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Tonight we are going to speak on a subject which I believe to be of tremendous importance. And I sincerely pray that I will be equal to the theme, that the Holy Spirit will enable me to speak what needs to be said, and that you also will have the hearts and minds that are receptive to the truth of God’s Word. The theme of our study tonight is “Entrance into God’s Kingdom.” How does a person come into the Kingdom of God? And I want to take, by way of introduction, a text from Acts chapter 2. I’m going to read Acts chapter 2, verses 37–38:
“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost [or the Holy Spirit].” (KJV)
Now these men were Jews. They had the advantage of belonging to a nation God had set apart for Himself. They were religious men, they believed the Scriptures, they were gathered for a religious peace in Jerusalem at that particular time. Nevertheless, when the truth of God’s Word was brought to them by the apostle Peter, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they suddenly realized they were not in a right relationship with God. That they were not in that provision of God which He had made for them through the Messiah, whom He had promised, Jesus of Nazareth. They were alienated from God, not in God’s grace, not rightly related to God, not assured of forgiveness of sins, not having in their heart that deep, settled peace which belongs to every person who has come to God and stands in a right relationship with God. They had not realized this, as many people fail to realize it, until the Word of God was brought to them under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Then it says:
“They were pricked in their hearts.” (Acts 2:37)
The sharp, two-edged sword of the Spirit of God reached their hearts, penetrated through their religious facade, through all their claims by birth, by religious observance, and brought them face to face with the fact that they were not right with God. And then they asked this question, “What shall we do?”
Now, I always maintain that it takes God a long while to get many people to the place where they will ask that question in sincerity: “What shall I do? What does God require of me? How can I change my relationship to God and become rightly related to God? How can I enter into God’s provision of forgiveness, salvation and grace? How can I receive this; what must I do?” Most people have to travel a long way through life, through many ups and downs, and make many mistakes, and experience many disappointments before they will come to the place where they will sincerely ask this question: What shall we do? But I’m convinced that as soon as a man sincerely asks the question, God is ready with the answer. And the answer is given in this 38th verse.
The apostle Peter stands up there, and he is both the spokesman of God by the Holy Spirit, and he is the spokesman of the church of Jesus Christ, which was then manifested and presented to the world as a body for the first time in history. This is a very solemn occasion. The church, as a body, was confronted with a question, “What are we to do?” And to Peter was entrusted the responsibility of answering on behalf of God and on behalf of the church. And Peter came out with a very definite, clear, specific answer. I’ll read that 38th verse again:
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit].” (Acts 2:38, KJV)
I want to take a moment to illustrate Peter’s answer. I have here the answer set forth in three steps.
And that’s how it’s presented.
The first step, repent.
The second step, be baptized.
The third, receive the Holy Spirit.
And it is perfectly clear that the apostle Peter gave this answer, as it were, in one breath. He did not introduce a lot of causes or qualifications. He said that if you want to know what to do, this is what God requires. That you repent, that you be baptized, that you receive the Holy Spirit. Now I submit to you that this answer is very different from that which would be given by the majority of preachers or churches today. If we take the evangelical section of the church, those who have claimed to hold to the truth of the Gospel, if you were to ask one of them, normally, “What must I do?” the answer would come, “Well, you must believe in Jesus Christ, and you’ll be saved.” Now I don’t deny that answer, but if Peter’s answer is correct, then their answer is sadly incomplete. Other different groups would come out with other versions of their answer to the question, “What shall I do?” but here is God’s answer. Three things, God says, “Repent, be baptized every one of you, [it’s very specific, no omissions] and ye shall receive the Holy Spirit.”
Now, I don’t believe that God intended this answer to be divided up into phases, which were to be separated from one another by a long period of time. Nor do I believe that any part of the answer was optional. I believe God presented the complete answer and He intended man to receive it just the way it was presented. And so I’m going to suggest to you tonight on the basis of the Word of God, that if you come to God sincerely and desire to be rightly related to God, God will give you precisely the same answer tonight as He gave through Peter to those men in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. You must repent, you must be baptized, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Many, many people would suggest, “Well, repentance is all you need.” Some would say, “Well, you must repent and then when the church holds a baptismal service, you can put your name down as a candidate for baptism.” And then, if people were in what’s called the “Pentecostal Movement,” they would probably say, “And there’s a further experience with God, which you will find out about as you go on. In due course, we’ll tell you about this further experience which leads you into the deeper life. It’s called the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or receiving the Holy Spirit.” But you see, God did not present it this way at all. He said, “Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit.” And I want to point out to you on the basis of the record of the text, that on the Day of Pentecost three thousand persons did all three things. They all repented, they all were baptized, and personally I’m convinced they all received the Holy Spirit. It was not separated into successive phases that could be followed slowly and at your leisure or your pleasure. But the answer was complete, succinct, three things: Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. And I’m convinced that God is bringing the church back to the place where our answer today to the unbeliever, the man outside of Christ and of the true church—who desires to come into the kingdom of God, who desires to be identified with God’s people, who desires to be rightly related to God’s people, who desires to be rightly related with God through Jesus Christ. The answer that we will give will be precisely the answer that was given by the early church: Repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit.
Now let’s consider the nature of each one of these phases of God’s provision. Let’s consider first of all the word repent.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding in the minds of most believers as to what repentance really is. Most people, I think, associate repentance with some kind of emotion. They’ve got to shed some tears, and if possible they have to be in some way emotionally worked up. And then when they get into the right emotion, they will find they have repented. Now this is not correct, in fact it’s extremely misleading. And many people have failed to receive what God intended for them because they have misunderstood this basic, primary requirement of repentance. There are two things about the word that’s used in the Greek as we have it in the New Testament. The first is that the literal, normal meaning of the word is, “to change your mind.” In normal, secular Greek this is how you should translate it about nine out of ten times that it occurs: “to change your mind.” This brings out the fact that repentance is not an emotion at all. It’s a decision, an inward decision of the will.
Secondly, the word that Peter uses, the tense that he uses here, without going into detail, indicates that it is something that needs to be done once, and once for all. It’s not in the continuing present, keep on repenting every day, but repent once, and once is enough! Change your mind. What does this mean? It means that you must acknowledge that you have been living the wrong way. Isaiah 53:6 says this:
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity [or the rebellion] of us all.” (KJV)
You see, where we have all gone astray is not necessarily in committing some dramatic or horrible crime, such as robbing a bank or murdering a man or committing sexual immorality. But we have all gone astray in that every one of us has turned to his way. And this is true of every member of the human race without exception. We have every one of us turned to his own way. This is called in Scripture “rebellion.” You can be a very religious rebel. There are a lot of religious rebels in the church today, who outwardly conform to the standards and requirements of their church, but inwardly have never submitted themselves to God. They are religious rebels. These were people of this kind that Peter was speaking to. Strict in all their religious observances, believing themselves to be the people of God, and yet they’ve never made this inward decision. Which is to do what? It’s to turn from your own way. It’s to stop in your tracks. To turn about. To face Almighty God and by deliberate decision of your will to submit yourself without reservation to God, ready to do whatever He requires of you to do.
This is the first primary response of any person whom God is to redeem from his sin. Repentance is the primary response which God requires from any person, any time, any place. Without repentance the rest of God’s provision cannot be entered into. If there’s one thing that we need today, in the world and in the church, it’s an understanding of the nature of repentance.
I want to say it again, I want to emphasize it. Repentance is not an emotion, it is a decision. A decision of the will. You have turned your own way. You have turned your back on God. You’re pleasing yourself. You’re doing what you think to be right. You’re making your own standard. You’re choosing your own pathway, and suddenly the Holy Spirit arrests you! Convicts you! What do you do? You stop right where you are, turn around 180 degrees, face Almighty God, and say, “God, I have been living the wrong way, but I’ve changed my mind. From now on, I submit myself to You. Whatever You require of me, I’m willing to do it, from this moment on.” If you have never taken that kind of a decision, I question whether you have ever truly repented.
Many people that I meet professing to be Christians are struggling for faith. They seem to always be struggling for faith. And I have found by experience and seen out of Scripture that in most cases, the reason why they are struggling for faith is that they have never practiced repentance. Now there is nothing in the New Testament that justifies us in claiming to be believers, in claiming to have faith, if we have not first practiced repentance.
I want to take a few moments to show you that right through John’s message, you can sum it up in one word, repentance. John did preach in the wilderness the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Israel’s heart must be prepared by the message of repentance before the Messiah could come. This overwhelms me as I consider that there was a set time for the Messiah to come—foretold in prophecy in Daniel and elsewhere. God knew when the Messiah would come. But nevertheless He could not come until the hearts of God’s people had been prepared by John the Baptist, calling them back to God in repentance. I am convinced myself that the same applies to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—that there’s a set time in God’s foreknowledge when Jesus will come. But I’m likewise convinced that Jesus could not come until the hearts of God’s people had been prepared once again by precisely the same message, the message of repentance. The majority of professing Christians, I would say well over 90 percent, need to be challenged by the call of God to repentance, just as God’s people Israel did in the days of John the Baptist.
Now when John the Baptist had completed his ministry and was put in prison, it says in Mark chapter 1 and verse 14, just a few verses further on, “Jesus came ... preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” And the first exhortation or commandment that ever fell from the lips of the Lord was this one word, repent, the time is at hand,
“Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15, KJV)
Jesus never called anybody to believe without first calling them to repent. “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
In Luke chapter 13 we find that during the earthly ministry of Jesus, He was questioned about some men who had apparently been offering sacrifices and Pilate had sent his soldiers and had those men slaughtered while they were actually offering sacrifice to God, so that their own blood had been mingled with the blood of the sacrifices. And the people were asking Jesus, “Why did this happen to these men? Were they sinners above all the rest of the Galileans?” And Jesus said:
“I tell you, no: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3, KJV)
And then He said
“Or those eighteen [men], [in Jerusalem] upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4, KJV)
He said, No. But I tell you this:
“Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5, KJV)
The only alternative to perishing is repenting. There is no other way to escape the judgment of God on sin except the way of repentance.
After Jesus had completed His earthly ministry, died and risen from the dead, we read in the 24th chapter of Luke that He talked to His disciples and explained to them God’s plan. How the Messiah had had to suffer and to die and to rise again from the dead the third day, and then He said in Luke 24:47:
“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (KJV)
The first thing that’s to be preached when the Gospel is sent forth is not forgiveness of sin, it’s repentance. Repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be preached in His name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. And then we’ve already seen in Acts 2:38, the first time the church of Jesus Christ was asked what God required of sinners, the first word that they gave in answer was, “Repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit.”
In Acts chapter 3 and verse 19, Peter is again speaking to the Jewish people after the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate. They had all gathered to find out how this miracle had taken place. And Peter said to them:
“Repent ..., and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” (KJV)
To be converted is to be turned round. Just the second half of the transaction of repentance. You stop, you turn round, you face God, and you submit to God. That’s repentance. And they said to them, “What has happened to this man?” And he said, “He’s been healed in the name of Jesus.” They said, “Well, what does this mean to us?” He said, “It means you have to repent, be converted, turn around, submit to God through Jesus Christ.” God has never varied that requirement.
In Acts chapter 17 and verse 30, we find the apostle Paul in the city of Athens—the intellectual center, the university city of the ancient world—preaching now, not mainly to Jews, but to Gentiles, cultivated, educated, sophisticated people. And he said to them about their idolatry and their false religions, in Acts 17:30:
“The times of this ignorance God [has] winked at [He’s closed His eyes to]; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” (KJV)
Well, if God has commanded all men everywhere to repent there’s no one omitted. No person, and no place is omitted from God’s requirements of repentance. God now “commandeth all men everywhere to repent.”
And then in Acts 20:21, we find the apostle Paul speaking to the elders of the church of Ephesus, and he reminded them of his ministry and his message in Ephesus. And he told them that how from the very first day he’d been amongst them, he’d gone amongst them testifying, both to the Jews and to the Greeks, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Never did God offer to anybody faith without first requiring repentance. “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
First you stop, stop in your tracks, stop what you are doing, stop in your headlong ways, stop in your rebellion, self-will, pride, self-sufficiency ... STOP!! Turn round, and submit to God. Then you can believe. Trying to believe without repenting is a very painful process that some of you have probably discovered. That’s why some of you are having a struggle with faith, your struggle isn’t with faith, your struggle is repentance. When repentance comes you’ll be surprised how faith comes easily.
In Hebrews chapter 6, verses 1–2, we have the doctrinal foundation of the Christian faith. The writer of Hebrews speaks about laying the foundation. And he specifies then six doctrines (which are the theme of my series of books, the Foundation Series. And this theme of my books is based on these six doctrines that are stated here in Hebrews chapter six to be the foundation.) Of course, Jesus Christ is the foundation, but the doctrinal foundation laid on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is sixfold. And it says this:
“... repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1–3, KJV)
These six doctrines are the foundation of the Christian faith.
What is the first foundation doctrine? Repentance from dead works. What are dead works? Everything that is not done in faith toward God and in obedience to His revealed will is a dead work. Going to church is a dead work, singing hymns is a dead work, saying prayers is a dead work, if it is not done on the basis of repentance. The first thing that you have to do is stop doing all that you’ve been doing, submit to God, and then do only that which God reveals to be His will. Then you do it in faith.
Now you see many, many Christians living in a very wobbly edifice. I remember in the city of Jerusalem years back we lived in a house which was built by an Assyrian, a man from Bethlehem. And this man had had permission from the British government in Jerusalem, which was then in control of the city, to build a house of two stories. The plans were approved, the foundation was laid. But he decided he wanted more income out of his house, so he added a third story. Do you know what happened while we were living in the house? The foundation began to sink. At one corner the whole house began to slightly skew. Why? Because the foundation wasn’t strong enough to take the third story.
Now you find a lot of Christians that are beginning to be a little skewed. They’re just not as steady and as upright as God would have them to be, and as they would wish to be. You know the problem? They never put in the first foundation stone. And the corner where repentance should have been laid, there’s just earth and some rubble, and the house begins to sink and to tilt. Why? Because they missed out on the first foundation doctrine, repentance from dead works.
In the closing book of the New Testament, the book of Revelation, you’ll find that Jesus through the apostle John sent messages of instruction, encouragement and rebuke, to seven churches, the seven churches in Asia. And if you analyze what Jesus said, you will find that there were only two churches that were fully acceptable to Him in their conduct and doctrine. All the rest had some error of conduct or doctrine which He was obliged to point out to them. To every church which was in any way in error, either in conduct or in doctrine, the first requirement of Jesus was repent! See, any time a person gets out of God’s will, gets into disobedience, turns away from God, the first essential requirement which can never be bypassed, is repentance. And this is where God begins in dealing with the person that desires an entrance into the kingdom of God, it’s with repentance. The inward decision.
Now the next requirement of God as stated by Peter in Acts 2:38, is “be baptized every one of you (KJV). Repentance, the inward decision; be baptized, the outward act. And then receive the Holy Spirit, the equipment for Christian living following these two first phases.
Now let’s look a little at the nature of baptism. See what the Scripture teaches about baptism.
Baptism in water is a step of the most tremendous importance, gravely underestimated by the majority of professing Christians. The requirement of the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost was specific: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you”—without omission. And if you analyze the commission that Jesus gave to His disciples at the close of His earthly ministry, it’s recorded in two gospels—Matthew and Mark. Matthew 28 verses 19 and 20, it says this:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit]; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (KJV)
That was His commission. The immediate evidence of being a disciple was to be baptized. “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The teaching to them was to go on into the complete obedience of the revealed will of God. But the first outward evidence of discipleship was baptism.
Now in Mark chapter 16, verses 15 and 16, the commission of Jesus is given in this way:
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” (KJV)
Jesus never made a provision for a person who believed but was not baptized. He assumed without qualification that every person that heard the gospel, submitted to discipleship, would thereupon be baptized. And there is no provision made in either of His two commissions for anybody not to be baptized. “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Preach the gospel to every creature, he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” On the Day of Pentecost they said, “What shall we do?” Peter said, “Repent and be baptized.” Repent, the inward decision; be baptized, an outward act, a symbolic act.
The essential meaning of baptism is “identification with the Lord Jesus Christ in three successive experiences: death, burial and resurrection.” Paul says in Romans chapter 6:3–4:
“... as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? 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.” (NKJV)
And in Colossians 2:12, he says this:
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein ye are also risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who raised him from the dead.” (KJV)
In baptism we reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God. Being dead we follow through the next phase the burial, following Jesus in the burial, we follow Him into resurrection. But we have no right to enter into resurrection life but by the way that Jesus went—the way of burial, the way of the tomb. It is very, very clear. The identification is twofold. Jesus identified with you and me as sinners. He took our place, He became our substitute. He took our own fallen, carnal, rebellious nature upon Him. He died our death. He died as our substitute. He died in our place. That was His identification with the sinner.
Now in order to enter into salvation, the sinner through faith has to complete the identification. I have to say, “Yes, when Jesus died on the cross, I died. His death was my death. My ‘old man’ died in Him when He died.” Then I say, “Being dead with Him, I must follow Him, from death to burial, through burial to resurrection.” And water baptism, as expounded in the New Testament by the apostles, is this act of open, public identification with the Lord Jesus Christ in death, burial, and resurrection. And there is not the faintest shadow of doubt, that in the early church every new convert, every person who became a disciple, was immediately required to identify himself publicly by this ordinance of water baptism with the one whom he had confessed as Savior and Lord. And the way into the fellowship of the New Testament church was this way of baptism. It was demanded by God and by the church that every believer who claimed salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ should be willing to be identified publicly with Jesus in death, burial, and in resurrection. And indeed, in my opinion, this is the greatest privilege that can be offered to a sinner here on earth, is to be publicly identified with his Lord in these three vital phases: death, burial, resurrection. It’s not only before man; it’s before the entire universe that this transaction takes place. God, the holy angels, the devil, the fallen angels, the demons, and the human race—all alike are witnesses of the believer who identifies himself with Jesus by this ordinance of baptism. The early church knew of no other way to be identified with Jesus, no other entrance into the kingdom and into the fellowship of God’s people on earth but this way of water baptism. Has it ever occurred to you that on the Day of Pentecost, three thousand persons were baptized? You can read that without ever taking it in. But I’ve baptized quite a number of people in my life, and as I understand it, normally speaking, it would take about two minutes to baptize a person. Any shorter than that is pretty quick. So if you baptize three thousand persons in one day, you’ve spent six thousand minutes. You know how many hours that is? A hundred hours! All right, the Scripture does not reveal how many baptized, but I would think it would be very reasonable that the twelve apostles baptized. So if twelve persons spent a hundred hours, how many hours did each person spend? Eight and a half hours. Now you see we don’t understand the impression that was created in Jerusalem and amongst the whole of God’s people by a baptismal service that lasted eight hours.
From that time onwards there wasn’t a person who’d heard about that who didn’t know what was required if you were going to become a Christian. What are you going to do? Be baptized. This was the impact. This was the public image that was presented to the world when these people came into the church. Every one of them filed into the water, submitted to an apostle, was buried and raised symbolically by resurrection from the dead, and was thus identified with the despised, rejected Nazarene of whom they had then become the disciples. And the whole ancient world, believer and unbeliever alike, knew clearly that if you became a Christian that was the way to do it. There was no other way acknowledged by believer or unbeliever. Now you read through the book of Acts you will not find one person converted without being immediately baptized. You cannot find it.
I want to give you just a few quick examples. In Acts chapter 8, verse 12, we read that Phillip went down to Samaria and preached Christ, that’s all he preached, Christ. But in the 12th verse it says:
“But when they believed Phillip ... they were baptized, both men and women.” (KJV)
When they heard the message of Christ they knew that it included baptism. They knew they were required to identify themselves with the Lord in whom they had put their faith by this outward act, this public ordinance, of death, burial, and resurrection.
A little further on in the 8th chapter of Acts, in the ministry of Phillip subsequent to this situation in Samaria, he was on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, he met the Ethiopian eunuch in the chariot, reading the prophet Isaiah, got up in the chariot and said, “Understandest what thou readest?” The man said no. He was reading from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah about Jesus being led like a sheep to the slaughter, and it says Phillip opened his mouth at the same Scripture and “preached unto him Jesus.”
You know there’s one thing I like about Phillip, his message was not complicated. When he went to Samaria, he preached Christ, when he met the eunuch he preached Jesus. A little later on it says they were passing a pool of water by the roadside and the eunuch said, not Phillip, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” What had Phillip preached? Jesus. What did the eunuch understand? If I believe in Jesus, I’d better be baptized. I won’t wait until I get to Gaza and the seacoast, here’s a pool of water on the way, let me get down in it right now. And Phillip got down in the pool with him, he was baptized.
You see, baptism was a matter of intense urgency for those that heard the gospel preached by the early church. It was never something to be trifled with, or postponed, or done at your leisure or your pleasure. It was never something that you wait for a baptismal service six weeks ahead. It was something to be done when you believe in Jesus Christ. Repentance was the inward decision, baptism was the outward act that sealed the inward decision, made it effective, and made it public.
In Acts chapter 9 we read about the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul. And we read how Ananias was sent to him, laid hands on him that he might receive his sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. The next verse says, “Paul arose forthwith and was baptized.” The same hour.
And in recording this incident, in Acts chapter 22, verse 16, the apostle Paul tells us something that Ananias said, which is not recorded in Acts chapter 9. But in Acts 22:16, Paul says, Ananias said to him:
“Now, why tarriest thou? arise, be baptized.” (KJV)
In other words, What are you waiting for? You’ve believed in Jesus, what do you do? Get baptized. See, we have completely misrepresented the attitude of the early church and the teaching of the New Testament about water baptism. Even the most orthodox Baptists are far from being on scriptural grounds in this matter of baptism.
All right, let’s look on a little further. Acts chapter 10, verses 44 through 46. Peter went reluctantly to the house of a Gentile, Cornelius, began to tell him about Jesus, never completed his sermon. The Holy Spirit fell upon them, they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. And it says that the Jewish believers who came “were astonished, ... 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.” Was that sufficient? Absolutely not! Peter said:
“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?” (Acts 10:47, KJV)
Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is no substitute for water baptism. And I want to tell you that my good friends from the old line denominations: The fact that you’ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues does not exonerate you from the obligation to be baptized in water. The whole house of Cornelius was baptized in the Holy Spirit, Peter said, it says in the Scripture he commanded them to be baptized. It was not an optional matter for the early church. It was a explicit requirement of God. If you want to be reconciled with God, you repent, you be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. And if you receive the Holy Spirit first, that still does not mean that you can bypass the requirement of being baptized.
Acts chapter 16, probably the most dramatic really of all, the scene in Philippi when Paul and Silas were in the jail singing praises to God in the middle of the night, the earthquake came, the foundations of the jail were rocked, every door was opened, everybody’s bonds were loosed, the prisoners were set free. The jailer sprung in and he was going to commit suicide because he would have to answer with his life for any prisoner that escaped. Paul said, “Don’t do yourself any harm; we’re all here.” And then the man was so amazed by this demonstration of love it says he sprang in trembling and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” It says they answered him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and [all] thy house.” And it says they spoke the word of God to him, and to all that were in his house. And what happened? They were all baptized forthwith. They did not wait for dawn. They were baptized in the middle of the night. See, this is the urgency of the New Testament. Totally unlike the message that you hear in 99 percent of churches, or from 99 percent of preachers. We are far from being on New Testament ground.
I was speaking about water baptism to a group of people in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, a while back, about a year back, they said, “We want to be baptized.” They said, “Where can we be baptized?” “Well,” I said, “the ocean should be big enough.” (The Atlantic is just a few miles to the east.) They said, “We’ll go there. Will you baptize us?” It was about midnight, I said I will. I went down with them to the beach, baptized them. They lived in Miami, they got in their cars in exactly the same clothes they’d been in the sea in and drove soaking wet, but extremely happy, from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. That’s New Testament Christianity, see? That’s “What must I do?” Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Does that mean just believe? No, it means believe and be baptized.
Now I want to point out to you that there’s no record of anybody being baptized who had not first been taught the Word and believed. The prior requirement to being baptized is stated clearly in three passages of Scripture. Matthew 28:19: Make disciples first then baptize them. Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized.” What must you do first? Believe, then be baptized. Acts 2:38: “What shall we do?” “Repent, and be baptized.”
Before a person can qualify for baptism, he must do three things. He must become a disciple, he must repent, he must believe. A person who cannot become a disciple, cannot repent and cannot believe has no right to be baptized. You say, “Who are you thinking about?” Infants. Infants cannot, by nature, fulfill any of those requirements. Infants cannot become disciples, cannot repent, cannot believe. You say, “How old must a person be?” Old enough to believe. Old enough to repent. That’s all.
In Jerusalem, years back, my wife had a little Jewish girl whom she’d brought up from infancy. And this girl became a real believer early, at the age of five. She said to my wife, “Mama, I want to be baptized.” My wife said, “Well, I think you’re too young.” So this little girl said, “Well, why am I too young? You said ‘believe and be baptized.’ I believe, why shouldn’t I be baptized?” So my wife took her to the Assemblies of God mission and said to the pastor, “Would you talk to her alone and see if you think she’s ready to be baptized?” So the pastor took her in his office alone, spoke to her, questioned her, found out she understood the Scriptures and had a real personal faith in Jesus. Said, “I see no reason why she shouldn’t be baptized.” So she was baptized there, and it was just about Christmas time, was bitterly cold, and she was a little tiny frail little thing. My wife put a long white robe on her. The pastor took her into the baptistry in his arms, and my wife thought, “Well now, I’ve gone all the way back to infant baptism, what have I done!” And then when the pastor immersed this little girl and brought her up, you know what God did? He baptized her in the Holy Spirit! She spoke in tongues there in the baptistry. That was God’s assurance it’s quite all right. “If I can baptize her in the Holy Spirit, you didn’t do wrong to baptize her in water!” So anybody that can be baptized in the Holy Spirit can be baptized in water.
Now you’ll read that the whole household of Cornelius were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Read Acts chapter 10. In Acts chapter 16 the whole household of the Philippian jailer heard the Word of God and believed. There were no infants among them. So it is only one kind of person that is disqualified and that’s the infants. Simply because an infant cannot meet the basic requirements. Cannot become a disciple, cannot repent, cannot believe. As soon as you are old enough and willing to do those things, you are old enough to be baptized. And I’ll tell you that spiritual age does not go side by side with natural age. Many a little child of five is spiritually more mature than many a professing Christian of fifty. But, you have to be old enough to repent, believe, become a disciple.
Now let’s turn on to the third provision or requirement of God, baptism in the Holy Spirit. What is baptism in the Holy Spirit? I’ve tried to show you as best I can in this simple outline what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit in a very simple way.
First of all, it is an immersion.
Secondly, it is a drinking, a receiving within. And thirdly there follows the outflow.
Let’s look at these three successive phases and see what the Scripture teaches. First of all, we look in Acts chapter 1, verse 5, and we find the promise.
“John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.” (KJV)
This was spoken to men who were already committed Christians. They’d already repented, they’d already believed, they’d committed their lives to Jesus. But Jesus said, “There’s something more. You still need the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”
Then in Acts chapter 1 and verse 8, Jesus told them the purpose of the baptism:
“Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” (KJV)
The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit basically is to imbue you with supernatural power to become an effective witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. I think it could be said that if every person immediately they were converted died and went to heaven, the baptism of the Holy Spirit wouldn’t be necessary. But, you see, most of us do not die, we live! And if you’ve lived like me, I’ve lived thirty years as a believer since I came to Jesus Christ. And in those thirty years I have desperately and continually needed more than natural power, more than natural wisdom, more than natural strength, more than my own ability or education to enable me to live effectively for Jesus Christ. How did God provide that? Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And that is God’s provision for effective Christian witness and living in this world. Repentance and baptism qualify you for heaven, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit qualifies you for earth! And most of us need that qualification, because we’re not going to die immediately we put our faith in Jesus Christ. We have to live for Him. In many ways it’s much easier to die than to live. It’s living for Christ that’s the difficult thing. God has made this supernatural provision, the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is a supernatural experience, because we have a supernatural testimony. We tell people that a man who died on a Roman cross two thousand years ago is not dead; He’s alive. That’s supernatural. If we come with merely natural power and natural wisdom but have a supernatural testimony, there’s a lack of balance. The world feels it immediately. Jesus said, “Don’t go out and start to tell people about My resurrection till you’ve experienced the power. Then your testimony will have the power that matches the testimony. Supernatural testimony, supernatural power to go with it.” That’s the logical basis of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit was considered just as necessary, just as normal, as baptism in water.
If you look in Acts chapter 8—we’ve already studied that in relation to the baptism—that the Samaritan believers experienced when they believed Phillip. They were baptized in water. Now they’d had some wonderful experiences. They’d been converted, they’d been healed miraculously, they’d been delivered of evil spirits, they’d been baptized in water. Many people would say, “Isn’t that wonderful, what’s taking place in Samaria?” But not the early church. It says in Acts 8:14,
“When the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them)...” (KJV)
And as we read on through the book of Acts, we find in Acts chapter 9, the next chapter, when the apostle Paul was converted, Ananias was sent to lay hands on him “that he might be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts chapter 10, when Peter went to the house of Cornelius, while he was still speaking:
“... the Holy Spirit fell upon all them which heard the word.” (Acts 10:44, KJV)
They were baptized in the Holy Spirit. And in Acts chapter 19, Paul went to Ephesus, found certain disciples, discovered they knew only the baptism of John the Baptist, told them about Jesus, His death and resurrection, says when they believed Paul they were baptized and in the sixth verse it says that:
“When Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” (KJV)
The early church accepted literally, and practiced definitely, the requirements stated by Peter. Repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit. They did not know any other program for the person that wanted to come into the kingdom of God than to go through these three phases. Repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit.
Now what is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? First and foremost, it is a baptism. And, without being controversial, I happened to have studied the Greek language since I was ten years old, and I’m qualified to teach it at the university level, there is no shadow of doubt as to what the Greek word “baptize” means. It means “to dip, to plunge, to immerse.” That is precisely what it means. If there is no immersion, there is no baptism. That’s the only thing we can say. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a baptism. But it’s what I call a Niagara Falls baptism! It’s an immersion from above. How many of you have ever stood and watched Niagara Falls? A few of you. Well, I was there not so long ago, and as I stood (not for the first time) and watched those falls, I thought, You wouldn’t be under there half a second without being drenched to the skin. You’d be immersed. Not from beneath, but from above.
Now water baptism, you go down into the water. But the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit comes down over you. You are immersed from above. And every single place where it speaks about people being baptized in the Holy Spirit describes what happened in the book of Acts, it states specifically the Holy Spirit came down over them. In Acts chapter 2 it says:
“... there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the place where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2, KJV)
So the Holy Spirit came down like a wind over them from above, and filled all the place where they were sitting. Now if it filled all the place where they were sitting, each one of them was surrounded in, immersed by the Spirit of God coming down over them from above. Then it says “they were all filled,” individually. They received the Spirit within. And then it says they “began to speak with other tongues” as the Spirit gave them to speak.
“So we have the three phases: immersion from above, the Niagara Falls type of baptism; the drinking, or receiving within; and the supernatural outflow, the utterance in the new language. Jesus said very clearly how a believer may receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit in John chapter 7 verses 37–38. He said: If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the [Holy] Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive...)” (KJV)
To receive the baptism, you must come to the Baptizer, Jesus. He immerses you from above in the Holy Spirit, and you drink within. This is the individual, personal act of receiving. This is what makes it not collective, but individual. The drinking. Because you are the only person who can drink for yourself. No one else can drink for you. This is an act that each individual must make for himself. Somebody has said the old proverb, “You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink.” You can take a Baptist to the baptism, but you can’t make him drink. Every person has to receive individually for himself. That’s not just of Baptists; it applies to all others too. There’s the individual act of receiving, but the consummation is the outflow. Matthew 12:34:
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (KJV)
When the heart is filled to overflowing, the overflow takes place, where? Through the mouth. In what way? In speech. My modern version of that is: When the heart is filled to overflowing, the overflow takes place in speech through the mouth.
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
When the heart has been filled with the Holy Spirit, the next result is the outflow.
Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. This spake he of the Spirit.
So the total experience is: immersion, drinking (or receiving within), and then it’s consummated by the outflow, the supernatural utterance in the unknown language.
Now this is God’s total provision. Repent, the inward change; be baptized, the outward act; receive the Holy Spirit, the supernatural induement for effective Christian living.
In closing, I want to take you briefly to a pattern of the Old Testament. And I’m going to illustrate this from 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verses 1–2, where the apostle Paul says:
“I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea...”
Then he says in the sixth verse, “Now these things were our examples.” And in the eleventh verse,
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [or types]: and they are written for our admonition [or warning], upon whom the end of the [age shall] come.”
So the record of the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt in the Old Testament is written especially for our benefit, because it contains types or pictures or patterns of what God requires for us in the New Testament. And so you’ll find that the New Testament speaks about the deliverance of the Israel out of Egypt as salvation. In the epistle of Jude the sixth verse, it says, “God saved Israel out of Egypt.” How did salvation take place? It was in three phases. The first phase was inside Egypt, faith in the blood of the Passover Lamb, slain for each household. And 1 Corinthians 5:7 says,
“Christ our passover [has been] sacrificed for us...”
The first experience of salvation is faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. But having accepted the blood of the Lamb, Israel did not remain in Egypt. The very same night, they were commanded urgently to move out in haste with their staves in their hands, and their loins girded. And as they moved out, they underwent a double baptism. It says:
“They were all under the cloud, they all passed through the sea, and they were all baptized unto their leader, Moses, in the cloud and in the sea.”
They underwent a double baptism, which was the culmination of their deliverance from Egypt.
Now the word baptism used by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 shows us the thing of which Israel’s deliverance was a type. They were saved through faith in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, then they were delivered by a double baptism: in the cloud, in the sea. To what does baptism in the cloud correspond? Baptism in the Holy Spirit. To what does baptism in the sea correspond? Baptism in water. Notice, this cloud came down over the Israelites from above. It stood at their front. But when the Egyptians pursued them and were drawing near, it moved to their rear. So that every Israelite individually entered into, passed through, and came out of the cloud. Every Israelite was immersed in the cloud coming down over them from above. It was a genuine baptism, a genuine immersion. The next day they went down into the waters of the Red Sea, which miraculously parted, passed through and came up on the other side. So Israel was saved in the Old Testament by faith in the blood of the Lamb, by a double baptism—in the cloud, in the sea. What is God’s corresponding provision in the New Testament? Faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, followed by a double baptism: in the cloud (in the Holy Spirit), in the sea (in water).
And then it says these things are our examples. They’re written for types or patterns for us, upon whom the ends of the age will come. It could not be more clear. God’s total deliverance out of Egypt is threefold: Faith in the blood of the Lamb, a baptism in the cloud, baptism in the sea.
What did that provide for Israel? Let’s look quickly in closing. What provision was made? The blood provided righteousness. The cloud provided protection, comfort and direction; it was their leader all through the wilderness. And the sea provided their final separation from their enemies into a new life under a new leader with new laws and a new destination. We are buried with Christ, and we arise to walk with Him in newness of life. That is the complete provision of God, and that is God’s answer when a believer or a person comes to God and says, “What shall we do?” Repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit.
Shall we pray? Father, we thank You tonight for the clarity of Your Word. We thank You that You have made it so clear what You expect us to do, both by instruction and by pattern, by type. And we pray, Lord, for every person here, in these moments of silence, that the Spirit of God shall make these requirements crystal clear. Show each person where they stand with God. And make each one willing to do whatever You require according to Your Word. For that full deliverance from the world, and entrance to the kingdom of God. And Lord, in all that You do, we’ll be careful to give You the praise and the glory. In Jesus’ name. And all the people said, Amen.