the word. And [the Jews] which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord."  (Acts 10:1-48)

God acted by sending His Holy Spirit to un-baptized individuals in order to punctuate the fact that He was working in a new and powerful way among men.  There were unanswered questions that could only be resolved by direct signs and miracles from God.  The New Testament Church of God – brethren led and motivated by God's Holy Spirit – was coming into existence.  God had prophesied beforehand that He would do so.   "It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh."  (Joel 2:28)

Throughout history God had worked with Israel in a unique way.  Strangers of other nations were not heirs of God's physical promises, and were only mentioned as they came into contact with Israel.  Initially, the Apostles' expectation was that salvation was only for the Israelites.  But, God gave His Holy Spirit to some of the Gentiles before baptism to make it known that His will was that all nations, not only Israelites, were to become Christians and have salvation.  "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:  But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him."  (Acts 10:34-35).


Sermon:  "Promise of the Father"