The Essential Seal and Constitution of the Christian Life (continued)
2. Disciples (continued)
But Aquila and Priscilla, that fine Christian couple who had accompanied Paul to Ephesus from Corinth, soon detected the flaw and the lack, and took him and expounded to him the way of God more carefully (vs. 26). His ministry enlarged greatly after that. Soon afterwards he left Ephesus an crossed over to Corinth, and it is interesting to follow the wonderful ministry of Apollos from this point. But I just mention it for this reason: that when Apollos got beyond John the Baptist to the real meaning of the Holy Spirit and of baptism into Christ, it made an immense difference to his ministry. Paul was able to say: "I planted, Apollos watered" (1 Corinthians 3:6), and much more. That is no small thing. It illustrates the vital importance of having the Holy Spirit. Now these disciples knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. Although they had dwelling in their midst a man mighty in the Old Testament Scriptures, and familiar with the teaching of John the Baptist and his baptism, they could not be led any further by him. They knew nothing vital concerning the way of the Lord, although such a man had been ministering to them.
These disciples, then, represented a kind of parenthesis, an interlude, a discontinuity; something held in suspense, as it were, between John the Baptist and Jesus. And I am not sure that there are not many such disciples today, suspended in that gap. Yes, they know something of the Bible; they know something about Jesus. They have been 'taught by word of mouth.' But I fear that there are multitudes of those who have the name "Christian," and who would be called, or would wish to be called, disciples, who have no real, personal experience of receiving the Holy Spirit. They belong to this kind of parenthetical Christianity. It has not gone though, not gone right on; it has stopped, it is a discontinuity. But these at Ephesus did go on, as the record shows us - they did bridge the gap.
We now turn briefly to the third matter - that of baptism. For it was up to that that the Apostle led them. From their reply, "We did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was," we are not quite sure whether they meant that they had not heard that there was such a thing or person as the Holy Spirit, or that they had not heard whether the Holy Spirit had come. But it is not of great importance. It is perfectly evident that they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. And so Paul says, "Well, then, into what were you baptized?" That is the point upon which the big question turns. "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?... Into what then were ye baptized?" These two things go together; the one question is within the other - the one resolves itself into the other. "Into what ... were ye baptized?"
Well, then, we have to ask, what did baptism into Christ mean? To put it in another form: Why did the Holy Spirit wait for that testimony? And in answering this question we touch the greatest things in the Christian life. Here we really do come to the "seal" and the "constitution" mentioned in our title. I do not mean that baptism is that, but look behind it and see what it really meant. You have to go a long way back to answer that question, What did baptism into Christ mean? You have to go right back to the beginning. What was it that happened in the garden, when man disobeyed God? When man, at the suggestion of satan, disobeyed God, he opened as it were a door into his own being - a door into which satan put his foot, and from which he has never withdrawn it. Through man opening himself to satan, satan got a purchase in man's soul, obtained a foothold in the very heart of man, upon which all the evil powers have fulfilled the work of satan in man and through man ever since.
(continued with # 17)