"What About Acts 2:38?"
I get this question quite often from charismatics that believe that we must receive the Holy Ghost after we get saved "as evidenced by speaking in tongues". A number of new (and not-so-new) Christians also write and ask me about this. This is understandable because everyone that is sincere about Jesus Christ wants to make sure that they are not missing anything that God has for them and the charismatics are a loud group that has pushed this false doctrine. Here are some excerpts from a sample e-mail of this order and my response (with a few additional comments).
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May I ask a question about your statement:"You receive the Holy Ghost at salvation..."
The Scripture in Acts 2:38 would indicate that receiving the Holy Ghost comes after the initial act of receiving God's free salvation plan."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."
Doesn't this say it happens after salvation? Another Scripture that says one can receive the Holy Ghost after salvation is--"Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost." Acts 8:14-15
This again would indicate they received the Holy Ghost after salvation. Another Scripture in Acts would indicate that receiving the Holy Ghost comes after salvation is:Acts 19:2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether they be any Holy Ghost.
Greetings and thank you for writing.
Concerning receiving the Holy Ghost AFTER salvation, I notice that you exclusively use the book of Acts to support this doctrine. Acts was a book of transitions--for the first time, the Holy Ghost came to live in men and great signs and wonders accompanied these things to testify that they were of God. How often do we see cloves of fire dancing above people's heads like on the day of Pentecost? How often do we see people fall dead because they have lied to the Holy Ghost? (Much less a pastor being able to tell them that they will fall dead before walking out the door!) How often do we see a great light from heaven blind a person and then the voice of Jesus Christ talk to them? Things occured in the book of Acts that testified that a new day had come, my friend. This idea of not having the Holy Ghost at salvation is not found in what is probably the most doctrinal book in the Bible--Romans.
According to Romans, we cannot be saved without HAVING the Holy Ghost.Romans 8:9 says, "...if any man HAVE NOT the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."According to this verse, if we do not HAVE the Holy Ghost, we do not even belong to Jesus Christ! The Holy Ghost is the one who renews us at salvation--look at Titus 3:5,"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy HE SAVED US, BY the washing of regeneration, and RENEWING OF THE HOLY GHOST;"
This scripture clearly says that we must have the third person of the Trinity in order to be saved. He renews us. The Holy Ghost was there when we got saved and He remains unto the present day. The entire Godhead has a part in our salvation--the Father (sent the Son), the Son (paid the ransom), and the Holy Ghost (renews, empowers, and guides us). The Holy Ghost had to be there when we got saved because according to I Corinthians 12:3, we can't even say that Jesus is the Lord in sincerity without the Holy Ghost--and we must certainly say that Jesus is the Lord in order to be saved!I Corinthians 12:3 ...no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
1 John 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
In terms of the Holy Ghost, where there is a distinction to be made is in the way we walk. After we make a decision for Jesus Christ, we must learn how to walk. At the beginning, we are babes knowing very little about spiritual things and we must grow up. In order to be strong and built up in Christ, the Bible tells us to be FILLED with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) WALK in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 5:25) and be LED by the Spirit (Romans 8:14). How? Don't resist the Holy Ghost. He testifies to us through the Eternal Word (as well as our consciences and other Christians--only in accordance with the Bible) that we should read the word, obey it, serve the Lord, fellowship with the saints and resist sin. What results? We see much fruit in our lives, the Lord will show us wondrous things, we are bold in Christ, and we are fully confident of our position in Christ--in other words, we mature in Christ.
Concerning tongues, which you may believe we are all supposed to get, the scriptures are very clear that NOT EVERYONE has this GIFT--see
- I Corinthians 12:28-31,
- all of I Corinthians 14; and,
- Romans 12:4-8.
Take note in I Corinthians 14 of...
- how Paul said he would rather speak five words with his understanding than 10,000 in an unknown tongue so he could edify others (14:19)
- tongues aren't even the best gift (14:1-5)
- if everybody in the church speaks in tongues at the same time, people will think they are mad (14:23)
- there are VERY specific rules for using this gift (v. 27-28).
Thank you for the opportunity to consider your question.
I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.
And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.
Ezekiel 2:4, 6