Progressive Revelation: Acts 19:1-7
“1) It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. 2) He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3) And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4) Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5) When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6) And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. 7) There were in all about twelve men.” Acts‬ ‭19‬:‭1‬-‭7‬
The transition from the ministry of John the Baptist to Jesus resulted in some lag time. Many who were baptized by John headed back to the own country or region with only a small portion of the full story. (See Matthew 3:1-12) Many were baptized by him and he raised up many disciples. (Matthew 3:5)
As we come to Acts 19:1-7, the lag time was now well over a decade and the full gospel message had not caught up with some of them. They knew only about the baptism of John the Baptist and were faithfully preaching and practicing what they had learned.
From the previous chapter, Apollos had been one of the leaders of this group. He was most likely using texts like Malachi 4:5-6 to prepare people for the coming Messiah, but had not yet connected the dots with the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Many Christian groups are built on bits and pieces of the Bible. If they leave out Jesus Christ and the basic gospel message, they are considered a cult group.
Some pick and choose from both the Old Testament Law and the New Testament gospels. They are like the churches of the Galatia region that blended Judaism and the gospels. Paul wrote the book Galatians to them to help them understand grace and justification by faith.
Others hold to the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and saving faith, but they ignore Pentecost and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is why it’s important to study the whole Bible. The ministry of the Holy Spirit was also prophesied in the Old Testament. (See Joel 2:28-32)
There is a theological concept called “progressive revelation.” It means that God progressively revealed Himself and His plan for mankind over time. To get the whole story you need to study the whole Bible. The Old Testament foretells the New Testament. The New Testament fulfills and unpacks the Old Testament. Genesis to Revelation tells the whole story.
If you only have the book of Genesis, you have great foundational truth but not the full story. However, the seeds of the gospel can be found in the book of Genesis in texts like Genesis 3:15 and the story of Abraham offering up Isaac in Genesis 22. It is a wonderful picture of Jesus Christ as the lamb of God.
So what does this have to do with Acts 19:1-7? Paul was merely filling the disciples of John the Baptist in on the whole story. He was coloring in the full picture. He was adding crucial pieces to the puzzle. Keep in mind, the New Testament had not been written yet.
As soon as they heard the full story, they believed in Jesus Christ, were baptized in His name and were filled with the Holy Spirit. They immediately began to manifest spiritual gifts. Paul filled in the gaps of progressive revelation beyond the truth given through John the Baptist. He ensured that they were fully caught up on the full program of God for His people.
The Epistles were written to clarify all truth and blessings available for Gods people in this present church age. The Bible is now complete. The full story has been told. Contrary to the tragic errors of the Mormon church, nothing has been added to it!
But the Bible points to the future and coming events. It prepares us for the return of Jesus Christ, His millennial kingdom and eternity. When Jesus returns the revelation will continue. (See 1 Corinthians 13:9-13) I can only imagine!
Until then, we are to study the full and complete Bible. God wants us to experience and embrace all of His program and promises for this present age. That includes salvation through faith in Christ, living by grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. He wants His church to focus on world evangelization.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global