Jesus tells the disciples that they will be given the gift of the Holy Spirit in this section of scripture. Over the next few chapters of John He begins to show different aspects of the Holy Spirit. He shows things about the nature of the Holy Spirit, how we receive it, who sends it and what the work of the Holy Spirit is.
In today’s discussion we will look at some of these things to gain some understand about receiving the Holy Spirit, and we will break some of the myths surrounding the Holy Spirit that are not based in scripture but are false teaching.
Do You Need to Receive the Holy Spirit?
The first place we should start is with this question: Do you need to receive the Holy Spirit? The answer from scripture is a resounding…YES! In this section we are looking at today Jesus says in verses 16-17,
16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever,
17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
This is a clear indication that receiving the Holy Spirit was to benefit the disciples. Jesus only ever gives us good gifts, as I wrote in my last post, and the Holy Spirit is best of all gifts.
The scripture above indicates that throughout the time the disciples walked with Jesus, the Holy Spirit was playing a part in their lives. He said, “…you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”
The Holy Spirit was working with the disciples as they listened to the words of Jesus and watched His works and life unfold. It was teaching them and opening their eyes to the truth of the New Covenant, preparing them for the work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ after He was put to death and resurrected.
Paul also made the point to some disciples he found in the hill country of Ephesus in Acts 19:2 saying,
And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
He specifically asked if they had received the Holy Spirit, and when he found they had not he proceeded to baptise and lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. When they received it was evident for they prophesied and spoke in tongues.
And we see similar occurrences where the disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), and where the Gentiles first received the Holy Spirit in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48) and when Peter and John went down to Samaria specifically to lay hands on the people to receive the Holy Spirit.
Paul even made the point to the Corinthians saying, “Now I want (Acts 8:14-16) you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:5) It is impossible for them all to speak in tongues or prophesy by the spirit unless they first receive the Holy Spirit.
So there is sufficient evidence to show the need and the importance of receiving the Holy Spirit. Now how do we receive the Holy Spirit? It is not the way many people believe for the scripture is quite clear on this matter.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
There are some who believe you receive the Holy Spirit when you first come to the Lord and believe in Jesus Christ. Others believe that you receive it when you are baptised, which I guess is based on the way that Jesus received the Holy Spirit when He was baptised by John.
Both of these assumptions are incorrect for the majority of people, although it is possible for either to occur, in most cases it does not. Lets look at these both for a moment and see what the scripture says.
As to whether a person receives the Holy Spirit when they first believe, When Paul went to Ephesus he asked them this specific question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2)
The people were believers but they had not received or even heard that there was a Holy Spirit. It required the specific teachings that Paul gave them, baptising them in the name of Jesus Christ and THEN laying hands on them and praying for them before they received the Holy Spirit. They did not receive the Holy Spirit UNTIL Paul laid hands on them and prayed that they would receive.
As for receiving immediately after baptism like Jesus did, we see the example when the disciples went into Samaria. Philip the evangelist had preached the word to all the people in that region and had baptised them in the name of Jesus, but they still had not received the Holy Spirit. As we see in the scriptures in Acts 8:14-17, again it was not until the apostles Peter and John came to Samaria and laid hands on the people that they then received the Holy Spirit.
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Sama’ria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John,
15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit;
16 for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
So the people did not receive the Holy Spirit automatically as some people today believe. It required a specific act, the laying on of hands with prayer, that enabled them to receive the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit cannot be just given to someone without the laying on of hands, for know of at least two instances when that occurred (Pentecost and in Cornelius’ house). And there are people today who received the Holy Spirit in this way too. However in my experience this is the exception rather than the rule, and it is clear from the scriptures that was the case then also.
We can see that it was considered important to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit by the apostles, disciples and the Lord Himself. But for what reason and to what end?
If you want to know more about receiving the Holy Spirit and HOW to receive the Holy Spirit, I have written a detailed article on this matter.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is not given to us for no reason. God does not say or do anything without a VERY good reason, and given that Jesus showed us how important it was to receive the Holy Spirit, there must have been a good reason for it.
The Holy Spirit has a job to do in us. We will see in scriptures in the next few weeks that the Holy Spirit is our teacher, counsellor, guide, protector and intermediary with God. The Holy Spirit opens up the word of God in the Bible to us so we can see the truth of God’s Kingdom and the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf to the Father through speaking in tongues. And it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can learn how to walk in the Spirit to overcome the evil passions and desires of our human nature.
When you see a list like this you begin to understand just how important the work of the Holy Spirit is in our lives and why Jesus and the disciples saw it was so important to receive the Holy Spirit.
In a nutshell then, the work of the Holy Spirit is to prepare us for God’s Kingdom. It is the through the Holy Spirit that the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23 comes to bear in our lives. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are able to be changed and transformed into the likeness of Christ as Paul wrote.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
And also we see that is specifically the Holy Spirit who changes us in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
This is the primary work of the Holy Spirit. To change us and transform us so that we can learn to live a life guided by the power of God’s love. We are going to be living with Jesus Christ and the Father some day, and we cannot live with them in holiness unless and until we are changed and transformed from the weakness and evil ways of humanity into the perfection of the Spirit. That is the work that needs to be accomplished in every Christian and it cannot begin until we have been baptised and receive the Holy Spirit.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Manu Mohan, manumohan.com)
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