WHY "THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT" IN ACTS 2:38 IS THE HOLY SPIRIT HIMSELF AS A GIFT
There are two basic reasons why I believe "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the Holy Spirit Himself as a gift:
Let's consider each of these in greater detail at this time.
First, as we noted in our last feature lesson, "the gift of the Holy Spirit," from the standpoint of grammar can mean either a gift the Holy Spirit gives or the Spirit Himself as a gift. Language experts tell us that the actual meaning depends upon the context. There is very little in the context of Acts 2:38 which gives us an indication which of these two meanings God had in mind in this verse. However, the exact same Greek words translated as "the gift of the Holy Spirit" are also found in Acts 10:45. So, a study of that context (10:44-48) is crucially important in helping us determine the meaning of "the gift of the Holy Spirit. We learn from that passage that:
Thus, from this context, it is clear that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the Holy Spirit Himself as a gift--the Holy Spirit who fell on them (10:44) and the Holy Spirit whom they received (10:47). There is no compelling reason to interpret the phrase any differently in 2:38. If "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in 10:45 is the Holy Spirit as a gift, then logic would suggest that it is the same in 2:38 unless there is a good reason to be found to the contrary.
However, before we leave Acts 10:44-47, it is very important to notice one major difference between this context and 2:38. In Acts 10, it is clear that Cornelius and his household received a miraculous measure or manifestation of the Holy Spirit. When they received the Holy Spirit, God gave them the miraculous ability to speak in other languages which they had never learned (cf. 10:46). However, God made it clear that their receiving a miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit was for a very special and unique purpose. According to Acts 11:17,18, that unique purpose was to show that God approved the Gentiles to receive salvation through obedience to the gospel, just like those with a Jewish background. But, those who received the Holy Spirit as a gift in Acts 2:38 after obeying the gospel did not receive miraculous ability. The point I'm trying to emphasize here is that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the Holy Spirit Himself as a gift. I'm not trying to say that everyone who received the Holy Spirit was endowed with the same powers or even with any miraculous power at all.
We can unquestionably prove that it is possible for one to be filled with the Holy Spirit and yet not be able to perform any signs or wonders. Take John the baptizer for example. According to Luke 1:15 he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (which is a challenging point for our friends who hold the position that the Holy Spirit only indwells through the word of God), yet he did not work any signs at any time according to John 10:41. So, it should not be surprising if "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2 is a promise for the Holy Spirit to dwell in Christians in a non-miraculous measure or manifestation.
A second reason for believing that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" promised in Acts 2:38 is the Holy Spirit dwelling in each Christian in a non-miraculous measure is the testimony of the rest of the New Testament. If the view I am teaching regarding "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is correct, then it should be consistent with what the rest of the New Testament affirms. If this view is false, it will likely contradict other portions of the New Testament (this is a general way to investigate difficult passages: study them, draw a conclusion, and then see if it fits with the rest of divine revelation--if it does you're probably right and if it doesn't you're definitely wrong somewhere).
With those facts in mind, let's investigate what the rest of the New Testament says:
|Acts 2:38||Acts 3:19|
|Be baptized||Be converted|
|Remission of sins||Sin blotted out|
|Gift of the Holy Spirit||Refreshing from the presence of the Lord|
Therefore, from these two parallel verses, we can reasonably conclude that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the "presence" of deity in the obedient Christian.
|Acts 2:38||Acts 5:32|
|Gift of the Holy Spirit to those who:||Holy Spirit Himself given to those who:|
|Repent and are baptized||Obey God|
Therefore, from these two verses, we can safely suggest that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the Holy Spirit whom God gives to each person who obeys the Lord, which includes repentance and immersion.
Now, let's summarize and draw a proper conclusion from our study of these passages: "The gift of the Holy Spirit" is promised to sorrowful believers who repent and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 2:38). "The gift of the Holy Spirit" is the same as refreshing from the presence of the Lord which is promised to those who repent and are converted to have their sins blotted out (cf. 2:38; 3:19). The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God (cf. 5:32). The Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian (cf. Rom. 8:9-11). The Christian's body is the temple (or dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit, who is in the Christian (cf. I Cor. 6:19). When a person becomes a child of God through faith and baptism, God sends the Holy Spirit into that person's heart (cf. Gal. 3:26,27; 4:6). I believe that these Scriptures make it clear that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the Holy Spirit Himself actually dwelling in the Christian in a non-miraculous measure.
WHAT THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MEANS TO CHRISTIANS
A natural question that arises concerning "the gift of the Holy Spirit" can be stated as follows: "If the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christian does not enable the Christian to work miracles or receive direct guidance or influence, what purpose does His indwelling serve?" This is a good question and there are several answers revealed in the Scriptures:
First, let's consider Ephesians 1:13,14 - "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 redemption, to the praise of His glory." The Greek word here translated as "sealed" indicates ownership. The Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christian is an indication of God's ownership of His child (cf. I Cor. 6:19,20)! Also, in this passage the Holy Spirit is said to be a "guarantee"; that is, a down payment, pledge, or other assurance that the full blessing of our inheritance will be given in the future. Thus, the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christian is God's pledge or assurance of the Christian's inheritance, which is eternal life in heaven (cf. I Pet. 1:3,4). Of course, God's pledge of this inheritance is conditional! The Christian will receive that inheritance of eternal life if he or she is faithful to the Lord until death (cf. Rev. 2:10)!
Second, Paul declared in I Corinthians 6:19,20 declares - "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." The knowledge of the indwelling Spirit ought to be a great restraining force to keep us from doing evil, especially against our own bodies. Knowledge of the indwelling Spirit ought to motivate us to holy and righteous living.
Third, in Romans 8:26,27, we learn - "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us; God knows our hearts! Although the knowledge of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit comes only through the word of God, this knowledge itself ought to be a great source of comfort and strength to the child of God.
Let me conclude this study by stating that there are many good, faithful, studious brethren who have objections to this view of "the gift of the Holy Spirit" and the indwelling that I have presented. Perhaps you are one of them. Ultimately, I believe that in some areas of Bible study we may never be able to conclude with 100% certainty as to what exactly the text means in every detail. Some of God's word is difficult to understand (cf. II Pet. 3:16)! But, that is certainly not an excuse for laziness or a willingness to simply accept any view on any matter. May all be diligent to present themselves approved to God (cf. II Tim. 2:15)!
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.