Have You Received the Holy Spirit?
November 5th, 1978 @ 8:15 AM
HAVE YOU RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-5-78 8:15 a.m.
Thank you young people, orchestra, choir. And God bless all of you who pray for this service, not only the throng in this great auditorium but the thousands uncounted who are listening on the two radio stations that carry this 8:15 service. Welcome as we share this hour in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Have you Received the Holy Spirit? In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have come to chapter 19. I so wish that the sermon delivered tonight and the one today could be presented at the same time. They ought to be listened to together, but for lack of time there is no way in the world that both of them could be delivered in one worship service. So tonight the message will be The Disciples of John the Baptist; and this morning, Have you Received the Holy Spirit? This is the passage to be expounded in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Acts:
While Apollos was at Corinth—
that introduces the Baptist disciple, Apollos, who was a convert of the disciples, possibly of John the Baptist—
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 he said unto them, Unto what then were ye 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 on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
And all the men were about twelve.
This is the passage and the text: “He said unto them, have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” [Acts 19:2]. That is one of the most unfortunate mistranslations that could be imagined. And out of it has arisen about as much heresy and misunderstanding and wrong directional in life and prayer as any one thing that I could imagine ever developing in the Christian communion; all because the translators of the King James Version added a little s-i-n-c-e, “since,” to the passage [Acts 19:2]. The way the King James Version reads it, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” as though the reception of the Holy Spirit in the life was something subsequent to the believing. That is, according to this translation, they believed, and then subsequently, later, they received the Holy Spirit; as though there were a second blessing, which is the nomenclature commonly used to refer to an experience that is supposedly taken out of that text. You’re saved, and then there is something else called a “second blessing,” the reception of the Holy Spirit into your life.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All we need to do is to look at the plain text. And if you’ll find any modern translation of the Bible, it will always be true to that inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God [2 Timothy 3:16], which is this: pneuma agion, Holy Spirit, elabete,” that’s a second aorist of the Greek verb lambanō, which means “to receive”; and the translation of it is “at that point,” an aoristic verb is always at a point. “At that point did you receive, at what point, pisteusantes,” which is a first aorist of pisteuō, “to believe,” “At that point did you receive the Holy Spirit at the time that you believed?” [Acts 19:2]. Not any subsequent time, not as though a second experience of grace or a second blessing, but, “When you believed, at that point, did you receive the Holy Spirit? Did you?” And they replied, “We did not. We do not even know any thing about the Holy Spirit” [Acts 19:2].
There are several things in the King James Version that really lend to things that are so misconstrued, that it’s almost tragic. For example, in 1 John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin . . . and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” And then follows after this doctrine of complete sanctification, that in this carnal life and body it is possible for us to reach a state, a plateau of grace, where we do not sin [1 John 3:10]. Ah! Both in experience and in the Word of God that’s not true. You will never get to the place in this carnal life and in this body of death where you do not find weakness and mistake, carnality and sin [1 John 1:8-10]. What the sainted apostle John wrote was, “Whosoever is born of God poiei,” present indicative active, translated correctly, “does not practice sin” [1 John 3:9], Sin is not the dominate motive and dynamic in his life, “for he cannot sin, hamartanein, which is a present active infinitive, that is, “to continue in the practice of sin.” When a man is converted, he changes from a life dominated by sin to a life dominated by the Holy Spirit of God. Another thing that has led so much to mistake in the King James Version of the Bible, the Textus Receptus has in the sixteenth chapter of Mark, verses 9 to the end of the chapter [Mark 16:9-20], which Mark didn’t write; nobody knows where that ending came from, Mark ends incomplete. It ends at verse 8, incomplete [Mark 16:1-8]; and there have been a dozen attempts to complete it, of which this is one. And this is the one that tells about taking up snakes [Mark 16:18]. So we have people reading that “take up snakes,” and some of them get killed. God never did that, just as God never wrote that. The infallible, and inerrant, and inspired Word of God is [2 Timothy 3:16], “pneuma hagion, el labete pisteusantes, When you believed, at that time, did you receive the Holy Spirit?” [Acts 19:2].
Well, we shall look at this passage and see what it is that is true of the Christian experience. Now when Paul looked at those twelve disciples [Acts 19:7], evidently a little group there meeting together in Ephesus, when Paul looked at them, there was a plain lack in them. There was a defectiveness in their faith. And as the sensitive apostle looked at the twelve, he came to the conclusion that they had not been regenerated; they had not been born anōthen, from above; for to be a child of God, to be a Christian, you must be born of the Spirit. The third chapter of the Gospel of John teaches us that those who are regenerated, who are citizens in the kingdom of God, are those who are born of the Spirit [John 3:5]. The apostle Paul wrote in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, “If a man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” [Romans 8:9]. As Paul looked at them, they did not give evidence of possessing the Spirit of God. So he asked them, “When you were saved, when you believed, did you receive the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit?” [Acts 19:2].
Now there’s no mistaking that. The Holy Spirit is a flame, He is a fire, He is a regenerating dynamic in the human life. And there’s no mistaking the presence and the power, the flame and the burning of the Holy Spirit of God. There is no mistaking fire. It’s like nothing else in the earth; it’s like nothing else except itself. Fire is distinct. You may paint it, but you can’t warm by it, and it doesn’t burn when it’s painted. Fire is like nothing else but itself. I remember reading about a little monkey, a little pet monkey that somehow got loose from its owner, and it was in the cold wintertime, and the little thing was cold. So he climbed up to a window of a house and looked inside, and there was a warm fire burning in the fireplace. And the little thing crying for cold went around the house, finally found an aperture and entered in. And the little thing went into the room where that big fire was in front of the fireplace, standing there held up his little paws to warm; and standing there, froze to death. It was a painted fire covering the fireplace. Fire is like nothing else in the world except itself.
And the Holy Spirit is a fire, is a flame, is a Pentecostal outpouring of burning [Acts 2:1-4]. The secret of the universe is fire. That central sun burns; and without the burning, without the flaming, there is no life, no light. The Holy Spirit is like that: the Holy Spirit is a burning, a flaming, an outpouring of the dynamic presence of God. And one who is regenerated, saved, a Christian, receives the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of burning, when he is converted [John 3:5; Acts 19:2]. The Pentecostal outpouring is the gift of God in our regeneration. The burning; it burns up the dross in us, it burns up the selfishness in us, it burns up the proclivity and affinity for sin in us. The burning of the Holy Spirit of God in us glorifies the Lord Jesus and someday shall glorify us. We have all of the Holy Spirit when we believe, all of Him when we believe. And it is just as I pray and grow in grace that the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit of God could have more and more and more of me. So Paul looks at these twelve men, and there was a defect in their faith; there was a lack in their life, unmistakably. And he asked the question, “When you believed, when you were converted, when you were saved, did you receive the Holy Spirit? ‘No, no, we know nothing about Him; never heard about Him’” [Acts 19:2].
Now, the question to us today: if the apostle Paul were standing in this pulpit facing us, or if the apostle Paul were visiting you and looking at you, would he ask us that question? And would he ask you that question? Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? For you see, there is no regeneration, there is no birth from above, there is no conversion apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That’s what it is to be saved; is to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God [John 3:5-8]. These men were disciples of John the Baptist [Acts 19:3]; but that is not enough. The John the Baptist movement was a reformation movement, a repentance movement, a getting right movement; but reformation is not enough. I may be reformed and still be lost. The sign of the Baptist movement was baptism in water. I may be baptized in water and still be lost. One of the characteristics of the John the Baptist movement was its aestheticism, its withdrawal from the earth, from the carnality of human sin and life. I may be aesthetic, monastic in my life, and still be lost. I may be earnest and still be lost. I may observe the laws and still be lost. To be saved is none of these things that a man can do to himself. I reform myself. I do better by myself and by you. And I give myself to all kinds of aesthetic practices or keeping of the law and obeying commandments. But not anything that I do, can I be saved.
Then how am I saved? I am saved and delivered by the Holy Spirit of God [John 3:5-8]. And that in some instances is referred to as “the baptism of the Holy Spirit”; that is, the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in my life. When John the Baptist preached, he said, “There is One coming after me who shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire” [Matthew 3:11]. And the Lord Jesus reminded His disciples of that prophecy of John the Baptist in the first chapter of Acts: “Not many days hence that will come to pass [Acts 1:5]. The prophecy of John the Baptist; you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and with fire” [Matthew 3:11]. And the ascension gift of our Lord was that [Acts 1:4-5]. The Lord Jesus Christ baptized the world by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, called “the Promise of the Father” [Acts 1:4]. It is the ascension gift of Christ; having died [Matthew 27:32-50]; having paid for our sins on the cross [1 Corinthians 15:3]; having been buried [Matthew 27:57-61]; having been raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]; and having ascended unto heaven [Acts 1:9-10], this is the Promise of the Father to Him, that He could pour out the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit upon the earth [Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:4-5]. And in that sense alone Jesus is the baptizer [Luke 3:16]. He poured out the Holy Spirit upon the earth at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4].
From the day of Pentecost until this, the baptizing is done by the Holy Spirit. He is the baptizer. And according to 1 Corinthians 12:13, He baptizes us into the body of Christ; He adds us to the body of Christ. We are regenerated by His power and grace [John 3:5-8]. We are saved by the ableness and might of the Holy Spirit of God in us [Titus 3:5]. And at that time, at that time, when I am saved, when I am regenerated, I am baptized into the body of Christ. I am added, I am made a member of the body of Christ. All of us together make up the complete body of Christ. And we are added to the body of Christ; we are baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:13]. That is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and that alone. And that is all in the Bible concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit; there is nothing else. I have told you all.
Thereafter we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and again and again and time without number are we filled with the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 5:18]. The Holy Spirit of God in power and enablement comes upon us [Acts 1:8]; but I am baptized by the Holy Spirit one time when I am regenerated, when I am saved, at that one time, an aorist point in time, at that one time I am baptized by the Holy Spirit; I am added to the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Many, many, many, many fillings, again and again and again and again, filled with the Holy Spirit; but I am baptized just once. It is positional, not experiential. It is something God does for us, such as writing our name in the Lamb’s Book of Life in heaven [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]; He does it. When I am baptized by the Holy Spirit, I am added, I am joined to the body of Christ; something He does one time in my life [1 Corinthians 12:13].
And so Paul asked these twelve, “Did you receive that regenerating presence of the Holy Spirit of God that baptizes us into the body of Christ? Did you receive Him, the Spirit, when you were saved?” “We never, we never heard of such a thing. We never heard of such a thing. Did not even know whether there was any Holy Spirit or not” [Acts 19:2, 7].
Well, we’re going to look now, this is the concluding word of the sermon, we’re going to look now at what Paul sees when he looks at us, what Paul saw when he looked at them. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit at that time when you believed? No, we never heard of the Holy Spirit of God” [Acts 19:2]. And if he were to ask us that today, how would he know by looking at us whether we had received the Holy Spirit of God when we were regenerated? A very plain and simple way: “If any man be in Christ,” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; he is somebody else. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” There is a difference between a child of God and a child of the world. There is a glaring difference. And the tragedy of modern Christianity is this: you can’t tell a supposedly saved man from an unsaved man. They talk alike, they look alike, they act alike, they live alike, they are just alike. And when Paul looks at that he would say, “Did you find a regenerated life when you were saved? Were you changed? Were you made a new creation? Were you born from above? Were you?” And that is the awesome castigation of the Christian faith and the Christian church today: it’s no different from the world. You’d might as well belong to the country club as to belong to the church. You had might as well belong to some civic organization as to belong to the church. You might as well identify yourself with any worldly group as to identify yourself with the worldly church. Paul looking would say, “There is a glaring difference between a man who is regenerated by the Spirit of God [Titus 3:5], who has been baptized by the Spirit of God [Acts 1:5], who’s been saved, born again by the Spirit of God [John 3:5], and the world. He is somebody else.” The trouble with us is the physician has the same disease as the patient. The trouble of it is the mark of God is not in our foreheads. Whatever the world’s doing out there, the members of the church are doing out there, whatever it is. And when Paul sees it, he asks, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit, the regenerating, converting, changing power of the Holy Spirit in your life when you believed, when you accepted Christ, did you?” [Acts 19:2].
Now may I apply that to all of the manifestations of our Christian faith? When the Holy Spirit is present, you know it. There is life, there is light, there is burning, there is passion, there is feeling, there is response. Where the Spirit of God is, there is love, and joy, and peace, and exuberance, and happiness, and glory [Galatians 5:22-23]. And where the Holy Spirit of God is not, there is death, and decadence, and decay, and sterile barrenness [Galatians 5:16-21, 6:7-8]. Experientially, when you come to church, I think anybody could make the observation, “You know the Spirit of God was there in power today,” or, “The Spirit of the Lord was absent.” What a difference it makes in the services. The Spirit of burning, the Spirit of the presence of God, the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, when He is present what a difference does He make. And I think, that is according to Scripture, that you can see and feel that holy difference. The disciples met before Pentecost. There they are in the group. One of them is named Judas, betraying the Lord [Matthew 26:14-16]. One of them is named Simon Peter, cursing and denying that he even knew Him [Matthew 26:69-74]. One of them is Thomas, who doubts that He was even raised from the dead [John 20:25]. There is the whole group fleeing before the fearful advance of those who were nailing Jesus to the tree; all the disciples forsook Him and fled [Matthew 26:56]. That is before Pentecost; that is before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:1-4]. After Pentecost look at them, look at them: they are bold as lions, they are faithful unto death and seal their testimony with their blood and with their lives [Acts 2:14-40]. The Holy Spirit of God makes the difference.
And that is the difference that we ought to feel and see in our lives when we meet together in the church. There ought to be present in the church the spirit of commitment and burning and emotion and passion and commitment and belief. And when I bring the Spirit of God in my heart, and you bring the Spirit of God in your heart [1 Corinthians 6:19], and we come together, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit of God ought to be felt. When a stranger walks in the door, he ought to be able to sense, “God is here. The Spirit of the Lord is here” [1 Corinthians 3:16]. It is something that can be seen and felt.
And then may I apply it to our own lives? You believe in Jesus? “Why, certainly I believe in Jesus. Why, certainly I believe in Jesus.” Then where is the fire? And where is the passion? And where is the commitment? And where is the dedication? It is possible for us to have ethics without enthusiasm, principles without passion, desire without dynamics; it is possible for us to be reasoners, and argumenters, and debaters, and metaphysicians, and philosophers, and theologians, and reasoners—discussers, but the power of the Holy Spirit is a gift from God; it is something God does for us [Acts 1:8].
A man may be intellectual and academic and learned and all kinds of ableness in forensics; but the Spirit of God in him is something that’s a gift from heaven [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. O God! I had rather see this church in ashes than to see it a tomb and a sepulcher and a temple of a dead pulseless, lifeless, spiritless congregation, coming to church, singing the songs so familiar, and never the feeling of rapture in what they say—coming to church sitting there, just one more habit in which we’ve been involved for the years; just waiting for the benediction. Oh, the glory of the presence of God when our hearts are open to Him!
Somebody said, “Well, I never feel like shouting. I never feel raptured. I never feel moved and uplifted.” Don’t you wish you could? Don’t you? Somebody was watching the great painter Turner paint one of his sunsets, and looking at the man said to the great artist, Turner, “I never see a sunset like that.” And Turner turned his face and said, “But don’t you wish you could?” Don’t you wish you could? Don’t you wish that the glory and the power and the passion and the emotion and the uplift and the godliness and the heavenliness of the Holy Spirit in your life was something that you could feel and live and be glorified? Don’t you?
To be dead and to be lifeless, to be pulseless, to be like a cadaver, “O God, deliver me, please Lord. Make me alive, please God. Make me feel, please God. Make a dedicated servant out of me, please Lord. May it be a difference that I love Thee and have given my life to Thee.”
Holy Spirit of God, breathe on me
Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me
[“Breathe On Me,” by B.B. McKinney]
Sweet people there is no experience in the earth like the filling of the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 5:18]: God blessing in the work of your hands; God blessing as you kneel in prayer; God blessing as you gather in the services; God blessing in the listening to the exposition of the sacred Word; God blessing in the song; God blessing in the appeal; God blessing in His adding to the church, baptized into the body of Christ, a work of the Spirit of the Lord [1 Corinthians 12:13].
And that is God’s open door to us today. Not a system, but a Savior. Not an argument, but a Person. Not a theology, but a great living Truth [John 14:6], to give yourself to Jesus. And I am given the Holy Spirit in looking in repentance and faith to Him [Acts 19:2]. Do it. It is the heavenly way. It is God in us.
In a moment when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, a family, a couple, or just one somebody you, in the balcony round, the stairway at the front and the back and on either side, and there is time for you to come. In the throng of this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, preacher, I have decided to open my heart to the Spirit of God [Romans 10:9-13]. May He regenerate me, stand by me, help me, guide me, fill me; and here I come.” God bless you, angels attend you, as you answer with your life; while we stand and while we sing.