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How does one receive the Holy Spirit? And, how can one know whether one has received it? Further: Is God somehow forced to give the Holy Spirit to all who are baptised by someone, or is it so that God gives his Spirit only to those whom he chooses, at a time he chooses?
Consider this: Churches and preachers baptise people, and yet they are not notably changed, and no obvious fruit of the Holy Spirit is seen in their daily lives. Why is that?
This article considers that whole matter.
Both the Old and New Testaments show that when people received the Holy Spirit, there were clear signs, special manifestations. Today, there are no signs of the kind the Scriptures describe.
Some have said that it is “only the signs” that have ceased. But, that does not explain the fact that people’s daily lives do not give any indication that they would have received the Holy Spirit.
In some churches, it is for some reason considered to be a “sign” when people fall backward, laugh uncontrollably, speak “glossolalia”, or something similar.
A note: Literally, the word “glossolalia” is an old Greek word-combination which referred to speaking in [other] languages. When the disciples received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Acts 2, they were also given an ability to proclaim the Good Tidings in several languages, to people of many nationalities, see Acts 2:1–11. But, the “glossolalia” that is in our day practised in some churches, is something quite different.
Galatians 5:22–23 contains the phrase “the fruit of the Spirit”. It is good to keep in mind that those two verses do not in any way contain a full list of the attributes and fruit of the Holy Spirit. The list below contains some examples, taken from various bible-passages, of what God’s Spirit produced in the saints, or for them. (Saints = the people who received the Holy Spirit in the first century.)
Access to the Father, adoption, being quickened, comfort, counsel and might, discerning of spirits, faith (and faithfulness), fear of the Lord, fellowship, gentleness, goodness (generosity), grace, guidance, healing, holiness, hope, joy, justice, justification, knowledge, languages and interpretation of languages, liberty (freedom), life, longsuffering (patience), love, meekness (humility), miracles, peace, pledge, power, prophecy, rebirth, renewal, revelation, righteousness, sanctification, signs, sound mind, strength, supplications, temperance (self-control), truth, understanding, unity, washing, wisdom.
And, there probably is much more.
Again, please note that the short list in Galatians 5:22–23 only mentions a small part of the “fruit” of God’s Spirit. Those verses with their context merely record something the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Galatia, in regard to how things would go in their fellowship, if they were led by the Holy Spirit, or if they followed the pulls of the flesh instead.
Was it only the apostles who could immerse (baptise) people? The New Testament shows that it was not only the apostles. But, the next question is, who could lay the hands on the baptised persons? Because, the NT shows that in the normal case, the Holy Spirit was given only after the laying on of hands. (This refers to times after the initial, dramatic outpouring which took place on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2.)
Acts 8:14–17 records that some people had been baptised, without receiving the Holy Spirit. But, when the apostles Peter and John came and laid their hands on them, then God gave them his Spirit.
Acts 10:44 with its context records how certain non-Jewish people received the Holy Spirit without a preceding immersion or laying on of hands. But, that was a very special occasion, one that seems to have been intended and needed for making the apostles understand that even non-Jews are acceptable to God.
Here, it must be noted that one can read the NT all through, without finding any clear record of what instructions eventually were given to the apostles and other saints, in regard to baptism and related matters.
Probably, many people have not even thought about that question.
In a letter which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth, we read:
2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (VW06)
The apostle wrote, “I have betrothed you” – now, it was actually God the Father who betrothed those people to his son Jesus. But in symbol, the apostle Paul acted as God’s envoy in that regard. That was similar to how the patriarch Abraham’s servant acted as an envoy of Abraham who had sent him to a far country to betroth a woman as a wife to his son Isaac, see Genesis 24:1–61. That passage also records that Abraham, in connection with that betrothal, through his servant gave that woman (Rebekah) a pledge of great value, a pledge provided by Abraham.
The New Testament shows that the saints, in connection with their betrothal to Jesus, were given the Holy Spirit as a “security” – as a pledge or guarantee of that they would in due time receive all of the (spiritual and heavenly) inheritance which they had been promised.
2 Corinthians 1:21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. (NASB95, highlighting added)
2 Corinthians 5:5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. (NASB95, highlighting added)
Ephesians 1:10 […] In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (NASB95, highlighting added)
Ephesians 1:11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God […] 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. […] (NLT04, highlighting added)
Again: God gave the Holy Spirit to the saints, in connection with their “betrothal” to Jesus, as a pledge or guarantee that they would at a later time be taken to Jesus, and become sharers of the promised (heavenly) inheritance.
(Some translations have “guarantee” instead of “pledge”; some use the archaic word “earnest” which had the same meaning.)
Of course, there were other facets to the matter of those people being given the Holy Spirit. But, this with “pledge” was one part of it.
Some have claimed, not clear why, that the saints received “only a small amount” of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps they have thought that the above-quoted 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 5:5 and Ephesians 1:14 mean that. But, those passages do not refer to giving a pledge or “down payment” of the Holy Spirit. The meaning is that they received the Holy Spirit (in full), as a pledge or guarantee of that in due time, they would be given all the things that were promised to them, in connection with their betrothal to Jesus. And, as you can see, Ephesians 1:14 states that the Holy Spirit was given to the saints as a pledge of their inheritance.
Please note that either one has God’s Spirit or does not have it; there is no “in-between” state. John 3:34, “God does not give the Spirit by measure”, NKJV.
Today, many churches baptise people “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. But how was it with that matter, among the saints? Here are some of the relevant passages, in the book of Acts:
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ to the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (VW06, highlighting added)
Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be immersed in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (VW06, highlighting added)
Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were immersed in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (VW06, highlighting added)
Acts 22:16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (VW06, highlighting added)
As you can see, in all those passages it is Jesus’ name that is mentioned and referred to.
But, what about this one:
Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (NKJV)
Apparently, all today known Greek NT manuscripts have in that verse a phrase which translates as “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. But, some commentators have noted that that passage is not quoted or mentioned in early Catholic writings. Consider this: The “trinity” dogma has been an important thing for the Catholic Church, right from the beginning of that organisation. Thus, one would expect, regarding Matthew 28:19, that those words would be mentioned and commented even in the earliest Catholic writings. But, they are not. Consequently, some writers have wondered whether that phrase in Matthew 28:19 might be a spurious addition, the way the so-called “Comma Johanneum” in 1 John 5:7–8 is. But, we do not know how it is with that matter.
Countless churches and preachers sprinkle water on people, and some even baptise (immerse) them. Does that somehow force God to give his Spirit to those people?
For some reason, many people have taken it for granted that anyone who is baptised, receives the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, some people have been caused to think that one can receive the Holy Spirit only if one belongs to some exclusive group, often called “the true church”. (The articles raa012.htm, rga062.htm and raa032.htm have some notes on the matter of churches.)
Again, countless churches and preachers baptise people, but that does not lead to notable changes in those people, and no obvious signs of the Holy Spirit or its fruit are seen in their daily lives. What does this mean?
That is an important question. And, it leads to another question: Who has the “authority” to baptise? Expressed in other words: Whose baptism is valid?
Again: When churches and preachers baptise people, does that somehow force God to give his Spirit to those people? Were it so, then preachers could sell the Holy Spirit, “a tenner per person”. But, it is not so. It is God who decides which persons he gives his Spirit, and when.
Again: In both Old and New Testament times, when people received the Holy Spirit, there were certain special signs and manifestations which witnessed that the individuals in question had received God’s Spirit.
In some churches, people produce “signs”. Not exactly signs of the kind that are mentioned in the Scriptures, but rather “signs” of a kind defined by the church in question. In some of those churches, people are not accepted as “real” members unless they have produced the expected “signs”. Through this, the member-candidates, including church members’ children, are pressed into producing those signs. And so, they do that. Consider this: It is extremely alarming, if people begin their “religious life” by lying, by faking the presence of the Holy Spirit. (Sometimes, that can include even lying to oneself, self-deception, but that does make things any better.)
But again, it appears that there are no true “signs” to be seen today.
We must face this tough question: Is the Holy Spirit being given to people, at this present time? The answer is that it does not seem so. In fact, there is no indication that it would be so.
So, what can one do? Well, consider this:
Luke 11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (VW06)
For, even though it is true that those words were said to and regarding people in the first century, this writer is convinced that in due time, a similar opportunity will be given to all normal humans. (All who have ever lived. This includes the matter of resurrection, see the article rba082.htm.) And anyway, one must keep asking for God’s guidance, all the time. Consider also the fact that Jesus’ disciples (the apostles) were guided by God and his Spirit, already before the Holy Spirit actually came to live in them, see for instance John 14:17.
The saints, the people who received the Holy Spirit in the first century, were a “first-fruits harvest” for God, here on Earth. There is also the great, innumerable multitude who are mentioned in the book of Revelation. It appears that they will be a “larger harvest” for God, in this regard. The fact that Revelation 7:9–17 shows that that multitude of people will be by God’s throne in Heaven, makes is clear that by that time, they must have received the Holy Spirit. But, that group has not been formed yet. It may be that its forming will be time-wise connected to the work of the two witnesses of the book of Revelation. The articles rta012.htm and rta032.htm have some notes on the two witnesses respectively the innumerable multitude.
See even the articles rga032.htm (on “sainthood”), rba022.htm (on “calling” and “election”), rba032.htm (on “predestination”) and rba082.htm (on the matter of resurrection).
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
Please tell others about this site. Please also link to it. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/contents.htm
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa092.htm
Matthew 16:18, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”. What and where is the ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form? Is it an earthly religious organisation as some claim, or something else? → raa012.htm
The origin and meaning of the word “church”. → rga062.htm
“Church eras” – do they exist? Are there seven “eras of the church”, as some say – “Sardis era”, “Philadelphian era”, “Laodicean era” and so on? → raa032.htm
On what the Bible says about the matter of resurrection. → rba082.htm
The two witnesses of the book of Revelation. Also: Similarities between their work and that of Moses, Elijah and John the Baptist. → rta012.htm
Who are the 144000 and the great multitude of Revelation 7? Also, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → rta032.htm
On the word “saint” and what it means and refers to, in the Bible. → rga032.htm
What does the Bible say about calling, election and sanctification? → rba022.htm
What do the Scriptures say about predestination? Some notes on the word “predestine” which appears in many bible-versions. → rba032.htm
Table of contents – Key-word index – Search function – On the goal and purpose of this site
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