The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)




Loved Ones, many of us at times have had difficulty stating precisely what we intended to say, and our discussions relative to the indwelling of the Spirit illustrate this fact. Our task as communicators of the word is to deliver God’s truths in an easy-to-be-understood fashion. We are to make plain the difficult. With this thought uppermost in mind, we pose the following question: Does a convert to Christ receive the literal indwelling Holy Spirit immediately upon his being immersed in water for the remission of sins?


To a multitude assembled on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter declared: "Repent ye [you] and be baptized [immersed] every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission [for forgiveness] of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The identity of "the gift of the Holy Spirit," as that expression is used in Acts 2:38, has long been a matter of interesting discussion among Christians. Our studies reveal that loving, respected brethren hold differing viewpoints as to the meaning of the divine terminology employed in this passage. Aside from the radical notion that this verse asserts the perpetuity of miraculous gifts throughout the Christian age - an allegation which would conflict with clear information elsewhere set forth in the New Testament (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8ff; Eph. 4:8ff) – these differing viewpoints should NOT divide our fellowship. However, it’s time for us to STOP DISAGREEING over the truth of God’s Word. It is time for us to SPEAK AS ONE and become united on the Biblical teaching concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit. We must study and pray, and come to the proper understanding of the gift of the Holy Spirit in both Acts 2:38 and Acts 10:45.


The New Birth


To help with our proper understanding, keep in mind Jesus taught that a new birth of water and the Spirit was necessary before one could enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3‑5). The preparatory baptism of repen­tance for the forgiveness of sins taught by John and Jesus (Mark 1:4; John 4:1-2) was NOT the new birth of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5). Although the kingdom of heaven was at hand, it had not yet come during the public ministry of John or Jesus (Matthew 4:17; cf. Mark 9:1). It was not possible for an immersion which included only the forgiveness of sins to put anyone into this kingdom that had not yet come. Forgiveness of sins alone is not what gives entrance into the kingdom of heaven.


Those who enter the kingdom must be BORN AGAIN of water and the Spirit, which creates a new life and a relationship with the Messiah as King in His kingdom (Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12-13). The water of this new birth for a penitent believer is baptism (Acts 8:12, 38, 39), and the vehicle of the Spirit in the birth is life‑giving seed, the Word of God (Luke 8:11; John 6:63). When your sins are forgiven you receive the gift (personal indwelling) of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). You become sons of God (cf. Gal. 3:26-27). This understanding corresponds with other teachings of Jesus and with the rest of the New Testament (Luke 8:11-12; Acts 11:14; 1 Peter 1:23; etc.).


Water and the gift of the Spirit cannot be more closely connected than they are in John 3:5: "of water and the Spirit." John does not place a second "of" (ex) before "Spirit" as he would if he were describing two different events. The single ex describes the single occasion. This singularity is then completely established by the aorist subjunctive passive gennethe, which means literally "once born" of water and Spirit....Spiritually a man is born only once and that "of water and the Spirit."'


This one‑time birth, that brings all who receive it into the kingdom of heaven, is what Jesus sent His followers into all the world to preach (Mark 16:15-16). This one-time birth allows the new Christian to receive all the spiritual blessings that are in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). And because we are forgiven, Deity indwells our heart and body through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). We become saved children of God.


The Indwelling Spirit


It is our conviction that the Holy Spirit, as a "gift," is bestowed upon the obedient believer (Acts 2:38; 5:32; 1 Cor. 6:19; etc.), and is an indwelling presence in his life. We will consider several facets of this matter.

According to Acts
2:38, the baptized penitent believer receives forgiveness of sins, and is promised "the gift of the Holy Spirit." Is this a gift consisting of the Spirit, or a gift given by the Spirit? Actually, from a strictly grammatical viewpoint, it could be either. Some, though, have suggested that grammatically the phrase cannot refer to the Spirit as a gift. That simply is not correct. The expression tou hagiou pneumatos in Greek is in the genitive case. Greek grammar books list more than a dozen usage’s’ for the genitive (cf. J. Harold Greenlee, A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, Eerdmans, 1963, pp. 28-31). It is CONTEXT, either in its narrower or broader sense, which will determine the use of the genitive case in a given circumstance.

Many Greek authorities contend that the genitive of Acts 2:38 is epexegetical (appositional), i.e., the Holy Spirit is the gift (cf. the lexicons of: Arndt & Gingrich, p. 209; Thayer, p. 161; Robinson, p. 196; also the works of Kittel, II, p. 167; Vine, p. 147; Robertson, Word Pictures, III, p. 36; Moulton, Howard, Turner, Grammar, III, p. 214; Expositor's Greek Testament, II, p. 91). These sources are not cited as theological experts, but as language authorities. They obviously did not feel that it is grammatically impossible for the gift to consist of the Spirit Himself.


It is probably safe to say that most of the SCHOLARS within our restoration heritage have also argued this meaning of "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38, even when differing on the nature of receiving the Spirit. J. W. McGarvey wrote: "The expression means the Holy Spirit as a gift; and the reference is to that indwelling of the Holy Spirit...without which we are not of Christ" (New Commentary on Acts, I, p. 39). Moses Lard said: "Certainly the gift of the Spirit is the Spirit itself given" (Lard's Quarterly, II, p. 104; cf. also Lipscomb and Sewell, Questions Answered, p. 318).


Acts 2:38


What is the “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38? This exact phrase is found only two times in the entire New Testament (Acts 2:38 and Acts 10:45), and both times it is used by the same speaker - the apostle Peter. Unquestionably it refers to miraculous power in Acts 10:45.  Some therefore ask, “Why ought we to expect it to be non-miraculous in Acts 2:38? What compelling reason can be given for a non-miraculous meaning”? This question deserves an answer.


First, we will discuss the gift of the Holy Spirit in relation to baptism. In baptism the penitent believer is born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5). He who was dead comes to a new life of freedom from sin (Romans 6:4‑7) and is forgiven (Acts 2:38). This happens in water immersion as one shares in Jesus' burial and resurrec­tion (Colossians 2:12-13). Sufficient examples of water bap­tism are given in Acts as the Gospel began to spread throughout the world (Acts 2:38‑47; 8:12, 35‑39; etc.).


One becomes a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) and a child of God in baptism because of his faith and obedience from his heart (Ro­mans 6:4, 17-18; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:12-13). Because one obeys God by believing in Jesus, repenting of his sins, and being immersed in water he is cleansed of his sins. He is given the indwelling Holy Spirit as a gift. John wrote, "But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive" (John 7:39). Peter said, “We saw all of these things happen. The Holy Spirit has shown you that we are telling you the truth! God has given the Spirit to those who obeyed Him" (Acts 5:32; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:8).


Peter also told those who heard the first Gospel sermon on Pentecost, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Paul wrote, “You are God’s children. That is why God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts. The Spirit cries out, Father, dear Father” (Galatians 4:6). "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). He does not bear witness to our spirit that we are sons of God, but instead bears witness along with our spirit that we are children of God, which means that He can testify along with us that God truly is our Father when we say, "Our Father."


God's sons are sealed through the gift of the Holy Spirit, as a pledge that they belong to God. Paul wrote, "God makes all of us – you and us – firm in Christ. God has chosen us. He sealed us and gave the Holy Spirit as a guarantee in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). Again, "You are in Christ too. You heard the true message, the Good News about your salvation. After you believed, you were sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit whom God promised. The Spirit is the guarantee that we will receive the inheritance…” (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Spirit is given to seal us as His sons. "But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (Romans 8:9).


A general rule is established. The lost of the world cannot receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:17), but He is given to those who believe and obey, thus becoming sons of God!


Acts 2:39


To help with our understanding of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38, let’s take a fresh look at the promise of Acts 2:39. The Bible says, “This promise is for you and for your children. It is also for people who are far away, for everyone whom the Lord our God may call.”


The promise of Acts 2:39 refers to that given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). Whenever the Gospel of Christ is preached, the promise to Abraham is included as part of God’s Scheme of Redemption. God told Abraham, “…in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” This promise was for Abraham and his Jewish descendents, the Gentiles (those that were far away – Eph. 2:13), and for those called by God through the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:14) {Christians –PRAISE GOD}!


The overall context of the book of Acts teaches that the promise to Abraham was fulfilled in Christ and the new birth into the kingdom of Christ (cf. Acts 2:22-47; 3:25-26; 13:32-33). The whole world can receive the blessing of Abraham in Christ (Gal. 3:14, 26-29). However, before the lost world can receive the spiritual blessings found only in Christ, they must be immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Then they are clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27) - they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; Gal. 4:6). At this new birth, Christ (DEITY) will “dwell in their hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17).


Acts 2 and Acts 13


Many are confused about the gift of the Holy Spirit because they believe the promise of Acts 2:39 refers to the promise or prophecy of Joel (Acts 2:16-21). Therefore they teach that the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38 is miraculous just as in Acts 10:45. With the help of the Holy Spirit’s Sword, we will correct this misunderstanding. By looking at the context of Acts 2 and Acts 13 we will show that the promise of Acts 2:39 refers to the promise given long ago to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Christ. It does NOT refer to the promised Baptism of the Holy Spirit on Jewish flesh as prophesied by Joel (Joel 2:28-32).


Peter (and the other apostles) began their sermon by showing how God was fulfilling the promise of Joel 2.  It was being fulfilled on Jewish flesh by the outpouring of power from the Holy Spirit – called Holy Spirit Baptism (Acts 2:1-21) [LATER we will deal with the complete fulfillment of Joel’s prophesy with a SPECIAL out pouring of POWER from the Holy Spirit on Gentile flesh (Acts 10 and 11).


In Acts 2:22, Peter begins to preach Jesus. Again, whenever Jesus is preached the context of that sermon naturally goes back to the promise God gave to our father Abraham! Peter's sermon (Acts 2:22-38) combined with Paul's sermon (Acts 13:26-39), will prove conclusively that the context of these sermons are dealing with the promise given to Abraham. Peter's words CANNOT be dealing with Joel's prophesy because Paul's words ARE NOT (see all of chapter 13).


Acts 2:22-24; Acts 13:26-31: The Jews and the Gentiles are being taught that Jesus was a special man as proven by the miracles God did through Him. Salvation through Jesus has been sent to all. The Jews had the words of the prophets to teach them about Jesus, but they did not understand. The Jewish leaders made the words of the prophets come true when they condemned Jesus and handed Him over to the Romans to be nailed on a cross. The Jews couldn't find a real reason why Jesus should die. Yet, they asked Pilate to kill Him. This was all part of the PLAN God made long ago. Jesus died and was buried, but death could not hold Him. God raised Him up.


NOTICE: Acts 13:32-33 alone proves Paul and Peter are referring to the promise given to the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).


Acts 2:25-28; Acts 13:34-35: David said this about Jesus (Quoted Psalm 16:8-11). Jesus' soul was not left in Hades, nor did His body see corruption. Jesus received the same promise God gave to David (Isa. 55:3-5).


Acts 2:29-35; Acts 13:36-37: David was a prophet who did God's will. God promised David that one of his descendents would sit on his throne. Because David knew of this promise, he could say of Jesus, "He will not be left in Hades, His body will not decay in the grave" (Ps. 16:10). But David died, was buried (they knew the whereabouts of his grave), and his body did see decay. So Jesus, not David, is the one whom God raised from death. Paul and Peter were eye-witnesses of the resurrected Lord. Jesus is now with God (at His right hand) in Heaven, but He poured out the power from the Holy Spirit on the apostles in fulfillment of Joel's prophesy.


Acts 2:36-38; Acts 13:38-39: Therefore, all people can be sure that Jesus (who was nailed to a tree) is both Lord and Christ (Messiah). This news caused people to be cut to the heart (their conscience was hurt). The Jews asked, "What shall we do?" Since forgiveness of sins comes only through Jesus (not the Law of Moses), they were told to change their hearts and be immersed by the authority of Jesus to wash away their sins. Then they would receive the (indwelling) gift of the Holy Spirit (not the POWER from the Holy Spirit as with Joel).


Loved ones, the promise even from the days of Abraham our father was to all nations, and the way was not opened to all nations until the Crucifixion, and it was not announced until the day of Pentecost. Thus, in keeping with the promise given to Abraham that all the people of the world would be bless (through Jesus his seed – Gal. 3:16), Acts 2:38 is teaching that the Holy Spirit Himself (Deity) is given to a person when he obeys the Gospel (Acts 5:32). This indwelling of Deity is called “the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38,” and He is given to all the children of God (Gal. 4:6).


Benefits of the Spirit’s Indwelling


There are residual benefits to acknowledging the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Let us consider a few:


1. Sons of God. The indwelling Holy Spirit seals us as belonging to God. Because He dwells in us we have the assurance we will receive the inheritance [the earnest of our inheritance] (Eph. 1:13-14).


2. Spirits Agree. Within the Roman letter, in a context which discusses the indwelling Spirit as a possession of the saints (cf. Rom. 8:9, 11, 16, 26-27), the apostle Paul declares that the Holy Spirit and the human spirit bear dual witness to the fact that we are children of God (v. 16). Does our spirit actually dwell within us? If so, why do some believe it would take a “miracle” for the Spirit of God to dwell in us? Does not John 14:10-11 say that God dwelt in Jesus when Jesus walked the earth in the flesh? Are we not flesh also!? REMEMBER: without the indwelling Holy Spirit we do not belong to God (Rom. 8:9). That’s why the LOST world needs to be taught the truth about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the new birth.


Some would suggest that only the Holy Spirit's influence through the word is being considered in Romans chapter eight. Notice, though, it is the indwelling Spirit Himself who bears testimony with us (see also 8:26). Compare the language of John 4:2 where it is stated that while the Lord representatively baptized disciples, He "Himself baptized not." There is a difference between what one does himself and what he accomplishes through an agent.


3. The Confident Life. Every child of God is painfully aware of his inability to live perfectly before his Creator (cf. Rom. 7:14ff). Frequently, we have deep spiritual needs of which we are not even aware. We ought not to despair, however, for “We don’t know how we should pray, but the Spirit helps our weakness. He personally talks to God for us with feelings which our language cannot express. God searches all men’s hearts. He knows what the Spirit is thinking. The Spirit talks to God in behalf of holy people, using the manner which pleases God” (Rom. 8:26-27).


There are several important truths affirmed in this passage: (a) We have needs which we do not adequately know how to address. (b) In this regard, the Spirit continually helps us (literally, constantly bears the load with us). (c) This assistance He "Himself" (personally) provides. (d) He takes our unutterable groanings and, by His ongoing intercessory activity, conveys our needs to the Father. (e) God, who searches the hearts (where the Spirit abides - Gal. 4:6), perceives the "mind of the Spirit" and responds to our needs consistent with His own will. What a thrilling concept of the Spirit's activity in our lives! Moses Lard has a wonderful discussion on this passage in his Commentary on Romans, pp. 276-278.


4. Holiness. The Greek world, into which Christianity was born, tended to deprecate the human body. There was a proverbial saying, "The body is a tomb." Epictetus said, "I am a poor soul shackled to a corpse." That concept accommodated a fleshly mode of living. Since only the soul was important, and not the body, one could give himself wantonly to the indulgences of the flesh. It is this factor that certainly lies behind Paul's rebuke of carnal indulgence in the church at Corinth. The body is not to be given over to fornication (1 Cor. 6:13ff).


One of the apostle's effective arguments for the sanctity of the Christian's body is that the Holy Spirit INDWELLS that body - the temple of God. The Greek word for "temple" is naos, and it is an allusion to that holy sanctuary of the Mosaic economy wherein God actually made His presence known (cf. Ex. 25:22). The fact that we know the Holy One (the Godhead) is dwelling in us causes us to live in such a way as to keep His temple HOLY, thus obeying the Spirit's word and giving God the glory in our bodies (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:15-20).


Here is an interesting question: If the Holy Spirit bears a relationship to men today only "through the word," and yet, admittedly, He influences the alien sinner through the word, would it be proper to suggest that the sinner's body is "the temple of the Holy Spirit" to whatever extent he is affected by the word?


We are confident (through trial and error) that an awareness of the Spirit's abiding presence can be a powerful motivation to godly living. One brother has noted that the doctrine "of the personal indwelling of the Spirit and a strong providential activity aids our own spiritual development toward its highest potential…The awareness that the third member of the Godhead personally and actually dwells within us is a tremendous incentive to holiness" (The Spirit and Spirituality, Biblical Research Press, 1962, p. 52).


Supporting Evidence


The most forceful argument for this BIBLICAL viewpoint is the subsequent testimony of the New Testament regarding the reception of the Holy Spirit by the immersed penitent believer. Note the following:

1. In Acts 5:32 it is affirmed: “We saw all of these things happen. The Holy Spirit has shown you that we are telling you the truth. God has given the Spirit to those who obeyed Him.” Some would confine this passage to the apostles. Note, however, the "those" (others) who are mentioned in addition to the "we" (apostles).

2. Consider 1 Corinthians 12:13: “All of us were immersed into this one body of Christ by one Spirit [i.e., the Spirit's operation by means of the Gospel] . . . AND [an additional thought] we all drink from the same Spirit.” What is the difference in the Spirit's relationship to us before baptism and after it? In Paul's dual references to the Spirit in this passage, is he suggesting the identical concept in both statements?

3. In Galatians 4:6 the Spirit is said to be sent into our hearts because we are sons of God. Would not this suggest a relationship that is different from the mere influence of the word, since the sinner has the leading of the word before he becomes a child of God?


4. Finally, if the relationship of the Holy Spirit is exactly the same to both sinner and saint (i.e., only through the word), can it be affirmed that the sinner, to whatever extent that he is influenced by the word, has the "earnest of the Spirit"? (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; cf. Eph. 1:13-14). Do not these passages set forth a precious promise that is exclusively confined to the Christian?




Many sincere teachers of God’s word believe there are strong arguments which negate the idea that the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) is the personal indwelling of the Spirit in the child of God. We will consider several of these: 

1. It is argued that if the Holy Spirit actually dwelt in all Christians, He would be divided. If we may kindly say so, this is a rather materialistic view of Deity. The fact of the matter is, the apostles of Christ were filled with the Spirit of God (Acts 2:4), and yet the Spirit was still one (cf. 1 Cor. 12:9). It is countered, though, that the Holy Spirit actually did not dwell even in the apostles. Rather, it is alleged, the Spirit was only with them in the sense that they were miraculously endowed with divine power. However, it must be noted that the apostles had the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit before the day of Pentecost (cf. Matt. 10:8; 12:28). This is obviously what the Lord had in mind when He affirmed that the Spirit was "with" (para) those disciples; yet, additionally, the Savior promised, "He SHALL BE in (en) you" (John 14:17). In view of this passage, how can it possibly be argued that the Holy Spirit cannot actually be in a person?


2. It has been suggested that if the Holy Spirit actually dwelt in someone, that would be a form of "incarnation," hence, the person would be Deity. This is an erroneous assumption. The Spirit was in the apostles (Acts 2:4), but they were not Deity. Peter refused to be worshipped as though he was a divine being (Acts 10:26). In an incarnation, Deity becomes flesh (cf. John 1:14), but such is not the case when the Spirit simply indwells the believer's heart and body. When God called to Moses "out of the midst" of a bush (Ex. 3:4), that did not imply that the bush was divine.


Some have taken this argument to such an extreme as to almost border on a denial of the deity of Christ. For example, a brother alleged that when Jesus became incarnate, He laid aside His existence "in the form of God." It was then suggested that since such was true with reference to Christ, certainly the Holy Spirit would be required to surrender His "infinite attributes" if He were to "indwell finite flesh." The reader was thus to conclude, we suppose, that this demonstrates that the Holy Spirit does not actually dwell within the Christian.

There are two things wrong with this argument. First, the Lord did NOT cease to exist "in the form of God" when He became man. In Philippians 2:6, the term "existing" is a present tense participle, which asserts that the Second Person of the Godhead was in the form of God both prior to the incarnation and after it (cf. Vine, Expository Dictionary, p. 279; Abbott-Smith, Manual Greek Lexicon, p. 457). Moreover, the Greek word for "form" is morphe, which is indicative of the very nature of a thing (Samuel Green, Handbook Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 384). If Christ surrendered the "form of God" at the point of incarnation, He was not Deity on earth. Second, as noted above, the two cases (i.e., the incarnation of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) are not analogous. A mere "indwelling" is not the same as the incarnation. To dwell within a house is not equivalent to becoming a house!

3. Some brethren hold that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is merely a metaphorical expression suggesting that only the Spirit's influence, by means of the inspired word, indwells the Christian. However, this concept does not adequately explain all of the biblical data on this theme. A frequent line of argument in support of this position is to assemble two lists of passages that show common effects produced by both the Spirit and the word.


For instance, the Bible assigns instruction to the Holy Spirit (Neh. 9:30) and to the word (2 Tim. 3:16‑17). Inspiration tells us both the Spirit and the Word begets (John 3:5; 1 Cor. 4:15), quickens (John 6:63; Ps. 119:125), teaches (John 14:26; 6:45), convicts (John 16:7-8; Titus 1:9), comforts (Acts 9:31; 1 Thess. 4:18), sanctifies (1 Peter 1:2; John 17:17), converts (John 16:7‑8; Ps. 19:7), washes (1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26), makes free (Rom. 8:2; John 8:32), dwells (Eph. 5:18‑19; Col. 3:16), leads (Rom. 8:14; Ps. 119:105), strengthens (Eph. 3:16; Col. 1:9‑11), and gives birth (John 3:5; 1 Peter 1:23).


This is, however, the fallacy of analogy. The typical Oneness Pentecostal will use the same argument (whereby lists of similar traits relative to the Father and the Son are assembled) in an attempt to prove that Jesus and the Father is the same person.


The fact that the Holy Spirit uses the word as His instrument (Eph. 6:17) is evident (study lesson: The Work of the Holy Spirit through the Word). The Father draws us to Him through Christ by the word (John 6:44‑46) as He calls us by the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). God pleads with us through the word (2 Cor. 5:20). Every time the Gospel is preached and man gives heed to it, he is being influenced by the Holy Spirit’s word. When one puts on the "whole armour of God" (Eph. 6:10‑17), he has been influenced by the Spirit of God through the word. When one puts on the things which constitute the "new man" (Col. 3:12‑17), this influence comes from the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. When one's "conversation" (manner of life) is that which "becometh the Gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:27), this is the result of the Holy Spirit’s guidance by the word. However, the fact that the Holy Spirit uses the word as His sword (Eph. 6:17) does not speak to the issue of whether or not He indwells the child of God.


The "word only" view seems to fall under the weight of the context of Acts 2 as a whole. For example, Peter's auditors on the day of Pentecost "gladly received his word" (v. 41); hence, the influence of the Spirit before their baptism. This is evidenced by their question, "What shall we do?" (v. 37), as well as an implied penitent disposition. Yet, the promised Spirit was given at baptism. Since the Holy Spirit operated on the Pentecostians through the word prior to their baptism, just what did they receive as a "gift" (Acts 2:38) at their baptism?


4. It has also been contended that if the Holy Spirit personally dwells in the Christian, he would be able to perform miracles. The connection is unwarranted. John the Baptist performed no miracles (John 10:41), and yet he was "filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). Incidentally, the preposition "from" in this passage is the Greek term ek, meaning from the inside to the outside, thus suggesting that John was filled with the Spirit even while in his mother's womb. This certainly EXCLUDES the notion that the Holy Spirit can dwell in one only through the agency of the word.

5. It is contended that both God and Christ are said to dwell in us, though they do not actually inhabit our bodies, so, similarly, is the case with the Spirit. However, we are expressly told that God (DEITY) dwells in us by means of the Spirit. Paul says the Ephesians were "a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22), and John affirms: "We know that He lives in us, by the Spirit which He gave us" (1 John 3:24; cf. 4:13).

6. Some argue that the gift of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Acts 2:38 is merely a reference to salvation from past sins. But this theory appears to gloss the very language of the verse. It seems very clear that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is something different from and in consequence of the forgiveness of sins (salvation). Note the dual use of the conjunction "and" in this context: “Repent and be baptized . . . for the remission of your sins; AND ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Moreover, other passages also suggest that the reception of the Holy Spirit is a blessing given in consequence of salvation (Gal. 4:6).


7. It is alleged that Acts 2:38 is parallel with Mark 16:16ff in that both sections promise salvation and the reception of signs. However, the passages are neither grammatically or contextually parallel in all respects. Mark 16:16ff contains a general declaration that miraculous gifts would accompany the body of believers, confirming their divinely given testimony, whereas the obedient souls directly addressed in Acts 2:38 were given the remission of sins, and promised the gift of the Holy Spirit.


8. Many in the denominational world have asserted that the Holy Spirit must come to open the heart of the sinner (before immersion in water) so that he will accept the word. The conversion of the first Gentiles clearly re­futes such a claim. Their hearts were already open before the Spirit came, for they told Peter, ". . . we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been com­manded by the Lord" (Acts 10:33). A heart may be opened through the word as the Spirit's agent; however, the responsibility is man's to allow the word into his heart (Luke 8:15).


In the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is not reported to have worked directly on the sinner to instill faith in his heart or convert him. Rather, He is said to have worked through the message preached. The Holy Spirit gave the message to the messenger, who at that time did not have the written word, and for this reason needed to be guided into the truth by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:3‑5). Faith comes through the message (Romans 10:17). The convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7‑11) was (and is) done through the agency of the word of God (John 6:63; Acts 2:37; 11:14; 24:25). This word, not the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, is the basis of faith (John 17:20; Acts 17:11-12; Romans 10:17).


The Holy Spirit was not given to lead souls to faith and obedience; for the world does not receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:17). However, He comes to those who have believed (John 7:39) and obeyed (Acts 5:32) the Gospel. He is given to those who were born again through the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23); those who are children of God (Galatians 4:6).


(9) Some have discounted the necessity of water immersion to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit olHolbe­cause they felt no sensation when they were baptized, while others have felt that they were saved without baptism because of a sensation before immersion. Baptism does not cause any sensation, but it does give one a reason for rejoicing (Acts 8:39; 16:33-34). This joy comes because of faith in Jesus Christ that his sins are forgiven. In no case does the Bible equate emotional experiences with the activity of the Holy Spirit. The problem with such an approach to the work of the Holy Spirit is that it builds on the fickle nature of human emotions (Jeremiah 17:9), which are unreliable and untrustworthy (Proverbs 28:26).


Emotions and baptism are to be compared with the marriage ceremony. Emotions before, during, and after the ceremony are NOT what seal the marriage. The cer­emony itself may not change the feelings of the bride and the groom toward each other, though it surely could be the reason for rejoicing. Fulfilling the marriage require­ments, not having certain feelings, is what makes a marriage legal. Likewise, baptism is a reason for rejoicing, but in no case does the Bible record that the Holy Spirit gives a heartfelt sensation to assure one of salvation. Salvation is the result of obedience (Hebrews 5:9) from the heart.


The indwelling Holy Spirit is given to those who believe and obey - those who have become children of God. He is not given to the lost to make them children of God. He enters the heart of the person whose faith has moved him to reform his life and make a commitment to Jesus by being buried in baptism for the cleansing of sin. The lost, who have honest and sincere hearts, are reached through the word (Luke 8:15), but those hearts that are closed reject the word (Matthew 13:15). The Holy Spirit does not work directly on the heart of the sinner to open it; instead, He enters the heart that is open to the word and has been cleansed through obedience to the word of God (1 Peter 1:22; Acts 2:38).


10. Some contend that the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38 was the reception of supernatural signs as bestowed by the apostles' hands. If such a view is correct, it would seem that a reasonable approach to the passage would suggest that all who were baptized that day (about 3,000 souls - Acts 2:41) received not only forgiveness of sins, but also supernatural gifts, so that literally hundreds of disciples were subsequently performing miracles in the city of Jerusalem. This notion, however, suffers from the lack of any supporting evidence in the book of Acts. There is absolutely no indication, from Acts 2 through chapter 5, that anyone other than the apostles possessed miraculous gifts.


Note the following: “God was using the apostles to do many powerful and amazing things; every person felt great respect for God” (Acts 2:43). The miracle performed by Peter and John in Acts 3 seems to have been an unusual event. The Jewish leaders commented: “. . . Everyone who lives in Jerusalem knows that these men have performed a great miracle! That is clear. We cannot deny it” (Acts 4:16). There is no hint that multitudes of Christians were duplicating such signs in the city.


Again we read: “The apostles did many miracles and powerful things among the people. The apostles were together in Solomon’s Porch; they all had the same purpose. None of the other believers dared to join the apostles, but all of the people were saying good things about them” (Acts 5:12-13). The religious awe with which the multitudes held the apostles suggests that they were doing signs NOT characteristic of the saints generally. It is only when one comes to Acts 6:6ff that mention is made of the imposition of the apostles' hands and the subsequent exercise of miraculous gifts by others (cf. Acts 6:8).


Along this same line of thought it has been suggested that the terms "gift" (dorea) and "receive" (lambano) in Acts 2:38 indicate a miraculous phenomenon, and thus in this context denote the supernatural gifts made available through the laying on of the apostles' hands. That such is not a valid observation can be verified easily by the consultation of a Greek concordance. Compare, for example, dorea in John 4:10 and Romans 5:15, 17 with lambano in John 12:48 and Mark 10:30. Moreover, the fact is that the most common Greek term for those gifts conveyed by the imposition of apostolic hands is the word charisma (cf. Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:4, 9, 28-31; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).


The Laying on of the Apostle’s Hands


Yes, some of the early members of the church did receive miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit imparted by the laying on of the apostles' hands (Acts 6:6, 8; Rom. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:6). These "gifts" were miraculous manifestations of the POWER of the Holy Spirit (going back to the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy). They were NOT the Acts 2:38 "gift of the Holy Spirit." These gifts were always bestowed by an apostle, and the person having a gift could not in turn pass it on to someone else. Christians who possessed these gifts were to use them for the edification of the church - the body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:26). Members with these "gifts" from the Spirit (in the Apostolic Age) were needed as helpers to the apostles, since the apostles could not always remain with all the congregations. These gifts were extant before the complete will of God (the New Testament) had been given and recorded.


Let’s briefly look at three Bible examples of the POWER of the Holy Spirit being given through the laying on of the apostle’s hands:


(1) In Acts 8, Philip preached Christ unto citizens of Samaria (vs. 5). They believed the message, and were immersed in water (vs. 12). Since verse 16 says the the Spirit had not fallen on them as a result of their water baptism, some brethren say it would be a contradiction to say the Holy Spirit personally indwells at baptism. They make this argument: “Even though the Samaritans had been immersed in water, they had not received the Holy Spirit; hence, there is no indwelling of the Spirit at the point of baptism.”

This assertion overlooks a very important phrase in verse 16. The text states: ". . . for as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." Why did not the sentence conclude with the words, "as yet it was fallen upon none of them," if absolutely no reception of the Spirit was being affirmed? Certainly such would have been sufficient to complete that thought.

Rather, though, a qualifying clause is added: "only [monon de - literally 'but only’] they had been baptized. . . ." Thus, the sense likely is: ". . . for as yet it had fallen upon none of them: but only [in the sense bestowed when] they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." This compares well with the promised gift of the Spirit at the time of one's baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 2:38). Concerning Acts 8:16, McGarvey notes: ". . . previous to the arrival of Peter and John the Holy Spirit had fallen with its miraculous powers on none of the Samaritans" (McGarvey, p. 142).


There is no contradiction here. The Samaritans were immersed to wash their sins away by the blood of Jesus, and they then received the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit just as do all penitent baptized believers (Acts 2:38). When the apostles Peter and John came, they laid their hands on the Samaritans and they received a miraculous gift from the Holy Spirit – the POWER to perform miracles, speak in tongues, etc.


(2) In Acts 19, Paul asked 12 men in Ephesus: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit since you believed?” The word “believed,” in this case, is NOT being used as a synecdoche for “saved.” The immersion commanded by Christ was in effect (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16), but these men had not been taught correctly and had been immersed under John’s baptism. Surely they were NOT saved if they had not been baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27)! When they showed their ignorance of the Holy Spirit, Paul taught them about Jesus and immersed them. Like all penitent believers, they were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, and then they received the (literal) indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit. But then Paul laid his hands on them so they could receive a miraculous gift (POWER) of the Holy Spirit. With this power they spoke in tongues and prophesied (vs. 6).


(3) Timothy received a gift "through" or "by" (dia, a Greek preposition which, when used with the genitive, means the agency of means by which another acts) the laying on of Paul's hands (2 Timothy 1:6). This was most likely the gift that was given "with" (meta, a preposition which with the genitive, means "in accompa­niment with") the hands of the presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14). For good reason, Paul apparently used two differ­ent prepositions in describing how Timothy received the gift. Jesus, through the agency of Paul's hands and accompanied with the hands of the presbytery, gave a gift to Timothy. Paul's hands were the agency by which the gift was given, and along with Paul, the presbytery laid on their hands to assign to Timothy the use of the gift.


These gifts given by the laying on of the apostles hands were temporary and were to cease with the completion of the last will and testament. The Bible says, “Love lasts forever. There are such things as prophecies, but they will disappear. There are such things as inspired languages, but they will stop. There is such a thing as knowledge from God, but it will disappear” (1 Cor. 13:8). When would this happen? “We prophesy in parts, but when that which is complete comes, the parts will disappear” (v. 10). That "which is complete" -- that complete thing (not Christ) -- was the word of God, "the perfect law of freedom" (Jas. 1:25), and it has come. We should now "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).


The word of God contains all that Christ wants us to believe, teach, and practice religiously; it excludes everything we are not to believe, teach, and practice. Once the whole (perfect) body of truth had been one time for all time given and confirmed, then these miraculous gifts ceased (Eph. 4:7, 11-13). There are no “miracles” being done today by the power of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of the apostle’s hands.




The "gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38) is the personal indwelling of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Timothy 1:14), NOT the gift of the miraculous empowering of the Spirit (Act 10:45). The empowering gift of the Spirit gave those who received that gift the POWER to perform signs and wonders (Hebrews 2:3-4). The indwelling gift of the Spirit gives strength to the Christian (through the word – Col. 1:9-11) to live the Christian life (Ephesians 3:16).


The fact of the Spirit's indwelling is a different issue altogether from the various modes of His operation as effected in the apostolic age. In affirming that the Holy Spirit dwells within the child of God one need NOT suggest: (a) that He operates in some mysterious way directly upon the saint's heart, (b) that some evidence from the Spirit is necessary to prove He is really in us, (c) that the Spirit "guides" or "illuminates" us in some way apart from the Scriptures (special guidance, leading, and such like), (d) that miracles are performed today.


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