Acts 2:38: “The Gift of the Holy Spirit”, #13


The Father sent Jesus (John 5:37; 6:57; 14:10). Father and Jesus are one (John 10:30). The Father sent the Spirit in Jesus' name (John 14:26). Jesus sent the Spirit from the Father (John 15:26. Jesus sent the apostles (John 20:21). Jesus sent the Spirit to the apostles (Acts 1:4; Acts 2:33). The Spirit brings the gift. The dorea gift is “of the Spirit” (Acts 2:38); the dorea gift is of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 4:7); and the dorea gift is of the Father (John 4:10; cf. Ephesians 2:8).   Hence, we have the gift of the Father which is the gift of the Lord Jesus which is the gift of the Spirit. Jesus sums it up in John 4:10, "Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water."

sourceDuring the 1940s, if one had asthma and asked his doctor “What shall I do?” The doctor would probably have answered, “You will take epinephrine injections and aminophylline tablets, and you shall go to Arizona.” Such a reply to the question would have been in grammar a compound sentence. The same is true for Peter's answer to the audience on the day of Pentecost. They were convicted that they were lost. What should we do?” Peter's answer was twofold: (1) “(You) repent and be baptized” and (2) you shall takei the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It was a compound sentence answer. Two clauses. The second clause is not dependent on the first clause; but both are expected to be obeyed.

The second clause is in the future tense. The future tense is future “from a speaker’s or writer’s point of view.”ii In Greek. it can usually be considered a command just like the imperative; e.g., “Repent.”iii In other words, Peter draws the picture of the audience taking “the gift” in response to the question, “What shall we do?”

So, did the Jerusalem listeners “take” anything in response to Peter's command?

For the promise* is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:39-42, KJV). *promise: epaggeliaG1860, Strong's: “especially, a divine assurance of good (see the lesson on "The Promise").”

We discussed in prior articles the following points:

1. They did not take any powers of signs like the apostles took (1:8; 1:26; 2:1-4) according to what we are told. Note: I urge you not to say, “We don't know whether that's so or not; maybe they did without the Bible saying it.” Why would I caution this? We can only by faith accept and teach what the Bible says. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17); “If any man speak, let him speak, as the words of God [KJV: oracles—'utterances']” (1 Peter 4:11, Darby). The only ones doing wonders and signs, following their taking, are the apostles; no one else is mentioned. Look at the text above. Faith demands that we accept that as fact and as God's revelation to us. “The secret things belong to God” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

2. They did not prophesy.   That is, we are not told that they prophesied like the apostles but are told that they followed the apostles' teaching. The record only says they literally “continued in the teaching of the apostles(διδαχηG1322, noun, Acts 2:41 ABP+). The teaching of the apostles was the source for their knowledge and faithfulness, and did not come directly from the Spirit of God.

3. They did take what?     We have asked, “What did they take?” We are told clearly that they tookiv Peter's word; i.e. the Logosv of God; of course his word had been via the prophesying of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had prayed for the apostles (John 17:17), “Make them holy through Thy Truth; Thy Word is Truth.” And Jesus also prayed for those that would believe on Jesus through the apostles' “word(John 17:20).

The record does say that they were baptized as the apostle told them to do. But the only thing they took was the Word of the Spirit of God. This was God's gift to them and us because in it is our hope and our new birth from the Holy Spirit (John 3:3).

“The Gift Of The Spirit” Is The Promise Given To Abraham

Peter's “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is the extended “promise of Acts 2:39” which is truly the fulfilment of the promise of the world-wide blessing promised to Abraham. The apostle Paul asserts that that fulfilment is through the Faith. “That upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receiveG2983 the promiseG1860 of the SpiritG4151 through the faithG4102” (ινα εις τα εθνη η ευλογια του Αβρααμ γενηται εν χριστω Ιησου ινα την επαγγελιανG1860 του πνευματοςG4151 λαβωμενG2983 δια της πιστεωςG4102, Galatians 3:14). This verse in Galatians 3:14 clearly ties Ephesians 2:8 in with Acts 2:38,39 and verse 41. "The Gift of the Holy Spirit" is "the Gift of God." "The Gift of the Holy Spirit" is the promise given to Abraham that in him all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-4)

This is consistent and compatible with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. From Peter's assurance, we today can “receive the gift” as well. We are likewise to contend earnestly for the faith delivered to those saints (Jude 1:3). The doron gift from God is said to include this faithvi through which we are saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8).vii

    What was the Job of the Holy Spirit?

            Was His work to perform miracles for each generation? Or, were the miracles actually His witness in confirming the teachings from Jesus (Acts 5:32)?

In John 16:7-15, Jesus told the eleven (in John 13:30, Judas exits the supper), “I will send the Holy Spirit to you.” “When He comes,” Jesus said, “He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

How would the Spirit do this? Jesus told the apostles that He, the Spirit of Truth, would guide them, the apostles, into all truth; “whatever He hears”, He will pass on to them, the apostles. He would “show things to come” and glorify Jesus by “taking from Jesus” and showing it to them. This was and is the Father's gift, the Son's gift, and the Holy Spirit's gift. If someone expects the Spirit to give him/her extraordinary powers, he/she misses entirely the point of the Holy Spirit's “role”. That doesn't mean that we can't pray to the Father in Jesus' name for help. Jesus said that God loves the apostles because they loved Him and He is ready to answer prayers. On the other hand, the important thing from God, His Spirit, and the Lord is heeding the “great salvation” spoken to the saints:

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts [distributions] of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:1-4).

      Objections To This Solution.

O#1. The word for “receiving” is different from the receiving in Acts 2:38. This is true. Acts 2:38 uses receivingG2983. Acts 2:41 uses the intense derivative of receivingG1209. Both words are used synonyms and are used by the Lord synonymously in Matthew 10:40-41. ReceivingG1209 is “getting what is offered”; receivingG2983 is based on the need to “get hold of as if in learning or studying.”viiiThe words overlap and distinctions often disappear; yet the suggestion of a welcoming or appropriating reception generally cleaves to G1209.”ix This is exactly how the words are used in the context of Acts 2 and is consistent with our interpretation.

O#2. Another objection is that although the phrase is genitive in verse 38, the epexegesis of the passage explains that the phrase is genitive “of identification” (or appositional) which makes the gift the Holy Spirit Himself. For example, The city of Lakeland is close by. Lakeland is genitive of identification. A. T. Robinson is one that takes this position. However, Robertson's comments often betray his theology and not his scholarship with the Greek. In fact, he even changes the meaning of “eis” (unto) in this very verse 2:38 to mean “because of” in order to repudiate the requirement of being baptized. “Eis” does not mean “because of.” (e.g., Matthew 26:28, Jesus did not shed His blood because our sins were forgiven; He shed His blood in order for our sins to be forgiven; see also Thayer and Strong). That's his theology. He does not explain his reason for “genitive of identification.” Nor does he apply this consistently to the “gift of God” and “gift of Christ” in other passages. Actually the rule is for identification genesis to be solely for “things” and not “persons.” One example is “the gift of righteousness” in Romans 5:17.   Robinson wants this to be epexegesis so that he can give a commentary of making the gift the Holy Spirit; otherwise, why suggest it to start with?   The Holy Spirit, like Jesus and the Father, are persons. The passage therefore should be translated as adjectival possessive to be consistent. It is the Holy Spirit's gift to mankind from the Father through Jesus and His apostles.

O#3. Another objection is that this solution requires putting the action of “receiving” out of sequence. Should not the baptism (in water, Acts 10:47) precede the receiving of the gift (2:38)?   The answer to this is "no." The two clauses of Peter's statement in 2:38 are equal. It has already been pointed out that the sentence clauses used by Peter are independent and hence, there is no requirement for sequence like the dependent phrase such as is used in Mark 16:16, “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

O#4. Acts 19 has the apostle putting his hand on the recipients of the Holy Spirit. Such an action is called “receiving the gift” (also in Acts 8) and involves prophesying, etc. First, the action is not middle voice; i.e., it isn't something that is taken for themselves. The prophesying would be for others that heard them (for their “edification, and exhortation, and comfort,” 1 Corinthians 14:3). Second, there is no record of any respondent in Acts 2 immediately or belatedly prophesying or performing wonders.

Later in Acts 6, it is true that men are selected because of their being “full of sanctified spirit.”* However, such an expression can represent growth in knowledge the word (2 Peter 3:18) or being filled with the good things from the Spirit (Luke 11:13, “Holy Spirit given”; parallel passage in Matthew 7:11, “good things given”). All disciples were continuing in the Spirit's Word; i.e., “being constantly diligent, or attending assiduously all the exercises, or adhering closely to (as a servitor)” (2:42). Surely, we cannot limit all spiritual growth to wonders of the Holy Spirit. In Act 18:25, Apollos "was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John." Apollos was "fervent in spirit." Yet, he apparently was like the disciples at Ephesus who had not received the miraculous measure of the Spirit of God (Acts 19:1-5). They "had not even heard about the Spirit of God" for they knew only the "baptism of John." Christians can be “fervent in spirit” (Romans 12:11), be “in the spirit of meekness” (Colossian 4:21), have “spirit refreshed” (2 Corinthians 7:13), be “in the spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1) and hopefully be given a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” by study and prayer (Ephesians 1:17; James 1:5). *(No definite article “the” is present in the original. I believe without the definite article it cannot be said definitely to refer to the person, God's Spirit. There are other spirits; e.g., the spirit of a Christian is purchased by the sacrifice of Jesus [e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:20]).

I have showed in the lesson on "Appointing Helpers" where “Spirit” is used at times figuratively to represent capability--even physical and mental abilities. For example, Joshua was chosen by God to replace Moses because he had “spirit” in him (Numbers 27:18). Later, extraordinary (miraculous) ability of wisdom was given to Joshua when Moses laid his hand on him (Deuteronomy 34:9).

O#5. Objection: [one that I used to have]. Would not the reception of a sanctified spirit in man be more reasonable since such action must apply even to us today? 1 Corinthians 6:11 points out that God sanctifies man's spirit (makes holy). But this verb is passive, not active; we have pointed out that it is produced by God. It is accomplished by outside force. Obedience would activate God's promise, but remember, 2:38's “receiving” is active and not passive. Plus, generally man's spirit does not have the definite article in the original Greek. The definite article in Koine Greek was significant.x The presence of the definite article in Acts 2:38 strongly suggests to me that the divine person, the Holy Spirit of God, is meant.

CONCLUSION. The best answer, in my judgment, is for us today to do like the audience of Acts 2 and gladly take” the Faith delivered and written down for us, the New Testament. The miracles were used to confirm the Faith preached by the apostles and as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 13 are no longer needed. We are blessed today if we believe like Jesus told Thomas: “Blessed are those that have not seen” (witnessed the signs) but rather have believed. The “gift of the Holy Spirit”, in this case, is the Faith; it is in the gospel, the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16, 17).

Finally, I quote from Franklin T. Puckett, evangelist, college professor, and my mentor. 1. If it be admitted that He [The Holy Spirit] indwells the Christian through the instrumentality of His word, I can understand how such is possible and readily accept it as true. 2. If it be maintained that the Holy Spirit as a personal being inhabits the bodies of Christians directly, immediately, without medium, then I must reject it as impossible without fragmenting the Spirit, which would destroy His personality.”

Added, 12-06-2016:   William Terry Tribble sent this logical sequence to me:

Acts 2:38 "... receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Acts 2:40 "And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation.' Then those who gladly received his word were baptized;"
Acts 7:51 "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you."

    1. To resist the words of the Spirit is to resist the Spirit.
    2. To receive the words of the Spirit then is to receive the Spirit.

Gaylon West

Throw Out the Lifeline

Other articles in this series, The Gift of the Holy Spirit:

i Λήμψομαι (dep. fut. of λαμβάνω): "will take". Deponent only in future middle.


ivBoth lambano and apo-dechomai are in the middle voice.

vLogos of God vs. the written Word of God.

Functions of. The word judges (John 12:48). The word purifies (John 15:3; 1 Tim. 4:5). Through the word belief comes (Acts 4:4). The word is the agent of rebirth (1 Peter 1:23).

Our responsibility to. The logos must be heard (Matt. 13:20; Acts 13:7). The logos must be received (Acts 8:14; 11:1; James 1:21). The logos must be held on to (Luke 8:13). The logos must be kept (John 8:51; 14:32; 1 John 2:5; Rev. 3:8). The logos must be witnessed to (Acts 8:25; Rev. 1:2). The logos must be served (Acts 8:25; Rev. 1:2). The logos must be announced (Acts 6:4). The logos must be spoken with boldness (2 Tim. 4:2). The logos must be taught (Phil 1:14). The logos must be acted upon (Acts 18:11). The logos may involve suffering (James 1:22). The logos may be disbelieved (Rev. 1:9) and choked (Matt. 13:22; 1 Peter 2:8). The logos can be corrupted and rendered ineffective (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2; Mark 7:13).

The Gospel is: A logos of good news (Acts 15:7); a word of truth (John 17:7; Eph. 1:13). A word of life (Phil. 2:16). A word of righteousness (Heb. 5:13). A word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19). A word of salvation (Acts 13:26). A word of the stake (cross) (1 Cor. 1:18).

There is no Spirit putting the mind of God, the "Word" into us directly. That is the philosophy of Plato.

viFor by favor you are being preserved through the beliefG4102 and this [is not ofG1537[ from ] you of God gift];” (Ephesians 2:8, ABP+). The gift is explained by the preceding entire clause of salvation through the Faith.

vii The priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7); the Word is called “the faith” (Acts 13:8; 14:22; 16:5; 24:24; Romans 1:5; Romans 14:1;1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 1:23; 2:16, 20; 3:23; Ephesians 3:12; 4:13; Philippians 1:27; 3:9; Colossians 1:23; 2:7; 1 Timothy 1:2; 3:9,13; 4:1; 5:8; 6:10, 21; 3:8; 4:7; Titus 1:1, 13, 15; James 2:1; 1 Peter 5:9; Revelation 14:12.

viii Paul Daniels. Your Words Have Been Stout Against Me. Holy Fire Publishing, 2009. isbn=1603831185.


x Recommended: "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament" by Daniel B. Wallace published by Zondervan.