Before we accept any large changes in our lives, we want to have an assurance that what we are committing to is true and that those presenting the information to us have the credentials to support their assertions. Before I recently allowed that doctor in Baltimore to chop out a hunk of bone in my knee and replace it with metal parts, I researched his credentials and the new robotic technological process he was promoting. When any of us have hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest for retirement, we only go to and receive investment counsel from someone who is accredited and reputable toward knowing how to advise us well.
This process of vetting someone or something involves us seeking validation for our hopes and faith. And likewise, people who were familiar with a part of God’s grand story, though lacking knowledge of God’s magnificent work of grace in the person of Christ, would want to have assurances that the emissary and preacher of this was a valid representative of God. And they would want to have confidence that the message was truth.
As at the end of the previous chapter in the account of Apollos, we see again today some believers who were familiar with God’s truth to the extent of the teaching of John the Baptist. They gladly receive Paul’s additional instruction, are baptized, and the Holy Spirit comes in the same fashion as in previous examples of a new work of grace.
Acts 19:1 – While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 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.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 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.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
This is the third occasion in the book of Acts of the occurrence of speaking in tongues. Each occasion is for the purpose of validation – here validating Paul’s message. The first was in Acts 2:1-4 where tongues validated the fulfillment of the passage quoted from Joel 2 about a new work of God. And in Acts 10:44-47 on the occasion of the conversion of Cornelius and his household, the validation was to demonstrate God’s acceptance of Gentiles.
Validating our message today is primarily the completed Word of God. Therein is the power and authority, as the Spirit of God uses His Word to convict and instruct those who hear. God may use extraordinary circumstances and events in such a way that are even miraculous (such as the way these people in the passage come into contact with Paul), but our primary source of truth and authority is the Scripture. We keep coming back to that, don’t we? There is no substitute for the hard but beneficial work of knowing and growing in God’s written truth.