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Questions On The Holy Spirit In Acts 2:38; 5:29; & Galatians 4:6

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The Holy Spirit revealed that mankind can enter a relationship of sonship with the Father. 

How should we understand “the gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38?  “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

(1) If it refers to the Holy Spirit himself, the point would be our fellowship with him and not an incarnation of the person of the Holy Spirit in our fleshly bodies.  (2) Or it may refer to all the spiritual blessings of the gospel promised from the time of Abraham - “the promise of the Spirit” given to Abraham:  “In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8, 14).  That would encompass all spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3) including complete restoration of fellowship with God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as in 2 Cor. 13:14).  In other words, whether it be (1) or (2), it ends up meaning the same thing.  This “promise” is to all who obey the gospel (Acts 2:39).

What is the point about the Holy Spirit in Acts 5:32?  “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”


“Obey” here refers to the imperative that the Apostles preach the gospel and testify as eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord.  In verse 28 the Jewish authorities asked why the Apostles insisted on preaching the gospel of Christ, to which they answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (vs. 29).  They further explained that the crucified Jesus had arisen from the grave, “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (vs. 32).  The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostles to testify concerning the events they witnessed and they must obey God rather than man.  This is not the same point as Acts 2:38.


What can we say about the Spirit's role or work in Galatians 4:6?  “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”


In terms of his role or special mission as a member of the Godhead for our salvation, John 16:13 calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”  Vv. 7-13 make it clear that he would work through the Apostles by inspiring them to reveal and proclaim the truth.  It is by the power of the truth revealed that the Spirit would convict and convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. The Spirit of God will do this great work, but he will do it through the instrumentality of his word, not by his personal presence.  The Apostles received the Spirit, i.e., they received the miraculous power of the Spirit who revealed and confirmed all truth through them, and by means of that truth the Spirit would convict and convert the lost.  Of course, through the gospel the Spirit is still doing that work today.


We are born of the Spirit, not by his personal presence, but by his power exerted through the instrumentality of his word (Jn. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:22-25).  Because we are born of the Spirit, it may be said that the Spirit enters our hearts and lives, filling us with all of his spiritual blessings; this is not accomplished by the deeds and ceremonies of the Old Law but by “the hearing of faith,” i.e., by the gospel message which points us to the crucified and risen Savior (Gal. 3:1-2).  In Galatians 3:1-2, when Christ is proclaimed, people “obey the truth” (vs. 1) or they “receive the Spirit” (vs. 2)-- because it is the Spirit who revealed the truth of the crucified and risen Savior.   As a result of his divine message of truth by which he begets us to become the children of God, the Spirit draws us near to the bosom of the Father so that we cry, “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6).  Because we are born of the Spirit, we bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).  Because we are born of the Spirit, we submit to his leading or his constant instruction (Gal. 5:16-18).

Our receiving the Spirit refers to our entering a relationship, companionship, or fellowship with him, just as we do with the Father and the Son.  In baptism, we submit to the authority of and enter into the fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).  The New Testament often emphasizes the Spirit as accomplishing this great redemptive work because it was his unique role and mission to reveal the divine message which makes it all possible.


“The Christian is one who has been begotten by the word of the Spirit (1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Pet. 1:2).  Hence, such a man is born of the Spirit (John 3:5; cf. 1 Cor. 12:13; Tit. 3:5; Eph. 5:26).  Even as one is brought into fellowship with God the Father (1 John 1:3) and God the Son (1 Cor. 1:9; Heb. 3:14) through his obedience to the gospel, he is also brought into the fellowship of God the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, one is able to receive this unique relationship with the Spirit through the gospel; he comes into fellowship with the Holy Spirit through his obedience to the gospel.  He is said to 'receive the Spirit' (Gal. 3:2), to have the 'communion' of the Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14), to have the 'fellowship' of the Spirit (Phil. 2:1), and to be a 'partaker' of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 6:4)” (Mike Willis, Galatians, p. 112).


“How does this Spirit enter into our hearts and cry, 'Abba, Father'?  …it is not done through personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in one's heart through which he takes control of the tongue and cries, 'Abba, Father.' Rather, it is through his work in revelation.  The Holy Spirit revealed that mankind can enter a relationship of sonship with the Father.  He revealed that Jesus had such a relationship and that it is also possible for Christians, through adoption, to enjoy a similar relationship.  As a person believes this revelation from God and acts upon it, he cries to God as his Father.  Therefore, the Sprit produces the cry in his heart through his work of revelation.  The crying is said to be done by the Spirit because he produced it” (ibid., p. 188).


A parallel passage is Roman 8:14-17.  Children of God are led by the Spirit of God, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”  How do we know we are children of God?  Not by conformity to the deeds and ceremonies of the Law of Moses, but rather “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”  How does the Spirit bear witness or testimony?  Through his word, his teaching, the gospel of Christ.  When our spirit submits to the Spirit of God, to the truth of his divine message, we become children of God and we may thus draw near to God as our loving Father.  The Holy Spirit reveals these truths.  Our spirit accepts these truths.  Thus, the testimony of the Holy Spirit and of our own spirit agree that it is through Christ alone that we are saved. 


Ron Halbrook

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