The Six Foundation Stones
Derek Prince
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The Six Foundation Stones

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Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

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The reason why Ruth is here is because you get two for the price of one! We always begin ministry by making a proclamation. We have learned by experience that there is no more powerful way of releasing the power of God than through the proclamation of His word. We do this regularly, we probably do it at least ten times a day. We do it at every meal. I would say it’s had a life changing effect on both of us. In fact, I think it’s had a life saving effect. I doubt if either of us would be here today if it weren’t for the result of proclamation. I came up intending to make one proclamation but because of what I said I think we’ll do another one. Okay? This is really our testimony, it’s taken from Psalm 118, beginning around verse 14, something like that. The first words are not addressed to God but to the enemy.

“You pushed me violently that I might fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous. The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalted. The right hand of the Lord does valiantly. I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord has chastened me severely but He has not given me over to death.”

And that’s the truth.

Now, I told you you got two for the price of one so we’ll give you the other one. It’s really providential because the pastor’s wife had no forewarning of what I’m going to talk about but I’m going to talk about foundations. I have a major task because I’m going to go through the whole theme from A to Z, hopefully in one session. I hope for your sake, too! So we’re going to do something about the word of God now which I trust will be true here tonight. Isaiah 55:10–11:

“For as the rain comes down and the snow from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth, and make it bring forth and sprout, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the things for which I sent it. Amen.”

So, my theme is the foundation of the Christian faith. We’re going to go through it from A to Z. Therefore, I will not turn to all the passages in the Bible and I will not dwell too long, by the grace of God, on any one. It’s like this, if you get too involved in the trees you don’t see the forest. Tonight by the help of God I’m going to try to deal with the forest and not focus too long on any one tree. One reason being that I’m going to deal with the foundation doctrines of the Christian faith, which are six. And if you cut them up you miss out the fact that they’re totally perfect. They begin at the beginning and they end with the climax. To me it’s a marvelous example of the inspiration of scripture that the writer of Hebrews should outline these six doctrines with such perfect accuracy and in such perfect order.

But I want to turn, first of all, to the words of Jesus in Luke 6:47–49:

“Whoever comes to me and hears my sayings, and does them, I will show you whom he is like. He is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock, and when the flood arose the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Obviously the one, main, distinguishing feature between these two houses was the matter of the foundation. One had a solid foundation, the other did not. There was no difference in their experience, both of them had to endure the storm. And that is true whether you’re a Christian or a non-Christian, you’re going to have to endure the storms of life, they’re coming. It’s not they may come but they will come. The question is not whether you have to go through the storm, the question is will you have a foundation that will keep you secure in the storm? So, the issue of foundations is absolutely critical to the whole of the Christian life.

I travel widely amongst Charismatics, and I love them in spite of everything, and they love me in spite of everything, too! But I see many Charismatics, not all, as people who have purchased the building lot and they’ve got big plans to build but they never take the trouble to lay the foundation. So, they cannot build anything because there’s no foundation. But from time to time they go to a conference and they come back with another piece of building material. Like, one time they come back with a marble bath and another time with a beautiful oak front door. But all they can do with them is dump them on the building lot because there’s no place to fit them in. Whether you agree with me or not, I see thousands of Christians who’ve never really laid a foundation. Consequently, they can never build a house. All they can do is assemble materials. But that’s of no real use.

Now there are two aspects to the foundation. The first is personal, the second is doctrinal. There’s only one personal foundation and I’m sure all of you know what that is. It’s stated in 1Corinthians 3:11:

“No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.”

It’s very important to begin with Him. There is no other foundation. The Christian life has to be built on the person of Jesus Christ. It has to begin with a personal confrontation with Jesus.

I also believe that of all the different aspects of truth of Jesus, there’s one which is more essential for the foundation than any other. Paul expresses this just one chapter back in 1Corinthians 2. He says:

“I, brethren, when I came to you did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Now that is a remarkable statement for a Jew because if there’s one thing the Jewish people really appreciate, it’s knowledge. Paul said I’ve determined not to know anything but just one thing. He set aside his whole life background of study and learning, he said I’m only interested in presenting one thing to you.

It’s also interesting that he came to Corinth by way of Athens. And in Athens he was speaking to the intellectuals and the philosophers, and he kind of accommodated himself to them—he even quoted a Greek poet—and presented a message that was designed for the intellectual. The results were very meager, only a few people responded.

So apparently on his way to Corinth he made up his mind I’m not going to try that again. I’m only going to know one thing, that is Jesus Christ crucified. And the results in Corinth were tremendous. The whole city was impacted by Paul’s ministry. The difference was the message. I suggest to all of you, but especially to those who may be preachers, never get away from Jesus Christ crucified.

Spurgeon once said that to teach people the principles of Christianity without presenting the cross is like a drill sergeant giving orders to a squad of soldiers who have no feet, because they cannot carry out the orders. The only source of the power to lead the Christian life is the cross. I believe that there’s a tremendous necessity to return to an emphasis on Jesus Christ crucified. It’s never a popular theme but it’s the one that God honors.

Paul said, following on that in chapter 2:

“I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

Paul had learned that there’s only one thing that releases the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, and that is the message of the cross. We can give elegant sermons and we can give all sorts of fancy teaching but if we divorce it from the cross it will be largely ineffective.

So, the foundation, the personal foundation, the indispensable foundation is Jesus Christ. And the center of His message is the cross.

But, there is also a doctrinal foundation. And this is stated in Hebrews 6:2–3. I find relatively few preachers that I know have seen the fact that there is one specific doctrinal foundation for which there is no substitute. The writer of Hebrews says in chapter 6, verses 1 and 2:

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, completion, maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptism, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”

I want you to notice he does not say a foundation, he says the foundation. This is the doctrinal foundation from the gospel. And it is essential for those who want to be strong, stable, successful Christians.

Then he says in the next verse:

“And this we will do if God permits.”

That’s a surprising phrase. Why do we have to have God’s permission to go to completeness? I think there’s an analogy from building which explains it. In this area and in most civilized areas today, if you want to build any significant structure you have to have a blueprint. And, you have to take the blueprint to the authorities and get it approved. And you cannot start building till you have the approved blueprint. Then, when you start building, the inspector will come out and inspect each stage of the building. And only when each stage has his approval can you go on to the next stage. I think that’s the truth in this case. If we do not lay the right foundation, God will not give us the permit to go on. So we were shut up to that particular level for the rest of our lives.

Let’s consider the six doctrines which are the foundation.

Number one, repentance from dead works.

Number two, faith toward God.

Number three, the doctrine of baptisms, plural.

Number four, laying on of hands.

Number five, resurrection of the dead.

And number six, eternal judgment.

And as I said, I want to go through quick enough to get to the end because it’s very helpful to see them all in one complete context.

So let’s begin with the doctrine of repentance from dead works. The modern translations translate that repentance from works that lead to death. But I don’t believe that’s correct because the Greek says very simply dead works. I believe dead works are anything that is not done in faith. Whatever is not of faith is sin, the Bible says. Only those things that are done in positive faith have life in them. All other works, no matter how religious, are dead works. And the first thing we have to do is repent of all our dead works. The people that usually find that the hardest are the people that have done a lot of religious work with no life in them. Sinners like me who came to the Lord, I didn’t have any problem because I knew I was a sinner. I didn’t have any doubt about that. I didn’t ever think I deserved salvation or deserved the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I was just glad for anything I got.

But about the same time I got saved there was another soldier in the British Army with me and he was religious. He found it terribly hard to get through because he somehow had the impression that either he had to earn it or that he had done something in the past which would give him at least a little advance.

So, years ago I spent hours counseling Christians with problems. Incidentally, I grew up in the Pentecostal movement in 1941 so I’m familiar with Pentecostals. For a long time there was a tradition in the Pentecostal movement that you got saved, baptized in water, baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. And after that you had no more problems! There’s just one problem with it, it isn’t true. Bob Mumford was asked once what is the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and he replied, “trouble.” I don’t believe your life gets any easier when you’re baptized in the Spirit but you have more power to cope with the problem.

My conclusion with dealing with all these Christians—I don’t deal with many now—is that fifty percent of their problems would not exist if they had really repented. They’ve missed out the real primary foundation stone. And without repentance you cannot have real faith, you cannot bypass repentance and come to faith. Because, they’re in an order. First repentance, then faith. And all through the New Testament, from the beginning to the end, always repentance is put before faith. You never get the opposite order.

John the Baptist in Matthew 3 said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” When Jesus took over he said, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.” Don’t try to believe until you have repented. When He commissioned the disciples after His resurrection in Luke 24, He said, “This gospel must be proclaimed in all the nations a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins.” And he never put forgiveness without repentance.

When the church came into being on the Day of Pentecost and the convicted but unconverted multitudes said, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter didn’t have to think up an answer, he had it ready. I don’t believe, actually, God has any problem telling people what to do. His problem is getting people to the place where they want to know what to do. So Peter said, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.” What’s the first requirement? I didn’t hear you. That’s right.

Then when Paul was preaching to the elders of the church of Ephesus and he reminded them of his ministry amongst them, he said, “I went amongst you from house to house, and publicly, testifying to Jews and to Greeks repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus Christ.” But never faith without repentance. And you say do Christians have to repent? Anybody who sins has to repent. Furthermore, my conviction is only those sins which we confess get forgiven.

But in the last book of the New Testament, Jesus sends a message to seven Christian churches and His first words to five out of seven is what? Repent. They were Christians. I would say the proportion of five to seven at least applies today. At least five out of seven need to repent. I’m inclined to think it’s probably higher.

What is repentance? There are two languages of the Bible, basically, Hebrew and Greek. The Greek word for repentance, ?metanoine?, in secular language is always translated “change your mind.” It’s a decision. You’ve been living one way and you decide to live another way. It’s not in the area of the emotions, it’s in the area of the will. And the Hebrew word for repentance means “to turn around.” It’s very characteristic of the two cultures. Greek is essentially intellectual, conceptual; Hebrew is very down to earth and pragmatic. So Greek says change your mind, Hebrew says turn it around. When you put the two together you have repentance. And without it, you don’t.

The perfect example of repentance is the prodigal son. When he came to himself he saw where he was and he said, “I will arise and go to my father and say I have sinned.” What was the proof that he’d repented? He arose and went. If he’d only said it and not done it, it wouldn’t have been repentance. So that’s the perfect pattern of repentance, decision followed by action.

Now we’ll move on to the next, faith toward God. How many of you have ever heard a sermon on faith? There’s not one person here who hasn’t. I’m going to try to deal with it briefly. First of all, faith is essential. Hebrews 11:6:

“Without faith it is difficult to please God.”

Is that right? Impossible to please God. I think a lot of people think it’s difficult but they’re managing to do it. The Bible says it is impossible to please God.

And then something which we’re so glib to say and so slow to believe is it’s faith without works. I think if we could stop and reflect on this we’d be astonished. I think few people who profess to believe the gospel really understand that it’s faith without works. It’s not anything you do, you cannot in any way commend yourself to God by anything you do. There are many passages, I’ll read only two. Romans 3:28:

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”

And then the example of Abraham which is even more impressive. It says in verse 4 of Romans 4:

“To him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. [Now listen to this.] But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”

What’s the first thing you have to do? Stop doing anything. To him who does not work, his faith is accounted for righteousness. You come to the place where you say there is nothing I can do to make myself right with God. It depends totally on the grace of God.

Now in Romans 10:10 we discover that the verb “to believe” is a verb of motion. It’s not a verb of position, it’s a verb of motion. And Romans 10:10 says:

“For with the heart one believes to righteousness...”

Something happens when you believe. There’s a kind of static intellectual faith that simply embraces the fact of the gospel and says “I believe.” That’s not the faith that Paul is talking about. He’s talking about a faith that moves you. You believe to righteousness.

And then in Ephesians 2:8–9, which is one of our proclamations, but I won’t ask Ruth to come up. Maybe I will—give you a little demonstration. Ephesians 2:8–10:

“For by grace we have been saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Thank you. Now notice when it says “through faith,” then it says “not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.” Saving faith is a gift.

I came to the Lord in 1941 out of a very highly intellectual background, I was a professional philosopher. You probably haven’t met many but you’re looking at one who used to be. I got confronted by the gospel without intending to be confronted and I realized I needed it. But, I discovered I could not believe. There was one specific reason which I didn’t realize till later, I had been deeply involved in yoga. And that influence of yoga had shut my mind to faith in Jesus as the Son of God. I could believe in Him as a guru but not as the Son of God. I came to the place where if I was going to believe, God had to do it. And one night when I reached the end of all my efforts, God gave me faith. It was a gift. It wasn’t produced by my efforts.

I also discovered at the end of John’s first epistle that it says:

“The Son of God has come and has given us an understanding that we may know Him who is true.”

Faith and understanding, in that sense, are gifts. We’re totally upon God for them.

All right. Now the next thing we need to lay hold of—I won’t turn there because I’m sure it’s familiar to many of you—it’s James 2:20 and 26:

“Faith without works is dead.”

So you’re saved by faith but it’s a faith that works. It’s not a static intellectual faith, it’s a faith that motivates you. You start to do things you’d never do before.

As an unbeliever I had heard a couple of times about people who went to prayer meetings and I said to myself whatever can people find to pray about? And how can they spend half an hour talking to God? Well, when I got saved, the dear Pentecostal people who had been sort of shepherding me decided to take me to a prayer meeting. And looking back I realize they were conditioning me. It may be a little noisy, this and that. Well, when I got there I shocked them all because I started to laugh and I couldn’t stop laughing. That’s how I got saved, is laughing. On the floor in the barrack room in the middle of the night. It’s not the traditional way to get saved but it worked! My problem was when people asked me how to get saved I left them with the impression that you had to end up with your back on the floor in the middle of the night laughing to get saved. In fact, it wasn’t until I heard Billy Graham that I realized it was possible to explain to people very simply how to get saved.

So, faith without works is dead. That’s just the intellectual type of faith which doesn’t produce a change in the heart.

Now we’ll go on to Galatians 2 because the fact that it’s without works and without the keeping of the law is something that is of tremendous importance and tends to be neglected. Some Pentecostals, I’m sure you’re not among them, are extremely legalistic. They’ve thrown out the law of Moses and substituted their own. I could quote the Pentecostal laws because I lived by them for quite a while. But if the law of Moses wouldn’t save people, believe me, no other law can do it. Not the Pentecostal law, nor the Baptist law, nor the Methodist law, nor even the Catholic law. And so Paul emphasizes this again and again. I have come to see that the emphasis is necessary. We need, I think, to return to it. It says in Galatians 2:16:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we [that’s Jews], have believed in Christ Jesus that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law. For by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”

You notice the emphasis. So then, what are the works that are appropriate, what is the true expression of faith? I’m going to give you a very simple answer. Romans 8:3–4:

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh...”

Paul emphasizes there’s nothing wrong with the law, it was perfect. The problem was in us, in our fleshly nature.

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin, He condemned sin in the flesh that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

So, the burning issue is what is the righteous requirement of the law, what is it that we do have to do? We don’t have to observe the law of Moses, we don’t even have to keep the Baptist law. But the righteous requirement of the law we do have to observe. What is it? I can tell you in one word. Love. It’s very easy to say, not always so easy to do.

Paul says in Romans 13, and I can quote many other scriptures for the same purpose, Romans 13:8–10:

“Owe no one anything except to love one another; for he who loves has fulfilled the law. [Has fulfilled the law.] For the commandments, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

That’s very simple. That’s all we have to do is love. One of the problems is that we’ve got diverted from this issue and we’re occupied with a lot secondary things which may be important but without love they’re totally ineffective.

I’ll give you one other scripture which has become a favorite with me. It isn’t in my outline but I feel I need to give it to you. It’s in 1Timothy 1—and you preachers, if there are any here, I want to address these words to you. 1Timothy 1:5–6. This translations says:

“The purpose of the commandment is love...”

But the NASB says:

“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience and a sincere faith. From which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk.”

So for us who are preachers, we have to ask ourselves what are we producing in the people whom we teach? Are we producing love? If not, it’s empty words, it’s idle talk, it’s wasted time. And I have checked my own ministry that way. I’ve said to myself what am I producing in people? If I am not producing people who are loving, love God and love one another, in fact, it would be better if I didn’t preach. And I have to say I trust I don’t sound cynical. There are hours and hours and hours of wasted time in churches teaching all sorts of things that don’t produce love. And we Christians, amongst the unbelievers, are not notorious for being loving. Is that right? It certainly is. It’s remarkable. Unbelievers know much better than believers what we should be. They’re objective, we’re biased.

All right, we’re going on to the third doctrine which is the doctrine of baptisms, plural. There are three main baptisms in the New Testament. You could add a fourth, you could talk about a baptism of suffering but I’m not going to try and deal with that. First of all, there was John’s baptism. Mark 1:4 describes John’s ministry. Mark 1:4:

“John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

That’s very clear. John’s message was repent and your sins will be forgiven. Demonstrate that you’ve repented by being baptized.

And then there is Christian baptism which is not the same as John’s baptism. You are not baptized as a Christian because you are a sinner, did you know that? I’ll show you in Matthew 3. Jesus came to John and asked to be baptized and John said, “No, I need to be baptized by you.” But Jesus gave this answer:

“Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

And so He stated the purpose of Christian baptism and He didn’t say for me, He said for us. And Christian baptism is not a baptism of repentance, it’s a baptism that fulfills all righteousness. It completes the righteousness which you have received by faith.

In Romans 6:4 Paul says it’s identification with Jesus in two things. Incidentally, let me point out there’s no possibility interpreting that baptism in Matthew 3 as a baptism of confession for sin because Jesus had never sinned. He didn’t have any sins to confess. Romans 6:4:

“Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so, we also should walk in newness of life.”

So, Christian baptism is identification with Jesus Christ first of all in burial and second, in resurrection. And it opens the way to walk in newness of life.

Let me say, and you can check this, no one in the New Testament, from the cross onwards, ever claimed to be saved without being baptized. You cannot find such a person anywhere. Jesus said whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. If you say I believe but not been baptized, you’re taking a risk. You have no scripture on which to base your claim to salvation. For many of us baptism in water has become a kind of formality you have to go through to join the church or whatever. That’s totally incorrect. Baptism in water is just as powerful and life changing an experience as baptism in the Holy Spirit. And when people are taught that way, that’s what they get.

I taught on this some years ago in New Zealand and a number of people who had never been baptized decided to be baptized. So we went to somebody’s swimming pool and as they’re being baptized on the understanding of what they were doing, the power of God was so strong around that pool that nobody could stand up around it. And there was a group of good Baptists there who’d already been baptized and they said, “We wish we’d had it this way.” Many of God’s people are being cheated out of something by an incorrect appreciation of what baptism in water is. It’s not a little frill added to something, it’s a total part of the experience. Believe and be baptized. And by that you identify yourself with Jesus.

And in many pagan countries such as India—or in Israel—people don’t get so upset when you say that you believe. What makes them made is when you get baptized because that’s when you’ve passed out of Satan’s territory.

What’s the Old Testament main pattern of baptism in water? It’s the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. Israel was saved in Egypt by the blood of the lamb but they were delivered from Egypt by passing through the water. And that is what cut the Egyptians off. They could follow them even though they believed in the blood, but they could not follow them through the water.

I feel strongly about this because I have learned by experience. People are being cheated out of something tremendously valuable. I don’t think that baptism should be postponed till the time there’s a baptismal service.

Now we come to the third baptism which is baptism in the Holy Spirit. And this is referred to by Jesus just before He left His disciples. He said in Acts 1:5:

“For John truly baptized in water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

He made a distinction between being baptized in water and being baptized in the Spirit.

And in Acts 19, the first 6 verses, we have all three baptisms in six verses. First of all John’s, then Christian baptism, then the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Acts 19:1–6:

“And it happened while Apollos was at Corinth that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples [but it doesn’t say whose disciples they were] he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’”

I believe that’s a question we should usually ask people.

“And they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’”

Now, this could be controversial but why did he say into what were you baptized if they had not heard of the Holy Spirit? My explanation is because Christian baptism was in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So they couldn’t have had Christian baptism without hearing of the Holy Spirit. Now I know this is controversial, I’ve lived long enough to find that out! And you’re free to make your personal decision. Let’s not get further involved with that!

Paul did not accept what they’d had. Verse 4, Paul said:

“John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”

So once Jesus had come, died, risen from the dead and commissioned His disciples, John’s baptism was no longer sufficient.

Verse 5:

“When they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

That’s Christian baptism. Now some people will say the name of Jesus only, let’s not get involved in that. Let me tell you the formula I use to cover every base—which is a phrase I don’t understand but American do. I play cricket! I say “Upon your confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit into the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.” So what anybody says to you, it’s covered. I don’t think it’s that important but I think it’s important that people shouldn’t get worried afterwards about it.

So now they had John’s baptism but that was no longer adequate. They’d had Christian baptism but still there was something more. Verse 6:

“And when Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came upon them, they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

So there you have three successive baptisms, distinct. John’s baptism, Christian baptism, the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

All right, now we’re going on to laying on of hands. I imagine if most of us had been asked to name six basic doctrines we might not have included laying on of hands. But actually, laying on of hands is much more important than many of us realize and it’s essential because it provides, what I would say, continuity and extension. It’s the way that one generation is imparted to the next, and it’s a way that the message is continually be extended. Laying on of hands is probably the oldest single practice of God’s people in the Bible because it starts in Genesis and goes all the way through the New Testament.

So if you are a person who loves tradition, as many people do, in the tradition of laying on of hands you are going back to the patriarchs, far before the Christian church. I think traditions in some ways are significant.

Now, as I see it, there are three main purposes for the laying on of hands.

Number one, recognition or setting apart. It’s a way of recognizing somebody who has a special place in the work of God.

Second, it’s commissioning. It’s setting them in motion. It’s releasing them to their task.

And thirdly, it’s impartation. It’s imparting to them the particular grace, or wisdom, or power that they’re going to need for this new job.

And all three are wonderfully illustrated in the way in which Moses appointed his God appointed successor, Joshua. One verse in Deuteronomy 34 basically says it all. Moses had laid hands on Joshua in the presence of the children of Israel, saying, “This is my successor.” You notice it provided for succession. There was no break in the continuity of God’s dealings. And it says here in Deuteronomy 34:9:

“Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom for Moses had laid hands on him, so the children of Israel heeded him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Why was Joshua full of the spirit of wisdom? Because Moses had laid hands on him.

As a matter of interest, who’s the first person in the Bible who’s said to be full of the Holy Spirit? I mean, there’s no reason you should know it but it’s interesting to me. You find the answer is Bezaliel. And he was full of the spirit of wisdom to oversee the construction of the tabernacle. This blesses me because it’s so practical and down to earth, it’s not just something floating in the air.

All right. Now let’s look at a few examples in the New Testament of the laying on of hands for these three purposes: recognition, commissioning and impartation.

The first example is the appointment of the deacons in Acts 6. Traditionally these men are called deacons but the word is not used. Actually, in my opinion their job was not just to do what we call deacons, but they were to be the helpers of the apostles, they were to take some of the burden off the apostles. So, when a man becomes a deacon I think it’s not just to supervise the widows or the outgiving of charity, I think it’s to share the burden with the leadership. Of course, the real word for deacon is servant, you know that? ?Deaconos?

I often think a lot of churches would be different if instead of having a board of deacons they had a board of servants.

Anyhow, here we are in Acts 6:6, they chose seven men and then it says:

“They set them before the apostles, and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.”

So, they were released to their particular service by the laying on of hands of the apostles.

And then in Acts 8 in Samaria, the people of Samaria had been saved through the preaching of Philip but they had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit. So what happened next? Acts 8, beginning at verse 14:

“Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.”

Now those people were soundly saved. After all, they’d heard the gospel from Philip and they’d all been baptized in water. But they had not received the Holy Spirit.

“For as yet He [the Holy Spirit] had fallen upon none of them.”

They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

“Then they [the apostles] laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”

So the Holy Spirit was transmitted through the laying on of hands of the apostles.

Simon also saw this and thought he could get the same.

“Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money...”

He wanted the same power. Of course, Peter declined. But it’s very clear that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the hands of the apostles. That’s not the only way but it is one scriptural New Testament way.

And then in Acts 13:3 we read that there were five teachers and prophets in the church at Antioch. And they’re named in verse 1, Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and the NIV says as they worshiped, the Holy Spirit said:

“Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”

So there Barnabas and Saul were commissioned and equipped for their particular ministry through the laying on of hands.

Now what was their ministry after they had hands laid on them, what were they? The answer is apostles. In Acts 14 twice they’re called apostles. It says in verse 4:

“But the multitude of the city was divided, part sided with the Jews and part with the apostles...”

And in verse 14:

“But when the apostles, Barnabas and Saul, heard this...”

So I don’t know what your attitude about apostles is but there is a perfectly legitimate New Testament way for bringing apostles forth. If we can believe for teachers and prophets, and if we’ll let the Holy Spirit choose, and then those who are qualified laid hands on them, and they’re sent out, they will become apostles. If you’re not sent out you can’t be an apostle because the word apostle means somebody who is sent out. But there apostles were equipped by the laying on of hands.

And then there’s an interesting passage in the epistle of Paul to Timothy which can be open to more than one interpretation. 1Timothy 4:14, Paul writes to Timothy:

“Do not neglect the gift that is in you [the Greek word is charisma] which was given to you by prophecy by the laying on of hands of the presbytery [or the elders].”

So it was given by prophecy. That’s interesting. Whatever it was it was the Holy Spirit who indicated by prophecy was Timothy was to be. But I think Paul is referring to the same in 2Timothy 1. Now this could be different, where he says:

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God [charisma] which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

My understanding is that Paul and the elders laid hands on Timothy, for Timothy was to go out with Paul.

Now, before hands were laid on Timothy he was just a young man. After hands were laid on him and he was sent out, what was he? An apostle, that’s right. If you question that, let’s go to 1Thessalonians for a moment. The salutation at the beginning in chapter 1, verse 1, is Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy. There were three writers of that letter. Sylvanus is just another form of Silas. In verse 6 of chapter 2 it says:

“Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.”

So all three, Paul, Silas and Timothy, were apostles.

Now, the word charismais a very much used word today, not least in this part of the world. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion but I don’t believe it’s used for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I believe it’s used for gifts and ministries. That’s something you have to check for yourself. So I see the release of gifts, the release of ministries, by the laying on of hands.

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