The Gift that Keeps On Giving

Tom Burke

January 2019
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Acts chapter 10 speaks of a pivotal moment in the history of the early church, and indeed in the history of mankind. In this record, we read of Peter going to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, in order to preach the gospel to those who awaited him there. The incident is significant because it indicates that the Gentiles, who had been excluded from the plan of God for thousands of years, were being given full access to all that God had made available through the work of Christ.

As Peter is preaching, something remarkable occurs.

Acts 10:44–45  (English Standard Version)

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.1

And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.

These Gentiles, after hearing the gospel, accepted it. And, having accepted it, we read that they received something. This is highly significant, because it indicates that, unlike the religions of mankind, Christianity does not simply involve the acceptance of a new philosophy or a new morality. It involves receiving something. That “something” is called holy spirit.2

What is this holy spirit? For many Christians, it is a nebulous personality which they find difficult to define. However, if we are to consider the Scriptures, we find that in some cases, the words “Holy Spirit” refer to God, Who is both Holy and Spirit. But in the vast majority of uses, these words refer not to God Himself, but to something that He imparts by grace to those who believe. In other words, a gift.

This wonderful gift was first poured out on the Day of Pentecost. We can read of the days preceding Pentecost, during which Jesus prepared his disciples to receive “power from on high” (Luke 24:49) and indeed, on Pentecost those words became reality. Subsequent to Pentecost, thousands more believed (including Cornelius’ household) and in each case they, too, became recipients of this gift.

Today, many acknowledge Jesus Christ in a variety of vague ways. But the gospel still clearly presents him as he truly is ─ the crucified savior, now seated as Lord. And even these many years after Pentecost, those who believe this message receive something real and definite: the gift of holy spirit.

How does the presence of this gift affect my Christian life?

First of all, let’s note that, just as God is spirit, likewise His Word speaks of spirit beings (both holy and unholy) who are part of His creation. Spirit is a life form. When Jesus spoke of being “born again,” 3 he was not speaking figuratively. Rather, he was telling of a new life, the very life of God, which would be created within those who would believe on him. Having received this life, we become the children of God.

Romans 8:15–16  (New International Version, 1984 Edition)

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him [or “by it”] we cry, “Abba, Father.”

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Although the believers of Israel were shown great favor in the Old Testament, they were, ultimately, still the children of Israel. Though some among them received the spirit, many did not. And those few who did receive the spirit received it conditionally. In other words, the spirit could later be withdrawn (and sometimes was). What of the children of God?

II Corinthians 1:21–22  (King James Version)

Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;

Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

We read in verse 21 of the Christian being stablished, which means to be made firm or sure. But we also read of an anointing. What does this mean to us?

In the Old Testament, we read of priests, kings, and others being anointed. This was done at God’s direction, and indicated a specific calling by God. Of course, this anointing, as the name implies, was done with oil. But the true anointing involves something much greater than oil. Our Lord Jesus Christ was a recipient of this anointing.4

Acts 10:38  (King James Version)

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost [holy spirit] and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

The believer has also been anointed, inwardly, with the gift of holy spirit. (See I John 2:27.) The spirit is an indicator of our sure calling. (And, as we’ll see later in our study, it also equips us to fulfill that calling.)

Let’s look again at II Corinthians 1:21–22:

II Corinthians 1:21–22  (King James Version)

Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;

Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

In addition to being stablished and anointed, the believer is sealed in Christ. We all understand the purpose of a seal: to keep the contents of some container from escaping, leaking out, or being tampered with in some way. How long will it last? That depends upon the quality of the seal. Having come from God, our seal is perfect. Thus, we are sealed until “the day of redemption,” the day when Christ returns for us. (See Ephesians 1:13–14; 4:30.)

Unlike men and women of old, the spirit within the Christian is unconditional: it cannot be lost, forfeited, or even diminished.

It is worth noting that the presence of a seal on our lives has a further significance. In ancient days, monarchs would use a seal on various letters and proclamations. This was done not only to hide communications from the eyes of the curious, but also to certify the authority of the source. Each ruler had his or her own personal seal, often on a ring, and the degree to which the seal was effective depended entirely upon the authority behind it. Our sealing is from God Almighty.5

Finally, in II Corinthians we read that the spirit is an “earnest” in our hearts. An earnest, in modern terms, is a down payment. This, too, illustrates the completeness of our redemption. When you make a down payment on an item, you are indicating by that deposit that you are no longer “shopping around.” You are serious. You want that car or house. It is set apart for you.

A down payment also assures that there is more to come. The earnest of the spirit likewise is a promise of greater things to come. That which we receive upon Christ’s return will make all of today’s blessings and benefits look, by comparison, like “childish things.” (See I Corinthians 13:10–12.) And meanwhile, God’s gift of holy spirit serves as both a guarantee and a reminder of those greater things to come.

Before closing, it should be noted that the spirit is not merely a passive “place-marker” within the believer. It is life! We’ll recall that Jesus spoke to his disciples of “power from on high.” This power enables every Christian to do the works which Jesus did, and greater (see John 14:12), as we make known the Good News.

And the spirit is to be a helper, gently leading us into holy lives that more and more resemble the life of our savior. (See Romans 8:14.) Each of these essential topics is worthy of your attention and study. But for the purposes of this article, we will consider one final descriptive.

Romans 8:23  (King James Version)

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

In this verse we read of the first fruits of the spirit. Obviously, the presence of first fruit implies the coming of more fruit, and, as we saw when considering the earnest, this gift of God is indeed a foretaste of greater things to come. But this term implies something further. Throughout the Old Testament, we can read of the first fruits. Invariably, the first fruits were to be entrusted and committed to God.

Like any true gift, holy spirit was not earned, but given by grace. And like any true gift, it cannot be taken away. We are free to ignore or abuse it. Our Father desires that the comfort, guidance, and power of this gift be utilized by each of us in furthering His purposes on earth.

If you have not believed on Jesus Christ, I urge you to do so, and thus receive this new life within. For those who have received, what can we say but, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!”  (II Corinthians 9:15)

1The word “hear” in this verse is the Greek word akouo, which can be translated “to listen” or “to attend to.” We know from many other clear verses that their hearing of the gospel must have culminated in their decision to believe it. (See John 3:16, Romans 10: 9,10,17 for examples.)

2The reader should be aware that in the original texts of the Scriptures, there was no distinction between upper-case and lower-case letters. The capitalization of certain words was a choice made later, by copyists and translators. In Acts 10, the words “Holy Spirit” (in some translations, “Holy Ghost”) can and should be rendered “holy spirit.”

3John 3:3,6,7  (King James Version)
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

4The reader should be aware that the very name “Christ” means “anointed one.”

5For some examples of the seal, see Genesis 41:42–44 and Esther 8:8.