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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Why Did Peter and John Lay Hands on the Samaritans to Have Them Receive the Holy Spirit?

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Don Stewart

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There is an episode in the Book of Acts that seems to teach that the Holy Spirit was not given immediately at the point of salvation, but rather following it:

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).

Does not this delay prove that the Holy Spirit is given subsequent to salvation? The fact that there was a delay in the Samaritans' receiving the Holy Spirit after they were saved is clearly taught. If everyone receives the Holy Spirit upon being saved, why was there a delay in this case? Therefore, it is understandable to see why some would point to this occurrence as a pattern for believers on their experience with the Holy Spirit.

Nature Of The Samaritans

The best explanation of this occurrence has to do with the special nature of the Samaritan religion and its relationship to the Jews. The Samaritans had their own religious system that was a rival to the Jews. They had their own temple and their own center of worship. The two groups did not interact. For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9).

Identify With Apostles

It was important for the Samaritans who believed in Christ to identify with the apostles in Jerusalem. Likewise, it was important for the Jewish element to see that the Samaritans were part of the same body of Christ. When the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of hands of Peter and John, who were personal disciples of Jesus Christ and the leaders in the Jerusalem church, there was no doubt that these two groups were one in Christ. This delay in the Samaritans' receiving the Holy Spirit kept the early church from having two centers of authority, Samaria and Jerusalem.

The fact that the norm for the New Testament was the immediate reception of the Holy Spirit show that this was a special occurrence and not to be considered the pattern for every believer.

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