Receiving the Spirit
Acts 15:7-11 – And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. [Emphasis added are mine]
Let us look these verses in context. Starting with verse one of the same chapter, the question to be answered is what did the Gentiles need to do to obtain salvation? The Pharisees were spreading a heresy that to be saved, you must be circumcised after the custom of Moses and guard the torah of Moses. These Pharisees were those that did trust and had received the Spirit, but continued to hold to their traditions. They knew that the Gentiles also received the Spirit, but they tried to put the Gentiles under the old law (of sin and death) as well. Paul and Barnabus argued that this is untrue and eventually called a meeting of the elders, the apostles, and the Church in Jerusalem to settle the matter.
Let’s number this:
By Peter's mouth the nations heard the word and trusted. (They heard)
Through the grace of the Lord they trusted to be saved. (They trusted unto salvation)
God, all heart knowing, bore them witness by giving them His Spirit, exactly (as evidence by speaking in tongues) as He did to the apostles at Pentecost and they also became disciples and witnesses. [They received the Spirit (the seal) and salvation came unto them]
What was the gospel to Cornelius and the Gentiles that Peter is specifically referring to now (Acts 10, 11)? He preached Jesus, His life, witness, death, burial, and resurrection. He preached that Jesus is the one appointed to judge the living and the dead at His return.
In reviewing this particular case, Jesus decided not to wait for Peter to finish his preaching of the gospel of the kingdom. He bathed the Gentiles in His Spirit to affirm that He alone baptizes in His Spirit and He alone saves by His Spirit. God witnesses that salvation has come unto you by pouring out His Spirit in you, just as He did at Pentecost, and Paul and Peter in the epistles are in agreement on this. The witness does not change. The witness is the Spirit. It is God's stamp of approval on you.
When Jesus comes on the scene in His Spirit, you can’t argue about it. How can you argue with Jesus about what He is sovereignly doing? That's like the clay telling the potter what to do or what must be done or when to do it. But like a humble vessel, Peter did not argue with what he just witnessed. As a matter of fact, shortly thereafter, he baptized Cornelius and the Gentiles in water in the name of Jesus Christ to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus, Himself, was baptized in water to fulfill all righteousness even though He had never sinned. Jesus set the example for all of us to follow (Philippians 2:5-8; I Peter 2:21-24).
Regardless of the order (Acts 2:38), we follow it. Strict adherence, to accept the three-fold witness as one, is commanded. Meaning all three must be adhered to because they are seen as one act of obedience. Separation or showing prejudice toward one, or even two parts of the three-fold witness is unacceptable. You must repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus and receive the Spirit. These three are viewed by God as the only valid response to His gospel.
Peter in answer to this question in Acts 15 is emphatically saying that it was not because the Gentiles were circumcised (it never says they were) or that they guarded the law that saved them. It will never be a work of the law on the part of man. In fact, it was enough for Peter to know that Jesus is sovereign and in His mercy He poured out His Spirit on/in the Gentiles, exactly as He did on/in the Jews at Pentecost (in power), as evidenced by them speaking in tongues. To him, that was how he recognized that salvation had come unto the Gentiles
(Review for yourself the symphony of these scriptures: Acts 10:45-48, 11:13-18, 15: 8-11).
Summarized: Trust in Jesus is the basis and foundation of salvation for, without it, you will not be saved. God, all heart-knowing, gave His Spirit in power as a witness to us so that we would know that salvation had come unto us, exactly as it did the apostles. In doing so, He purifies our heart through our trust.
Continuing in Acts 15 we see that Paul begins to speak. He does not disagree or argue with Peter, but he emphatically declares the signs and omens that God did through them among the nations (none other than by the Spirit). There is no disagreement with the apostles on this issue. When God's Spirit comes on the scene in power, arguments become futile. You can’t argue against the divine choice of God and His power. It’s asinine to do so. Paul, writing in his letters to the churches does not disagree with this. On the contrary, he agrees and confirms in his writings, as you see above, with what Peter said here in Acts. See what Paul says in Romans,
Romans 15:15,16,18,19 - Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind (re-remind you), because of the grace that is given to me of God, That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. [Emphasis added are mine]
The end result of both Peter's and Paul's preaching was that those who trusted and obeyed, received the Spirit. They consistently saw Jesus confirming the word which they spoke by baptizing the believer in the Spirit (Mark 16:20). How did they know a person received the Spirit? They always knew because that person spoke with another tongue, not a language they previously knew. They particularly looked for this manifestation (see A Walk Through Acts).
After Paul speaks, then James speaks and he doesn’t disagree with them either, but says that what God did with the Gentiles was a fulfillment of prophecy.
"In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this." (Acts 15:16,17 from Amos 9:11,12).
This work was prophesied through Joel in different words, but it is describing the same work of God from Ezekiel.
In the beginning, God walked with Adam and they abided together, Adam in the light and glory of God. Then when Adam sinned, he was banished from not only the garden, but from walking in that type of relationship with Almighty God (spiritual death). All the while after, God has wanted to reestablish that covenant relationship with man. We see, through the years thereafter, His presence residing in the ark... His presence residing in the tabernacle (which is where the ark was) in the holy of holies... for at time, this was how He walked with His people. But there came a point where God became so fed up with his people sinning and this arrangement that He said He will no longer dwell in tabernacles built by man.
So He made His own tabernacle...
In the hearts of His people...
His holy nation, His royal priesthood.
The baptism of the Spirit rebuilds the tabernacle of David (not Moses) that fell.
Three witnesses in one chapter answering the question: Peter, Paul, and James. They all agree. The matter is settled with all the apostles, the elders, and the Church in agreement. They send a letter to the Gentiles that would place no other burden upon them concerning salvation, for the Spirit was the common agreed upon witness. They did, however, for the sake of walking in holiness, write to them to abstain from four things (Acts 15:20).
John 3:3-8 – Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. [Emphasis added are mine]
Here we read that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they be birthed from above (traditionally known as being born again). Then Jesus breaks it down (breaks down what being birthed from above or being born again means) even further for specificity and says a man cannot enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of the Spirit. Being born of water is water baptism in Jesus name, which is the bathing in regenesis. Being born of the Spirit is receiving the pouring out of the Spirit, which is the renewing of the Spirit - the circumcision of the heart that replaced the stony heart with a heart of flesh. This happens at the baptism in His Spirit. Here even Jesus is trying to convey to a repentant man that the three-fold witness cannot be separated. Both baptism in water and in Spirit are necessary to be born again, preceded by trust and repentance which leads to this baptism.
Why does He not speak of repentance to Nicodemus? Because Jesus sees and knows the heart of Nicodemus and the simple fact that Nicodemus came to Him by night to inquire of Him is an outward sign of repentance. Repentance means to turn from walking in ones own way and turn toward Him and seeking after Him. This is exactly what Nicodemus had done.
In the last part of this reference, Jesus is saying don’t fret about what I just said about being birthed of the Spirit because the Spirit comes as He wills. You don’t control it. No one can. Only Jesus.
Colossians 1:26-27 – Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: [Emphasis added are mine]
The great mystery throughout all generations is that God has been planning this restoration from the very beginning. To tabernacle within His people again. Jesus Christ is in you if you have received His Spirit. Hold fast with hope that in the end you will receive the glory (redemption of the body, the glorified incorruptible one, free from the current body of this death).
Colossians 2:11-13 – In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands (not handmade), in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; [Emphasis added are mine]
Referring to the baptism in water and in Spirit again. Not only were we co-buried with Him by baptism in water, but we also were co-raised through the faith of the operation of God. The circumcision is not handmade anymore. The circumcision is of the heart, done by Jesus, the Spirit. The Spirit is none other than Jesus.
Galatians 2:20,21a – I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: [Emphasis added are mine]
I set not aside the Spirit of God. The grace of God is referred to as His Spirit (the promise) many times in scripture.
I John 3:24 – And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. [Emphasis added are mine]
Remember we are in a New Covenant, according to the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ - grace. No longer do we walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit - His grace. If I guard the new law of the Spirit then I abide in Him and He in me and I know that I abide in Him because the Spirit He gave me assures that.
Romans 8:8-11,14-17,22,23 – So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. [Emphasis added are mine]
Here we see clearly that the Spirit of God is the same Spirit of Christ, which is finally referred to as Christ -- Jesus Himself. Different references to the same one God. Different descriptive names referring to the only one true God. When we receive the Spirit, we receive the Spirit of sonship, which gives us the authority to become children of God. Until that work is complete, at the redemption of the body, the Spirit witnesses to us that we are children of God. We walk, trusting in that, holding fast in hope for that to come to pass, even when we suffer. For if we co-suffer, we also co-glorify in Him.
When we are glorified -the completed work of the Spirit in every believers life- our body is redeemed to the glorified incorruptible body promised us. Then the promise is completely fulfilled. There's no more need to hope. Before, we needed that witness to keep us going, but after this, there will not be a need of the witness of it. Hope will be fulfilled. It will have been brought to pass at this point. We will be made in the perfect image of Jesus -considered brothers- children of God!
Ephesians 4:13 – Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Another verse that continues to show the redemptive work of Jesus in a believer. He brings us all to the unity of the trust and knowledge of the Son of God, Jesus, to the fullness and completeness of Christ.
Matthew 3:11,12 – I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. [Emphasis added are mine]
It says here that Jesus is the baptizer in the Spirit and fire, not man. When a person receives the Spirit from Jesus there is a two-fold work in process. One is to renew your heart and spirit, but the other is to burn away the chaff with holy fire. That is the continual sanctifying process that a believer goes through, throughout his earthly existence till Jesus brings him into completion in His day (the redemption of our body). The soul (emotions) needs this work and Jesus will burn the chaff of the soul to accomplish this work through renewing our mind.
Isaiah 4:3-4 – And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.
I think there is an interesting parallel here that the prophet says holy is said of Him who is inscribed for life in Jerusalem, when Jesus baptizes to cleanse with a spirit of judgment and burning. Isn’t Jerusalem the place of origin for Pentecost? Weren't the 3000 that were saved that day, baptized in the name of Jesus to the forgiveness of sins? Didn’t He inscribe the law in their hearts by His Spirit?
Ephesians 5:31,32 – For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. [Emphasis added are mine]
Another work that the Spirit affords to us, along with the redemption of the body, and the sanctifying work of our soul, is that He makes us one with Jesus [for He is the Spirit of Jesus] just as the Father and Him are one. That is another mystery, the Jesus and the Church (His body) will be (are) one.
I summarize here that receiving of the Spirit as:
"Salvation came unto me through my trust in Lord Jesus Christ, by the Spirit in power, the grace of God!"
in having said all this...
and having received the Spirit as promised in the scriptures, according to the scriptures:
"By trust you stand!"
(Romans 11:20, II Corinthians 1:24)
© copyright 2000, revised 2011 Jesus M. Ruiz