Jesus clearly promises that he will send the Holy Spirit and commanded us to receive Him. Yet this clear instruction is left off many lists of Jesus commands. Perhaps it is ommitted because we cannot fill ourselves Holy Spirit. Yet if we have been paying attention throughout this series so far we will have seen that by ourselves we cannot obey most of the commands of Jesus.
In the verses below we see that the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son, but must be received by us. Think of him as a house guest that is sent to us. Will we receive him warmly? Will we welcome him into the very centre of our lives? Or will we grudgingly allow him to camp outside near our house? Will we speak with him? Will we enjoy his company? Will we become friends with him?
Jesus Commands us to Receive the Holy Spirit
- ““I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me . . . will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11)
- “The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)
- “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
- “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:12)
- “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17)
- Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
- “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)
- “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)
- Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)
- “Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen . . . he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”” (Acts 1:1-5)
- “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4)
- “In the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh . . .Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:17-39)
- “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
- “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2)
There are many who think receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit is automatic, that it happens at conversion. Lloyd-Jones claims that this teaching quenches the Holy Spirit more than anything else, explaining that some people say,
“There is nothing for me to seek, I have got it all”. Got it all? Well, if you have ‘got it all’, I simply ask in the Name of God, why are you as you are? If you have ‘got it all’, why are you so unlike the Apostles, why are you so unlike the New Testament Christians?
The teaching that I have just mentioned is false. The apostles were regenerate before the day of Pentecost. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is not identical with regeneration; it is something separate. It matters not how long the interval between the two may be, there is a difference; there is an interval, they are not identical. But if you say that they are identical, you do not expect anything further.
And if you do not believe that it is possible for you to experience the Spirit of God bearing direct witness with your own spirit that you are a child of God, obviously you are quenching the Spirit. That is why so many Christian people are miserable and unhappy; they do not know anything about crying out, ‘Abba, Father’; or about ‘the Spirit of adoption’. God is a Being away in the far distance; they do not know Him as a loving Father; they do not know that they are His children. They may believe it intellectually, theoretically; but Paul says, ‘You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear’.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13, 280 (Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA, Banner of Truth Trust, 1976).
Lloyd-Jones argues that the disciples must have been born again before they received the Holy Spirit. They had chosen to follow Jesus, leaving everything for him. Some of them had made bold declarations of faith in the identify of Jesus. They were already described as children, brothers, and friends. They had listened to Jesus preaching for three years. They had been discipled by him for three years. They had even been sent out to preach the gospel and performed healing miracles. And yet they still required a special anointing from the Holy Spirit. They still needed to consciously receive him and his influences in their lives. They needed another Comforter.
If the Apostles and even Jesus needed to receive the Holy Spirit how much more do we?
We see from the passages above that Jesus is the baptiser in the Holy Spirit. He and the Father send the Spirit as another Comforter or Helper. The Father gives the Spirit as a gift to his children. The promise of the Holy Spirit was for all Christians throughout all generations. It is described as a mark of the last days and we surely don’t live in days after the last days!
Through the Spirit the Son manifests himself to us. But notice that we have to ask for the Holy Spirit in prayer. We have to come and drink. We are the ones who must receive. Sometimes the Holy Spirit seems to come on a corporate group of people at once. Notice that this happened at least twice to the Apostles. And Paul clearly distinguishes faith from receiving the Holy Spirit when he checks if some converts had received when they had believed.
It is not enough for us to look back at some experience of the Holy Spirit at some point in the past. We need multiple and ongoing fillings of the Spirit.
The Apostle Paul also commands us using the continuous imperative:
“Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” Eph 5:18, ISV
This can be translated also as ‘be being filled with the Spirit’ or paraphrased as
Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him.(The Message)
Billy Graham at the height of his ministry was asked “what one question would you ask God”, Billy’s reply was, “to fill me with his Holy Spirit and give me the ability to do his work every day.” That should surely also be our regular prayer and expectation.
WHY WE SHOULD RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
TO BE EMPOWERED TO LIVE AS A CHRISTIAN.
The Holy Spirit is very much God (see The Trinity and you). He is not a force or a power, but a person. As such, the Apostle Peter invites everybody who has repented and turned to Jesus to also receive the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is at work in every Christian, not just a select few. We learn in John 3:8 that the Holy Spirit causes us to be born again. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is at work in you even before you decide to become a Christian, showing you your sin, and drawing you to Jesus (John 16:8).
Every Christian has Jesus living inside of them by the Holy Spirit. Christ’s resurrection power is at work in us all, transforming us from the inside out, and producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
When Peter talks about “receiving” the Holy Spirit into our lives, this refers to us becoming aware of the Spirit as a person, and entering a relationship with Him.
Like the wind, we cannot see the Spirit, but we can see evidence of His presence by what He is doing. However, we can experience the work of the Holy Spirit in a dynamic way. All Christians are invited to consciously, and continuously welcome the Holy Spirit, and invite Him to work in our lives.
It is very possible to become a Christian without much in the way of an emotional experience. We are not saved because we cried, or because something dramatic happened. Everybody’s story is different. However, over time, you should expect to become aware of the effects of the Holy Spirit’s work in you, some of which are outlined as follows:
TO BE ENABLED TO SPEAK ABOUT JESUS WITH OTHERS
The disciples had been told to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from the Holy Spirit to take the gospel all over the world (Acts 1:8). He equips and empowers us in all kinds of ways to serve God, and gives us boldness to do works for God today (Acts 4:31).
TO FEEL SURE OF YOUR PLACE AMONG GOD’S PEOPLE
The Holy Spirit confirms that you are really a Christian, giving us assurance of our salvation :
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)
The outpouring of the Spirit is one of the marks that identify God’s people (Acts 2:39). We are born into His family, and the Holy Spirit gives us a sense of belonging. No longer does God’s Spirit only rest on specific individuals as in Old Testament times; now He is available to everyone.
A RESTORED RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Through the Holy Spirit, God speaks to our hearts. He lives within us. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
It is very possible to become a Christian without much in the way of an emotional experience.
There is so much more that the Holy Spirit can do for you if you ask. The work of the Spirit will further establish you in your walk with God. You will grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).
I encourage you to find out more about Him, and to invite the Spirit to work in you to glorify Jesus, revealing Him to you (John 16:14).
YOU CAN KNOW JESUS
These experiential encounters with God through the Holy Spirit, help us feel we know Jesus. Many teachers of previous generations referred to this as receiving “Full Assurance” of our salvation. This requires an experience, not mere intellectual assent, Spurgeon elaborates:
Give me, then, a man of tender heart, who, at the same time, mixes full assurance with his tenderness. He is the man who will bring forth fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
Once again, our text suggests to us the blending of experience and knowledge. Read the Westminster Assembly’s Confession of Faith; by all manner of means get a clear view of the doctrines of grace, so that you can state them to others, and know why you hold them firmly yourself; but, remember, if you do not experience them in your own heart, if you do not know the power of them in your own life, you know nothing at all about them. Dry doctrine, without the damping of the Spirit of God, may only make fuel for your eternal destruction. When a man accommodates his religion up in the garret of his head, and never takes it down into the parlour of his heart, that man’s religion is vain. We must experience the power of the gospel in our own souls if it is to be of real service to us.
“True religion’s more than notion,
Something must be known and felt.”
It is very nice to talk about Christ; but do you trust him as your Savior? It may be very easy to speak about the new birth; but have you felt it? When you get these two things together, first the rain of gracious experience, and then the clear shining of intellectual knowledge of Scripture, then will you bring forth fruit unto God.
Charles H. Spurgeon, vol. 38, Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 38, NO. 2284, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998).
This concept of experience giving us confidence of our salvation is very biblical. For example:
“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13)
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-4)
“hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5)
Note that this experience of assurance is not something that necessarily happens at the moment a person becomes a Christian. Spurgeon also explains this:
Note also that this sealing does not necessarily come at once with faith. It grows out of faith, and comes “after that ye believed.” We are not in every case sealed at the moment when we first trust in Jesus. I am persuaded that many who believe in Jesus enter into peace directly, and perceive at once the blessed assurance which is involved in their possessing the Holy Spirit; but with many others it is not so . . .
I, being a sinner, believe that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and I rest my soul upon him, believing that he will save me; this is to be my standing, seal or no seal, token or no token. My dependence is not to be upon the seal of the Spirit, but upon the blood of the Son. The Spirit of God never takes the place of the Redeemer, he exercises his own peculiar office, which is to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, and not to put his own things in the place of Jesus. The foundation of our hope is laid in Christ from first to last, and if we rest there we are saved.
The seal does not always come with faith, but it follows after. I have said this because I am afraid lest in any way whatever you should leave the simple, plain, and solid ground of confidence in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and in that only. Recollect that a man who believes in Jesus Christ is as truly saved when he does not know it as he is when he does know it; he is as truly the Lord’s when he mourns in the valley of humiliation as when he sings on the mountain top of joy and fellowship. Our ground of trust is not to be found in our experience, but in the person and work of our Lord Jesus.
“I dare not trust the sweetest frame;
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”
Charles H. Spurgeon, vol. 22, Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 22, Sermon 1284 “The Sealing of the Spirit” electronic ed., Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998).
The depth of the spiritual experiences felt by many Christians of the past should provoke us to slow down so we can meet with God. I have collected some accounts of experiences of God in previous generations into a free chapter from my book Raised With Christ:
A relationship with the Risen Jesus (Free Chapter from Raised With Christ)
Frank Viola once collated a list of 50 things the Holy Spirit does. I leave you with his list as a challenge. Why would you not eagerly seek for more of the Holy Spirit’s activity in these areas? Why would you not receive him gladly?
1. The Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
2. The Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13).
3. The Spirit regenerates us (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).
4. The Spirit glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26; 16:14).
5. The Spirit reveals Christ to us and in us (John 16:14-15).
6. The Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1).
7. The Spirit sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:16).
8. The Spirit empowers us (Luke 4:14; 24:49; Rom. 15:19; Acts 1:8).
9. The Spirit fills us (Eph. 5:18; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17).
10. The Spirit teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27; Jude 1:20).
11. The Spirit bears witness in us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).
12. The Spirit produces in us the fruit or evidence of His work and presence (Gal. 5:22-23).
13. The Spirit distributes spiritual gifts to and through the body (1 Cor. 12:4, 8-10; Heb. 2:4).
14. The Spirit anoints us for ministry (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38).
15. The Spirit washes and renews us (Titus 3:5).
16. The Spirit brings unity and oneness to the body (Eph. 4:3; 2:14-18).
17. The Spirit is our guarantee and deposit of the future resurrection (2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 5:5).
18. The Spirit seals us unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13; 4:30).
19. The Spirit sets us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).
20. The Spirit quickens our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11).
21. The Spirit reveals the deep things of God to us (1 Cor. 2:10).
22. The Spirit reveals what has been given to us from God (1 Cor. 2:12).
23. The Spirit dwells in us (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:14; John 14:17).
24. The Spirit speaks to, in, and through us (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 2:11; Heb 3:7; Matt. 10:20; Acts 2:4; 8:29; 10:19; 11:12, 28; 13:2; 16:6,7; 21:4,11).
25. The Spirit is the agent by which we are baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
26. The Spirit brings liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).
27. The Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).
28. The Spirit cries in our hearts, “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6).
29. The Spirit enables us to wait (Gal. 5:5).
30. The Spirit supplies us with Christ (Phil. 1:19, KJV).
31. The Spirit grants everlasting life (Gal. 6:8).
32. The Spirit gives us access to God the Father (Eph. 2:18).
33. The Spirit makes us (corporately) God’s habitation (Eph. 2:22).
34. The Spirit reveals the mystery of God to us (Eph. 3:5).
35. The Spirit strengthens our spirits (Eph. 3:16).
36. The Spirit enables us to obey the truth (1 Pet. 1:22).
37. The Spirit enables us to know that Jesus abides in us (1 John 3:24; 4:13).
38. The Spirit confesses that Jesus came in the flesh (1 John 4:2).
39. The Spirit says “Come, Lord Jesus” along with the bride (Rev. 22:17).
40. The Spirit dispenses God’s love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).
41. The Spirit bears witness to the truth in our conscience (Rom. 9:1).
42. The Spirit teaches us (1 Cor. 2:13; John 14:26).
43. The Spirit gives us joy (1 Thess. 1:6).
44. The Spirit enables some to preach the gospel (1 Pet. 1:12).
45. The Spirit moves us (2 Pet. 1:21).
46. The Spirit knows the things of God (1 Cor. 2:11).
47. The Spirit casts out demons (Matt. 12:28).
48. The Spirit brings things to our remembrance (John 14:26).
49. The Spirit comforts us (Acts 9:31).
50. The Spirit makes some overseers in the church and sends some out to the work of church planting (Acts 20:28; 13:2).
Part of this article was adapted from Hope Reborn, How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus by Tope Koleoso and Adrian Warnock
Images: Pixabay unless otherwise indicated
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