The Work in Ephesus
by Bobby Bruno 3/25/2014 / Christian Apologetics
The disciples Paul met in Ephesus had not participated in a universal Christian initiation. These disciples had only listened to John the Baptist and had gotten baptized because John had said that they needed to confess their sins and be baptized into repentance (Mt 3:11). So their spiritual renewal only went that far and is only a part of what must happen for a person to be saved into the family of God. This situation in Ephesus "cannot possibly be regarded as providing a norm for two-stage initiation" (p. 304) because the disciples hadn't yet developed faith in Jesus yet, they went on the words of John the Baptist in what they had to do to be saved. As John Stott says in his book "The Message of Acts" a two-stage initiation consists of first faith in Christ and then the receiving of the Holy Spirit. These disciples had not had the chance to see or hear Jesus as He hadn't began His ministry yet for them to be convinced that they needed to put their faith in Him for the remission of their sins. Once they met Paul and heard more about Jesus and what He had done in His life on the earth, they immediately placed their faith in Him and were baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as Jesus had instructed His disciples to do. They received the Holy Spirit when all of the other criteria were satisfied first.
There are four parts of a "universal Christian initiation." These parts are "repentance, faith in Jesus, water baptism, and the gift of the Spirit" (p. 305). When a person, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, begins to realize that their sins are many and need to be forgiven, they will first feel the guilt of those sins and will see their great need to repent of those sins. To accomplish this, the Spirit allows the man or woman to place their faith in Jesus that He can and will forgive them of their sins if they just believe that He can and will. At this point, a sinner has been saved and regenerated into a new creature, free to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives.
Next, the believer has to be baptized which symbolizes the washing clean of their sins and example of following Christ into His death and resurrection. Shortly after, the Holy Spirit will ignite the believer and allow them to speak in tongues and will allow them to follow God's plan for their lives.
In Ephesus, it didn't happen in this order. Since Jesus hadn't yet begun His ministry, the disciples would not have heard about the forgiveness of sins through Jesus' death and resurrection. All they knew was what John was teaching about repentance and baptism. This teaching did not include a proclamation that a person needed to have faith in Christ since He had not arrived on the scene yet to let seekers know what a seeker needed to do to be saved. Since the disciples in Ephesus had only completed one half of the Christian salvation equation they were not changed by the Spirit at their repentance, but were changed when they confessed their sins and put their faith in what Jesus had done on the cross. Now they could proclaim the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ since they now knew the whole truth. John the Baptist provided the groundwork to salvation; Jesus came along to finish the process.
Stott, J. (1990). The message of acts. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.