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Monday, October 24, 2011

The Holy Spirit: Power Presence and Purpose Part 84

The Advent Part 76

Acts 2:41, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”

No, not all who had gathered and heard Peter’s words received them gladly, but those who did were baptized, and the total number was about three thousand souls. As anointed as a message might be, and as passionately delivered, not all who hear will receive the words of life gladly. It does however begin with preaching the words of life, and it is our responsibility as children of God to do just that. We must do our part, and God will do His part. We must preach the gospel, we must sow the seed, and God will make certain that the seed takes root and that faith is stirred in the heart of the hearer.

These three thousand souls would have never been baptized, they would have never come to the saving knowledge of Christ if they had not first and foremost heard the words of life. There is an established order by which the work of God progresses and the work of God in the heart of man begins with the hearing of the Word.

The order that God has established for our redemption and salvation is first the hearing of His Word, then faith upon hearing the word, followed by repentance, baptism, the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and a continued life of obedience to the precepts of Christ.

Romans 10:16-17, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Receiving the word of God by faith is something that we as individuals are responsible for. Not all have obeyed the gospel, because they chose not to obey the gospel. God cannot do this on our behalf, it is we who must obey, it is we who must submit, and it is we who must allow faith to take root in our hearts. The sign that we have gladly received the word, the sign that we have obeyed the gospel is that we be baptized.

Being baptized before one receives the Word goes against God’s order; it is a human invention, that has no biblical basis or foundation. Baptism, like all the fundamental doctrines of the Bible can be readily understood if rather than seek to assume what the Word of God means, or impose our belief of what it should mean, we allow the Word to speak to us then submit to it with humility and brokenness.

One can know the letter of the law, as these devout men had surely known it, yet be ignorant to the gospel. You know you have heard the gospel when you are cut to the heart, when it compels you to righteousness and holiness and repentance, when it presents you with the true face of your sins, and reveals the humbling truth that there is forgiveness at the foot of the cross.

There are countless preachers today who never preach the gospel, yet who call themselves preachers nevertheless. There are countless evangelists whose mission and purpose is to make people feel at ease, and cajole them into opening their wallets, rather than exhort them to repentance and newness of life.

1 Peter 1:22-25, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”

Three thousand souls is no small number, and it would be an enviable figure even if it were the total amount of souls won by Peter throughout his ministry, never mind in one day, through one sermon. Up to that point, it was the largest number of souls won for Christ in a single day.

What we must realize is that this wasn’t just Peter’s victory, it was the direct and undeniable work of the Holy Spirit, for it was He that put the words on Peter’s lips which then cut the people to their heart.

The apostles saw the fulfillment of Christ’s promise that day, having done greater works than those which Christ had done.

John 14:12, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”

On the day the Church was born, the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended, we also see it multiplying exponentially. From a handful of people, some hundred and twenty souls, almost instantaneously the Church had grown to over three thousand.

There have been naysayers throughout the years that have questioned the veracity of the three thousand souls being baptized in one day claiming that it was just too large a number for such a short period of time. If there were only one body of water in Jerusalem, perhaps they would have a point, but there were many artificial lakes and pools that the disciples could have used to baptize such a large group of people. Just off the top of my head, there was the pool of Bethesda, Hezekiah’s pool, the pool of Siloam, Gihon springs, and the upper and lower pools mentioned by Isaiah. All the apostles took part in baptizing those who had been cut to the heart upon hearing the word of God; it wasn’t just Peter, even though he had been the one to deliver the gospel to them.

This is how the Congregation of God began on earth, made up of the apostles, disciples who had walked with Jesus, and the Jews and proselytes who believed the testimony of Peter, heeded his exhortation and received the gospel with gladness.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

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