From the Comments: Clarifying “Spirit” in Acts, Part 1

HolySpirit7Reader 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?

Robert,

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.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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15 Responses to From the Comments: Clarifying “Spirit” in Acts, Part 1

  1. John Randy Royse says:

    In our Western mindset, we want to have it all logically identified and classified. Jesus told Nicodemus, however, “The wind (pnuemo or spirit) blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going.”

    Which means we don’t have the control over it that we think would be nice. We see the good, but can’t control or even understand what is going on. We can tell it’s from God (John 3:1) but it won’t fit our preconceived ideas. And as Robert notes, it may very well look different in different places….

    But it’s fruit will make us understand it origin. On ‘Good’ Friday, we may all run away, but Sunday is coming…..

    John Royse

  2. ROBERT says:

    Thanks guys. It finally is making more sense. I’m so glad that I asked the questions that weren’t clear to me. I always hoped I would get a clearer picture.

  3. ROBERT says:

    Jay, I need to ask given this information that has changed my understanding. This seems to my shallow understand to be so close to what a everyone else is teaching the body that currently calls themselves “life Center” , what are the differences between what they teach. They conclude by saying a prayer and while everyone has there heads bowed if you felt the Spirit touch you raise your hand and saying that you have decided to follow Jesus. Then later they ask them to follow the next step and get baptized in water. So are they now a body that I can accept as one that is teaching correctly? The Pasture there claimes that the Spirit has already been given when they accepted Jesus. That baptism is also required so they will have thousands being immersed in water as they are baptized. The lines are getting blurred! Help me and others unblurr them.

  4. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Robert,
    I don’t think it matters. We can’t know for certain with regard to these experiences, and frankly, I am generally skeptical of such experiences…but so what? Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? If the person arrives at an obedient faith in Christ and the Gospel, I am not sure that we should be too concerned with whether the person actually experienced the Spirit or just thought that they did. The Spirit isn’t going to do anything contrary to scripture, so unless the person is advocating a harmful or sinful practice or teaching, I would recommend that we just let them be.

  5. Dwight says:

    In the scriptures people aren’t designated by the Spirit to follow Christ or accept Christ, but rather after they accept Christ, repent and are baptized they receive the Holy Spirit.
    Acts 2.
    I don’t know of any other example or concept than this.
    If they are following the Cornelius thought, then they ought therefore to speak in tongues as a sign of the Holy Spirit, but this still only designated that they (Cornelius – gentiles) were worthy of salvation and even so the gift would come after baptism per Acts 2.

  6. Larry Cheek says:

    After being taught a very conservative concept about what “steps” were necessary prior to baptism. I have drawn the conclusion that the scriptures really do not spell out a plan that has to be followed to validate that a lost soul has reached a point in their timeline that makes them a candidate for salvation . It really is hard to read into the story about the Eunuch that he was lead through a plan by Philip just before his question about being baptized. There is several other accounts which assumed but did not verified “steps” were taken prior to baptism. Then we also have to realize that many have felt the need and resisted the urge to make a commitment several times prior to actually following through. We can only know what triggered our own response to obey the Gospel. We cannot and should not attempt to analyze any one else who makes a commitment. But, in the same prospective any communication other than a demanding or a scare tactic that an individual obey, we should gladly accept that the individual has met all the requirements when they step out in faith to accept Jesus. Can an individual have faith and belief in Jesus and be saved with repentance following? Do we really see a thread of instructions running through all the examples of conversions that refuse acceptance of a believer (can you believe without having faith) until the individual repented of their sins? Any time or place an individual becomes a believer and has faith we should be ready to assist them in their commitment to Christ by baptism. The hard part for many is accepting them as brothers in Christ. We really want to be held up, upon a pedestal as being more valuable or more worthy of our position than the new babe in Christ.

  7. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight,

    Thanks to Alexander Campbell, most in the Churches of Christ believe that the Spirit takes no action on the heart of the unbeliever prior to baptism. This was taught to reject the Calvinistic notion of irresistible election, that is, God elects, the Spirit opens the heart to the gospel, and the elect will necessarily respond. But this is yet another false dichotomy. There are just all sorts of other possibilities other than either —

    * Calvinist double predestination
    OR
    * The Spirit does nothing until baptism

    Consider —

    (Acts 16:14-15 ESV) 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

    So it’s not like there’s nothing there to talk about. And there’s —

    (1 Cor. 12:3 ESV) 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

    Given that “Jesus is Lord” is the form of saving confession Paul taught in Rom 10:9, this is actually a bit of challenge, too.

    So we can’t just up and declare, “The Spirit never acts on us before conversion!” Never? Ever? It’s not as clear as we might like.

    I do not like double predestination at all. But I’m not willing to go all the way to never, ever will the Spirit act pre-conversion.

    My view is more like,

    (Jn. 3:8 ESV) 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

    Who says there have to be rules governing what the Spirit does? Maybe the Spirit does as he pleases? And if pleases him to move the gospel into Europe by opening Lydia’s heart, then that’s what he’ll do. Doesn’t mean he’ll do it next time or that he won’t.

  8. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Robert,

    I’m with Kevin. I think it’s kind of hokey. Sounds kind of Baptist/Charismatic to me. I would not do things that way or teach others to do so.

    But neither would I declare their conversions invalid. If they have faith in Jesus and follow him — the preacher’s eccentric teachings don’t invalidate it.

    I dislike any too-quick conversion, whether it’s our Five Steps or the Baptist ‘raise your hand’ or whatever. I think converts need to know what they’re signing up for. They need to be truly committed to Jesus — not looking for a cheap solution for the eternity-in-hell problem. But that doesn’t take long at all. But I know plenty of people who found Jesus in ways that astonish me. It’s not my place to tell God what he can’t do. My job is to marvel at God’s work.

  9. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    My job requirements take me to the Middle East occasionally. It is not a wholly uncommon tale among Muslims to hear about “Jesus coming to me in my dreams.”
    http://www.wnd.com/2014/11/rising-number-of-muslims-reporting-dreams-about-jesus/

    I don’t know if it is true or not. Either way, I say, “Hallelujah!”

  10. Ray Downen says:

    The reason I have to differ from what Jay here teaches is that the apostle Paul very clearly teaches there is ONE BAPTISM in the Christian Way. One is not two. Jesus commands that HUMANS are to baptize other humans who have come to believe in Him as LORD. So the ONE BAPTISM for Christians is NOT baptism in or by the Holy Spirit. Jay says it is, based on the verb “poured out” which describes God’s giving humans His Spirit. But the clear teaching of Acts 2:38 is that the Spirit-gift is given ONLY TO NEW CHRISTIANS after they each have been baptized in water by human hands. The gift is not for all people. And the Spirit-gift which is for all Christians is NOT a second baptism, for Ephesians 4 lists several ONE’s in the Christian system, including ONE baptism. One is NOT two or more. One is singular..

    God’s Spirit-gift is surely given just as God’s Word says it will be done. It’s new Christians who have just been baptized in water by human hands who receive God’s GIFT of His Spirit. That’s ALL NEW CHRISTIANS who receive the GIFT of God’s Spirit. Jesus promised His apostles that THEY and no one else would receive BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT. The apostles then would be enabled to remember all Jesus had taught THEM (taught in their hearing) and would be led INTO ALL TRUTH. This as a result of receiving BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT. And why would anyone think all Christians had received a second baptism in addition to the one ordered by Jesus?

    I’m positive that the Spirit being POURED OUT is not in baptismal measure. ONLY the apostles were promised baptism in the Spirit. Only the apostles are reported in apostolic writings to have received baptism in the Spirit. The GIFT given to new Christians is NOT a second baptism.

  11. Ray Downen says:

    Another typo and no way to edit it other than by a second note. I typed, “And the Spirit-gift which is for all Christians if NOT a second baptism.” But what I intended to type is that it IS NOT a second baptism. For Ephesians 4 lists several ONE’s in the Christian system, including ONE baptism. One is NOT two or more. One is singular.

  12. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ray,

    I think I fixed it the way you want it. Let me know if I botched the repair job.

  13. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ray D,

    In the normal case, there is but one baptism – because water and the Spirit are normatively received in a single event: baptism. There are exceptions, as Acts shows. But the exceptions mentioned in Acts predate Paul’s writing of Ephesians.

    If only the apostles were promised baptism in the Spirit, why does the text say that Cornelius received the same thing?

    If Cornelius received an apostolic measure, why wasn’t Cornelius an apostle?

    All four Gospels record John the Baptist promising baptism of the Spirit — and yet not one says he was speaking to the 12 or even to a subset of the 12.

  14. Christopher says:

    Jay wrote:

    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.”)

    An important premise in the standard CoC teaching on the miraculous gifts of the spirit you list, Jay, is that they were given through the laying on of hands by apostles. Yet we learn from 1 Samuel that such a thing was not needed in order for the Holy Spirit to come upon Saul so that he was able to prophesy. To me, that greatly undercuts the CoC argument on the gifts having necessarily ceased (which then rests primarily on a single verse in 1 Corinthians 13). For if God does not require the Apostles to dispense such gifts, presumably He could give them to anyone at any time.

    What say ye?

  15. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher wrote,

    An important premise in the standard CoC teaching on the miraculous gifts of the spirit you list, Jay, is that they were given through the laying on of hands by apostles. Yet we learn from 1 Samuel that such a thing was not needed in order for the Holy Spirit to come upon Saul so that he was able to prophesy. To me, that greatly undercuts the CoC argument on the gifts having necessarily ceased (which then rests primarily on a single verse in 1 Corinthians 13). For if God does not require the Apostles to dispense such gifts, presumably He could give them to anyone at any time.

    I agree. God no more needs apostolic hands to give gifts than Jesus needed a sacrifice to forgive sin. He’s God — and gifts were given throughout biblical times without apostolic hands or anyone’s hands.

    There is strong evidence that Simon Magus got it wrong and that while gifts sometimes were received at baptism (which concluded with the laying on of hands) this was not the exclusive means of receiving gifts. After all, no apostle had ever been to Rome and yet Paul assumes at the beginning of c. 12 that many people had gifts from the Spirit.

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