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Don Stewart :: Why Did the Holy Spirit Work Differently with Four Particular Groups in Acts?

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Don Stewart

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The Book of Acts represents a transitional time during which the Old Testament age was ending and the New Testament church age was beginning. It describes certain events that happened but does not explain their significance.

Throughout the New Testament, however, we learn certain things about the Holy Spirit. For example, He indwells every believer at the moment of salvation.

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13,14).

Yet, in the Book of Acts, there are four instances of believers who received the Holy Spirit in a unique way. These were the disciples of Jesus, the Samaritans, the Gentiles, and the disciples of John the Baptist. These groups, as we have seen, received the Holy Spirit in varying ways because of the transitional nature of the church and because the four groups represented all of humanity.

Transitional Period

The people living at the time of Christ were in a transitional period. The Old Testament age of adherence to the law was ending, and the New Testament age of grace was beginning. God was now dealing in a different way with those who believed in Him. Although in every age people have been saved by the grace of God through faith in His promises, there were different methods God used in testifying to Himself.

These four groups in the Book of Acts represent all of humanity.

The Disciples Of Jesus

The disciples of Jesus were one such group. They had received the Holy Spirit in the upper room:

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

They were still living in the Old Testament age. At Pentecost, the disciples received the promise of the power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They represented those people who believed in Jesus while He was here upon the earth.


The Samaritans were half-Jewish, half-Gentile. They had their own religion, which was in conflict with Judaism. The reason they experienced the reception of the Holy Spirit apart from their salvation was to identify them with the Jews as being united in the new faith, Christianity. When they received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of Peter and John, it demonstrated that both Jews and Samaritans were united in Christ.


A third class of humanity was the Gentiles (non-Jews). There was much racial prejudice between the Jews and Gentiles. By receiving the Holy Spirit with the disciples of Jesus it showed the unity between the two groups. The Apostle Paul would later write:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Old Testament Believers

The last group were the believers who lived during the Old Testament period, waiting for the coming Messiah. They were signified by those who were disciples of John the Baptist, who received the Holy Spirit when they believed in Jesus as their Messiah.

The record of these four groups receiving salvation fulfills the prophecy spoken by Jesus:

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Throughout Scripture we see that the New Testament pattern is for every believer to receive the Holy Spirit upon conversion. But because of the transitional nature of the time, the four groups of humanity each received the Holy Spirit in a unique way. This demonstrates that all people are one when they believe in Christ.

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