To deviate means to turn away, although not abruptly, but rather in a slight
and gradual movement toward a different direction. When Paul later said (2 Cor.5:17),
"The primitive passed by," this included the previous commissions which
the Lord had given to the twelve in the beginning (Keyword Concordance, page 27),
i.e., prior to his own commission which he received on the Damascus road, and which was
supplemented in later visions.
Starting in Damascus, Saul's initial ministry was like that
of the twelve apostles, in that it also included repentance and pardon. Saul proved from
the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, just as he still did twenty years later in
Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (Acts 17:2,3). But there was already a
slight deviation even in Damascus where he heralded Jesus as the Son of God. This
aspect was in harmony with his vision of the risen Christ in His celestial glory.
Later, in a figure of speech, Paul described the authority which this glory implied, by
the phrase, seating Him at God's right hand among the celestials (Eph.1:20).
During the Pentecostal era, Jesus Christ, Who was
of the seed of David, according to the flesh, was heralded to the covenant
nation, Israel; and these believers were required to keep the law.
The uncovenanted nations, however, were under no such
obligation. Since Israel, the "chosen race," was unwilling to lead the rest of
mankind to God at that time, Saul was commissioned "to be the minister of Christ
Jesus for the nations, acting as a priest of the evangel of God," thus filling the
gap left by Israel (1 Peter 2:9; Rom.15:16).
Inside the holy land, under the law, Saul could never
qualify for such an office. This is why the risen Christ called him outside the land,
where the law did not apply, when he himself did not think of reforming or repenting. This
deviation from the primitive was an object lesson for Saul as to the status of the
uncovenanted nations to whom the law would not apply either. Christ Jesus, the Son of
God, would not require works from them. The first symptoms of this deviation were
apparent at Saul's conversion. That he had to undergo the ritual of water baptism and the
imposition of hands at that time, is easily understood when we keep in mind that about a
quarter of a century was required, during which these primitive things gradually faded
out, until their background vanished completely with the destruction of the temple in
When the buildings of the sanctuary went up in flames, when
priests and Levites and other Jews were executed by Roman soldiers, or sold into slavery,
then the facilities for keeping the law had fully vanished. Ever since that time,
no one has been in a position to comply with the rules of the ceremonial law.
Paul said in Gal.(3:10), "Accursed is everyone who is
not remaining in all things written in the scroll of the law," so as to show
them the fallacy of making just one precept (circumcizing) mandatory for believers from
the nations. During the past nineteen hundred years, self-appointed teachers have tickled
the ears of their followers with all sorts of seemingly conceivable precepts, to be kept
by those who want to demonstrate that they are holier than others.
We have to keep in mind the deviation from the
primitive which ended when the Word of God was completed (Col.1:25), when the
primitive had passed by in fact, and when works are no longer required, "lest anyone
should be boasting" (Eph.2:9). With this in mind, we will now study the force of the
terms used by Ananias in relation to baptism and the holy spirit, and of similar terms,
used by others. For this purpose, we quote from Unsearchable Riches magazine, volume 18,
beginning with page 267; volume 21, page 91, and volume 22, page 542.
THE SPIRIT IN THIS ECONOMY
"The great change in the operation of
the spirit can be understood only when we carefully consider the force of the terms used.
We read of the spirit coming on for power, of filling for utterance, of baptism
for cleansing, of sealing for safety, of the earnest as a pledge, and of
homing for communion. The first of these, coming on for power, Paul
never applies to the nations. The last, homing for communion, which takes its place, is
used only by Paul, in view of the impending climax of Eph.(3:17; volume 54, 219). Instead
of receiving an occasional visitation, the believers among the nations become the
permanent home of the holy spirit. This is not for the operation of miraculous displays,
but for the maintenance of constant fellowship. Almost all of these are continually
confused with the baptism of the spirit, which we will consider first.
THE BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT
"What is the baptism in holy spirit?
Aside from the promise given by John the baptist (Matt.3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John
1:33) that they would be baptized in holy spirit at the coming of Christ, and our Lord's
declaration that they would be baptized in holy spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:5), we have
only one other mention of spirit baptism in the Scriptures. This is Paul's declaration
that, "in one spirit also we all are baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks,
whether slaves or free, and all are made to imbibe one spirit" (1 Cor.12:13). We are
assured by the apostle that all who are members of Christ's body, have become
such by the baptism of the spirit.
"Baptism in water was the type or symbol of the
spiritual reality. It spoke of cleansing and union. It was
ceremonial washing, and associated its subjects by a common bond. Saul of Tarsus washed
away his sins (Acts 22:16). The sons of Israel were baptized into Moses (1 Cor.10:2):
These two thoughts -- cleansing and unity--are only typified by water, but realized
in spirit. The disciples were cleansed on the day of Pentecost and the believers in
Corinth were united into one body by the baptism of spirit.
"Peter, on the day of Pentecost, conditions the
reception of the spirit upon baptism in water (Acts 2:38). Conversely, in Cornelius' case,
he conditions baptism in water on the reception of the spirit (Acts 10:47,48). Similarly,
Saul was filled with holy spirit before his baptism. The tendency was away from
water to spirit, especially in regard to the gentiles. Under Paul's ministry this is
carried much further. Of baptism in water he said, "Christ does not commission me to
be baptizing, but to be bringing the evangel..." (1 Cor.1:17). Though so vehemently
denying the practice of baptizing in water, he insists, in the same epistle, that
"in one spirit...we all are baptized into one body" (1 Cor.12:13).
"Spirit baptism is essential to membership in the body
of Christ. Water baptism is not. During our Lord's life water baptism was the only one.
During the Pentecostal era spirit baptism was added, so there were two. Now there is a
return to one: Either water or spirit baptism is no longer in force; can anyone
hesitate which one to drop!
"Spirit baptism is vital: "Without it"
we have nothing; we are not cleansed; we are not united into one body.
"Not so water baptism: Paul had practically dropped it
long before. It was nothing but a ceremonial, of no efficacy in itself, it was a type
of spirit baptism. One was the shadow, the other the reality. Spirit baptism is the one
baptism for today.
"Perhaps some of those who first received the Ephesian
epistle had known two baptisms. Some in Corinth had been dipped in water. Since that time
there has been a constant change from the physical to the spiritual. Ephesians
finally sets aside all fleshly prerogatives. Nothing depends on the physical, and
everything is based on the spiritual. The very unity of which this is a part is
made by spirit. How could such a oneness come from the superficial contact of
water with the flesh? In a catalogue of spiritual unities (Eph.4:3-6) it should be
unnecessary to insist that the one baptism is that of God's spirit. All to whom
this was written, had been baptized in spirit. It is the vital basis of unity.
"The popular view of the baptism of the spirit is far
astray. Like its type, water baptism, it cleanses and unifies. It does not
impart power! That was done by the coming on of the spirit, a manifestation
which must not be confused with it. After the Pentecostal era, which paraded the powers of
the coming eon, this coming on of the spirit ceased. In its place we have the homing
of the spirit. We are not promised power, but weakness such as may be used as a foil for
God's strength. The manifestations popularly connected with spirit baptism are usually the
work of deceiving spirits, promising powers which have no place in this economy.
"As spirit baptism was the actual of which
water baptism was the symbol, it stands for the cleansing of conduct and
consequent unity of all thus cleansed. All believers have part in this. All
have their hearts cleansed.
THE FILLING OF THE SPIRIT
"The filling of the spirit is one of
the operations of God which comes to us through His previous activities. It characterizes
the proclamation of the kingdom. John the baptist, our Lord Himself and His mother Mary,
Peter and Stephen--all the chief heralds of the coming kingdom were filled with holy
spirit to give utterance to the proclamation.
"The supreme example of the spirit-filled life is
found in our Lord Himself. At His baptism in the Jordan, the spirit not only came on
Him to remain, so that He performed powers and miracles and signs, but He was also filled
with holy spirit in order to proclaim the kingdom (Luke 4:1). His anointing with the
spirit gave Him the needed authority, but the filling gave Him utterance. Yet the
leading of the spirit controlled the time and place of its exercise. Though full
of holy spirit, He did not immediately go out to begin His proclamation, but was led out
into the silence of the wilderness with the wild beasts.
"There is a needed lesson in this action of our Lord.
Even though we are full of utterance, we need not imagine that this gives us the right to
public proclamation. That comes from the anointing of the spirit. Nor does the
filling call for immediate relief in words. The time and place depend on the leading
of the spirit. It is only as we are filled with holy spirit that we refuse to entertain
the suggestions of an unholy spirit. The filling with spirit finds expression in harmony.
It sets our speech to stanzas. It makes our measures melodious. It finds outlet in psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs.
"The great lesson for service in this administration
of God's grace is almost the reverse of that which obtains at Pentecost. That
power did not continue. Let anyone trace the exhibition of power through the book of Acts
and he will be convinced that, as the kingdom expectation vanishes, power also departs. At
the beginning the twelve are mightily endued and are able to brave the opposition of their
religious rulers. At the end they have been forced from the holy city and their cause is
lost. Only a lone apostle, a prisoner in Rome, remains as God's ambassador. All the power
he has lies in his weakness.
"That is the great lesson which is needed today. God's
strength is now being perfected in infirmity (2 Cor.12:9). God is working with weak
instruments so that the glory may be His. Great power would disqualify us. It is one of
the special excellencies of grace that it operates more freely in infirmity than in
strength. God can, and has, wrought great things through those whom He has empowered. He
is doing far greater marvels through the feeble, the faint, those who cannot claim a share
in the glory of His achievements. Let us, like Paul at the close of his career, boast in
our lack of physical power, for then we are more acceptable servitors of His grace."