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Article Of The Week

What God's Word Says About...

Gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38

Before Jesus ascended into heaven He gathered the eleven apostles together and commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised.  Jesus told the eleven that “John baptized with water, but you [apostles] will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…but you [apostles] will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you [apostles] and you [apostles] shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:2-9). 

   Before the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and said, “it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us – beginning with the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us – one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).  And the apostles “prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place…And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:24-26).

   The definition of an apostle is one who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and has been sent by Jesus to spread the gospel.  Jesus promised the twelve that they would receive “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:25-26).  Jesus also spoke to the twelve and said, “the Spirit of truth, will guide you into all truth; for He [Holy Spirit] will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come…He [Holy Spirit] will glorify Me [Jesus] for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:13-14).

   Because of the power given by the Holy Spirit the twelve apostles were able to speak to the Jews on the day of Pentecost in twelve dialects so that those Jews who were there understood the word of God in their own language (Acts 2:6-11).  When the Jews heard Peter and the eleven preaching that they had crucified the “Lord and Christ” -they “were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ “(Acts 2:37).  Note that this question indicates that theseJews  (#1) believed in Jesus, a requirement to be saved (Mark 16:16).  Peter also told them, (#2) “Repent, and each of you be (#3) baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). 

   Repentance is a recognition that one has sinned against the will of God.  Paul wrote, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10).  To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is to be immersed, or buried, in water (Romans 6:3-4).  One does not receive forgiveness of sin unless they come into contact with the spiritual blood that Jesus shed on the cross.  When Jesus shared in the Last Supper with the disciples, He took the cup and said, “for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:27-28).  The meaning of the Greek word “for” is EIS [in order to].  The same word “for” used in these verses is the same “for” [EIS - in order to] used in Acts 2:38.  Therefore, one is not saved before the waters of baptism because the apostles said, “baptism is for [in order to] receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16; Gal. 3:27). 

The purpose of this article is to define what “receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit” promised to the Jews upon their baptism was.  Peter quoted from the prophet Joel, “And it shall be in the last days, ‘God says, ‘ that I will pour forth My Spirit on all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy’ “ (Acts 2:16-18) .  When 3,000 souls were baptized on the day of Pentecost, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles” (Acts 2:41-43).  According to the prophecy in Joel, these baptized Jews would have been able to teach the complete word of God given to them by the laying on of the apostles’ hands.  Only the apostles had the power to bestow the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of their hands.  Scripture says that those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.  Philip was one of those who had received the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit given by the apostles (Acts 6:6) and began proclaiming Christ and performing many signs and miracles (Acts 8:4-7).

When Simon was baptized, he observed signs and great miracles taking place through Philip.  “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem had heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John [two apostles] who prayed for them [the Christians at Samaria] that they might receive the Holy Spirit and they [Peter and John] began laying their hands on them and they were receiving the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:13-17.  These miraculous gifts had to be bestowed by the laying on of the apostles’ hands (Acts 8:18).

   The apostle Paul wrote that these miraculous gifts were given by “one Spirit” and only to those who were baptized into “one body” [the church] (1 Cor. 12:13).  Paul wrote that there were a variety of gifts given to the church at Corinth by one Spirit, and that each one was given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good, and that the Spirit distributed to each one individually just as He [Holy Spirit] willed (1 Cor. 12:1-11).  Paul warned the foolish Galatians by asking a question of them; “did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  So then, does He [God] who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal. 3:1-5). 

   When the apostles died and those believers who they had laid their hands on also died, the miraculous gifts were no longer passed on to obedient believers because we now have the complete written word of God (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Jude 3).  The “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38 was miraculous in nature and was for a particular purpose because the first century Christian did not have the complete written word of God.  This “gift” should not be mistaken for the gift of eternal life in heaven, or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


Disciple of Christ Ridgway, CO

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