Can you be a Christian but not have the Holy Spirit? Or is Christian life more or less two-stage experience where first you believe in Jesus Christ, and then later you receive the Holy Spirit?
The incident in Acts 19:1-7 is used by some Christian groups as a proof text to argue for two stages of Christian life: that is, one is converted by first believing in Jesus and then later receives the Holy Spirit as a distinctive stage. Looking at the whole counsel of God as presented in the Bible, John Stott argues that the “disciples” in Acts 19:1-7 “cannot be possibly be providing a norm for two-stage initiation.” On the contrary, these disciples were in no sense Christians, having not yet believed in Jesus. The disciples in Acts 19:1-7 were disciples of John the Baptist, not that of Jesus Christ. They only knew the baptism of John, not that of Christ. In a word, they were still living in the Old Testament era which culminated with John the Baptist. They did not understand that the new age had been ushered in by Jesus; neither did they come to experience the distinctive blessing of the new age—the Holy Spirit.
Once they came to understand this through Paul’s instruction, they put their trust in Jesus Christ. They were then baptized into Christ; Paul laid his hands on them (giving his apostolic imprimatur to what was happening, as Peter and John had done in Samaria in Acts 8); the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Through the ministry of Paul they came to believe and were then baptized with water and the Spirit more or less simultaneously. In other words, they experienced a mini-Pentecost. Better, Pentecost caught up to them. Better still, they were caught up into it, as its promised blessings became theirs.
The norm of Christian experience, then is a cluster of four things: repentance, faith in Jesus, water baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.Though the perceived order may vary a little, the four belong together and are universal in Christian experience. The laying-on of apostolic hands, however, together with tongue-speaking and prophesying were special and unique to Ephesus (here in Acts 19:1-7), as to Samaria (Acts 8:14-17), in order to demonstrate visibly and publicly that particular groups were incorporated into Christ by the Spirit; the New Testament does not universalize them. There are no Samaritans or disciples of John the Baptist left in the world today.
So can you be a Christian but not have the Holy Spirit? The biblical answer is a definite NO. Is Christian life more or less two-stage experience where first you believe in Jesus Christ and then later you receive the Holy Spirit? The biblical answer is NO. What we experience as Christians who have been sealed with the Spirit when we first believe in Christ is that we are either filled with the Spirit or we are not. As Christians we are to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), and not quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19). The question then is: Do you believe in Jesus? If you do believe in Jesus, are you filled with the Spirit? If you are filled with the Spirit, do you love God and love people? And out of that love do you share the gospel and serve people?
This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:
|Monday: Acts 16||☐||Thursday: Acts 19||☐|
|Tuesday: Acts 17||☐||Friday: Acts 20||☐|
|Wednesday: Acts 18||☐||Saturday: Acts 21||☐|
Bible Column & Reading Plan by Rev. Chang Soo Lee
Mississauga Camps Lead Pastor