Reader Robert asked for a more complete explanation of the Spirit’s work in Acts. Sometimes the Spirit comes at baptism, sometimes before, sometimes after, and sometimes entirely separate. Sometimes there are miraculous gifts, sometimes not. How does this all fit together?
Let me give you a general sense of my understanding.
1. There is but one Holy Spirit or Spirit. He’s a member of the Holy Trinity, God the Holy Spirit.
2. The Spirit gives spiritual gifts. In fact, in the Greek, “spiritual” means “from the Spirit” not “religious.” Hence, “spiritual gifts from the Spirit” is redundant.
3. Some spiritual gifts are spectacular — even raising the dead. Some are more mundane — God’s perfect law of love written on our hearts helping us love God and even our neighbors. There is no real line between “providential” and “miraculous” workings of the Spirit. All are supernatural (or they wouldn’t be from the supernatural Spirit) but some are more obviously so. Trying to draw a line between “ordinary” and “miraculous” is impossible for this reason.
4. The prophets and apostles refer to the Spirit being “outpoured” or “poured out.” Jesus calls the Spirit “living water.” John the Baptist spoke of being “immersed in the Spirit” (or “baptized in the Spirit”). These all refer to the same phenomenon, which all Christians receive. Paul says so,
(Tit. 3:4-7 ESV) 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The same Spirit “poured out” in Acts 2 on the disciples is poured on all Christians. The gifts differ from person to person (1 Cor 12 is quite clear), but it’s the same Spirit.
(1 Cor. 12:4-6 ESV) 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
V. 4 is very important. Just one Spirit. All Christians receive “the same Spirit.” But differing gifts. (Not to be confused with the “gift of the Spirit” in Acts 2:38: two different Greek words for “gift.”)
(1 Cor. 12:7-13 ESV) 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
And, of course, we can’t miss the water metaphor yet again. We “were made to drink of one Spirit.” Just one. But the Spirit is like water — Living Water, poured out, into which we can be immersed because there’s such an abundance of God’s presence available to us.