8

On the one hand Ephesians 1:13 appears to state that Christians receive the Holy Spirit upon the moment of conversion:

Ephesians 1:13 (NIV)

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

But on other hand, the book of Acts appears to present two counterexamples:

Acts 8:14-17 (NIV)

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 19:1-7 (NIV)

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

In both passages of Acts we see individuals who were already believers (and therefore, as per Ephesians 1:13, should have already been sealed with the Holy Spirit), but Acts paradoxically tells us that they hadn't received the Holy Spirit yet and actually needed someone else to come lay hands upon them to receive it for the first time.

How come they hadn't received the HS yet if they were already believers and therefore should've already had the HS as per Ephesians 1:13? How can this apparent contradiction be solved?

3
  • That the disciples had not received (lambanos) the Holy Spirit, does not mean they were not sealed with Him or by Him. Received here implies an active action of volition to take hold of something that is already available. see biblehub.com/greek/2983.htm Jan 28 at 11:44
  • 1
    Saul of Tarsus certainly developed faith after meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road, yet Ananias would, some days later, meet him that he might be 'filled with the Holy Ghost' Acts 9.17. Apparently Saul's faith wasn't automatic enough to get him the Holy Ghost the moment he believed.
    – user10859
    Feb 24 at 5:03
  • @user10859 also, it wasn't until Ananias that Paul was commanded to be baptized to wash away his sins.
    – Austin
    Oct 23 at 23:44
5
+100

Apollos

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18) [ESV]

Here the issue is clear. Apollos' knowledge is incomplete and so it is deficient. He knows only of John's baptism and is unaware of the instructions Jesus gave regarding the new baptism (Matthew 28:19). The implication is Apollos is failing to teach or is unaware of the resurrection:

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

If Apollos failed to preach God raised Jesus from the dead, his message would be accurate and yet incomplete. In other words, it is possible to use the teachings Jesus gave before He was crucified to demonstrate He is the Christ without also teaching He was raised from the dead. For example the Sermon on the Mount is even today seen as significant to Christianity:

"The Sermon is the longest continuous discourse of Jesus found in the New Testament and has been one of the most widely quoted elements of the Canonical Gospels. It includes some of the best-known teachings of Jesus, such as the Beatitudes, and the widely recited Lord's Prayer. The Sermon on the Mount is generally considered to contain the central tenets of Christian discipleship."1

Despite the significance of the Sermon, it lacks the message of the Resurrection. Teaching only the baptism of John and the teachings of Jesus as declared in the Sermon on the Mount would be an accurate description of Apollos.

Likewise those disciples Paul encountered in Ephesus knew only of John's baptism. This suggests they had an accurate and yet incomplete understanding of who Jesus is.

The Samaritans
The simplest explanation is the message Philip first preached was incomplete:

4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city...12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Acts 8)

It is easy to presume Philip explicitly taught God raised Jesus from the dead as Peter did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:24-36). But, clearly something is not entirely right: despite being baptized, the Samaritans did not receive the Holy Spirit. The simplest explanation is Philip either assumed the Samaritans were aware of the Resurrection, or he emphasized other aspects of the message. Philip is associated with Stephen as one of the seven chosen by the church in Jerusalem to oversee the distribution of food. (Acts 6:1-6). Stephen's speech makes no mention of the Resurrection. It is possible, as Stephen shows, to use the Scriptures to prove who Jesus was without also preaching who Jesus is: the Risen LORD.

In the Fourth Gospel some Samaritans acknowledged Jesus was the Savior of the World while He was alive (John 4:42). Obviously that was accurate and would bring salvation. At the same time, they did not receive the Holy Spirit because Jesus had yet to be glorified (John 7:39). In a like manner preaching Jesus is the Savior of the World or even that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world without including the message of the Resurrection is accurate yet incomplete: it fails to include His glorification. This would explain why some believers experienced a delay in receiving the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians
It is clear from the letter, the Ephesians were taught and believed God raised Jesus from the dead:

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1)

Paul's preaching exemplifies the fully developed Christian doctrine which includes not only the high standard of righteousness as found in the Sermon on the Mount but the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus as Christ. It is the complete message which brings the Holy Spirit who enables the believer to live as a follower of Christ.

Conclusion
An accurate but incomplete belief is a deficiency which need not deny salvation, but reasonably explains the delay in receiving the Holy Spirit.


  1. Sermon on the Mount
2

Eph 1:13 and Rom 8:9 tell us two things:

  • The Holy Spirit is received at conversion and/or baptism (one symbolizes the other)
  • It is impossible to be a Christian believer without the Gift of the Holy Spirit

That is all fine and good but what about the two cases (Acts 8:14-17 & 19:1-7) where apparent existing believers did not have the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Let us look at another case - that of Apollos. When he arrived at Acts 18:24-27 -

Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord and was fervent in spirit. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus,e though he knew only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him in and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Note what happened here - Apollos, an evangelistic preacher(!!) did not have the gift of the Holy Spirit because he was not in full possession of the spiritual facts. When Priscilla and Aquila taught him "more accurately" his ministry would have been greatly strengthened. One also ASSUMES he might have been either re-baptized and/or given the gift of the HS by the laying on of hands but this is not recorded.

A similar thing occurred with the new believers in Samaria and Corinth. Notice what Paul says about John's baptism - a baptism of repentance which was incomplete in Jesus because, among other things, it did not include instruction about the Holy Spirit.

Now, there were many times when people who had previously received the gift of the Holy Spirit but were recorded as being "full" of the HS or "filled" with the HS, eg,

  • The apostle/disciples received the gift of the HS directly from Jesus in John 20:22
  • The HS manifested Himself again in Acts 2:3, 4 to the apostles
  • The HS manifested himself to the apostles again in Acts 4:8
  • Same again in Acts 4:31
  • Same again in Acts 7:55
  • Same again in Acts 13:9 & 52

... and so forth.

9
  • "It is impossible to be a Christian believer without the Gift of the Holy Spirit", based on this premise, Apollos and the individuals in the other two cases (Acts 8:14-17 & 19:1-7) were not truly Christians but until they finally heard about the gift of the Holy Spirit? In other words, if you are never taught about the gift of the Holy Spirit, you will never receive it and therefore never be truly a Christian? Oct 29 '20 at 3:34
  • 2
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator - as much I hate to reluctantly admit it, that appears to what these stories appear to be suggesting. John 16:12-14 also suggests something similar - we cannot know Jesus without the enlightenment of the HS.
    – Dottard
    Oct 29 '20 at 3:40
  • I think there is another option: that maybe what is meant by "receiving the HS" in those two cases is actually "being baptized in the HS" which is a sort of more dramatic Pentecost-like experience, whereas by default every believer receives the HS in a more subtle, background - subconscious if you will - way. That would solve the dilemma I think. They were believers, so they already had the HS in a subconscious manner, but they hadn't experienced yet the more dramatic Pentecost-like baptism in the HS. Oct 29 '20 at 3:46
  • 2
    But what about the thief crucified next to Jesus? He was certainly saved but he didn't even have a chance to be taught about the HS. Or for example the Ethiopian who got preached the gospel by Philip (led by the HS btw) and received water baptism, but we are never told he received the baptism in the HS. Are we going to say that they weren't truly Christians? Oct 29 '20 at 3:55
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator - excellent notes! The thief knew Jesus directly. The Ethiopian has a lengthy ride with Philip and almost none of their conversation is recorded so we do not know what Philip taught him. I am confident that the Ethiopian was well and adequately taught. See also Acts 2:38
    – Dottard
    Oct 29 '20 at 4:05
2

Considering that the Greek as I read it, doesn’t say the believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit but with a seal from the Holy Spirit and it’s the seal that is the guarantee or the down payment in modern language for the redemption of the believer at the end, there is no contradictions.

“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 ‭1:13-14‬ ‭

This is the English translation which has been interpreted to help the reader make sense of what is being said, however the interpretation is not entirely faithful to the Greek.

Later Paul writes that the Holy Spirit seals the believer

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:30‬ ‭

Ephesians 1:13 should read that the seal is placed by the Spirit as was promised. And the seal is the down payment, not the Holy Spirit.

The Acts 8:14 from the NIV you quoted is a fair translation. These believers had only being baptized in Jesus’ Name but had not received the Holy Spirit. This aligns with Ephesians. If the seal were the Holy Spirit they should have also received the Holy Spirit as the second passage you quote Acts 19 shows that these believers were also simply baptized in Jesus’ Name but there was no problem with being baptized in Jesus’ Name. They also then received the Holy Spirit by laying on on hands.

As such the baptism in Jesus’ Name leads to a seal placed on the believer by the Holy Spirit as per Ephesians 1:13. The receiving of the Holy Spirit is separate.

5
  • sorry, what? you wrote 'with a seal from the Holy Spirit' and then quote, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit - which is what you said it's not.
    – steveowen
    Oct 31 '20 at 10:27
  • 2 Cor 1:21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge - or deposit or down payment. Eph 4:30 is speaking of God... the spirit OF God.
    – steveowen
    Oct 31 '20 at 10:35
  • @user48152 1) yes I quoted the English translation as it reads and then I offered a translation later “Ephesians 1:13 should read that the seal is placed by the Spirit as was promised. And the seal is the down payment, not the Holy Spirit.” 2) You reference 2C1:21 but fail to realize that at a minimum even in the English translation the seal and the HS as two separate things. This verse likewise in the Greek should read differently, “who also sealed us and having given the deposit OF THE SPIRIT in our hearts“ belonging to the Holy Spirit. As such you’re arguing from the English translations Oct 31 '20 at 12:20
  • So far it's just your word for it. Anyway, how can a 'seal' be a deposit - a deposit of what - a bigger seal? The HS is a deposit of what is to come when we follow Jesus into the kingdom and we are born of the spirit like he was and exalted to the father's throne. Perhaps, by making the Spirit a 'person', it all gets too complicated. That's why it is the spirit OF God being spoken about - Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father --- not God, the promised Holy Spirit Acts 2:33
    – steveowen
    Oct 31 '20 at 12:50
  • @user48152 The seal is not the deposit, the seal is the guarantee of the deposit (seal of approval). The deposit is placed in the heart and the guarantee/deposit is Christ in the heart of the believer as per ” “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit (not with) in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith —that you, being rooted and grounded in love,” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:16-17‬ this question isn’t asking about what is the seal or the deposit certainly it’s not the HS Oct 31 '20 at 14:51
1

It makes more sense to see that faith and receiving the Holy Ghost are separate steps/events in our walk with God. This is what Acts 8 shows us. Its not conceivable that Philip would fail to mention the single most astonishing event in Jesus life, the Resurrection, in his preaching to the Samaritans, though it is not specifically mentioned in the text. Another example of people receiving the Holy Ghost after faith settled in, is seen in Paul's conversion. Having met Jesus on the Damascus Road, (can we see Paul's faith rising here?) he is told by Ananias that he has come to see Paul healed and see Paul receive the Holy Ghost. Acts 9.17 He obviously would have believed in a resurrected Christ but there was no automatic filling of the Holy Ghost at the moment of faith. We all mature and progress in our walk with God at a different pace, consequently taking steps at different places and differing times. Faith is the outset but also plays a role in every step of the way. Hebrews 6 hints at these steps: "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits." To say these steps in my own words, in a natural progression: 1. faith, in God (not good works), through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. 2. repentance from sin. 3. baptisms: both water and Spirit baptism. To think that the Holy Ghost is given to a believer automatically, the moment faith steps in, also goes against the idea of the giving and receiving of gifts. Gifts must be given, in this case, the gift of the Holy Ghost; and gifts must be actively received by the intended recipient. I reach out to take the gift. This active receiving also agrees with the principle of free will choice, which God authored. Some people choose to refuse gifts.

0

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but ... against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (NIV, Eph 6:12)

"The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish [thought] strongholds" (NIV, 2 Cor 10:4,5)

“Speaking in an unknown tongue” is a prayer language for spiritual warfare against unholy spirits. These can not stand to hear gibberish lingo, intersected with convicting words in their own tongue. This undermine their legitimacy, which in turn makes space for the HS.

"When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit" (NIV, Eph 1:13)

"He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself". (KJV, 1 Cor 14:4)

Consequently, we are marked at conversion with a seal that stays sealed until it is opened at the time of the Holy Spirit Baptism. This baptism enables us to use Holy Spirit led tongues for the edification needed to stay in tune with Holiness.

1
  • What is "the unholy oppressing spirit" and where do you see that in the scriptures?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 30 '20 at 13:54
-1

An explanation that removes the need to consider these verses not complementary.

Ephesians 1:13 (NIV) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

Paul (from v3) is giving an overview of the various facets of becoming God's children/believers. It isn't intended to be a doctrinal explanation of every detail.

Acts 8:14-17 (NIV)17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

There is a formal process that God has arranged through the elders He has placed amongst believers. God chooses and gifts various ones for leadership - each one gifted differently for the needs. These are the ones He operates through and places authority upon to serve His purposes and the brethren.

You may recall that in the OT, various ones 'laid hands' to impart blessing, power or confirm a special purpose. Deut 34:9 Moses, Num 27:18-23, Lev 4:24, Ex 29:10, Gen 48

Acts 19:1-7 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them.

God operates through His chosen leaders - the gifting may be permanent or temporary. He commissioned craftsmen to build the tabernacle during the exodus - 'Then Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilful person in whom the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it.' Ex 36

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit" Acts 8:18

There is nothing to stop anyone from baptising or doing any work that they think serves God - it is for God to decide if He will honour the work or not.

Mk 9:40 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” 39But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40“For he who is not against us is for us.

From the Acts 19 example, the baptiser either was uninformed or without authority to lay hands and the process of receiving the spirit was incomplete for a time.

They still had God's spirit operating within them, as without this they could not understand the calling of God, who calls people to repentance and salvation as He chooses.

Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized 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

So there is no contradiction regarding the various experiences of those being baptised in the early church. There were variations in application, but there is one God, one spirit and one Lord - nothing else matters.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Eph 4:4

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.