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What Does the Bible Say About...Receiving the Holy Ghost?

I've read some of the questions and by your answers it shows wisdom and understanding enough for me to ask you this question. (Please take that as a compliment)

Question: My wife and I have many issues dealing with the Holy Spirit. I believe in order to receive the Holy Ghost you must ask Jesus to come into your heart and mean it with all of your heart, then sanctify yourself through praying and fasting asking God to help you clean up those areas of you life where you need to change, then to tarry for the Holy Ghost which tarry means to (ask, wait, and expect) to call on Jesus name until God comes in and takes over and make you new in him.

My wife believes that when you ask Jesus to come into your heart that you automatically receive the Holy Ghost because she states that the gift is free so you automatically receive it. You need it in order to stay in God.

Please help us with this issue can you please show me some scriptures that can help us in understanding this situation as my wife and I are one we must be on one accord when it come to our spirituality.

Thank you and sorry for such a long question.


I thank you for the compliment and hope I can live up to your expectations.

I will start out, perhaps, by stating something you may disagree with. There is a big difference between the gift of the Holy Spirit, as mentioned in Acts 2:38, and the gifts of the spirit that are primarily dealt with in 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14. The gift of the Holy Spirit is, according to Acts 2, promised to everyone who puts their faith in Jesus and puts him on through immersion. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not promised to all Christians, and, I believe, ended sometime before the start of the second century.

Ephesians 6:17 says the Holy Spirit is the word of God. The passage reads, "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." First, the word "which" in the original Greek agrees grammatically with "Spirit", but not with "sword." Thus it should read "the Holy Spirit, which Spirit is the word of God." A second grammatical argument is that if the phrase "helmet of salvation" means the helmet is salvation, then the phrase "sword of the Spirit" must, by parallel construction, mean the sword is the Spirit, and the "which is" phrase modifies Spirit.

I say that to establish what the scriptures mean when talking about the Holy Spirit. He is the living embodiment of the word of God. He is more than just words printed on a page, but He includes that. He is the word of God implanted in our hearts through study and understanding of the words printed on the pages of our Bibles.

The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit would then be the promise that God would give an understanding of his word to those who are his. But it goes beyond this alone. The Spirit, God's word in us, is also the down payment God has made to show that he intends to complete the transaction contracted by the blood of Christ. "In whom [Jesus] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Eph 1:13-14) This passage also indicates that the Holy Spirit is given to everyone who has trusted in Christ.

The gifts of the Spirit, on the other hand, were given "through the laying on of the apostles' hands" (Acts 8:18), and this ability could apparently not be passed on to others. If the apostles could have passed on the ability to impart the gifts of the Spirit, then Philip could have done so and not have had to call for the apostles in this passage. (Cornelius may also have had the ability since the baptism of the Holy Spirit had also fallen on him in Acts 10. But scripture records no one else upon whom the Holy Spirit had fallen just as on the apostles at the beginning.) If, as this passage indicates, nobody else could pass on the gifts of the Spirit, then they would cease when the last person on whom the apostles laid their hands had died, early in the second century.

These miraculous gifts, of which Paul said the ability to speak in human languages that the speaker had not learned naturally (tongues) was the least important, served a purpose. They confirmed that the people who possessed them were speaking the message of God (Mark 16:20). Once the Bible was complete (perfect-1 Cor 13:10), then the gifts were no longer necessary.

Now, to answer your question. God is not going to send the Holy Spirit to "take over" anyone, in the sense that they lose their own control or will. Even the gifts of the spirit were under the control of those who practiced them (1 Cor 14:32). And we are each to work out our "own salvation, with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12) This was written to those who were already Christians. So to this extent I think your wife is correct. I also agree with you that it requires prayer, perhaps fasting, and repentance before one can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, because those precede any person's becoming a Christian.

Where I disagree with both you and your wife is in the use of the non-biblical phrase "ask Jesus to come into your heart." That phrase implies to most people that one is saved without obeying Christ. It implies that prayer, even a prayer without faith, is sufficient to save one. The scriptures disagree. Faith saves, but the faith must be an "obedient faith", to use a phrase Paul used in Romans 1:5 and 16:26. One must believe, but that faith must result in obedience. It must result in action. Faith without repentance is as useless as faith without works, being dead (James 2:17). Faith and immersion are both required for remission of sins (Acts 2:38). One can have faith, as Paul did while he was blind in Damascus, and pray as he did (Acts 9:11), but still be in sin. Even Paul, after praying in earnest faith was told that he still had to "wash away his sins" (Acts 22:16) through immersion (baptism). And regarding the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter said in Acts 2 that it was promised, but only to those who believed and were immersed. Peter points out further (1 Pet 3:21) that it is not a work whereby one earns salvation, but that it is at that point one is saved because he has shown God that he is sincere in his belief.

I hope this has given you some thoughts to look at so that you may study further, and come to a fuller understanding, not of what I say but of what the scriptures (the word of God, the Holy Spirit) say.