What (or Who) is the Gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38?
Acts 2:38 “And Peter said to them, ‘Change and be immersed every one of you by the power of Jesus Christ unto the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.‘”
It is interesting how one phrase out of one verse can cause such a division between those who believe in the words of God. It’s as if we have subconsciously robbed ourselves of a gift from the heavens because of a fear of going to one extreme or another. One individual chooses to believe that the gift is no longer existent, while the person, on the opposite extreme, believes that the gift is so much more than it actually is. We must not go to extremes, but rather, seek truth. Truth is what makes us free. Truth is what takes away our chains. In this post we will discuss who the Holy Spirit really is, but more specifically what the “gift” of the Holy Spirit is, according to Scripture.
I take the view that the Holy Spirit is a gift of God, but the “gift of the Spirit” mentioned in Acts is concerning the particular miraculous gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14. The Holy Spirit is, nevertheless, a gift for Christians, even today. I do not necessarily believe in the extreme miraculous nature that some people charismatically place with the Spirit. I say “necessarily” because of semantics. There is more than one definition for what one might consider “miraculous.” It is important to recognize the difference between the baptism involving the Holy Spirit, which results in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a gift from the Father associated with remission of sins when we are immersed into Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38-39; Romans 6; etc.), and “being filled with the Spirit” which occurred from the beginning of time. Being filled with the Spirit is the biblical reference to the Holy Spirit as the giver, giving gifts such as revelation, prophesy, etc. (Luke 1:15,41,67). There are two different things going on. The first is God, the Father, gives the Holy Spirit indwelling as “seal of eternal life,” and the second is the Holy Spirit as the giver of gifts. Some gifts being miraculous, some being talents and abilities.
We shouldn’t be deceived into thinking of the Spirit as the gift spoken of in Acts 2. However, we should remind ourselves that He is a gift of God; making his home in us as a seal of our adoption. He has made this plan known to us ever since David inquired God about building a temple.
Also, we should not act as if the Spirit is only active through the word (Bible). First, the Spirit is promised to everyone who calls on Jesus for all generations. Second, any of us can have the word, even if we aren’t a Christian. I know atheists who know the Bible better than a lot of Christians. Does that mean they are sealed with sonship? Third, the Spirit is a perfect part of the God-head. The English Bible is not translated perfectly, therefore it is not the Spirit. Fourth, there is simply no Scripture that even hints that “word only” is an option. Any Scripture being used to support word only can be used to argue that the word only works through the Spirit, not the Spirit through the word. Which leads me to my fifth point, Romans 8, Galatians 4, and Ephesians 2 argue truths about the Spirit within Christians that would not be possible if He only dwelled in the word. The Spirit is clearly not taking a nap, covering Himself up in the pages of the Bible.
I John 4:12-13 “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love has been perfected in us By this we know that we remain in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” The Spirit is our God living in us, sealing us, comforting us, guiding us, translating our prayers, and crying out to the Father for His love and understanding. – Jesse