Last Sunday, I taught a message from Acts 8 about the personal testimony of a man named Simon. He was a spiritual person by all accounts, but he was missing something very important–the gospel!
After believing in the gospel message presented by Phillip, many people (including Simon) were baptized. Then, the Bible says something interesting.
“They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:16-17
I thought the Holy Spirit comes to reside within a person at the moment of salvation. Doesn’t the Bible teach that too? Why do the Samaritans not receive the Holy Spirit until several days later when Peter and John come down to lay hands on them?
This is an important discussion because we need to understand how God works in our lives. Not to mention, I don’t want any Believer wondering whether or not they have the Holy Spirit dwelling in their lives.
Let me offer a few points of clarification.
1. This is the exception, not the norm.
In every other instance in Scripture, it seems pretty clear that the Holy Spirit indwells in a person immediately at the moment of salvation by trusting in Jesus. Notice what Peter tells the church in Jerusalem.
“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
The keyword is “and.” It doesn’t say, “…then one day you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
2. There is only one baptism.
Some would say that Christians need two baptisms: one baptism with water identifying with Christ and another baptism of the Holy Spirit. I think Paul wanted to clear up any confusion in the early church when he wrote to the church in Ephesus.
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling—one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” Ephesians 4:4-5
3. The Holy Spirit can reside with, in, or on a person.
Remember, the Holy Spirit is a Person of the Trinity. He’s not an energy force. He has the omnipresence of God so He can be everywhere and somewhere at the same time.
He can be with a person. He is with an unbeliever convicting of sin and helping them recognize their need for salvation.
He can be in a person. He resides within the person who trusts Jesus as Lord.
He can be on a person. These are those special moments when the Holy Spirit comes on a person to accomplish a specific purpose. Here’s a message on what it means to live full of the Holy Spirit.
4. The Holy Spirit is given to authenticate true believers.
“In him, you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14
In Christ, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit. The word sealed means “to confirm or authenticate.” There is no gap between a person’s salvation and their authentication. If you are truly saved, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Much like a passport authenticates a person’s nationality, the Holy Spirit is the authenticator of true believers.
What really happened in Acts 8, when the Holy Spirit came on the new believers several days after their salvation by faith?
Option 1: Some argue the Samaritans weren’t really saved in the first place. I think this is the least possible solution because the Bible clearly says, “they believed Philip preaching the Good News…and were being baptized.”
Option 2: They didn’t experience a second baptism, but perhaps they experienced a second blessing. Maybe the Holy Spirit did reside in them at the moment of salvation, but then the Holy Spirit came on them at the laying on of the apostle’s hands.
Yes, they were true believers the very moment they confessed and believed, but perhaps Peter and John passed on a supernatural blessing. It’s almost as if this moment was the signal that the gospel had truly advanced outside of Jerusalem to the place of Samaria, following the pattern that Jesus said in Acts 1:8.
The Jews are beginning to realize that the gospel story is much bigger than the few thousand that had already received it in Jerusalem. The message had indeed spread. It had for sure been received by Samaritans! It was confirmed through the laying on of hands and receiving of the Holy Spirit.
The gospel could no longer be contained.