Is Ephesains 1:13 a Monkey-Wrench for Tongues?

Jason Dulle

Q: Praise the Lord! I am an man of like faith who is attending a charismatic bible college. I am pressed on all sides concerning my salvation doctrine. They use Ephesians 1:13 and other belief scriptures to show that one receives the Spirit at the point of faith. Can you exegete the Ephesians passage for me. I have shown them the Samaritans in Acts 8 and disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19 as evidence against this view, but they say that was the beginning of the church , and that the disciples of John were still under the old covenant and needed to hear the full plan of salvation still. Could you help me out!

A: Concerning Ephesians 1:13, the KJV reading makes it sound as though the receiving of the Spirit was after believing, which fits well with Oneness salvation theology. The NIV version makes it seem as though receiving the Spirit is contemporaneous with believing, which seems to contradict the same. In the Greek both "believed" and "received" are in the aorist tense, so this is a possible interpretation, but not necessarily the case. Many times one verse seems to teach a doctrine that others oppose. For example, Romans 5:12-21 seems to teach the doctrine of Universalism, i.e. everybody will be eventually be saved. The rest of the Scripture clearly teaches against this, however, so we understand Romans 5 in light of the rest of Scripture, and interpret Romans 5 accordingly. If we only had Romans 5, however, our doctrine of salvation would be quite different.

I said all of that to say that I believe this is the case here. Although Ephesians 1:13 could be taken to teach that believing and the reception of the Spirit are simultaneous experiences, Acts 8 definitely teaches that one does not necessarily receive the Spirit when they believe. The Samaritans had believed, and were even baptized, yet they still had not received the Holy Spirit. This leads me to believe that believing and receiving are separate.

The argument that this does not happen anymore, or that it only happened because it was in the beginning of the church, are absurd. How can a person prove that? Ask them to prove that assertion. They canít. It is not supported Biblically. Luke never said that the Samaritan experience was a rare experience that could not or would not be repeated again. This reasoning reflects the idea that the things which happened in the Bible days were limited to the Bible days and do not occur anymore. I question this assumption.. Did God intend to treat the early church different than the latter church? Did He have two programs for the church? Are people being saved in a different way today than they were in the Bible? Are there two forms of Christianity: first-century, and every century after that? No.

If it can ever be pointed out that anyone has believed, but did not immediately receive the Spirit, then it can be demonstrated that God does necessarily give the Spirit to someone when they believe. Even one exception, no matter what the condition, shows that the doctrine that everybody receives the Spirit at the point of initial faith in Christ to be patently false. Whoever used this argument against Acts 8 has probably never been challenged by it. Challenge them. Ask them to prove it to you and see what they say.

As for Acts 19, the Ephesian believers had not known the Messiah before they met Paul. They were not Christians in any sense of the word. They had only believed Johnís proclamation of the coming Messiah, and were baptized unto John, but must have left for Ephesus before Jesus came on the scene. They believed in the coming of the Messiah, but they had not believed on the Messiah Himself, Jesus. It was not until Paul came to Ephesus and preached Christ to them that they were baptized in Jesusí name and received His Spirit. There was at least some amount of time (maybe only 5 minutes perhaps) between their initial faith and their reception of the Spirit. This would at least indicate that one does not receive the Spirit immediately at the point of faith.

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