Have You Received the Holy Spirit?
November 5th, 1978 @ 10:50 AM
HAVE YOU RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-05-78 10:50 a.m.
It is with infinite gladness that we share this hour in the First Baptist Church of Dallas with the uncounted thousands who on cable television, who on the station here in the Metroplex, and who on radio are worshiping with us. This is the pastor of the church addressing himself to one of the most pertinent texts and subjects that concern our living before God. The title of the message is Have You Received the Holy Spirit? It is an exposition of the first seven verses of the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts. In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to chapter 19.
And this is the beginning of the third volume of sermons that will be printed in the exposition of this great and meaningful section of the Bible. Within the next week, there will be published for us to look at for distribution, the first volume on Acts. That covers the first eight chapters. There are forty – there are forty-seven chapters in that book. Then, this coming week, I shall send in the messages, on the next nine through eighteen chapters. And there are forty-two sermons – forty-two chapters in that book. And today, we begin the third volume which is beginning with the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts.
With all my heart, I wish that the sermon tonight and the sermon this morning could be delivered at the same time because they are halves of a same whole. The sermon tonight is entitled The Disciples of John the Baptist, and both sermons, tonight and this morning, go together. But because of lack of time, there is no opportunity in the world for me to deliver them together. It will be a miracle if I get through before the service goes off of television, even delivering one half of the message.
Now we read our text, the seven verses that begin the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts: "It came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth . . ." [Acts 19:1].
Now this brilliant Alexandrian was a disciple of John the Baptist; that is, he was a disciple of a disciple of a disciple of John the Baptist [Acts 18:25]. The movement continued many, many years. There are disciples of John the Baptist today. The movement continued after the Baptist, even though God never intended it that way. The movements were parallel. They went along side by side, the Christian movement and the John the Baptist movement. It was the intention of the Lord that the John the Baptist movement be enmeshed into the Christian movement, but it did not happen that way; they continued parallel. And this brilliant Alexandrian named Apollos was the disciple of a disciple of John the Baptist [Acts 18:25]. And that introduces us to these twelve men – who also in Ephesus, across the Mediterranean Sea – who were disciples of the disciples of John the Baptist. So it is introduced with Apollos:
It came to pass, that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
And Paul said unto them, Unto what then were you baptized? And they said: Unto John’s baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
And all of the men were about twelve.
Now as you know, I believe in the infallible, and inerrant, and inspired Word of God. But sometimes the translation into another language out of that infallible and inerrant Word is not true to the word that God inspired. And you have a glaring and tragic example of that mistranslation in my text. The King James Version writes in the second verse, "Paul asked them, ‘Have ye received the Holy Spirit since ye believed?’" [Acts 19:2]. That is, a second blessing of grace; that is, they believed and then in a subsequent time, they received the Holy Spirit, as though they were two different incidents in the life of these twelve disciples of John the Baptist. And that has given rise to about as much error and heresy and misunderstanding as any one mistranslation that I could ever have guessed for in the story of Christendom. There is no such thing as that ever hinted in the Bible, and certainly not in this original text.
Now we are going to translate it exactly as God inspired it: pneuma hagion – Holy Spirit; elabete, that is a second aorist verb of lambanō – meaning "to receive" – and the aorist is a point in time. "Holy Spirit, did you receive?" Did you receive? Pisteusantes, that is also a first aoristic participle; at the time you believed. "At that time that you believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?" [Acts 19:2]. Coincidentally, at the same time that you believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?
No such thing in the Bible, no such thing in the text as that: one time you are saved – you are regenerated, you believe, you trust in the Lord, you become a Christian – and then at a subsequent time, at a later or different time, you receive another second blessing of grace. Never! No such doctrine is ever found in the Word of God. I have translated that exactly as the Holy Spirit has written it. Coincidentally, at the same point of time elabete – the aorist is always a point in time – at that point in time, elabete, did you receive the Holy Spirit? What point in time? Another aorist; at that point in time when you believed.
Once in a while in these versions you will find words in our language that not at all present the original inspired Word of God. And it always creates a tragic repercussion. Take for example 1 John 3:9: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin . . . and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." And out of that mistranslation came the doctrine of ultimate, and complete, and final sanctification in this life: that it is possible for us to live above sin, completely perfect. No such doctrine of that is ever taught in the Bible; nor is it humanly possible.
The Bible is the most real and the most experientially of all books. And what you find in human life, you find in the Bible. And what you find in the Bible, you find in human life. You never become perfect; that is, living above sin. You are never completely sanctified in this carnal body, this body of death. And it is not written like that. What he wrote here is this: "Whosoever is born of God, poiei – poiei; present indicative active – "does not practice sin." And he cannot, hamartanein – that is a present infinitive – "and he cannot continue practicing sin, because he is born of God."
When a man gives himself to the practice of evil, he is not saved. That’s what the Bible says. "By their fruits ye shall know them" [Matthew 7:20], our Lord avowed. And this text [1 John 3:9] is never that we can finally live above sin, above perfection in this life. You just never will, and you will be disappointed if you ever think you can. That’s why we need our feet washed, as the Lord said, every day. "He that is whole needeth not saved but wash his feet" [John 13:10]. That is, we are saved by the Spirit of God, regenerated, but as we walk through this world our feet get dirty. And you can’t help it. However you try to live above mistake, and error, and lack, and carnality, and sin, it’s present with us and will be until God gives us our new and resurrected body. But what the author, what St. John is writing here in this passage is that the practice of sin in a man’s life is a distinct avowal, portrayal, that he’s not saved, he’s not regenerated.
You have a like tragic word in the addition that the King James Version adds to the sixteenth chapter of Mark. Mark is unfinished. The manuscripts we have in Mark are all broken, it is not finished. The conclusion of it is lost, was lost from the beginning. Now there have been forty dozen attempts made to close the Book of Mark. One of which you will find in the King James Version of the Bible. Beginning at verse 9 right on down, nobody knows who wrote that. It’s just an attempt of somebody to finish the Gospel of Mark, but it is not inspired, God never wrote that. And that is where you have that snake-handling group of people who find it in there; they will handle snakes and it won’t bother them, you know. And it’s just sad, it’s tragic.
But out of all of the mistranslations in the Bible, there is none that has given rise to such heresy and such wrong understanding of the mind of God as my text this morning, translated here "Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?" [Acts 19:2] – as though it were a second work of grace. No! When you were converted, when you were saved, at that point in time ",did you receive the Holy Spirit?" Of course, that’s going to be my sermon today. And they said, "We have never even heard whether there be any Holy Spirit or not" [Acts 19:2].
Now, when Paul looked at those twelve disciples, it was a little congregation, it was a little group. And when Paul looked at them, immediately he sensed, being a spiritually sensitive man – he sensed a lack, he sensed a defect in their faith. They were defective. So he asked them, "When you were converted, when you were saved, did you receive the Holy Spirit"? [Acts 19:2].
"No, no! We have never heard of the Holy Spirit" [Acts 19:2]. That immediately revealed to the apostle what he suspected. For regeneration is a work of the Holy Spirit of God. We are born again by the Holy Spirit of God [John 3:5-6]. That is how we are saved, and never apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
The third chapter of John teaches us, "Except a man be born, anothen, from above, except a man be born of the Holy Spirit he cannot enter, he cannot even see the kingdom of God" [John 3:35]. In the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul wrote, "If a man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" [Romans 8:9].
Our regeneration, our Christian life is inexorably bound up, it is at one with, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. They are one; never separated, they are one. They are one and the same thing, and there is no mistaking it. You need not stumble at the presence or the absence of the Holy Spirit in a man’s life. It is unmistakable.
The Holy Spirit is a fire, He is a flame, He is a burning, and you don’t mistake fire. Fire is unlike anything else in the earth. There is nothing to compare it to. Fire is nothing but like itself. You can paint it, paint it beautifully, but you can’t warm by that canvass, and it doesn’t burn; fire does.
I one time heard of a little monkey, a little pet monkey escaped from its owner. Cold wintertime, and the little thing was cold; climbing on the side of a window sill, the little thing looked on the inside of the house and there was a great fire burning in the fireplace. The little thing ran around the house and found an aperture, crawled in, ran into that room where the great blazing fire was burning in the fireplace, held its little hands up there before the fire to warm itself; finally, froze to death. It was a painted fire on a screen covering the fireplace.
Fire is like nothing else, it burns, it flames. It has heat and power and drive. The secret of the universe is fire; the flaming sun and all of the planets that surround it bringing life and warmth and light. The secret of the Christian faith is no less than that. It is the burning of the Holy Spirit in it, poured out upon us at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4]. The Spirit of God – the Spirit of burning, flaming – burns up our selfishness, burns up our carnality, burns up all of the iniquity in our lives, convicts of us sin, brings us to Jesus [John 16:8-14]. The holy burning of the Spirit of God glorifies the Lord in us, and some day shall glorify us, deliver us, and raise us up into the glorious likeness of our Savior, the Lord Jesus [Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:13-14]. And we have Him since Pentecost, fully. All of God, all of the Spirit of Christ is poured out upon us. I have all of Him. It is just now for me to give myself to Him, that He might have all of me [Acts 19:2]. "Have you received the Holy Spirit? When you believed, were you regenerated?" [Titus 3:5].
Now if Paul were to stand in this pulpit, or if he were to visit you; and standing in this pulpit he looks at us; or visiting in your home, he looks at you and he watches you and he listens to you, would he ask us that same question? "Did you receive the Holy Spirit of God when you were converted, when you were saved, when you believed? Did you?" For however else we may be in our lives, there is no regeneration – there’s no born from above, there’s no born again – there is no being a Christian apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, [John 3:3, 5-8] never!
These men were disciples of John the Baptist [Acts 19:23]. Magnificent; but being a disciple and a follower of the great Baptist preacher is not salvation. He preached repentance [Matthew 3:1-2; Acts 19:4], but our reformation does not save us. We can be reformed, and be lost. He gave us the great sign of that reformation and repentance; namely, baptism in water, immersion in water [Romans 6:3-5], but I can be baptized, water and still be lost. The whole John the Baptist movement was ascetic; it was a withdrawal from the world and a denial from the worldliness, the carnality of the world. And I can be ascetic, and I can withdraw from the world, and try to crucify, and flagellate and emulate. I can try to destroy the seeds of desire in me like the Buddhists try to do in seeking Nirvana, I can do all that. I can live a monastic, ascetic life and still not be saved, still be lost. I can be earnest. I can be careful. I can be dedicated. I can obey all of the laws, try to, and still be lost. There is not any thing that I can do by obedience to righteous living and laws and the obeying of commandments that can deliver my soul from death.
If a man could be saved by the law, the whole sacrifice and crucifixion and suffering of Christ, all of it is beside the point. It is because I cannot save myself that Jesus came to save me. And it is because that I cannot regenerate myself that the Holy Spirit of God regenerates me. And that is what is called in the Bible, "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" [Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8]. When I am saved, when I am regenerated, I am baptized by the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:13].
Now, what do you mean by that? This is the way the Word of God delivers that doctrine, that teaching. There was a prophecy on the part of John the Baptist which we read just now, that "there is coming One who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire" [Matthew 3:11]. And just before His ascension into heaven, the Lord said, "You tarry in Jerusalem because not many days hence," according to John the Baptist’s prophecy, "you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" [Luke 24:; Acts 1:4-5]. And when the Lord ascended into heaven [Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-10], they were waiting for the Promise of the Father; namely, the outpouring of the Spirit of God, the baptism of the Spirit of God. And when Pentecost, the day of Pentecost was fully come; when Pentecost came, the ascension gift of the Lord Jesus Christ was poured out upon us. In that sense, Jesus is the baptizer and He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit, the ascension gift, called "the Promise of the Father" [Luke 24:; Acts 1:4]. That is, the Father said to the Lord Jesus, "You be incarnate, take the body of a human being for sacrifice, die on the cross for the sins of the world, be raised for their justification. You suffer in atoning grace and I promise You I will pour out the Spirit of God upon all flesh" [Acts 2:17]. That is the Promise of the Father [Acts 1:4].
So when the Lord died [Matthew 27:50], and was crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], and was buried [Matthew 27:57-61], and was raised again [Matthew 28:5-7]; when He ascended into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], God kept that Promise, called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the ascension gift from Christ [Acts 2:1-4]. And when He ascended into heaven, in keeping with the prophecy of John [Matthew 3:11], in keeping with the promise of the Father to the Son, He poured out at Pentecost the fullness of the Spirit of God upon the earth [Acts 2:1-4]. In that sense, Jesus is the baptizer [Luke 3:16] and He baptized the whole world by pouring out the regenerating power, the flaming burning of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:1-3]. Since then, since Pentecost, it is the Holy Spirit who baptizes, and He baptizes us into the body of Christ.
Paul avowed in 1 Corinthians 12:13, "By one Spirit are you all baptized into the body of Christ." That is, when we believed, when we were regenerated, when we were saved, the Holy Spirit of God added us to the body of Christ [Ephesians 5:30], and we are all members of that body. Some of us, Paul says, like an eye, some like a foot, some like a head, some like an ear. We are not all foot. We are not all hand. We are not all eye [1 Corinthians 12:12-24]. All of us have been added to the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13], and all of us complete the body of our Lord. That is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Whenever you teach the Bible correctly, every one of its doctrines will enmesh like a beautiful mosaic. And that’s why the Bible teaches us that when a man is really regenerated, when he’s really saved, he is saved forever [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. There is no such thing as adding a hand to a man’s body, taking it off, and then adding it back, and taking it off and adding it back. You don’t add your foot to your body and then cut it off and then put it back. You are not saved, and lost, and saved, and lost, and saved, and lost. If a man is ever regenerated, his seed remains in him. He’s saved for ever, he has eternal life. And that life is manifested in – and that’s going to be the continuing sermon in a moment – it’s manifested by the marvelous presence, and works, and evidence of the Holy Spirit in his life.
So when a man is baptized by the Holy Spirit of God, he is baptized at a point in time. At that point when he was regenerated, he was added to the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Then after that, there are fillings, world without end [Ephesians 5:18]. Today, praise God, filled with the Holy Spirit, marvelous service; God blessed us with the outpouring of the Spirit of grace and joy and peace and glory – many, many, many fillings; many, many, many fillings – fillings without number!
One baptism: never in the Bible are you commanded to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, you can’t baptize yourself by the Holy Spirit. That is positional, like God writing your name in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:15, 21:27]; God does that! God does that; that’s positional. Experiential is when I am filled with the Spirit and God blesses me, enables me [Zechariah 4:6]. Now the baptism of the Holy Spirit; did you receive the Holy Spirit when you were regenerated, when you were baptized? [Acts 19:2]. Were you regenerated? Were you saved? The evidence of that is seen in the new life, in the new character, in the new destiny, the new attitude, the new vision, and new hopes and prayers, the new man! He’s somebody else! He has been saved, he has been regenerated, he has been added to the body of Christ. He has the Spirit of God in him, and it is plainly and marvelously witnessed to and seen in the world.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." You are somebody else, you are a new man! You are a new creation, when you are saved, when you are regenerated. And the evidence of that is unmistakably and plainly evident, you can’t hide it. That’s why the awesome dearth, and sterility, barrenness, unfruitfulness of the modern church – it’s just like the world! There’s no glaring differential between the world and the Christian today, they look alike, talk alike, walk alike, think alike, act alike. They are just alike. Today, as for a difference, if a man belongs to the club, or he belongs to the church; it’s just optional with him. He belongs to the civic organization or belongs to the church, it is just the same. There is no glaring difference between them. And that’s why Paul asks that question, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" [Acts 19:2]. You don’t act like it, you don’t look like it, you don’t talk like it. The physician has the same disease as the patient. And the mark of God in the forehead is not seen. There ought to be such a glaring difference between a saved child of God and a man of the world that you just instinctively see it, and sense it, and know it; just as Paul did, talking to these twelve disciples of John the Baptist [Acts 19:7].
And may I apply the whole thing to all of the roundedness, and circle, and circumference of our lives; apply it here in the church. Where the Spirit of God is there is life, and there is light, and there is joy, and peace, and glory [Galatians 5:22, 23]. There is happiness; there is infinite gladness; that’s the Holy Spirit of God. And where the Holy Spirit of God is not, there is death and decadence, there is decay, there is sterility and barrenness [Galatians 6:7, 8].
I have been in these last three weeks now, I have been preaching so largely in the New England, in the northeastern quadrant of the United States of America, and the churches are dying in that vast area. You could ring your hands, you could lament, you could cry, you could weep! They made a survey of all of the protestant churches in that quadrant, and found out that you could take four-fifths, four-fifths of the pews out of the churches and they’d never be missed! Think of that, four-fifths of all the pews and never be missed. The churches are weak, and struggling, anemic, barren, and sterile.
One of the men talking to me Friday – I was preaching in Philadelphia – one of the men said to me, they were earnestly trying to get me to come up there to New England and preach more in New England. Well, I said, "Well, I don’t know why."
"Well," he said, "There are two reasons why: number one: there is a spirit of aptness about you, of optimism about you, happiness and gladness about you, enthusiasm about you. We don’t ever see that, that’s the first reason. You are a peculiar kind of an animal to us, and it’s just wonderful just to know that somebody like you exists, that’s one thing," he said. "The other is because you believe in the authority, and inerrancy, and infallibility, and inspiration of the Word of God, and our preachers don’t believe that."
Dear God in heaven, I would rather see this church in ashes burned down than to see it abide as a tomb and as a sepulcher of a pulseless, and lifeless, and dead, and cadaverous congregation. Lord, Lord, grant that when people come to church they sense the Spirit and the moving of the Holy Ghost in our presence. When I come to church and the Spirit of God is in me, and you come to church and the Spirit of the Lord is in you, and all of us are gathered in the presence of the Lord and the Spirit of God is in us, you feel it, you sense it! I couldn’t describe it, how do you describe fire? But it is unmistakable; a stranger, a sojourner, a passer-by walking in the door, when he comes in, he senses the moving of the Holy Spirit of God in our presence.
May I apply that also to our lives? What a difference when the Holy Spirit abides, and moves, and lives in the human heart. Somebody asks you, "Do you believe in Jesus?"
"Certainly, yes, I do believe in Jesus."
But there’s no burning in it, there’s no passion in it, there’s no emotion in it, there’s no reconstructing of life in it. It is possible to have ethics without enthusiasm; to have desire without dynamics; to have principle without passion. It is possible to be coldly, deadly orthodox! It is to be sublimely correct, but oh what a difference between a cadaver and a breathing human, living. It’s possible for us to be that way. We can be reasoners, and debaters, and editorialists, and essayists, and metaphysicians, and philosophers, and theologians, we can be that. But the presence of the Spirit of God is a gift from heaven; we don’t do that, God does that. He pours out His Spirit upon us [Acts 2:17-18].
Did you ever think the people who sing a familiar religious song but don’t feel the rapture of it; who come to church and there is a deadness in it, waiting for the benediction – which they look upon as an amnesty. They just come to church, habit from years past. O Lord, what a difference! What a difference when the Spirit of God raises our hearts to glory in what we do. Listening to the exposition of the Word of God; what does God say? What does the Lord say? And sharing in the service of prayer and praise and singing; the appeal – see people coming to Jesus, born from above, regenerated, saved [John 3:3, 5-7]. God be praised!
Don’t you wish that the highest of all experiences in life could be ours? Namely, lifted up to those high elevations known only to those who were born in the Spirit? Don’t you wish? A fellow was watching the famous artist, Turner, paint one of his glorious sunsets. And standing there looking at him, he said to the great artist, he said, "Mr. Turner, I never see sunsets like that."
And the artist replied, "Well, don’t you wish that you could?"
Don’t you wish that you could? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us could sense and find in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the marvelous power and glory of God, not believing in a system, but in a Savior? Not listening to an argument, but listening to the living truth? Not listening to theology, but listening to the presence of the Spirit of God in our souls? And that’s why the Lord opens the doors and the gates of grace to us. He has promised if I repent of my sins and if I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 2:38, 16:31], I will be baptized by the Holy Spirit; I will be added to the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. I will be regenerated, I will be saved. I will be born anōthen – from above – I will be born anew [John 3:3-5]. God has promised that, and He wouldn’t deceive us, and He wouldn’t lie to us, and He wouldn’t lead us down some abysmal and blind road, or alley, or way. When God says, "I will do that," He will keep His word.
When I turn from the world and from myself, and when I turn toward Christ in reception, in faith, in belief, in trust, in commitment, I have the promise of God that I will then receive the regenerating presence and power of the Holy Spirit [John 14:17]. And I will be baptized, and I will be added to the body of my Lord [1 Corinthians 12:13] and then the rest of my life, I go from one high plateau of grace and glory to another; one filling after another, one poured out blessing after another; finally, see the Lord in the fullness of His grace when the Spirit has glorified me in my soul and in my body [Romans 9:30].
What a marvelous commitment, when a man faces Jesus in reception, in response, in love, in belief, in trust. "Lord God, here I am; take me, bless me, save me," and God does just that!
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, trusting Jesus open your heart heavenward. Looking to God in faith, "Here I come, pastor, and here I am with you on that pilgrimage to glory. I want to be numbered with God’s redeemed, and here I am, and here I come." In this great balcony around, a family, a couple, or just one somebody you; on this great throng on the lower floor, into that aisle, and down to the front, "I have made up my heart, I have decided, and I am responding today with my life, and may God open the door for me. May God do the rest."
RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT?
A. The havoc wrought by
the King James translation "since"
B. Actual text: "At
that time you believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?"
lead to tragic repercussions
of ultimate sanctification in this life(John 3:9,
13:10, Matthew 7:21)
Snake-handling added to Mark’s gospel(Mark 16:9-20)
Most damaging mistranslation is this "second blessing"(Acts 19:2)
II. Their lack – their defective faith
They were not born again, for to be born again is to be born of the Spirit(John 3:3, 5, Romans 8:9, 16)
No man can mistake fire
Secret of the universe is fire – secret of the faith is no less than that
III. If the apostle saw us today, would he
ask the same question?
A. We must be regenerated
1. Following John
the Baptist not enough(John 3:3, 5)
salvation, is a work of the Holy Spirit
1. The baptizing
work of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11)
2. The ascension
gift of Christ, the promise of the Father(Acts
3. When saved, we
are baptized into the body of Christ (1Corinthians
C. If saved, there is
evidence of the Holy Spirit in the life(2
Ought to be a glaring contrast between the Christian and the world
D. The presence of the
Holy Spirit in the church – life, light, joy, peace, glory
1. The absence of
the Spirit – death, decay, barrenness, sterility
E. Our individual lives