Praying in Between

September 16, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Jesus told them to wait, but He also gave them a promise. Waiting on God’s promises to come to pass is not a waiting-to-see-IF; it’s a waiting-to-see-WHEN.

And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.

Acts 1:4

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Acts 1:14

In Verse 4 they had “assembled together” physically, and now they were waiting together (“with one accord”) spiritually.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:4

During the interim period between the promise and the fulfillment, they spent their time in prayer and supplication. Why would we pray for God to bring to pass what He has already promised He will do? For one thing, God commands us to do it (Luke 18:1; I Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18; Jeremiah 33:3). For another thing, God often uses prayer as the means of accomplishing His will (James 5:16).

Notice also that in Acts 1:14 and Acts 2:4 ALL of those to whom the promise was made were filled with the Holy Ghost. There were not some who were “Spirit-baptized” with some type of second-level anointing. All who were filled with the Spirit were filled with the same Spirit in the same way and at the same time.

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God’s Decretive Will

May 20, 2015 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Where There's a Way There's a Will | 12 Comments
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There are two main ways to think about the will of God. One is to think about His will in general. What is He doing? What is He accomplishing with His existence? The other, more common way, is to think, “What is His will for my life?” I would like to offer some ways in which we can think about God’s will systematically.

The first of these falls under the heading: God’s Decretive Will (His will of decree), meaning what He has decreed or commanded to come to pass. Or, to put it another way, what He has ordered, or spoken into existence. This is sometimes called His absolute sovereign will. This is how we think about God’s will in the sense that it can not be resisted. For example:

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

God’s decretive will can not be resisted, much less overcome. Other examples of this kind of exercise of God’s will would be: the speaking into existence of all of creation; the manna falling from Heaven; and the unredeemed and Satan being cast into the lake of fire at the final judgment; just to name a few.

God’s decretive will often acts through the means of human agency, and sometimes completely overrules human choices. In Acts Chapter 4 Peter and John healed a lame man, and ended up being brought before the council. The authorities could not deny the divine healing, nor even the truth of their message, but they threatened them to stop preaching, to which they responded that they could not. They had to obey God even if the government said it was illegal. Then they went back and reported to the other disciples what God had done, and here is what they said:

And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

Acts 4:24

God did the acts ascribed to Him in Verse 24 by His decretive will.

Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?

Acts 4:25

The people who instigated and demanded Jesus’s execution were furious at Him for claiming to be God.

The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.

Acts 4:26

The people in charge summoned all their authority and effort. The Jewish leaders and Roman authorities worked together for one evil, united purpose.

For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

Acts 4:27-28

But, despite their total assumption of the control they wielded, they ended up doing exactly what God wanted done.

Beware the Fear that Falls

February 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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After Jesus was Resurrected He stayed on the earth for 40 days, then ascended into Heaven. Next came the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit appeard and indwelled the believers who waited in the upper room. This was the beginning of a new era, in which all who believed on Christ unto salvation would receive the Holy Spirit. It was also the beginning of the time during which the New Testament was written – as the same Spirit inspired Apostles and prophets to reveal God’s inerrant and infallible Word.

It was an exciting time, and new Christians were very enthusiastic about financially supporting the work of getting the Gospel message spread throughout the world. However, whenever there is opportunity for ministry, there is also opportunity for recognition, and the desire for recognition can be a dangerous thing.

A married couple named Ananias (the husband) and Sapphira (the wife), wanted to show that they were willing to sacrifice for the work of the ministry, so they sold some land they owned, and brought the money from the sale, laying it openly at the Apostles’ feet. This sounds spiritual and inspiring, but the problem was that Satan influenced them to lie about what they were doing. They pretended to turn over the total amount of money they received from the sale of the land, but they secretly kept a portion of it for themselves.

The result for both of them, beginning with Ananias, was disastrous. Peter found out the truth and rightfully accused him of lying to the Holy Ghost and to God.

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

Acts 5:5

The Bible says that Ananias “fell,” and he did. He physically fell down dead. But his spiritual fall had come earlier, when he decided to try to deceive God and His people. In order to impress upon the early Christian believers how important it would be that the Gospel ministry be handled with honesty and forthrightness among them, the Holy Spirit caused “great fear” to come upon everyone who found out about Ananias’s fate.

We need to remember this principle as Christians even 2000 years later. A desire to exalt ourselves above our fellow Christians and to proudly make ourselves seem extraordinarily spiritual could very well result in a great (possibly embarrassing, possibly humiliating, possibly even deadly) fall. God is a loving Father, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter, and the Lord Jesus is a caring Shepherd and Friend, but the Triune God is not to be trifled with. A healthy fear and respect of His omniscience and power over life and death will remind us that our outward actions are never to be hypocritically severed from our inward motives.

Unction in Church

April 15, 2013 at 10:19 am | Posted in C.H.U.R.C.H. | 6 Comments
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C.hrist
H.oliness
U.nction
R.
C.
H.

Unction = power. Unction is what makes something move or something change. One of the ways God chooses to exercise His power in this world is through His Church.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Acts 2:1

This was the first time that a group of people in the New Testament received the power – the unction – of the Holy Spirit permanently. And this power resulted in:

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:41 (emphasis added)

Now that’s unction!

Acts

December 7, 2011 at 9:53 am | Posted in Acts | Leave a comment
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The Books of Acts records the organization and spreading of the Christian Church at its beginnings. Many of the things we do today in church – evangelism, preaching, praying, singing, fellowshipping, sharing meals, ministering to the needy, missions and missionary support – are patterned on the way things were done by the early Church in the 1st Century. Acts is an invaluable resource for Christians today. Below are links to lessons which feature some of the highlights from the Book of Acts:

1. Powerful Changes
2. The Power of the Resurrection and of the Holy Ghost 
3. Praying in Between
4. In One Place in One Accord
5. Unction in Church
6. For the Ladies…
7. Acts and the Apostles: Activated, Authorized, Audible, and Accountable
8. From Power to Proclamation to Prayer *
9. God’s Decretive Will
10. The Blessing and the Cost of an Honest Report
11. Beware the Fear that Falls
12. Exposing the Enemy and Going Forth with the Truth
13. Changing Names and Calling Names
14. Catechism Question 18
15. Testing Your Testimony

16. Preaching, Pressing, and Pushing On
17. The Life of a Missionary: Having a Fit, Making a Tough Choice, and Singing in Jail
18. The Most Important Question in Life
19. Don’t Get Caught Up the Creek Without Your Oars
20. Varied Results
21. Time Is Running Out
22. Insincerity, Inaccuracy, or Incompletion?
23. Promoted with Straight “A”s
24. The Man Who Fell out of Church (Narrative)
25. The Man Who Fell out of Church (Application)
26. Conscious of the Conscience
27. Innocent Bystanders
28. The More You See, the Better You Look
29. The Backstroke

30. When in Rome, Preach to the Romans

*most read post in series

When in Rome, Preach to the Romans

December 15, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Acts, Resurrection | 7 Comments
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Acts Chapter 24 tells us that Ananias followed Paul to Caesarea with his lawyer, Tertullus. There, they brought false charges against Paul under Roman law. The charges were as follows:

1. Disturbing the peace (being a pest by preaching the only way to true peace).
2. Sedition by leading an illegal religion (being a true Christian).
3. Profaning the temple (being friends with gentiles).

The Jews were afraid of a revival, but they wanted the Romans to fear a riot.

This was Paul’s summation:

Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day. And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.

Acts 24:20-21

He brought up the Resurrection, which forced the Pharisees’ hand, and we see that Felix had some knowledge of “the Way.”

Paul was given certain liberties, but he was chained to a new Roman guard every six hours. Talk about a “captive congregation!” For two years he witnessed for the Lord in Caesarea as a prisoner.

He also got a chance to preach to Felix and Drusilla. Before them, he explained a fact of life that we don’t often call by its real name anymore. We tend to call it mistakes, weaknesses, tendencies, faults, errors, immaturity, or illness. But its real name is sin. Felix was convicted and he trembled, but he decided to procrastinate. Procrastination is one of Satan’s greatest tools. Felix thought Paul was his prisoner, but Felix was really the prisoner.

By Chapter 25 Felix had put the high priest, Jonathan, to death. The new high priest was Ishmael. Festus had replaced Felix as governor. Festus had to report to Marshal Dillon. (Sorry, I grew up watching Gunsmoke, and couldn’t resist!) Ishmael and the Jewish council revived the plot to kill Paul, so they wanted him returned to Jerusalem for his trial. They were going to kill him on the way there. However, Paul – as a Roman citizen – applied to Caesar Augustus (who we know as Nero), so he had to be protected and taken to Rome.

The last “King Herod” (Agrippa) shows up (possibly in an incestuous relationship with his sister, Bernice), and he and Festus decide that Herod will examine Paul. But Paul turned into the judge and proclaimed the Truth to Festus, Herod, Bernice, and everyone else in attendance. This is the longest of Paul’s sermons recorded in the Bible. It is found in Acts 25:32 – 26:32. Here is a loose outline of it:

1. Paul used to be very religious.
2. His eyes were opened by the Light.
3. His ears were opened by the Word.
4. He obeyed the Word.
5. He began his new life by seeing a vision and hearing a voice, but he had continued faithfully as a willing slave – even when things seemed impossible.

Festus accused Paul of being “beside himself,” and King Agrippa mocked him. However, we must wonder if this mocking was covering up an inside struggle when he said:

…Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Acts 26:28 (emphasis added)

Do you know somebody who thinks he or she is too wicked to be a Christian?

Paul was officially declared not guilty, but still had to be sent to Rome by virtue of his appeal to Caesar. Chapter 27 shows that Satan very badly wanted to keep Paul out of Rome. Paul had already survived plots to kill him, riots, arrests, two illegal trials, and now a shipwreck!

Paul advised that they wait in Fair Havens for safer sailing after the winter, but the Roman captain listened to the pilot and the owner – the “experts.” (Warren Wiersbe says that an “expert” is a regular “spurt” under pressure.) These experts were under pressure to deliver grain and make money.

Even in Acts 28, Satan is still not done – he sends a snake to bite Paul on Malta! When Paul doesn’t die, he is tempted in the area of pride by people who want to worship him. Satan is pulling out all the stops.

For two years Paul was chained to Roman soldiers in Rome, witnessing, preaching, and being used to write Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. He was probably released, and he probably went to Spain where he was used to write I and II Timothy, and Titus. He was arrested again in A.D. 67, and tradition says he was beheaded. The Gospel he preached and lived so passionately lives on, and it always will.

The More You See, the Better You Look

December 1, 2009 at 10:42 am | Posted in Acts, Biblical Eyesight | 15 Comments
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In Acts Chapter 22 the Apostle Paul is telling the story of how he went from being the lost, hell-bound Saul of Tarsus, to being the saved, Heaven-bound man of God. Having been struck blind on the road to Damascus by the overwhelming glory of Christ Jesus Himself, Paul is taken to a devout Jewish man named Ananias. We pick up the story in Verse 13:

…Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.

Acts 22:13-15 (emphasis added)

In these three verses there are five references to the gift of sight. Saul had received a great gift from the Lord – the ability to see again. However, that gift was not given just for the purpose of being a gift. It was a gift given for a reason. The reason was so that Saul could see the Just One, Jesus Christ, and then tell others about Him, and so that others might see Him, too.

Eyesight is one of the greatest earthly gifts of God there is. However, we have an amazing ability to receive earthly gifts from God, and then make those gifts, rather the Giver of those gifts, the objects of our attention, affection, and even adoration.

The same can be said of spiritual gifts. Have you been given the gift of being able to be forgiving? Then, rejoice! But do not think of yourself as an expert on forgiveness, and revel in pride over how forgiving you can be. Think of forgiveness as a gift given to help you understand how much it cost God, and how much He must have loved you, to forgive you. Forgiveness is a gift that removes a barrier so that you can see God better!

Have you been given the gift of victory over sin to the extent where you are able to live a more pure and holy life? Then, rejoice! But do not think of yourself as an authority on personal purity and holy living. Think of purity and holiness as a gift which allows you into the intimate presence of the Pure and Holy God, so that you may see Him better! (Matthew 5:8)

Have you been given the gift of spiritual insight? Then, rejoice! But do not rejoice that you have become the person that people seek out when they have spiritual questions or problems, and do not expect the praise or compensation of men when you are able to help them. Instead, think of spiritual insight as a way to better know God!

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

Conscious of the Conscience

November 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Acts | 15 Comments
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Acts Chapter 20 is the beginning of the farewell section of Acts. The Apostle Paul had a genuine love for the churches the Lord had used him to start, and he wanted to visit them one last time. It was while he was in Corinth that the Holy Ghost gave him the Book of Romans.

When Paul, Luke, Timothy, and Titus meet at Troas, we get a picture of their church services: they met on the Lord’s Day, at night, at someone’s house. They shared a meal. Then they observed the Lord’s Supper, and they declared the Word of God. The Holy Spirit gives us the account of Eutychus – the man who fell out of church (literally!)

Paul went to report to the Ephesian elders. His report is written as more of an address than a sermon. It is not what we would consider “evangelistic.”

In this report Paul describes the past (Acts 20:18-21), and he highlights his faithfulness. He describes the present (Acts 20:22-27), and explains how he had no interest in doing anything other than serving the Lord. He describes the future (Acts 20:28-35) as being a time of coming dangers.

In Acts 21 we find that a large part of Paul’s third missionary journey was spent collecting a love offering from the gentile churches to send to the Jerusalem church. He was also occupied battling the Judaizers, who were very determined.

It was Paul’s desire not to see Christianity defiled with a mixture of Judaism. This desire for the purity of the Gospel message drove him to Jerusalem despite of all the warnings not to go there. When Paul reported about his trip, the Judaizers were ready right away with their rumors. Paul tried to cooperate by not giving offense, but he could not compromise the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and he could not compromise in the area of undivided fellowship with the gentiles.

Paul was arrested wrongfully when a riot broke out. The riot was caused by Jews who claimed he had brought his gentile friends into the temple. The Roman authorities kept him from being killed. They thought he was someone else at first, but he spoke Greek to them, so they let him speak to the Jews, and he then spoke Aramaic.

Paul declared what he had personally seen and been involved in:

And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

Acts 21:19

He was impressing the Jews with this testimony until he mentioned the word “gentiles.” That word almost started another riot.

Claudius was going to have Paul scourged, but then Paul revealed that he was a Roman citizen. Roman citizens were not to be bound or scourged. Claudius had obtained his Roman citizenship by bribery. Paul had inherited his Roman citizenship from his father – he was “born free.”

It had been preordained that Paul was going to Rome – it’s just that God was making it so that Rome would foot the bill for the journey: Paul was going as a prisoner.

There is no Acts 12:5 in Acts Chapter 22.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

Acts 12:5

Paul was in prison. The Judaizers were probably influencing the church in Jerusalem. And Satan was probably influencing the Judaizers. We must never let Satan stop our prayers.

In Acts Chapter 23 Paul is taken by the Roman captain before the Sanhedrin. He testified as a defendant, but his testimony was really preaching.

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

Acts 23:1

When the Bible uses the Word “conscience” in this verse, the Holy Ghost is telling us that our conscience applies the standard for our behavior, not that it sets the standard. You may have seen the stereotypical movie tough guy who lives by a “code.” He will rob, kill, and extort, but he won’t allow a lady to be insulted, or maybe he won’t shoot somebody in the back. That is the world’s idea of “conscience,” in which each person determines his own behavior by whatever happens to offend him or her. It is not the Bible’s idea of conscience.

We do not know if the Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Hebrews, but we do know that one reason it was written was to explain the difference between being a Jewish Christian and a Jew who wants to be called a Christian. Hebrews explains the seared and the evil conscience. The Apostle Paul used the word “conscience” 21 times in his letters.

Paul didn’t particularly enjoy being slapped in the face as a petty raging insult by Ananias the high priest, and he called him a “whited wall.” Then he brought up the Resurrection – which he knew would divide the council. The Sanhedrin had now officially rejected Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

Paul’s sister and nephew warned Claudius of a plot to kill Paul, so Claudius knew he had to get him out of Jerusalem. He had Paul taken to Caesarea and turned over to Felix the Roman governor and imprisoned in the palace.

Promoted with Straight “A”s

October 28, 2009 at 7:44 am | Posted in Acts | 7 Comments
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May the Lord grant our true Christian local churches sweet fellowship of the kind we see in Acts. In Chapter 20, we see a church meeting that got straight “A”s. First of all, they had the right Attitude. They met on the first day of the week, because, in all things, they endeavored to put Christ first.

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together…

Acts 20:7

Second, they Ate. The breaking of bread (enjoying a meal together) was common practice for these believers, and it also allowed them to observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.

…the disciples came together to break bread…

Acts 20:7

Third, they Assembled. How important it is for Christians to regularly attend church!

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

Acts 20:8

Fourth, they Announced the Good News. The preaching of God’s Word must be the central component of any church service.

…Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Acts 20:7

Fifth, they saw the power of the Lord in Action. Wonderful blessings are often imparted to believers when they gather together in obedience to Scripture.

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Acts 20:9-12

Start each week off right! Give God your first and your best by heading for His house each and every Sunday morning.

Insincerity, Inaccuracy, or Incompletion?

October 12, 2009 at 8:51 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Acts | 4 Comments
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In Acts Chapter 18 Paul goes from Athens to Corinth. Corinth was a very unlikely place to start a church. Since Paul went to Corinth alone, it was clear that, if he was to be successful there, God would have to intervene. Corinth was the Las Vegas or New Orleans of its day. It was a place of vice, greed, and wicked spiritualism.

God knew that many of those in Corinth who pretended to be involved in spiritual pursuits were actually trying to manipulate people out of greed. So He allowed Paul to be distinct by earning his living making tents.

And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

Acts 18:3

God took care of the problem of Paul being alone in Corinth by providing Aquila and Priscilla, a married couple. Paul worked during the week and preached on the Sabbath. Then God sent financial help with Timothy and Silas, which allowed Paul to preach full-time.

When Paul encountered opposition in the synagogue, God sent Titus Justus to open a place for him to preach right next to the synagogue.

And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

Acts 18:7-8

The chief ruler of the synagogue was saved!

Paul carried out the Great Commission, and he received the assurance from Jesus that is attached to it.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:

Acts 18:8-9

Paul never quit; opposition only strengthened his commitment. The blessing of the Old Testament is prosperity; the blessing of the New Testament is persecution.

When the Jews tried to take the Christians to court, God intervened, and caused Gallio, the Roman proconsul, to declare the preaching of Christianity a Jewish religious matter, and not a matter of Roman law.

Paul was in Corinth for about 18 months. Then he went back to report at Antioch, and then back to Ephesus. This would be his third missionary journey.

Ephesus did not have Corinth’s reputation for wickedness, but it had a population of about 300,000 people, compared to Corinth’s 200,000. Ephesus was steeped in idolatry. It was the capital of Asia. The temple of Diana there was one of the “seven wonders of the world.” Paul stayed in Ephesus about three years.

In Acts Chapter 19 we see a historical oddity: people who sincerely professed to be Christian disciples, but who were lacking the Holy Spirit. Their testimony was not insincere, but it was probably inaccurate, and it was it was definitely incomplete.

The ministry of John the Baptist – probably through Apollos – had a big influence in Alexandria and Ephesus, so these men were disciples of the teaching of John the Baptist.

Here is what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit in connection with salvation:

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Romans 8:9

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Ephesians 1:13

The requirement today for Holy Spirit baptism is not water baptism. It is not the laying on of hands. It is salvation. These men in Acts 19 knew that John the Baptist had prophesied about the giving of the Holy Spirit, but they did not know at first that it had already happened.

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