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Acts 8:14 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.

Was placing their hands on them a necessary condition to receive the Holy Spirit?

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There is no single way to receive the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:17 - the Holy Spirit was received when when Peter and John prayed and placed their hands on them. This also happened in Acts 19:6, 1 Tim 4:14, 2 Tim 1:6.

In Acts 10:44 and 11:15 the Holy Spirit is received while Peter is speaking

In Acts 2:3 the Holy Spirit descends on people while people prayed

Baptism is supposed to symbolize the gift of the Holy Spirit as recorded in places like Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5, 2:38, 8:12-16, 10:47, 48, 11:16, 19:4, 5.

In the case of Acts 8:17 the placing of hands to receive the Holy Spirit was (according to the text) because the recipients had only received a baptism of repentance by John and needed to also receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

APPENDIX - placing hands on someone

The rite of placing hands on someone is used in the NT for various purposes:

  • 3 times to bless someone (Matt 19:13, 15, Mark 10:16);
  • 8 times to arrest someone to put them in prison (Matt 26:50, Mark 14:46, Luke 20:19, 21:12, 22:53, John 7:44, Acts 12:1, 21:27);
  • 6 times to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17, 18, 19, 19:6, 1 Tim 4:14, 2 Tim 1:6);
  • 10 times to heal someone (Mark 5:23, 6:5, 8:23, 25, 16:18, Luke 4:40, 13:13, Acts 9:12, 17, 28:8);
  • 4 times with an unstated purpose but the context suggests that it was for the reception of the Holy Spirit or similar (Acts 6:6, 13:3, 1 Tim 5:22, Heb 6:2).

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