A Small Pentecost for the Disciples of the Baptist
We have seen how a disciple of John the Baptist, Apollos of Alexandria, becomes a member of The Way through the help of Priscilla and Aquila. In this selection from Acts, we learn that there were others in Ephesus whom Paul met. The issue is that although these men were already believers, they haven’t yet received the Holy Spirit. It was when Paul laid his hands upon them that they received the Holy Spirit. The manifestations of the coming of the Spirit is the same as the one found in Acts 2: they spoke in tongues and prophesied. “Speaking in tongues” is a manifestation of the Spirit who works through a Church that is “catholic”, universal in its reach. The speaking in tongues of the disciples is in contrast to the “speaking in tongues” of Babel, which leads to division. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14 that speaking in tongues has to be complemented by prophesy. And even Paul tells us that it isn’t the most excellent of the gifts of the Spirit.
For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to human beings but to God, for no one listens; he utters mysteries in spirit. On the other hand, one who prophesies does speak to human beings, for their building up, encouragement, and solace. Whoever speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but whoever prophesies builds up the church.Now I should like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be built up.
The descent of the Holy Spirit first occurs among the disciples gathered in the cenacle. Then it also occurs among the believers in Samaria who received the word from Philip. Later the household of Cornelius and now upon the disciples of John the Baptist. After the pentecostal descent of the Spirit, all other Spirit-events come with the laying on of the hands of the apostles. And this should not be surprising since according to John, the Resurrected Christ breathed the Holy Spirit among the apostles (cf. John 20).
The disciples of John the Baptist receiving the Holy Spirit also receive the completion of their own baptistm. “I baptize you with water” said John “He (the one coming after me) will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” We know that the gospels of Matthew and Luke have those Q sayings about the Baptist incorporated into their materials preceisely because of the disciples of John the Baptist who joined the group of Jesus. The evangelists also had to answer questions regarding the meaning of the baptism of John within the whole scheme of salvation history as revealed in the death and resurrection of Christ. We do not know how these disciples reached Ephesus; but we know that with their reception of the Holy Spirit, they also become part of the Way. And we can be sure that they were among those addressed in the Letter to the Ephesians, a letter that perhaps witnesses to their complete assimilation to the Way of the Lord.
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