Receiving the Holy Spirit
This part of our study of the Holy Spirit, deals with receiving the Holy Spirit. To begin with, we need to understand that receiving the Holy Spirit, is not the same thing as receiving “the gift” of the Holy Spirit. Receiving “the gift” of the Holy Spirit is spoken of in Acts 2:38. In that verse, the “gift” being spoken of is the promise of eternal life for the faithful. The promise is given to all who will repent and be baptized, for the forgiveness of their sins.
Acts 2:28 tells us that when we repent and are baptized, we will receive the “gift”. And verse 39 tells us that the gift is a “promise”. And then 1 John 2, verse 25 tells us that the promise is “eternal life”. The Holy Spirit isn’t the gift, but rather, the gift is the promise of eternal life, which is given by the Holy Spirit. John 6:63 says; “It is the Spirit who gives life.”
The Gift of the Promise
So then you receive the “gift” of the Holy Spirit, by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. But how do you receive the Holy Spirit? To put it very plainly; You “receive” the Holy Spirit, by accepting, and obeying the words of the Holy Spirit. You’re not literally receiving God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit of God, but rather, you are accepting and obeying the teachings of God Himself.
That’s why we’re told in 2 John verse 9; “..He that abides in the teaching (the teaching of Christ) hath both the Father and the Son.” If you have the Father and the Son, then you also have their Spirit.
An example of accepting and obeying the words of the Spirit, is given in Acts chapter 2. Verse 41 says; “So then those who received his words, were baptized, and there were added that day, about three thousand souls.” The words received, were the words of the Holy Spirit, which were spoken by Peter. Peter had told the people to “Repent and be baptized..” And so then those who had accepted and obeyed his words, were baptized.
Those people hadn’t simply received the words of Peter, but they had received the words of the Holy Spirit. And so in that sense, they had received the Holy Spirit Himself. When you receive the words of the Holy Spirit, you receive the Holy Spirit.
It’s just like Jesus said to His apostles, in Mathew 10, verse 40; “He who receives you, receives Me, and he who receives Me, receives Him who sent Me.” The only way you can “receive” Jesus, and God, and the Holy Spirit of God, is to receive their words. And if you receive Their words, then by implication, you have believe Their words. And if you believe Their words, then you have to do what those words say to do. Otherwise, how have you truly have “received” them?
On the day of Pentecost, “those who had RECEIVED his words, WERE baptized!” They obeyed the Holy Spirit’s command, to repent and be baptized. It’s really that simple. In order to “receive” the Holy Spirit, you have to obey, what the Holy Spirit says. And without obedience, you haven’t “received”, what the Spirit says.
Receiving another “Gift” from the Holy Spirit
Now, there’s one verse of scripture that uses the phrase “receive the Holy Spirit”, in a different sense. The verse is Acts 19, verse 2. The apostle Paul had met some disciples, and in this case the word disciples refers to some men who had come to believe in Jesus, and were trying to follow His teachings.
And Paul said to these disciples, in verse 2; “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you came to believe?” Now, what Paul was referring to, when he asked if they had “received the Holy Spirit”, was whether or not they had received any miraculous gifts, from the Holy Spirit. These were the gifts that came form the Holy Spirit, but were passed along, through the apostles laying their hands upon a Christian.
And so “receiving the Holy Spirit” in this verse, is much the same as “receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38. Even though the “gift” spoken of in Acts 2:38 was the promise of eternal life, and the “gifts” being referred to in Acts 19:2, were miraculous abilities, such as speaking in tongues, they both refer to “gifts” given by the Holy Spirit.
Then Paul came to find out that these “disciples” had never even been baptized into Christ, and so they weren’t even Christians at this time, even though they were referred to as “disciples”. And so Paul instructs them about baptism into Christ, and the bible says in verses 5 & 6; “And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began speaking with tongues, and prophesying.”
And so the “receiving of the Holy Spirit”, in this passage, was the “receiving of miraculous gifts” from the Holy Spirit.
Here’s another example of receiving miraculous gifts. John chapter 20 tells the story of the resurrection of Jesus, and how He appeared to His disciples. In verse 21, Jesus said to His disciples; “Peace be with you; As the Father hath sent Me, even so I send you.” Jesus was going to send His disciples out to preach the gospel to the lost. And so to enable them to do that, Jesus wanted to equipped them with some miraculous gifts, so that they could prove to everyone that their words were indeed from God. And so verse 22 tells us; “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said unto them; Receive the Holy Spirit.”
And so once again, the phrase “receive the Holy Spirit” is used in reference to receiving miraculous gifts given by the Holy Spirit.
Receiving the Spirit through Obedience
But now, miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased to exist, so let’s get back to how we “receive the Holy Spirit” today. And again, there’s only one way in which to “receive the Holy Spirit”. And that is to accept the words of the Holy Spirit, which are the words of the bible, and to obey what those words tell us to do.
And here’s a verse that basically says that we receive the Spirit, by obeying the truth. Galatians 3, verses 1 & 2 says; “Who has bewitched you, to not obey the truth, O foolish Galatians, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was plainly taught as being crucified? This only, I wish to learn from you; Did you receive the Spirit, by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” In the bible, faith implies obedience. When faith hears, faith obeys!
Some of the Galatian Christians were being “bewitched”, into thinking that they should go back to following certain aspects of the law of Moses, in order to perfect their faith. And so Paul asks them; Did you receive the Spirit, through obeying the law of Moses, or did you receive the Spirit through hearing and obeying, the word of “faith” in Jesus Christ? Once again, in the bible, faith implies obedience!
That’s a rhetorical question. Obviously they had “received the Spirit” through the word of Christ! Through accepting that word, and through obeying that word. Not by obeying the old law, but by obeying the new law.
That’s the only way to “receive the Holy Spirit”; To hear, and believe, and accept, and obey the words of the bible, which are the words of the Holy Spirit. There simply is no other way!
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
Here’s how you don’t “receive the Spirit”. You don’t “receive the Holy Spirit” by God putting the Spirit inside of you. That’s the “popular belief”, That the Holy Spirit is put inside of you by God, and that you are a “passive recipient” of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
There are several verses of scripture that lead to that belief, but it’s an incorrect interpretation of those scriptures. One old testament verse that leads to that belief, is Jeremiah 31, verse 33. Here’s what God says; “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord; I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it..”
But the new testament tells us, that the manner in which the Lord “puts His law within us” and the manner in which He “writes it on our hearts” is through us, receiving His words, thus creating faith in our hearts, and thus obeying those words.
Let’s consider a couple of verses. First, Ephesians 5, verse 18 gives us the instruction, and therefore the command; “..But be filled with the Spirit.” Each one of us is commanded to “be filled with the Spirit”. That means that it’s up to each one of us to fulfill that command. If God were the one filling us with the Spirit, He wouldn’t command us to “be filled with the Spirit.” We must fill ourselves with the Spirit.
Next, in what we call a “parallel verse”, Colossians 3:16 says; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..” We are to allow the word of Christ to dwell in us. If God simply “put” the word there, we would have no choice in the matter, we couldn’t allow it, nor disallow it to be there. The “word of Christ” is the very same thing as the “Spirit”, which we are to be filled with.
Remember what the Lord said through Isaiah.. “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it.” God’s law, is indeed, the word of Christ, which is indeed, the Spirit which dwells in us, IF we allow it to. And what is the only possible way in which the word can “dwell in us”? It is through our obedience to the word, that it dwells in us.
The “fruits of the Spirit”, described in Galatians 5, verses 22 & 23, are the evidence of the Spirit dwelling within us. That’s why their referred to as “fruits”. But they’re OUR fruits, and they can only exist, through our obedience to God’s word.
Without the “fruits of the Spirit” being present, there is no “indwelling”, of the Spirit. The only evidence that exists, of the Spirit of God dwelling in us, are the “fruits of the Spirit”, produced in your life. In other words, the evidence comes only, through your obedience to God’s word, which is Christ’s word.
1 Peter 1, verse 22 says; “Seeing that you have purified your souls, in obedience to the truth..” Actually God is the one who “purifies” us. But what the scripture is saying, is that as a result of our obedience, God purifies our souls. But the point is, it’s our obedience that allow it to happen.
And of course Hebrews 5, verse 9 tells us that Jesus saves us, only through our obedience to Him. “And He became the author of salvation to all who obey Him.” Once again, it’s our obedience, that allows our salvation to become a reality.
Without obedience, there’s no salvation. Without obedience, there’s no purification. Without obedience, there’s no fruit. And without fruit, there is no Spirit present. The only way that the Spirit of God can dwell in us, is through our obedience to His word.
To be “filled with the Spirit” means to be filled with obedience. To “let the word of Christ richly dwell in you”, means that we must let obedience to the word of Christ, richly dwell in us.