Friday, August 6, 2010

Acts 10 and Chrismation

Whenever I bring out biblical support for the idea that the Holy Spirit is communicated by a sacrament performed by an ordained ministry, I always get this passage thrown at me:
(Acts 10:44-47) While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"

So, goes the Protestant argument, the Holy Spirit falls an people without the help of an ordained ministry. I think what is missed in this argument is that this is clearly an extraordinary situation, intended to parallel Pentecost:
(Acts 2:2-4) And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

On Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the Jewish Apostles, who then begin preaching to the Jews of Jesus the Messiah. Note the normative way that the Holy Spirit is given during this ministry:
(Acts 8:14-17) Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 9:17) So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

(Acts 19:5-6) On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

Finally, we must look at the basic instructions about the Gospel given by the book of Hebrews. The author writes:
(Hebrews 6:2) and of instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

These are, according to the author, the basic teachings of the Gospel. The laying on of hands, as we saw in the book of Acts, is the receipt of the Holy Spirit. Thus, this is written of as an essential part of Christian life. It is not something which occurs in extraordinary circumstances, but is a normative part of reception into the Church.

So then, what do we do with Pentecost and Acts 10? Pentecost is the initial giving of the Holy Spirit. Acts 10 shows that this Holy Spirit is to be given to Gentiles as well. Note that some of the Jews were very doubtful about this whole Gentile Christian business. So God displays that He has authorized the giving of the Spirit of God to Gentiles.

3 comments:

Lvka said...

Took the words right out of my mouth. :-) I've written an extremely-similar essay several years ago (in Romanian). It's not on-line or anything, I just have it on my computer, that's all...

Lvka said...

They also miss the absolutely-obvious: the wonder in question happened in the presence of the Holy Apostles, because of (or at least during) their preaching of the Holy Gospel:

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.

...and the very reason this even happened in the first place was for the express purpose of giving them a sign that they should indeed convert Gentiles also, and not just Jews, as they had previously thought...

Jnorm888 said...

They also miss the fact that the Angel had him go to an Apostle or person of the Church in the first place. The Angel didn't have him go start his own Church independent from what Jesus already started. We don't see the Holy Spirit going to Him before he was sent to Saint Peter. It happened while he was in his presence and still speaking to him. But you are right about Acts 10:44-47 being an extraordinary situation.

What seems to happen in some non-sacramental protestant circles is that they turn the exception to the rule into the new rule itself.

Just like the issue with the Thief on the Cross.






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