Did You Receive the Holy Spirit When You Believed?



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 19:1–7 

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.


Here’s the question we should ask more often: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And we should begin by asking the question of ourselves.

Okay, I’ll go first. For me, the answer is yes . . . and no.

I was baptized as a baby, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and I am certain I received the Holy Spirit and yet I had no idea of it. I believe the Holy Spirit protected and preserved and prepared me for the day when I could claim faith for myself. At the age of twelve, I was baptized again. Whether my records slipped through the ecclesiological cracks or the pastor adjudged that my first baptism didn’t “take,” I know not.

Did I receive the Holy Spirit again? I’m not sure.

The confusing thing about today’s text surrounds whether these disciples were actually Christians or not. They had John’s baptism, which was not Christian baptism, yet they believed. I’m just not sure how to sort this. Here’s a shot. A person is not saved by baptism but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism publicly seals faith with an outward sign of an inward grace. Frankly, I don’t think a person can believe in Jesus Christ without the active working of the Holy Spirit. So whether a true believer has heard about the Holy Spirit or not, they have, in point of fact, received the Holy Spirit if they have indeed exercised saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Back to my twelve-year-old self. I suppose by then I had heard of the Holy Spirit, but that was about the extent of it. So again, for me the answer to the question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” was yes . . . and no. In retrospect, I survived junior high, high school, and most of college doing my best to be a Christian while living a fairly compromised life without any real sense of this gift of God apparently lying dormant in my soul.

I can’t speak for the Ephesians in today’s text, but for me, the issue was not baptism but discipleship. No one ever really taught me about the Holy Spirit. I don’t blame them because I have become convinced that no one really taught them about the Holy Spirit.

Near the end of college, I began studying the Bible I had been reading daily for all these years. I read about receiving the Holy Spirit and being filled by the Holy Spirit and about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit and grieving the Holy Spirit and quenching the Holy Spirit. I remember reading that the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead actually dwelled in my mortal body.

In those days I probably asked no less than a dozen ordained ministers what it meant to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” None of them had any real idea of what I was asking them. They told me I got the Holy Spirit when I was baptized and that was about it. I knew there had to be more.

I made it all the way to seminary before an aging gentleman by the name of J. T. Seamands took me on as a protégé and discipled me into the awareness, attentiveness, and living experience of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I’ve been on that journey ever since.

Looking back, for all practical purposes, I was a functional Ephesian. I had heard of the Holy Spirit, but I had no idea who he was.

In my humble yet considered judgment, next to a Christian understanding of the Word of God, the greatest need of the people of God today is to be deeply discipled into the fullness of the Holy Spirit. I am so thankful to be on that journey with you even now.


Father, how we thank you for the Holy Spirit, who brings Jesus from being with us to being in us; who brings us inside the inner courts of the fellowship of heaven—right here on earth. Would you lead me into the fullness of the Holy Spirit, bringing me into a discipleship beyond what I have known before? Even if I feel like I already know, wake me up to realize there is more that I don’t know than I do know. Would you bring me into the knowing beyond knowledge that I might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God—in this life? Praying in Jesus’s name, amen. 


How about you? What’s your Holy Spirit story along the lines of today’s entry? Where is the growing edge of your soul right now? 


Today we will sing “Holy Spirit, Light Divine” (hymn 320) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here. 

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

7 Responses

  1. Are you an ever-tuned-in receiver of the Holy Spirit’s inner rivers? I woke up this morning with these words in my spirit:

    “Instead of rivers of living water, Christianity is too often presented as a dried-up puddle. Without the experiential awareness of the risen Jesus, Christianity becomes a mere religious routine.”

    What does it mean to receive? A wide receiver in football catches the ball and runs with it. A radio receiver picks up radio waves and makes them perceptible by letting them freely flow through it. A receiver of encouragement takes what is said to heart and puts it into practice.

    As Christ-followers we need to catch the wind of the Spirit and let Christ take us wherever He wants. We need to catch the Spirit’s energy and run with it. We need to pick up the Spirit’s invisible signals and make them perceptible to our conscious awareness and to the people we encounter throughout the day. We need to take to heart the Spirit’s inner promptings and always do what He urges us to do.

    How is your Holy Spirit reception? Is it loud and clear? Or is it rare and sketchy? To receive the Holy Spirit is to let the risen Jesus live and freely flow from deep within you as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Holy Spirit reception isn’t a once and done deal. It is moment-by-moment reliance on the ever-flowing presence, power, and love of Christ living and working in and through you. All Christ-followers are called to be an ever-tuned-in Holy Spirit receiver.

  2. JD, I believe that your testimony may be more common than you realize. I can relate to your experience in many ways. Baptized as an infant, raised in a nominally Christian home, but sent to a parochial Christian school through eighth grade in order to compensate for that deficit, married a spouse outside my inherited tradition, thus exposed to a competing theology of baptism, spent time in both cessationist and continuationist churches, and finally, at around thirty years of age, took it upon myself to study the Bible to learn more about the work and person of the Holy Spirit. I personally believe that there are three primary categories of theology pertaining to the work and person of the Holy Spirit. The first group being the Pentecostal/ Charismatic churches. While stressing the Holy Spirit, some have incorporated unBiblical excesses in their practices. The second group, aware of these unBiblical practices are staunchly cessationist, claiming that the so-called supernatural gifts of the Spirit ceased with the end of the Apostolic Age. The third group are functionally cessationist in that while they don’t openly appose the continuation of Spiritual Gifts, choose to remain silent about it in order to not have to deal with possible abuses. That’s the group that I came out of, and I believe many others have as well. Thus you have many who are uninformed about this subject. The irony is that ignorance concerning the work and person was something Paul directly addressed in 1 Corinthians 12-14.

  3. This is the first time I was ever led to the seed bed devotional and I feel like it’s more than a devotion I feel like it’s a comforting voice explaining the things that I don’t know a lot about I’m in a discipleship program through my church and my pastor or spiritual father I guess you could say is the one that shared this with me and I’m so grateful that he did I really enjoyed it and I am trying to motivate myself to read more scripture and reach out more to spiritual parents whether being my parents or just more spiritual parents in the church but I really enjoyed this and I’m going to try to motivate myself more to check out this devotional every morning because I really enjoyed it I really enjoy the discussion of the holy Spirit thank you for all your hard work and reaching out to so many people like myself that are just spiritual infants still I am grateful AW from Hamilton

  4. “Breathe on Me”
    Breathe on me, Holy Spirit
    Until my heart is clean
    Until my stubborn will subdue
    Fill me with Your power divine
    Till I am Thine own.

  5. I am thankful for people like Oral Roberts. He wrote in such a practical and simple way to explain the infilling of the Holy Spirit that along with my youth director when I was in high school led to me being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. I am thankful for my Wesleyan heritage of holiness and sanctification. “Be holy as I Am holy.” This is impossible without the Holy Spirit. But if the Holy Spirit is in control, it is impossible not to be holy!

  6. I agree, and say very similar experience, not knowing mulch about Holy Spirit, but realization and recognition of God’s mercy and grace in the filling of and awakening by
    Holy Spirit. And then recognizing His movement and filling more and more through the years of a desire to know Him more and more.
    Seedbed and Wake Up Call and teaching in both is filling the desire and and understanding so many of us have been searching for.
    God is using the ministry in a mighty way. Thank you and Mayblur Lord bless you and the ministry JD.

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