Gifts of the Holy Spirit
I want to talk about gifts of the Holy Spirit, but most importantly, I want to talk about one gift in particular. And that gift is mentioned in Acts 2, verse 38. That verse says; “Repent, and let each one 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.” That’s the gift that I want to talk about.
But what exactly is the gift of the Holy Spirit? If you take that verse all by itself, without considering any other verses, you’re faced with two possible interpretations, but of course only one interpretation is the correct one. You can interpret that verse to mean that the Holy Spirit itself is the gift that is given, or you can interpret it to mean that the Holy Spirit is the giver of the gift. Either the Spirit IS the gift, or the Spirit GIVES the gift.
For example; It says in Ephesians 2:8; “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God.” In that verse, God is not the gift, but rather, God is the giver of the gift. “It is the gift of God”. In other words, it’s the gift FROM God.
If the Spirit itself were the gift, (which it is not) it would be similar to what we read in 1 Corinthians 12:9, when it refers to “gifts of healing”. In that verse “healing” is the gift. It’s “the gift of healing”. And so it’s a common belief that the phrase “gift of the Holy Spirit” means that the Holy Spirit itself is the gift.
So then, those are the two possible interpretations. Either the Holy Spirit is the gift, or the Holy Spirit is the One who gives the gift. But which one is the correct interpretation? Well, you can’t know from this one verse alone. But with the help of a couple other verses, and with an understanding of the overall teaching of the bible, it will become clear what the correct meaning is.
So now, let’s go back to Acts 2:38, where it speaks of the “gift of the Holy Spirit”. Peter is going to tell the people in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost, how to be forgiven of their sins. And when the bible speaks about the forgiveness of sins, it’s talking about being saved. Peter said in verse 40; “..Be saved from this perverse generation.”
When we’re saved, we’re saved from the guilt of our sins, because those sins are washed away (Acts 22:16). But we’re not saved eternally yet, because there’s always the chance that we could fall away, and fall from grace (Gal 5:4). We won’t have eternal salvation until after the resurrection. It says in John 5:29, that those who did good, will come forth to a resurrection of life. That’s when you receive eternal salvation. So then what kind of salvation do you have before the resurrection? You have the “promise” of eternal salvation and eternal life. And that promise remains, as long as you remain faithful.
When Peter said; “You shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”, he was saying that they would receive the “promise of eternal life”. “The gift of the Holy Spirit”, IS the “promise”. Acts 2, verse 39, TELLS us that the “gift” IS the “promise”.
Listen to both verses; Remember, Peter is telling them how to be saved, and so he says; “Repent, and let each one 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. Indeed, the promise is for you, and your children, and all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”
Indeed, the promise is for everyone who will repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. They will all receive the promise. The promise is for you, and it’s for your children, and it’s for all who are far off, and it’s for as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.
Now, let’s nail down the fact that “the promise” IS eternal salvation. If there’s any doubt about that, the apostle John nails it down, just as plainly as can be, in 1 John 2:25; “For this is the promise that He Himself has promised us; Eternal life!”
The apostle Paul talks about “the promise”, in his Galatian letter.
Paul wrote, in Galatians 3:16; “Now the promises.. (God made the promise to Abraham more than just one time, and He also made the promise to Isaac and Jacob) So then, “the promises were spoken to Abraham, and to his seed. He does not say, And to SEEDS, as referring to many, but rather, to one, And to your SEED, that is, Christ.” Verse 18 says; “For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on PROMISE. But, God has granted it to Abraham by means of a PROMISE!”
Verse 29 says; “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to PROMISE! The promise of God is no “little thing”. God puts a lot of emphasis on His promise! That’s why God talks about it over and over again in the bible. And.. “The promise that he Himself has promised us, IS eternal life.”
God promised it to Abraham, more then once, and He promised it to Isaac, and He promised it to Jacob, and He promised it, on the day of Pentecost, to everyone who would.. “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. Indeed, you SHALL receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!” For the PROMISE is for everyone who will obey!
The forgiveness of your sins, and the promise of eternal life is a “gift of God”. And that’s exactly what it says in Ephesians 2, verse 8; “For by grace you are saved, through faith. And that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God!” We don’t deserve it, but it’s a gift from God, and it’s a promise from God. In Ephesians 2, verse 8, salvation is called “the gift of God”, and in Acts 2, verse 38, salvation is called “the gift of the Holy Spirit”. But in both verses, the gift is the same.. The gift is the promise of eternal life in heaven.
Now let’s just recap, some things that the bible leaves absolutely no doubt about. There’s absolutely no doubt, that we are promised eternal life, if we believe, and repent, and confess, and are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, just like Acts 2:38 tells us to do. And there is absolutely no doubt, that the bible REFERS to eternal life as “the promise”. Once again, 1 John 2:25 says; “For this IS the promise, that He Himself has promised, Eternal life.” And there is absolutely no doubt that salvation, and eternal life, are a “gift of God”. “For you are saved by grace, through faith. And that NOT of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” And there is absolutely no doubt that any “gift of the Holy Spirit,” is also a “gift of God”, because the Holy Spirit IS God.
Now, considering all of that, there is absolutely no doubt, that interpreting Acts 2:38, to mean that the Holy Spirit, is the GIVER, of the gift of eternal life, is in 100% agreement, and harmony, with every other verse, and teaching in the bible.
It has long been taught that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the indwelling of the Spirit, and that the Spirit Itself is that very gift. But, the scriptural evidence is simply overwhelming, in the fact that the promised gift, is the promise of eternal life. However, it’s also an absolute fact that the Holy Spirit MUST dwell in us, if we’re going to maintain that promise of eternal life. Romans 8, verse 9 says; “..But if anyone does NOT have the Spirit of Christ, he does NOT belong to Him!”
Remember Galatians 3:29.. “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Those two verses, Romans 8:9, and Galatians 3:29, make it absolutely clear, that if you don’t have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in you, then you do not belong to Christ, and you are not an heir according to the promise. So then, it’s crucial that we have God’s Spirit dwelling within us. It’s just that the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, is NOT the gift promised in Acts 2:38.
Now, in the past, God did promise that some people would be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” But that’s not the same thing as having the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. The phrase, “filled with the Holy Spirit”, has a specific meaning in the scriptures.
Think about John the baptist for a minute. It says in Luke 1:15; “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.” The word translated “filled”, means “to be furnished, or supplied with”. Even before John was born, he was “furnished” with the Holy Spirit. That’s not normal, that’s a miracle.
Why did God do that? And exactly what does that mean, that he was “furnished with the Holy Spirit”? The bible never suggests that John was any kind of “sinless individual”, like Jesus was. So then what did that amount to, John being filled, or supplied with the Holy Spirit? The answer is, that the bible uses the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” to mean that someone is endowed with a miraculous gift, given by the Holy Spirit. And that was the case with John the baptist. John was selected by God, to be the forerunner of Jesus, and to prepare the way for Christ, and to be a witness to the Lamb of God.
It says in John 1:6; “There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the Light, that all might believe through Him.” In verse 29, John said; “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
John was a prophet of God. And like all prophets of God, God miraculously filled John with His word. And he also seemed to be filled with the spirit of humility and self-sacrifice. That’s obvious from his lifestyle. And somehow, people seemed to be attracted to him. It says in Mark 1:5; “And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem. And they were being baptized by him, confessing their sins.” What do you think attracted all those people, to this man who owned nothing but the clothes that he wore, and who lived out in the wilderness? Obviously, God attracted them!
But let’s get back to the phrase, “filled with the Holy Spirit”. It says in Luke 1, verse 67; “And his father, Zacharias, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying..” And the scripture goes on to tell what he said.
You remember Stephen, from the book of Acts. When Stephen was chosen by the congregation in Jerusalem to help minister to the widows, it said in Acts 6:5; “And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Spirit..” Stephen had been endowed with miraculous gifts of the Spirit. And when Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews, it says in Acts 7:55; “But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God!” Stephen obviously had a special ability there. It’s not everyone who can look right into heaven and see the glory of God, and Jesus Christ.
To be “filled with the Holy Spirit” doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is inhabiting your spirit. It means that you are endowed with miraculous power, GIVEN by the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus told His apostles, in Acts 1:8; “But you shall receive POWER, when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” That was a promise, but it was only made to the apostles.
And then, when that that promise was fulfilled, and when that power came upon them, in Acts 2, verse 4, it says; “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
To receive “power” from the Holy Spirit, and to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”, is to receive a miraculous “gift”, given by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:4 says; “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” Verses 8 thru 11 say; “For to one is given the word of wisdom, through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit. To another faith, by the same Spirit, and to another, the gifts of healing, by the one Spirit. And to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another, kinds of tongues, and to another, the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually, just as He wills.”
And all of these gifts are miraculously given, by the Holy Spirit. But there’s one gift that isn’t a miracle, but it’s still given by the same Holy Spirit. And that gift is the promise of eternal life, which is given to ALL people, who will repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. That is the gift that was promised in Acts 2, verse 38.
Next week, Lord willing, we’ll examine the scriptures a little more, and we’ll learn what it means, to have the Spirit of God dwelling in us. Sometimes the bible says that the Spirit of God dwells in us, and sometimes it says that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, and sometimes it says that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Of course they all mean the same thing, because the Holy Spirit and Christ and God are all one! And we’ll also learn exactly how the Spirit of God gets into us, so that it can dwell there.
That’s going to be interesting, so be here next week.