Have you received the Holy Spirit having believed on Jesus?


What we are often taught today is that a person is passive in receiving the Holy Spirit when they first believe on Jesus; it happens automatically we are told, we believe on Jesus and without knowing it we automatically receive the Holy Spirit. There is nothing further to experience; we do not have to consciously receive the Holy Spirit. We are not to expect the Holy Spirit to come upon us when we ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit.   So I am going to look at scripture to see if it is possible that what is taught in many churches about receiving the Spirit is wrong.

First let me say that in some churches there are manifestations of false spirits. These masquerade as from God when they are actually from Satan. Jesus told us that if we ask the Father for the Holy Spirit He will not give us something evil but will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (see Luke 11: 11-13).  So if you are seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit, first ask the Father for this gift that He has promised us and you shall receive the Holy Spirit not an unclean spirit. I would also recommend being baptized in water after having received Jesus as your Saviour and then seeking to be filled with the Spirit.  This is the normal procedure in scripture apart from, for obvious reasons, Cornelius's household. Water baptism is acknowledging our death with Christ on the cross and being buried with Him. Our "old man",  that  side of us that is  part of Adam, remains dead and buried. However we are also raised with Christ, it is the "new man" that is born from above, that is raised with Christ. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Jesus told the disciples they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and when the Holy Spirit came upon them they would receive power to be His witnesses (see Acts 1:5-8).  In Acts chapter two, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples they are said to be “filled with the Spirit”, the terminology has now developed from being baptized with the Spirit and the Holy Spirit coming upon them, to being  “filled with the Spirit”.  The Bible does later talk about the Holy Spirit baptizing new believers into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), this is different from Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit, it is one of the works of the Holy Spirit to “baptize” or “place” new believers into the body of Christ.

When Peter went to Cornelius, as he was preaching to them the Holy Spirit fell upon them (Acts 10:44) and Peter remembered the words of the Lord when He said that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:15-16).

So the terminology is now to include “the Holy Spirit fell upon them”.  When the Holy Spirit falls upon believers in order to baptize them it is like when the father of the prodigal son, on the son's return, had compassion on him and fell on his neck and kissed him. The father then clothed him with the best robe. It is being embraced by God and being filled with His love and compassion (see "fell" in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible).  The Spirit within responds with joy unspeakable and full of glory and there is a manifestation of ecstasy through the tongue. The Father then, through Jesus, clothes them with His power.  With some the initial encounter with God may be a more gentle experience where God reassures them of His love and forgiveness releasing them from a condemning conscience paving the way for a fuller experience later as they come to terms with having been forgiven and loved by God.  When later they are able to receive all that He wants to give them there will come a time when He embraces them, fills them with His love, and clothes them with His power (see Luke 15:11-22, Luke 24:49).  I do believe at this stage, those seeking to be filled with the Spirit should be prepared to speak a few words, perhaps just two, in an unknown tongue in praise to God (two words can so easily express what we feel, such as "Thank you" or "Praise God". This will be in an unknown tongue but will express what we are feeling in the spirit).  This releases the tongue for the Spirit to further use it in praise to God.  We need to remember that we have a spirit within us and when we feel stirred in the spirit we should speak in faith allowing the Spirit to flow with a full expression of praise to the Father and Son.  So often when we pray with the spirit (as in 1 Corinthians 14:15) there is a response from God causing us to pray in the Spirit (as in Ephesians 6:18).

It is important that the person seeking to be filled with the Spirit has the right attitude to receive the Spirit.  A person may come feeling unworthy and unforgiven.  They have to be assured that by believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead, they are forgiven and now "in Christ" which means that God has reckoned His Righteous to them and Christ is their righteousness. We have to have faith in our standing with God, it is not what we are, it is what Christ is and He is all we need, it is not our righteousness but His we trust in, and when we trust in Him then God reckons our faith as righteousness.  We need to stop looking at ourselves and look to Jesus.  We may also be so fixed upon trying to receive that we take our eyes off Jesus.  Jesus is in heaven seated at the right hand of the Father so look up to Jesus, lift up the hands and start to thank and praise Him.  Allow the tongue to thank and praise Him in an unknown language, you don't need to speak more than a few words until you feel the Spirit taking over, I say this because we can bind the tongue from being used by the Spirit out of fear of speaking in the flesh, I understand this that is why I say to just speak a few words to allow the Spirit freedom to use our tongue. Don't try to force anything but let your worship be natural.  Try not to be disappointed if you feel that nothing happened, take it by faith and continue with quiet times in praise and worship and speaking in tongues, you will find a freedom in worship that you have not experienced before. Witnessing and an understanding of God's word become more natural.  When we don't understand something in God's word we ask God and will be surprised how often He reveals the truth to us. This is the proof of having received the Spirit.

In general, in the book of Acts, believers would be laid hands upon and told to “Receive the Spirit”, or “Take the Spirit” as it could be interpreted from the Greek (depending on the context of the passage).  In other words it was something they had to do; to take the Holy Spirit that God had promised them and which was now being offered them.  We need to desire to be filled with the Spirit, ask God for and receive the Holy Spirit, thanking God, in faith, for the Holy Spirit and expect the anointing and filling of the Spirit to follow.

When Philip went to Samaria many people believed and were baptized in water. However even though they were now believers they had not yet received the Holy Spirit, He had not come upon them or filled them.  It was some time later when Peter and John came from Jerusalem that they laid hands upon them and told them to receive the Spirit. There was a time gap between believing in Christ and receiving the Spirit. However I don't believe it needs to be a matter of days or months it can be a matter of minutes.

When Paul found believers at Ephesus he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit, they said they hadn’t heard about Him, he asked them unto what they had been baptized, they said John’s baptism.  So here we have believers who had heard of Jesus because of what John the Baptist had said about Him.  John had said that Jesus was the Messiah who, being the Lamb of God would save them from their sins and that they should believe on Him. John had also mentioned the baptism of the Holy Spirit but perhaps they didn’t understand about that bit. They were then baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus and, after Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them.  So after believing on Jesus and still not having "received the Spirit", they were baptized in water, at this stage they still had not "received the Spirit" until Paul then laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them. It was not automatic when they believed.

In John chapter 4:7-14 Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, and He told her if she asked of Him He would give her living water (the Spirit of Life) to drink that would spring up within her to everlasting life. This is salvation when we are given new life.  The Spirit of Life is given automatically when we believe on Jesus and ask Him to save us (see John 3:16 and 1 John 5:11-12).  

Another time when He was in Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37-39) Jesus cried out to the crowds “---If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (JND version).  "But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." Here the believers are promised that there is coming a time when those who are thirsty can come and receive (take) from Christ and they will be filled with the Spirit.  What Christ is promising them is if they, the believers, come and drink the spiritual drink He is offering them then out from the very depths of their being will flow the Spirit in ministry (see 1 Corinthians 10:4).  That spiritual drink is the Holy Spirit that came permanently upon Christ at His baptism and is offered to all believers who are thirsty for more of God (Acts 2:38, Acts 5:32).

So in John we have these two incidents, one in chapter 4 where they are promised eternal life just by believing on Him and asking, and one in chapter 7 where believers who are thirsty would receive the Holy Spirit.  I will try to illustrate the difference, if someone goes to the Doctors and asks for a flu jab, the Doctor (or nurse) puts the needle in their arm and injects them.  They don't have to take it they just ask and it is given them.   However if someone offers them a book they have to receive the book, that is, take it from the one who is offering it. In the first instance God gives eternal life to those who believe on Jesus however when it comes to  giving power to witness then those who have been given eternal life need to receive the  Holy Spirit when offered to them by the laying on of hands (if necessary God can bypass the laying on of hands).

I believe that when the Holy Spirit comes upon you (the anointing) there is a response from the Spirit of Life that dwells in your heart, from the depths of your being there is a rising up of rivers of living water, which is the Holy Spirit filling you and overflowing out to others, that is the baptism of the Spirit.  You need to receive the ‘coming upon you’ of the Spirit (the anointing) in order for your life to be a witness to others. It is this anointing that teaches us all things.  Revelation of the word comes from the anointing (1 John 2:27).

Finally there is only one baptism but many fillings.  The baptism is when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and fills you to overflowing, this is what you receive when you consciously receive the Spirit (1 John 2:27).  The manifestation is through the tongue. The anointing thereafter abides within you.  You do not need to receive a further anointing but you do need to be continually filled with the Spirit by worshiping God with the spirit (see Ephesians 5:18-20). In the Old Testament the anointing was given for specific ministry. It is possible to be anointed without being filled with the Spirit. In the New Testament there is the anointing and filling with the Spirit where the one receiving the Spirit receives power to be Christ's witnesses, where the Spirit flows forth in ministry. 

Now a word to all those who have been seeking to be filled with the Spirit for a long time, even years, but because there has been no manifestation such as speaking in tongues they are still waiting.  I have come to the conclusion that speaking in tongues is not the proof of having received the Spirit.  Receiving the Spirit is something you do by faith (Galatians 3:2).  If you have believed and been baptized in water, you have been promised, "you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (see Acts 2:38-39).  If we receive the Spirit by faith then that faith is the assurance and proof that we have received the Spirit.

The Bible says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).   According to Strong’s Concordance the Greek word translated “substance” can also be translated “assurance” and the word translated “evidence” can also be translated “proof”.  So faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the proof of things not seen.  When we receive by faith then faith is the proof.

When we have longed so much to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, the elders have laid hands on us and told us to receive the Spirit, yet nothing happens we can come to the conclusion it is because we are so unworthy, we have failed God, we have sinned, how could God love us?  We are not worthy to receive the Holy Spirit.  We convince ourselves that the reason we haven't been baptized in the Holy Spirit is because our lives fall far short of what we presume God expects of us.  So although our intention is to point our finger at ourselves in actual fact we are also criticizing God.  In other words we are saying, He has not forgiven us of all our sins, His love for us depends on our works, He is not faithful.   If that is what we are saying then we need to repent.  God does love us, with an everlasting love, it is not dependent on our works but upon the fact that God is love; He is a faithful God.  He has and does forgive us of all our sins.  God sees us “in Christ” and longs for us to receive the Holy Spirit.

If we find that no matter how hard we try we cannot overcome sin in our lives, if all our efforts to be holy have failed, that is no reason to think that God will not give us the Holy Spirit but rather it is the reason that God wants to give us the Holy Spirit, we can't do it ourselves, we need the Holy Spirit.  Once we understand that fact, that our weakness isn't an hindrance to God giving us the Holy Spirit but rather the reason God wants us to receive His Spirit (see Romans 8:13),  we are in the right place to receive the Holy Spirit.

It may be that we need to ask God for faith to receive the Holy Spirit.  Believe God, trust God, He has promised us the Holy Spirit, we need to exercise faith.  When we have asked and received the Holy Spirit by faith we need to believe that He has come in, that we have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, by faith, and the anointing now abides in us to teach us all things.    Now that we have received the Spirit by faith, He can teach us the word.  This is a further proof that we have received the Spirit; the Holy Spirit starts to reveal God's word to us.  When we ask God to give us understanding in His word then things we didn't understand in His word suddenly become clear.  Speaking in tongues is a manifestation or expression of the Spirit; it doesn't have to happen for us to know we have received the Spirit. The proof and the manifestation are two different things.  The assurance and proof come first by knowing God and therefore having faith in Him.  The proof is not dependent on the manifestation (i.e. speaking in tongues).   Receive the Holy Spirit by faith and expect the manifestation to follow.  Acts 2:4 says, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."  They received the Holy Spirit and then began to speak with other tongues, not the other way round.  So receive the Spirit (receive the Spirit not speaking in tongues) and you will speak in tongues as and when the Spirit gives you utterance.   Trust God that it will follow one day and don't be afraid to exercise your tongue with unknown words as you feel led.  There is a season for everything, sometimes God pours out His Spirit, as in revival, and it is easy to manifest spiritual gifts but other times we have to exercise faith and persevere in faith.

Next: Standing and State


Mark Greenwood  December 2019. Slightly updated August 2020