Acts 8:15-17 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
This passage was widely quoted, and hotly debated, reasonably enough, around the time I was introduced to the Charismatic Movement in the ’70s.The discussion seems to have largely died down, but whether that’s a good thing or not is open to question. What is clear is that this is talking about people who had repented and believed for salvation, receiving water baptism as a sign of that, but the Holy Spirit had not yet been manifested in their lives. That becomes problematical when throughout Romans Paul is very clear that all who are saved have the Holy Spirit. There are some in the Pentecostal camp who insist that manifestation gifts, such as are discussed in 1 Corinthians 12, particularly the gift of tongues, are a necessary sign of salvation, which creates an incredibly elitist attitude. Perhaps in reaction to that, the current attitude in most churches seems to largely ignore spiritual gifts. Many churches have adopted “Charismatic” forms of group worship, but essentially nothing else. That is tragic. As a result, there are many genuine believers who are just as these Samaritans were before Peter and John visited. Philip had been demonstrating the power of the Spirit and there were many healings and deliverances, but he wasn’t active in passing that along to others. Peter and John wanted everyone to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit, so they prayed for that and laid hands on people. Acts records times such as this where the Spirit was imparted by the laying on of hands and also times, such as at Pentecost and in the home of Cornelius the Roman, (Acts 10) where that was not involved. The point is, the Holy Spirit is active, and He makes His presence known when we open our hearts to Him.
My own experience lands me squarely in the middle of this argument, because when I first heard of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, everything I read said that I would speak in tongues once it happened. I really wanted the power of the Spirit, but that desire twisted to seeking the gift of tongues, and nothing happened. When a friend straightened me out and said that we can’t place conditions on God’s gifts, I prayed again to be baptized and felt nothing, but two days later abruptly realized that I was talking to a total stranger about Jesus, which in my awareness had never happened before. At that moment Acts 1:8 came to mind, and I realized that, by the power of the Spirit, I was being a witness, and I knew that God had been true to His promise. As it turned out, after a few months I started experiencing the gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, and to date have tasted all of them listed there at least once. I also knew a dear saint who thought she had never been baptized in the Holy Spirit because she never spoke in tongues (she was in a Pentecostal church) but who radiated the love of God more than anyone you could imagine. I am totally convinced she was baptized in the Holy Spirit! The thing is, I feel somewhat like Philip, because not many people have opened up fully to the flow of the Spirit under my ministry. I know better than to be dogmatic about specific gifts, but I indeed want everyone to operate in the fullness of the Spirit. I know that the contents are more important than the vessel, (2 Corinthians 4:7) but the vessel still needs to be available. I need to seek actively to be more available for the Holy Spirit to be poured through me, so that God’s children may rise up as an active army, defeating the lies of the devil and bringing many from death to life.
Father, this is a huge challenge! The problem is my track record, and looking at myself even now, instead of at my Lord. Help me believe, fully and in fact, that You can and will do anything at all through me, regardless of how I have gotten in Your way in the past, so that Your name may be acknowledged as holy and Your rule and reign be established as Your will is done, for Your glory alone. Thank You. Hallelujah!