Preparing for yesterday’s sermon showed how much I really didn’t know about the Holy Spirit. I know a lot of information and facts but I really don’t know a lot about Him. In fact one area really made me question and think. The question is, “When does the Holy Spirit come into the believer’s life?”
Why I need to answer this question
This question is particularly important because of the roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. The Bible describes the Holy Spirit as a Helper among many things. And God really does know how much I need a helper! I want clear confidence for myself and others that the Helper is already in my life. If I need to seek His arrival then I need to get on with the pursuit today.
My experience gap
My introduction is not to say I don’t have convictions on the subject. I believe that we receive the Holy Spirit at conversion. My experience, however, seems to say otherwise.
Talking to my wife on the subject we had a shared experience. Both Ashley and I became Christians at a young age (5 & 7) but did not experience the Holy Spirit until later. By experience I mean a sense of His presence at some point or clearly sensing His guidance.
In my head I know I received the Holy Spirit when I was 7. My experience asks me to believe He didn’t show up until I was 14. In this post I will attempt to clarify my understanding of the truth according to the Bible.
Two schools of thought on the Holy Spirit’s Arrival
There are basically two schools of thought on this topic. Some believe that the arrival (baptism) of the Holy Spirit is something that happens after you are saved. You seek Him out and pray for his presence and He will come. The other school of thought is that God fills the believer with the Holy Spirit at the point he or she accepts Christ as their Savior. I subscribe to the second school of thought.
Explaining my stand
Since I have good friends who disagree with me on this I want to walk through several passages of out of the Bible explaining where I stand on this issue. I owe a debt of understanding to an excellent treatment of this topic on an article at www.chfweb.com. This blog will be a little academic because I want to establish a firm footing for my stand.
“…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
I love this passage! Jesus stands up in a festival at the end of a dry season and throws out a powerful metaphor. If His followers believe in Him they will receive streams of spiritual water. Their thirst will be quenched. I want to feel this sense of spiritual refreshment every day!
The focus of this passage is on spiritual nourishment but it also comments on the Holy Spirit. Jesus says “streams of living water” and the passage explains for us that he means “the Spirit.” People did not have the Spirit yet because Jesus hadn’t been glorified. When Jesus would be glorified, they would receive the Holy Spirit.
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you will know Him for He lives with you and will be in you.
Jesus describes what seems to be a pretty basic experience for all believers. He draws a contrast between “the world” and “you” (His followers). The world didn’t have the Holy Spirit but his followers would and the Holy Spirit would be with them. Jesus’ followers wouldn’t always have Him physically present but they would have the Holy Spirit forever.
“Jesus therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; but if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
This passage is a little confusing in light of the two passages I have just looked at. There are a lot of passages that still put the arrival of the Holy Spirit later then this point so what is Jesus talking about here? Also, what is going on with the comments that Jesus is making about forgiving and retaining sins?
It seems as if this passage is talking about the role of the church in proclaiming the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is giving a sort of blessing to His disciples talking of the reality they would receive. They would receive the Holy Spirit and they would proclaim the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is placing His stamp of authority on the apostles and on the church.
“Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”
Here Peter is preaching on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has come on the church in an incredible way. People in the crowd have both seen and heard what happened that day. They saw the appearance of the Holy Spirit. What Jesus and His followers have looked forward to has now happened.
“And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and all who are far off, as many as The Lord our God shall call to Himself.”
To summarize Peter, “Repent, follow Christ and you will receive the Holy Spirit.”
First, Peter is calling people to repent. This is the fundamental move of salvation for the Christian. It is a turning from sin, to God. It is asking God for forgiveness of sin.
Second, Peter is calling the people to make an outward demonstration of an inward reality. Peter is not saying that people needed to be baptized to be saved. Similar to what Billy Graham would do in his crusades baptizing people on the spot. He was giving them a public way to demonstrate their new faith.
Third, Peter declares the coming of the Holy Spirit as a gift for the Christian. Peter describes this as a promise to those who repent and follow Christ. Everyone whom God calls to Himself will receive this gift.
As I understand these five passages all point to the Holy Spirit’s arrival at salvation. His arrival was anticipated during Christ’s ministry. Peter declared his arrival on Pentecost. Now the Holy Spirit arrives in each new believer at conversion.
This post is the first of at least two. I tried tackling this topic in one post but there are too many verses that deserve attention. Wednesday I will discuss a few troublesome passages (at least from my perspective). I hope my discussion of this topic will help you.
What do you think?
Did any scripture verses come to mind when you read this?
Have you sensed the Holy Spirit in your life? If so was it when you became a Christian or later?