Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 18, 1952

Gift Of The Holy Spirit

R. C. Bell, Abilene, Texas

Luke reports Christ as saying, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13) Matthew reports Christ as saying in the same connection that God will "give good things to them that ask him." (Matt. 7:11) To show the simple, natural reasonableness of prayer, Christ made both of these statements. Luke, a very accurate, orderly man (Luke 1:8), gives the statement that, inasmuch as the possession of the Spirit involves all "good things," goes at a bound to the basic gift upon which all "good things" hang. Christ's general language in Luke is true, and at the proper time He will elaborate and give necessary details as to the manner of asking.

Believers To Get The Spirit

"Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me ... from within him shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Christ had not yet been glorified." (John 7:37-39) Christ's speech reported and explained here by John some fifty years after it was delivered, adds much information to Christ's fundamental statement by Luke. It adds, first, that in order for men to receive the Spirit, they must believe on Christ; second, that believers could not receive the Spirit until after Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven; third, from within those who received the Spirit would flow rivers of living water. According to this scripture, "any man" of any race, place, time, or station in society who believed on Christ would be qualified after his glorification to receive the Holy Spirit. "All things are possible to him that believeth." Although this is much additional information to Luke's bare statement, more details still will be supplied as men can use them.

Waiting For The Spirit

During the interval between Christ's resurrection and ascension, He told his apostles to tarry in Jerusalem until they were "clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49) Later, He more specifically said to them: "But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you." And as they were listening and "looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." (Acts 1:8,9) Note once for all that the cumulated, organizing power of the Godhead is associated with the Holy Spirit, the final person of the Holy Trinity to contribute his part to the perfecting of Christianity. He is the administrative member of the divine family in the spiritual creation, just as he was in the physical creation, when "the earth was waste and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2) to reduce darkness to light, and general chaos to cosmos — in short to organize.

Throughout the Bible, as at its beginning, the Spirit is the Triune God focused for action and at work. In Acts 6 for instance, the invincible Stephen, full of faith and the Holy Spirit, ... full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs . . . And they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake" and worked. Though the miraculous manifestation of the Spirit exercised by Stephen has been withdrawn, the New Testament abundantly teaches that the Spirit himself still dwells in the church of God, and gives her wisdom, power and invincibility.

When Christ's ascension and glorification occurred, the period of waiting was about over; and the time was at hand when men could receive the Spirit. They needed, however, to know the practical details of how to "ask" for him, and on what conditions believers might receive him. And to make sure that correct instructions were given, Christ required the apostles to wait until He sent the Spirit from heaven to empower them and to speak through them. Thus, the stage was divinely set for the Holy Spirit to descend, to begin his dispensation, and to organize and set in order his new dwelling house on the earth.

The Spirit Takes Up Residence

According to God's "determinate counsel," believers in Christ could on the first Pentecost after his glorification receive the Holy Spirit. At that time therefore, Christ supplemented his earlier teaching that God would "give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him" by telling them through Peter how to "ask." About three thousand Jews asked aright that day and received both the remission of sins and "the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) Let no man sunder these joint-gifts, for if the three thousand got one, they got both. If they were believers, Christ was pledged to give them the supreme new covenant promise, the Holy Spirit.

Somewhat later, after "believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women" (Acts 5:14), upon the unbelieving Jews demanding that the apostles cease to preach, Peter replied: "We must obey God rather than men... We are witnesses of these (Christian) things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him." (Acts 5:29-82) After the number of Christians had increased to "about five thousand," (Acts 4:4) and then after still "more ... multitudes" were added, Peter, thinking of the whole Christian movement, said that God had given the Holy Spirit to all Christians, as they obeyed the gospel. Is there any possibility that Peter could have been mistaken about this fact? What could he have meant but that the Spirit himself, as the birthright of every one "born of water and the Spirit," (John 3:5) had entered into the "babes in Christ" to share his nature with them, that they might "become partakers of the divine nature"? (2 Peter 1:4) As one who receives the gift of a book gets a book, so one who receives "the gift of the Holy Spirit" gets the Spirit. Then the Spirit gives "diversities of gifts" to Christians, "dividing to each one severally as he will." (1 Cor. 12:4-11) There is a difference between "the gift of the Spirit" and the gifts of the Spirit.

That "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is the Spirit himself is evident from the fact that in the narrative of the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10,11) the expressions, "the Holy Spirit fell," "the gift of the Holy Spirit," and "received the Holy Spirit" are used interchangeably. The Spirit involves all "good things."