In our first essay we discussed Holy Spirit baptism as received by the apostles (including the apostle Paul) and the household of Cornelius and the purpose of Holy Spirit baptism in those instances. In our second essay we discussed the impartation of the Holy Spirit to various members of the first century church by the laying on of the apostles’ hands and the purpose of these bestowals.
But what about today? Do Christians today have the Holy Spirit? If so, for what purpose(s)?
The Gift Of The Holy Spirit – In Acts 2:38 the apostle Peter said to inquiring sinners, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Some able Bible students take the view that the gift of the Holy Spirit promised in Acts 2:38 is that bestowed by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, as per the passages discussed in last week’s essay. This is certainly a plausible explanation and not beyond the realm of possibility. Yet, even if Acts 2:38 is talking about the Holy Spirit being received by the laying of the apostles’ hands, it can still be shown from numerous other passages that the Holy Spirit dwells in God’s people today, not to enable them to speak in tongues, perform miracles, etc., but for greater and nobler purposes.
Paul wrote: “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out ‘Abba, Father!’” It is important to note that the Spirit was not sent to make us sons (children) of God, but because we are sons (children) of God. In Romans 5:5 Paul affirmed: “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Ephesians 1:3-14 provides a panoramic “sweep” of God’s magnificent scheme of redemption. As Paul reaches the climax he affirms: “In Him (Christ) you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (vv. 13-14). In being saved from sin, one hears the word of truth (see Romans 10:17), believes in Christ (with all that is involved in genuine belief—John 3:36 [ASV]; Hebrews 5:8-9), and is then sealed with the Holy Spirit. This bestowal of the Holy Spirit also serves as the guarantee, deposit, or earnest of our eternal salvation.
To be sealed with the Spirit is to be marked or labeled as a child of God. This mark is not outward or physical, but inward and spiritual. Later Paul wrote: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). If one does not have the Spirit of Christ (another designation for the Holy Spirit), that person is none of His, i.e., he does not belong to Him (Romans 8:9b).
This bestowal of the Holy Spirit to all who obey the gospel in every age also serves as an earnest (as in earnest money in a real estate transaction), a deposit, or a guarantee of eternal life to the child of God who remains faithful to the Lord. After movingly speaking of our “building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Corinthians 5:1-4), Paul declared, “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a deposit” (v. 5; see again Ephesians 1:14).
During His personal ministry Jesus had promised, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” The inspired apostle John then explains: “But this He spoke concerning the Holy Spirit, whom those who believe in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:38-39). The passages we have cited above, along with numerous others (e.g., I Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:19-22; Titus 3:4-7), show the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to all those who become obedient believers in Him.
Christians need not fear believing and fully accepting what the word of God says about the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in His children. Indeed, we should take great comfort in that promise because it serves as a part of the blessed assurance we have of our being the children of God and of our hope of everlasting life with Him. On the other hand, we must be wary of and reject the ill-informed and highly emotional views of the Holy Spirit espoused and taught by some who are more influenced by Calvinism and Pentecostalism than they are by the Bible.
The Scriptures affirm the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all of God’s children, but this indwelling is not of a miraculous nature, either in the manner of its bestowal or in its effects. It is important to understand that all teaching, instruction, guidance, and direction from the Lord come from His word (II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:3), not by some supposed special “illumination” of the Holy Spirit. Additional divine revelation from the Lord has not been received by anyone since the close of the apostolic age (Jude 3).