Scripture Query and Answer: Descents of the Spirit

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Q.—In a little book lately issued, an effort is made to qualify the great truth of Acts 2, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, by citing Acts 8; 10, and 19. Does scripture warrant several descents of the Spirit, little Pentecosts following the great one? Does He in fact come down from time to time? If He came down repeatedly in apostolic days after Pentecost, why may He not come down any day now? Why may He not do so more than of old? Is the argument or insinuation sound? P.
A.—It is the common unbelief of Christendom in the personal presence of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord announced His coming as “the promise of the Father,” and to “abide forever” when come. John 14-16, Luke 24, Acts 1. Was this fulfilled or not at Pentecost? One can understand an influence renewed ever so often; but what of a person, and a Divine Person? Hence an immense difference marks off Acts 2 from the three subsequent occasions. Only then came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind filling all the house, only then tongues parting asunder as of fire which sat on each. Yet was it of high moment that the Samaritan believers, and the Gentile ones should receive the like gift, attested as at Pentecost by signs following. So at Ephesus much later, where God put honor on the apostle Paul, as at Samaria on the apostles Peter and John. But on the two great occasions, for Jews and Gentiles, the Spirit was given without the imposition of hands, which was due to special reasons in the two lesser cases. As the rule, we get the blessing now as Cornelius and the other Gentiles did at Cæsarea, while the word is spoken. The principle is just the same, though we have not the extraordinary powers then vouchsafed when it was a new thing. But the reception of the Spirit, or even His falling on all that heard the word, is not His coming or descent. His abiding presence is a cardinal truth of the gospel; and not much of its “heart” would remain, where either is undermined. For He it is Who glorifies Christ and leads into all truth. What then are we to infer justly?
These are not several comings or descents of the Spirit, but impressive and cheering communications of the blessing to others who successively believed the gospel of salvation, and greatly needed the given proof, as did the Jewish believers, so slow to credit the indiscriminate grace of God. Those of Samaria “received the Holy Spirit;” Who “fell on” all that were hearing the word at Cæsarea; as He “came on” the dozen disciples at Ephesus. Yet it was the successive operation of the same Holy Spirit Who had already been sent forth from heaven to abide forever. But Christendom, like Israel, is apt to be proud as well as poor, and boasts more, as the hour of judgment draws nigh. Unbelief is ever the down-grade.