Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:37-39)
The Holy Spirit And The Christian
When God gave the world His Son, He also gave the world a gift that would last until the end of time. It was not a one-time gift or an obscure offering. There are many questions about the mechanics of the gift in how it manifests itself, but one thing is certain from scripture: the gift of the Holy Spirit is a blessing given to the people of God. The Holy Spirit and the Christian generate more questions left unanswered than most subjects of holy writ. There are many false views about the relationship, but sometimes in defense of the truth, the blessing of the gift of God is cast out as the baby with the bathwater. One extreme view of the Christian and interaction with the Spirit has deluded the reality of the truth of a deep and abiding (personal) connection with the Holy Spirit. An examination of the scriptures will not support some mystic better felt than told experience. All of the first century Christians experienced the gift of the Holy Spirit. For all those who make a covenant with God, the gift of the Holy Spirit is a promise.
The relationship of the Spirit with the Christian is harmonious with the teachings of scripture. As a part of the revelation of the gospel, the Spirit completes the work of God in the heart of His children. Sometimes terminologies confuse the issue when the heart is prejudiced towards a false doctrine. Saying there is such a thing as the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” does not, by definition, teach false doctrine. The word of God is abundant in statements of the indwelling. Because false doctrines mistakenly use the terms to define an experience outside the authority of the word as the indwelling, many shrink away from using terms defined by the Spirit.
On the day of Pentecost, the twelve apostles preached the gospel of a resurrected Jesus to an audience of devout Jews. The Holy Spirit was not a new doctrine to the Jews, and they would have been quite familiar with the Spirit. David expressed a strong desire for God not to take away the Spirit from him when he pled his repentance for the sin with Bathsheba. The Holy Spirit was not absent in the Old Testament. He was active in the lives of God’s people. When the Jews responded to the preaching of Peter and the eleven, they begged Peter to tell them what they must do. The apostle told them to repent and be baptized. Obedience would wash away their sins, and by the grace of God, they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Emphasis is always given to repentance and baptism (and rightfully so), but when three thousand Jews repented and accepted baptism to wash away their sins, did they ignore the part of Peter’s reply about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit? If the Holy Spirit was such a new doctrine to these devout Jews, why would they accept the statement of Peter without confirmation? In whatever form they knew the Holy Spirit, they also accepted the gift of God to receive the Holy Spirit as part of their salvation.
Peter promised that all who repented and were baptized for the remission of sins would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Three thousand people received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They did not begin to roll around on the floor or speak in an unknown language or gibberish. Hearing the word of the gospel, their hearts were pricked with guilt, and they sought salvation. In their obedience, God washed away their sins, and the Holy Spirit began to dwell within their hearts through faith. The gift of the Holy Spirit was not dependent on the words of the New Testament – it had not been written yet. What the three thousand received on that day was a gift of God to dwell in a spiritual union with the Father. The Spirit is not the same as the word. The first Christians received something apart from the word of the New Testament. God gives the Holy Spirit to all who obey Him.
The apostle Paul would write extensively about the Holy Spirit. In writing to the Roman Christians, Paul established a clear thesis of the relationship between the Christian and the Holy Spirit as an indwelling. Living according to the Spirit is a personal experience shared between the child of God and the Spirit. As the Spirit stands before the Father, He testifies to the individual’s covenant as a child of God. The Holy Spirit is a helper seeking to increase the faith and help the Christian overcome weaknesses. There is a relationship between the Christian and Spirit the world can never understand. The influence of the Spirit is measured by the same influence as the Father and Son. God could make a man do something without his control, but He does not. Jesus can influence a man to speak in tongues, but He does not. If the Father and the Son will not overpower a man in some charismatic and powerful way, why would anyone expect the Holy Spirit to do what God and Jesus will not do? He dwells in the Christian, but the will of the man measures the work of the Spirit in his life.
Christians are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Established by Jesus Christ, anointed by God, and sealed by the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee is the greatest gift of salvation. This all comes about by hearing the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, and having believed, are sealed with the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit is an earnest pledge of the promise of God. As the song repeats, “A foretaste of what is to come.” The Holy Spirit helps with the infirmities of the Christian, giving life to the body in the resurrection, and filling the heart with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If you live in the Spirit – walk in the Spirit.