The Question We Should Ask More Often

September 27, 2019

Acts 19:1-7 (NIV)

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.

O.K., 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 do not know. 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 that this “Gift of God” was 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 that 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 protoge 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 of 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. It’s why every day, I close these readings with these three words:




How about you? What’s your Holy Spirit story?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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P. S. – Our recent release Wildfire by Rica McRoy helps Christians struggling with this exact issue. If you’d like to own your own story with the Holy Spirit, get a copy from our store here (or several, and lead a Bible study!)

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Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. Is there any good book or study that helps you to nourish and welcome the Holy Spirit from your mind to your heart and soul? I believe, but don’t know if HE is in my heart and soul yet. I see the great joy in the faces of the people at church and I want to feel that joy. How can I get this? I truely believe, but don’t FEEL my faith all the time. There are times when I am listening to our Paster that I am movd to tears, or brought to Joy, but I want to feel it all the time and show it to others just by my countenance.

  2. 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.

    Diane, this is my story, also, except my ignorance extended to more than just the Holy Spirit. Then I encountered the Heidelberg Catechism and the book about it “Body & Soul” by M. Craig Barnes; both became one long question of “Why has nobody ever had this conversation with me before!?!” Up until then, Christianity felt like rocket science when in truth it is simply unfathomable. For me, true redemption began with knowledge of who God is, who I am in relation and what God has done and is currently doing. It is what brought God out of the shadowy fringes. Two other books about the Heidelberg also played a huge role: “The Good News We Almost Forgot” by Kevin DeYoung and “Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds” by Starr Meade.

    Just the other day I identified what had changed for me. Once I had a spot carved out for God called the church. I now have a spot carved out for God called my life.

  3. I had a very powerful conversion experience when I was born again. I use the term born again because I believe we truly are not “saved” until the moment we are in eternal glory. Until then we are “being saved”(Mrk 13:13;Luke21:19; Rom 5:10; ICor1:18;2Cor215; Heb2:3;6:9)- LITV, YLT, CEV, GNB.

    I knew I was redeemed and justified (though I did not know those terms because I was not raised in church). I also knew that there was a lifestyle that I needed to live, yet was not able to. I was forgiven, and my life changed. I stopped doing many things that I knew were sinful- many things were taken away by God’s grace within weeks! But I was still compromising a lot in my life, and was convicted most of the time.

    I went to a Bible college and was shown Scripturally that God has two works of grace. The first one is redemption. This happens when we repent and put our trust in Jesus- we are “born again.” This is a result of God’s Spirit working. He convicts and gives saving faith. As a result of this experience we grow in grace. This is a result of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, but we are not filled with the Holy Spirit. Our sinful actions were forgiven at the new birth, yet we still suffer with a sinful nature. This can not be forgiven. It must be destroyed.

    Our growth is stunted, much like a relationship between an engaged couple. They met, fell in love, a grew closer, yet they could only grow so close (if they were doing things right). An intamacy was missing. Intercourse of emotion, intellect, and physicall could not take place until there was another experience, or event in their relationship – marrriage! After that, true growth started as a result of intamacy. This is what certain circles call entire sanctification, or heart purity, heart holiness, even Christian perfection(by John Wesley).

    I believe these disciples in Acts which Paul encountered were indeed Christians. Born again by believing in Jesus and repenting of their sins. It was not until they were filled with the holy Spirit that they could be truly used by God. “Speaking in tongues” I’m not going to go into what I believe these phrase means, but I will say that these disciples were in Asia. I will inferr that they may have been traveling and evangelizing in an area where they did not speak the language very well. After they were filled, Paul “separated the disciples, . . .” They were now filled with the power and wisdom of God to be able to be powerful witnesses on their own, or at least not needing to rely on their numbers for strength.

    I had this experience a few years back. It was not as powerful as my conversion experience. But I knew if I was going to be completely used by God which was my desire, I had to be cleansed of my sinful nature. I often say this, “God does not want us to live a life of repenting, He wants us to live a life of repentance.” Meaning we should be living a life that is sin free, therefore not haveing to repent all the time. It is a life that is constantly repentant- walking away from sin, keeping our souls spotless. This is only possible when we are filled with His Holy Spirit, as “we walk in the light . . .” It is a life that says, “Lord what can you do through me?” as apposed to “Lord what can you do for me?”

    I’m not sure if this helped. I sure hope it does not hinder in any way.

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