The Impartation of the Holy Spirit
February 27th, 1966 @ 8:15 AM
THE SECOND BLESSING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Acts 8:4-8, 14-17
2-27-66 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Impartation of the Holy Spirit. It is an exposition of one of the most difficult passages in the Bible. If you would like to follow the message turn to chapter 8 of the Book of Acts, chapter 8. We shall read verses 4 through 8 and verses 14 through 17. This is the text:
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
And there was great joy in that city.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
(For as yet He was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
The success of this deacon and finally evangelist Philip in Samaria is nothing short of phenomenal. The preparation for his ministry had been lead by Jesus for He in His journey through Samaria doubtless stopped at this same city. And the Lord as He saw the eager faces of those Samaritans said lift up your eyes and look on the fields for they where white already unto harvest.
The Samaritans were as eagerly anticipatory of the coming of the Messiah as were the Jews. The harvest field in Samaria was ready and ripe [John 4:35]. And when Philip went down to Samaria from Jerusalem to preach the gospel, the Word of God, there was a great revival and a great turning, so much so that the many were baptized, both men and women. And I would suppose, don’t you, that that woman of Sychar who talked to Jesus at the well was one of those who was baptized.
Now you have here in passing a little note of the interpretation of the Word of God. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Matthew our Lord said to His disciples, “Go not to the Gentiles nor to any city of Samaria” [Matthew 10:5-6]. It was expressly interdicted. But all of that has passed now, and in keeping with the great commission of the Lord they were to preach in Jerusalem, in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the world.
In passing may I comment that always the interpretation of Scripture must be in its age, in its dispensation, in its context, and in its time. God does things and says things and commands things in this age and in this time and in this dispensation. And then God will command other things and make other mandates and say other words in another day, in another time, in another dispensation.
So that has passed, the interdiction when they were to go only to the house of the lost sheep of Israel. They are now going to Samaria and as you follow in the Book of Acts finally to the uttermost part of the world. So after the great Pentecost in Jerusalem and the visitation, and the outpouring of heaven upon the Jews, this deacon, evangelist Philip goes to Samaria, half-breed Jews, a mixture of race, a polyglot people.
And there, there is a tremendous response to Philip’s message, and the people trust in the Lord and are saved and are baptized. But they have not received the Holy Spirit. So when tidings came to the ears of the apostles in Jerusalem that these had turned to the Lord they sent Peter and John.
It’s interesting to note that they sent John along with Peter. ‘Cause remember John is the son of thunder and son of Boanerges. In his anger about a Samaritan village, John asked Jesus if it wasn’t time for them to command fire to come down from heaven and burn them up [Luke 9:54], just as God did those companies of fifty who came in the presence of Elijah from the blasphemous King of Israel [2 Kings 1:10-12]. John is sent along with Peter, and when they came these apostles prayed for the Samaritans that they might receive the Holy Spirit. And after prayer they put their hands, they laid their hands on their heads, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When He came, the miraculous manifestation, their personality was changed, their lives were changed. They were different people. And in the coming and impartation of the Holy Spirit there must have been signs and powers and miracles. For it was such a wonderful thing that Simon Magus desired to buy it from the apostles with money [Acts 8:18-19]. Now this is what happened in Samaria.
What does it mean and what is its message for us? And how do you interpret so unusual an experience? You will find if you’ve studied it, you will find, oh, so many interpretations. You are going to be presented briefly with six.
Some take this passage and appeal to it to substantiate orders in the church, the elevation of some above others. For example, the bishops above the pastors or their king. Leaders from the church in Jerusalem down to Samaria and it is they who had the power of the gift of the Holy Spirit. So they appeal to this passage, some do, to elevate orders in the ministry, a bishop above a pastor.
Then there are others who read this passage in the Book of Acts and they appeal to it as a Scriptural confirmation of apostolic succession in ordination. I went to a cathedral one time and it happened to be on Whitsunday. Whitsunday is the seventh Sunday after Easter. And it celebrates the fiftieth day, Pentecost, and the coming, the descent of the Holy Spirit. Whitsunday is an Old English for White Sunday. Yes, the remembrance of the white robes that the baptismal candidates wore on that Sunday. And they call it the birthday of the church.
Well I listened to the bishop in this cathedral as he was speaking on Whitsunday. And he used this passage as the Scriptural authorization for the ordination and apostolic succession, that no one is properly ordained who has not been ordained by the apostles and their successors. It was a very unusual interpretation for me and I looked around to see how the people received it. It was very unusual for me to use this passage for that, and I could find no recognition in their faces but that it was the voice and the oracle of God himself. And it was very interesting, I say, to me.
Then there are those who appeal to this passage for confirmation. And this passage is the historical beginning of that rite and ritual in some of the churches that you call confirmation. In our modern centuries confirmation refers to the candidate who has been sprinkled as a baby, in childhood, and whose parents have promised that they will rear him up in the love and admonition of the Lord. And now that he is old enough to understand, they have a rite, a ritual they call confirmation, and they appeal to this passage for that ritual confirmation.
Then, of course, there are those who appeal to the passage as a basic introduction to and substantiation of a second work of grace, a second blessing. First, to be converted, to be saved by trusting in Jesus. And then second to be sanctified. To be visited with a new experience and a new blessing from heaven in which we are able to live above sin and we live sinlessly in this earth.
Sanctification, a second work of grace.
Then of course there are those, and I’ve read several tracks recently, who appeal to this passage in defense of speaking in tongues though it is not mentioned here. Speaking in tongues is not referred to here. Yet it is in other places. In three other places, and it is supposed that one of the signs of the baptism of the Holy Spirit would be the speaking in tongues. Such a situation as they are sure took place when these Samaritans received the Holy Spirit at the hands of the apostles.
Now that’s five interpretations, and I have a sixth. Now when I read all of the things as we come to a passage in the Bible and they’re so vastly diverse and so strenuously and so earnestly defended, I think of a famous poem written by a Vermont editor and lawyer and schoolteacher, and it is entitled “The Blind Men and the Elephant.”
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
[“The Blind Men and the Elephant,” by John Godfrey Saxe]
I feel that way after reading and reading and reading and studying and studying and studying. And, ah, these so violently substantiated arguments as each takes his interpretation of the Holy Spirit.
All right, you’re going to hear another one. As I look at the whole animal: his tusk and his trunk, his tail and his legs, his side and his ears, as I look at the whole context these are the things that come to my heart.
It is God’s will for us that we have this greatest of all gifts, the ascension gift of the Holy Spirit. It was the announcement of John the Baptist, and when He comes, He was baptized with the Holy Spirit [Matthew 3:11]. It was the word of our blessed Lord in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Luke. “If ye then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will God give the Holy Spirit to them that ask you?” [Luke 11:9, 13]
It was the word of the risen Savior to His disciples when He breathed on them in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit” [John 20:22]. It was the earnest word of the Savior, when He took His disciples to the top of Mount Olive, and before He ascended into heaven said, “Tarry in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father, the coming of the Holy Spirit” [Luke 24:; Acts 1:8]. And then again John indeed said. “Our Lord baptized with water but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence” [Acts 1:5]. It is God’s will that we receive this ascension gift.
But it is also God’s sovereign purpose that the gift of the Holy Spirit is channeled, is mediated through these holy disciples that God in heaven did choose for that holy and sublime purpose. The Lord did not pour out the Holy Spirit upon the Hottentots, upon the Aborigines in Australia, upon the Eskimos in Alaska, upon the Hindus in India. In the sovereign grace and purpose of God, the Holy Spirit, the ascension gift of Christ, is mediated through and channeled through God’s holy and chosen apostles.
The Lord said to Simon Peter, “I say unto thee, That thou are Peter, and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind in earth shall have been bound in heaven and whatsoever that shalt loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” [Matthew 16:18-19] And I turn the page in this same first gospel, in chapter eighteen, and the Lord said that to all of the apostles. “Verily I say unto you whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven and whatsoever ye loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
The keys of the kingdom were given to the apostle Peter and to his fellow apostles [Matthew 16:19]. The keys of the kingdom were not given to Stephen or to anyone of the seven. The keys of the kingdom, the opening of the door of the kingdom was given to Simon Peter and to the apostles. Therefore, in the sovereign grace and will of God on the day of Pentecost, Simon Peter was chosen of the Lord God to open the door to the Jews. And at Pentecost, Simon Peter opened the doors. He used the key of the kingdom to open the doors to the Jews.
And he addressed his message, “The men of Jerusalem and all ye that dwell in Judea” [Acts 2:14]. And the message he preached at Pentecost was to the Jews. And he opened the door of the kingdom of heaven to the Jews.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, and in the eleventh chapter where he defends what he had done, Simon Peter opened the door using the keys of the kingdom. Simon Peter opened the door to the Gentiles. In a vision the Lord prepared him all of that vast aggregate of unclean animals. “And God said, Rise Peter, kill and eat, but Peter said, I’ve never eaten any unclean thing Lord and God said what I have cleaned call not thou unclean” [Acts 10:11-15].
And then three men knocked at the door from the Gentile home of the Roman soldier Cornelius in Caesarea. And the Holy Spirit said to Simon Peter, go with them nothing doubting, and Simon Peter made the day’s journey from Joppa to Caesarea. And when he entered into the house of the Gentiles Simon Peter said, “It is unlawful for a Jew to enter the house of a Gentile, but the Spirit of God has taught me that I’m not to call any man common or unclean” [Acts 10:28].
Why have you called me? And Cornelius revealed to him the vision of the angel that he was to send for Simon Peter who would tell him words where by he and his house might be saved. And Simon Peter that day opened the door of salvation to the Gentile world. Simon Peter refers to that in the great Jerusalem conference about the salvation of the Gentiles in Acts 15.
And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, and the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel and believe.
And God who wrought the hearts gladly with us giving them the Holy Spirit even as he did unto us.
And put no difference between us.
So the Lord in His sovereign grace elected that the gift of the Holy Spirit to the world should be channeled, that the keys of the kingdom should be placed in the hands of Simon Peter and the apostles.
Now, when we come to the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, God never said to Philip I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom. God never said to any of the seven I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom. But this marvelous ascension gift of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit is to be mediated through the message and the ministry of Simon Peter. And you will find God true to His promises and to His words, world without end, without exception.
I remember preaching in the life of Moses when we came to why Moses could not enter the Promised Land. God said it is because I asked you to strike the rock once and you struck it twice, thrice [Numbers 20:7-12]. You beat it. How God regards even His task, for that rock Paul says is Christ and Christ is to be stricken once. Christ is to die once. Christ is to be crucified once. And the time of the striking of the rock, out of which the fountain of water flowed, was before Moses when God said strike it once. And because he destroyed God’s strike, the Lord refused him entrance into the Promised Land, so does God regard the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
And God is not taking back or changing that word that the keys of the kingdom are in the hands of Simon Peter, and God honored that commitment. Simon Peter was used to open the door of the kingdom of heaven to the Jews at Pentecost. And Simon Peter is used of the same Lord God to open the doors of the kingdom to the Samaritans in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts.
And God in heaven is using Simon Peter, according to His promise, to open the doors of the kingdom to the Gentiles in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts. And that is why when Philip preached the gospel, they sent down Peter, and in his prayers and in his using the keys the Holy Spirit came upon the Samaritans according to the Word of God. Not through Philip, not through Barnabas, not through Paul, not through any other but Simon Peter. Thou art Peter; I give unto thee the keys of the kingdom [Matthew 16:19].
This Book of Acts is a transitional book. It is the story of the transition from Judaism to Christianity, from the Jews to the Gentile, from law to grace, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. And this is a transitional experience. We are on the way according to the program and the sovereign elected purpose of God. We are on the way from the Jew to the ends of the earth. And so at Jerusalem, God using Simon Peter got the doors open to the Jews. And then one other step, and in Samaria the door is open to the half-Jews. And Simon Peter opened the door. And in Caesarea, the door is opened to all of us who are Gentiles, and we receive the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit just as much as did the Jews in Jerusalem. And this is a transitional experience from Jerusalem to Samaria to the ends of the earth according to the great commission of our Lord.
Now then pastor what of a second blessing? What of a second word of regeneration? What of this sanctification? Well there are many. For example this week I read a tract and this is how it began. They were quoting the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts. And Paul, coming to Ephesus, finding certain disciples said unto them have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? As though to believe is one thing, and then to receive the Holy Spirit is a subsequent experience. And the tract began. “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” And the tract added big bold letters. “Have you? Have you? Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? Have you?” That’s the way it began.
The only thing about the tract is this unfortunately the Bible was not written in the English of the King James Version. The Bible, the New Testament, is written in Greek. And the Greek of this reads, Have ye received the Holy Spirit? pisteusantes. That’s an aorist participle. And it means literally “Did you receive the Holy Spirit back there when you believed?” [Acts 19:1-2] That’s exactly the translation. Have you received, did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? When you were converted, when you were saved, when you were born again did you receive the Holy Spirit? For the gift of the Holy Spirit is in our salvation.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is connected with our repentance and our faith and our conversion. For example at Pentecost, listen to Simon Peter as he says. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ because of eis, the Greek preposition eis, “because of the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2:37-38].
The gift of the Spirit is connected with repentance and with commitment and with deeds. And He is given to us when we are saved. By that Holy Spirit of God are we all baptized into the body of Christ. And when we’re converted, when we are saved, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. The outpouring of the ascension gift of heaven is dropped safe and mediated unto us, when we are converted.
Now the Holy Spirit is a person. He is somebody, and this of course is a mystery of the Trinity. When we are converted, we are given the Holy Spirit, that somebody, God with us, God in us, God living, God directing, God teaching, God keeping. We are given the Holy Spirit. We’re not given like a hand or like a foot or like His ear.
You are a person. When you come into somebody’s house, do you send a hand over there, and do you send a foot over there, or do you send a ear over there or an eye over there. You are there. If you come, you are there. So it is with the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is a person and God does not dribble Him out piece at a time, finger at a time, toe at a time, hand at a time. God does not give, as John writes in John 3:34, God does not give the Holy Spirit by measure. He doesn’t dribble it out. He doesn’t parcel it out. When the Holy Spirit is present, He is present. All of Him is present. We have all of Him, everything of the Holy Spirit, everything of God. When we are saved, and when we trust, and when we commit our lives and accept Jesus, God gives us everything, the whole person of the Spirit of God.
Our problem is the Holy Spirit doesn’t have us. There’s this chamber in our lives and we block that out. And there’s this part of our minds and we block that out. And there’s this part of the house of our living and we shut that. And there are these carnal visions, and there are these selfish purposes, and there are these compromises and there are these things in our lives and the Holy Spirit has such a little of us, such a small compartment of us.
And that’s why we have to wrestle and fight and beg and pray, O God this sinful life of mine. O God this selfish soul of mine. O God this difficult life of mine. O God. O God. And as we lie prostrate before the Lord you may have a second blessing. The Holy Spirit in you may get the victory over one part of your life. And then you may have a third blessing and the Holy Spirit will get the victory over another part of your life. And then as you plead and pray and study the word and commit your life to God, you may have a fourth blessing as the Holy Spirit gets a hold of another part of your life. And you may have a sixth blessing and a seventh one and an eighth one, until finally the day might come when the Holy Spirit could have all of us, all of us, every part of me, every part of me, every vision and dream, every word of me. Oh wouldn’t it be great?
Like I read in a poem a few Sundays ago starting off with all of self and none of Thee. And then as the Spirit strives with us, some of self and some of Thee. That as the Spirit pleads with us, less of self and more of Thee, and as the Spirit pleads with us, finally, none of self and all of Thee.
O grant it Lord, in Thy grace and goodness, and in Thy loving and infinite mercy. O God, that the Lord may have us. And our whole lives flow unto Jesus.
Now we must close before we sing our hymn of appeal. Somebody you give himself to the Lord today. “Preacher I open my heart. I turn in repentance, and in faith and look to Jesus.” While we sing this song of appeal, while God’s Holy Spirit convicts, woos, invites, speaks, while we sing this song and the Spirit of Jesus makes appeal to your heart, come to Thee.
“Preacher I just give myself into the hands of God and here I am. I open my heart to let Jesus come in, the Holy Spirit of God to possess me and to lead me, and to guide me, and to keep me. No power in me, no ableness in me but I yield to the Spirit of God and here I am, here I come.” Putting your life in the church, however the Spirit of the Lord shall lead in the way, make it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.