holy spirit giftWithout question, few topics have spawned more debate that those related to the Person, power and work of the Holy Spirit.

First things first: The Holy Spirit is not an “it.”  It is no more appropriate to refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it” than it is to call the Father or Son “it.”  The Holy Spirit is God. Therefore He is a HE.  He’s just much a “he” as God as the Father and Son.

For some reason, however, while the working of the Father and the Son are (more) easily understood, the working of the third Persona of that Holy Trinity is more contested. People have very  different opinions about how the Holy Spirit operates, about how and what He does, about His role in the Godhead, etc.

One of the more common points of contention revolves around the expression “gift of the Holy Spirit.” What is it? How do I get it? Can I get it? A study of the various uses of the expression (and other like-expressions) might be prudent.

One thing we do know, as it is with all topics of the Bible: There is but one right answer. If two  people disagree on a Bible topic, either person A is right and person B is wrong, or person A is wrong and person B is right, or they’re both wrong. They can’t both be right and have different opinions. There is but one Truth (despite what the modern philosophers argue). God wrote only one  Bible and He has only one meaning behind Its words. It’s up to us to study and learn what that one meaning is.

Now granted, not every disagreement is a matter of fellowship. There are some positions that some take with regard to the Holy Spirit that clearly are false doctrines and need to be opposed, but  sometimes a difference of opinion is just that: A difference of opinion, and we ought never to bind our differences of opinions.

Some of the opinions that this writer disagrees with are held by men this writer respects and trusts to be sound preachers. We just don’t see eye to eye. In the end we’ll find out who’s right when we get to Heaven. Still, one can only write about what he knows and believes; others can write their own takes on the subject.

Without further ado, consider the verses that help shed light on the meaning behind this Bible topic. There are six primary sections of text to consider, spread across chapters of Matthew, John and Acts.


I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
(Matthew 3:11-12)

The first section of scripture might seem unrelated, but the payoff to these words of John the Baptist will come later in the study. For now, let’s consider what John is NOT talking about.

Some religious people have misunderstood and misapplied John’s words in v11 as a prophesy related to God’s people – Christians.   While it’s true that some of what John is saying is applicable to God’s children, some of what he’s saying is not.

As a matter of fact, John has a message here for two very different audiences. Some of those listening to John on this occasion were faithful to God and would one day become a part of His church (Matthew 3:5-6). Some listening, however, were not faithful, and were in fact the enemies of God (Matthew 3:7). To both, John says, a baptism is coming.

First, the word “baptism:” (βαπτίζω): It is simply defined as “an overwhelming.” It doesn’t have to involve water, as was the case in Matthew 20:22 when Jesus spoke of the overwhelming suffering He was soon to endure. Also Paul refers to the Red Sea crossing as a “baptism of Moses” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Obviously no one got wet on that day, but the people were overwhelmed (or “completely covered” as another definition goes). They were surrounded by God’s blessings as they crossed the dry ground where once the Red Sea flowed.

So John tells his audience (composed of both disciples and enemies) that they will be baptized. Who gets what baptism will depend on the person – whether disciple or enemy. The two baptisms: Holy Spirit and Fire.

Some religious people will ask and beg for the Baptism of Fire, as though it were some great blessing from God – some energizing tool to rekindle ones zeal. On the contrary, the baptism of fire is…an OVERWHELMING IN FIRE!

That doesn’t sound like a blessing, it sounds like the fires of God’s judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:8), which is exactly what John says in v12: the “fan is in His hand” (His = Christ, the One whose sandals John isn’t worthy to unlatch).

What is the “fan?” It’s the winnowing fan that harvesters used to SEPARATE their harvested wheat. They would use it to divide the grain (which they wanted) from the chaff (which they discarded – into fire).  John is painting a picture of judgment day.  Who will be judged and deemed worthy of fire? Those vipers – those enemies of God. On the other hand are the disciples of God – those who will be saved and added to His church. They won’t receive the baptism of fire, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

A quick note: Some verses use the phrase “Holy Spirit” and others “Holy Ghost.” The word “Ghost” has given some a false impression of this third Person of the Godhead. Some think of Him as something like Casper the Friendly Ghost, and not Deity. In 1611 (around the time of the KJV’s translation) the word “Ghost” could mean “guest,” which would tie in with Jesus’ description of Him in John 14-16 (more on that later).

The point of this text, as it relates to the  overall study is this: John promised that those faithful hearers of his message would be overwhelmed by the Holy Sprit. Again, the payoff to that promise is later in the study. So let’s move ahead…

There are three passages from John that are all connected in relation to the study, but we’ll take them one at a time:

 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
(John 14:16-17)

 Jesus is speaking to His Apostles; those who would have the unique charge of preaching the Gospel and leading the early church after Christ left them to return to the Father.

Naturally, the news that Jesus would be   leaving them troubled their hearts (John 14:1), but Jesus will  promise them something that will cheer them up:  Another Comforter.

The word “comforter” is the same word translated “advocate” or “counselor” in 1 John 2:1.  The word refers to someone who will give aid (it’s a legal term – which is why modern days lawyers are sometimes called “advocates” and “counselors.”  John makes it clear in 1 John 2, who OUR (the Christian’s) advocate is: Jesus Christ the righteous. He’s OUR advocate. But what about the Apostles? Obviously He was to them as well, but He only?

Jesus told the twelve that He would send them “another advocate.” Why would they need another? He says in v17 that this
Advocate is the Spirit of Truth (the Holy Spirit). Notice: “whom the world cannot receive.” The word “receive” is “λαμβάνω” which means “to take by force.”

What were the Jews and Romans about to do to Jesus? Take Him by force. This upset His disciples (John 14:1), so He promised them another Comforter who couldn’t be taken by force. Why not? Because this other comforter isn’t flesh-and-blood (the world “sees him not, nor knows Him”), as was Jesus.  He’s a Spirit. He’s a Guest (Ghost) – “He dwelleth with you.

Again remember to whom Jesus is speaking: His twelve disciples.

 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
(John 14:25-26)

 Again you see He’s directly speaking to the twelve: “spoken unto YOU, being yet present with YOU.”  So what will this Comforter (the Holy Spirit) do for them? Something miraculous (“teach you all things” “bring all things to your remembrance”).

We sometimes pray that God will grant us a “ready recollection,” well that’s a miracle available to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit. They had instant knowledge (ready recollection), but we (being uninspired) have to study inspired Word.

Now some might read these texts and think the Apostles had more than we have. They had Christ as an Advocate (1 John 2:1) AND they had the Holy Spirit as an additional Advocate (John 14:16-26).  The same is true for us today, however. Christians have Christ as an Advocate (1 John 2:1) and we have the Holy Spirit – in the form of the Word which He inspired them to write (Colossians 3:16).  We have what they had – they just had it instantly (we have to study and learn).

 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:Of sin, because they believe not on me;  Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 
(John 16:7-13)       

Again, Jesus tells His disciples that upon His leaving, the Holy Spirit will arrive. In what manner? That’s to be considered in the next text. What we see in these verses is more understanding of the function of the Holy Spirit: reproving the world (through the Apostles whom He is counseling) of sin, righteousness and judgment.

Jesus concludes these remarks (v13) by explaining that when the Spirit will come, they (the Apostles) will be guided into all Truth (total inspiration).

Let’s break the remainder of the study (all of which will come from Acts) into four sections.

First chunk of text…

 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
(Acts 1:8)

 Jesus has died, and risen again. He’s moments away from ascending into Heaven, and He’s leaving His Apostles with final
instructions: Wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon them. THEM – the Apostles; furthermore, Jesus lays out the outline for the book of Acts and the early growth of the 1st century church: Preach first to the Jews, then to the half-Jews, then to the non-Jews. Keep that little tidbit in mind.

 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.  And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
(Acts 2:1-8)

 When Pentecost (one of the three big feast days / Jewish festivals – of which every Jewish male was supposed to return to Jerusalem to partake) arrived, they (the Apostles) were ready and waiting for Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit to be fulfilled.  And fulfilled it was – with a sound from Heaven and the appearance of something over their heads that looked like fire. It wasn’t fire – it was “like as of” fire.  Whatever it was, it was supernatural (miraculous).

And THEY (the Apostles) were filled with the Holy Guest (He dwelleth in you, as Jesus said earlier), and they began to speak in other “tongues” as the Spirit “gave them utterance” (gave them the words to plainly speak).

A word about “tongues”: Some religious people have the idea that tongue-speaking means babbling a language no one understands.  The miracle of “tongue speaking” as it happened here was            speaking in a language you never studied…BUT SOMEONE HAD. Someone knew the words they were speaking, and they knew those unlearned fisherman never studied their language. If I (having never learned a word of Italian) was able to start speaking fluent Italian, that would be a supernatural (miraculous) occurrence. Thus, the miracle here.

Note the reaction of the million-plus Jews who approached the scene: They heard the Apostles speaking in their (the audience’s) language (v6). They knew they were just simple men of Galilee (v7), yet they heard them speaking their native tongue (v8). Rightly did they conclude that this was a miracle. And since this was an audience of devout Jews (v5), they knew a miracle meant God was trying to tell them something, so they hushed up and listened to Peter preach the first Gospel sermon (v14-36).

 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.  Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
(Acts 2:36-39)

 Notice Peter’s conclusion: “You people killed the Christ, your Messiah!” (v36) When they heard that, they panicked and screamed “What are we gonna do!” (v37)   To which Peter replies “Repent and be Baptized in the name of Christ in order to obtain remission of sins.

Now we come to the first use of our oft-debated phrase. Peter tells them “and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So what is the Gift of the Holy Spirit? Some say it is salvation. However that doesn’t make sense; that would be redundant.  Peter just told them they were to receive remission of sins. Isn’t that salvation? Why would Peter say “repent and be baptized and you’ll be saved…and you’ll be saved too!”? No, that can’t be it.

Some argue that the gift is the Holy Spirit Himself. Christians, they say, upon salvation are given the Holy Spirit Himself, as a gift. Of course the Bible student is aware of the numerous passages that speak to the indwelling of God in the Christian.  The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is “in” the Christian (1 Corinthians 3:16), as also is Christ (Colossians 1:27), the Father (1 John 4:15), and the Word (Colossians 3:16).  The manner and extent of these indwellings is for another discussion.  Still, no one could or should argue the fact of the indwelling, since the Bible makes it clear.

The issue of the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” however, this author would maintain is a separate issue; not one of indwelling, but of miraculous power.  The Bible speaks of this gift as something given to both Christians and non-Christians, both from Heaven and from the hands of the Apostles, and both before and after salvation. It is, then, a separate issue from the type of indwelling the Bible speaks of as a blessing of simply being a child of God.

Now a point of contention, in relation to Acts 2:38’s “gift of the Holy Spirit” being miraculous ability:  Someone might say “Well then does that mean that everyone saved on the day of Pentecost received miraculous ability?” And of course there is no way to know. Someone else might say: “Does that mean that the rest of that verse doesn’t apply to today?” And since miracles today have ceased (more on that later) the answer is yes. But so what? The Bible is filled with passages that aren’t applicable today. Educational? Certainly. But applicable? Not always (God told Noah to build a boat. Applicable?).

Consider another text: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16).  Obviously that text is applicable to today since it deals with salvation. But what of the very next verse? “And these signs shall follow them that believe…” From there Jesus lists several miracles. Miracles which obviously don’t happen today, but did happen in the 1st century.

Therefore v17 not applicable to today. But so what? It was applicable when Jesus said it then. Why should Acts 2:38 be any different? It talks about salvation (“repent and be baptized”) and it talks about miraculous ability (“and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”). Same as Mark 16:16-17.

There’s one last thing about this text to consider, before moving on. V39 is sometimes misunderstood. The words “the promise” might not mean much to us, but to a Jew, those two words immediately bring to mind the Promise made to Abraham (Genesis 12), wherein God said that if  Abraham would leave his family and home and go to the land of Canaan, that God would bless him and bless his seed (the future nation of Israel). Now it’s usually there that most Jews of the day would stop, but the rest of the promise is… “and in thee shall ALL families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

The Jews liked the first part of the promise, because they liked the idea of God blessing the family of Abraham (Israel), but that other part they kind of ignored, where God said that everyone would be blessed by Abraham’s seed (Christ – Galatians 3:16).

Peter is telling the audience that the promise of Abraham is coming to fruition. This is it: Salvation is here. And it’s to you and your children (Jews), and to all that are afar off (half-Jews, and Gentiles).  Peter is telling them exactly what Jesus had told him earlier (Acts 1:8 – the “little tidbit” as we called it).

Some will say “the promise” is the promise of the Holy Spirit to all, and they tie it in with Luke 24:49, where Jesus said He was sending the “promise of the Father” to them. Well THAT IS the Holy Spirit – He promised the Apostles as much in John 14-16, and it was fulfilled in Acts 2:1-4. But it doesn’t make sense for Peter to say to the audience “Hey remember what Jesus was saying to me and my 11 friends a while back, that’s for you too!”  The audience would have no idea what he’s talking about since they weren’t there when Jesus and the Apostles had that conversation. “The Promise” of Acts 2:39 has to be something the audience would know:; and they would know of the Abrahamic Promise.

Can we show miraculous ability being connected to the Gift of the Holy Sprit? Yes. Can we show it being disconnected directly with salvation? Yes…


Second chunk of text…

 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:  Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:  (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)  Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.  And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.  But Peter said unto him, Thy money  perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
(Acts 8:12-20)

 Fast forward a little bit after Pentecost. The church has been established (Acts 2:41,47), and has grown – but only to the Jews. Now the time has come for the half-Jews (the Samaritans) to hear the Gospel. Philip the evangelist (not an Apostle) heads to Samaria to preach Christ (Acts 8:5).

Notice the verses one at a time:

v12: The Samaritans became Christians.
v13a: Simon (a former conman – v9) also was converted
v13b: Simon was amazed at the miracles Philip could do
v14: the Apostles heard that Samaria had received the word of God and sent Peter and John.

Wait: Why are they sending Peter and John? What’s Peter and John got that Phillip ain’t got? Answer: Apostleship.  So why do Apostles need to be sent? What can Apostles do that Philip can’t?

v15: Peter and John prayed for Samaria that they might receive the Holy Spirit.


So these Samaritans were saved, but hadn’t “received the Holy Spirit.” Therefore the Holy Spirit isn’t always connected to salvation (a point that will come into play even more when we get to ch10-11).

v16: They prayed for the Holy Spirit, because He (the Holy Spirit) had not yet fallen on any of them – they (the Samaritans) had only been baptized.  So they were saved, but didn’t have the Spirit. Hmm.

v17: Then they (Peter and John) laid their hands on the people, and the people received the Holy Spirit.

So how did the Samaritans finally receive the Holy Spirit? Not when they were saved, but after: When the Apostles ceremonially laid their hands on them.  After this, Simon (the former con-man) realized the power the Apostles had, and offered them a bribe (v18-19).  Why bribe Peter and not Philip? Because while Philip could do miracles (Acts 8:13), he couldn’t pass on to others the ability to do miracles. Only the Apostles could do that (Acts 8:17).

Notice what Peter calls the laying on of hands/Holy Spirit reception: “The gift of God” (v20).  The “gift of God” wasn’t God-as-a-gift; it was a gift given BY God.

Go back to Acts 2:38. The gift of the Holy Spirit isn’t the Holy Spirit-as-a-gift, it is a gift given BY the Holy Spirit. Which is exactly what the prophet Joel (and Peter who quoted him) said it would be!

 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;  And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
(Acts 2:16-17)

I will pour out OF my Spirit.” Not “pour out my Spirit.” God is giving something FROM the Spirit – He’s not giving the Spirit (literally).   As a  matter of fact, the words “pour out of” in the original language is “ἐκχέω ἀπό” which literally means “to bestow, away from.”  This is a gift given BY the Spirit (literally, bestowed away from the Spirit) – given through by the Apostles’ hands (Acts 8:19).

The only difference between Acts 8 and Acts 2 is that in Acts 2, the power came directly from Heaven. In Acts 8, the power came from the Apostles. Which explains something Peter will say in our next text…


Third chunk of text…


While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,  Can any man
forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received  the Holy Ghost as well as we?
(Acts 10:44-47)


The Gospel is now ready to come to the  Gentiles (the non-Jews).  God was ready, He even sent an angel to the one who would be the first Gentile convert (Acts 10:3-5) telling him to send for Peter.  God was ready – many Jews (including Peter) were not. Remember the age old antagonism between Jew and Gentile. The Jews were leery of bringing in non-Jews to the church – but it wasn’t their call, it was God’s.

God prunes Peter’s prejudice by providing Him a premonition: He has a vision of a sheet falling from the sky (v9-16), on which were all manner of unclean (to the Old Law-serving Jew) animals. God (in the vision) tells Peter to eat: Peter argues with God, and says he’ll have nothing to do with unclean animals. God tells Him “What I’ve cleansed, don’t call unclean” (v15). Likely due to Peter’s hard-headedness, God shows him this vision three different times (v16), and even then he still didn’t understand (v17). It’s not until he arrives at the house of Cornelius the Gentile that it all *clicks.*

Along with Peter are several other Jews (who weren’t privileged with prejudice-popping visions). Peter stands before Cornelius and the other Gentiles that were in the house, and begins to preach.

And then something miraculous happens. The Holy Spirit fell…not on the Christian-Jews, but on the still-non-Christian Gentiles (them that “heard” the word). And those of the circumcision (Jews) which believed (Christians) were astonishedthose that came to the house with Peter because on the Gentiles was poured out…THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

And those Jews saw those Gentiles speak in tongues, which caused Peter to say: “How can we deny them the right to be baptized (v47)? They have received the Holy Spirit just like we did.”

 Now some will twist this text to imply that one is saved before baptism. Their argument is that these non-baptized folks received the Holy Spirit; therefore they were saved before baptism. However Acts 8 already showed that there doesn’t have to be a connection between receiving the Holy Spirit and salvation.

The Samaritans were saved before they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:12); furthermore the Samaritans were baptized BEFORE they received the Holy Spirit – the Gentiles, on the other hand, were baptized AFTER they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45). Conclusion: There’s no direct-connection between receiving the Holy Spirit and salvation. Sometimes reception came before, sometimes after.


But something else…


And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.  And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.  But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by
order unto them, saying,
(Acts 11:1-4)

 Here in Acts 11, Peter returns to Jerusalem to explain to the Jews why he went and preached to, and converted a non-Jew. So Peter explained the matter from the beginning and in the exact order of the events…

 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.  Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.  Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could  withstand God?  When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying,  Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted  repentance unto life.
(Acts 11:15-18)


Notice how Peter elaborates on what Luke wrote about in Acts 10. Peter made sure to specify exactly when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit: “As I  began to speak” (v15).

Now those who would twist Acts 10 to say one is saved before Baptism would probably also say that one is saved by “faith only” (despite “faith only” not being a Bible doctrine).

Now Paul said that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). These Gentiles would have to have been saved even before faith – since they received the Holy Spirit as Peter “began to speak.”

They didn’t even have a chance to hear Peter’s sermon before the Holy Spirit fell on them.  Their entire argument falls apart.  But of course it’s been made clear already that the Gift of the Holy Spirit isn’t directly connected with salvation.

Something else: Notice Peter’s reference point in v15: The Holy Spirit fell on them as on us at the beginning. The Holy Spirit fell on the GENTILES, as He previously did on the, APOSTLES on the day of PENTECOST. Why did Peter refer all the away back to Pentecost? Why not refer to Samaria (Acts 8)? Because Pentecost was the only other time the Gift of the Holy Spirit came directly from Heaven. All other times (Acts 8), it came from the laying on of the Apostles Hands.


Fourth (and last) chunk of text…


And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.  This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.

And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.  And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:  For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

 (Acts 18:24-28)


Now here’s a man who is an accidental false teacher. Apollos was once a disciple of John the Baptist. John the Baptist once preachedand commanded his listeners to be baptized. Specifically: Be baptized looking TO the COMING Christ. Well after Christ arrived, the baptism taught by John the Baptist would have become obsolete; anyone being baptized under John’s baptism would simply be  getting wet – not obeying any command of God.  Thus the problem with Apollos, who knew ONLY the Baptism of John (v25).

Thankfully a pair of Christians, Aquila and Priscilla, pulled him aside and corrected his teaching (v26), and he went on to be a proud preacher of Christ, and Christian baptism (v28).

What’s this have to do with anything?  Read on…

 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.  And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. 

Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 
(Acts 19:1-6)

Paul meets certain disciples. Disciples of whom? He thinks at first that they are disciples of the Lord like him, but he’s about to find out otherwise. Notice the question he asks them: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit since you believed?” (v2a).  He thinks they are Christians (“since ye believed”), and yet he asks them if they received the Holy Spirit. If “getting the Holy Spirit” is connected to salvation, why is he asking the question? Answer:  Because he’s not asking about salvation (yet). He’s asking if they have miraculous ability, given by the laying on of an Apostle’s hands.

They reply that they don’t even know Who or what the Holy Spirit is (v2b). So Paul asks them what kind of baptism they were baptized under (by who’s teaching) (v3a). They reply “John’s” (v3b). Very likely these are some people taught by Apollos in the previous chapter. NOW Paul knows they’re not saved, since John’s baptism is worthless now that Christ has arrived (and died and rose and ascended…). So he teaches them correctly (v4), and they are baptized (v6a) with Christ’s baptism (Acts 2:38, 8:12, 10:48).

And when did they receive the Holy Spirit? Note the latter part of v6: Paul laid his hands on them, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. Was that for salvation? No, they had just been saved. Salvation was a done-deal. This came afterward – right after, sure, but still afterward. So what was it for? What happened right after the Holy Spirit came upon them? They spoke with tongues, and prophesied. In other words, they performed miracles.




What was the point of the gift of the Holy Spirit? Since it’s been established that the Gift of the Holy Spirit is connected to
miraculous ability, let’s ask the question: What’s the purpose of a miracle?  A miracle is a supernatural event designed to instill faith in an audience, and cause them to believe (sometimes in the message, sometimes the messenger, or both).  Over and over, when a miracle is  performed, the Bible will say something to the effect of “And great wonder came upon all the people” (Acts 5, after Peter struck two people dead, for example).

The miracle of Acts 2 was to alert the devout Jews that they should listen to these 12 unlearned  fishermen.  The miracle of Acts 10 was to alert the prejudice Jews that the Gentile had a right to Christ’s saving grace. Both events involve the Holy Spirit. Coincidence?

Furthermore, miracles (and thus the Gift of the Holy Spirit) would be needed in the 1st century. Remember that in the 1st century, the  Christians didn’t have Bibles on their shelves – ready and waiting to be read and understood.

They had only the inspired letters the Apostles and other inspired writers would send to them (letters which became our New Testament). In that period of incomplete truth, God provided the early church with a way of distinguishing true doctrine from false.

If a man entered a 1st century assembly and claimed to be a Gospel preacher, how could they know he was legit? Today we can open our Bibles and compare his words to it, but back then they had no such tool.  God gave the early church miracles so that a man could enter the assembly and make a blind man see – thus assuring the congregation he had been confirmed by an Apostle (confirmed…by the laying on of their hands).

By laying their hands on a Christian, the Apostles gave that person the gift of (“away from”) the Holy Spirit – the gift to perform miracles, as Paul would write about:

 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.  Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
(1 Corinthians 12:1-3).

V3: No one speaking by the Spirit of God (one who has miraculous ability – the gift of the Holy Spirit) will teach false doctrine (calls Jesus accursed), and no one says Jesus is Lord (teaches the truth), unless it’s by the Holy Spirit (unless he has the gift of the Holy Spirit).


Is the gift of the Holy Spirit given today? Let’s answer that question with a question, based on the texts we’ve studied:  Are there Apostles around today to lay hands on people (Acts 8)? Is God granting miraculous ability from Heaven (Acts 2, 10)?

The first question is easily answered: No.

The second question is answered by observing what men today cannot do. No one can perform a miracle today. A real miracle – a breaking of the laws of nature. No one today can strike a man blind (Acts 13:11), or kill a man instantly (Acts 5;1-10), or be bitten by a poisonous snake and simply shake it off, and drink poison and nothing happen (Mark 16:17-18), or raise someone from the dead (Acts 9:40), etc. Those are real, wondrous miracles.

Some will say “But don’t you want the gift of the Holy Spirit?” The 21st century Christian’s answer ought to be “No. Because I don’t want to go back to the days where there was no Bible; where there was no instant access to God’s word. I don’t want to go back to the temporary days of miracles (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).”

There is no Gift of the Holy Spirit today, anymore than there is John the Baptist’s baptism, or observance of the Law of Moses, or any other thing that has – as the Bible put it: “Been fulfilled” and “vanished away” (1 Corinthians 13:8, Matthew 5:17).

What we need, is not the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the Teaching of the Holy Spirit, which – through the Word (which came about because of the gift of the Holy Spirit) – tells us what to do to be saved and stay faithful until Heaven.