By Elmer Moore
I am fully aware of the diversity over what the statement “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38 means: “And Peter said to them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Much has been said and written about the prepositional phrase, “unto the remission of sins.” If this phrase was not even in the text one would know why they were to be baptized. The Jews asked a question in verse 37 and said, “What shall we do?” They had been indicted as the murderers of the Divine Son of God. They were in a lost condition and wanted to know what to do to be saved. Peter answered their question saying, “Repent and be baptized.” This is what they were to do in order to have their sins forgiven. The honest and good heart would know this even if the prepositional phrase “unto remission of sins” had not been uttered. I can only ask that you consider this presentation with an open and honest heart.
However, our study will have to do with the statement, ” … and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What were they promised? Were they promised the Holy Spirit himself or were they promised a gift from the Holy Spirit? Was the Spirit himself the gift or was he the giver? We will endeavor to answer this question.
Cannot be Answered on the Basis
of the Grammar Alone
Brother Franklin Puckett wrote that, “Grammatically it may be either the Holy Spirit Himself, or it may be that which the Holy Spirit gives. The grammar does not determine whether the Holy Spirit is the gift or the give?’ (The Holy Spirit 12-13). On pages 13 and 14 he cites Greek authorities and shows that they conclude “that the distinction between the Subjective and the Objective Genitive depends, not on grammatical, but upon doctrinal reasons, and that these are to be carefully deduced from an accurate comparison of parallel passages” (Winer Grammar of the New Testament Diction, Part III, Sec. 30, 199). I am not willing to allow denominational scholars to determine doctrine for me. Are you? Let us determine the meaning, from the New Testament, by looking at some parallel passages.
Comparison of “Gift of ” Passages
In John 4:10 Jesus said, “If thou knewest the gift of God .. thou would have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” In Ephesians 4:7 Paul wrote, “Unto each … was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” In Acts 2:38 Peter said, “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In each of the above passages you have what God, Christ and the Holy Spirit would give. God was not the gift but the giver; Christ was not the gift but the giver; and likewise, the Holy Spirit was not the gift but the giver. A gift implies a giver. One cannot have a gift without a giver and a receiver. If the Holy Spirit is the gift, then who is the giver? The concept that the Holy Spirit is the gift and not the giver actually makes the gift and the giver one and the same. But how can that be? The gift of God was not God but living water that he would give. The gift of Christ was not Christ, but the gifts named in the text. Likewise, the gift of the Holy Spirit was not the Holy Spirit himself, but the salvation promised in Acts 2:21. I am not aware of any other circumstance where men would argue as they do about the gift and giver of Acts 2:38. If one reads about the gift of the Ford Foundation he would not think that the Ford Foundation was the gift, but that it was the giver.
Gift of the Holy Spirit in the Immediate Context
The text of Peter’s sermon was this: “And it shall be, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; Joel 2:32). In this sermon he identified the Lord they were to call on, he explained the reason they should call on him, and he explained how they were to do it. The emphasis in this passage is on the whosoever which is comparable to “all nations” in similar passages. Paul wrote there was no distinction between Jew and Greek and that Jesus is “Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call on him: for, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom.10:12-13). Thus, he indicates that Joel was showing that both Jew and Gentile would have the right to invoke God’s blessings by doing his will. Notice what Peter says, “For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). What promise is Peter talking about? I submit that he is talking about the promise in Acts 2:21 which involved “whosoever”; i.e., both Jew and Gentile (see Rom. 10:12-13). Who are the recipients of the promise of Acts 2:39? It says the promise is to you (Jews) and to your children (Jews) and to all that are afar off (Gentiles), (see Eph. 2:13). In Acts 2:21, salvation is promised to both Jews and Gentiles. After Peter stated that the baptized would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, he stated the reason in verse 39 when he said, “For to you is the promise,” referring to the salvation of verse 21. This is not being redundant because salvation is sometimes used to indicate a state or condition resulting from the remission of sins (see Luke 1:77).
The salvation of Joel 2:32 is the equivalent of the promised inheritance through Abraham (see Gal. 3:7-14). In Galatians 3:15 this inheritance is said to be the “promise of the Spirit” or that which the Holy Spirit promised through Abraham.
Look at the Immediate Context, Acts 2:33
Peter declares that Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promise of the Holy Spirit. He did not receive the Holy Spirit himself but he received that which the Holy Spirit promised. The promise was that he would sit on David’s throne (Acts 2:34-35). This statement was made just five verses before Acts 2:38. The promise of the Spirit is what the Holy Spirit promised and the gift of the Holy Spirit is what the Holy Spirit gave.
Now Look at the Remote Context, Acts 26:16-18
Jesus said to Paul, “. . . to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive the remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:16-18). This is a commentary on the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul was not directed to teach some-thing different from what Peter preached. The promised inheritance that resulted from their receiving the remission of sins was the gift of the Holy Spirit.
How Can This Salvation be the
Gift of the Holy Spirit?
Peter wrote to the elect of God and said they had been “begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled and fadeth not away reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5). These brethren were called “children of obedience” (v. 14). They had been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus (v. 18), having purified their souls by obeying the truth (v. 21). They had been begotten again by the word of God that liveth and abideth forever (v. 21). This is a description of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Begotten again by the word of God. Obedient children have a living hope based on a living Savior, are promised an inheritance that would not fade away, and are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter declares, “Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time and manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified the suffering of Christ and the glories that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things angels desire to look into” (1 Pet. 1:10-12).
Please consider that the Holy Spirit enabled men to prophesy concerning this salvation (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The Holy Spirit enabled men to preach this message of salvation (1 Pet. 1:12). The Holy Spirit validated the message of this great salvation by signs and wonders (Heb. 2:1-4). This is why the salvation of Acts 2:21 can be and indeed is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Salvation was prophesied by the Holy Spirit. Salvation was announced by those who preached the gospel by the Holy Spirit. Their message of salvation was validated by the Holy Spirit. The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38 was not only to those present but for all who would truly repent and be baptized. Everyone who complies with the conditions of Acts 2:38 receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and that gift is salvation. Those in Acts 8:16 by being baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, complied with the conditions of Acts 2:38 and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, they had not received the Holy Spirit himself (Acts 8:17). I believe that this shows that to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit is not necessarily to receive the Holy Spirit himself, but is that which the Holy Spirit gives.
Guardian of Truth XL: 3 p. 18-19