What Does It Mean to Be “Called”

Question:  What does it mean to be called?ordination

Answer:  It usually means to be selected by God to do some form of full-time ministry.  The bigger question is how that happens?  Undoubtedly God has put it on the hearts of some individuals that they are to pursue full time pastoring or missions, etc.  But this should always and will always be accompanied by gifts God gives to these individuals that are recognized by faithful members of the Body of Christ.  An example of this is Acts 13:1-3 where Paul and Barnabas are said to be called by God and through prophetic utterance the church is told to set them apart for missions ministry.  But they have already been demonstrating gifting and faithful service for years.  Can someone resist this calling or forfeit it by misconduct?  I think so.  Paul said he labored to maintain faithful ministry lest he be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).

In one sense every Christian is called.  We are all subject to obey the great commission Jesus gave us before he ascended to heaven (Matthew 28:19,20).  We may also say we have a career calling.  But the call to carry out the great commission is the highest priority.  Nevertheless, God often wants us to use our career calling to help establish our witness and enhance our ability to carry out the great commission.  Some are called to make doing the great commission their entire focus, usually with the idea of helping the rest of the Body become more equipped to do their part in making disciples of all nations (Ephesians 4:11,12).

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Does Someone Have to Lay Hands on Me to Receive the Holy Spirit?

Question:  In Acts, in more than one place, the disciples were speaking to the ones that were called Christians, and asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit?  If the answer was no, they laid hands on them, at which time, they received the Holy Spirit.  The question was raised, Does the Holy Spirit come at the moment you receive Christ, or is there another anointing of the Spirit?

Answer:  There are four instances of the Holy Spirit baptizing believers.  I use this term because this is what John the Baptist foretold that the Messiah would do, baptize believers with the Holy Spirit, and what he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for.  It happened to all these Jewish believers on the Day of Pentecost and Peter then preached to more Jews assembled in Jerusalem for this festival and 3,000 believed and were told that they would receive the Holy Spirit.

It happened again according to Acts 8 to Samaritan believers who had responded to the preaching of Philip.  However, they could not receive this Spirit baptism until Peter and John laid hands on them.

It happened a third time to Gentiles who were listening to Peter preach and while he was still preaching.  No one laid hands on them and they hadn’t even been water baptized.

It happened one more time to some disciples of John the Baptist who had left Israel before they were introduced to Jesus and when Paul explained Jesus to them they were water baptized and, after he laid hands on them, baptized in the Spirit (Acts 19).

In the first three cases the apostle Peter was present.  I believe this is because Jesus gave him the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19).  So for each different people group admitted into the church, Peter had to open the door, so to speak.  With the Samaritans and Gentiles his presence guaranteed that there was only one church, all under the leadership of Jesus’ apostles.  The Samaritans could not say they received the Holy Spirit’s baptism without Jewish leadership, nor could the Gentile believers.

When Paul confronted the disciples of John in Acts 19 his question of them tells us that he understood the norm to be receiving the baptism in the Spirit when you believed (verse 2, the correct translation).  They were an oddity in that they had not had the opportunity to know the full gospel.  They had believed God’s prophet, John, but had missed the events of the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

All this is to say, the norm today is to receive the Holy Spirit, be baptized in Him, when you believe.  No one has to lay hands on you.  This is why Paul can say to the Corinthians, “We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).  Today, there is no believer who has not been baptized in the Spirit.  We have all been immersed into His life and His life has begun to manifest itself in us.

This does not mean we have fully surrendered ourselves to all that He has for us.  The Holy Spirit wants to make us like Christ and there are many things He wants to do to move us in that direction.  He also wants to work through us to bless others.  Consequently He gives us many experiences of His presence that we may resist or receive.  If we are open to what He wants to do there are many wonderful ways in which we will see His life exuded through ours.

Randall Johnson

What is the value of water baptism?

Question:  What is the purpose of water baptism? Is it a sign of the believer’s covenant  with the Lord, similar to circumcision? At the very least, it seems valuable to me as a   tangible memory or similar to building an altar of remembrance of one’s new commitment to Christ. However, many today wait a long time to be baptized; this is in contrast to the New Testament times where people seemed to be baptized quickly.

Answer:  There are those who believe that water baptism is essential to salvation.  They will point to such passages as Acts 2:38 in which Peter says “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” and Acts 22:16 where Ananias instructs Paul to “be baptized and wash away your sins.”  But Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 that this is not the case.  He writes:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.  (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

If baptism was essential to salvation, Paul could not and should not have separated it from preaching the gospel.  Christ, indeed, would have sent him to baptize if it were required.

But if it is not essential for salvation, or doesn’t actually wash away sins, then what does it do?  And I believe it does what you suggested.  It is a symbol that is an aid to faith.  Faith is what saves us, is what washes away our sins, but baptism gives visible and tactile expression to that faith.  Human beings need to give such expression to our inward beliefs to help solidify them in our souls.

In addition, the outward demonstration of faith given in baptism helps others to be more aware of our faith and acts as an encouragement to their own faith.  The Bible does not emphasize this but it is a reality.  And you are correct that normally new believers were almost immediately baptized upon conversion.  This did not always give much opportunity for a crowd to gather.  So the symbol is much more for the believer than for his or her fellow Christians.

However, there is nothing that says we must be baptized immediately.  The early church began a process of teaching new converts to ascertain whether they were genuine followers of Christ before baptizing them.  This seems to go too much counter to the New Testament example.  But for us to make it a part of a community worship opportunity seems a judicious use of the symbol to help everyone rejoice with the new convert.

Randall Johnson

Other articles on baptism:

Is the Mode of Baptism Inconsequential?

What Does Your Church Believe About Baptism?

Did Paul die when he was stoned in Lystra?

The lapidation of Saint Stephen.

Image via Wikipedia

Question: In Acts 14:19,20 after Paul was stoned by the mob, it says, they “dragged him out of the city, apparently dead. But as the believers stood around him, he got up and went back into the city.” (NLT) Was Paul raised from the dead by God’s power or did he just look dead, and was really not?

Answer: We are not told whether he died or not. But unless the people of Lystra were just really incredibly bad at stoning people, it is hard to believe that Paul did not come away from this at least badly injured. His ability to just get up and go back into the town seems a testimony to God’s healing power in his life at this moment. It is interesting that it does not say the believers prayed over him but that they stood around him, but undoubtedly they were talking to God about this. Perhaps they thought he was dead and there was no need to pray. But God chose to heal Paul or maybe He actually raised him from the dead. In either case it seems to have been a miracle. Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 11:25 a stoning he experienced and it is probably this one in Acts which is in view.

Randall Johnson