1. I have been told that only the apostles had the ability to lay their
hands on people to give the gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, Ananias
laid his hands on Paul to restore his sight and be filled with the Holy
Spirit. Maybe he laid his hands on him to restore his sight only, and
then Paul got the Holy Spirit at baptism. How should I view this

The context of Acts chapter nine and of Acts chapter
twenty-two when Paul recounts the events in Antioch does not actually
state that Paul received the gifts of the Holy Spirit when Ananias laid
his hands on him. It does say that Ananias came to Paul so that he would
receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. We know that Paul
received his sight when Ananias laid his hands on him, but we have no
evidence that Paul received the gift of miracles at that time. The
passage in question does not answer this question. The conversion account
of Paul does not add anything unambiguous to the discussion of how
Christians in the first century received the miraculous gifts of the Holy

You suggest that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were
only given by the laying on of hands of the apostles. I would agree with
you in that claim, but would say that this is only the most reasonable
conclusion based on the evidence. There are no direct examples recorded
in the New Testament of a believer receiving the miraculous gifts of the
Holy Spirit except by laying on of hands of an apostle. The events of
Acts chapter two and Acts chapter ten might appear to be an exception, but
these events were one-time occurrences, and there is no evidence that
those on whom the Holy Spirit was poured in Acts chapter ten received the
long-term ability to perform these gifts. Acts 8:9-17 seems to imply that
apostles were required for the miraculous gifts to be given. Having said
that, there is no positive statement anywhere in the New Testament which
teaches absolutely that the miraculous gifts could only be passed by the
apostles. Therefore a safe statement is to say that the most likely
interpretation is that the gifts were only given by apostolic laying on of
hands, but that this is not proven conclusively. One would do well to be
humble and avoid making really strong statements based on indirect

You make one more statement/question, which is whether Paul
received the Holy Spirit later that day when he was baptized. Based on
many passages, but most significantly, based on Acts 2:36-38, we can
assume that the promised gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (not
miraculous gifts) was given to Paul at his baptism. Is that what Luke is
referring to when he says that Ananias came to restore Paul’s sight and
for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Probably, but whether “filled
with the Holy Spirit” is a reference to the promised indwelling of the
Holy Spirit, or the ability to do gifts of the Spirit is not completely
clear. When Paul received the ability to work the miraculous gifts is not
stated anywhere in the New Testament. Did an apostle later lay their
hands on Paul so that he could heal, speak in tongues and so forth? The
Bible does not answer this question directly, so we can only infer by the
example of others. Given that Paul was an apostle, “as one abnormally
born,” it is probably best to leave that as one of the unsolved mysteries
in the New Testament.

About your second question, you state that the 120 present in
the upper room on the Day of Pentecost received the baptism of the Holy
Spirit. I do not see any evidence that anyone other than the apostles
received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the upper room. I am not sure
why anyone would assume that all 120 people had the Spirit poured out on
them. The passage says that fire was on the apostles, but not on anyone
else. I cannot state absolutely, unambiguously that only the apostles
received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but to assume that anyone else
did is not supported by the evidence. It is true (and interesting) that
the Bible does not ever specifically say when the apostles, or even the
others of the 120 were baptized. One possible reason is that it does not
really matter to us when they were baptized. What matters for us is what
the Bible says that we should do to please God.

You mention the possibility that some people were cleansed by
Jesus like the thief on the cross (forgiven of their sins without being
baptized?). I strongly recommend against making speculative arguments
based on the silence of the scriptures. It is a bad idea to find a
question which is not answered by the Bible and then to put forward
speculative answers to these questions. Based on what the Bible says, I
would tend to assume that those who were present at Pentecost who accepted
the message were baptized into Christ, including the 120, as this would be
a reasonable assumption based on what was preached that day, but to be
honest, we simply do not know when these people were baptized. So, I
cannot categorically deny the possibility you mention, but find no factual
support for the idea. I believe basing some sort of doctrine of being
washed by Jesus on the fact that the Bible does not say what these people
did is unwarranted speculation.

John Oakes

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