Believing in Jesus but Not Receiving the Holy Spirit


Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 8:9–17 (NIV)

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.


Simon was something else. He was a sorcerer, which is another way of saying a magician, which is another way of saying a con artist. (And no, I’m not saying the magician at your nephew’s birthday party was a con artist). Perhaps the better term would be an illusionist. Here was our first clue about Simon:

He boasted that he was someone great. 

People are so easily deceived. We are easily impressed and enamored with confident and apparently powerful people. This was our second clue:

. . . and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 

It’s worth noting we are outside of Jerusalem now and beyond Judea. The gospel has reached the territory known as Samaria. It was a mess of a place, filled with religious syncretism. Syncretism is what happens when sound doctrine gets blended in with other religions, mythology, emperor/celebrity worship, old wives tales, political ideology, and civic religion. It sounds a lot like, . . . well . . . where many of us live. In Samaria, people get tossed to and fro by charismatic leaders who are often master manipulators at gaming the system for their own benefit.  

Into this setting comes Philip. Remember Philip? He was one of the seven known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom who was set apart to work with the widows in Jerusalem. He was #2 on the list after the late great first martyr of the church, Stephen. Don’t you love it when the widow workers pull apostolic duty? That’s at least part of the point here. We see the makings of great awakening rising up in Samaria.

But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 

Not to be upstaged, Simon the Sorcerer gets in the baptism line. We will come back to this. There’s a curious thing I want to broach today. Back in Jerusalem, Peter and John heard the news from Samaria and decided to make a field trip. Then this:

When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Right there. I think this is my story. I grew up in the church, baptized, confirmed (even re-baptized), perfect attendance Sunday school, youth group, summer camps, you name it. Nowhere did anyone ever say much of anything about the Holy Spirit. I started reading my Bible with some intensity in college and I had many questions—all of which were about the Holy Spirit. I began to ask my questions to any preacher I could find, and to my stunned disappointment, no one could answer them. They just assured me when I was baptized I “got it.”

After many years now of sound teaching and significant experience with the Holy Spirit and much reflection, I am certain I spent many years in a state not unlike those first Samaritan Christians: “Believing in Jesus” yet not receiving the Holy Spirit.


Lord Jesus, I am your witness. 

I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness. 
I receive your love and release my selfishness. 

Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.


Do you identify with my experience here—of spending too many years with some level of “believing” in Jesus but not “receiving” the Holy Spirit? 


Every day we sing a hymn together on the Wake-Up Call audio edition/podcast. Get your Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise at the Seedbed Store today.

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

5 Responses

  1. JD, yes! I too can relate to your experience concerning your RECEIVING the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe it’s so much the fact that when I was baptized as an infant and confirmed as a teenager, that I had not been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, but rather, I was never properly instructed on the use of this extraordinary Gift. I was instructed to “remember my baptism “ as if that alone would give me the assurance of salvation. In my honest opinion, this type of failure to properly train believers to understand the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit is the end result of when a Spirit led movement transitions into an institution. The dependence and leading of the Holy Spirit are eventually replaced by acceptance and reliance on the proper understanding of propositional truths. I was catechized about the Holy Spirit and his gifts but never instructed in how to discover, develop and utilize my SG’s in ministry for the kingdom of God, therefore I didn’t really RECEIVE the Holy Spirit until I was in my thirties. Unfortunately, I believe this type of experience is all too common.

  2. When I was baptized at 12 years old, nothing changed. I cried out to the Lord in my garage 42 years later, and everything changed.
    Sometimes, I doubt the Spirit’s power in me (listening to the evil one’s voice), but He seems to work through me when I react to the Spirit’s prompting instead of thinking about it first.
    A while ago, while teaching a weekly class on how to be Free Indeed in Christ, one of the students had his head down in his arms. “Are you ok, Richard?” I asked.
    “My lower back hurts,” he replied.
    Automaticly, I laid my hand on his lower back and said, “Back be healed in the name of Jesus. Amen”
    A week later, he took me to the side, mentioned how much he liked our class, and said, “You guys are the real deal. My back stopped hurting after you prayed over it.”
    I said, “It wasn’t me; Jesus is the real deal.”
    That is twice this scenario with a bad back has happened—one other time in my place of business.
    Yet, sometimes, I still hesitate when the Holy Spirit prompts me to say or do His bidding.
    I allow my humanness to get in the way instead of Him having His way.
    Why couldn’t, or why didn’t Phillip lay hands on them and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit?

    Staying 💪’n Christ
    Ephesians 6:10
    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

  3. The Ancient Way of the Holy Spirit

    After I encountered the risen Jesus and surrendered my heart to Him, my life was being continually transformed by His presence within me. I was devouring the Bible daily and it was feeding my soul and changing me from within.

    About a year after my initial surrender to Jesus someone shared some Scriptures about “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” from the book of Acts (including today’s Wake-Up Call verses) in the Jesus town hall meeting that I was a regular part of. They invited anyone who wanted to receive this experience to come to a guy’s house trailer. I was hungry for more of Jesus (and what they shared was biblical) so I went.

    Several people gathered around me, laid their hands on me, and started to pray for me to receive the Holy Spirit. They told me to raise my hands and to repeat, “Thank You, Jesus,” over and over. Then they began to pray in tongues.

    After a few minutes there was an incredible release from deep within me and words that I didn’t know began to rush out of my mouth. I was overcome with an awe and an acute awareness of the living Jesus that has stayed with me ever since then. Whenever I feel that awareness start to wane, I pray in tongues and I’m suddenly back in that supernatural state.

    Last night I was awakened with this original poem forming within me. It’s called: “How Hope and Awe Arise.”

    As I walk along
    The ancient road
    That follows
    A mighty river
    Covered with
    God’s glory cloud,
    My fog clears
    And I behold
    A radiant light
    Rising high.
    It’s streaming rays
    Flood my heart
    With awe and hope.

  4. On October 3 your voice was awful low. I’m wondering that maybe you weren’t close enough to the microphone. Thank you for giving me a chance to relay a thought to you.
    God bless.

  5. 1964, proud to be standing at the alter with my parents watching.
    1979, surrendering to the Holy Spirit to transform my heart, soul & mind. 💞

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