In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came only on selected few. But the Old Testament looked forward to an era of the Spirit in which the Spirit of God would come and indwell those who believe in him. (Isaiah 32:15a; 44:3b; Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26, 27; 37:14; Joel 2:28 -29). There was also an anticipation of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.
Before his death, Jesus promised that when he returned to his Father he and his Father together would send the Spirit to indwell those who believe in Christ, and be with them forever.(John 14-16). And before his ascension, he directed his disciples: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised’ which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 1:4-5). It happened on the Pentecost day that God poured out the Holy Spirit on all the first Christians and fulfilled both the Old Testament anticipations of the Spirit and the promise of Christ to send the Spirit.
Those who received the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost Day were not another “few” people of God, for Peter did not mince words in telling the observers that they too could receive the Holy Spirit if they would “repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ”. He also said that the promise of the Holy Spirit extended to their “children” and “all who are far off” and “all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). The Holy Spirit is to be in the Christian forever (John 14:16; Eph.1:13-14), though he can be quenched (1Thess. 5:19) or grieved (Eph. 4:30).
As we discussed last week, it is the Holy Spirit that makes the difference between a Christian and non-Christian. The world neither sees nor knows him, but he lives with, and in a Christian (John 14:17). The Christian receives the Holy Spirit when he believes or is baptized. This is why Paul was surprised that the “disciples” he found in Ephesus had not even heard of the Holy Spirit. But when he inquired, it became clear that they were not Christians in the first place – they were only disciples of John, whose baptism they had received. Eventually, those Ephesians received the Holy Spirit at the point of becoming Christians or being baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:1 – 7). There is, however, also a report of the Holy Spirit coming in as a result of a follow up to baptism (The case of Samarian Church – Acts 8:14-17). But whichever is the case, the Holy Spirit always marks the beginning of the Christian life and ministry. In fact, no one can actually be said to be a Christian if he does not have the Holy Spirit. Paul makes it unmistakably clear that every Christian must have an in dwelling of the Holy Spirit; else, he is not a Christian. “… If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Rom. 8:9).
We again conclude as in last week that Christian lives in the Spirit and should also walk in the Spirit. This is in contrast to living according to the sinful nature. It behoves on the Christian to create a conducive atmosphere for the operation of the Holy Spirit in his life. He should neither be grieved nor quenched.
The Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.