In Acts 9:17-19, I'm not seeing that the text itself ever says that Paul received the Holy Spirit. If you disagree, please do (I'm hoping to get some clarity).

I'm seeing that it says Ananias tells Paul he was sent so that Paul would receive it, not that he did. Later in Acts, Paul says he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Are we to take from this that Paul is claiming (since he wrote this book) that Ananias had the power to give Paul the Holy Spirit, or that somebody else had this power and gave it to Paul?

Also, I'm curious about the use or lack of the definite article before "Holy Spirit" in this passage -- does that imply this was/was not given by God?

  • Are you asking if it is feasible to interpret this passage as implying that speaking in tongues does not necessarily always follow the reception of the Holy Spirit ?
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 7:01

4 Answers 4


Answering a secondary question first: Acts was not written by Paul. The introduction marks it as volume 2 of the Luke-Acts history, traditionally attributed to Paul's companion Luke. Certainly Paul cannot have been the author, since he is always described in the third person. The narrative style is about him, not by him.

The main question is whether Acts 9.17-19 refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I would say no.

The relevant verses read as follows: (All my verse quotes are from the NIV.)

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:17-19)

Technically the word "baptism" here is unqualified, so it could mean either spiritual baptism (God by his Spirit uniting a person with Christ and with the church) or water baptism (what the church does as a sign of that union). But to me the most natural meaning is simple water baptism. The surrounding text has a clear physical sense (even though there are hints of related spiritual meaning). Thus Paul was actually blind, and when the scales fell off he could actually see again (Even though the author may also be inviting us to reflect on Paul's spiritual blindness up to that point). Likewise we are to understand that following his baptism he ate physical food and regained strength after three days of fasting (see verse 9). So it seems best to interpret the baptism as a natural water baptism even if in a wider context we cannot fail to be reminded of the baptism in the Spirit.

It's also worth noting that Paul refers to this event later in Acts when he tells the story of his conversion to a crowd in Jerusalem. He quotes Ananias saying:

And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. (Acts 22.16)

The relationship here too is more about water (the image of washing sins away) and less about the filling or receiving of the Spirit. That's not to say that the baptism in the Spirit is denied; rather it's a recognition that we don't have to read this particular aspect of baptism into every single text.

If we consider the general pattern in Acts of people being baptised, we see a similar result. There are some examples where water baptism is clearly described. For example, in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch the eunuch says,

“Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” ... And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Acts 8.36-38)

Again, in the story of Cornelius and his household the baptism is in water, because it happens after the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit falls on the Gentiles; they speak in tongues; and so Peter says,

“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10.47-48)

There are some other cases where the baptism is unqualified like Paul, but to me water baptism appears to be in view. I would include these examples as illustrations:

  • Lydia (Acts 16:15)
  • The Philippian jailor (Acts 16:33)
  • Various people at the Corinthian church (Acts 18:8)

And finally there are no cases in Acts where the baptism is explicitly said to be "in the Spirit" or similar words. There are two cases which at first glance might appear to contradict this, but a closer look reinforces my interpretation above. In Acts 1 we read:

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1.4-5; see also Acts 11.16 which refers back to this saying of Jesus.)

So this passage clearly shows Luke is aware of the baptism in the Spirit. In fact its importance to him is reflected in this reference to Jesus' teaching at the very beginning of Acts. Luke sums up many days of post resurrection teaching by Jesus in just a few sentences, and this is one of them. Then the rest of Acts is God pouring out his Spirit on the church from Pentecost onwards, in fulfillment of Jesus' prophetic words.

And yet, despite the clear framework of Jesus' own saying, Luke at no point uses that language in describing specific conversion stories. Most obviously, only ten days after the ascension of Jesus the Spirit is poured out in power on a church in exactly the way Jesus had said. Luke tells a story of tongues, of flames, of bystanders miraculously hearing words in their own native languages, and of a sermon so empowered by God that 3,000 became Christians in one day. But none of this is labelled anywhere as "baptised in the Spirit". Surely if there was one point in the whole of Acts where that specific phrase was appropriate, it is here. We may or may not read that element into the story, but it will be our reading, not Luke's.

This is not to say that there is no spiritual component to the baptisms. Of course there is a link, but Luke does not make the link by referring directly to baptism in the Spirit. So we read phrases such as "believe and be baptised". We hear of someone who has been baptised then receiving the gift of the Spirit. Acts 2 is perhaps the clearest picture of this:

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

I read this as a practical template for thinking about Christian beginnings. To respond requires a personal component (repentance), a church component (baptism) and a God component (the promise of the Spirit). All three of these elements are woven into the Acts narrative in various ways. Sometimes all three elements are present in a particular case; sometimes only one or two elements are mentioned. But the threefold beginnings is an important theme in Acts generally. And it is thus worth noting that the baptism command is passive. It's not what the believer does to himself. It's what the church does to the believer as a sign of belonging. Luke (who as mentioned earlier knew of Jesus' words about baptism in the Spirit) chooses language that distinguishes the church's baptism in water and God's gift of the Holy Spirit. They are closely related in time and in meaning. But for Luke they are not the same, and so when we read Acts neither should we read them as being the same.


This "answer" offers two observations, one to bring to the surface a feature of Acts implicit in the existing answer, and by way of corroborating it; the other to respond to a sub-question remaining in OP's post.

(1) The giving of the Spirit in Acts

Luke explicitly describes the giving of the Spirit to new believers in the book of Acts on only four occasions:

  1. in Acts 2:4, we have the account of the "original" Pentecost in Jerusalem;
  2. during Philip's ministry in Samaria, the Spirit is given to new believers when Peter and John arrive and pray for them (Acts 8:14-17);
  3. in Acts 10:44, the Gentile Cornelius and his household receive the Spirit during Peter's visit when they believe;
  4. and finally, Ephesian "disciples", unaware of the Holy Spirit, receive the Spirit after Paul's further teaching and their baptism "in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:2-6).

It is often noted that this corresponds precisely to the commission given by Jesus to the apostles at the moment of his ascension in Acts 1:8:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earthNIV

Acts 2:4 corresponds to the apostles bearing witness in Jerusalem; Acts 8:17 sees the movement out into Samaria; and the "ends of the earth" is described in two phases: first in Acts 10 in the case of "God-fearing" Gentiles who are already well-informed about the God of the Jews, and then later in Acts 19 in the case of Ephesian "disciples" who seem to know something about Jesus, but are otherwise broadly ignorant of the salvation to come through Israel.

Thus, Luke does not routinely mention the imparting of the Spirit to new believers, but rather assumes it -- except in these four cases which seem to be intended to be exemplary "milestones" for the spread of the Christian faith.

In other words, for OP's interest, we should not expect an explicit mention of the reception of the Spirit in the case of Paul's conversion. His "category" is already represented in Acts 2:4.

(2) What about the "lack of the definite article before "Holy Spirit" in this passage"?

There is nothing surprising or odd here. The use of the definite article in Greek does not directly conform to the pattern of the use of articles in English. In Acts 9:17 πνεύματος ἁγίου (pneumatos hagiou) is in the genitive. As A.T. Robertson points out,* such a phrase may still be "definite", even in the complete absence of the article (he provides examples):

The genitive may still be attributive and both substantives definite. ... The context must decide whether the phrase is definite or not.

*A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament; in the Light of Historical Research (1915), p. 780.

There's no need to feel a concern about the lack of articles in Greek at this point, then.


To the previous comments I add the following:

A comparison of spiritual fruit between the lives of Peter and Paul suggests Paul's own baptism with the Holy Spirit and the empowerment it delivers did not happen until at least 10 years after his conversion in Acts 9.

Peter, who, along with the other 10 apostles, was born again on the day of Jesus' resurrection (see Jn. 20:22), was hiding out in the upper room in fear of his life. Then, some 50 days after he was born again, he was baptized with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). It was only then that Peter and John became emboldened and empowered to release the first post-Pentecost miracle (lame man on Temple steps), a miracle which led to 8,000 new converts, after which they had the courage to testify boldly before the Sanhedrin and begin their lives as Spirit-baptized apostles.

Paul, on the other hand, is not credited with any miracles until at least 14 years after his conversion (blinding of Elymas, the magician, in Acts 13:9-11). In fact, for those first few years, Paul was apparently relying, not on the dunamis-power of God in his ministry, but only on his debating skills, because not only is he credited with no conversions until many years later, but he got the Jews in both Damascus and Jerusalem so mad that he got run out of town.

By the time Paul wrote 1 Cor, however (probably 16 years after his conversion), he was releasing miracles as he preached (1 Cor. 2:4-5), while also speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:18).

Both men exhibited dramatic changes in their ministries after their baptisms with the Holy Spirit. The difference is that Peter's changes occurred mere days after Pentecost, but in Paul, the "after" changes in the biblical record are not apparent for at least 14 years after his conversion.

To me, this strongly suggests that Paul, having been born again in Acts 9, did not receive his baptism with the Holy Spirit for at least a few years afterward.


There are a number of issues regarding the Holy Spirit / Spirit etc… some even say that the Holy Spirit has its own personhood. To see more on Holy Spirit in general see: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/74548/33268

Genesis 1:2 - 2Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Matthew 12 17 So God’s promise came true, just as Isaiah the prophet had said, 18 “Here is my chosen servant I love him, and he pleases me. I will give him my Spirit, and he will bring justice to the nations.

Some peculiar passages if HS is a personhood

1 Kings 22:22 " 'By what means?' the LORD asked. " 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,' he said. " 'You will succeed in enticing him,' said the LORD. 'Go and do it.'

1 Kings 22:23 "So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you."

1 Samuel 18:10 "The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul.

1 John 4:6 – “This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood”

Revelations 4:5 ….Seven torches, which are the seven spirits of God…..

Revelations 5:6 …It had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent out to all the earth…..

Luke 10: 20-21 20) Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 21At that time, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit ….

John 16:13" Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes …..

Matthew 12:31-32 (CEV) 31-32 I tell you that any sinful thing you do or say can be forgiven. Even if you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven, either in this life or in the life to come.

[seems like more then 1 HS, lying, evil, HS and some say John 16:13 ‘the spirit of Truth’ is the HS – still to come? when HS has been here since the beginning.

Some of what Paul says about the spirit / HS

Luke was a follower/student of Paul’s so what he wrote was based on Paul’s influence.

Roman 8:26 - Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

1 Thessalonians 5:18-19 - 18 Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19Do not extinguish the Spirit.

2 Chronicles 18:18-22 18 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing on his right and on his left. 19 And the Lord said, ‘Who (Jesus included) will entice Ahab king of Israel into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. 20 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked. 21 “‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’ 22 “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”

Acts 13:9 - But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him…

Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

1 Corinthians 7:40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

[Arguably very baffling some of the comments]


Paul seems to at one stage say he has the HS, even giving HS to others [not sure on what authority]. Yet 1 Corinthians 7:40 he doesn’t seem to be sure if he has the HS. For someone who has allegedly had visions and prophecies and power to heal the sick and everything else etc… Yet does not know if the Spirit of Gods been given to him, very peculiar.

Based on Pauls evidence coming from him only and that he taught different to Jesus and the disciples and has no authority from anyone, only his evidence of so-called visions which no one can prove either way. I would conclude that he does not have the Holy Spirit of God.

Daniel 7:25 25 He shall speak words against the Highest, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.

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