God’s Word for You
Acts 8:14-17 The blessings of baptism
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 10, 2020
14 Back in Jerusalem, when the apostles heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
When news that the gospel had reached Samaria came to the Christians in Jerusalem, the apostles sent a pair from their number to go to them. This wasn’t to check up on Philip, whom they knew and trusted, but rather to rejoice in the success of the gospel and to offer the hand of fellowship to the Samaritans.
Incidentally, this passage (8:14-17) is the last direct appearance of the apostle John in Acts, although his name will come up in relation to his brother James later on (12:2). Apart from the incident in Galatians 2:9-10, this is the last we hear about John until the book of Revelation.
15 Those two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because he had not yet come upon any of them. They had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Luke says that the Samaritans had not received the Holy Spirit, he does not mean that the baptism Philip performed didn’t “take,” or was incorrectly done, or anything like that. As we already saw, the Holy Spirit records through Luke’s pen that the Samaritans (including the magician Simon) believed and were baptized. The baptism was a proper, Christian baptism.
However, something else was noticed by the apostles. None of the Samaritans had a special experience like the one the apostles had gone through at Pentecost. This kind of miracle doesn’t always happen. In fact, it rarely if ever happened again after this time. But the apostles had a reason to pray for it now. The Jews and the Samaritans had never been on good terms, but now that these Samaritans had become Christian, the apostles hoped that they would have a similar experience as the tongues at Pentecost to show that there was no difference between peoples in God’s eyes and in the church of Jesus Christ. Jew, Gentile, Hellenist or Samaritan—all have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.
Few if any people today are graced with the ability to speak in tongues following their baptism. But what blessing does the Bible tell us will certainly always come along with baptism?
1, Salvation, that is, the application of redemption. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Luther explained: “To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of baptism is to save. No one is baptized in order to become a prince, but as the words say, ‘to be saved.’ To be saved, as we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever.” (Large Catechism , Baptism, par. 24).
2, The change of heart, which is true repentance. “John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).
3, Regeneration (new life in Christ). “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5), “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
4, Forgiveness (remission) of sins. “What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away” (Acts 22:16).
5, A good conscience. “This water [of the Great Flood] symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21).
6, Entry into the communion of saints (membership in the Holy Christian Church). “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free.” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
7, We put on Christ (the way one puts on a garment). “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Our Confession explains: “There is a great difference between baptized people and unbaptized people because, according to the teaching of St. Paul, “all who have been baptized have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27), are thus truly born again, and now have a liberated will—that is, as Christ says, they have again been made free. As a result, they not only hear the word of God, but are also able to assent to it and accept it, even though it be in great weakness” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration  II,67).
8, The Gift of the Holy Spirit. “Afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28). This gift is not the permanent absence of any sin in man, but shows the tender love of God on sinners. Our Confession says: “The Holy Spirit, given in baptism, begins to mortify lust and to create new impulses in man. Augustine speaks the same way when he says, ‘Sin is forgiven in baptism, not that it no longer is, but it is not imputed.’” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession  II,35).
Cherish your baptism and the many gifts it has brought into your life. Through your baptism, you have a place in God’s family, you are attached to all of the blessings of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and you have the certainty of everlasting life. Praise God for this with your life and with your heart, and rejoice in the perpetual status of being freshly washed and renewed by the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Timothy Smith