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Water Baptism and Spirit Baptism in Luke-Acts

Another Reading of the Evidence

In: Pneuma
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Despite their disagreement on the interpretation of Acts regarding reception of the Spirit, both Evangelicals and Pentecostals operate from the assumption that the purpose of Acts is to provide a normative template of experience to be repeated in later Christians. Here it is argued that the purpose of Luke-Acts in reporting on the reception of the Spirit is not to provide an experiential norm at all, but rather to highlight the contrast between John’s water baptism without the Spirit and Christian water baptism with the Spirit. A careful reading of Luke-Acts reveals a consistent and at times strident distinction between John and Jesus, suggesting a long-forgotten struggle in the early church to ascertain where the otherwise identical practice of water baptism by John and by Jesus’s followers diverges. This interpretation is supported by consideration of the missional focus of Acts and the issue of the forgiveness of sins.

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