Receiving the Power of the Holy Spirit

Recently I was writing to a friend (who is studying the Bible) about the difference between believing that we are saved (put right with God) by our works and believing that we are saved (put right with God) by God’s free gift (given in Jesus Christ) which we receive through child-like trust and by giving our lives over to God.

Paul makes the argument for the second option (justification by grace through faith) in numerous places, including in the letter to the Galatians. But if you read what he wrote there, something surprising appears which many modern-day churchgoers may not understand. He says to his hearers: now when you received the Holy Spirit did you receive the Holy Spirit by doing good works or did you receive the Spirit by hearing the word of God and believing?! (Galatians 3:2) (“Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.”)

The problem of course is that many American churchgoers would not be responsive to this argument, because “receiving the Holy Spirit” (put that way) may not have been a major (or any) part of their Christian experience! What is Paul talking about? They believe they will go to heaven when they die because of God’s grace in Jesus, received by faith, but they are not really experiencing the Holy Spirit today as part of that grace and faith!

Unfortunately, many of us are part of churches that have rightly emphasized the importance of believing in God the Father, correctly stressed the necessity of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but which have ignored the important scriptural reality of life in the Holy Spirit!

In Acts 1:8, a verse my Presbyterian pastor taught us at Wednesday night Bible study when I was still a little boy, we read the promise of Jesus to his followers before his ascension: “you (plural you) shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” The Risen Jesus is about to ascend into heaven, but he is promising to the Church they will not be left alone---He will send His Spirit of power!

I believe that what Jesus promises, He wants us to receive. I believe that what Jesus promises, we should feel free to ask for! I would never tell you that if you truly trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior that the Holy Spirit is not in your life, because Paul writes “no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:3). But if you do not feel you have the power of the Holy Spirit actively operating in your life, as Jesus describes in Acts 1:8, ask God today for this power and presence and keep asking! Ask for the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit to be fully (not partially) released in your life!

God wants you to have the power of the Holy Spirit! As Paul writes in Galatians the Spirit is received by faith. (Galatians 3:2). Ask and believe.

Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at This column appears in thr Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News. 


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