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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Is There a Difference between the Holy Spirit Being in a Person and Being upon a Person?

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Don Stewart

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Often people speak about two different relationships of the Holy Spirit to the believer. The Spirit is in (Greek word en) a person when that person receives Christ, and He comes upon (Greek word epi) a person when that person receives the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Is this distinction something that the Bible teaches?

Makes Distinction

The Bible does make a distinction, but not in the same way many people apply it. Once the believer has received the Holy Spirit, there is no need to have a second experience when the Holy Spirit comes upon him. There is no basis for the argument that the Greek words en and epi signify two different relationships between the Holy Spirit and the believer.

People have made too much of the different Greek words en meaning in and epi meaning upon. The Holy Spirit is said to have come upon (epi) Simeon.

And behold there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon (epi) him (Luke 2:25).

Here was a man living before Pentecost, before anyone had been baptized by the Holy Spirit. We know that nobody was baptized with the Holy Spirit until after Christ had ascended into heaven after His death and resurrection. Before His ascension, Jesus spoke of the baptism with the Holy Spirit as something yet future.

For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Acts 1:5).

Yet the Bible says that the Spirit was upon Simeon. Thus the Greek preposition epi cannot refer to the baptism with the Holy Spirit in the case of Simeon.

No Physical Form

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit has no physical form. Since the Bible does not tell us where or how He indwells us, it seems impossible to make a distinction between the non-material Holy Spirit being in someone and upon someone. Obviously we cannot take this literally.

Thus, it cannot be biblically justified to make a distinction of two different relationships of the Holy Spirit to the believer based upon the Greek words used.

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