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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Holy Spirit and Us

Don Stewart :: When Does a Person Receive the Holy Spirit?

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When Does a Person Receive the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit and Us – Question 6

When does a person receive the Holy Spirit into his or her life? Does it happen immediately upon believing or is there an interval of time between belief in Christ and the reception of the Holy Spirit?

The New Testament is clear on this issue. It teaches that the reception of the Holy Spirit is something that takes place immediately upon believing in Christ as Savior. There is no need to wait or plead for the Holy Spirit. All those who believe in Jesus Christ instantaneously receive the Holy Spirit. There are a number of important points that need to be stressed.

The Holy Spirit Is Received by Believing in Jesus

The gift of the Holy Spirit is received by believing in Jesus Christ. On the Day of Pentecost Peter said the crowd

“Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:38 HCSB).

Peter said that the Spirit of God would be received immediately upon belief in Jesus.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians reminding them how they received the Holy Spirit. He put it in this manner.

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:2 NASB).

These people received the Holy Spirit when they placed their faith in Christ. They did not have to wait neither they did not have to pray. The Holy Spirit came into their lives when they believed.

Paul told the Galatians that the Holy Spirit was given to them because they are God’s children. He wrote.

And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6 NRSV).

The reason we have God’s Spirit is because we are His children.

One Cannot Be a Believer without the Holy Spirit

There is something else which needs to be emphasized. The Bible says that a person could not be a believer in Jesus Christ without the Holy Spirit in their life. Paul wrote the following to the Romans about this important truth.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him (Romans 8:9 ESV)

He said if anyone who does not have the Spirit of God is not a Christian. It is that simple.

Jude wrote about the nature of unbelievers – they do not have the Holy Spirit. He described them in this manner.

It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit (Jude 19 ESV).

Unbelievers are those without God’s Spirit while believers are those people who have the Holy Spirit.

All Believers, No Matter Their Spiritual Condition, Have the Holy Spirit

Furthermore, all Christians, no matter what their spiritual condition, are said to have the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.

Don’t you know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16 HCSB).

The church at Corinth had many spiritual problems, yet the Apostle Paul said every believer, those walking in the Spirit and those who were not, had received the Holy Spirit.

There Is No Command in Scripture to Seek the Holy Spirit

In addition, there is no command in Scripture to seek for the Holy Spirit, or to pray so He can be received. If the Holy Spirit were given apart from salvation, we would expect the Bible to give the requirements of His reception. To the contrary we are commanded to be filled, or controlled, by the Holy Spirit.

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you (Ephesians 5:18 NLT)

We cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit unless He already resides in us. Again, this assumes that every believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God.

He Is a Gift to All Who Believe in Jesus Christ

The Holy Spirit is a gift to all who believe. Paul wrote to the Romans about how God’s love has been poured out to the believer by the Holy Spirit.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5 NKJV).

The Holy Spirit is the One who pours out God’s love in our hearts.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that each of them had received the Spirit from God rather than the spirit that comes from the world.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God (1 Corinthians 2:12 NRSV).

This is another indication that all believers have received the Holy Spirit.

In sum, the Holy Spirit has been given as a gift to all who believe in Jesus Christ; His presence cannot be earned.

Summary – Question 6
When Does a Person Receive the Holy Spirit?

While there are some who contend that a believer must wait to receive the Holy Spirit at some time after their conversion, this is not what the Bible teaches. Indeed, a person receives the Holy Spirit upon believing in Jesus Christ. We can make the following observations.

To begin with, the Bible expressly says that those who believe in Jesus have already received the Holy Spirit. There are no exceptions to this. Furthermore, those who are without the Holy Spirit are considered unbelievers. The contrast between the two groups is clear: those with the Holy Spirit are Christians those without are non-Christians.

In every one of the New Testament letters all believers are spoken to as though they have the Holy Spirit. This is true of those who were in carnal churches such as Corinth. Each of them was said to be a recipient of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, nowhere is the believer encouraged to pray to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a gift, not a reward for faith or service.

Therefore, Scripture makes it plain that the moment a person comes to believe in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit immediately indwells that individual.

What Is the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit? ← Prior Section
Are There Outward Signs of Receiving the Holy Spirit? Next Section →
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