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

Don Stewart :: Does the Book of Acts Provide Any Pattern for Believers to Receive the Holy Spirit?

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Does the Book of Acts Provide Any Pattern for Believers to Receive the Holy Spirit?

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 24

Often people will speak of the “Acts pattern” for receiving the Holy Spirit. Supposedly the Book of Acts presents certain stages the believer must go through to receive the Holy Spirit and to speak with tongues. But when one examines the Book of Acts, no such pattern emerges. The evidence is as follows.

On the Day of Pentecost

On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the believers, who previously had been baptized in water, received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues without the laying on of hands.

At Samaria

In Samaria (Acts 8) the people believed in Jesus Christ and were baptized in water. Yet they did not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter and John came down and laid hands on them. There is no record that they spoke in tongues.

The Gentiles

In Acts 10, the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles while they were listening to the Word of God being preached. The Gentiles then spoke with tongues and were soon baptized. There was no laying on of hands in this case.

The Disciples of John

In Acts 19, the disciples of John the Baptist believed when they heard the message of Christ and then were baptized. The Holy Spirit then came upon them when Paul laid his hands upon them and they spoke in tongues, and prophesied.

There Was a Different Pattern for Each Case

When we look at these four instances of the unique reception of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, we find that no pattern emerges.

  • Acts 2: they received the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues
  • Acts 8: they were baptized with water, hands laid on them, received the Spirit
  • Acts 10: they received the Holy Spirit, spoke with tongues, baptized with water
  • Acts 19: they were baptized with water, hands laid on them, received the Spirit, spoke with tongues, then prophesied

There Is No Acts Pattern

In each of these recorded instances the experiences were different. Not all spoke in tongues, not everyone had hands laid upon them. This is highly instructive. Since the Book of Acts gives us no set pattern with respect to the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual, then neither should we. Indeed, what we learn from this is that there is no set formula with respect to the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.

Thus, any pattern one tries to read into these accounts cannot be justified biblically. The Holy Spirit came down differently each time, reminding us of those words spoken by Jesus. He said.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8 ESV).

The Spirit works in the ways that He chooses. Today, He has chosen to immediately enter the lives of those who believe in Jesus Christ. This is the New Testament pattern. Paul made this clear when he wrote to the Ephesians. He said.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13, 14 TNIV).

Therefore, upon accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, one receives the Holy Spirit.

Summary – Question 24
Does the Book of Acts Provide Any Pattern for Believers to Receive the Holy Spirit?

Some people believe the Book of Acts provides a pattern for the reception of the Holy Spirit or the power of the Holy Spirit. Usually they argue that a person is saved and then later they receive the power or baptism with the Holy Spirit. Many also claim that the sign of this is the ability to supernaturally speak in languages never before learned; speaking in tongues.

While people speak of an “Acts pattern” for the reception of the Holy Spirit we find that there is none. Four groups of people received the Holy Spirit in a unique way in the Book of Acts. However none of the four groups had the exact same experience.

The disciples of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost spoke in tongues when the Spirit descended. However, while the Samaritans waited to receive the Holy Spirit after believing in Jesus there is no record of them speaking in tongues when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

The first Gentiles who were converted immediately received the Spirit upon belief. In other words, there was no waiting.

The disciples of John the Baptist also received the Holy Spirit immediately upon believing. Again, there was no waiting for the reception of the Spirit of God.

Each had different circumstances surrounding their reception of the Holy Spirit. Therefore an “Acts pattern” for the reception of the Holy Spirit cannot be justified biblically.

Furthermore, the Bible makes it very clear that the pattern today is immediate reception of the Spirit of God once a person believes in Jesus Christ. Waiting or pleading is unnecessary.

Why Did the Holy Spirit Work Differently with Four Particular Groups in Acts? ← Prior Section
What Happened in the Upper Room When Jesus Told His Disciples to Receive the Holy Spirit? Next Section →
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