19:1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”
So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all.
When you know how something is supposed to be you can tell when something is off. The more familiar you are with something or someone the more you will notice. For example if I met a stranger and they were unresponsive when I spoke to them I would assume they have some kind of condition but I may assume it is their normal. However if I met a friend that is normally fine and they were unresponsive I would immediately know there was a definite problem and would immediately seek medical help.
When Paul met these believers in Ephesus they were strangers to him yet he knew something was wrong. He even knew what the something was.
This leads to a potentially uncomfortable conclusion. A Christian who has been baptized but has not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit is recognizably deficient to someone who has received the Spirit but normal for those who have not. Paul instantly knew. It was as obvious to him as nudity to a person who can see. A blind person would never know though if someone else standing right in front of them was naked.
So in 2005 I read this passage as if for the first time. I was shocked. I grew up in a church that never really spoke of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then I started seeing what I had never seen before. I saw that Cornelius and his household were baptised with His Spirit prior to water baptism. I remembered that John promised that He who was coming after him would baptize with the Spirit and with fire. Jesus received both baptisms. I began to realize that Spirit baptism was as much a part of the story of becoming a Christian as water baptism was yet I grew up with one being a definite requirement and the other hardly spoken of. What to do? I literally felt nauseous. How can this be? If Paul were to be resurrected and came to visit me and my church would he look at us and immediately say "Did you receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit?"
If you are a Christian and this is making you uncomfortable you know exactly what I was feeling. Tomorrow we'll explore this some more.