Should You Run From Jesus Always?

When Do Believers Receive The Holy Spirit?
Acts 8:14

Some people say believers receive the Holy Spirit when they are baptized. Others claim that you must speak in tongues; or you must have hands laid on you; or you must be prayed for; or you must be a member of their specific denomination, and only then have you received the Holy Spirit. The most common view is that believers receive the Holy Spirit the moment they become a believer. However, what does scripture say?

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. - 1 Corinthians 12:13

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. - Romans 8:9

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. – Ephesians 1:13-14

From scripture it is obvious believers receive the Holy Spirit the moment they become a believer. Romans 8 makes it clear that, if someone does not have the Spirit, they are not saved. And based on Ephesians, it is the Spirit who seals us, meaning the we are protected... we cannot lose our salvation. And 1 Corinthians says that we ALL drink of the same Spirit. In scripture the word “all” means... all. Every believer, whether a brand new believer, or a long-time believer, has the Holy Spirit.

What about Acts chapter 8? It appears that the Samaritans had become believers, then we read:

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. - Acts 8:14-16

It appears this is a group of believers who had not received the Holy Spirit until Peter and John cam and prayed for them. If that is the case, we have a clear contradiction with 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Romans 8:9.

Here's the key question: what is the context? For example, who were the Samaritans? What was their relationship with Israel and the Jews?

The Samaritans were considered detestable half-breeds by the Jews, with their origin being from the people Assyria sent to repopulate the area after the defeat of Israel. On the other hand, the Samaritans claim their heritage comes from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Levi. The truth seems to be a combination of these. Not all Jews were deported by Assyria, and those who remained intermarried with the people Assyria sent to repopulate the area. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary describes the situation during the first century:

“Both groups (Jews and Samaritans) excluded the other from their respective cultic centers, the Jerusalem temple and the Samaritan temple of Mt Gerizim. All marriage between the groups was forbidden. The mere term Samaritan was one of contempt on the lips of Jews and among some scribes it possibly would not even be uttered.” - Tyndale Bible Dictionary, 2001, page 1154

For a Jew a Samaritan was the lowest creature on earth, even lower than a dog. There was no way God would accept a Samaritan.. simply impossible. It could never happen.

Peter and CorneliusAnother part of the context is the time period. The book of Acts is describing a unique time of transition in several ways:

  • From the Old Testament (perceived as law) to the New Testament (perceived as grace)

  • From a focus on Israel to a focus on the Church

  • From Jews to Gentiles

The Jews believed they were exclusively God's chosen people. They believed you had to be a Jew in order to be saved. In the book of Acts God does three special, one-time things, demonstrating that we are all one in Christ.

  • Pentecost (Jews) – the apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin speaking in tongues. Three thousand people are saved. (Acts 2)

  • Cornelius (Gentiles) – God uses a vision to convince Peter to go to the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion. Cornelius, and all those listening to Peter receive the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. That Peter was present and that they spoke in tongues gave them a common experience with the Jews at Pentacost, showing that believing Gentiles were truly children of God.

  • Samaritans (who are “worse” than Gentiles) – Samaritans become Christians as a result of Philip's ministry, and they receive the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid hands on them and prayed for them. That Peter and John were present, and witnesses to the Holy Spirit coming on the Samaritians, linked the Samaritan experience to the Jewish experience in a way that could not be rejected.

What is common to all three of these? Peter. Peter was the “leader” of the apostles, and he was present in all three instances. He is the unifying factor.

If the Samaritans had become Christians and immediately received the Holy Spirit, it would have likely lead to two separate Christian sects. A Jewish one and a Samaritan one. By involving Peter in all three, God demonstrates we are all one in Christ. This was a unique situation in which demonstrated the unity we have in the body of Christ. Once it was demonstrated, it did not need to be done again. From this point on, all believers receive the Holy Spirit the moment they become a believer.

“By delaying the spirit's coming until Peter and John arrived, God preserved the unity of the church. The apostles needed to see for themselves, and give firsthand testimony to the Jerusalem church, that the Spirit came upon the Samaritans. The Samaritans needed to learn that they were subject to apostolic authority. The Jewish believers and the Samaritans were thus linked together in one body.” – John MacArthur, New Testament Commentary Acts 1-12, 1994, page 245.


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All quotes from Jesus Always are copyright 2016 by Sarah Young
Hebrews 7:25 -- 2 Corinthians 2:14 -- John 8:29 -- Matthew 28:19-20 -- Isaiah 57:16 -- Psalm 103:9