What is “the Gift of the Holy Spirit”?

We’re in the season of giving gifts, and while the traditional Advent study focuses on God’s gift of His Son and our anticipation of His return, I wanted to look more closely at the gift He has given believers in the interim: His Holy Spirit.

In response to the the conscience-convicted crowd to whom Peter was preaching on Pentecost:

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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” ~ Acts 2:38-39

I have heard it argued that “the gift” is salvation, and that’s all. The crowd had asked, “What must we do (to be saved),” and this was Peter’s answer.

I disagree. They had also just heard the entire sermon, each in his own tongue, delivered by people who had doubtless had no language training beyond Aramaic and Greek. In the sermon, they heard Peter say that the day spoken of by Joel the prophet had come: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” (Joel 2:28-32). Now to be fair, Peter also quotes Joel saying, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Then he adds, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” It was perfectly reasonable for the crowd to deduce that the gift of the Holy Spirit was producing what they were seeing and hearing.

Plus, you see, the words “to be saved” are not actually in the original text. A jailer in Philippi asked the question that includes that phrase (Acts 16:30) many years later. Salvation, however, is intertwined with the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 3:5), but I don’t find any passage which describes salvation as the gift of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve also had it argued to me that Romans 1:16 says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek,” and since Peter was preaching the gospel, therefore the gift of the Holy Spirit is salvation to those who obey his gospel.

I don’t know how the crowd of Pentecost could have discerned that, since Romans had not yet been written.

And I’ve also read it argued that no one hears “receive the gift of Keith and thinks that Keith is the gift. It would be the gift Keith offers.” But the crowd at Pentecost didn’t speak English; they spoke as many languages as are represented by the 15 (or so) different regions described in Acts 2:8-11. Perhaps their languages were not as ambiguous as ours. Even then, we are talking about the Holy Spirit and not Keith; a person but not a human being. And we do not misunderstand the phrasing of John 3:16.

It would seem to me that after they were baptized, their actions in Acts 2:42-47 demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit that Paul would describe years later to the churches of Galatia:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23

In addition, there are many passages in which the Holy Spirit is given, from Jesus breathing on the disciples (John 20:22) to the wind and tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-4) to a time after powerful prayer (Acts 4:31) to the laying-on of Peter and John’s hands (Acts 8:17) to the receipt of it by the household of Cornelius while Peter was still preaching (Acts 10:44) … and on and on and on. Sometimes these were recorded as being accompanied by signs, like speaking in tongues; sometimes not. But that’s how it’s expressed in these verses; the Spirit Himself was given, and then the sign of it became apparent.

My conclusion is that “the gift of the Holy Spirit” spoken of by Peter at Pentecost was the Holy Spirit Himself, not just a sign of Him nor a gift that accompanies Him.

How do you see it?

5 thoughts on “What is “the Gift of the Holy Spirit”?

  1. Keith said “but I don’t find any passage which describes salvation as the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    Keith, unless you are claiming that God is not the “Holy Spirit” which gives eternal life, I don’t see how you can misread 3:16 to say anything except, salvation is the gift given by the death of God’s son.

    16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    Yes a holy spirit is also the gift of God, but not “THE GIFT”

    Just another problem for those who believe in a “Trinity God”

  2. Pingback: Is the Holy Spirit Given to Believers at Baptism? « Blog In My Own Eye

  3. I. All Faithful Christians Have The Holy Spirit
    When one is baptized (immersed) into Christ (Gal. 3:27), one receives “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Just what is the “gift of the Holy Spirit”? Is the Holy Spirit Himself “the gift” or does it mean a “gift” that the Holy Spirit will give? If the Holy Spirit Himself is “the gift,” that is, the personal indwelling in each Christian, why did Peter use the word “gift” at all? Why didn’t Peter simply say: “You shall receive the Holy Spirit,” rather than “the gift of the Holy Spirit”? In John 20:22, Jesus said to His apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Definitely the promise was that they were to receive the Holy Spirit Himself in some way and not some “gift” that the Holy Spirit would give. On Pentecost the obedient believers were promised a “gift” that the Holy Spirit would give them as a result of their obedience to the gospel message, what was the “gift” they received? The forgiveness of their sins! Salvation! Redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ!

    In what may have been his second sermon, Peter proclaimed to the crowd who gathered as a result of the healing of the lame man, that they should “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord …” (Acts 3: 19). On Pentecost, Peter promised those who would obey that they would “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It seems clear that Peter preached the same thing in both cases, just used different words. Hence, “the gift of the Holy Spirit” means the same thing as “times of refreshing”. The “gift of the Holy Spirit” was the forgiveness of their sins. The “times of refreshing,” which is figurative language, is an equivalent term. What a “refreshing” it is to be forgiven of our sins, redeemed and made heirs of God.

    • Guest for truth, I see you’re still copying and pasting
      from Web articles without attribution here, just as you did at New
      Wineskins. In this case, it’s from the same article that Laymond
      Meredith cited in the comments of another one of my posts –
      http://www.theexaminer.org/volume6/number5/editor.htm – and I’ve
      already responded to it there
      so I won’t respond to it again. I will add, though, in response to
      the question, If the Holy Spirit Himself is “the gift,”
      that is, the personal indwelling in each Christian, why did Peter
      use the word “gift” at all?
      … you would have to ask
      Luke why he repeats that phrase in Acts 10:45, referring to the
      Spirit Himself … and John in John 7:39, where he speaks of the
      Spirit being given … Paul in Romans 5:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:5.
      Apparently these writers understood what is meant by the Spirit
      being given as a gift, and one would have to be pretty obtuse not
      to see it expressed very clearly in their works. If you folks are
      going to borrow from the opinions of authors who differ with the
      conclusions I’ve reached, you should cite better material. Try
      scripture. It works for me!

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