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Source: (consider it) Thread: Acts 8:14-17
k-mann
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In Acts 8:14-17, Luke writes (RSV-CE):

quote:
Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samar′ia had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
How should we read this passage? Is it a description of [the sacrament of] confirmation, did God withhold the Spirit from the baptism of these people to make a point about unity (as a pastor once told me) or is it something else?

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"Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt."
— Paul Tillich

Katolikken

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venbede
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The C of E 1662 BCP certainly uses that as proof text for confirmation, but liturgical scholars would put the development of confirmation very much later.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Nigel M
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It’s a remarkable passage and inevitably leaves the reader asking the question: Why a delay? Luke doesn’t say and perhaps he was simply recording what he had heard as part of his desire to write an accurate account. Still, he (I’ve assumed Luke is the author) does have a penchant for the Spirit as a theme in his account, so this passage wouldn’t really work as an off the cuff scribble; its inclusion must have been part of a purpose in Luke’s mind.

So in the interests of second guessing the Holy Spirit…

I think an answer could run along these lines:

[1] That group of Samaritans had been missioned by Phillip (going back to verse 4). He had brought the good news to Samaria, which consisted of not just the verbal message, but also the physical / spiritual acts of driving away possessing spirits and disease.

[2] The actions were not new to Samaria. A skilled operator of magic (Simon) was already there doing signs allegedly pointing to the Supreme God.

[3] Simon and many Samarians heard Phillip’s total message and believed. The focus was on the ‘signs’ Philip was performing – these attracted the hearers / viewers.

[4] So the ground was already fertile. Samaria already believed in a Supreme God and accepted signs that purported to come from that God. What they lacked was the verbal narrative behind it all. When Phillip brought that, the audience could see that the two made sense together: word plus spirit in action.

[5] What seemed to be lacking – in this context – was an ability to distinguish between a spiritual skill that truly came from God and one that did not. It’s as though the Samaritans could say: Now we know God’s plan for this world and how he is operating, but we don’t know how to tell his acts from those which are not his.

[6] The reception of the Holy Spirit was necessary in order to achieve this perception. It also opened up the possibility that each and every loyal follower of Jesus could perform the same signs.


Of additional interest in Luke’s telling of this spiritual battle is the conclusion that baptism on its own could not secure proper loyalty to God. Simon believed the message, was baptised, but continued to think along selfish and envious lines.

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stonespring
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I always thought it had something to do with them "only being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." Does this mean that their Baptisms had not been valid or fully valid because they were not done with a trinitarian formula ("in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit")?
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Latchkey Kid
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The Acts 19 story has the HS being given by baptism in the name of Jesus, rather than John's baptism of repentance. Not that they were not already disciples of Jesus.

I wonder how much the stories play in the narrative of followers of Jesus Christ spreading from just Jews to Samaritans (who just had some wrong theology or practice) to gentiles in general. A different way of universalising the gospel from John's narrative approach.

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'You must never give way for an answer. An answer is always the stretch of road that's behind you. Only a question can point the way forward.'
Mika; in Hello? Is Anybody There?, Jostein Gaardner

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Latchkey Kid
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Forgot to include the Acts 19 narrative.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— altogether there were about twelve of them.

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'You must never give way for an answer. An answer is always the stretch of road that's behind you. Only a question can point the way forward.'
Mika; in Hello? Is Anybody There?, Jostein Gaardner

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Lamb Chopped
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What follows is pretty much pure speculation, but it seems like every time the Gospel moves into a major new frontier we get a new minor "pentecost"--almost as if God wants to make doubly sure nobody in the existing church can question it or refuse it, and nobody in the new frontier can get puffed up as if they had no dependence on the older church. For example, we get the Jewish pentecost in Acts 2, the gentile pentecost in Acts 10, a Samaritan pentecost in Acts 8, and then this weirdness with the disciples of John in Acts 19. The first three pentecosts can be accounted for by Acts 1:8, which more or less lays out the frontiers: Jews, Samaritans, and "the ends of the earth" (= probably mainly Gentiles). The John followers are a special case--they are not unconverted Jews, but neither are they fully Christians yet, and there were probably pockets of them all over the place who needed bringing to the finish line.

ETA: this would also explain why we don't see speaking in tongues etc. at every conversion event--God seems to be saving that sort of thing for the big breakthroughs, as if to point up the continuity between the new mission field and the old ones. Since we're now in the mopping up stages of Acts 1:8 (need a very big mop, but still), probably we can expect no more showy pentecost events.

[ 10. April 2017, 03:15: Message edited by: Lamb Chopped ]

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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k-mann
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Forgive me for being so late. I have been quite busy lately. I don't think that them only being baptised "in the name of the Lord Jesus" means that they weren't baptised "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." It seems more as a way to distinguish the Christian baptism from other baptisms, including the baptism of John.

I do think this is a reference to what we call confirmation, but it probably doesn't carry all the connotations we often include in it. In Norway the confirmation seems now to be a combination of the ancient sacrament and a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

But it does seem that there was a special giving of the Holy Spirit that could only be given by certain individuals (in that case, the Apostles). What remains is if this ability was given to their successors. I think it was, but that is of course a historical question, not a biblical one.

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"Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt."
— Paul Tillich

Katolikken

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NewMan
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quote:
How should we read this passage? Is it a description of [the sacrament of] confirmation, did God withhold the Spirit from the baptism of these people to make a point about unity (as a pastor once told me) or is it something else? [/QB]
Hello K-mann,

I would say that it takes a certain faith/desiere/personal focus off yourself, onto God to receive the Holy Spirit. The coming of Peter & John to pray for people, with individual laying on of hands would have helped this. Previously Philip had been alone.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
What follows is pretty much pure speculation, but it seems like every time the Gospel moves into a major new frontier we get a new minor "pentecost"--almost as if God wants to make doubly sure nobody in the existing church can question it or refuse it, and nobody in the new frontier can get puffed up as if they had no dependence on the older church.

Yes, I go with that, especially if you link it to the concentric circles of Jesus' prophecy in Acts 1:8 - the key text for the whole book in my view.
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Mamacita

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As referenced by Baptist Trainfan:

quote:
Acts 1:7-8.

(7) He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. (8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."



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Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

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Baptist Trainfan
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The very one!

This is about Christianity ceasing to be a small Jerusalem-centric Jewish sect and reaching out to people of all races and backgrounds - which some of the Apostles found hard to grasp.

[ 28. May 2017, 07:27: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Alan Cresswell

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And, that is the lectionary reading for today as well. Is it too late to re-write my sermon to include a statement that this is the lynch-pin of the entire book of Acts?

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churchgeek

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I really like Lamb Chopped's suggestion. Have you read that anywhere, LC, or is it your own idea?

I grew up in a Pentecostal church, where this passage was interpreted as "baptism of the Holy Spirit," which they think is separate from water baptism. They consider a progression like this to be normative: everyone's supposed to be baptized in water, and then to seek baptism in the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues. I never fully bought into that, and certainly don't now that I'm not in that tradition anymore. But maybe that's part of why I like LC's suggestion so much - it's a good, solid, alternate reading of what's going on here. Where the Pentecostals see a pattern of people accepting Christ, being baptized with water, then being baptized in the Holy Spirit, LC points out that it happened only once in each different group (Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, followers of John), which seems hardly normative. Connecting these movements to Pentecost makes a lot more sense to me.

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I reserve the right to change my mind.

My article on the Virgin of Vladimir

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Lamb Chopped
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I don't think I picked this up anywhere, it just sort of came to me--so credit the Holy Spirit maybe. [Big Grin] It was interesting to me because I've spent my life in missions, and Acts 1:8 lays out those concentric (or sort of) circles, and it's interesting to see a similar event on the threshold of each new one--and then speculate about the reason for it. The new groups always wind up solidly connected back to the apostles/Jerusalem from the very beginning, which makes sense in light of Jesus' prayer "that they may all be one." In fact, come to think of it, it's rather surprising (humanly speaking) that the church has never fractured into apostolic and non-apostolic bits--nothing like the Mormon succession controversy, or even the Islamic Shiite/Sunni divide. We have our divisions, but none of them go that deep. And this Pentecost stamp of approval thing might have a lot to do with it--the new converts always hook up with and look for direction to the apostles from the very beginning, and the apostles in turn reject none of their "children" however weird those groups may seem to them.

It's just really cool.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
What follows is pretty much pure speculation, but it seems like every time the Gospel moves into a major new frontier we get a new minor "pentecost"--almost as if God wants to make doubly sure nobody in the existing church can question it or refuse it, and nobody in the new frontier can get puffed up as if they had no dependence on the older church. For example, we get the Jewish pentecost in Acts 2, the gentile pentecost in Acts 10, a Samaritan pentecost in Acts 8, and then this weirdness with the disciples of John in Acts 19. The first three pentecosts can be accounted for by Acts 1:8, which more or less lays out the frontiers: Jews, Samaritans, and "the ends of the earth" (= probably mainly Gentiles). The John followers are a special case--they are not unconverted Jews, but neither are they fully Christians yet, and there were probably pockets of them all over the place who needed bringing to the finish line.

ETA: this would also explain why we don't see speaking in tongues etc. at every conversion event--God seems to be saving that sort of thing for the big breakthroughs, as if to point up the continuity between the new mission field and the old ones. Since we're now in the mopping up stages of Acts 1:8 (need a very big mop, but still), probably we can expect no more showy pentecost events.

You speculate well.
[Overused]

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Lamb Chopped
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[Yipee]

I'm glad we're in the mopping up stages, but I rather regret the fact that I'm not likely to ever be an eyewitness to an event like that. [Waterworks]

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 19995 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged


 
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