ACTS 19:4-7: “Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus. ”On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.”
OBSERVATION: What is more important – the Word of God or the Spirit? This is a question that is debated among believers from many different traditions. There are those who hold up the Word of God above all else. There are others who contend for the move of the Holy Spirit as the most needed and important.
Which is it?
The Apostle Paul knew nothing of such an argument. Neither did the early church. However, as time progressed, and as early as the writing of the book of Revelation, we see the separation of the Word of God and the Spirit begin. The interesting thing to note is that it began with the very church that Paul was addressing in Acts 19-20.
- “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false…Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” Revelation 2:1-2,4-5 NASB
What had happened to the church of Ephesus? When Paul met the new believers, in Acts 19, he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They replied that they did not even know who the Holy Spirit was. They had believed in Jesus Christ, they had trusted in the Word of God, and they had been baptized for repentance in the baptism of John.
To many, this would have been enough. And, when we get to the book of Revelation we see that they had reverted back to this original position. Yet, to Paul, this was not enough. Paul knew that you needed both the Word of God and the Spirit of God working in your life. Paul called them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and then he laid his hands upon them to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
- ”On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”
Paul remembered his encounter with the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. He remembered when Ananias laid hands upon him and he was miraculously healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s experience, and his call to the Ephesian believers, was the same call that Jesus gave to His disciples before He ascended into heaven.
- “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5 NASB
The disciples already had the Word of God. In fact, they had walked with the living Word of God for 3 years. Yet, Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem nor begin their ministry until they had received the promise of the Father – the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Why is this so important?
Someone has wisely said – The Word of God without the Spirit becomes a religion that is void of power and lacking in love. The Spirit of God without the Word of God becomes a life that is filled with misplaced priorities and emotional excess. We see the one in the church of Ephesus and the other in the church of Corinth. We need the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God.
We need the Word and the Spirit!
The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals God’s truth to the heart. God’s truth is the only thing that can set one free. It is and has always been the Spirit working through the Word! To Jesus, to Paul, and to the early church, there was no separation. This is why Paul led the Ephesians to a proper understanding of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
The church needs to stop arguing over which is the most important. Jesus said we needed both, Paul taught that we needed both, and the very written record of Scripture teaches that we need both. Without the Word of God, we will be led astray by false doctrine. Without the Spirit of God, we will lack the power and anointing that is needed to break the yoke of bondage.
The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment – through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to proclaim God’s Word and equips us with spiritual gifts that confirm God’s Word. The Holy Spirit is the anointing upon God’s Word that brings life and liberty to those who believe.
The Church of Ephesus focused on the Word of God and neglected the Spirit of God. This led to a church that was maintaining doctrinal purity but was devoid of love.
The Church of Corinth focused on the Spirit of God and the spiritual power and gifts they had received. This led to a church that was moving in power but without balance, falling into many excesses and ignoring the truth of God’s written Word.
You cannot separate the Word from the Spirit, or the Spirit from the Word. God is calling His church to the truth of the Word in the power of the Spirit. We need to maintain the balance of both and recognize that one without the other leaves us wanting in the eyes of God and ineffective in our ministry to the world.
We need to ask ourselves, as Paul asked the Ephesians,
“Did we receive the power of the Holy Spirit when we believed?”
“Are we teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word?”
This is not a theological debate over whether every believer has the Holy Spirit living in their hearts. Every person who places their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, receives the Holy Spirit within their heart and life.
Rather, this is a question regarding whether we are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit and moving in the fullness of His gifts and provisions. This was what Paul was asking the Ephesian believers and it is something we need to ask ourselves. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit in power is not a provision that is given to the superspiritual. It is the essential promise from the Father for every child of God.
We need the Word and the Spirit!
Throughout the book of Acts, believers received this power from on high in many different ways. They received it sovereignly on the Day of Pentecost in the upper room. Others received it through the laying on of hands. Some received it while simply hearing the Word of God being preached. It is not the methodology that is important it is the provision. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit in power is available to all who will ask in faith!
- “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13
Heavenly Father, forgive us for both our lack of love and our excess of emotion. Help us to hunger for the Word and the Spirit. Fill us with power from on high. Let us walk in the full revelation of Your Word and in the full power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Restore balance into our lives so that we can effectively reach this generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and see You confirming Your Word with signs following.
In Jesus’ Name!