When does a Christ follower receive the Holy Spirit? And what do we make of Acts Chapter 19 that I read just this past Sunday where it talks about? There were some disciples that Paul met and he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit yet. And they said, no, we’ve not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. Were they Christians yet?
Like, what does this even mean? What do we make of this? So that’s the question I want to deal with today. Let me just read the passage in question, Acts Chapter 19, the first seven verses. While Apollos was at Corinth, paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus.
There he found some disciples and asked them, did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? And they answered, no, we’ve not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. So Paul asked them, what baptism did you receive? They said, John’s baptism. Paul said John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance.
He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus. And on hearing this, these men, these disciples here in Ephesus were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and they prophesied. There were about twelve men and all it says. So again, what do we make of this?
Well, let’s start with when the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life. What Scripture teaches us is that the moment at conversion, the moment that a person decides to follow Jesus and places their trust in Jesus alone for salvation rather than in their works, the Holy Spirit comes into that person, he indwells that individual. Some terminology that you’ll find in Scripture is he baptizes them in his spirit or the baptism of the Spirit. Now, because of this Acts 19 passage, there are some who talk about a baptism after conversion. But I want you to know that if a person has not been indwelt with the Holy Spirit and baptized in the Holy Spirit, then that person is not a Christ follower.
There’s not a secondary baptism. Now, there may be other things that happen subsequent to conversion and to being indwelt with the Holy Spirit and baptized by the Holy Spirit, but those matters happen at the beginning, and then anything after that is something else. And so we want to make sure that we’re clear on that. So again, what do we then decide to do about these guys here in Acts Chapter 19? Were they believers or not?
Well, we get a clue in the chapter right before Acts Chapter 18, where we meet a guy named Apollos. He’s an Alexandrian Jew, we’re told, who went around Ephesus preaching, but it says in Acts Chapter 18 that he only knew the baptism of John, meaning John the Baptist, was a person who, as we just read preached a message of repentance. He tried to prepare people for the coming of Jesus, but he preached a message of repentance. And so in an expression of repentance, when people heard John’s message, they would be baptized as a symbol of their repentance and outward cleansing and that kind of a thing. But then Apollos comes across two believers named Priscilla and Aquila, we’re told in Acts chapter 18.
And it says that they explain the way of God to him more adequately. They’re saying repentance is important, but there’s another half of the equation here, and that’s belief specifically in Jesus, who Jesus is as the Messiah, as the Son of God who has come. He died and he rose again, and he’s ascended to the right hand of the Father. And so Priscilla and Aquila helped Apollos to sort of see that. So what appears to be happening then, in the next chapter with these men in Ephesus is that it says that these men are disciples, they’re self identified disciples, but not of Jesus yet, but really of more John at this point.
Perhaps they had been baptized for repentance. Perhaps they had received John’s baptism. Perhaps they had heard Apollos even teaching. But whenever Paul encountered them, they had not yet placed their faith in Jesus. They were not yet disciples of Jesus until he explained to them the full gospel and explained the whole thing to them.
And they received that. They were baptized in the moment, and then they received the Holy Spirit. So I think that’s the right way to look at that. The Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life the moment at conversion. And then after that, we are to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit and using the gifts of the Spirit that God gives us.
So thank you so much for this question today. Continue to tune in each week as we address more and more of these questions.