Does Someone Have to Lay Hands on Me to Receive the Holy Spirit?

Question:  In Acts, in more than one place, the disciples were speaking to the ones that were called Christians, and asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit?  If the answer was no, they laid hands on them, at which time, they received the Holy Spirit.  The question was raised, Does the Holy Spirit come at the moment you receive Christ, or is there another anointing of the Spirit?

Answer:  There are four instances of the Holy Spirit baptizing believers.  I use this term because this is what John the Baptist foretold that the Messiah would do, baptize believers with the Holy Spirit, and what he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for.  It happened to all these Jewish believers on the Day of Pentecost and Peter then preached to more Jews assembled in Jerusalem for this festival and 3,000 believed and were told that they would receive the Holy Spirit.

It happened again according to Acts 8 to Samaritan believers who had responded to the preaching of Philip.  However, they could not receive this Spirit baptism until Peter and John laid hands on them.

It happened a third time to Gentiles who were listening to Peter preach and while he was still preaching.  No one laid hands on them and they hadn’t even been water baptized.

It happened one more time to some disciples of John the Baptist who had left Israel before they were introduced to Jesus and when Paul explained Jesus to them they were water baptized and, after he laid hands on them, baptized in the Spirit (Acts 19).

In the first three cases the apostle Peter was present.  I believe this is because Jesus gave him the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19).  So for each different people group admitted into the church, Peter had to open the door, so to speak.  With the Samaritans and Gentiles his presence guaranteed that there was only one church, all under the leadership of Jesus’ apostles.  The Samaritans could not say they received the Holy Spirit’s baptism without Jewish leadership, nor could the Gentile believers.

When Paul confronted the disciples of John in Acts 19 his question of them tells us that he understood the norm to be receiving the baptism in the Spirit when you believed (verse 2, the correct translation).  They were an oddity in that they had not had the opportunity to know the full gospel.  They had believed God’s prophet, John, but had missed the events of the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

All this is to say, the norm today is to receive the Holy Spirit, be baptized in Him, when you believe.  No one has to lay hands on you.  This is why Paul can say to the Corinthians, “We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).  Today, there is no believer who has not been baptized in the Spirit.  We have all been immersed into His life and His life has begun to manifest itself in us.

This does not mean we have fully surrendered ourselves to all that He has for us.  The Holy Spirit wants to make us like Christ and there are many things He wants to do to move us in that direction.  He also wants to work through us to bless others.  Consequently He gives us many experiences of His presence that we may resist or receive.  If we are open to what He wants to do there are many wonderful ways in which we will see His life exuded through ours.

Randall Johnson