Church of Christ
Mission USA

The “Gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38? (continued from 2-2011)

(Part 6, Holy Spirit series; will be intermittent)

by Perry Sexton

As we continue, let us look at the remote context after Acts 2:38,39.  The case of Steven first: “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip…” (Acts 6:5).  Compare: “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people” (v.8). 

From what we have already seen above and including Acts 10:45,46; Hebrews 2:4, etc., is it not reasonable that the “power” of verse 8 is equivalent to “Holy Ghost” of verse 5?  I think it is clear.  It is referring to the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit as was promised in Acts 2:38,39. 

For further proof let us examine the case of Philip.  Philip was one also chosen along with Stephen above in Acts 6:5.  I believe it is clear that all seven chosen were “full of faith and power” (v.8 cp. v.3).  “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.  6And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.  7For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed” (Acts 8:5-7).  These miracles were done in order to confirm that Philip was of God and to confirm the Word spoken by him (cp. Mark 16:15-20; Hebrews 2:4).  After all, this was the purpose of the gifts of the Spirit.

The account continues:

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost16(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)  17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost18And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.  20But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.  21Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.  22Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.  (Acts 8:14-22, emp. added, ps)

A.    It seems clear that “received the word of God” in this context is referring to being obedient to the Word of God (cp. Acts 2:41). 

B.     And to “receive the Holy Ghost” is speaking of the miraculous gift from the Holy Spirit, even Mac Deaver agrees to this.  But Mac believes (at least he did when I corresponded with him some years ago) that Acts 2:38 refers to the very person of the Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian.

1.      So Mac has the phrase “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38) meaning: (a.) the personal indwelling.

2.      And he has the phrase “receive the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:15ff) as meaning: (b.) the miraculous.

a.       You know that I do not believe in the personal indwelling for the simple reason that I have never seen Bible to prove it.  But if I did believe in the personal indwelling, then it would seem to me by just considering the above phrases in “1.” and “2.” that it would be the opposite of what brother Deaver said. 

b.      If I believed in the personal indwelling it would seem that: (a.) should go with “2.” and that (b.) should go with “1.” 

c.       I do firmly believe that both phrases (“1.” and “2.” refer to the miraculous and is seen, I believe, in the contexts. 

C.     Notice also the phrase “gift of God.”

1.      Is this not referring to the miraculous?

2.      Have you ever heard of someone trying to make the argument that this “gift” is God Himself as they do with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38?  I have never!

3.      Where is the consistency?

D.    Also, Mac has: “receive the Holy Ghost” as the miraculous in Acts 8:14-19, but in Acts 5:32 as the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the Christian.

1.      I do not believe the context of Acts 5:32 will allow for the personal indwelling.  Please consider the context and especially backing up to Acts 4:33.  We must keep in mind the purpose of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28,29; Mark 16:16-18; Heb. 2:4). 

2.      And please consider: How was the Holy Spirit witness of those things?  Was it not by the miracles performed proving the Word of God spoken by the apostles?

E.     From the above account (Acts 8:14-22), it should be clear that the Holy Spirit was not given through baptism in any sense: the miraculous or in a non-miraculous measure (personal indwelling).  “16(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)”  How can one refute that?!  And why would anyone want to contradict the Word of God?! 

1.      The Holy Spirit was not given at baptism in any sense at all.  And all the contexts we have looked at so far should prove this to you.  In fact, I have never seen a personal indwelling verse, period.    

2.      I recommend reading Guy N. Woods on this in his “Questions Answers” Vol. 1, page 60.  If you do not have it I can forward some quotes to you, just let me know.

F.      Please consider this: If the very person of the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian and is given at baptism, it puzzles me why the Holy Spirit Himself did not give the miraculous gifts to the Samaritans. 

1.      If you have any ideas I would love to hear it. 

2.      If you know of any who believe in the personal indwelling see if they will answer.

3.      There are many such problems as this which face those who believe in the personal indwelling. 

G.    I have seen a similar statement as the following from at least two people who believe in the personal indwelling. They say: “In fact from Acts 2 to Acts 6:6-8, not one miracle was produced by a non-apostle.”  This was said in trying to refute the idea that Acts 2:38 is referring to the miraculous.  Based on the Scriptures we have seen I think such reasoning is irresponsible and done to promote one’s own agenda of trying to prove the personal indwelling.  From the silence of the Scriptures they get what they want: from personal indwelling on, to no one, other than the apostles, receiving the miraculous until Acts 6.  I believe it can be proven otherwise.  From Acts 2 to Acts 6 is likely about “four or five years” in time since the establishment of the church.  [Gospel Advocate Commentary on Acts, page 94] 

1.      Why would Peter quote to the people of Acts 2:38 Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16-18) and it not come to pass upon the people for four years or more? 

a.       If you follow through the text I think you will see it was not four or more years, but on the same day (v.33,38,39).

b.      Did only the apostles preach and teach in the church these four or five years? 

c.       Was the church only confined to Jerusalem during the first four or more years?

2.      In four years or more, many (if not all) of the out of town visitors would likely be gone back to their respective homes far away. 

a.       What would they do to prove the Word?

b.      What did Jesus say would follow those who “believed” (Mark 16:17)? 

c.       About 3,000 “believed” on Pentecost.  Why would it not apply to them?  See also Acts 4:4,32; 5:14. 

d.      Are we to believe that what Jesus said (Mark 16:17) would not apply to them, or at least not for four or more years???

3.      Why would what Jesus said not come true for those who obeyed the gospel for four years or more (Mark 16:16-20)? 

4.      Such reasoning flies in the face of plain Scripture: Eph. 4:8 “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

a.       For what purpose were the gifts?  To jump start the church (it is very important to read v.11-12 of Eph. 4 and cp. 1 Cor. 12). 

b.      Why would God wait four years or more to give these essential gifts unto the church??? 

c.       Futhermore, those of Acts 6 already had the miraculous (v.3,5,8).  The laying on of hands in verse 7 was not to impart the miraculous, but to show approval of the people’s choice in this matter (cp. 13:3). 

I think Acts 8:14-22 gives great insight on Acts 2:38,39 as well as does the more remote context of Acts 10:44-46; 19:2-6; Hebrews 2:4; Mark 16:16-18; Joel 2:28, 29. 

            Brethren, I believe this study is very important because more and more you have brethren saying things of very uncertain sounds which strongly indicate they believe in a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human heart.  Later we will look at some of these things.  I recommend to you the reading of brother Curtis Cates’ book: Does The HOLY SPIRIT Operate Directly Upon The Heart Of A Saint?  Brethren, it is high time God’s watchmen awake to this matter (cp. Eze. 3:17; Isa. 56; Jude 3, etc.)!  I am very thankful for all of God’s faithful.  ♥

{click on the blue date below for prior or next article}

 2011, 2 SW  The “Gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38?   (Part 5, Holy Spirit series; will be intermittent) 

 2011, 6 SW  The “Gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38? (Part 7, Holy Spirit series; will be intermittent)