The Apostle Paul went to Ephesus and started talking about Yeshua and the one true God. Ephesus was predominately pagan and their idol was called, Artemis. Paul found a few disciples of Yeshua and asked them, ” ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John’s baptism,’ they replied. Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed
his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19: 2-6). In the Missouri country side, I ran across a small church that made a religion of this account. They concluded that everyone baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, or any other name, rather than solely the name of Jesus had received an ineffective salvation. I’ve known others who believed the Holy Spirit can only be received through the laying on of hands. Another doctrine associated with this passage is that speaking in tongues is the only evidence of impartation of the Holy Spirit. I will offer a doctrine of my own; we should ask every believer, as Paul did, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
Of course, this illustrates the problem of taking one scripture in isolation from all other scriptures. I think the real substance of the passage is that people may believe in God without a complete and adequate understanding of Yeshua, Messiah, which prevents the actual impartation and accompanying power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle’s understood that the goal was maturity in Yeshua. Paul said to the Galatians, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” (Gal. 4:19). He said this because they had discarded the Spirit led life and fallen into legalism. To the Ephesians he talked of the goal, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13). To the Philippians he acknowledged that it was truly God’s Sovereign work, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (Phil. 3:15). To the Colossians he said it most clearly, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Col. 1:28-29).
This has been upon my heart as I think of my children and my friends, who appear to be tossed about on waves of doubt and the constant deception, that we can handle things on our own. Of course, it’s very easy to see the failings and weakness of others. Still, my faith is in the Sovereign God Almighty to grow me and you up fully mature in Yeshua Messiah. For you my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will work so powerfully in you that unbelievers will be seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus will be held in high honor; that believers will be convicted of sin and openly confess what they have done, and that the word of the Lord will spread widely and grow in power.