Acts 19:2
and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" "No," they answered, "we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
Progression in Divine RevelationsR. Tuck Acts 19:2
WhitsundayThomas ArnoldActs 19:2
Essential But Insufficient; Valuable But TemporaryW. Clarkson Acts 19:1-7
Paul and the Baptist's DisciplesE. Johnson Acts 19:1-7
Practical Exemplification of Christian DoctrineR.A. Redford Acts 19:1-7
Apollos Completed by PaulJ. Parker, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusJ. Bennett, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusA. Barnes, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusDean Vaughan.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusR. A. Bertram.Acts 19:1-23
Paul At EphesusW. M. Taylor, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
Paul's Mission Divinely DirectedW. Arnot, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
The Best Method of Evangelising a CityD. Thomas, D. D.Acts 19:1-23
The Word and the WorldF. W. Robertson, M. A.Acts 19:1-23
Baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and its SequelP.C. Barker Acts 19:2-7
Divine InfluenceBp. Phillips Brooks.Acts 19:2-7
Faith in a Holy GhostCanon Liddon.Acts 19:2-7
On the Reception of the Holy GhostJ. E. Everitt.Acts 19:2-7
Paul At EphesusCharles M. Southgate.Acts 19:2-7
Paul At EphesusD. J. Burrell, D. D.Acts 19:2-7
Paul At EphesusW. W. Everts.Acts 19:2-7
Receiving the Holy GhostW. Grant.Acts 19:2-7
Receiving the Holy GhostActs 19:2-7
Receiving the Holy GhostC. H. Spurgeon.Acts 19:2-7
The Baptism of the SpiritC. New.Acts 19:2-7
The Gift of the Holy SpiritH. Alford.Acts 19:2-7
The Gift of the Holy Spirit Necessary to the Spiritual LifeT. L. Cuyler.Acts 19:2-7
The Gift of the SpiritActs 19:2-7
The Gospel TestDean Vaughan.Acts 19:2-7
The Holy Spirit as a Conscious PossessionW. Ross.Acts 19:2-7
The Indwelling of the Holy SpiritAbp. Thomsom.Acts 19:2-7
The Pentecostal TestW. B. Pope, D. D.Acts 19:2-7

The exceeding economy of Scripture will prevent our supposing that these verses lie on the page of Scripture for no end, and will equally prevent our supposing they are present for no distinct and important end. Starting from quite the opposite creed, we are led to notice -

I. THAT THE STRESS OF THE PASSAGE BELONGS, NOT TO THE SUBJECT OF BAPTISM, BUT TO THE SUBJECT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The point of departure of Paul is from the question, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" His first inquiry is not respecting the baptism of those whom he was addressing.

II. THAT THE DISPENSATION OF CHRISTIANITY IS TO BE EMPHATICALLY APPRAISED AS THE DISPENSATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Too little stress is ever laid upon this grand fact. Too much stress cannot possibly be laid upon it. And whatever the causes of the former of these things, it may be said that the apostle, from the very first, did what in him lay to provide against a defect so disastrous in its certain tendency and work.



He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?

1. Have we received anything? We have said that we believe in Christ. But to test the truth of our profession, God asks, "Have you received?" Believing is always accompanied by receiving. If, then, any of us have not received, it is because we have not believed. And if we have received but little, it is because we have believed but little. For the promise is, "Be it unto thee according to thy faith."

2. But our text asks specifically have we received the Holy Ghost? In reply to the previous question, some of us may have replied "We received 'peace and joy in believing.'" But passing by these individual benefits that flow from believing, or rather including them and all such like, our question goes to the root of the matter. Receiving the Holy Ghost is the infallible evidence of "believing" in Jesus. This was the great gift which Jesus died to purchase, and which before His departure He promised to send, and which is set before us in the symbol of baptism — "Be baptized...and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."


1. The nature of the Holy Spirit's work. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit," but there are three respects in which the work of the Spirit is alike in the experience of all true believers.(1) Knowledge or discernment of Divine things. "Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "The natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit; they must be spiritually discerned." "Eye hath not seen but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit." Some men with the best of natural talents seem ever learning and never coining to the knowledge of the truth. Others again, with smaller talents and lower education, at once and clearly grasp it. Or this contrast is seen in one and the same person — sitting under the ministry for years withrut one clear idea of spiritual things; but all at once, as if scales had fallen from his eyes, seeing all things as clear as day. This is one evidence of the Holy Spirit's inward work.(2) Conviction of the truth of what we see. "When the Comforter is come, He will convince of sin," etc., and on the day of Pentecost thousands "were pricked to the heart." The gospel comes "in word only" — at the most only enlightens the understanding — and not "in power," till it comes "with the Holy Ghost." But then it comes with "much assurance working effectually" in the heart. It is then the "power of God unto salvation."(3) Holiness of life. Our knowledge and conviction, if they are alone, will prove our deepest condemnation. They are evidences that the Holy Spirit is pleading with us — persuading us — working in us. But they are no evidence that we have yielded our hearts to Him. Felix felt all this when he trembled. A holy life is the evidence of having received the Holy Ghost (Acts 15:7-9). Other gifts of the Spirit may be wanting, but there is no vital difference between us and the highest of the apostles if God has given to us the Holy Ghost, "purifying our hearts by faith."

2. The manner of the Holy Spirit's work. It is —(1) A thorough work. Through and through the whole man, soul and mind and body, all feel its power — character and conduct, inward desires and outward doings; heart and hand are all influenced by it.(2) A progressive work. Like as the newborn babe grows in stature from year to year, and progresses in strength, it may be through many a long season of sickness, so it is with those who are born again of the Spirit.

3. A warfare in some more violent than in others, but experienced more or less by all; "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit," etc.

4. A work and warfare to be crowned with victory.

(W. Grant.)

I. To make this subject practical, we will endeavour to show WHAT THE DECEPTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IMPARTS; or in other words, what it is to receive His influence in order to salvation. In the early ages of Christianity it included the miraculous as well as the converting and sanctifying influences of this Divine agent. Those essential influences which are connected with the kingdom of God within us, though less splendid to the eye of sense, are even more precious to the eye of faith, and produce fruits in the soul, without which the most exalted gifts would avail nothing, but leave us as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. The Spirit of God must be received as the Spirit of truth to teach us. By the ministry of the Word the Divine Spirit enters the mind, sheds light upon the understanding and the conscience, and the man who was as one born blind, now sees. As a Spirit of adoption and of holiness the Comforter comes. The slave is changed into a child, the proud is now become humble, the prodigal is made to feel his danger, and to think of his Father and his home.

II. To enable you to answer the question in the text, I will state a few of THE EVIDENCES OR EFFECTS OF THE RECEPTION.

1. Prayer is one of these. It is the cry of the hungry for food, of the sick for health, of the condemned for pardon, that amounts to prayer in the true meaning of the term. It is a mark of the Spirit, when we pray from the heart.

2. Another fruit of the Spirit is the hatred of whatever is known to be sinful in the sight of God. As long as any remains of the old man are found within, so long will the conflict continue.

3. Another fruit and evidence of having received the Spirit is Christian love. A sincere Christian cannot but love those who show the holy, humble, and forgiving temper of Jesus. Hatred, variance, strife, contention, and all evil passions had so long filled the world, that men gazed with wonder on the benignant influence of the gospel in calming the troubled spirit.

4. One other mark decisive and vital of having received the Spirit is the faith that worketh by love. No man whose eyes are opened to discern his danger and the utter insufficiency of his works to save his soul, but renounces at once and for ever all dependence on the righteousness of his outward life, let it be what it may. And this leads him at the same time to place his entire dependence on the Saviour.

(J. E. Everitt.)

Inquire we —


1. By the "Holy Ghost" is meant the "Spirit of God"; that is, of the Father, as proceeding from Him, although sometimes also styled the "Spirit of Christ," or, "of the Son"; Christ and His Father being one, and the Spirit of the Father being also the Spirit of the Son, in a way to us unsearchable.

2. This being observed, it will easily appear that to receive the Spirit of God is to receive His Divine influence, imparting those graces or gifts which are necessary to our salvation. Now, the manner in which this is done is, in many respects, incomprehensible (John 3:8). We must, therefore, receive the Holy Spirit as our lungs receive the air, and we breathe and live.

3. But are we authorised to expect any such thing? Certainly we are (Joel 2:28, 29; Isaiah 59:21; Matthew 3:11; John 7:37, 38; John 14:16, 17; Luke 11:13; Acts 2:38, 39).

II. IN WHAT SENSE WE ARE TO RECEIVE HIM AND FOR WHAT PURPOSES. The context shows that the apostle spoke partly in reference to the miraculous gifts of the Spirit (ver. 6). These were given of old to confirm the law, to establish the gospel. They do not seem to be necessary where the Christian religion is already received and are not infallible signs of grace (Matthew 7:22; 1 Corinthians 13:1). But we may and must receive the Spirit in His ordinary graces; to renew our fallen nature (Titus 3:5); to enable us to bring forth holy dispositions, words, and actions (Ephesians 5:9; Galatians 5:22, 23). To be more particular. We must receive Him —

1. As a Spirit of truth; to enlighten our minds, and save us from ignorance, error, folly, and delusion (John 14:17).

2. As a Spirit of life (Romans 8:2; 1 Corinthians 15:45; John 14:19; Ephesians 2:1, 5, 6).

3. As a Spirit of grace (John 3:5, 6; Titus 3:5, 6).

4. As a Spirit of adoption (Galatians 4:4; Romans 8:15, 16).

5. As a Spirit of power; encouraging and strengthening us (Ephesians 3:16), which is necessary —

(1)For our spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10).

(2)For duty.

(3)For suffering (2 Timothy 2:1; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 1:19).

6. As a Comforter (John 14:16).

7. As a Spirit of holiness or sanctification (1. Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

III. IN WHAT SENSE, AND HOW FAR, A MAN MAY BELIEVE, AND YET NOT HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST AND HOW LITTLE SUCH A FAITH WILL AVAIL HIM. Without having received the Spirit in the forementioned respects, we may believe — The Being and attributes of God (Hebrews 11:6), inferring them by reasoning from the works of creation (Romans 1:20). The truth of the Scripture, and the excellency of its doctrines and precepts; and the promises and threatenings. But without the Holy Spirit our faith cannot be a saving faith (Romans 8:9).


1. To those that have not received the Spirit, I would say, Reflect seriously and continually on the necessity and excellency of this gift — pray much for it (Luke 11:5-13). Shun whatever is contrary to the mind of the Spirit, or would prevent your receiving Him. He works by "the word of truth"; therefore, hear, read, meditate upon, and exercise faith therein. Through His aid deny yourself, and "mortify the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13). Come to Jesus and exercise faith in Him for this blessing (John 7:37, 38; John 4:10; Galatians 3:13, 14).

2. Let me exhort those who have received this Spirit to guard not only against doing despite to Him, or quenching His influences, but against grieving Him, lest He withdraw from you. To use carefully all those means of grace whereby His grace may be continued and increased.

(Joseph Benson.)

1. It may be well to notice what questions the apostles did not put to these disciples. He did not ask —(1) "Have ye believed?" This would have been very important, but it ought to be settled once for all, and should not remain the subject of question.(2) "If ye have believed, how came it about?" A man may be saved, and yet know none of the details of his conversion.

2. But he does ask, "Have ye received?" etc. Consider —


1. In some respects it is a vital question. For the Holy Ghost is the Author of —(1) All spiritual life. If, when you believed, you had not a life imparted by the Holy Spirit, your believing was a dead believing, and if He has not been with you since your conversion, your religion is a dead religion.(2) All true instruction. To be taught of the minister is nothing, it is only the Spirit of God who can engrave the truth upon the fleshy tablets of the heart.(3) Transformation. By Divine grace we are not now what we used to be: we have new thoughts, wishes, aspirations, sorrows, joys, and these are wrought in us of the Spirit.(4) Sanctification. A faith which works not for purification will work for putrefaction. A holy man is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit.(5) Prayer. Prayer without the Spirit is as a bird without wings, or an arrow without a bow.

2. But where it is not vital it is nevertheless greatly important. I do not think we ought always to be asking the question, "Is this essential to our salvation?" Those are miserable souls who would be saved in the cheapest possible way. But I would remind the children of God that there is in the Holy Ghost not only what they absolutely need to save them, but much more. He is —(1) The Comforter. Why, then, go ye mourning? You whose hearts are distracted receive the Spirit of consolation.(2) The Enlightener. Do you understand little of the Word of God? Why is this? Should you not seek more of the Guide into all truth? How much happier and more useful you would be!(3) The Spirit of liberty. If ye have received the Spirit, wily are ye the slaves of custom, fashion, etc.?(4) A power moving and impelling to holy service.

II. THIS QUESTION IS ASSUREDLY ANSWERABLE. There is a notion that you cannot tell whether you have the Holy Spirit or not; but you can. Give a man an electric shock, and he will know it; but if he has the Holy Ghost he will know it much more. "Oh," says one, "I thought we must always say, 'I hope so, I trust so.'" I know that jargon; but men do not say, "I hope I have an estate," or, "I trust I have twenty shillings in the pound," or, "I think I have a wife and children."

1. There are many professors to whom this question is inevitable. I will pick out certain of them.(1) There is the brother with the long dreary face whose favourite hymn is — "'Tis a point I long to know. Oft it causes anxious thought." Have you received the Holy Ghost? Poor soul, he is perplexed. Here is a hymn for him: "Why should the children of a King go mourning all their days?" Surely, if we have the earnest of the Spirit, the firstfruits of heaven, we ought to rejoice in the Lord always.(2) Another brother is a member of the Church; he is a born grumbler, and since he has been new born he has not given up the habit. I have sometimes thought that certain unfriendly friends must have been baptized in vinegar instead of water. Surely the Spirit of God is a dove full of love and kindness, and not a bird of prey. Let me ask that brother, "Have you received the Holy Ghost?"(3) Here comes another who flies out into great tempers and is very sorry for it afterwards. Many a man boils over and scalds his friend, and then in cooler moments expresses his regret. All very fine; but fine words cure no blisters. The next time you are in a great temper, ask yourself, "Have I received the Holy Ghost?"(4) Here is a brother who cannot be happy unless he indulges in worldly amusements. The next time you are coming home from a gay party, I should like to meet you and inquire, "Have you received the Holy Ghost?" You cannot expect the Holy Spirit to continue with you if you play with the devil's children.(5) I would like, when the avaricious man is totalling up his gains, to put to him the question, "Have you received the Holy Ghost?"

2. I know some to whom the question is needless. You meet them in the morning, soaring aloft, like the lark, in the praises of God. See them in trouble: they are resigned to their heavenly Father's will. Mark how they spend their lives in hallowed service. You do not ask them if they have received the Holy Ghost; but you stand still and admire the work of the Spirit of God in them.


1. We are not to look for salvation to one single act of faith in the past, but to Jesus, in whom we continue to believe.

2. We must continue to live by receiving. We received Christ Jesus our Lord at the first, and now we receive the Holy Ghost.

3. We may not despise the very lowest form of spiritual life; nay, not even those who have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.

4. The Holy Spirit always keeps sweet company with Jesus Christ. As long as these good people only knew John the Baptist, they could only know water baptism. It was only when they came to know Jesus that then the Spirit of God came upon them.

5. The Holy Ghost can be yet more fully possessed by all believers.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ and His work are not the whole of Christianity: this is the main truth of the lesson, negatively put. Its positive statement: The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is essential to Christian knowledge, experience, and efficiency. The teaching and power of Divine truth culminate in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Read from the twenty-second verse of the second chapter of Acts. With masterly speed Peter lifts tier above tier the stately fabric of the new doctrine: the manifestation of God in the flesh, the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, exaltation at the right hand of God; but he crowns the whole by declaring, "Having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." The experience was repeated to the Church in each crisis, each new beginning sanctioned by a new baptism. When Samaria received the Word of God, Peter and John came down and prayed for them, and "they received the Holy Ghost." Wider opens the door for Gentiles at Caesarea, and "the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Word." The movement which made Antioch a new centre of the Church was started by men "full of the Holy Ghost." In the first missionary venture, in Cyprus, it was "Saul filled with the Holy Ghost" who turned heathen to believers. But to Ephesus this experience had not yet come. We can partly account for the deficiency of their knowledge. Paul had stopped at Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem and preached but once, yet so impressively that they besought him to remain. But he must hurry on to the feast. Priscilla and Aquila seem to have done nothing to carry on the work, perhaps knew nothing of it, as the apostle seems to have left them before going to the synagogue. Then came Apollos, with all his gifts, yet knowing nothing of Pentecost. If he had learned more from Paul's two friends, he seems to have departed immediately to Greece. But imperfect work is not unblessed. The apostle returning found the little group of believers as a faint, clear flame in the darkness of that luxurious, superstitious city. But he missed in them that subtle something, not easily definable, but inevitably perceptible, which marks the spiritual life. The gift of the Holy Spirit is essential to understanding and realising Christian truth. This truth is tremendous beyond all other offered to the human mind. Yet who sees it or feels it in proportion to its majesty? It is as though the eye were dazed, the ear stunned, by the awfulness, and fail to give natural response. Even passing acquiescence may not issue in lasting acceptance. That is not a normal use of the faculties; knowledge should produce conviction. It is the express office of the Spirit of God to enlighten the mind and inflame the affections of a willing soul so that truth may become real and controlling. His work is supernatural, but not unnatural. It restores a lost sensibility, couches a blinded eye. He finds already in the mind itself a certain power of breaking through upon realities which have held themselves secluded. What boy has not groaned over some new principle in mathematics? At first, all is mist and mystery. Then he acquires the rule by dint of memory and the process by mechanical imitation. But after hours, months it may be, suddenly the heart of the hieroglyphic opens out like an exquisite flower blossoming in a mummy's hand, and he revels in the poetry of mathematics. But in spiritual things this slowness of intellect is further crippled by spiritual incompetence. Sin creates a positive incapacity. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." Paul himself had proved this. He had known of Jesus of Nazareth, but only as one to persecute. Then came in a flash both vision and blindness; and after this the messenger sent, "That thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." The same is true of spiritual emotions. What incitements to feeling we have here! the Infinite Deity of absolute holiness; the Incarnate God; the Crucified One; the great white throne, judgment, conscious eternity. No adjective can delineate their impressiveness. Yet myriads of thinking, feeling beings who never question them as facts heed them less than dreams. The granite headlands of Cape Ann fling back the tidal waves of the Atlantic as lightly as the ripple caused by a leaping fish; and these hearts cast off the truths of their own eternal destiny more lightly than the gossip of a neighbour or the feigned sorrows of a drama's heroine. If God Himself has any power at command which can restore to the soul its normal response, let those that love their fellow men, let the blind and deaf themselves, cry aloud, that they may be touched to live. If the unsaved themselves are thus unmoved, the more should those who have the gospel have the power of the Spirit. Oh, the Ephesian believers in our Churches! converted but powerless, believing somewhat, but knowing not the power of the Holy Ghost! But a strange comfort lies in the fact that only God Himself can supply such lack of power. Not by training and struggle the power comes, but by humble asking what He is more ready to give than are earthly parents to bestow good gifts upon their children. We look out with new vision, sweep a new range of achievement. Then open before the mind the truths that can save such a soul, the deep truths, the saving truths. Christ appears wonderfully glorious and His Cross past expression. Then we understand the meaning of atonement. All the unseen becomes the real, and the conviction of its reality and necessity stirs in the soul a new touch of power, to which hearts that were dry and hard yield like frosts in spring, for the breath of the Almighty is blowing free. This is service indeed, life indeed! Spirit is more than speech, unction than action. We are not told how the effects of this baptism showed themselves in the Ephesian Church, but we know how Paul wrought among them in the power of the Spirit. "At all seasons, with all humility of mind, with many tears and trials, teaching publicly and from house to house, pure from the blood of all men as not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God." So must every soul be endued with power from on high, that it may do the work of Christ.

I. WE LEARN THAT THE CHRISTIAN LIFE INVOLVES A DEVELOPMENT. The popular mood of these days gives us conversions without sense of sin, union with the Church without separation from the world, activity without meditation and deep joy of communing with God. We must neither discredit these experiences nor rest with them. Though born of the Spirit, we are not born full grown. The Christian life has stages, sometimes marked off by sharp experiences, then gliding one into another, realised only as past; one as sunrise with one sparkling instant when the glittering disc touches the horizon; another, stealing up in clouds, unrecognised until we find full day around us. Each stage has its own explanation, vindication it may be, but only for the sake of the next. It is a camp, not an abiding city. Despise not the day of small things, in others, in yourself. Neither speak slightingly of experiences unknown to your own life, if sanctioned by the Word of God. God makes the caterpillar but for the destiny of the butterfly. A soul not growing towards God may well be puzzled at the wearisomeness of endless existence.

II. The duty grows out of the truth: DO YOUR BEST WHERE YOU ARE, PRESS ON FOR BETTER. Never hold back effort because you know it must be imperfect, incomplete. If you have but one chance, seize it, as Paul his one Sunday at Ephesus. The good seed will not perish. Some Apollos will come to water it. God will give increase. The other side of this duty encourages those who feel oppressed by their own imperfect understanding of the truth. Do your best with what you have, and God will do His best for you. As Paul solemnly asked the Ephesians, this lesson comes to us today with its insistent demand: "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed? Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" Considerate and patient is the question. It does not deny that we are believers, or discredit what we have received, but it does require of us yet more. It comes to the unsatisfied Christian, whose conversion was a bare act of will or a blaze of emotion; in whose later experience obedience is ungraced by spiritual joy or appears as alternations from cold to hot, vibrating about a general lukewarmness, distasteful and profitless. Pray for the Spirit. It comes to baffled workers and unanswered suppliants. They use God's own truth, their purpose is loyal, the effort unshrinking; but they yet wait their Pentecost. It has its message for those who do not believe. It faces the "moral man," who accepts the Commandments and even thinks to rule his life by the Sermon on the Mount: whose conduct we admire and whose spirit we praise; with whom we find no fault, yet in whom we recognise a subtle and unmistakable lack — that he may ask for the Spirit. This abiding presence and mighty power of Deity is that manifestation given latest, to complete all that has been given before.

(Charles M. Southgate.)

Paul at Athens stands for Christianity flinging down its challenge to the world philosophies; Paul at Ephesus, the rich port of the Orient, the seat of the splendid worship of Diana, the most dissolute spot on the globe, stands for Christianity summoning iniquitous heathenism to wash and be clean. Paul meets with the twelve disciples of John the Baptist. The life of John the Baptist to an earthly judgment seems a most pitiful failure. There is nothing more sublimely touching in history than the complete self-effacement of John the Baptist. But such a judgment of John the Baptist contains much error. We think of his work as being effaced. Yet here are twelve men, a quarter of a century after they have heard him, holding fast to the truths he taught. Who can tell how many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other lives there were, of whom we have never heard, who received at the hands of the Baptist for all eternity the impress of Divine truth? Call no man's life unsuccessful because its results are not visible or measurable to us. Moreover, John the Baptist had the honour of being the greatest of forerunners. John the Baptist did nothing that stands for himself. All his work was but a pedestal for someone else to stand upon, John the Baptist deserves not our pity but our congratulation. Such thoughts concerning the forerunner are suggested to us by the appearance before Paul at Ephesus of twelve men who had accepted John's message and had cherished it for thirty years. Now let us study the lessons of their appearance.

I. We see in their case THE REALITY OF AN IMPERFECT CHRISTIANITY. There are certain simple things which, once truly possessed, make one a Christian. The line between death and salvation has been passed. Much advance is still possible, but it does not make the fact of one's being a Christian one whir more real. The feeblest, weakest Christian is just as truly saved as the most advanced in the things of God.

1. The truth of this statement is plain in the case of these twelve disciples of John the Baptist. Just what they knew and just what they did not know has been much disputed by commentators, and to little use, as the Bible record is so slight. What was the extent of the Christianity of these men?(1) They had repented of sin and put their faith in a coming (and as yet unknown) Saviour, and had confessed this faith in baptism (vers. 3, 4).(2) They had known as much of the Holy Spirit as was common among the Jews and as was known to John, but they had not the specially definite knowledge of Him given after the ascension of Christ, and particularly that manifestation of the Spirit which came through miracles. Nevertheless they were true Christians, for Luke calls them "disciples" (ver. 1), which he would not have done in the quiet time when he wrote this record of the Acts without full cognisance of its meaning.

2. The general inference follows for ourselves that one may be a real Christian though a very imperfect one. If a wide knowledge of Divine truth in its extension and a deep experimental knowledge of its separate elements were required at the entrance, who could be saved? How gracious is the Lord in accepting us when there is so little in us that would seem to warrant Him in calling us His! And yet that little is everything. Faith may be smaller than a mustard seed to the eye, yet if it be genuine it has in it a mountain-moving potency.

3. Yet one thing must be said: that a genuine faith is one which utilises what knowledge it has. The message of John the Baptist was very fragmentary compared to the full revelation of God's truth given by Christ, yet it had in it the power of salvation. The measure of our learning unto eternal life is not how much truth we have heard (as by preaching and teaching and reading), but how much we have incorporated into our own being. A very little food will save a human life, but not until it is assimilated.

II. The story of the twelve Johannean disciples shows us THE NECESSITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The reply of the men to Paul's question looks as though they had never known that there was such an existence as the Holy Spirit. But this is incredible in men who were probably Jews and certainly disciples of John — who knew of the Holy Spirit. Their reply must be understood in the light of Paul's question (ver. 2). And that question must be understood by the sequel when the Holy Spirit was given (ver. 6). The Holy Spirit was given to them in miraculous form (it led them to speak" with tongues" and to prophesy), and this was the form of manifestation Paul was inquiring about and they were answering about. They meant, therefore, that they knew nothing of a Holy Spirit miraculously manifested; they did not intend to say they knew nothing at all of the existence of the Holy Spirit.

1. It was necessary that they should receive the Holy Spirit. The form in which they received Him was conditioned by the circumstances of the time. It was an age of beginnings. Christ had left the earth to take His throne in glory, and miracles were particularly calculated to allay the doubt of Christ's continued existence and power which must arise in the first years of His bodily absence. Powerful signs were an evidence of Christ's enthronement. It was necessary, therefore, that, in addition to that enlightenment of the Holy Spirit which is given to all at the beginning of the Christian life, there should be given to believers at that time this special endowment of the Spirit for temporary purposes which came by the laying on of apostolic hands.

2. The same necessity for the Spirit's presence holds with us. The form of the Spirit's manifestation has doubtless changed. The place of the Holy Spirit in the scheme of salvation is unchangeable. If a man could save himself he would not need supernatural help, he would not need the Holy Spirit. Salvation is in a change of heart, in being made a new creature before God. This is a superhuman work.

3. Always ought we therefore to be praying for the presence of the Holy Spirit. He makes ours all that Christ has secured for us at such infinite cost!

III. Although a very small faith has in it the power of salvation, yet THERE REMAINS THE DUTY OF FULL BELIEF.

1. Opportunity is of God. God gave them the chance to hear John the Baptist. They believed the message they heard as far as it went. God by His Providence had withheld from them full Christian knowledge. Then after a time He gave them another opportunity, which they also embraced. It is a helpful thought that God's Providence is similarly directing us in our Christian opportunities. There are some far away from Church privileges, away from libraries, away from the possibility of reading Christian newspapers. Providence has cut off opportunity of growth by these external helps. Let such souls take courage. God has not forgotten them; He is leading them in His own way.

2. These men showed by their conduct that they had a desire for a more perfect faith. They had used what opportunity they had and were longing for more. The reason of Christian lethargy is never lack of opportunity, but failure to use what opportunities one has, which implies absence of the longing for growth. The smallness of Christian knowledge is not against it, but deadness is, even if it be very large. A little thing which is increasing will soon eclipse a big thing which is defunct.

3. When twelve men had a chance to have a new accretion of Christian faith they accepted it instantly (ver. 5). There was promptitude in their belief because desire had gone before it. When the new knowledge came they did not have to debate whether they wanted it or not.

IV. THE SEAL OF SUCCESS WAS GIVEN TO PAUL'S LABOUR IN EPHESUS (vers. 8-12). The blessing of heaven was upon his endeavours (vers. 11, 12) in such a form that no one could mistake it.

1. The form was unusual, for special reasons which have already been named. Miracles were wrought because at that time miracles needed to be wrought.

2. Extensive success was part of the corroboration of Paul's work being God's work (ver. 10).

3. Intensive success was an additional proof of the divineness of Paul's work (ver. 12).

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

This lesson divides itself into two parts. In the first part we see how the gospel attracts those who are teachable. In the second part we see how it is repelled by those who are hardened. The teachable ones are some twelve disciples of John the Baptist, who were living at Ephesus. How disciples of John happened to be found thirty years after their master's death so far away from the river Jordan we are not told, and yet it would be a strange coincidence if the labours of Apollos, an eloquent advocate of John's baptism, whose presence in Ephesus is referred to in the preceding chapter, had no connection with the formation of this little band. was a Jew from Alexandria, a city which had been the scene of the labours of the Seventy (), who translated the Old Testament into Greek, and was the home of Philo, the learned interpreter. In Alexandria Apollos became "mighty in the Scriptures," and he hailed with enthusiasm the reformation which John had inaugurated, with repentance for its watchword and immersion for its sign. He had a perfect understanding of the significance Of this movement as a preparation of the Jews for the coming Messiah. Although thirty years had passed since the ascension of Jesus, no report of it had reached Ephesus, and though Alexandria is much nearer Mount Olivet, there is no record that any attempt had been made to evangelise Egypt. At all events Apollos, when he arrived in Ephesus, was still a disciple of John. Many of John's disciples used to consort in Judaea with the Pharisees, whose frequent fasts were more congenial to them than the free and informal life of the apostles. "The disciple is not above his master," and they did not rise above the state of doubt expressed by John in the question which he seat to Jesus from his dungeon: "Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" If the followers of John in Judaea were not convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, it is not strange if those living, like Apollos, in Alexandria, and the twelve in Ephesus, were utterly unacquainted with the triumphs of the risen and ascended Christ and of the descending Spirit. What Apollos taught when he came to Ephesus was the necessity of repentance and of the confession of sins. The motives he urged were the fan and the fire, the fan with which the coming Messiah would separate the wheat for His garner, and the fire with which the chaff would be burned. Those who honestly repented and forsook their evil ways made a public acknowledgment of their faith by submitting to a rite that signified complete purification. John had told the people to "believe on Him that should come after him," but after his own hesitation in accepting Jesus as the Messiah it is not likely that anything more definite was demanded by his successors. We are then to understand that the disciples whom Paul found at Ephesus had been taught "the way of the Lord" as far as John knew it and no, further. In other words, they were in a transition state, having accepted all the light they had seen, and were now waiting for more. They knew little of Jesus and less of the Holy Spirit, but they were seekers after God. They needed someone to "show them the way of the Lord more perfectly." The very first question put to them by Paul showed that he was an advocate who knew how to get at the root of a matter at once. The specific difference between Christian baptism and the baptism of John is brought out by this question. John himself recognised the: same difference when he said: "I indeed baptize you with water, but He shall. baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." The Saviour called attention to this fundamental distinction in His last interview with His apostles, and now Paul implies by his question that Christian baptism is not complete without the gift of the Holy Spirit. This inquiry should be made of every believer. The gospel is first of all a message to the ear and to the understanding, but it is more than that. When the Word of truth is mixed with faith in the heart, then the heart. is quickened by the Holy Spirit. The reply given to the apostle's question indicated plainly that these disciples knew more of repentance than of regeneration, and that, they were still living under the law of works and not under the law of the spirit of life. They had not heard, no one in Ephesus had heard till Paul came, of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They were still shut up in the dark, not knowing that it was high noon. They acknowledged their ignorance with the utmost candour. They were well named disciples, for they were ready to learn. Members of Churches today who are destitute of the Holy Spirit cannot justify themselves by any such plea of ignorance.

(W. W. Everts.)


1. There is in fallen human nature a constant tendency to sink under the dominion of materialistic habits of thought. I do not now speak of formal materialistic systems, but of that materialism which tells us that we are too sensible a race to run after metaphysical and theological phantoms. "Go on your way," it whispers, "O most practical people! Vex not yourselves with problems which have wearied the human soul for centuries, to no purpose. Believe in your senses; make matter more and more entirely your slave. Here only progress is possible."

2. The bearing of all this on the idea of an invisible world is unmistakable, and no Christian can regard it without distress, for this popular, untheoretic, yet most real materialism is radically inconsistent with any recognition of the truth before us, which involves belief in the existence of a supersensuous world, within and upon which the Divine Spirit lives and acts. Certainly, this belief carries us completely beyond the precincts of sense. What in Himself the Eternal Spirit is, who shall say? And how spirit acts on spirit; how the Divine Spit it acts on ours must for ever remain a mystery. But to admit it at all is to deny the premises of a great deal of popular writing and conversation.

3. You may reply, that this practical materialism is not to be thus refuted. No: not for theoretical materialists. Yet we may pause to observe that civilisation itself, which we are told is to advance in an inverse ratio to man's belief in the Invisible, itself obliges us to resist the advance of materialism. Who were the founders of modern civilisation? Men who believed in the Invisible. And upon what does civilisation really repose? Not upon our conquests in the world of matter, which may merely add to our capacities for extraordinary brutality; but upon the prevalence of moral ideas — of the idea of duty, of justice, of conscience. They are products of the supersensuous world; they altogether belong to it, although they form the very foundations of our social fabric. These ideas are as much out of the reach of sense as is the action of the Holy Spirit upon a human soul; we see the ideas as we see that action, only in their effects, not in themselves. A really consistent materialism would have inaugurated pure barbarism if it could have succeeded in destroying them.


1. There is such a thing as the materialised estimate of the life of Christ. How many men conceive of Christ as of a Teacher of commanding influence. Recognising this, they gather up all that can illustrate His appearance among men. The idioms of Eastern speech, the scenery, flora, climate, customs of Palestine, all are summoned by the highest literary skill, that they may place vividly before us the exact circumstances which surrounded the life of Christ. But here too often the appreciation of that life really ends. Where He is now, what He is, whether He can act upon us, are points which they dismiss as belonging, to the category of theological abstractions. And if St. Paul were here, would he not say this, that they know Christ only after the flesh? Now, belief in and communion with the Holy Spirit rescues the life of Christ from this exclusively historical way of looking at it. For the Holy Spirit perpetually fulfils Christ's promise — "He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you." The Spirit weans Christian thought from too exclusive an attention to the outward, and concentrates it upon the inward features, and forces in upon us the habitual recollection that Christ is what He was. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." And how? Politicians are present after death, by the laws or dynasties which they have established. The intellectual survive by the force of the ideas to which they have given currency. The good and the bad live by the persuasive beauty or the repellent ugliness of their examples. Was the presence of Christ to be of this description? No. It was to be a real, but a spiritual presence. The Spirit is emphatically the Spirit of Christ, because He is the Minister of Christ's supersensuous presence.

2. There is a materialised estimate of the Christian Church. The Church has of course an earthly side, and there are many Christians who see no more than this. They mistake the kingdom of the Spirit for a merely human organisation, patronised by the State in the interests of civil order, education, and philanthropy. They are exclusively concerned with the mere outward trappings of the Church. But the Church is a spiritual society, and it is only faith in the Spirit that enables us to grasp this, to act out all it means, and to share the certain triumphs which such a society must win.

3. There is such a thing as materialised worship. That the sense of beauty may be appealed to in order to win the soul to God, is a principle consecrated by the language and example of Scripture; and it seems to be the true and generous instinct of an earnest piety to deem no measure of artistic beauty too great for the embellishment of the temples and service of Christ. Nor is there any real connection between spirituality and that slovenliness which is sometimes termed "simplicity." But this truth should not blind us to the fact that aesthetic aids to worship may, like other blessings, be perverted, by coming to be regarded as ends. Let us give of our best to the churches and the service of our God; but let us ever remember that, since He is a Spirit, they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Surely, to realise the presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul, and in the Church, is to be anxious that the inner realities of worship should as far transcend its outward accompaniments, as the kingdom of the Invisible transcends the world of sense.

III. IMPLIES A CORRESPONDENT ELEVATION OF CHARACTER. It implies that a man aims at something higher than mere morality. Yet, before we think disparagingly of morality, we do well to ask ourselves how far it may not rebuke us for falling as far below as we profess to rise above it. Nevertheless, the Eternal Spirit has Himself set up in the world a school of morals; and He whispers within the soul a deeper and purer code than nature dreams of. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." How unnatural, men say, they are! True! but not in the sense of contradicting nature so much as in that of transcending it. And if we will reach that high standard, we may with the Spirit's help. He makes the feeble strong, and the melancholy bright, and the cold-blooded fervent, and the irascible gentle, and the uninstructed wise, and the conceited humble, and the timid unflinching.

(Canon Liddon.)

I. WHAT IS THIS BLESSING? The Lord Jesus is the life of His people, for in Him they are "complete." But the teaching here does not exalt God the Spirit by giving a lower place to God the Son. For the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. To have Him, therefore, is to have the Spirit of Christ —

1. Becoming our spirit. We think of our Lord, "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners," and it is almost startling to read, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"; yet that is precisely the result of the reception of the Holy Ghost; "the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth."

2. Revealing Him to us. We often wish we had seen Christ "after the flesh." We can think of nothing better. But it was as something better that He promised the Comforter. "It is expedient for you," etc.; "a little while, and ye shall not see Me, and again a little while and ye shall see Me." Pentecost opened the eyes of the apostles; they knew their Lord then as they had not known Him; He was a hundredfold more to them from that hour than when He walked with them on earth. It is on the baptism of the Spirit that ever-growing perception of the wondrous fulness of His glory and trace depend. "Neither will I hide My face any more from them, for I have poured out My Spirit upon the house of Israel."

3. Qualifying us to serve Him. It not only gives us more of Christ, but Christ more of us. The coming of the Holy Ghost was a baptism of power; it was a new zeal, a new perception of truth, a new utterance, a new force.

II. IS THERE REASON TO THINK WE MAY RECEIVE THIS BAPTISM? No doubt this must be answered in the affirmative; there is a reception of the Holy Ghost which corresponds to what we need. For consider that the bestowment of the Spirit on the New Testament Church was —

1. Greatly to exceed what was given before (John 7:38, 39). "The Holy Ghost was not yet"! That is a remarkable expression. All spirituality is from Him; under His influence patriarchs worshipped, psalmists sang, prophets wrote, and holy men of old lived saintly lives. That must mean that the measure of the Spirit's bestowment after Jesus was glorified would be such that His previous bestowment would be as nothing. And the favourite Old Testament expression "pour" points to an overwhelming abundance, far beyond what preceded the time to which it refers.

2. Set forth as the Crowning Gift of the Risen Lord. This was strongly emphasised by His herald. As our Lord's ministry neared its close His thoughts were fixed on this. And after He rose it was His frequent theme. Does it not seem as though He regarded it as the end of His incarnation and that which, having made the atonement that secured it, He hastened to grant! If so, it is the undoubted heritage of all for whom that atonement avails.

3. Plainly declared to be possible to all believers. That is the point we fail to grasp. We think this was fulfilled once for all, but Pentecost was repeated even in the history of the apostles (Acts 4:31); nor was it limited to them, nor to the Church at Jerusalem, it was repeated in the household of Cornelius, whilst in the incident before us it is repeated again in Ephesus. And doubt is finally removed as we still listen to Peter (Acts 2:39).

III. WHY, THEN, HAVE WE NOT RECEIVED IT? "Have ye received the Holy Ghost," as the apostles did? If we answer that our spiritual state is more like theirs before than after Pentecost, that may be due, in part, to —

1. Lack of knowledge. "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost," or, at least, such a possible reception of Him as this. We have thought of the Pentecostal blessing as power to speak with tongues.

2. Failure in prayer. For prayer is a condition of its bestowment. Those to whom it was first given had "continued with one accord in prayer and supplication." A second time, "when they had prayed,...they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." Christ Himself received it thus — when being baptized He was praying. And He said, "Your Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him."

3. Lack of consecration to Christ. Before Pentecost the apostles placed themselves at their Lord's disposal. Then the blessing came. Nor will it ever come otherwise. The world spirit cannot receive it, for He is "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive"; the disobedient cannot receive it, for He is "the Holy Ghost whom God hath given to them that obey Him"; lack of love cannot receive it, for we mark the connection: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God; let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger," etc.; self-seeking cannot receive it (for, alas! like Simon the sorcerer we may desire the baptism of the Spirit for personal ends), for "when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall glorify Me." Conclusion: To prayer and consecration this sorely-needed, all-inclusive blessing is never far off. There may, indeed, even then be a time of waiting. Nor may it come as we expect, for its recorded manifestations were not in every case alike. It may come to us as the dove, peace bringing; or as a baptism of fire, consuming our dross; or as the pouring out of rain, sweeping away our evils, and making buried seeds and drooping graces revive; or as the withering wind, making the goodliness of the flesh to fade, but the final issue will be the same; we shall be filled with the mind of Christ, and growingly transformed into His likeness; we shall live in fellowship with Him; and our words and works, yea, our very life, will become channels of grace to men, so that on every side they will cry "What must we do to be saved?"

(C. New.)

1. These men were already disciples. What lacked they yet? Paul came among them with a single question. Did ye, after coming to faith in Christ, receive that outpouring of His Holy Spirit which is the sign and seal of His chosen? That was a very definite question. It referred to a gift which could not come without their knowing it.

2. The answer was as plain as the question, Now it was impossible for any reader of the Old Testament to be ignorant of the existence of the Holy Spirit. The very second verse of the Bible speaks of Him. And the devotions of holy men recognised more than His mere existence (Psalm 51). All that is good in man has ever been the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore these disciples could not literally mean that they did not know of any such Person. What they say is, We did not even hear, when we believed, whether there is such a thing, in the gospel sense of the words, as the Holy Spirit; whether, that is, the great promise, as conveyed by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Joel, of a special outpouring of the Spirit is yet fulfilled. If any doubt could otherwise have rested upon the meaning of this question and its answer, it will be removed by a reference to John 7:39. "The Spirit was not yet" — or, "not yet was there" [in the distinctive gospel sense of the words] "a Spirit — because Jesus was not yet glorified"; even as our Lord Himself said, "It is expedient for you that I go away," etc. The Holy Ghost was not yet come, because Christ was not yet gone. Even so it is here. These disciples had not yet heard of Pentecost.

3. And not to have heard this proved them to be ignorant of the very elements of Christian truth. "Unto what then were ye baptized?" Christian baptism is a baptism "into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" — the way of admission into that Church in which the Holy Spirit dwells, for the use of each one of its members. "Into what then were ye baptized," if you have not so much as heard whether there be any such Holy Spirit? The answer explained all. They had only received the baptism of John: who stood, himself, outside the Church, insomuch that it was said of him, "Notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater," in privilege and in possession, than he, the greatest of the prophets. This baptism was designed only as a temporary and preliminary ordinance; inasmuch as after it came a baptism not of water only but of fire; not of repentance only and reformation, but of the personal presence of the Holy Ghost.

4. "When they heard this" (vers. 5, 6). Thus were fulfilled in them those words afterwards addressed to the same Church (Ephesians 1:13). The miraculous gifts of the early Church are withdrawn, chiefly because they have done their work, because they have lost their necessity as signs. It is in His ordinary rather than in His extraordinary gifts that we trace the hand of God now. In this respect the Holy Spirit is only where He acts; and, where He acts, He shows that He is acting; and, where He shows His operation, it is by signs of a certain particular nature, written down for us in Scripture. I will select three of them to serve as heads of inquiry, when we are asked by St. Paul, and by One greater still, Have ye received that Holy Spirit, which all who believe in Christ were to receive? The fruit of the Spirit is —

I. JOY. Are you happy? the text says, You do not look so. I know that you have an excuse for this. Your circumstances are perplexing; trade is bad; the sky of the future dark and lowering. St. Paul might have said many things of this kind. In every respect but one I will venture to say St. Paul was worse off than you. And yet St. Paul could say when he was asked, Hast thou received the Holy Ghost? Yes, for I am filled with joy! yea, I can glory in tribulations also! If a man has the Spirit of Christ, in the same degree he is a joyful man. Do not put away from you this first test. For could anything so recommend the gospel to a man living in a troublesome world as this fact, that it offers him joy?

II. GENTLENESS. Are you kind? Do you think of the feelings of others? Do you never allow in yourself that miserable excuse, "It is only my way; I do not mean it"? There are other words in the list of the same character. The fruit of the Spirit is love, longsuffering, goodness, meekness. Every part of the gospel is full of this topic. And how bright would human life be, by comparison, if it also were full of gentleness! Alas! where is the house in which some ungentle spirit is not more or less marring the general tranquillity? Even good manners cannot succeed in doing thoroughly this work of the Holy Spirit. Other things break down somewhere: they who are courteous to strangers are not always courteous at home: they who are agreeable to equals are not always considerate to servants; it is only that Divine Spirit which touches the very spring of being which can make gentleness uniform, genuine and heart-deep.

III. TEMPERANCE — i.e., self-control, inward strength. It is not one appetite only which it rules: it is all the appetites. It is not that spurious virtue which casts out one evil spirit by the help of others, and compounds for pride and contempt and self-righteousness and utter ungodliness by deifying one single abstinence into man's sole virtue. It is the power of saying No to inclination. It is the not being brought under the power of anything, save the law of God, save the love of Christ. And who has got this without being a Christian?

(Dean Vaughan.)

1. These disciples were Christians, but separated from the common body, and ignorant of the common doctrine. Paul soon perceives the secret of their isolation, and makes them feel their defect by his abrupt question. They explain their case, receive fuller instruction, are baptized into Jesus, and the signs of a little Pentecost accompany their full admission into the Church.

2. There were three lesser Pentecosts after the great one, continuing with lessening demonstration the original signs — when Peter threw open the gate to the Gentiles, when Samaria was added to the fold, and now when the Spirit set His seal on the dispensation of the Baptist. After this there are no more renewals of the Pentecostal tokens — the extraordinary signs melt into the ordinary. This question —


1. The Ephesians were in ignorance of the full revelation of the Trinity. Of the Personality of the Spirit, as also of the Person of Christ, into whose name they were not yet baptized, they had only an indistinct knowledge, and hence the supreme revelation of the Son had not unfolded the Father.

2. The holders of this scanty creed today cannot evade the test by asserting that they hold all that is vitally necessary, in that they believe God, that they accept the teaching of Christ, and that they acknowledge a supernatural power resting on the mind, whether called the influence of the Holy Ghost or not. The Spirit is God in the unity of the Father and the Son. As there is no Redeemer but a Divine Redeemer, so there is no Holy Ghost but the third Person of the Trinity.


1. No truth is more deeply stamped on the New Testament than the necessity of the Spirit's illumination to an experimental acquaintance with Christ and His salvation. As none know the Father save through the Son, so none can "call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost." He makes the Word effectual in conviction of sin, in the energy of faith, in the revelation of mercy, and in renewal and sanctification.

2. But it is equally true that there may be correct theological belief and ceremonial exactness without conscious enjoyment of the Spirit.(1) How many, forgetting that "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink," etc., make Christianity a reproduction of Judaism, as if they were "baptized into Moses," hide the Saviour under ritualised sacraments, and forget, in their symbolical worship, that "God is a Spirit," etc.(2) But there is a formal unceremonial Christianity, a round of decent prescribed observances which is equally void of the Spirit, and which embraces everything about religion but that which is the result of earnest prayer on the part of man and a direct gift on the part of the Spirit.


1. These Ephesians were disciples of John, whose ministry had its value in this, that it prepared for Christ and His baptism of the Spirit. They were penitents waiting for mercy, and while the Saviour had come they knew Him not.(1) Among those who are in earnest about their religion a large number fall short of the full light and grace provided in Christ. Their sins have been revealed to them, but not their Saviour. They are on the way from the Baptist to Christ, but only on the way. They are lingering at Jordan while there is elsewhere a voice crying, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour," etc.(2) Others take the view that the gospel only provides for a lifelong penitence, the hope of being accepted at last, and that it has nothing better for this life than a discipline of sorrow — an altogether morbid estimate of Christianity; utterly untrue to the gospel, which is "glad tidings." To such the Spirit asks, as if grieved, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost? If He be a Comforter, where is your strength? If He be a Spirit of joy, where is your rejoicing?"(3) Others miss the "comfort of the Holy Ghost" because their repentance is not sufficiently deep. The revelation of mercy by the Spirit cannot be extorted before the set time, and that is deferred till penitence has had its perfect work. There can be no peace where the exceeding sinfulness of sin is not deeply felt. Such must go back to John, and abide under the preliminary leading of the Spirit of conviction, who waits to afford consolation, but His time is not yet.(4) Others misapprehend the simplicity of that faith which the Spirit seals. The apostle wrote to these same men, "When ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit." That sealing is not always accompanied by the demonstrations which many require. Many doubting Christians hesitating to answer the question, if they would examine themselves they might find that the Lord the Spirit is in their hearts, "and they knew it not." They have a humble trust in Christ, a filial spirit of appeal to Him, a relish for prayer, a secret joy in the name of Jesus, a hearty abhorrence of sin. What is all this but a token of the indwelling Spirit?

2. With regard to this great class there is in our question an abundant promise. It detects a deficiency only that it may be supplied; for there is nothing more remarkable than the sudden way in which these men were translated out of their partial darkness into perfect light.


1. They have received the Holy Ghost, but they have forgotten the conditions on which His presence is suspended, and have fallen into the habit of grieving that Spirit by whom they are sealed. Hence the question serves only to remind them of better days, and gives birth to other questions. Having received the Spirit, why have you not been one with Him in temper, desire, and act?

2. But if the question awakens regret, in that sorrow there is hope. The Spirit is not easily driven from the soul He has once inhabited. The duty of such a troubled Christian is plain. There is occasion now for a fresh repentance; and if with all our heart we ask for the tokens of reconciliation, He will give them as richly as at the first.

V. APPLIES TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT FIXING THEIR MINDS STEADILY ON THE SPIRIT'S SUPREME DESIGN IN THEIR SANCTIFICATION. Some undervalue this sanctifying power as received by the believer on his first union with Christ. They read the question as if it ran, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost at some epoch of transcendent consecration, raising the regenerate life into a higher sphere?" But Paul actually said, "Did ye receive?" etc. There is no distinction between a state of regeneration and a state of higher religious life. The same Spirit whom we receive in the new birth is given for our entire consecration. Then do not undervalue the grace you inherit as having the Holy Ghost. There is no limit to His present willingness to fill, rule, and consecrate the soul.

(W. B. Pope, D. D.)

I. THE HOLY SPIRIT TESTIFIES OF CHRIST. To manifest Him, to draw men to Him, to bring them into captivity to His easy yoke and light burden — this is the Spirit's operation in the human heart. And this it could never be before Jesus was glorified.


III. Again, the indwelling Spirit of these latter days of the Church is eminently THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM. The humble child, walking by the light of this Spirit, is wiser than his teachers if they have Him not.

IV. Lastly, the Spirit of God now abiding among us is a TRANSFORMING SPIRIT; not merely enlightening, nor merely comforting, nor merely conferring the adoption of sons, but changing us into the image of God, begetting in us a thirst to be like Him whose sons we are, to have done with sin, and to cast off corruption and to put on perfect holiness.

(H. Alford.)

Consider —

I. THE INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY GHOST ON THE DEPARTMENT OF RELIEF. We are often where these Ephesians were. God the Holy Spirit came into them, and then their old belief opened into a different belief; then they really believed. Can any day in man's life compare with that day?

II. The Holy Spirit not only gives clearness to truth, but GIVES DELIGHT AND ENTHUSIASTIC IMPULSE TO DUTY. The work of the Spirit was to make Jesus vividly real to man. What He did then for any poor Ephesian man or woman who was toiling away in obedience to the law of Christianity was to make Christ real to the toiling soul behind and in the law. I find a Christian who has really received the Holy Ghost, and what is it that strikes and delights me in him? It is the intense and intimate reality of Christ. Christ is evidently to him the dearest person in the universe. He talks to Christ. He dreads to offend Christ. He delights to please Christ. His whole life is light and elastic, with this buoyant desire of doing everything for Jesus just as Jesus would wish it done. Duty has been transfigured.

(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)

How shall we know whether the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us? The tokens of His indwelling are such as cannot be mistaken.

1. One of them is the growing love of our neighbour which He works in us.

2. There is another test — the hatred of sin.

3. There is yet a third test — that of love of Christ in God. Let us ask Him to burn up all the wood and stubble wherewith we have been building in ourselves after a fashion of our own, and build up in us a sincere trust in Himself and His Son.

(Abp. Thomsom.)

Have you ever been under the water in a diving bell? I have; and very glad I was to get up again! The bottom of the diving bell is open just like an ordinary bell or a tumbler, and all the time we were below air was being pumped into the bell through tubes from above. Without this constant supply of air we could not have lived. We were out of our natural element. As a fish cannot live out of water, so neither could we exist under the water except under special conditions. The fresh air coming into the bell kept the water out of it and kept us alive. Had it not been for this constant stream of pure air we must have died by drowning or suffocation. Now, every man, woman, boy, and girl born into this world is, in one sense, like a person in a diving bell. We are made for heaven, not merely for earth. We need the air of heaven, or our souls cannot live. This beautiful earth suits our bodies, but our spirits require something more. We need the atmosphere which is from above. God supplies us with the breath of spiritual life. He gives us the Bible, the Holy Spirit, the Sabbath, and means of grace to help our souls in this life and to prepare us for the next; and if we inhale the Divine air which God supplies for our use, our souls will live, and our spiritual life will act upon our bodies and make us happy, good, and useful.

(T. L. Cuyler.)

Dr. McDonald, of Ferintosh, whom the Lord so signally blessed in Scotland upwards of half a century ago, and to whom the Lord gave such multitudes of souls, had often to deal with young believers, and to warn them in regard to the future of their life. He used to put the question to them thus: "Why is it that so many who made a hopeful profession at the beginning seem so quickly to fail?" and he answered the question by saying, "It was because they started business without capital." By this he meant that the indwelling of the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of Power for a pure life and devoted service was not personally and specially asked for and obtained as a conscious possession; hence the failure.

(W. Ross.)

A clergyman told to the Rev. Asa Mahan the following story of his mother: — "For years past she has been wholly confined to her bed from nervous prostration. During the early part of this period it did seem that no one could take care of her or endure her continued manifestations of irritability, impatience, fretfulness, and furious anger. Right there, she became fully convinced that through grace and the baptism of the Spirit she could have perfect rest, quietude, and self-control. She set her whole heart upon attaining that state. Such was her fervency of spirit and earnestness in prayer, that her friends thought she would become deranged, and urged her to cease seeking and prayer. 'I die in the effort,' was her reply, 'or I obtain what I know to be in reserve for me.' At length the baptism of power came gently upon her. From that hour there has not been the slightest indication of even the remains of that temper. Her quietude and assurance have been absolute, and her sweetness of spirit 'as ointment poured forth.' It is no trouble to anyone now, but a privilege to all, to care for her. Many come, even from long distances, to listen to her divine discourse." Years passed on, and again he was asked, "What of your mother? Does her faith hold out? She is gone," was the reply. "But from the hour of that baptism to that of her death that quietude and assurance remained, and the ineffable sweetness of temper was never for a moment interrupted. I witnessed the closing scene. She died of cholera, and in the greatest conceivable agony. Yet such patience, such serenity of hope, and such quiet waiting for the coming of the Lord, I hardly before deemed possible. 'My son,' she would say, 'nature has a hard struggle; but it will soon be over,' and I shall 'enter into the zest that remains for the people of God.'"

Acts 19:2 NIV
Acts 19:2 NLT
Acts 19:2 ESV
Acts 19:2 NASB
Acts 19:2 KJV

Acts 19:2 Bible Apps
Acts 19:2 Parallel
Acts 19:2 Biblia Paralela
Acts 19:2 Chinese Bible
Acts 19:2 French Bible
Acts 19:2 German Bible

Acts 19:2 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Acts 19:1
Top of Page
Top of Page