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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: In What Sense Is the Holy Spirit Given Only to Those Who Obey God?

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In What Sense Is the Holy Spirit Given Only to Those Who Obey God? (Acts 5:32)

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 6

In the Book of Acts, Simon Peter said that the Holy Spirit is only given to those who obey God. He put it this way.

And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him (Acts 5:32 NRSV).

Here the Holy Spirit is linked to obedience.

Does This Mean People Have to Wait to Receive the Power of the Holy Spirit?

This has been interpreted by some people to mean that the power of the Holy Spirit is only given to believers who live some type of obedient life to God. It is argued that they must obey some command, or live up to some godly standard, in order to receive the Holy Spirit. Apart from that, the power of the Spirit is not available to nominal or carnal Christians.

Others see it as referring to the initial reception of the Holy Spirit. Only godly Christians, who are obedient to the commandments of the Lord, can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Other believers in Christ, who are not obedient, do not receive the Spirit of God.

This Places Certain Conditions on Receiving the Holy Spirit

People have then argued that yielding to God’s will, or being in some spiritual condition, is necessary to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit or to receive the power of the Holy Spirit after belief. Therefore the reception of the Holy Spirit is not unconditional. Indeed, He only comes into the life of a select few.

Solution: This Is Speaking of Obedience for Salvation, Not Christian Living

Yet the Bible does not teach that we must reach a certain spiritual plateau to receive the Spirit of God in our lives. What then does it mean?

The solution to this issue is simple: Peter is speaking of obedience that leads unbelievers to salvation. He is not addressing Christians or speaking of Christian living. His statement has nothing to do with the subject of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The context makes it obvious that Peter and the others were speaking to unbelievers. After they made the statement about the Holy Spirit the religious leaders responded in the following way.

Now when they heard this, they became furious and wanted to execute them (Acts 5:33 NET).

This is hardly an example of people wanting to know how to receive the Spirit’s power for godly living! Consequently, the context makes it clear that unbelievers, not believers, are the ones being addressed.

The Holy Spirit Is a Gift – Not Something Earned

There is also the fact that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God. No one can do anything to earn the Holy Spirit in their lives. The Lord freely gives Him as a gift to all believers. Furthermore one cannot be a believer in Christ without the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.) (Romans 8:9 NLT).

A person cannot be a Christian without the Holy Spirit, or the “Spirit of Christ.

In sum, the Holy Spirit is indeed given to those who obey God; those unbelievers who trust Christ as their Savior.

Summary – Question 6
In What Sense Is the Holy Spirit Given Only to Those Who Obey God? (Acts 5:32)

There is a statement made in the Book of Acts that has caused some to think the power of the Holy Spirit is only given to those believers who obey the Lord. It is conditional upon their yielding to Him. In other words, it is not something universal among Christians.

Others argue that the initial reception of the Holy Spirit is not for all believers but only for those who obey Christ. Thus, there are certain Christians who have not yet received the Spirit of God in their lives.

This has led some to conclude that the Holy Spirit is not a gift that all believers receive but rather a reward which some believers receive for their obedience to Christ.

However this is not the case. When we read the context it becomes clear that Peter’s statement was made to unbelievers. He was emphasizing that the Holy Spirit is a gift to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Thus, those who obey the gospel and believe in Christ will receive the Holy Spirit. This is what Peter was promising to the unbelieving audience he was speaking to.

In addition, the Apostle Paul emphasizes that a person cannot be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. Indeed, without the Spirit of God no one can be considered a Christian.

Therefore, this passage has absolutely nothing to do with any reception of the Holy Spirit apart from salvation. Instead it has to do with the initial reception of the Spirit of God when one believes in Christ.

Why Do Some Argue That Speaking in Tongues Is a Sign of Receiving the Baptism with the Holy Spirit? ← Prior Section
If the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Occurs after Salvation, Then What Are the Conditions for Reception? Next Section →
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