The Gift Of The Holy Spirit


‘Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2:38

The verse referred to is unquestionably one with which every member in the church of Christ is familiar, having frequently heard it quoted when the Gospel has been preached.

It is, however, a pity that in our anxiety to convince people of their need to obey the Gospel by being baptised in obedience to the Lord’s command, Matthew 28:18-20, very often only the first part of the verse of Acts 2:38 is emphasised, ‘be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins’, whilst the latter part, ‘and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’, is hurried over, with sometimes scarcely a mention.

The consequence has been that many members of the church are not as familiar as they ought to be with what the New Testament teaches concerning the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, and people in other religious bodies have even been known to accuse us of not really believing in the Holy Spirit.

There are, also, other circumstances that have a bearing on this situation.

Gift not Gifts

As I have already suggested, it is this second promise that many Christians find difficult to understand. Let us notice, therefore, that Peter spoke of the ‘gift’ not ‘gifts’ of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 2:38 the word ‘gift’ is the word ‘dorea’, which is accurately defined as ‘free gift’. One translation renders it rather expressively as, ‘the plus of the Holy Spirit’.

The word describes the Holy Spirit Himself as the extra gift provided by God, for those who obey the Gospel. Thus, Acts 2:38 doesn’t refer to some sort of miraculous or spiritual gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit.

It tells us that the Holy Spirit Himself is the Heavenly Father’s own gift to His obedient people, given to enable them to live a successful and satisfying Christian life.

The gifts, another subject

When, later, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about ‘spiritual gifts’, he was dealing with a very different subject.

In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the nine gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit are described as ‘charisma’, or ‘grace gifts’, and it is important to distinguish between the Holy Spirit as God’s own gift, and the miraculous gifts which, in the New Testament age, the Spirit Himself bestowed.

Please notice that

1. The ‘charismata’ were various miraculous abilities or endowments, which the Holy Spirit Himself gave to individual believers, according to His own will. 1 Corinthians 12:11.

2. Believers did not all receive the same gift(s). 1 Corinthians 12:29-30.

3. Nor were these gifts intended to last. 1 Corinthians 13:8.

4. In contrast, the ‘gift of the Holy Spirit’ is the gift of God Himself, offered to every obedient believer. Acts 5:32.

5. All are offered the same gift, the indwelling presence of the His Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19 / Romans 8:9.

6. And, along with salvation, the gift of the Spirit’s presence will continue to be offered until the end of the Christian Age. Acts 2:39.

The purpose of the gift in Acts 2:38

What will this ‘gift’ do for us?

This is a question worthy of a separate study but for now, think about just two aspects of His ministry.

a. The Holy Spirit is described as the ‘Comforter’. John 14:26.

That English word comes to us from the Latin, ‘con fortis’, which literally means, ‘with strength’. Thus, the Holy Spirit strengthens us. We need to learn to lean on Him.

b. Romans 8:26-27 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us when we pray, taking our faltering, stumbling petitions and presenting them to the Father, as our intercessor.

We should make use of His intercession.

If you have obeyed the Gospel and accepted God’s gift of forgiveness, the question is, have you also accepted His ‘extra’ gift?