In Old Testament times the Holy Spirit came upon Judges, Priests, Prophets and Kings to enable them to perform what God had called them to do. In other words the indwelling of the Spirit of God was reserved for special people.
Then, there came a time when Israel ceased to be a nation and no prophetic voice was heard in her for nearly 400 years. This huge gap of silence was broken by a voice of one calling in the desert–the voice of John the Baptist–who said: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11 NIV).
A clear contrast is drawn here. John baptized with water. But the One who was to come after him would do so with the Holy Spirit. The interesting fact is that this is how Jesus was introduced to the people of Israel. And to them it was stunning news that the Spirit of God would indwell in the hearts of ordinary folks!
Again, even though each of the four gospel writers has recorded the life of Jesus from different view points, all of them have presented this introduction of Jesus to the common man as the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit (Ref. Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16 and John 1:33). The significant conclusion from this is that there is only One who can baptize with the Holy Spirit and He is Jesus, the Son of God!
Jesus Himself later said that it was for the good of the disciples that He was leaving the world so that He can send the Holy Spirit (Ref. John 16:6,7). And just before He was taken up into heaven after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus commanded them: “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;4b, 5 NIV).
Here Jesus Himself is drawing the contrast between the baptism of John with water and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. More importantly Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit is the gift that the Father promised!
There are many passages in the writing of the Old Testament prophets where this specific promise was made. For example, “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:27 NIV).
Though the Old Testament promises were made to the people of Israel in particular, Peter on the day of Pentecost spoke in the power and filling of the Holy Spirit thus: “… 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 2:38b, 39 NIV). Thus the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit was extended to all who would repent and believe in the name of Jesus Christ!
Peter had earlier said that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on His disciples was a fulfillment of what the Prophet Joel had spoken about (Read. Acts 2:16–18). There God clearly promised that He will pout His Spirit on all people; on both men and women, on sons and daughters, and on the old and young!
But the key to the fulfillment of the promise was the exaltation of Jesus Christ to the right hand of God! During His prayer on earth, Jesus had prayed that God may glorify Him: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5 NIV).
Peter pointed out this fact when he said: “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 (Acts 2:33 NIV). Thus the promise was kept!
Jesus Himself had referred to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers thus: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38 NIV). In the next verse, John says: “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
Now, Jesus had been glorified. And the Spirit has been poured out. And if you have believed in Him, the promised Holy Spirit is for you too!
When you receive Him, He will flow from within you like streams of living water. But the question is how to receive the Holy Spirit? Jesus once asked: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13 NIV).
Here a few facts need to be noted. The Holy Spirit is the gift from the Father. You can only receive Him as a gift from the Giver. This Gift is given to God’s children. If you believe in Jesus; then you are God’s child. And if you are so, you are promised that the Holy Spirit will be given to those who ask God for the Gift of the Holy Spirit!
Finally, many people are disappointed that the Holy Spirit was not given to them when they asked. The Bible clearly says that your asking with selfish or impure motives will not be answered. The case of Simon the Sorcerer who thought to buy the gift of God with money is a good example (Read Acts 8:18–24). And James 4:3 clearly states that you ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives.
Even though Jesus told the disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Ref. Acts 1:8); it is not a right motive to pray to receive the Holy Spirit just to enjoy the power. You should not forget that the Holy Spirit is God Himself and is a Person.
He is symbolized as a dove and He is gentle. He does not display power just to create a sensation. Therefore do not seek power, but instead seek the loving indwelling of the Person of the Holy Spirit in your life.
And again, seeking the Holy Spirit for His gifts is not a right motive again. It is like striking a friendship with someone with the sole motive of receiving some favor or gifts from him which he is capable of giving. If that is not seen as right in our world; how much more it is not right in your relationship with the Holy Spirit?
Moreover, you need to remember that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed according to God’s will and not according to any man’s choosing (Ref. Hebrews 2:4) and they are given for the common good and not for any man’s personal glory (Ref. 1 Corinthians 12:7).
Therefore seek to receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit with a longing to know Jesus intimately. For Jesus Himself said: “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:14 NIV). So know that wherever any man is glorified it is not the work of the Spirit of God; for His work is to glorify Jesus.
So ask not to receive the gifts but ask to receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit. May this be your prayer: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1, 2a NIV). Therefore, thirst or intense desire to know God is the key to receive the answer to your prayer to receive the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37b NIV). Remember, He is the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit.
And one final word. Isn’t it lovely that the last reference to the Spirit of God in the Bible is one in which He is giving an invitation?
“The Spirit and the bride say, `Come!’ And let him who hears say, `Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17 NIV).
Read more: Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel Easy Notes Series
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