A template is a pattern or mold used as a guide to form a piece or product. There certainly is a template in what happened when Paul met up with the nominal 12 believers at Ephesus.
Here is the background. The great preacher/orator, Apollos, preceded Paul to Ephesus. Apollos was a learned Alexandrian Jew, thoroughly knowledgeable of Scripture, filled with great fervor, and taught accurately about Jesus. However, he knew only the baptism of John, so Priscilla and Aquila privately taught him more accurately. Apollos’ deficiency appears to be a lack of knowledge concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit. That deficiency is reflected in the 12 believers Paul finds at Ephesus. They were probably converts of Apollos since they, too, only knew the baptism of John.
Paul asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when [or after] you believed” (Acts 19:2)?
The question Paul asked is crucial to Pentecostal theology of Spirit baptism and empowerment. His question contains an aorist participle (having believed) and an aorist main verb (did you receive). In the Greek, when an aorist participle is used with an aorist main verb, the action described can be simultaneous or subsequent.
For example, Judas said, “I have sinned (aorist main verb), having betrayed (aorist participle) innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4, my translation). Clearly the sinning and the betraying are simultaneous events.
However, look at Matthew 22:25: “Having married (aorist participle), he died (aorist main verb)” (my translation). Clearly the marrying and the dying are sequential and not simultaneous.
In Acts, Luke describes Spirit baptism as sequential (Acts 2:4; 8:17; 9:17) to conversion, and simultaneous with conversion (Acts 10:44–48).
Clearly the Ephesian 12 were followers of Jesus inasmuch as they are called disciples. Paul does not treat them as pre-believers. He does want to know one thing: Did they either receive the Spirit when they believed or after they believed? Their answer is clear: “No” (Acts 19:2).
In his first meeting with them, Paul immediately knew where the problem lay — why the believing community in the teeming city of Ephesus only had 12 unproductive disciples.
Paul knew that, if the church at Ephesus was to grow and have a powerful impact on the city, it had to start, as did the Jerusalem church, with the template of Spirit-baptized believers. He needed a fired-up core to begin with.
G. Campbell Morgan, even though he was not a Pentecostal, said in his commentary on Acts: “Apollos, a Jew, an Alexandrian, learned, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit, careful in his teaching, bold in his utterance, could only take the people as far as he had come himself, not one yard beyond it, not one foot above it. … Paul came, and not because he was a better man than Apollos, but because he had fuller knowledge, a fuller experience, he lifted these same 12 men to a high level.”
We need to recognize that church planting involves far more than having the right demographics, leadership, skill set, gift mix, finances, and planning. We need the Holy Spirit. Let us be like the apostle Paul who was not afraid to ask the starting nucleus of his church: “Having believed, did you received the Holy Spirit?” Non-Pentecostals do not ask that question. We must, if we are to see apostolic results.
Let us begin new churches with a core template of Spirit-filled believers.