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The Blue Letter Bible

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

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Don Stewart

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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.


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


In Samaria (Acts 8) the people believed in Jesus and were baptized. 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.


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

Disciples Of John

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

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

Acts 2:
received the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues

Acts 8: baptized with water, hands laid on them, received the Spirit

Acts 10: received the Holy Spirit, spoke with tongues, baptized with water

Acts 19: baptized with water, hands laid on them, received the Spirit, spoke with tongues

No Pattern

In these recorded instances all the experiences were different. Not all spoke in tongues, not everyone had hands laid upon them.

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:

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

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