The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

(Jamie Hobbs) #1

In Acts 8:14-17, Luke mentions a number of Samaritans who had heard the Word and been “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus”, but this act was not sufficient for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Peter and John had to go there, lay hands on them, and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Likewise in Acts 19:1-6, we see another example of this with a slight difference. Paul in Ephesus encounters some who did not even know what the Holy Spirit was, and claimed to have been “baptized into John’s baptism.” He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”, insinuating that claiming belief alone might not be enough. Then they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, which this time WAS sufficient to receive the Spirit once Paul laid hands on them.

How does this jive with your understanding of the indwelling Spirit present in every Christian? Do you receive the Spirit at the moment you believe, or is more needed as in these examples? Is the laying on of hands required to receive the Spirit? Can you defend your position Scripturally?


(SeanO) #2

@Jamie_Hobbs Thank you for presenting this challenging question. I think my personal approach is to bypass this issue and focus on walking in the Spirit. A preoccupation with having a single event where overwhelming emotion or power is displayed is, to me, extremely unhealthy. Rather - each believer should simply ask God to fill them with the Spirit and sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in their heart to God for the good things He has done. So, for me, overemphasis on this issue is a detractor and rather than trying to reconcile these passages I would tend to emphasize seeking the Spirit now, today, and each day after in secret prayer and worship.

Luke 11:13 - If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.

But, for the sake of discussion and learning, here are some thoughts from John Piper on Acts 8 - everything below is from Piper; not me. I feel like his perspective is helpful on this passage because one of the questions we must answer is, “Were the people who had been baptized in Acts 8 actually saved to begin with?”

Hints That They Were Saved

  1. In verse 6 it says that they “gave heed to what was said by 8.Philip.” That same phrase is used in Acts 16:14 where it says about Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul.” So giving heed to what a gospel preacher says seems to be something that is genuine because it is possible because the Lord opens the heart to make it happen. So it looks like the Samaritans really were giving heartfelt heed to the preaching of Philip.
  2. Verse 8 says they were experiencing much joy, like the Ethiopian eunuch after his conversion (8:39).
  3. Verse 12a says they “believed Philip as he preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.”
  4. Verse 16 says that they were baptized in the name of Jesus. And when the apostles came down to lay hands on them, there is no mention that they baptized them again, even though Paul re-baptized the disciples who only knew the baptism of John in Acts 19:5.

Hints They Were Not Saved

  1. Verse 12a says that the Samaritans “believed Philip” instead of believing the gospel or believing in Christ.
  2. Simon the sorcerer is also said to believe (v. 13) and yet we saw last weekthat he was not a true believer (v. 21—“you have neither part nor lot in this matter”).
  3. If we assume the Samaritans do not have the Holy Spirit in any sense, then Romans 8:9 proves they are not Christians: “Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

(Jamie Hobbs) #3

Thanks for your response, @SeanO. But bear with me as I take this a step further. I’m certainly not referring to emotional or spiritual highs. You reference Piper on this issue, but the following is an excerpt from the article How to Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit by John Piper (4/29/84):

"A Christian without power is a Christian who needs a baptism in the Holy Spirit. I am aware that in 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says that baptism in the Spirit is an act of God by which we become a part of the body of Christ at conversion, so that in his terminology all genuine converts have been baptized in the Spirit.

But we have done wrong in limiting Paul’s understanding of the baptism in the Holy Spirit to this initial, subconscious divine act in conversion and then forcing all of Luke’s theology in Acts into that little mold. There is no reason to think that even for Paul the baptism in the Holy Spirit was limited to the initial moment of conversion. And for sure in the book of Acts the baptism in the Holy Spirit is more than a subconscious divine act of regeneration — it is a conscious experience of power"
How to Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit (full article)

There are many things to take from this, and I neither intend to lift up Piper nor tear him down for his stance. I simply note that he claims you can be a Christian without power, and therefore without the Spirit, and that the indwelling itself is not simply a “subconscious” act, but a “conscious experience of power”. So whether the Samaritans of Acts 8 or a man answering an altar call in 2018, the Spirit is a necessary component of the true believer.

The reason I ask this question is not to divide the body on fine points, but to challenge everyone to recognize that something is missing in the Church today (and I don’t mean an individual church, but the universal Christian Church). Power. That power cannot come from mankind as we all know, but must come from the Spirit. Sometimes I wonder if we recognize that we have the Spirit anymore. The Bible mentions Christians, called “believers”, that have no power, then hands were laid on them and they did.

To answer my own questions, I believe that you receive the Spirit as soon as you genuinely believe and it could very well be that the Samaritans and Ephesians I referenced had a “head knowledge” only and not the required “heart knowledge” to be saved, and therefore indwelled. I do not believe that an offical laying on of hands is necessarily needed (see the thief on the cross who was saved according to Jesus). I hope you see my heart in my challenge. The church needs power and that must come from the Holy Spirit, who I fear some Christians neglect.

(Natalia Love) #4

Hi Jamie,
I enjoyed this discussion. It has been a stumbling block for me when I’ve come to quite a few churches and believers who only believe that a person is saved and has received the Holy Spirit if they start speaking in tongues after baptism; laying of hands needed. It’s so sad but I’ve been in situations when such churches/members insist that you’re not saved and haven’t received the Spirit if you didn’t start speaking in tongues after baptism and laying of hands. I’ve friends who didn’t join such church because the husband didn’t speak in tongues after his baptism (I.e. which “was” a sign he hadn’t received the Spirit)

(Jamie Hobbs) #5

Thank you for your response, @Natalia_Love. The experience you describe is certainly one of the reasons I brought up this topic. That type of prescriptive mentality regarding tongues and laying on of hands at conversion is one of the things that drive people away from the Church (as you’ve mentioned). Yet there are numerous salvation events in the Bible where those things were not needed. Even today we do not seem to understand much about the Holy Spirit as a whole, other than we simply need Him. Perhaps that’s enough, but if so, we’re doing something else wrong. The Spirit can manifest Himself in people’s lives however He wishes, for He is God and we are not. But one thing that I believe is universally true, when someone genuinely has the Spirit, it shows in the change of his or her desires.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
– 1 Peter 1:13-16

(SeanO) #6

@Jamie_Hobbs It is certainly an important topic and Jesus and the apostles urged us to live in the power of the Spirit. One question I would ask is for clarification is - what do you mean by the word ‘power’ in this context? What does it look like or mean for someone to be living in the fullness of the Spirit?

(Jamie Hobbs) #7

@SeanO I think what the power of the Spirit looks like working through a person varies with each person. But if I had to abstract out something more general, the power of the Spirit would be seen in a person recognizing their spiritual gifts, and actively using those gifts in whatever capacity the Lord allows to be effective for Kingdom growth. So teachers would be teaching with profitable results for the Kingdom. Givers would be giving with a thankful heart, exhorters would do so in love that the body might be edified, and so on. This means that a church (any church) full of people acting in the Spirit would be a powerful force in shaping their community for Christ. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, but I do see a number of churches that look nothing like this. Maybe even the majority of churches, at least the ones in my sphere of influence.

I simply don’t think people realize that at the time of true belief they have access to the power of the Spirit, and it’s likely because we don’t teach that way anymore. Hence my challenge to the Christian leaders in this forum.

(SeanO) #8

@Natalia_Love It sounds like you are already on solid ground on this issue, but here is an article from Piper that does a good job of summarizing why all believers need not be expected to speak in tongues. I have heard stories of people who walked away from the faith because they did not have certain experiences during worship or they faked these experiences in their youth to fit in and I definitely feel that the teaching that tongues is necessary for the body is both inaccurate and harmful to the testimony of the Church.

As Piper points out, and I am sure you are already aware, in Corinthians Paul makes it clear that not all speak in tongues and even plays down the significance of tongues - pushing us to desire the greater gifts that edify all believers.

1 Cor. 12:7-11,28-31, "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills…28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.

(Natalia Love) #9

Thank you so much, Jamie and Sean. Both of you have articulated your thoughts in a very helpful and clear way. Thanks again. I’m saving the article and will share with friends.

May God be with you to the fullest!

(Tim Behan) #10

Hi all,

Really enjoyed the discussion above. I have not been able to chip in on conversations recently (and still may not too much) due to an influx of work and other commitments… but I’m still trying to read what I can.

Just thought I would add a little something to this discussion… take it or leave it as you may. I don’t think I’m even disagreeing with anyone here… just adding my two cents. :slight_smile:

Let me say straight out that I believe that the teaching of the scriptures is that all Christians have the Holy Spirit living in them (1 Cor 3:16, 2 Tim 1:14, Rom 8:11). This is a one off event and does not happen again or get a “power infusion” at some later stage (in my view). I think that the Holy Spirit works in individuals in different ways and gives each gifts in different areas. Some work more powerfully than others, which probably has no reference to how gifted the person is, but on their reliance through prayer and petition to God through the Spirit. I also think that the main role of the Spirit is not the giving of gifts but the unveiling of the truth of the Gospel (1 Pet 1:1-2, 2 John 1:1-3… there may be better examples, these are just what came to mind) and to spur us on to love and obedience to God.

Back to your original question… my only hesitation in using Acts as an example of the workings of the Spirit is that Acts was a very specific (and tumultuous) point in history immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus. The book is descriptive rather than prescriptive and therefore is just telling us what happened rather than telling us what to expect or how to act necessarily. I’m not saying that there aren’t things for us to learn there, but that not everything in the book will be directly applicable to us as Christians today. Therefore the very out of the ordinary works of the Spirit in Acts may not be what we could expect now.

I hope that makes sense. A bit of a patchy post, sorry… my thoughts have just been poured onto screen in a big jumble. :slight_smile:

(Jamie Hobbs) #11

I appreciate your insight, sir. Your words weren’t quite as haphazard as you might think.

(Lakshmi Mehta) #12

@Jamie_Hobbs, thank you for starting this great thread about the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian ministry. Your question makes me wonder if it is this lack of understanding of the “power” of the Holy Spirit that makes many people turn away from their Christian roots and look into other spiritual experiences.

While the definition of the power of the Holy Spirit may vary between denominations, we all may agree that the bible is quite clear that the power of the Holy Spirit is essential for ministry. Of note is that the baptism in the Holy Spirit heralded the ministry of both Jesus ( Matt 3:13-16) and the apostles (Acts 2:8). In 1Cor2:4, Paul also explains how his message was not based on persuasive words but on the demonstration of the Spirits power. A question I ask myself is: If Jesus and the apostles needed the Spirit’s power, how can we possibly do anything of eternal value without resting on the Spirit’s power?

So how do we receive the Spirit’s power?

By being rooted and established in love
Eph 3:16-17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
By resolving to know Jesus and the Cross
1Cor:2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (This is something Paul says just before saying he comes in Spirit’s power).
By grace through faith
Gal 3:3 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

For whom is the Spirit’s power?- I think its for everyone, the spiritual gifts would need to cease only when there is no need for it logically speaking.
Acts 2:39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.
1Cor13:8-12 These verses seem to says the gifts disappear only when all of God’s creation is redeemed and we dont see in part but in completeness.
1Cor 14: Follow way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Eph 3:16-17.

Does the Spirit’s power have to look miraculous?
I think by the way the spiritual gifts are described in 1Cor12:7-11, we may not always discern the Spirit’s power as miraculous. I have met genuine Christians both who have experienced the gift of tongues and prophecy , etc. and those who have sought God but not received supernatural gifts but yet are great witnesses in the body of Christ.

I think whether we have experienced the miraculous or not, the most important thing is that we recognize our brokenness / unlovableness without Christ and operate in God’s love and His Spirit. We can have wrong motives that keep us from recognizing love of God. When we base our value for God in morality, experiences, results, etc. instead of Christ we sever ourselves from operating in the Spirit’s power.

How do we know we are walking in Spirit’s power?
The best sign for me to know the degree to which I am walking in the Spirit’s power has been to know the degree to which I am fighting my passions. Gal 5:24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires. I may not always know whether I am following the Lord’s will but whenever I have deviated far enough, God has always been faithful to bring me back to Him, and sometimes it has been through means that are hard to explain naturally.

Whether its first filling or second filling of the Holy Spirit, whether by laying on of hands or not, I am not sure. However, I feel the Bible is pretty clear about seeking His power, and to be open even to the miraculous. A “Power” that is given by faith through grace rooted in Christ, in love, for the benefit of His body that brings unity will certainly be a witness to the unbelievers. It’s the power that convicts people of sin, righteousness and judgement in the Holy Spirit and brings glory not to self but to God. I think there is no harm in such power!

I wonder if we have strayed away from the real power of the Holy Spirit in trying to stay away from the counterfeits.

Hope these thoughts are helpful. Thanks for your question!

(Jamie Hobbs) #13

Very well said @Lakshmismehta. Thank You for your thoroughness. Your statement about the counterfeits out there is astute, and I can’t help but think that you might be right. I’m sure there’s no one reason to explain a powerless person or church in terms of the Spirit, but with our pluralistic society, the counterfeit “powers” are numerous and available.

Thank God the real One is just as available. :wink:

(Lakshmi Mehta) #14

Thank you Jamie for your comments. May we all continue to know this real power of the Holy Spirit.

(Melvin Greene) #15

Great topic and great conversations. Thanks for posting this @Jamie_Hobbs. One of the things that struck me right off the bat is Luke 11:13. I have read that verse countless times and it never occurred to me that we should be praying for the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. I’m always sending up a quick prayer for wisdom, or for the right words to say when I’m in conversation with my clients. Maybe in essence I am praying for the Holy Spirit? I don’t know. I am amazed how that jumped out at me when I was reading through this thread.

Anyway, my understanding is that when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior, we receive the Holy Spirit, and he indwells us. I believe the Holy Spirit is always with us and that he guides us in prayer; he gives us insights and wisdom; and he does give us words to speak that resonate with those we are speaking to. I believe there are times when the Holy Spirit would, (for the lack of better words), indwell us more fully and that manifests itself in miraculous ways. It could be through certain spiritual gifts such as healing, or speaking in tongues, or maybe even prophesying. I don’t believe this happens as a daily occurrence. I believe God chooses the time and place for this, and this is a rarity; a miracle, if you will.

As to the different accounts in Acts, I have to agree with @tsbehan. I believe the main focus of Acts is a historical account of the birth and growth of the Church. I would direct your attention to Acts 5, which is the account of Ananias and Sapphira. You certainly don’t see people today dropping dead in church for lying. I do believe there are gems of wisdom that we can glean from Acts that helps us today.

Another thing I believe is that we, as Christians, can do things that suppress the work of the Holy Spirit in us. I guess I could use the analogy of Sampson. The Holy Spirit was with him as long as he obeyed God’s commandments. The Spirit left him when he disobeyed. Now, this is not a perfect analogy. I don’t believe we totally loose the Holy Spirit when we sin. We would be continuously asking Jesus to save us again. That would make suicide an unforgivable sin. I remember reading one of Paul’s letters in which he talks about the way we treat our spouses can cut off our prayers. In other words, it would make us powerless Christians. So, we can quench the fire of the Holy Spirit by embracing a sinful life style, but I don’t believe we would totally loose the Holy Spirit.

(Arthur Hsieh) #16

Hi all! First, let me thank all of you who have contributed to this discussion. I read most of it and am so impressed with not only the depth and precision of each of your responses, but also the manner and humility/sensitivity with which they were made - not always an easy thing to pull off in a forum like this, with this format. It makes me proud to know that there are fellow sojourners “out there” of your quality, and it gives me confidence that the Kingdom is being represented well, both in spirit (and Spirit, since that’s our topic!) and in truth. The quality of this exchange, to me, is a great example of the way the Spirit moves in Christians’ lives the majority of the time - in the day to day (mundane even) sanctifying of His people.

Until more recent years, I had largely considered the Spirit’s sanctification in our lives more in terms of His practical cleansing of our souls and lives in preparing us for Heaven (after the once-and-for-all act of justification had been made). In more recent years, that understanding has expanded and taken a fuller perspective, which is now being seared in as we attempt to raise our newly adopted (6 weeks) 14 year old daughter from China. Having already raised four biological children (ages 25 - 18), the comparing and contrasting of this parenting experience has deepened not only the practical understanding of raising adopted older children (with roots already established and the trunk and branches already strong and heading in certain directions), but also the broader vision and goal desired from a parent’s perspective.

The indwelling of the Spirit in our lives, His sanctification, and what His vision for our lives encompasses, now means more to me, with the added understanding that He is also preparing us to live in God’s family not only with a propositional, promissory assurance, but an existential experiential one as well. I’d love to share on this a little further, analogizing this to our salvation process, for those of you willing to read. As those adopted from the outside into God’s family (Jn. 1:12; Eph. 1:5, 1Jn. 3:1 and Lk. 11:13; Gal. 4:7), I think there are several parallels. I’ll try my best to illustrate.

My daughter is now fully a Hsieh in the legal sense. The cost and requirements have been fully rendered and the legal authorities have declared her ours; our home is her home; she has full access and rights to the Hsieh “kingdom” (and I definitely use that term loosely). This is analogous to justification - where God legally declares us righteous and a member of His family. That’s a once for all done deal. But there’s oh so much more to be done for the experience and way of living to match our legal status.

At the moment, my daughter is a Hsieh, but honestly, she doesn’t yet feel like one, nor does she think like one, sound like one, nor act like one. And it’s not like it’s been a straight shot towards becoming one either. There has been much push/pull, much conversation (over our translation apps - we don’t speak Chinese and she doesn’t speak English), much give/take in trying to merge our cultures together. Not only is her national culture different, but so is her personal culture, as well as being a teenage girl (another issue in and of itself!). She’s a Hsieh, but she doesn’t yet resemble one. Sanctification will need to be done in learning how to become a Hsieh, not legally, but in practice and in heart.

That is totally our story too, isn’t it? As adopted children of God, most of us were probably adopted into His family as “older children” as it were, with lives already having been lived out, patterns set, views formed, etc. We came into His family with a manner and way all our own. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is our assurance that this sanctification process will be completed, and that we will one day not only know intellectually that we are in God’s family, but will one day also “feel” like we belong. We’ll start to know more and more how our Father thinks, feels, and approaches different areas of life; and we’ll begin thinking, feeling, and approaching those areas in a more similar way. The Spirit’s work in our sanctification will bring us to a point that we’ll not only be able to affirm that we are members of His family because He said so propositionally, but also because we will feel experientially what we know to be true propositionally.

Whatever else we can say about the Spirit’s gifting, baptism, power, etc., I believe in large part it all serves bringing our salvation to fruition, from justification to sanctification to eventual glorification, a la Rom. 8:30 and Phil. 1:6.; with glorification not only being our spotlessness, but the fruition of the work done in our lives on earth to bring us to becoming like Christ, not for our own isolated “personal” glorification as much as for what that means in terms of towards the completion of His family.

My last comment is that my understanding of Scripture leads me to believe that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in our lives begins not at our surrendering our lives to Christ, but in fact prior to that; that the reason that we can even surrender to Christ in the first place is because of the Spirit’s gracious unilateral work in our lives to bring spiritual birth (Jn. 3) to those spiritually dead (Eph. 2), and in doing so, we then had “eyes to see” and a heart for God … for the first time in our lives (Rom. 3:10++). It is then that we surrendered our lives to the Lord - a fruit of, not the root of, the Spirit in our lives. At least that’s how I understand it and believe it works.

Don’t know if anyone read this far down, but, again, I’m so appreciative of the obvious work of the Spirit’s work in your lives and count it a privilege to be your brother in Christ. Thanks to the RZIM staff for your work in bringing growth and perspective to His family!

(Joshua Spare) #17

Thanks so much for sharing your perspective, @Arthur_Hsieh! It is obvious that you have already learned a great deal about God’s character and and our identity in Him in these 6 weeks with your daughter! I will certainly be praying that your family continues to grow in unity and the image of Christ through the indwelling of the Spirit!

I really this quote of yours:

Fantastic! Simply fantastic! And something that I will have to chew on for a while! Thanks again for sharing your story and your thoughts!

(Arthur Hsieh) #18

Thanks very much for your thoughts and for your prayers(!), Joshua! It’s appreciated and need very much. God’s blessings to you as well!