BESTOWALS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
As was pointed out last week, a careful study of the New Testament reveals that the Holy Spirit was bestowed or imparted to different people, at different times, in different ways, for different purposes. We learned that the apostles (Jews) and the family of Cornelius (Gentiles) were baptized with the Holy Spirit. By implication, we concluded that the apostle Paul also received Holy Spirit baptism. These are the only instances of Holy Spirit baptism found in scripture. Holy Spirit baptism was neither commanded, nor could it be administered by a human being. But, there were others who received the Holy Spirit in other ways and for other reasons.
Laying On Of The Apostles’ Hands – In New Testament times, the Holy Spirit was sometimes imparted to others by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. Following the persecution and scattering of the church in Jerusalem, “Philip (not the apostle, but one of the seven who had been chosen to look after the Grecian widows in the Jerusalem church, Acts 6:1-7) went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them” (Acts 8:5). “When they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12). “When the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John (apostles) to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He (the Holy Spirit) had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they (the apostles Peter and John) laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon (the former sorcerer, vv. 9-13) saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money” (Acts 8:14-18). In this instance, the Samaritans heard the gospel, believed what Philip preached, and were baptized in order to be saved, or, which is the same thing, to have the remission of their sins (see Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; I Peter 3:21; et al). Later, they received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of the apostles Peter and John.
In Acts 19 Paul found some disciples in Ephesus and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? They said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit’” (v. 2). Paul immediately deduced that there was something wrong with their baptism. He asked them, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism” (v. 3). Paul explained that John the Baptist’s baptism had been preparatory in nature, had served its purpose, and was no longer valid, having been replaced by the baptism authorized by Christ in the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul (an apostle) had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (vv. 5-6).
There can be little doubt but that in New Testament times one of the purposes of bestowing the Holy Spirit to obedient believers by the laying on of the apostles’ hands was to impart miraculous gifts to the recipients. But the apostles of Christ are all long deceased. Therefore, no one today is receiving the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. No one today is performing bona fide miracles! The purpose of miracles was served and when it was they ceased.
In summation of last week’s and this week’s essays we observe that the apostles, who had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, were thereby enabled to receive and communicate divine truth without error and to confirm that truth by the performance of various miracles (see Acts 1:4-5, 8; Acts 2:1-4; Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-5; Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; Acts 5:12; Hebrews 2:1-4). By the laying on of the apostles’ hands, miraculous gifts were imparted to various members of the first century church to aid the infant church in its development until the full revelation of the New Testament scriptures had been completed. When all divine truth (“the faith”) had been revealed (Jude 3), miracles ceased. In this connection one needs to study very carefully I Corinthians, chapters 12, 13, and 14. Before one takes exception to this conclusion, he should carefully read and study all the preceding passages of scripture. Emotions, feelings, wishful thinking, or what one wants to believe or think about these matters is not what determines the truth and reality about these matters.
But what about today? Do Christians today have the Holy Spirit? If so, for what purpose(s)? These questions will be addressed in next week’s essay.
(To Be Continued)
Hugh Fulford, December 1, 2020