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?