The Gift of the Holy Ghost
By J.L. Hall, Editor in Chief
Early on the Day of Pentecost, only fifty days after the Passover at which Jesus was crucified, a sound came from heaven to fill the room where about 120 disciples gathered, tongues as of fire came upon them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This is the exciting record of the birth of the church in Acts 2.
This event drew a crowd of thousands from the streets of Jerusalem, and they stood amazed at seeing more than one hundred disciples under the influence of the Spirit. What most puzzled them, however, was not the ecstatic behavior of the disciples but the fact that they were speaking praises to God in foreign languages, languages which some of them understood. “What does this mean?” was the question that flashed through the multitude.
While most of the people marveled, some mocked, attributing the whole matter to inebriation. They could not grasp that the unusual behavior of the disciples could
be of God-in spite of witnessing the miracles of tongues. But Peter responded to their charge: “These are not drunken, as ye suppose. . .” (Acts 2:15). Then He explained that the Spirit had come as a result of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What they saw and heard was from God (Acts 2:33).
What happened to the disciples on that first morning of the church in Jerusalem soon spread to thousands throughout the world. Even on that first day, three thousand believed, were baptized, and were added to them (Acts 2:41); and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem quickly increased to include about five thousand men alone (Acts 4:4).
But the church could not be confined to Jerusalem. Samaritans and Gentiles soon became disciples, and the gospel of Christ and the experience of the Holy Ghost
became known in Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, and to all nations.
Wherever we read in the record of the New Testament Church, we find the same gospel preached with the same results-people believed, turned to God, and received the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. The Spirit baptism transformed sinners into saints, freeing them from bondage of sinful habits and behavior and empowering them to live righteous and victorious lives.
The Spirit gave them not only a new destiny but also a new nature, a new family, and a new purpose.
Unfortunately, many sincere people in our generation have never been exposed to the beauty and glory that come with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they hear false suppositions and sinister remarks which turn them away from an honest and scriptural investigation of the reality of the Spirit baptism. But those who speak against the Holy Ghost experience and its evidence of speaking in tongues are hard pressed when confronted with the facts recorded in the Bible, and with the living witness of millions today. That the baptism of the Holy Ghost is the normal Christian experience for every believer is clearly taught in the Scriptures, and it is evident in the experience of believers around the world.
Although the Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of the Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28; Jeremiah 31:31; Isaiah 28:11; I Peter 1:10-12), John the Baptist was the first New Testament preacher who proclaimed the baptism of the Holy Ghost. He stated that Jesus would baptize His followers with the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8), and Jesus confirmed this prophecy in His ministry (John 7:37-39; 14:16-18, 26; 16:7-13). After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples that they would soon be baptized with the Holy Ghost as John had prophesied (Acts 1:4-8).
That the Spirit baptism was not limited to the 120 disciples can be seen in the Book of Acts. The Apostle Peter stated that the gift of the Spirit is promised to everyone who repents and is baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38), and this promise extends to anyone in any generation (Acts 2:39).
In Acts 8, Philip preached Christ to the Samaritans, who believed and were baptized. Then Peter and John arrived to pray with the believers that they might receive the Spirit-and it happened. When the apostles laid hands on the seekers in prayer, they were filled with the Holy Ghost.
While Cornelius, a Roman Centurion living in Caesarea, prayed, an angel appeared to him and instructed him to send for the Apostle Peter, who was staying in Joppa. When Peter came into Cornelius’ house, he was invited to tell them the message of salvation. As he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost came upon Cornelius, his family, and his friends, and they were filled with the Spirit. The Jewish believers were astonished that God had given the Holy Ghost to the Gentiles; they knew they had received the Holy Ghost, for they heard them speak in tongues-the evidence of receiving the gift (Acts 10:44-48).
In his missionary journeys, Paul came to Ephesus where he met twelve disciples of John the Baptist. He asked them if they had received the Holy Ghost. When they said they were not aware that the Holy Ghost was given, Paul informed them of the good news, and after he baptized them in the name of Jesus Christ, he prayed for them to receive the gift. And they did! (see Acts 19:1-6.)
During this century alone, millions of people in nations around the world have been baptized with the Holy Ghost-and the number grows every day. Whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached and whenever people turn to God in faith, repentance, and obedience, they receive the gift of the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. They experience the joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.
And the gift remains in them to make every day full of God’s presence.
This article was reprinted from the March 1985, Pentecostal Herald.