The Gift of the Holy Spirit

In this wrap-up lesson Mike discusses the terms used to describe various features of the Holy Spirit's ministry, what they mean and how they apply to believers.
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Intro - Review

  1. New messages from God to man are usually accompanied by charismatic gifts.
  2. The apostles had a new message, the Kingdom is here, Jesus is the way in, Jesus is God.
  3. This new message (the gospel) was accompanied by miracles (SIGNAL) which the Holy Spirit empowered them to do.
  4. The Holy Spirit raised up the cross of Christ (the end) through the empowered witness of the apostles (the means to the end).
  5. The work of the Holy Spirit in the process of salvation was to:
    1. Raise the cross before the ancient world.
      1. How? Witness of the Jews.
    2. Raise the cross before disciples and apostles.
      1. How? Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    3. Raise The cross before the Jewish nation.
      1. How? The Empowered witness of the apostles.

In this lesson will complete our study with an examination of how the Holy Spirit raised up the cross of Christ before the Gentile nations beginning with a Roman soldier called Cornelius.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Before we get to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, we need to understand some terms used concerning the Holy Spirit.

Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:38
4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
- I Corinthians 12:4-11

We have to make a distinction between the "Gift of the Holy Spirit" In Acts 2:38 and the "gifts" given by the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians 12.

1. The gifts of the Holy Spirit as Paul describes them (I Corinthians 12) are the empowerments (ability to perform miracles, prophecy) that are given by the Holy Spirit to certain individuals in order to confirm their message or witness from God. They are the signal that points to a revelation or new message from God. Paul was writing to the Corinthians in part because they were misusing these gifts.

2. The passage in Acts 2:38 is part of the gospel message not promising gifts (empowerment) but promising the Holy Spirit Himself as a gift to all who respond to the gospel according to God's command (believe, repent and be baptized). This offer of the Holy Spirit as a gift is the fulfillment of the promise in the Old Testament that when the Messiah would come, God Himself would always be with all of them, not just prophets and kings and not just for a time. Peter quotes Joel to help them make the connection.

17'And it shall be in the last days,' God says,
'That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
- Acts 2:17-18

3. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the manner that God would now be with his people. In the Old Testament God's constant presence with the Jewish people was realized by His presence in the Temple at Jerusalem but He was still restricted from closeness to the people through laws and rituals and the ministry of the priests and High Priest who would only come near on certain occasions.

However, once the gospel was preached, the Holy Spirit (God) would be with each believer in a dynamic way (indwelling) remaining for one's entire life and in so doing abolish the need for Jewish temple worship in order to draw near to God. This was the substance of the gift of the Holy Spirit now intimately connected to each person for their edification and comfort; no longer restricted and closed off from the people, approachable only through the intermediary rituals administered by the priests.

The substance of the Old Testament promise foretold by the prophets was that: The reconciliation, peace and harmony that were once enjoyed between God and man would now be restored once and for all time when the Messiah would come.

The idea of the Sabbath rest was that man would stop striving after his business activities and make every effort to get back into harmony with God and his creation on the Sabbath day. The promise behind the idea was that one day there would be a Sabbath without end. The fulfillment of this came with the offer of forgiveness (that brought reconciliation) and the gift of the Holy Spirit which enabled an ongoing Sabbath (harmony with God)for each believer.

Terms, Meanings, Application

There are many disagreements about how the Holy Spirit interacts with us.

  1. Some understand that the Holy Spirit is with us through the intellectual imprint of the concepts in the Bible that we take in through reading and study.
  2. Others say that the Holy Spirit is inside of us (as if we are a container literally filled up with the actual Holy Spirit).
  3. There are views in between these two.

It is helpful if we review what and how the actual Bible says about the way that God is with each person.

The Bible uses different terms to explain this phenomenon.

  1. The gift of the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:38
  2. The Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who, obey Him – Acts 5:32
  3. If the Holy Spirit dwells (inhabits) in you – Romans 8:9
  4. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you – I Corinthians 6:19
  5. Did you receive the Holy Spirit? – Galatians 3:2
  6. God is at work in you – Philippians 2:13

Question - How does the Holy Spirit indwell/inhabit/work in us?

I cannot physically describe this in the same way we can't fully explain how Jesus, the son of God, dwells in the human body of the earthly physical son of Mary. One knows it is true by the signs and signals that point to it. For example, Jesus' miraculous powers and resurrection as well as the Christian's transformation from the sinner to saint are unmistakable signs that confirm what Jesus has taught is true even if we cannot explain how the miracles are done.

Question – How is the Holy Spirit a gift?

In other words, what advantages or things come with or through the Holy Spirit that makes His presence in us a gift?

1. The Holy Spirit is an anointing.

Anointing with oil was a way that Jewish people indicated that someone was welcome or had been separated from the people for a special task (the prophets and kings were anointed). For Jews listening to Peter preach on Pentecost Sunday, offering the gift of the Holy Spirit meant that they, as individuals, would be anointed by God Himself, and made holy like priests, kings, and prophets. It was not a promise of empowering to perform signs but rather the offer of a consecrated relationship with God and the blessings that go with that, made possible by the forgiveness of their sins.

For Jews to permanently have the Holy Spirit (no mediator between them and God – no priests and sacrificial system to navigate in their relationship with God) meant that they were now considered as God's individual chosen ones, not just God's people but God's sons and daughters equally able to interact with Him on their own.

Paul explains the nature of this "gift" available to both Jews and Gentiles through Christ.

15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
- Romans 8:15-17

…Gift of the Spirit given as an anointing and a…

2. The Holy Spirit is a Seal (Guarantee)

The gift of the spirit was a guarantee. We read as Paul described the gift of the Holy Spirit in another way.

13In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
- Ephesians 1:13-14

The fact that we have a relationship with God through Christ (made possible by his cross) in the Holy Spirit (who indwells us) confirms that we will receive the rewards that come to those who are God's sons and daughters. This was the cause of great encouragement. If you had obeyed the gospel through faith expressed in baptism (Acts 2:38):

  1. your sins were forgiven
  2. the spirit dwelled in you
  3. you were anointed by God himself
  4. you were sealed
  5. you were guaranteed to receive all the rewards of heaven

All of these things were made possible because God had/has the power to:

The gift of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit accomplishing those things in us.

I receive a gift of a million dollars from my wealthy father. That gift enables me to get an education, travel, give to my favorite charity, get married, buy a home and start a family. The gift enables me to do other things.

The gift of the Holy Spirit enables me to have spiritual blessings I would otherwise not have (the seal and anointing) and enables me to do things I couldn't do by myself (sanctification, ministry, and resurrection – Romans 8).


A. The promise of God to a fallen/separated world doomed to eventual condemnation and death was that one day a reconciliation with Him would take place. God and mankind would once again have a close relationship.

This concept was expressed in different ways.

  • Old Testament "Pour forth my Spirit – Joel 2:17
  • New Testament "Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Matthew 3:11

The Spirit of God being constantly with His people was the substance of the life in the age of salvation.

B. This promise was to be accomplished by removing mankind's sins and condemnation – the things that kept man separated from God. These were removed by the vicarious death of Jesus on the cross. His perfect life pays the moral debt for sin on behalf of all men and women. The cross, therefore, was the means and the end was reconciliation with God.

C. The gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) was the promise fulfilled. The new relationship between God and man in which the spirit of God accomplishes sanctification in man is made possible by the cross of Christ. The gift is both the Spirit and what He does for man.

D. The work of the Holy Spirit in the process of salvation is to raise the cross (to make the meaning and the person of Christ understandable) to different groups:

  1. The ancient world (Jewish nation)
  2. The disciples and apostles (the resurrection)
  3. The Jewish nation (the empowered witness of the apostles)
  4. The Gentile world (the preaching of the gospel until Jesus returns).

The First Gentile Convert

The apostles and the disciples had been preaching the gospel to all the Jews since they believed that the Great Commission meant to preach the gospel to all the Jews in all the world.

Peter has a vision that is about to change this and revolutionize the church.

1Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. 3About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, "Cornelius!" 4And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; 6he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea." 7When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, 8and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
- Acts 10:1-8

Note that this is a signal (that a new revelation is about to come). Miracles serve as signals.

9On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13A voice came to him, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat!" 14But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." 15Again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." 16This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
- Acts 10:9-16

Peter now has a vision explaining in symbolic language and imagery the nature of a new message to be revealed – another signal preparing and revealing the way.

Acts 10:17-33 – We know that Cornelius sends men to tell Peter that their master has had a vision and instruction from an Angel to send for Peter who would have a message for them.

27As he talked with him, he entered and *found many people assembled. 28And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.
- Acts 10:27-28

Peter, from his vision and Cornelius' vision, is made to understand that Gentiles should also be included with Jews as candidates for the gospel and salvation.

Acts 10:27-28 continues – However, the Jews with Peter who have not had the vision or know Cornelius' vision may not be convinced about preaching the gospel to Gentiles.

Acts 10:34-43 - Peter wastes no time in preaching the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and what this has accomplished – forgiveness of sins.

44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.
- Acts 10:44-46

The next part of Peter's sermon would naturally be to invite his hearers to have faith in Jesus, repent and be baptized as an expression of that faith. But instead, God provides another signal that a new thing is being revealed – He empowers the Gentiles to speak in tongues.This was not so unusual because previously the Spirit had empowered Cornelius to see and hear an angel speak to him (some, incorrectly, say this was a sign that Cornelius was saved, no need for anything else).

  • Note – In Numbers 22 God empowered a donkey to speak and rebuke a misbehaving prophet. This didn't mean the donkey was saved.
  • Note – Caiaphas, the High Priest prophesied accurately about Jesus' death (John 11:49). This, however, did not signal that Caiaphas, who with others plotted Jesus' execution, was forgiven for his sins.

The point I'm making here is that God often used pagan kings or unbelievers as part of His signals to reveal or introduce new things, ideas, and messages. In this case He uses the household of a good, but unsaved Gentile Centurion, to signal an important change that had to be made in the church.

Acts 10:44-46 - So the Spirit empowered Cornelius and his household to speak in tongues and praise God.

In this instance the "gift" given was not the indwelling of the Spirit, this they received later when they were baptized in water, like everyone else. The "gift" was the spiritual gift of tongues (speaking other previously unknown languages). Luke uses the term for empowerment … "fell on them" (verse 44)/ "poured out on the Gentiles" (verse 45). This was not the indwelling with the Spirit, the gift given to every Christian at baptism (Acts 2:38) – this was empowering with a miraculous ability as a signal that a revelation, new information, or change was at hand – and what was the signal for?

46bThen Peter answered, 47"Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" 48And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
- Acts 10:46b-48

Peter himself declares what the signal, as well as his vision and Cornelius' vision (all signals) pointed to – that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. As far as Cornelius was concerned, he and his household were all immersed in water in Jesus' name for the forgiveness of sin and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Just like the 3,000 on Pentecost Sunday and every other penitent believer since, up to today and to the end of time.

Through an act of empowerment, the Holy Spirit enables Gentiles to speak in tongues, which God uses as a signal to Peter, the Jewish Christians with him, and later on the rest of the apostles, that the Gentiles are subject to the gospel just as the Jews are. This will set the stage later on for Paul's ministry to the Gentiles in the Roman Empire.


The work of the Holy Spirit is the raising up of the cross of Christ (the need, the meaning, the person, the manner, the result, and the response) – false doctrine or mistaken doctrine is usually found in these areas of teaching. He also raised the cross of Christ to:

  1. The ancient world (the Jewish nation)
  2. The disciples and apostles (resurrection)
  3. The Jewish nation (apostles' witness)
  4. The gentile world (preaching the gospel)

The Holy Spirit also raises the cross of Christ to individual Christians internally – part of his internal ministry.

How does he do this?

A. He comforts us.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
- John 14:26
So, the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.
- Acts 9:31

He constantly raises up the cross of Christ before our hearts when we doubt, are discouraged, or suffering attacks sent by the evil one.

"…but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."
- I John 1:7

This constant reminder of the cross strengthens us to persevere despite our many failings and weaknesses of the flesh.

B. He intercedes for us.

And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
- Romans 8:27

The Holy Spirit raises up the cross of Christ before the throne of God on our behalf.

Our prayers and supplications all come before God properly in the context of the cross of Christ. The Spirit has worked this way since Pentecost and will do so until Jesus returns. I know he works for me because I continue to hold fast to the cross for my salvation – this is the result of the internal work of the Holy Spirit. My constant confidence in the cross of Christ is how I know the Holy Spirit is actively at work in me.

The Father gave God the Son the cross to die on for the sins and redemption of mankind; the Holy Spirit was and will maintain the reality and meaning of the cross before the world until the end of time.

Philosophers come and go; nations rise and fall; religious leaders raise up millions of followers and then fade into history; human beings live, and some attain greatness, but all eventually die. However, the cross of Jesus will always be raised by the Holy Spirit until the Lord returns – this we can count on.

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