Q: In Acts 8: 14-17 it appears that Christians receive a second baptism which gives the charismatic gifts. Why don’t we receive this second baptism today?”
A: There is only one baptism, according to Ephesians 4:5. This baptizing with water is what Jesus commanded his Church to do until the end of the age (Matt. 28: 19). Through this “washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26), is how the Holy Spirit comes to individual sinners (Acts 2:38, Titus 3:5, John 3:5), working faith in Christ’s forgiveness of sins. We do not agree with Pentecostal oriented churches which assert that there are two baptisms which Christians are to use today. Erroneously they teach that a “water baptism” is not really powerful but only symbolical; at the same time, they urge their people to seek a “baptism of the Spirit” where—they claim—the spirit is really given and visually manifested by speaking in tongues, faith healing, prophecy, etc.
In the account involving the Samaritans we ought not take the phrase “the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them” [actually the Greek says “had not fallen upon”] to mean that after they had been baptized by Philip (v. 12) they did not have the Holy Spirit working saving faith in their hearts. In fact, we are told specifically that “they believed,” and this necessitates the Spirit’s operation (I Cor, 12: 3). But what is being addressed in this section is what we Lutherans refer to as “the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s power” which took place in the early church for the purpose of authenticating the message and ministry of Jesus’ apostles. We assume the gift of speaking in other tongues was given and associated only in connection with the apostles and never apart from that. This would easily explain, then, why it was not through the evangelist Philip (note: this Philip was not the Apostle Philip) but only through Peter and John that these Samaritans received this special outpouring of the Spirit.
There is nothing in the Bible which indicates we Christians today are to seek the unique miraculous gifts of the Spirit which accompanied the apostles in their mission work right after Pentecost up until the time of their deaths. As opposed to the present day Charismatics, who preoccupy themselves with the thought that God works directly in people’s hearts apart from the use of any Means of Grace, we Lutherans consistently point souls to God’s Word and his Sacraments for our spiritual strength. The Augsburg Confession condemns “the Anabaptists and others who teach that the Holy Spirit comes to us through our own preparations, thoughts, and works without the external word of the Gospel” (Art. V).