The Significance Of Spirit Reception

The Significance Of Spirit Reception
By J.L. Hall, Editor in Chief

The baptism of the Holy Ghost is uniquely an experience of New Testament Christians. Although the Spirit had come to people in the Old Testament, He had never come as He came on the Day of Pentecost. Holy men in the Old Testament were moved by the Holy Ghost, and through that anointing they performed miracles, prophesied future events, and wrote the Scriptures. But the Spirit also revealed to them that the infilling of the Holy Ghost was for another generation and not theirs (I Peter 1:10- 12). They were anointed for ministry and mission, but they could not receive the regenerating, lifegiving experience that is ours in the church era. (See Hebrews 11:39-40.) God has something better for us on this side of Calvary: the abiding, indwelling presence of His Spirit.

The prophet Joel foretold of the day when Jehovah would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, a prophecy that is being fulfilled in the church (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16-17). Isaiah told of the identifying sign of the indwelling Spirit, that of speaking with tongues (languages) as the Spirit gives the utterance (Isaiah 28:9-12; I Corinthians 14:21-22; Acts 2:4). Jeremiah described the coming experience as the new covenant in which God would write His laws on the “inward parts” and “in their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Hebrews 8:8- 13).

When John the Baptist proclaimed Christ, he said that He would baptize His converts with the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11). Jesus proclaimed, preached, and promised that those who believed in Him would receive the Holy Ghost, but the experience had to await His crucifixion and resurrection (John 7:37-39). To encourage His disciples, Jesus said, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).

This promise began to be fulfilled in Jerusalem with the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:33), but the promise of the Spirit did not cease with the 120 disciples or the Jews and Gentiles of the first century. Indeed, millions of people living today in all nations have received the Holy Ghost with the same sign of speaking with tongues. As long as God’s church is on the earth, the Spirit will be the means by which people are sanctified, regenerated, and sealed. (See II Thessalonians 2:13; John 3:3-5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30.) Without His presence, there is no salvation: unless the Spirit draws, convicts, and indwells us, we will remain lost in our sins.

By the Spirit we are born into the kingdom of God (John 3:5,8). By the Spirit we are baptized into the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13). The Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance and the seal of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). By the Spirit we have access to God (Ephesians 2:18). The Spirit sanctifies us (Romans 15:16; I Corinthians 6:11), renews our natures (John 3:5), makes us sons of God (Galatians 4:5-6; Romans 8:15), witnesses that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16), and will one day resurrect us (Romans 8:11). The Holy Ghost experience is the essence of the new covenant, replacing the old covenant of the law (II Corinthians 3:3-18). The promised blessing of Abraham is “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14).

The Bible states, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9). The apostle Paul also wrote, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (I Corinthians 12:3). He is not our Lord until we have submitted ourselves to Him and allowed His Spirit to ascend to the throne of our lives. The Christian is not only born of the Spirit but he also prays in the Spirit, lives in the Spirit, and walks in the Spirit. (See Jude 20; Galatians 5:25.)

The, church era is the age of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit is life, the living rivers of water from which all Christians drink. He is the unique force in redemption, bringing illumination, conviction, regeneration, transformation, and sanctification to our lives. lt is by the indwelling Spirit that we are made free from sin in Christ (Romans 8:1-2,9). Individually, each Christian is a temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19), and collectively all Christians form the holy temple, the one building “fitly framed together” for “an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:20-22).

Jesus called the transforming of a person from sin to the kingdom of God a birth of water and the Spirit (John 3:5). This new birth is more than water baptism, for it includes the transforming work of the Spirit of God. A person may be baptized in water in the name of Jesus and still not be born again; he will remain outside the kingdom of God until he also receives the Holy Spirit. (See I Corinthians 12:13; Romans 14:17.)

Without the infilling of the Holy Spirit, a person’s birth is not complete; he may be forgiven of his past sins, but he is not born again. His new birth is not finished. He need a spiritual change of his sinful nature that comes only by the infilling of God’s Spirit.

A saved person, then, is one who is both forgiven and regenerated, both pardoned and transformed. He is no longer controlled by the nature of sin, and he no longer follows a sinful lifestyle. The new birth does not mean, however, that a person will no longer battle his sinful nature or that he has become incapable of sinning. God does not make His people to be robots; He does not take from us our free will, but He does give us power through His indwelling Spirit to resist the temptation to sin. While a Christian may sill sin, he does not have to sin.

The Spirit of Christ

It is evident that the Bible makes no distinction between the Spirit of Christ, Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit. In Romans 8:9, for example, the Spirit is called the Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ.” The early Christians believed the Holy Ghost to be the risen Christ (See II Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:19; Colossians 1:27.)

Jesus said to His disciples, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 4:16-18). From this passage we see that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Christ.

Jesus told us, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). The Son ascended, but the Holy Spirit, which is Christ with us and in us, has come to abide with us forever. There can be no doubt that the Holy Spirit is none other than the God who created all things, who lived among us in Jesus Christ, and who now lives in us. He is the Spirit of God and the Spirit of the risen Christ.

Unfortunately, many sincere people are confused as to the ministry of the Holy Ghost. Some religious leaders teach that the Holy Ghost baptism is merely an added blessing that comes after salvation and is therefore not a part of the salvation process. They try to separate the “birth of the Spirit” from the “baptism of the Spirit,” contending that a person can possess the Spirit without being baptized with the Spirit. But the Bible does not make this separation; their theology is in error on this point.

The Reception of the Spirit

Some people have tried to establish several levels of Spirit reception. Identifying these levels by such terms as baptized, filled, poured out, received, came upon, and fell on. But these New Testament terms express the same reception of the Spirit, and they are used interchangeably in reference to the one salvation work of the Spirit in the lives of believers. (See Acts 1:5, 8;2:4, 17-18, 33, 38; 8:15-19; 9:17; 10:44-47; 11:15-17; 15:8; 19:2,6; I Corinthians 12:13.) There is no difference between being filled with the Spirit, receiving the gift of the Spirit, and being baptized with the Spirit. The terms simply view the same experience from different perspectives.

The overwhelming evidence of the New Testament affirms that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is an essential experience in salvation. It is merely human sentiment that argues against the necessity of the Spirit on the basis that it would mean that countless millions of Christian believers, not only those in past centuries who did not receive the Holy Ghost but also those living today without this experience, are not saved. While we are to leave the judgment of others to God, we cannot ourselves ignore the clear biblical statements on this subject.

A person will not go astray if he stays with the plan of salvation as expressed in Acts 2:38, that of repentance, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is significant that the New Testament presents only one plan of salvation and calls all others false (Galatians 1:6-10). The one gospel message of hope and truth and power saves all who respond in obedient faith.  (See Romans 10:11-17).

Speaking in Tongues, the Initial Sign

On the Day of Pentecost, God’s spirit was poured out upon the disciples, and with the Spirit came he experience of speaking with tongues (Acts 2:1-4). Approximately 120 disciples received the Holy Ghost at this time (Acts 1:15), but he outpouring was not limited to these. Indeed, Peter preached that the Holy Ghost was a promise that every person could receive.

Speaking with tongues (languages) is closely linked with the reception of the Holy Ghost not only at the initial outpouring in Acts 2 but also at other events in Acts. Moreover, speaking with tongues is referred to in the gospel of Mark and in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians.

When the Gentiles in Caesarea received the Holy Ghost, the sign of speaking with tongues convinced the Christian Jews that God had given them the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:44-47;11:15-18). Moreover, the twelve disciples Paul met in Ephesus spoke with tongues when they received the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:6). Further, the Bible reveals that the saints in Corinth spoke with tongues (I Corinthians 14), a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 28:11). Jesus said that those who believed the gospel would “speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). It is obvious therefore that speaking with tongues is a biblical experience linked with the reception and activity of the Holy Ghost.

Jesus indicated that the birth of the Spirit would be accompanied with the sound of the Spirit: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). On the Day of Pentecost, Peter identified speaking with tongues as the “sound” of the Spirit: “Therefore [Jesus] being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). What the people heard was speaking with tongues (Acts 2:6-11).

The biblical record of the Gentiles receiving the Holy Ghost clearlyreveals that speaking with tongues was the expected sign of Spirit bap-tism. It is doubtful that Peter or any of the Jews who came with him expected the Gentiles to be filled with the Spirit, but they could not deny the validity of the experience when they heard them speak with tongues: “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46).

The Jewish Christians witnessed the same sign of Spirit reception among the Gentiles as happened to them when they received the Spirit. Acts 11:15 further supports the conclusion that the manner of Spirit rejection on the Day of Pentecost established the pattern for all subsequent receptions.

The church in Acts recognized that people could believe, repent, and be baptized in water and still not be filled with the Spirit. This is what happened in Samaria. When Philip preached Christ to the city, the people believed and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. But they did not receive the Holy Ghost until later when Peter and John came from Jerusalem to pray for them with the laying on of lands (Acts 8:15-16).

How did Philip and the apostles determine that the Samaritans had not received the Holy Ghost? The fact that the people believed was not the sign, nor was water baptism. The church looked for a definite sign, and since the sign was not present they concluded that not any of the Samaritans had received the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:16). For this reason the apostles came from Jerusalem and laid their hands on them in prayer that they would receive the Holy Ghost.

Although we are not told on this occasion what sign accompanied the reception of the Holy Ghost, we know that it was observable to others. When Simon, the converted sorcerer, saw the sign he was so impressed that he foolishly offered money to purchase the power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of his hands (Acts 8:18-19). We can safetly infer that what he saw was the same sign that came on the Day of Pentecost and other occasions. When Paul met the twelve disciples of
John the Baptist at Ephesus, he inquired if they had received the Holy Ghost since they believed (Acts 19:2). They answered that they did not know the Holy Ghost was available. After a short discourse, Paul baptized the men in the name of the Lord Jesus, but they did not receive the Holy Ghost in water baptism. The physical sign was not present. Therefore Paul prayed for them with the laying on of hands that they might receive the Holy Ghost. If there were no expected sign, Paul could not have known that

The Significance of Spirit Reception

The men had not received the Spirit. The Bible reports that when they received the Holy Ghost they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6).

The record in Acts reveals that a person does not necessarily receive the Holy Ghost the moment he believes or even in his water baptism (Acts 8:16; 19:1-6). Indeed, he may receive the Holy Ghost even before water baptism (Acts 10:44-48). We can therefore conclude that neither believing nor baptism signifies the reception of the Holy Ghost. Only one sign accompanies Spirit reception, that of speaking with tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance.

We must not, however, be diverted from the Spirit’s work in the new birth by an overemphasis on speaking with tongues, which is merely the physical sign and not the reception of the Spirit Himself. The goal is not to speak with tongues but to be filled with the Spirit. While the sign is important to certify the baptizing presence and work of the Spirit, we should not encourage people to merely utter sounds, for even when such encouragement is done with good motives, it could lead to deception. The gospel stresses faith, repentance, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and a person’s desire, and when these come together he will receive the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking with tongues.

If God were merely an abstract idea and not a personal being then the person who possesses the idea of God would possess Him. But God is more than an idea. He is a personal spirit being, and when a person receives Him, God personally enters into his life. Such a moment cannot pass unnoticed either by the person himself or by others around him. God gives an inner witness and an outward physical expression emerging out of the inner experience as the initial sign of the Spirit

(The above material was published by PENTECOSTAL HERALD, September 1993)
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