Do Believers Receive The Holy Spirit?
Some people say believers receive the Holy Spirit when they are
baptized. Others claim that you must speak in tongues; or you must
have hands laid on you; or you must be prayed for; or you must be
a member of their specific denomination, and only then have you received
the Holy Spirit. The most common view is that believers receive the
Holy Spirit the moment they become a believer. However, what does
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether
Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to
drink of one Spirit. - 1 Corinthians 12:13
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed
the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the
Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. - Romans 8:9
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the
gospel of your salvationhaving also believed, you were sealed
in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge
of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of Gods
own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians
From scripture it is obvious believers receive the Holy Spirit
the moment they become a believer. Romans 8 makes it clear that,
if someone does not have the Spirit, they are not saved. And based
on Ephesians, it is the Spirit who seals us, meaning the we are protected...
we cannot lose our salvation. And 1 Corinthians says that we ALL drink
of the same Spirit. In scripture the word all means...
all. Every believer, whether a brand new believer, or a long-time
believer, has the Holy Spirit.
What about Acts chapter 8? It appears that the Samaritans
had become believers, then we read:
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received
the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and
prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He
had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized
in the name of the Lord Jesus. - Acts 8:14-16
It appears this is a group of believers who had not received the
Holy Spirit until Peter and John cam and prayed for them. If that
is the case, we have a clear contradiction with 1 Corinthians 12:13
and Romans 8:9.
Here's the key question: what is the context? For example, who were
the Samaritans? What was their relationship with Israel and the Jews?
The Samaritans were considered detestable half-breeds by the Jews,
with their origin being from the people Assyria sent to repopulate
the area after the defeat of Israel. On the other hand, the Samaritans
claim their heritage comes from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and
Levi. The truth seems to be a combination of these. Not all Jews were
deported by Assyria, and those who remained intermarried with the
people Assyria sent to repopulate the area. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary
describes the situation during the first century:
Both groups (Jews and Samaritans) excluded the other from
their respective cultic centers, the Jerusalem temple and the Samaritan
temple of Mt Gerizim. All marriage between the groups was forbidden.
The mere term Samaritan was one of contempt on the lips of Jews
and among some scribes it possibly would not even be uttered.
- Tyndale Bible Dictionary, 2001, page 1154
For a Jew a Samaritan was the lowest creature on earth, even lower
than a dog. There was no way God would accept a Samaritan.. simply
impossible. It could never happen.
part of the context is the time period. The book of Acts is describing
a unique time of transition in several ways:
- From the Old Testament (perceived as law) to the New Testament
(perceived as grace)
- From a focus on Israel to a focus on the Church
- From Jews to Gentiles
The Jews believed they were exclusively God's chosen people. They
believed you had to be a Jew in order to be saved. In the book of
Acts God does three special, one-time things, demonstrating that we
are all one in Christ.
- Pentecost (Jews) the apostles are filled with the Holy
Spirit and begin speaking in tongues. Three thousand people are
saved. (Acts 2)
- Cornelius (Gentiles) God uses a vision to convince Peter
to go to the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion. Cornelius, and
all those listening to Peter receive the Holy Spirit and speak in
tongues. That Peter was present and that they spoke in tongues gave
them a common experience with the Jews at Pentacost, showing that
believing Gentiles were truly children of God.
- Samaritans (who are worse than Gentiles) Samaritans
become Christians as a result of Philip's ministry, and they receive
the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid hands on them and prayed
for them. That Peter and John were present, and witnesses to the
Holy Spirit coming on the Samaritians, linked the Samaritan experience
to the Jewish experience in a way that could not be rejected.
What is common to all three of these? Peter. Peter was the
leader of the apostles, and he was present in all three
instances. He is the unifying factor.
If the Samaritans had become Christians and immediately received
the Holy Spirit, it would have likely lead to two separate Christian
sects. A Jewish one and a Samaritan one. By involving Peter in all
three, God demonstrates we are all one in Christ. This was a unique
situation in which demonstrated the unity we have in the body of Christ.
Once it was demonstrated, it did not need to be done again. From this
point on, all believers receive the Holy Spirit the moment they become
By delaying the spirit's coming until Peter and John arrived,
God preserved the unity of the church. The apostles needed to see
for themselves, and give firsthand testimony to the Jerusalem church,
that the Spirit came upon the Samaritans. The Samaritans needed
to learn that they were subject to apostolic authority. The Jewish
believers and the Samaritans were thus linked together in one body.
John MacArthur, New Testament Commentary Acts 1-12, 1994,