As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. (Acts 11:15 ESV)
A crucial truth that unveils the operation of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, albeit one that is an enigma to theologians, is the consistent distinction between receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion (the new birth) and receiving the Holy Spirit at a subsequent post-conversion experience. I will summarize this crucial truth in this brief devotional. For the sake of brevity, I will not discuss the theological aspects of this controversial subject.
When Peter recounted what happened at Cornelius’ house, he made the remarkable statement that as he preached to the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did on the Apostles at the beginning. He compares the Jewish Pentecost (Acts 2:4-5) and the Gentile Pentecost (Acts 10: 44-45) and explicitly states that the Holy Spirit was poured out, given, or fell on the Gentiles the same way He did on the Jews. He repeats this similarity in Acts 15:8-9 where he adds that God made no distinction between the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2) and the Gentiles in Acts 10. A close examination of the Gentile Pentecost reveals a startling truth about what happened at Pentecost in Acts 2.
When Cornelius and his household began listening to Peter’s preaching, they were unsaved. But as they heard Peter, the Holy Spirit fell on them, and the Jews were astonished because they listened to these Gentiles speaking in tongues and prophesying. This was no silent prayer of a sinner receiving Jesus; it was as dramatic and extraordinary as the events in Acts 2. So, two things occurred to these Gentiles in that instant—they were born again (conversion) and received spiritual gifts. This Gentile Pentecost shows that these two events can occur simultaneously. But other portions of the book of Acts reveal that these two events can and do most often happen separately.
The experience of the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17) and Ephesians (Acts 19:6) most vividly reveal the separation of the new birth and the post-conversion dramatic experience of receiving the Spirit. In both cases, the Apostles met Christians (already saved) and laid their hands upon them to receive the Holy Spirit. When they received the Spirit by laying hands, there was always a visible manifestation of speaking in tongues and prophecy. Regretfully, if you read Bible commentaries on these passages, you will be amazed at how many theologians seek to explain this truth to refute what they reveal: Christians had a different second experience of receiving the Holy Spirit separate from conversion. This subsequent experience is never presented as a required part of salvation in Acts.
So, Pentecost and the Gentile Pentecost were unique in that the receiving of the Spirit at the new birth and receiving the Spirit in the post-conversion experience occurred simultaneously. However, we see the typical scenario where people become Christians and have hands laid on them to receive the Holy Spirit as power manifested in spiritual gifts.
Please reread Acts 11:15 in light of this devotional.
Apply the Word
To walk intimately with the Spirit, we must understand and accept what the scripture reveals about His operations. Please read more about the three ways we receive the Holy Spirit as believers.
Ask the Spirit to help us understand how He operates in us.