Chapter 5: Giving and Receiving the Spirit

As Luke writes the story of the early church, a crucial element is the dispensing and appropriation of the Spirit. The terms dispensing and appropriation are not Biblical terms, but they are inclusive of the variety of terms that Luke uses. The terms giving and receiving are used in specific ways but we can use these terms also to encompass all the terms that Luke uses.

Giving the Promised Gift

When Luke writes about receiving the Holy Spirit, he regards the Spirit as a promise and a gift. The promised Spirit is dispensed by God and by Jesus. We now will review the Scriptures that deal with the promised Spirit, the Spirit as a gift, and the givers of the Spirit. These Scriptures will provide a background for our study of receiving the Spirit.

The Promise

Used broadly, the term "promise" can include all that God promised in the Old Testament. With regard to the Spirit, all the Old Testament promises can be included. However, the Old Testament promise that Luke mentions is Joel 2:28-29. Peter cites that promise in Acts 2:17-18 and refers to it again in Acts 2:38-39. As background material, we also might include the wish of Moses (Numbers 11:29) that the Lord would put His Spirit on all His people and that they would be prophets.

As far as the New Testament is concerned, the promise concerning the Spirit can include all the teachings of Jesus. However, Luke mentions the prophecy of John the Baptist (Luke 3:16). This was a promise often cited by Jesus (Acts 1:5 and 11:16).

According to Luke, the Holy Spirit is a promise. With regard to the promise, Jesus said (Luke 24:), "I am sending forth the promise of my Father upon you." Here, the promise of My Father refers to the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:33 Peter speaks of Jesus "having received the promise of the Holy Spirit." After receiving the promise, Jesus poured out the Spirit. Then, in Acts 2:39, Peter says that "the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off."

The Gift

Luke regards the Spirit as a gift as well as a promise. With the possible exception of John 4:10, the only instances of the Holy Spirit being called a "gift" are in Acts. The verb "to give" is used frequently by Luke, John, and Paul (e.g. John 3:34; Luke 11:13; Acts 5:32; and Romans 5:5).

In Acts 2:38 Peter declares that those who repent and are baptized shall received the "gift of the Holy Spirit." Luke calls the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, Samaria, and Caesarea a gift. At Samaria (Acts 8:20), Peter regarded the Holy Spirit as a "the gift of God." With regard to Caesarea, Luke (Acts 10:45) says that the "gift of the Holy Spirit" had been poured out. Or, as he reports in Acts 11:17, God gave the believers the "the same gift" that the disciples were given at Pentecost.

The Givers

Both God and Jesus, in Luke's writings, are regarded as givers of the Spirit. Sometimes the giver is not named, but the evidence indicates that in such cases the dispenser is God, Jesus, or both.

With regard to the Spirit given to Jesus, we have the following examples. An angel told Mary (Luke 1:35) that the Holy Spirit would "come upon" her. In Luke 4:18 Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." Obviously, it was God who dispensed the Spirit in these cases. Also, it was God who anointed Jesus (Acts 10:38) with the Spirit.

Several times Luke identifies God as the giver of the Spirit to the disciples. In Luke 2:25, the Holy Spirit "was upon" Simeon. Here, God is understood to be the giver of the Spirit. According to Luke 11:13, God "shall give" the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. It is God who "will pour forth" His Spirit in Acts 2:17-18. In Acts 5:32 Peter declares that God "has given" the Spirit to those who are obeying Him. When Peter reported on the outpouring of the Spirit at Caesarea, he said that God (Acts 11:17) "gave" the Gentiles the same gift as he gave to the disciples at Pentecost.

Jesus is described by Luke as the giver of the Spirit in other passages. In Luke 24: Jesus said, "I am sending forth the promise of my Father upon you." Moreover, Jesus is implied as the giver of the Spirit in Acts 1:8. Then, in Acts 2:33 Luke reports concerning Pentecost that Jesus "has poured forth this which you both see and hear."

According to Peter (Acts 11:16), Jesus "used to say" that the disciples would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist regarded Jesus (Luke 3:16) as the baptizer. Both at Pentecost and at Caesarea, the believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Thus, we can assume that it was Jesus who was the baptizer. Also, as we have seen, God also is identified (Acts 11:17) as the giver of the Spirit at Pentecost and Caesarea. Clearly, both God the Father and God the Son, even in the same instances, may be regarded as the giver of the Spirit.

Receiving the Promised Spirit

Now, we will examine the data in the Book of Acts with regard to the term receive. The promised gift, the Holy Spirit, is received by those who believe. Also, there are several passages that have to do with Jesus (Luke 1:35; 3:22; Acts 2:33; and 10:38) but our concentration will be on the disciples.

Four times Luke uses the term "receive" to indicate the appropriation of the Spirit. Many times claims are made that the reception of the Spirit in these cases has to do with salvation. In our expositions elsewhere, we have countered this position. Here, I simply will state my position that the recipients were disciples before they received the Spirit. When they received the Spirit, they were empowered to witness.

Our focus is on the term "receive," but all the related terms used by Luke are included below. We will examine terms used prior to Pentecost, the terms used at Pentecost, Samaria, Caesarea, and Ephesus, and a few other passages.

Prior to Pentecost

In Luke's gospel, Jesus uses several terms that may be applied to all four of the reception cases in Acts as well as to Acts 2:38. The Spirit is a gift, Jesus sends forth the Spirit, and the disciples will be clothed with power. The terms and verses are as follows:

1. "shall give" (dosei) Luke 11:13.
2. "am sending forth" (apostello) Luke 24:.
3. "are clothed with" (endusesthe) Luke 24:.

Some will argue that Luke 11:13 applies only prior to Pentecost, but our view is that this passage applies both before and after Pentecost. The difference after Pentecost is that reception of the Spirit comes through faith in Christ and is for all believers. God is still the giver, and He gives the Spirit to those who ask.

Just before Jesus spoke about sending the "promise of My Father" upon the disciples, He said to them (Luke 24:48), "'You are witnesses of these things.'" They already were witnesses. Jesus said, "'I am sending forth.'" To a degree, He empowered them that very moment, but He exhorts them to wait in the city until they were clothed with power from on high. This language suggests that they will have a very highly experiential reception of the Spirit and would be empowered to witness. That is exactly what happened!


The term "receive" the Spirit applies to Pentecost. This is explicitly stated with regard to Pentecost and Caesarea (Acts 10:47). Also, the implication of Acts 2:38 is that the disciples at Pentecost "received" the Holy Spirit. Further, the fact that God "gave" the disciples (Acts 8:17) the gift implies they "received" it.

Including the term "receive," Luke uses seven terms to describe the experience of the disciples at Pentecost. He does not use any other terms in the Book of Acts to describe the coming of the Spirit on the disciples. In the other three cases where Luke uses the term "receive," he draws from these seven.The seven terms Luke uses are as follows:

1. "shall receive" (lempsesthe) Acts 1:8 (power) and 2:38; "have received" elabon) Acts 10:47.
2. "has come upon" (epelthontos eph) Acts 1:8.
3. "were filled" (eplesthesan) Acts 2:4.
4. "shall be baptized" (ebaptisen) Acts 1:5; 11:16.
5. "will pour forth" (ekcheo) Acts 2:17-18; "has poured forth" (execheen) Acts 2:33.
6. "fell upon" (epepesen) Acts 11:15.
7. "gave" (edoken) Acts 11:17; "giving" (dous) Acts 15:8.

The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-18) will be poured out on all mankind. The sons and daughters will prophesy. Through prophetic speaking, the sons and daughters would witness. Speaking in tongues is a form of prophecy. Moreover, old men will dream dreams and young men will see visions. As they tell about their dreams and visions, this too is a witness.

The immediate result of the experience (Acts 2:4) was that the disciples "began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." Also, the crowd (Acts 2:11) said, "We hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." Clearly, this was an observable crisis experience. The Spirit was upon them, and they powerfully witnessed.


The people of Samaria believed Philip who was preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. Upon believing they were baptized in water. However, the Spirit had "not yet fallen upon" any of them. Obviously, there was an expectation that the Spirit would "fall upon" the new believers. So Peter and John went from Jerusalem to Samaria to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit.

With regard to Samaria, Luke uses three of the seven terms he used for Pentecost. He does not use the terms filled, baptized, come upon, and pour forth. The three terms that he does use are as follows:

1. "might receive" (lambosin) Acts 8:15; "were receiving" (elambanon) Acts 8:17; "may receive" (lambane) Acts 8:19.
2. "had not yet fallen upon" (epipeptkos) Acts 8:16.
3. "was given" or "was bestowed" (didotai) Acts 8:18.

When the disciples at Samaria received the Spirit, it was clear to those around them that they had received Him. Simon "saw" (Acts 8:18) that the disciples received the Spirit. There was clear evidence that they had received the Spirit. This, in itself, gave witness to the fact that they had been redeemed. Luke does not tell us what Simon saw, but many believe the disciples spoke in tongues as they did at Pentecost, Caesarea, and Ephesus.


At Caesarea, Peter preached to a crowd of people who were predisposed to believe him. They were God-fearers. While he was still speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening. We know, from what Peter (Acts 15:8-9) later says, that God had cleansed their hearts by faith.

Luke uses five of the terms that were used at Pentecost. He does not use the terms "filled" and "come upon." The five terms he uses are as follows.

1. "have received" (elabon) Acts 10:47.
2. "shall be baptized" (ebaptisen) Acts 11:16.
3. "had been poured out" (ekkechutai) Acts 10:45.
4. "gave" (edoken) Acts 11:17.
5. "fell upon" (epepesen) Acts 10:44.

When the Gentiles at Caesarea received the Spirit, it was obvious to those around them. The result was (Acts 10:46) that "they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God." Several points are clear from this passage. One, when they spoke in tongues and exalted God, Peter knew that the Spirit was upon them. The underlying premise of this verse is that when people genuinely speak in tongues and exalt God, the Spirit has fallen on them. Two, when the Spirit was upon them, they immediately witnessed. Their powerful verbal response was a strong witness. Three, because the Spirit was upon them, Peter knew their hearts had been cleansed by faith. As far as Peter was concerned, this was evidence enough that they were eligible to be baptized.


Luke calls the believers at Ephesus "some disciples." Some scholars would argue that they were not true believers, but the use of the term "disciples" is really decisive in favor of the view that they were. Although they were lacking in knowledge and experience, Luke still calls them disciples.

Luke does not use the terms "filled," "baptized," "gave," "poured out," and "fell upon" at Ephesus. He does use the following two terms:

1. "did you receive" (elabete) Acts 19:2.
2. "came on" (elthe) Acts 19:6.

The event at Ephesus involves the apostle Paul. Because Luke was the writer, some scholars hold that the story does not reflect Paul's approach to receiving the Spirit. However, I think that Luke was true to the historical facts in reporting the incident. It was Paul who asked the disciples whether or not they had received the Spirit. Thus, it was possible in his mind to separate an experiential reception of the Spirit from reception of the Spirit in salvation.

Paul did not say to the disciples, "You have believed; therefore, you have received the Spirit." This would have been a theological declaration. Rather, he asked, "having believed, did you receive the Spirit" (Paraphrase mine). The disciples could not have answered unless they had perceived that they had received the Spirit. When the Spirit came on the disciples, they "began speaking with tongues and prophesying." This was the observable experience that Paul thought might be missing. The disciples knew the Spirit was upon them. Moreover, their response was an empowered witness.

As we have seen, in the above four cases, Luke uses seven terms to describe the coming of the Spirit. In all four instances Luke draws from these seven. With this in mind, Dunn (p. 80) writes: "This means that they are all equivalent ways of describing the same coming of the Spirit--a coming which was such dramatic and overpowering experience that it almost exhausted Luke's vocabulary to find language which would give an adequate description of its richness and fullness."

Other Cases

Apart from the above instances, there are a few other cases in Acts that are relevant. Any time the Spirit is dispensed, the implication is that the Spirit is received. We need not limit the term "receive" to its four specific usages. Broadly speaking, it can include various expressions that signify an appropriation of the Spirit.

First, in Acts 5:32 Luke writes about the Spirit whom God has given (edoken) to those obeying Him. Just when the disciples were given the Spirit is not specified. The main point is that God has given the Spirit to those who are obeying him by witnessing.

Second as Luke uses the term "filled," one can be repeatedly and continuously filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit implies that you receive the Spirit. In the case of Pentecost, both "receive" and "filled" are used. With regard to being filled with the Spirit, we note the following examples.

Peter (Acts 4:8) was "filled with the Holy Spirit" when he spoke to the rulers and elders. He had been filled with the Spirit, of course, at Pentecost. When Peter and John were released by the Council, they called a prayer meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting, the disciples (Acts 4:31) "were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness." At least some of the disciples had been filled with the Spirit before.

When Saul (Acts 9:17) was converted, Ananias came to him and prayed that he may be "filled with the Holy Spirit." Luke does not say that he was filled or, if he were filled, what the result was. We do know that Paul lived a Spirit-filled life and that he spoke in tongues. Paul (Acts 13:9) was "filled with the Holy Spirit" when he spoke to Elymas the sorcerer. At Iconium (Acts 13:52), the disciples "were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." No doubt Paul shared in this joy.

Theological Propositions

Several theological propositions are upheld in the above survey. One, Jesus (Acts 1:5) baptizes in the Spirit. Two, when the Spirit (Acts 1:8) comes upon the disciples, they receive power to witness. Three, the Spirit (Acts 2:17-18) will be poured out on all sons and daughters who, as a result, will prophesy. Four, an observable experience (Acts 8:16 and 19:2) was expected. On the Day of Pentecost Jesus "poured forth this which you both see and hear." Five, speaking in tongues and exalting God (Acts 10:46) are evidences that the Spirit is upon you. Six, the presence of the Spirit (Acts 10:47) is an evidence of salvation.

The Reception Promise

Now, we turn to Acts 2:38-39. Here is the fifth instance when Luke uses the term "receive" the gift of the Holy Spirit. This passage expresses a theological proposition. This passage contains not only a message for its contemporary hearers, but also a promise for all. It clearly applies to us now.

At Pentecost, Peter preached a powerful gospel message to the gathered crowd. When he concluded, the people asked: "'Brethren, what shall we do?'" Then, according to Luke (Acts 2:38-39):

38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39"For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." NAU

Very explicitly, the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised to all who repent and are baptized. The repentance (and implied faith) is a necessary condition. However, as Acts 10:48 shows, the baptism in water can follow rather than precede reception of the Spirit.

We need to examine these verses in terms of what Peter meant on the Day of Pentecost and what they mean for us today. Significantly, whatever Peter meant does apply to all. This is directly said by Peter.

Many believe that Acts 2:38-39 applies to the immediate reception of the Spirit that occurs when one believes. They hold that this reception is either a part of becoming a Christian or the logical consequence of it. Thus, they build a case that Peter meant to refer to the experience of salvation.

Peter's Intent

It may be that Peter would have put no limits on the scope of the promise is Acts 2:39. In other words the promise might be inclusive of the initial reception at salvation and a later empowerment reception. However, we do know at least some of what Peter definitely had in mind.

He could have had any Old Testament Scripture in mind. Those who hold the salvation view usually refer to Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26-27. The problem with this is that Peter had just cited the prophecy of Joel 2:28-29. This was what we know that he had in mind. Whether or not he had Ezekiel in mind is not said.

Very likely, Peter was thinking of the prophecy of John the Baptist. John said (luke 3:16) that Jesus "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Jesus (Acts 1:5) cited this prophecy before His public ascension. Whatever John meant, Jesus applied the prophecy to empowerment.

Also, Peter could have had in mind other teachings of Jesus. He knew them all. Jesus declared that the Spirit gives life (John 6:63). The Spirit would be another comforter (John 14:26). However, the teaching of Jesus that directly related to Pentecost was Acts 1:8. It was forecast by Jesus in Luke 24:. Whether or not Peter had other teachings in mind is not said.

With regard to Peter's experience, we know from John 20:22 that he received the Spirit on resurrection Sunday night. Also, in Luke 24: Jesus used a present tense. He said, "I am sending forth the promise of my Father." However, the full outpouring came at Pentecost. It was the full outpouring that he Peter apparently had in mind.

What about Paul's teachings about the Spirit? On the Day of Pentecost, did Peter have these teachings in mind? Obviously, he did not because Paul was not converted until many years later. In his own epistle (I Peter 1:2), written later, Peter acknowledges the "sanctifying work of the Spirit," but this does not appear to by his topic in Acts 2:38-39.

These two points can hardly be contested. One, Peter had in mind the promise of Joel that he cited in Acts 2:17-18. The "promise" in Acts 2:39 includes at least this element. Moreover, at least the experience the disciples had at Pentecost (Acts 2:4) was on his mind. The disciples were empowered to witness as Jesus promised (Acts 1:8) promised they would be.

The evidence in Acts subsequent to the Day of Pentecost supports these two conclusions. When Luke tells the story of the outpouring at Samaria, he says that the Spirit had not yet "fallen upon" them. This expression indicates that they had not yet received the Spirit in an observable way. When they did receive the Spirit, Peter called this (Acts 8:20) the "gift of God." Then, at Ephesus, Paul asks whether or not the disciples received the Spirit when (or after) they believed. This question presupposes that he is asking about a perceivable reception.

Further evidence of what gift Peter had in mind is given in Acts 10:46. When the Spirit was outpoured upon the Gentiles, Peter knew (Acts 15:8) that God had cleansed their hearts by faith. They received the "same" gift that the disciples received on the Day of Pentecost. Moreover, this gift was a fulfillment (Acts 11:16) of John's prophecy.

Experience that Witnesses

In his comments Peter focuses on a crisis experience with the purpose of witness. In order to be a witness, the experience had to be observable. It had to be perceived both by the individual empowered and by others. Such an experience is important for us today. Here are the reasons why.

* The prophet Joel prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be poured forth upon all flesh and all would prophesy. Prophecy is a form of witness.
* Peter cited Joel and said that Pentecost was a fulfillment of his prophecy.
* John the Baptist predicted Jesus would baptize in the Spirit. Jesus said that this baptism would empower the disciples to witness.
* All of Luke's recorded cases--Pentecost, Samaria, Caesarea, and Ephesus--were highly experiential and resulted in witness.
* In Samaria, the Spirit had not yet "fallen upon" the believers. This term suggests they had not yet had a crisis reception of the Spirit. When they received, it was a witness to those present.
* At Ephesus, Paul asked, "having believed, did ye receive?" He was asking a question that they could answer by only by a perceivable experience. When they spoke in tongues and prophesied, they witnessed.
* The gift of the Spirit is promised to all. Without doubt, Peter at least had in mind the type of gift they received at Pentecost. It is an experience that provides a witness.

Many theologians today minimize the importance of a crisis experience. For example, in spite of the event at Ephesus, some deny that the apostle Paul valued a crisis experience. These scholars prefer to dwell on an initial benign experience and a growth model where the believer develops over time in the Spirit rather than to rely on a crisis experience. In my view, we ought to emphasize the importance of a crisis experience as well as benign experience and the growth model.

The Term Receive

According to Dunn (p. 4) , the comings of the Spirit in Acts are highly experiential, but there is only one reception. A major problem with this view is that multitudes do not have such an observable experience. So you either have to minimize its importance or maintain that one is not a Christian without it. Neither option is acceptable. It is difficult to hold together the objective work of the Spirit in salvation and a vivid reception experience.

Turner writes from a charismatic perspective. Nevertheless, he holds to just one reception of the Spirit in Luke. Opposing a "two-stage" model, he writes (p. 369): "Luke does not know of two such separate ‘receptions' of (the gift) of the Spirit' in any individual (though he may well have anticipated the Spirit regularly ‘filled' believers subsequent of their receiving the gift)."

According to Turner, the Spirit in Luke's writings is the Spirit of prophecy. Nevertheless, he argues that receiving the Spirit of prophecy is the decisive element in the complex event of becoming a Christian. Ultimately, Turner has difficulty explaining the difference between the Spirit of prophecy and the Spirit himself and minimizes the importance of a crisis experience.

My view, in contrast to Dunn and Turner, is that in Luke-Acts the term "receive" can be used of more than one reception. We need not limit the term even to two receptions. We can receive, be constantly receptive, and receive again. After all, we are writing about a relationship with a Person.

The gift of the Spirit to Jesus cannot be overlooked. In Acts 2:33 Peter talks about Jesus "having received" from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit. No one would say that Jesus had not previously received the Spirit. We can cite Luke 1:35 and 3:22 and Acts 10:38 in support of this.

With regard to the disciples (Luke 24:) Jesus said, "'I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you.'" Although "am sending" is a present tense, this is often interpreted as a rhetorical future. The larger fulfillment on the Day of Pentecost, however, does not preclude an immediate fulfillment to some degree. In my view Luke 24: and John 20:22 are parallel passages. This took place on resurrection Sunday night. Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, "'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"

As far as the four reception cases we have studied are concerned, Luke does speak of only one reception. However, he does not deny any previous reception. In Acts 2:38, Peter says that those who repent and are baptized "shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." As we have said, this promise is not limited to one reception. The range of the promise is broad enough to include all receptions.

How to Receive the Spirit

The only pre-requisite to receiving the Spirit is faith in Christ. When we believe in Christ, we immediately are indwelt by the Spirit and we are eligible for experiential moments of reception in our lives. Very clearly, Luke's intent was to uphold the importance of a crisis experience resulting in supernatural witnessing. This is an important experience to have in our Christian walk.

Faith to Receive

Luke does not mention faith in connection with receiving the Spirit apart from saving faith as a pre-requisite. Nevertheless, we can assume that this is included. Whenever prayer is mentioned we can believe it presupposes praying in faith. Otherwise why should we pray? When Jesus suggested that the disciples pray, it included praying in faith.

Furthermore, the gift of the Spirit is of the nature of promise. It is the promise of the Father. To receive the promise, we must believe. We must appropriate it in faith. The initial act of saving faith should bring an expectancy for all spiritual blessings. Thus, when I speak of faith to receive, I simply mean faith in God that He will keep His promise and pour out His Spirit upon us.


In Luke's writings two points stand out. One, we may pray specifically that we may receive the Spirit. Two, prayer in general provides an excellent environment for the impartation of the Spirit.

While Jesus was praying (Luke 3:21) the Spirit descended upon Him. Perhaps He was not praying for the Spirit, but was in an attitude of prayer. With regard to the disciples Jesus asked (Luke 11:13), "'how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?'" This principle spans the dispensations. Before and after Pentecost, we may ask the Father to give the Holy Spirit.

At Samaria, Peter and John prayed for the disciples (Acts 8:15) "that they might receive the Holy Spirit." This was a specific prayer for the impartation of the Spirit to the disciples. At Ephesus (Acts 19:6) Paul laid his hands on the disciples, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. Similarly, Ananias came to Saul (Acts 9:17) so that he would receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Prayer usually accompanies the laying on of hands.

According to Acts 4:29, the disciples prayed that "'Thy bond-servants might speak Thy Word with all confidence.'" Then, when (Acts 4:31) the disciples "had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness." When we pray to be bold witnesses, we make ourselves available to be empowered by the Spirit.

Laying on of Hands

Both at Samaria (Acts 8:17) and at Ephesus (Acts 19:6) laying on of hands was a part of the experience leading to reception of the Spirit. Also, Ananias laid hands on Saul (Acts 9:17). Approbation, identification, and empathy can be connected with laying on of hands. Through this act, we can join our faith with the fiath of the seeker. Thus, laying on of hands can be an important aid in receiving the Spirit.

However, laying on of hands is not necessary to the experience of receiving the Spirit. This act was not a part of receiving the Spirit at Pentecost or at Caesarea. Moreover, as Holdcroft (p. 64) states: "In recognition of the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, it would not be warranted to teach that the transmission of the blessing of God to man is dependent upon the ministry of a human third party."

Obedience in Witnessing

An often cited passage is Acts 5:32. Here, Peter states: "And we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."

One view of this passage is that Peter refers to the obedience of faith. When people come to faith, the Spirit is given to them. Others say that the Spirit is given so that the disciples will have the power to walk obediently. Still others say that we must obey in order to receive the Spirit.

The verb "has given" is an aorist participle. The word "obeying' is a present participle. The actions can be antecedent , coincident, or subsequent. The normal rendering probably is that the Spirit was given to those now obeying. The obedience, however, is the obedience of witnessing. In Acts 5:29 Peter says, "'We must obey God rather than men.'"

Thus, obedience is not a condition of receiving the Spirit: that is witnessing. Rather we give a powerful witness because we are endued. However, for those who try to witness without power, this can quickly lead on to a desire to be endued. Thus, obedience in witnessing can work the other way.


The promise that we will receive the gift of the Spirit is given to all who believe. As believers, let us exercise our faith in God and receive the Spirit. Let us expect to have a crisis experience that results in witness to all who are present. Also, we can expect that we will continue to be empowered for witness.

George M. Flattery

For Further Study

Dunn, James D. G. Baptism in the Holy Spirit. London: SCM Press Ltd. 1970.
Holdcroft, L. Thomas. The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Interpretation. North Vancouver: Pentecostal Bible College, 1971. Menzies, Willliam W. and Menzies, Robert P. Spirit and Power. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publsihing House, 2000.
Turner, Max.Power from On High. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. 1996.

© Copyright 2003. GMF.