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The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Our journey continues today where we left off in Acts chapter 2 from the previous episode. Grab your Bible and follow along in our study on the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter shared the gospel with the Jews in Jerusalem on the Pentecost following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He explained to them what they needed to do to have their sins remitted and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He said, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself."

Repentance, which is a change of heart resulting in a change of our actions, is a major step in coming to Jesus. It not only says that we are sorry for our wrongs committed, but that we are ready to dedicate our life to right living. Baptism is where we surrender and allow our old self to be buried with Christ in a likeness of His death for the forgiveness of our sins and when we are raised up out of the water, we start our new life in Christ. Afterward, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter said that the gift of the Holy Spirit was a promise to anyone that the Lord our God would call to Himself. This calling comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those that respond in obedience to the call will be saved and have this wonderful gift.

Is this the only place where this teaching can be found? Not at all! Turn over one chapter to Acts 3:19, where we read, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” Here we see a parallel between Acts 2:38 and this passage. If we repent and return to a right relationship with the Lord, not only will our sins be forgiven, but we will have His refreshing presence.

Don’t stop here. Go to Acts 5:32 where we see, “And we are witnesses of these things; and [so is] the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him." This text explains what the other two verses were already teaching. First, that we receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. Second, that this all occurs when we obey the gospel. We could continue to take note of parallel passages along these lines, but our topic of study today is specifically, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If we reflect just on the passages we have shared so far, we learn that in each context we are taught that we must repent and return, by being baptized and have our sins forgiven, to that we can have the refreshing presence of the Lord, which is the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit given to those that obey the gospel.

Some will argue that the “as many as” phrase (hosoi in the original Greek) regarding those whom the Lord our God will call, means that the application of the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit was limited and therefore it must be the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit that is under consideration. The problem is that other passages that use this same phrase are referring not to a limited number, but literally “as many as” are under consideration in the context. The gospel is for all and everyone that heeds the call receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. Listen to John 1:12, where the exact same word is used, “…as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, {even} to those who believe in His name…” Next, consider Romans 6:3. “all of us who (as many as) have been baptized into Christ Jesus…” Finally, look at Galatians 3:27, “all of you who (as many as) were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Again, the “as many as” phrase is not a limiter, but an open door to any and all that will come in humble obedience to the Lord to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Some take the position that the gift of the Holy Spirit is merely salvation or the forgiveness of sins. One author stated, “Hence, ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit’ means the same thing as ‘times of refreshing’. The ‘gift of the Holy Spirit’ was the forgiveness of their sins. The ‘times of refreshing,’ which is figurative language, is an equivalent term. What a ‘refreshing’ it is to be forgiven of our sins, redeemed and made heirs of God.” The only problem is that Peter made salvation a gift as a result of our repentance and baptism when he preached that first gospel sermon. After we have already received the forgiveness of our sins, then we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. J.W. McGarvey said it best when describing the gift of the Holy Spirit, “The expression means the Holy Spirit as a gift, and the reference is to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by which we bring forth the fruit of the Spirit and without which we are not of Christ.”

If we offered an interpretation based on our study of Acts 3:19, it would be "continuous breath recovery from the appearance and abiding presence of the Lord through the Holy Spirit." Before you think that I am taking too many liberties with the text, let us turn to Romans 8:9, “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.” In this one verse, the Holy Spirit is referred to as the “Spirit of God and the “Spirit of Christ”. Then Paul makes the bold statement that if anyone does not have the Holy Spirit, we cannot belong to Christ. This is how we can know whether we are operating in the flesh or in the Spirit; if we have the Spirit of God.

This helps us to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, [but] you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus would come to us and be in us, through the Holy Spirit. Then in I Thessalonians 4:8, we get more insight into how the Spirit of God is given as a gift, “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity but in sanctification. So, he who rejects [this] is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you” Our purity and sanctification are made real by the giving of the Holy Spirit to us as a gift.

When the Bible references the giving of the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ, it is in direct reference to the Holy Spirit. To prove this, take note of Acts 16:6-7, “They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.” Did you catch that the Holy Spirit is equated here with the Spirit of Jesus? This may seem like a strange text to go to in order to prove our point, but it is ideal for demonstrating that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God.

Let’s talk at great length about the phrase, “the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Some that read this phrase conclude that the gift mentioned here is something from the Holy Spirit and that it is not in reference to the Holy Spirit Himself as the gift. We are going to break this down and make it as easy to understand as possible. There are references in the New Testament to the gift of God, the gift of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In John 4:10 we read about the gift of God, “Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." To read about the gift of Christ we turn to Ephesians 4:7, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Then finally, in Acts 2:38, we read about the gift of the Holy Spirit, “Peter [said] to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Some students of the Bible propose that the gift of the Holy Spirit must be a gift from the Spirit since other passages using this same Greek structure refer to a gift from God and a gift from Christ. The problem is that they fail to notice that language authorities agree that the definite article in Acts 2:38 is found in that context for a reason. Peter said the gift of the Holy Spirit would be given to those that were baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Oddly enough, if you go back and review both contexts where we referred to the gift of God and the gift of Christ, these were speaking directly about the giving of the Holy Spirit. So the gift of God and the gift of Christ is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again, in Acts 5:32, the gift is the Holy Spirit, “whom God has given to those who obey Him." In Luke 11:13, we read, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" We call on the name of the Lord and show our desire for this wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit when we respond in obedience to the gospel. Have you obeyed the gospel?

Let us go even deeper with our research. Consider what Bible scholars have to say about the gift of the Holy Spirit.

“of the thing given, the Holy Ghost.” ---Thayer (Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament p.161)

“…receive the Spirit as the gift” ---Arndt & Gingrich (Greek-English Lexicon of the NT p.210)

“…’the gift of the Holy Ghost’…the gift is the Holy Ghost Himself…” ---Vine (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words p. 147)

“…of the Holy Spirit with ‘the gift’, means the gift, namely, the Holy Spirit Himself” ---Kistemaker (Commentary on Acts)

Lenski says that the “genitive is appositional …so here the gift is the Holy Spirit” He also said that the construction of the grammar is parallel to Acts 2:33 where, “the promise of the Holy Spirit” means, “the promise which is the Spirit”.

---Lenski (The Interpretation Of The Acts Of The Apostles)

“Certainly the gift of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit itself (KJV translation M.L.H.) given. The common version (KJV) of the passage is very faulty, faulty inasmuch as it completely hides the true sense from the common reader. Render it as follows and all is clear: And the Holy Spirit will be given you. A child can understand this, and it expresses the exact import of the original.

---Moses E. Lard (Lard’s Quarterly, Oct. 1864:104)

While there is certainly a multiplicity of differing views among scholars, the one thing that overrides any word of man is the word of God. His word reveals the truth in its entirety about the Holy Spirit and this gift under consideration.

Let us now turn our attention to Acts 19:1-5. In this passage, Paul asks an important question that should shed some light on the gift of the Holy Spirit. The text reads, “It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they [said] to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John's baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” First, focus on Paul’s question about whether or not these disciples had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. It wasn’t a gift from the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit Himself. Their reply allows us to see at what point a recipient would be given this gift. They told Paul that they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. Paul then connects our baptism to the place where we should have expected to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit by asking them into what they had been baptized. This also makes baptism a part of believing. These disciples explained that they were baptized into John’s baptism. Paul shared with them the difference between John’s baptism and believing in Jesus and being baptized in His name. When they heard it, the text states, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. They wanted to have the gift of the Holy Spirit. The only way to have it is to come in obedience to the gospel, repenting of your sins and being baptized in the name of Jesus.

There are some who will point out that in Acts 19:6 that Paul had to lay his hands on them in order for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Let’s read that verse, “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they [began] speaking with tongues and prophesying.” The issue is that many fail to differentiate the gift of the Holy Spirit which is given at baptism into Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which were given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. Did Acts 2:38 say anything about needing an apostle to lay hands on you in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? No! All that was required to receive this gift was repentance and baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gifts of the Spirit, on the other hand, were given through the laying on of the apostle’s hands and served a very specific purpose in the early church prior to the time when they would cease and no longer be necessary. There are no apostles today to lay hands on people, so at the close of the apostolic age, this work would cease. There was simply no other way to get these other gifts.

The gift we are considering today comes when we put trusting faith in Jesus. Paul asked the church in Galatia “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” Notice first that one of the options on the list wasn’t by laying on of the apostles' hands. We receive the Holy Spirit when we hear the gospel and have faith in Jesus. In Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul shared with this church, “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, 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.” We will cover this passage later in greater detail, but notice at what point the Holy Spirit becomes a gift to us; after listening to the message of truth, which is the gospel of our salvation, when we demonstrate trusting faith, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given to us. Again, it is not something from the Spirit, but He Himself is given to us. This is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Are there any other contexts in the New Testament that would confirm the points that we have made thus far, namely, that we receive the Spirit as the gift in our baptism into Christ, and that there is a difference between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can further see this distinction made in Acts 8:12-24. Philip preached the gospel and the Samaritans obeyed in baptism (vs. 12). We know the gift of the Spirit was given (Acts 2:38; 5:32) because this gift comes to those who are baptized into Christ. Prayers were offered by apostles for them to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit (vs. 14-16). At baptism, they were sealed with the indwelling Spirit, but they still needed an apostle to lay hands on them to receive the gifts of the Spirit (vs. 17-18). Simon, one of the converts, tried to buy the ability to bestow the gifts by laying his hands on others. He is told that money cannot buy the ability to give these gifts and he needed to repent or perish for his heart of sin (vs. 19-24). This text proves that no one other than the apostles could distribute these gifts. Since there are no apostles today to bestow the gifts of the Spirit by the laying on of hands and Paul said these gifts of the Spirit would cease, we cannot propose that they still exist. The gift of the Holy Spirit that remains is received at baptism. The only gifts of the Spirit that Paul said would remain are faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love (I Cor. 13:8-13).

Besides all of what we have covered, in every case where the baptism of the Holy Spirit took place and the apostles laid hands on Christians to receive His gifts, there was a specific reason where God was showing His approval of a defined group that formerly would not have been viewed as welcomed to receive His eternal blessings. James Hamilton identifies an important point about the times when the Spirit was given in this apostolic measure in a filling or baptism when he wrote that the purpose in each case was: “bringing out the church in Acts 2, He was bringing in the Samaritans in Acts 8, the Gentiles in Acts 10 and the disciples of the Baptist in Acts 19. Just as God gave His stamp of approval to the church at Pentecost, these in-bringings necessitated convincing proof.” These cases were rare rather than being the norm. The only consistent gift that was given in every case was the gift of the Holy Spirit following our baptism into Christ.

To get a clearer overall picture of this difference, we can also go to the book of Romans. Without going into great detail, Paul opens his letter to the Christians in Rome by expressing that he could not wait to come and be with them so that he could impart to them the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:11). We know from his letter that the readers were baptized believers and they had already received the gift of the Holy Spirit, but Paul wanted to further equip them with specific gifts of the Holy Spirit for their work in the church so that they might be established. He describes these gifts in Romans 12:6 when he stated “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, [each of us is to exercise them accordingly:]” These gifts were important to the church in its early years because, without them, many aspects of the work could not be accomplished. We know that these Christians already had the gift of the Holy Spirit because of what it says in Romans 5:5, where Paul explains, “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” The Holy Spirit has been given to those justified by faith in Christ. Paul also mentioned that the Spirit is in our hearts to the church in Galatia when he wrote in Galatians 4:6-7, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” The Spirit of God lives within us as children of God. What a powerful reality for us to enjoy!

Now that we have deciphered the differences between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts from the Spirit, along with proving that everyone in Christ has the gift of the Holy Spirit, the question before us that remains unanswered is, “What is the purpose of the gift of the Holy Spirit and His indwelling in us?” This we will discuss in our next episode, titled, “The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit”.

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