ACTS 8:14-17 Amplified Bible:
 Now when the apostles (special messengers) at Jerusalem heard that [the country of] Samaria had accepted and welcomed the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,  And they came down and prayed for them that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit;  For He had not yet fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then [the apostles] laid their hands on them one by one, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
For years, as a believer in Christ, I struggled understanding the four verses listed above. And then one day, the “scales” were removed from my eyes [See "Taking the Red Pill"], and I began to understand. Slowly at first, but then one Sunday morning, it happened. Not all at once…but a Holy Spirit moment, the realizing empowerment took a hold of my heart.
In Acts 8:15, 17, 19; Acts 10:47; Acts 19:12; all refer to the EMPOWERING operation of the Holy Spirit.
Now being saved, baptized and trained in doctrinal values of the Baptist denomination, this idea of EMPOWERMENT ran against everything I’d previously been taught by all the well-meaning church leaders. I knew what Scripture had to say about receiving the Holy Spirit, even underlining them with side notes in my Bible. Here are the well-known three proofs:
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, save or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Cor. 12:13 NIV).
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).
“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).
The apostle Paul clearly taught that we RECEIVE the Holy Spirit at the moment we receive JESUS as Savior. The above three passages make it clear, the HOLY SPIRIT is received the moment of SALVATION.
“Could there be more?” – The Inward Justifying and Sanctifying Work of Holy Spirit…
In Acts 8:15 however, depicts the inward justifying and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Further, it does not mean, getting more of the Spirit, rather it is a matter of letting the Holy Spirit have more of you!
“And they came down and prayed for them that the Samaritans might RECEIVE the Holy Spirit.”
[ILLUSTRATION – “A Woman Named Norena” – (See Footnote [i]):
Just Getting By…
The story is told of an elderly woman named Norena, who lived in southern Florida. When a hurricane hit that area, her home was of many that was damaged severely.
Norena received an insurance settlement, and the repair work began. However, when the money ran out, so did the contractor, leaving an unfinished home with no electricity.
Norena lived in her dark unfinished home–without POWER–for fifteen (15) years. The astonishing part of this story, the hurricane wasn’t Katrina but Andrew–a hurricane which struck in 1992.
She had no HEAT, no AIR CONDITIONING while the humidity clung to 100%. She didn’t have one hot shower. Without money to finish the repairs, Norena just got by with a small lamp and a single burner. Her neighbors didn’t seem to notice the absence of POWER in her home.
Acting on a tip, one day, the mayor of the Miami-Dade area got involved. It only took a few hours of work by an electrical contractor, Kent Crook, to return POWER to Norena’s house.
CBS News reported, Norena planned to let the water get really hot, then take her first “bubble bath” in a decade and a half.
“It’s hard to describe having [the electricity]…to switch on”, Norena told the reporters. “It’s overwhelming!”
After reading this story, I thought to myself, “How many Christian true believers have been living their entire lives without ever knowing what it is like to have the overwhelming POWER of the Holy Spirit operating within them?” JUST GETTING BY!
In my own personal testimony, I believe that some of us have had that POWER turned off for so long, we would not even recognize it if it came back to us! In my case, the POWER was turned on almost 9 years ago.
Giving only a little to JESUS–
Most of us only give Christ a little space of our lives. D.L. Moody once said, “What could God accomplish with a man or woman who has fully surrendered his or her will to God?”
NO SET FORMULA FOR RECEIVING AND GROWING IN THE INFILLING WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT:
There are some PRINCIPLES to look at, but basically, it is the same as growing in-depth of relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no set FORMULA! Only GUIDELINES. God is sovereign!
The principle represents our human attempt at cooperation in God’s purposes and SUBMISSION to God’s will. GROWING in having the Holy Spirit upon for POWER…is simply a matter of being in LOVE with Jesus; asking for the equipping of the Holy Spirit, receiving in FAITH, and then stepping out in OBEDIENCE.
PRINCIPLE ONE -THIRST – John 7:37-39:
It is “thirst” that leads us to Jesus, who gives the LIVING WATER, the Spirit of God.
“Now on the final and most important day of the Feast. Jesus stood, and He cried in a loud voice, If any man is THIRSTY, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me as the Scripture has said, From his innermost being shall flow [continuously] springs of living water. But He was speaking here of the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were afterward to receive. For the [Holy] Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (raised to honor)” ~ Amplified Bible.
This is, first of all,a THIRST for intimacy with God - Psalm 63:1.
Second, it is a THIRST that arises with deep-seated awareness in our own inadequacy to do the works of God in our own strength. Jesus perfectly describes our condition when He said, “…apart from Me, you can do nothing!”
PRINCIPLE TWO – EXPECT – Ephesians 3:20:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” ~ NIV Bible.
For many of us, “our God is too small”–our expectations of the Christian life are too small. We’ve limited God by our FEARS, WORLDVIEWS, LACK OF KNOWLEDGE, etc..
EXPECTANCY is an expression of “untrammeled” [Not derived of freedom of action or expression; not restricted or hampered-[ii]] faith in God, which prepares us to RECEIVE to do all that He has for us.
PRINCIPLE THREE – REPENTANCE – Acts 2:38:
“…REPENT (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the (gift) of the Holy Spirit” ~ Amplified Bible.
That one is already BAPTIZED and GROWING in Christ is already assumed. What the apostle Peter has emphasized here is REPENTANCE and CONFESSION should be an ongoing part of the Christian life.
SIN blocks our relationship with God, so REPENTANCE is basic criteria to spiritual growth. Being sensitive to sin is what counts.
Please be careful here. One doesn’t have to be perfect to have a high level of SANCTIFICATION; to receive the Holy Spirit “UPON” them for EMPOWERMENT. There isn’t precondition for a “second blessing.” If there were such a criterion for receiving the INFILLING, then none of us would qualify. This is given as a FREE GIFT of God’s grace to all in Christ, who in obedience RECEIVE.
The GIFT IS AVAILABLE THE MOMENT WE ARE IN CHRIST.
Having affirmed…no precondition, we must be careful not to neglect the inward work of the Holy Spirit. God is very PATIENT, but if a person persists in disobedience, God may and often does, withdraws the Spirit’s EMPOWERING. Saul is but one example in the Bible (1 Samuel 13:8-14).
Peter, after denying Jesus, went out and wept bitterly. Later on the beach, he accepted Jesus’ recommissioning in the question and command,
“Do you love me? …feed my sheep.”
PRINCIPLE FOUR – ASK! – Luke 11:9-13:
If a person is in Christ, he already has the Holy Spirit within him. BUT…to have the Holy Spirit “upon” for POWER, which is what it means to be baptized or filled with the Spirit, one must appropriate it–ASK!
Asking in PRAYER..
The important thing is to ask in prayer. Doesn’t matter what words you use; no neat formulas. What does matter is the intent of the heart.
Many find it helpful to have hands laid upon then. This has a good Biblical precedent (Acts 9:17, 19:6), which gave me support in my faith when receiving Holy Spirit’s INFILLING; the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in an unknown tongue.
One may ask to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit, not once but many times, and as often as needed, and I’ve personally done so on many occasions.
PRINCIPLE FIVE – RECEIVE in FAITH – (Gal. 3:13-14; 1 John 5:14-15):
RECEIVING THE INFILLING with the Holy Spirit is not subject to our emotions or our experience. Rather, it is founded in the PROMISES of God received in FAITH.
Pail asked the congregation located in Galatia, “To purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God's sons]. And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the [Holy] Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba (Father)! Father!” (Gal. 4:5 AMP).
And furthermore, in Galatians 3:14, “To the end that through [their receiving] Christ Jesus, the blessing [promised] to Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, so that we through faith might [all] receive [the realization of] the promise of the [Holy] Spirit.”
The Key to Appropriating What God Has Clearly Promised Us…
IS IN JESUS! (Mark 11:22-24; 1 John 5:14-15).
These PROMISES listed in the above verses, gives us the CONFIDENCE to ask for and in faith RECEIVE the infilling of God’s Spirit. We come to know it’s God’s will and intention… that we are made useful in His kingdom, equipped to witness to Jesus Christ.
Thus, in FAITH, we ASK for it, we TRUST and BELIEVE that we have indeed RECEIVED. Experience will follow what we have appropriated in faith.
The emphases upon APPROPRIATING in faith, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, is it is Biblical; fully respects the SOVEREIGNTY of God and avoids all gimmicks and manipulations of tarrying meetings and the pressuring by people to speak in tongues, so marred by our joyful reception of God’s free gift.
PRINCIPAL SIX – OBEY the Holy Spirit – (Acts 5:32; John 14:15-17):
This last step is the crucial one and the essence of our whole relationship with JESUS. We are called to OBEDIENCE to the Holy Spirit by receiving in faith…that FAITH must be made ACTIVE and ALIVE! The way that this happens is through obedience to Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is calling us to obedience and while obeying, that’s when we EXPERIENCE the POWER or see the evidences that we have been EMPOWERED.
The Holy Spirit, being Holy…His nature doesn’t allow Him to live in a dirty environment.
Does anyone know what that piece in the middle of my washer is called? The part in the middle that moves back and forth and shakes the clothes back and forth? I’ll just refer to it as an “Agitator.”
What is the purpose of the “Agitator”? As far as I have learned [our washing machine and dryer is right next to my study/computer room], its sole purpose is to cause havoc for the dirty clothes; it’s there to SHAKE, SEPARATE, the clothes from all the dirt, grime, and money that may be in or on the clothes.
That said, as soon as we are SAVED, Holy Spirit moves into our hearts…but He doesn’t have our heart to Himself…there’s still a lot of things in there…the main one being our own selfish desires…even though we’ve been saved from our past sins, there still remains some things of the world we still cling on to.
ThesE “THINGS” have a way of attaching themselves to us as DIRT. So, the Holy Spirit begins to gently and lovingly…AGITATE, to SHAKE…to CONVICT us to the things that need to leave our heart.
You see, God wants us to be FILLED with His Spirit…and only when we come to a place in our lives, is He willing to remove ALL the dirt…can we truly be FILLED with His Spirit.
Until then, many times in our spiritual life, it feels like we are in a washing machine…and the Holy spirit constantly, because He loves us so much, agitating within us, convicting us of sin.
What is the TRUTH?
The truth is God’s will for all to be FILLED with the Spirit…but it is your choice…it’s up to you…TOTAL SURRENDER!
If your DESIRE is to have a casual, nominal Christian lifestyle, in place of surrendering all…seeking to receive will not be your desire. This is one of the major reasons why many individuals in the body of Christ don’t see the need of surrendering all.
The topic in this BLOG discussion, is often a controversial one because… the ministries of the Holy Spirit are often confused in the receiving/indwelling of the Spirit, occurring at the moment of salvation.
THE FILLING of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing process in the Christian life. It certainly has been for me.
The Holy Spirit becomes our permanent possession the moment we believe. To RECEIVE the baptism or infilling with the Holy Spirit is just the beginning…you will not arrived at its end of the journey, but you have only begun!
[i] “Norena” story from UPI.com>TopNews
[ii] Oxford Dictionaries.
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Amplified Bible and New International Version Bible.