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Sunday, July 23, 2017 am

BELIEVERS IN ACTS

 Quite often, we will appeal to the book of Acts for examples of what one needs to do in order to be saved.  It is the natural place to go as we have in this book an inspired history of the beginning of the church and its early growth, including a number of accounts of conversion.  When we examine these examples we can learn what we need to do to be saved (have our sins removed). 

Consider a chart which gives us 9 detailed examples of conversion in which they were baptized.  There is much to learn from these examples.  Today we merely mention them.

Some, when they produce this chart will say that every example in the book of Acts mentions baptism.  But if you examine that book you will see there are many examples that do not specifically mention baptism.  But does this nullify the need for baptism?  This morning I would like to consider a few things to help us answer this. 

 I.                     Several accounts only mention belief

a.       There are several examples in Acts that speak of people who became followers but only “belief” or something similar is mentioned.  In fact, these passages are actually more numerous than the 9 listed above.  Let us notices some of these. 

b.       Acts 4:4 –we read of the number of men who believed were about 5000.  This shows increase

c.        Acts 5:14, “And believers were increasingly added to the Lord.

d.       Acts 6:7 – many priests were obedient to the faith

e.       Acts 9:35 – those in Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord

f.         Acts 9:42 – in Joppa, many believed on the Lord

g.       Acts 11:21 – and a great number believed and turned to the Lord

h.       Acts 13:12, on the Isle of Paphos we read of Sergius Paulus, the proconsul, “believed.”

i.         Acts 13:48-49 – as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed

j.         Acts 14:1 – a great multitude of both Jews and Gentiles believed

k.        Acts 17:34 – some joined Paul after his sermon in Athens and believed.  Mentioned specifically are Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.

l.         Acts 19:18-19 –In Ephesus, many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds

m.     Many others could be added to these. I encourage you to read the book of Acts and notice how many times we have reference to those who believed.  BUT the question is do these passages NULLIFY the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins?

 II.                   These passages do NOT nullify the need to obey, including baptism!  Consider the following:

a.       The term belief can mean more than simply believing in something –

                                                   i.      It can have reference to merely believing in something.  That is, being exposed to information and accepting it as true or reliable.  This is the typical way believe is used (and what is meant by many advocates of “faith only”.  1 Cor. 11:18, “For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.
Matt. 9:28, Jesus asked two blind men, who had cried to Him for mercy (and healing), “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
Acts 26:27, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?  I know that you do believe.”  Paul spoke of facts he knew the king acknowledged.
 James 2:19 speaks of demons believing that there is one God and trembling.

                                                 ii.      Sometimes it is a belief that responds – much like faith (which is based upon the same root word as believe; typically, in the Greek – believe is the verb form and faith is the noun form) we often find belief that leads to obedience.
Hebrews 11 describes faith that did something, namely whatever God said to do.
Acts 8:12, concerning those in Samaria we read, “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”  Vs. 13, “Then Simon also believed, and he was baptized…”

                                                iii.      But often, it can be an inclusive statement for everything associated with one who believes God.   Sometimes the word believe means that one responds, without the details being specified.  They are included in the word.   Grammatically this is called synecdoche which means a figure of speech which expresses either more or less than is literally stated.  For example, “give me a hand” usually means you want the help of a person doing something (not just the hand).  “Wheels” can mean a car.
Luke 7:6 speaks of a centurion who had sent for Jesus to heal his servant, he sends servants telling him not to trouble himself, “For I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”  The term “under my roof” is a reference to his whole house.
Psalm 24:4 speaking of those who will ascend to the presence of God says, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart,…”   The hands and heart are representative of the whole person and describe his honorable.
It is in this sense that the word believe is often used to describe everything one did as a result of believing in God.
For example, in Acts 18:8 it says, “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household.
The Philippian jailer was told by Peter, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.  (Ac 16:31) 
You can investigate these accounts and see the inclusive nature of belief.     It is in this sense that we find many of the above passages, as we shall see.

b.       Consider the following passages as to how the word “believed” is used in Acts:

                                                   i.      Acts 2:44, “Now all who believed were together and had all things in common.”  

1.       Who were those who believed?  When you examine the entire context, we know this has reference to the 3000 who obeyed the gospel and others who had responded since that time in Jerusalem.  We know what the 3000 were commanded to do, “Repent and let everyone of you be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38)  

2.       Notice the word, “believed” would mean more than mere mental assent.  These brethren had obeyed and continued to obey God’s word.

3.        Yet all that is summarized in the word “believed” in vs. 44.

                                                 ii.      Acts 10:43, “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” 

1.       A unique account of conversion is the household of Cornelius.  And there are many lessons.  Cornelius, was the first Gentile convert.  He was a godly man who feared God and was generous, etc. (Acts 10:1-2) Peter was sent to him understanding that it was now time to go to the Gentiles.  The events that unfold in this chapter must keep that in mind. 

2.       As Peter was teaching we read the above verse.  It is sometimes used to teach that all one needs to do is believe to receive remission of sins.

3.       But consider the following.  After the Holy Spirit fell upon the household of Cornelius (as upon the 12 on Pentecost), Peter asks, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Ac. 10:47-48)
NOTE: Time will not permit a discussion of why the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius here, but it was NOT to save him, rather to confirm the message that the gospel was now to be declared to Gentiles.

4.       We can infer from this text, that the baptism Peter commanded was the same baptism we read of in Acts 2:38 which was immersion for the remission of sins.

5.       But the point is that in Acts 10:43, the term believe is more inclusive than mere mental acknowledgment of belief in Jesus.

6.       Notice also Ac. 11:17.  When Peter returns to Jerusalem, he is asked to defend why he went to the uncircumcised and ate with them (vs. 1-3).  Peter recounts the events of chapter 10, and concludes in vs. 17, “If therefore God gave them the same gifts as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?   As you study the account of the apostles, it is clear that they did more than simply believe.  Whether it dealt only with the apostles as they received the Holy Spirit, or with the 3000 that obeyed on Pentecost, the term believe was more inclusive than mere mental assent.

                                                iii.      Acts 16:34 – “Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”

1.       The account of the Philippian jailer is remarkable and needs special attention because of Paul’s answer when the jailer trembling before him asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (16:30)  The answer of Paul and Silas was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (vs. 31)

2.       Because this sounds so convincing, it is often used as a conclusive statement of all one needs to do to be saved – believe (mental assent).  BUT, is that what the text teaches?  It is not unusual for one who quotes this verse to stop right there and fail to finish the account.

3.       NOTICE how Paul’s statement was an introduction to everything he was about to say.   As you continue to read the context you find, “THEN they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” (vs.32) When Paul said, “believe” he hadn’t even introduced the message of Jesus to the jailer.

4.       As you read further, you find the response, “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.  And immediately he and all his family were baptized.” (Vs. 33)   It is implied in the text that a part of preaching the word of the Lord included the need to be baptized.  The jailer and his family responded “the same hour of the night” demonstrating the urgency of it being carried out. 

5.       NOW, notice vs. 34, as Paul and Silas were brought into the jailer’s house, he fed them and rejoiced, “having believed in God with all his household.”  (Vs. 34).   Did belief in this verse mean only mental assent or would it include all that we have read in this context?

                                                iv.      Acts 18:8 – “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household.” 

1.       Even though the next thing we read in the text is that many Corinthians, “hearing, believed and were baptized” (Vs.8), it is not specifically stated here that Crispus was baptized.  So does that mean that he was NOT baptized?

2.       We read again about Crispus in 1 Corinthians 1:14-15, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.”  In that text we find not only was Crispus baptized, but he was baptized BY Paul himself.

3.       This account lends strength to the point we are trying to make about believe sometimes meaning more than mere mental acknowledgment.  Acts 18:8 says Crispus believed, but we KNOW He did more and it would be included in that word!

                                                  v.      Acts 19:2 – “He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’

1.       On his 3rd missionary Journey Paul comes to Ephesus where he meets a group of 12 disciples.  He asks them the quote of our text.  They respond, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 

2.       Vs. 3, this prompts Paul to ask, “Into what then were you baptized?  NOTICE how Paul ties their baptism to “when you believed” demonstrating that the expression is inclusive of the belief process.

3.       This is followed by further teaching as he finds out they had been baptized with John’s baptism (which was no longer valid) so Paul more accurately taught them beginning at that point.  Vs. 4, “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

4.       AGAIN we find a response that goes beyond merely saying, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God” or “Lord, Save me.”  As Paul taught them saw a need to be properly baptized (for the right reason), because their previous baptism was not valid.

                                                vi.      Other examples could be added to these.

1.       In our initial list of passages, we find expressions such as, those who “turned to the Lord” (Ac. 9:35, 11:21), priests being “obedient to the faith” (6:7), etc.

2.       You also find other passages that simply mention disciples being multiplied without mentioning what they did (Acts 5:14, 6:1, 9:31, 11:24, 31; 12:24, etc.) – another indication that we don’t have every detail of every account, so we MUST put together a summary of what we need to do.

3.       The conclusion is that the term belief can be inclusive of all that was done as a result of their belief.

4.       That is why Jesus did not have to say in Mark 16:16, “ 

 III.                 Other thoughts:

a.       How many times does something have to be mentioned for it to be the truth?  
In Acts we have 9 examples that mention being baptized.  To reject the need for baptism, one must address and explain away each of these.  And then there is Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, etc.  And WE have to address passages such as Eph. 2:8-9, Romans 4, James 2:24, and the passages of Acts we have noted.  (We have!) They do not contradict one another.

b.       We understand the importance of context and we understand the importance of examining everything the Bible says about a subject.  That is how we reconcile supposed contradictions and sound bites that are often used to justify to sinful conduct (such as “judge not, lest you be judged) or to teach some pet doctrine.

c.        Imagine how the Bible would read if in every instance every detail had to be stated.  Imagine how our conversations would go if that were true.  It might remove doubt, but it would be redundant!  And is that really necessary?

d.       How many examples of salvation “by faith only” mention “the sinner’s prayer”?  Do we find Paul telling the jailer to pray the sinner’s prayer?  Yet, that is what you are told to do by many who deny that you have to do anything.  MY point, their rules of interpretation are not applied consistently.

 

And thus we can see belief in the book of Acts as it deals with our part in salvation.  It is important that we understand these things and that we be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in us.  When it comes to our salvation we need to make sure of it!  What about you?  Have you obeyed the gospel?   Are faithfully following it as a child of God? If not, you have opportunity right now to do so.  Come!