Someone has recently told me that despite his faith in the Lord Jesus, and his repentance towards God, the Holy Spirit hasn’t yet been given to him. Many Christians are like this brother. They are doing all within their power to receive the Holy Spirit and most often are frustrated because they lack the understanding of how the Holy Spirit works. Do we really have to do anything after believing in Christ to receive the Holy Spirit?
Many of us do not understand that the Holy Spirit works in accordance with God’s promises: “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me” (Acts1:4).
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a gift to anyone who received forgiveness of sin through the Gospel of the crucified Christ. It is not due to personal efforts. It contains the meaning of the fulfillment of God’s promise. The Bible tells us that the promise of the father was not fulfilled because the disciples prayed, fasted, or engaged in spiritual exercises — they received the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus alone. The Scripture also informs us that the Holy Spirit came from Heaven “And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2).
Can anyone receive the Holy Spirit by laying of hands? No. The person has to, first of all, believe in the Gospel of Christ.
“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” ( Acts 8:14-17).
The people in Samaria received the Holy Spirit when Peter and John prayed and laid their hands on them because they had first received the Gospel and believed. The prayer and laying of hands of Peter and John were not the efforts of the believers in Samaria but the leading of the Holy Spirit on the side of Peter and John. Some believers have emulated Simon the Sorcerer by giving money (“sowing seeds”) to receive the Holy Ghost and His gifts, and some pastors have been making money out of gullible worshipers who are ready to part with their hard-earned money in search of Holy Spirit and His gift.
“When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!’”(Acts 8:18-20).
Thank God for Peter’s response to Simon.
The challenge of many believers is that they do not know when they have received the Holy Spirit because they have been taught that the immediate evidence of the reception of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. Does it mean that everyone who received the Holy Spirit must speak in tongues immediately? I do not think so. There is no record of Paul speaking in tongues when he receives the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-19). There is also no record of believers in Samaria who received the Holy Spirit speaking in tongues (Acts 8:15-17).
Speaking in tongues is one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. Separating one out of nine gifts as evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is not a balanced approach.
Instead of using the gifts of the Holy Spirit to measure the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers, we should look for the evidence of spiritual fruits in their lives. The evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer should be his/her passion for soul-winning and readiness to boldly preach the Gospel. After all, only a true believer loves God and wants to make Him known.