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

Don Stewart :: Did Saul of Tarsus, the Apostle Paul, Receive the Holy Spirit after His Conversion?

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Did Saul of Tarsus, the Apostle Paul, Receive the Holy Spirit after His Conversion? (Acts 9, 22, 26)

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 20

Saul of Tarsus, one of the greatest enemies of the Christian faith, was converted to the Apostle Paul when he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus road. He explained what took place in this manner.

While doing this very thing, as I was going to Damascus with authority and complete power from the chief priests, about noon along the road, Your Majesty, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining everywhere around me and those traveling with me. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? You are hurting yourself by kicking against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this reason, to designate you in advance as a servant and witness to the things you have seen and to the things in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me’ (Acts 26:12-18 NET).

From his own explanation of events, it seems that the Saul was converted at that very moment. Saul obeyed the Lord when he was told what to do.

Indeed, in recounting his conversion, he told King Agrippa.

So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven (Acts 26:19 TNIV).

The fact that Saul referred to Jesus as “Lord” does not solve the matter. This Greek word is also a polite form of address meaning, “Sir.” It does not necessarily mean that Saul called Jesus “Lord,” in the sense of God, at that time. However the response of Saul to the risen Christ seems to point to his conversion at that moment. Most Bible students understand it this way.

Saul Is Then Filled with the Spirit

Saul was converted on the road to Damascus. Yet the Bible then speaks of the Saul being filled with the Spirit a few days later when the man Ananias came and laid his hands upon him. We read about this in the Book of Acts. It says.

So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17 NRSV).

Saul had been converted to Jesus Christ yet he had not been filled with the Holy Spirit. Does this mean there is a delay between the initial reception of the Spirit of God and receiving the power of the Spirit? Does the power come later? Why did Saul have to wait several days after his conversion to be filled with the Spirit?

The Idea Is That Paul Would Now Be Controlled by the Holy Spirit

In this context, the idea is that the Holy Spirit would now control Saul. The one who was the great persecutor of believers in Jesus Christ would not become a follower of Him. The emphasis here would be on his changed lifestyle. Indeed, from the greatest persecutor of Christians, Saul would become the greatest proclaimer of the truth of Christ; the Apostle Paul. The idea is Saul would now be “filled” or “controlled” by the Holy Spirit.

Saul Was to Be Filled, Not Baptized with the Spirit

It is also important to note that Ananias said that Saul was to be filled with the Spirit – not baptized with the Holy Spirit. The baptism and the filling of the Spirit are not the same thing. The filling of the Spirit assumes the baptism has already taken place. They are distinct operations of the Spirit of God.

Therefore, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus is not evidence for any delayed reception of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it is consistent with what we know about how and when the Spirit of God is received in the life of a believer.

Summary – Question 20
Did Saul Of Tarsus, The Apostle Paul, Receive The Holy Spirit After His Conversion? (Acts 9, 22, 26)

Saul of Tarsus, one of the greatest enemies that the church of Jesus Christ has ever known, was converted to Christ on the road to Damascus. He became the Apostle Paul; the greatest missionary the church has ever known. While Saul was converted on the road when Christ spoke to Him he was not filled with the Spirit until a few days later when a man named Ananias laid hands on him. Some believe this is an indication of the delayed reception of the power of the Spirit. First, there is the conversion when the Holy Spirit is received and then later comes the power.

However this is not necessarily the case. Indeed, in this instance, the idea is that the Holy Spirit, rather than his own sinful desires, would now control Saul. Previously he had been filled or controlled with the desire to destroy the work of Jesus of Nazareth. Now this man would be controlled by the Spirit of God which was sent by Jesus Himself.

There is also the fact that Ananias, the man who laid hands on Saul, said that he was to be “filled,” rather than baptized with the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit assumes the person has already been baptized with the Spirit. Consequently, what took place in the life of Saul is consistent with how the Holy Spirit normally works. He enters the life of a believer the moment they trust Jesus Christ as Savior.

Therefore, Saul’s conversion to the Apostle Paul gives no evidence of any second work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer which gives them power. Indeed, the power is available immediately.

Why Did Peter and John Lay Hands on the Samaritans to Have Them Receive the Holy Spirit? ← Prior Section
What Happened When the Gentiles First Received the Holy Spirit? Next Section →
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