|Volume 18 Number 4 April 2016||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
I was discussing with someone, and I said that only the apostles can lay hands on people before they could get the spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit. The person cited Acts 9:17. I am very sure Ananias was not an apostle. Please help me explain this verse.
Acts 9:17-18 reads, “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:17-18 NKJV). Obviously, Ananias was instrumental in some way (1) for Saul of Tarsus (later known as the apostle Paul) to receive his sight, and (2) for him to receive miraculous ability, and we know that the miraculous ability that he later demonstrated was that degree afforded to apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12).
However, Ananias stated the reasons for which Jesus sent him to Saul, but he did not attribute to himself the ability to transfer miraculous ability to him. The passage does not stipulate when or how Saul (Paul) received the miraculous ability of an apostle; the first century gift of the Holy Spirit differed in degree from the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which the apostles alone received. All the passage confirms happening at the meeting of Ananias and Saul on that occasion is (1) Saul’s sight was restored (cf., Acts 22:13), and (2) he was baptized (cf., Acts 22:16). Before Saul could receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which he obviously received at some point since he was an apostle, it was necessary that he become a Christian – be “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27). The baptism to which Scripture refers regarding salvation (Acts 2:38; 22:16) is water baptism (1 Peter 3:20-21) or immersion (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Acts 8:38-39).
It is quite common to assume that Ananias also conferred the Holy Spirit upon him, by imposition of hands. But this is neither stated nor implied in the text; nor is there any evidence that any besides the apostles ever exercised the power of imparting the Spirit. The fact that this power is not known to have been exercised by any other than the apostles, establishes a strong presumption that it was not exercised by Ananias. (McGarvey)
There is no proof whatever that any spiritual gifts were imparted, nor that any but apostles could confer these gifts, and Paul always asserted that he received his signs of apostleship, not of men, but of Christ. See Gal 1:1, 11, 12. “The being filled with the Holy Spirit” took place after the baptism at the hands of Ananias. (Johnson)
The other apostles of Christ received the baptism of the Holy Spirit after their conversion, and so one would expect that the apostle Paul likewise received the baptism of the Holy Spirit after his conversion. In addition, the other apostles received the baptism of the Holy Spirit directly from heaven without human intervention, and so one would expect that the apostle Paul likewise received the baptism of the Holy Spirit directly from heaven without human intervention. Furthermore, it is evident from the practices of the apostles, including the apostle Paul later, that non-apostles who could work miracles were not able to transfer miraculous power to others (Acts 8:14; 19:1-7). Therefore, one concludes that Ananias was unable to transfer miraculous power to Saul, and certainly he was unable to confer the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon Saul. Jesus Christ Himself was the administrator of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11).
The apostle essentially denied that Ananias made him an apostle, which apostles exhibited special miraculous powers (2 Corinthians 12:12). “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)” (Galatians 1:1). Again in Galatians 1:11-12, Paul attributed the source of his miraculous knowledge to heaven and not from men, not even the other apostles.
In conclusion, Ananias did not make Saul an apostle by giving him miraculous ability. Nevertheless, the conversion of Saul at the hands of Ananias was a necessary prior act to later at some undisclosed time and place Saul (Paul) receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Johnson, B.W. Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament. Hutto: Wordsearch, 2008.
McGarvey, J.W. A Commentary on Acts of Apostles. Hutto: Wordsearch, 2004.
Are Sinners Saved in
Answer to Prayer Alone?
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:16-21)
Too often people try to interpret passages from a 21st century mindset, and they forget to put on their first century glasses. Due to this, many use this passage to promote the idea that simply calling out Jesus’ name will immediately place them into Christ. This logic is flawed, however, when we see how those that heard this sermon reacted. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38).
When we think about the way some interpret verse 21, one would imagine that Peter answered the question, “Just say a prayer, believe in Christ and you will be saved!” Yet, that is not the response Peter gave. He told them that they needed to repent and to be baptized for the remission of sins (cf., Matthew 26:28). Those who “gladly received” the apostle’s word did not simply pray to God, but they were baptized (Acts 2:41). The reason for this is because Christ did not command, “He who believes and says a prayer will be saved.” Instead He spoke, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). For this reason, we can never substitute the command to be baptized for some other method.
Despite the simplicity of this subject, there are still many who offer up objections to this biblical doctrine. Denominations argue that the thief on the cross was saved in answer to a prayer and without baptism. First, how could the thief have been baptized by the baptism authorized in the Great Commission since the Great Commission had not been given yet? Jesus didn’t command the “one baptism” until Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16. This baptism wasn’t preached until Acts 2:38 – 10 days later! This baptism, the baptism into Christ, was different from John’s baptism (Acts 19:1-7).
Secondly, the thief on the cross was still under the Old Covenant where others had their sins forgiven in like manner (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:48). Does this negate the baptism that hadn’t even been commanded yet? I think not. After all, “…the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6).
Denominations also argue that Saul prayed for three days and that he was saved before being baptized because Ananias called him “brother.” First, the term “brother” that we use to address other Christians today is not the only way that it can be used. Our parents may have had a son who we called brother, or it may be that you would address someone else of the same nationality as brother. In fact, Paul had used the word this way in Acts 22:1. “Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.”
Second, how could Paul be saved if he still had sins that needed to be washed away? “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Third, Paul testified that he himself was baptized into Christ. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). Salvation is, after all, in Christ. “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).
Nowhere in the Bible do you read of one praying “into Christ” or believing “into Christ.” Nowhere will you find one who was commanded to be saved through prayer. Therefore, we must follow the plain biblical examples and commands that are given to us all throughout the Book of Acts and the other epistles. Have you been baptized? Have you followed the biblical plan? If not, you should consider doing so as soon as you have opportunity!