Last Friday I shared a quote from John Piper on the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In it he quoted an illustration that Martyn Lloyd-Jones used. Today, partly because I am working through a series of questions a reader has posed, I thought I would share another quote from Dr. Piper which might surprise some of my readers.
“I would start by saying that in the book of Acts, everywhere the receiving of the Holy Spirit is described, it is experiential. What I mean is that it’s not just a logical inference that you know has happened to you only because something else has happened. Instead, it has effects that are clearly discernible. In the book of Acts a person knows when he receives the Holy Spirit. It is an experience with effects you can point to.
Let me illustrate this from Acts 19:2. The situation is that Paul has come to Ephesus and found there some disciples who, as it turns out, only know the baptism of John the Baptist and have not been baptized into the name of Jesus. Paul detects something wrong and breaks the whole thing open by asking a key question in verse 2: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
Now that is a remarkable question for contemporary American evangelicals who have been taught by and large that the way you know you have received the Holy Spirit is that you are a believer. We have been told that you can know that you have the Holy Spirit because all who believe have the Holy Spirit. It’s a logical inference. So if we want to know if someone has received the Holy Spirit, we would ask, “Have you believed on Jesus?” If the answer is yes, then we know the person received the Holy Spirit. Receiving the Holy Spirit is a logical inference, not an experience to point to.
But Paul’s question isn’t like that, is it? Paul says, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” We scratch our heads and say, “I don’t get it, Paul. If you assume we believed, why don’t you assume we received the Holy Spirit? We’ve been taught that all who believe receive the Holy Spirit. We’ve been taught to just believe that the Spirit is there whether there are any effects or not. But you talk as if there is a way to know we’ve received the Holy Spirit different from believing. You talk as if we could point to an experience of the Spirit apart from believing in order to answer your question.”
And that is, in fact, the way Paul talks. When he asks, “Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?” he expects that a person who has “received the Holy Spirit” knows it, not just because it’s an inference from his faith in Christ, but because it is an experience with effects that we can point to.
That is what runs all the way through this book of Acts. All the explicit descriptions of receiving the Holy Spirit are experiential (not inferential).”
— John Piper, 1991
What Does it Mean to Receive the Holy Spirit?