The Promised Gift of 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 2:38 tells us that when we repent and are baptized, we will receive the “gift”. Listen to it right from the bible; “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is not the gift, but the Holy Spirit is the giver of the gift. It’s exactly like what we read in Ephesians 2, verse 8, which says.. “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT of God.”
The gift of God, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, are the very same gift. It is the gift of salvation from sin, and the promise of eternal life.
And Acts 2 verse 39 tells us that the gift is a “promise”. Here’s what the bible says.. “For the PROMISE is to you, and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
And then 1 John 2, verse 25 tells us that the promise, is “eternal life”. And here’s what that verse says.. “And this is the promise that He has promised us; Eternal life.”
The Holy Spirit isn’t the gift, but rather, the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God) is the “giver” of the “gift”, of the promise of eternal life. John 6:63 says; “It is the Spirit who gives life.” And when we repent and are baptized, we receive from the Holy Spirit, the promise of eternal life. When our sins have been forgiven, we then receive the promise, as a gift from God.
Receiving The Holy Spirit
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 Himself? Well, to put it very plainly, you don’t. And no where does the bible say that you do. We need to understand, that the Holy spirit of God, is God! No one has ever received, and no one ever will received, the Holy Spirit Himself, (God Himself) except for Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh. Jesus was literally, the Spirit of God in the flesh. I think people forget that the Holy Spirit is God! And God doesn’t come down from heaven, and literally dwell inside of a human being.. except for in the case of Jesus, the Son of God!
John 1, verse 1 says; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God!” And verse 14 tells us; “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Yes, the very Spirit of God dwelt in the fleshly body of Jesus Christ. But God’s Spirit has never literally dwelt in any other human being on the face of the earth, and He never will. God simply cannot dwell in sinful flesh, and that’s a fact!
Receiving the Holy Spirit today, is a figurative term, which refers to receiving the words, and the teachings of the Spirit, (as given in the bible) and obeying those words, and living those words, so that you can actually say that they are “dwelling within you”. You “receive the Holy Spirit”, by accepting, and obeying the words of the Holy Spirit, which are the teachings of the bible.
You’re not literally receiving a piece of God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit of God, but rather, you are “receiving” the teachings of God, which have been given to us through God’s Holy Spirit. But unless you are obeying those teachings, and abiding in them, you still haven’t truly “received” the Spirit. You may have heard the words of the Spirit, but unless you are obeying them, you have not “received” them in your heart.
We’re told in 2 John verse 9; “..He that abides in the teaching (the teaching of Christ, which is also the teaching of the Holy Spirit) hath both the Father and the Son.” If you have the Father and the Son, then you also have their Spirit. It’s impossible to have one without the other, because they are one and the same!
An example of accepting and obeying the words of the Spirit, is given in Acts 2, verse 41 where it 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 then those who had accepted and obeyed his words, are said to have “received” them, and thus they were baptized.
Those people hadn’t simply received the words of Peter, but they had received the words of the Holy Spirit, because it was the Holy Spirit, who inspired Peter to give those instructions. And so when they received the words of the Holy Spirit, they had in essence, 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 you have received, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But it’s easy to see, that if you refuse to accept the words of the Spirit, and refuse to obey those words, then you certainly have not “received” the Spirit, into your heart.
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 to the instructions, you have not “received”, what the Spirit says, and therefore you have not received the Holy Spirit.
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. It’s used in the same sense as the promised “gift” of the Holy Spirit, that we already talked about. 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, but they didn’t know much about His teachings.
Paul had obviously thought that these men were already Christians, because he asked them, in verse 2; “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you came to believe?” Paul was asking these men whether they had received any miraculous gifts of the Spirit yet. In the early days of the church, miraculous gifts were typically imparted to Christians, by one of the apostles of Jesus. Jesus Himself had imparted that ability, to His twelve apostles as recorded in John 20, verses 21 -22. (and we’ll look at those verses in just a minute)
But at any rate, Paul evidently thought that these men were already Christians, and so he asks them the question; “Did you receive the Holy Spirit (did you receive any gifts of the Spirit) when you came to believe?” But 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 they most likely had introduced themselves to Paul as “disciples”.
And so when Paul realized their true condition, he instructs them about baptism into Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and then bible says in verses 5 & 6; “And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (they “received” Paul’s words. Just like those on the day of Pentecost “received” Peter’s words) And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began speaking with tongues, and prophesying.” Those “disciples” had now become Christians, and had now “received” miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit, given through the laying on of the hands of an apostle.
And so, as was the practice in those early days of Christianity, when an apostle would baptize someone, he would then lay his hands upon them, imparting to them, one or more of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, which these new converts would then be able to use, in confirming the word, as they preached the word, to maybe their families, and their friends, telling them of salvation in Christ, and then using the spiritual gifts to confirm that their words were actually the truth from God.
In speaking of the apostles, and of miraculous gifts, Mark 16, verse 20 says; “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.” And so just as the apostles were preaching and confirming the word, through the spiritual gifts that they possessed, the apostles imparted these gifts also, to the new converts, so that they too could go out and preach and teach of salvation in Christ, while confirming the word, with these accompanying miracles.
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. Though the gifts are different, the idea is the same. In each instance, the Holy Spirit was the giver of a “gift”. Even though the “gift” spoken of in Acts 2:38 was the promise of eternal life, and the “gifts” spoken of in Acts 19:2, were miraculous abilities, such as speaking in tongues or prophesying, they both refer to “gifts” given by the Holy Spirit.
“Receiving the Holy Spirit”, in this passage, was the “receiving of miraculous gifts” from the Holy Spirit, imparted by the laying on of hands, by the apostle Paul.
Here’s the example of when the apostles themselves, received these miraculous gifts. This is the example that I referenced just a minute ago, where Jesus gave miraculous abilities to His apostles. 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 as to enable them to do that, Jesus wanted to equip them with some miraculous gifts, so that they could prove to everyone that their words were indeed from God. (the purpose of all miraculous gifts was to confirm the word of God) And so verse 22 tells us; “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, (He didn’t lay His hands on them, but He simply breathed on them) and said unto them; Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Now it’s needful to mentioning here, that although Jesus had imparted to the apostles, the miraculous gifts that they possessed, had gave them the ability to impart those gifts to others, Jesus did NOT impart the ability to pass on those gifts, to anyone else, EXCEPT the apostles. Therefore, after Jesus left this earth, ONLY the apostles had the ability to impart miraculous gifts to another person.
And this is a very important point to remember, when you hear people claim that THEY have one of more of the gifts of the Spirit, that were common in the first century when the church had first begun. The apostle were the ONLY persons who had the ability to impart miraculous spiritual gifts, and they were given that ability directly by Jesus Christ. Therefore, when the last of the apostles had died, that ability to impart miraculous spiritual gifts to others, died along with them. That ability does not exist today! Nor is there any need for it, because the word of God has been amply confirmed, by all of the apostles, and by all those whom they laid there hands on.
Today we have the complete, fully revealed, and fully confirmed, word of God, right here in our bibles. And this complete revelation of God’s word, is what is being spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13, verses 9 & 10. Here’s what it says; “For we know in part and we prophesy in part.” (This was when those miraculous spiritual gifts were prevalent. The gifts gave a partial knowledge, and a partial revelation of God’s word.
“But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” In other words, when the fully revealed, and fully confirmed word of God was completed, “when that which is perfect (complete) is come”, then the partial prophetic knowledge, which came from those temporary spiritual gifts, would end. The spiritual gifts would no longer be needed, because the complete revelation of God’s word would take their place. Fully revealed, and fully confirmed, by the Holy Spirit of God.
And so once again, the phrase “receive the Holy Spirit” as used in these last examples, has reference to receiving miraculous gifts, given by the Holy Spirit; First imparted directly from Jesus, and then after His death, imparted directly from one of the twelve apostles; And from no one, and nowhere else.
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 exactly that.. 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?”
Listen to the question again; Did you receive the Spirit, by the works of the law, or did you receive the Spirit, by the hearing of faith? (Keep in mind that in the bible, the “hearing of faith” implies obedience to what you’ve heard)
Some of the Galatian Christians were being “bewitched”, (they were being lied to and “conned”) into thinking that they should go back to following certain aspects of the law of Moses, in order to perfect (to complete) 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?
That’s a rhetorical question. Obviously they had “received the Spirit” so to speak, through hearing the gospel, and through obeying the gospel! Not by obeying the old law, but by obeying the new law, which is the gospel, which is the words of Christ, which is the words of the Holy Spirit.
That’s the only way for anyone to “receive the Holy Spirit” today; To hear, and believe, and accept, and obey, the words of the bible, which are the words of the Holy Spirit of God! 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 a 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. But that is simply not true! Not according to the bible according to the bible!
So where does that belief come from, if not from the bible? Well, it comes from people reading into the scriptures, something that they don’t say, and from twisting around, what the scriptures do say.
Here’s an example of a verse that people use, and read into it, something that the verse does not say. The verse 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..” And so people jump to conclusions, and they think that God directly puts His laws within us, and that we remain the “passive recipients” of the word of God, and the Spirit of God. But that’s NOT the reality of how it works.
The new testament reveals things to us that are not revealed in the old testament. Specifically, the old testament doesn’t tell us the manner, by which God “puts His law within us”, and the manner by which He “writes it on our heart”. But the new testament does tell how that is accomplished.
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 resulting in obedience to His words. It’s that simple. But by individual verses taken out of context, people jump to the wrong conclusions, because they are not studying the whole teaching of the bible, on that particular subject.
Let’s consider a couple of verses that deal with this subject. 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.” It is we, who 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 in our hearts for us, then we would have no choice in the matter; We couldn’t allow it, nor disallow it to be there. The “word of Christ”, which we are commanded to allow to “richly dwell in us”, is the very same thing as the Spirit, which we are commanded to be “filled with,” in Ephesians 5:18.
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 we must allow to dwell in us richly. And God’s law is also the Spirit that we must be “filled with”. And the only possible way for that to happen, is for us to OBEY the Spirit’s words, which are the words of Christ, which is the gospel of Christ, which is the law of God.
The Outward Evidence, of the Spirit Within Us
The “fruits of the Spirit”, described in Galatians 5, verses 22 & 23, are the evidences of the Spirit dwelling within us. That’s why they are referred to as “fruits”, because they are born out of what’s inside. 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”, that are produced in our lives. In other words, the evidence of the Spirit within us, comes only, through our obedience to that Spirit, which is the word of Christ.
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 allows 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, as we live out the instructions of His word.
How do we “receive the holy Spirit”? By obeying the Spirit’s words. How do we “be filled with the Spirit”? By filling ourselves, with obedience to the Spirit’s words. How do we “let the word of Christ richly dwell in us”? By richly obeying the words of Christ.
The days of miracles are over my friends, and the days of obedience are upon us all. Acts 17:30 says; “The times of ignorance therefore, God has overlooked; But now, He has commanded that all men everywhere should repent!” Repent and do His will, by obeying His word.
We have the words of the Spirit. And when we obey those words, we then have the Spirit Himself!