Have you received the Holy Spirit having believed on Jesus?


What we are often taught today is that a person is passive in receiving the Holy Spirit when they first believe on Jesus; it happens automatically we are told, we believe on Jesus and without knowing it we automatically receive the Holy Spirit. There is nothing further to experience; we do not have to consciously receive the Holy Spirit. We are not to expect the Holy Spirit to come upon us when we ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit.   So I am going to look at scripture to see if it is possible that what is taught in many churches about receiving the Spirit is wrong.

Jesus told the disciples they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and when the Holy Spirit came upon them they would receive power to be His witnesses (see Acts 1:5-8).  In Acts chapter two, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples they are said to be “filled with the Spirit”, the terminology has now developed from being baptized with the Spirit and the Holy Spirit coming upon them, to being  “filled with the Spirit”.  The Bible does later talk about the Holy Spirit baptizing new believers into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), this is different from Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit, it is one of the works of the Holy Spirit to “baptize” or “place” new believers into the body of Christ.

When Peter went to Cornelius, as he was preaching to them the Holy Spirit fell upon them (Acts 10:44) and Peter remembered the words of the Lord when He said that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:15-16).

So the terminology is now to include “the Holy Spirit fell upon them” (that is, anointed them).

However, in general, in the book of Acts believers would be laid hands upon and told to “Receive the Spirit”, or “Take the Spirit” as it could be interpreted from the Greek.  In other words it was something they had to do, to take the Holy Spirit that God had promised them and which was now being offered them.  We need to desire to be filled with the Spirit, ask God for and receive the Holy Spirit, thanking God, in faith, for the Holy Spirit and expect the anointing of the Spirit to follow.

When Philip went to Samaria many people believed and were baptized in water. However even though they were now believers they had not yet received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, He had not come upon them or filled them.  It was some time later when Peter and John came from Jerusalem that they laid hands upon them and told them to receive the Spirit.

When Paul found believers at Ephesus he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit, they said they hadn’t even heard about Him, he asked them unto what they had been baptized, they said John’s baptism.  So here we have believers who had heard of Jesus because of what John had said about Him.  John had said that Jesus was the Messiah who, being the Lamb of God would save them from their sins and that they should believe on Him. John had also mentioned the baptism of the Holy Spirit but perhaps they didn’t hear about that bit. They were then baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus and, after Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them.  So after believing on Jesus it was some time later that the Holy Spirit came upon them.  It was not automatic when they believed.

The baptism with the Holy Spirit then is the Holy Spirit coming upon the believers and causing them to be filled with the Spirit.

In John chapter 4:7-14 Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, and He told her if she asked of Him He would give her living water (the Spirit of Life) to drink that would spring up within her to everlasting life. This is salvation when we are given new life.  The Spirit of Life is given automatically when we believe on Jesus and ask Him to save us.  

Another time when He was in Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37-39) Jesus cried out to the crowds “---If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (JND version).  "But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." Here the believers are promised that there is coming a time when those who are thirsty can come and receive (take) from Christ and they will be filled with the Spirit.  What Christ is promising them is if they, the believers, come and drink the spiritual drink He is offering them then out from the very depths of their being will flow the Spirit in ministry (see 1 Corinthians 10:4).  That spiritual drink is the anointing that came upon Christ at His baptism and that those believing on Him would receive.

So in John we have these two incidents, one in chapter 4 were they are promised eternal life just by believing on Him and asking, and one in chapter 7 where believers who are thirsty would receive the Holy Spirit.  I will try to illustrate the difference, if someone goes to the Doctors and asks  for a flu jab, the Doctor  (or nurse)  puts the needle in their arm and injects them.  They don't have to take it they just ask and it is given them.   However if someone offers them a book they have to receive the book , that is,  take it from the one who is offering it. In the first instance God gives eternal life to those who believe on Jesus however when it comes to  giving power to witness then those who have been given eternal life need to receive the  Holy Spirit when offered to them by the laying on of hands (if necessary God can bypass the laying on of hands).

In Exodus 17:6 when the children of Israel had asked for water, God told Moses to strike the Rock and water would come out of it for them to drink.  The Christ is the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4) and this is a picture of Jesus being struck by God in order to save us from our sins and to give us life when we believe on Him.  Much later in Numbers 20:7-12 we have a second picture of water coming from the Rock, the difference was that this time it wasn’t to be struck, that had already happened, it was to be spoken to.  Here those doing the laying on of hands would speak to Christ to give the Spirit and then would give the Spirit to the congregation (those receiving the Spirit). The first time it was for salvation the second time it was a type of the filling of the Holy Spirit when they were thirsty as in John chapter7.  Of course the Spirit that abides in us is the same Spirit that anoints us (see 1 John 2:27). 

I believe that when the Holy Spirit comes upon you (the anointing) there is a response from the Spirit of Life that dwells in your heart, from the depths of your being there is a rising up of rivers of living water, which is the Holy Spirit filling you and overflowing out to others, that is the baptism of the Spirit.  You need to receive the ‘coming upon you’ of the Spirit (the anointing) in order for your life to be a witness to others. It is this anointing that teaches us all things.  Revelation of the word comes from the anointing (1 John 2:27).

Finally there is only one baptism but many fillings.  The baptism is when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, it is the anointing of the Spirit, this is what you receive when you consciously receive the Spirit (1 John 2:27).  The anointing thereafter abides within you.  You do not need to receive a further anointing but you do need to be continually filled with the Spirit by worshiping God with the spirit (see Ephesians 5:18-20). In the Old Testament the anointing was given for specific ministry, in the New Testament the anointing is also for ministry, for being Christs witnesses.

Next: Standing and State


Mark Greenwood  December 2019