When does a Christian receive the Holy Spirit?
Acts 8:14-17 — Says that disciples had already been baptized into Jesus Christ (saved, forgiven of their sins, etc.) but did not receive the gift of the Holy Spirit until the apostles did lay their hands on them. That’s how they got the Holy Spirit, not through baptism. Acts 19:1-7 — Says that the disciples that Paul ran into were only baptized with the baptism of repentance. Then Paul baptized them into the name of Jesus Christ. After the were baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, Paul then placed his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now, my question is: Do we now receive the Holy Spirit as soon as we come out of the waters of baptism automatically? Because through the book of acts it’s recorded all over that after they were baptized, they received the Holy Spirit through the laying of hands as you can read on the 2 scriptures I quoted above. Now, as far as Acts 2:38 is concerned that doesn’t specifically say (in the NIV) that you automatically receive the Holy Spirit after baptism. It says, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." then after that it says: "And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." that could also be interpreted as, "as soon as youre baptized, you will be given the Holy Spirit. That could mean, as soon as youre baptized, we’ll lay our hands on you so that you’ll get the Holy Spirit. I am confused as to if, when and how we receive the Holy Spirit. And where in the Bible does it talk about the indwelling of the Spirit.
I can see where you are going with on this. First of all, let me deal with Acts 2:38. In my opinion you are trying to read something into this passage which is not there. The Greek original does not have punctuation. There is no division between "Repent and be baptized… sins" and "and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Peter promised to the people in this, the first gospel sermon, that if they respond to their being cut to the heart (vs. 37) by repenting and being baptized, they would receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
One thing I am convinced of from the evidence and from experience is that the Bible is inspired by God. It does not contradict itself. The passages you mention seem to imply that one might receive the Holy Spirit later on–some time after being baptized. This seems like a reasonable inference, but the question is whether it holds up to scrutiny.
Let me explain how I understand these passages to work together. In Acts 2:36-38 Peter is talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit which is a deposit, guraranteeing our inheritance (Ephesians 1:14). This promise is for all who believe and accept the gospel message. Acts 8:14 is a description of people who accept the message and are baptized. I have to assume, based on Acts 2:38 that they received the indwelling promised Holy Spirit. The problem is that Phillip wanted to give them the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as the ability to speak in tongues, to perform miraculous healings and to have inspired knowledge. Phillip did not have the ability to pass along the miraculous gifts, so he sent to Jerusalem for apostles who could lay their hands on people and give them these miraculous gifts.
This explanation can be applied to your other example, which is Acts 19:1-7. In this case, we have people who have been baptized with the baptism of John. This was a baptism "for the forgiveness of sin," but not one through which one receives the Holy Spirit. Paul saw the problem right away, taught them more accurately with regard to baptism into Christ. They were baptized at that point and I have to assume received the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul was concerned about (Acts 19:2). After their baptism, Paul also laid his hands on certain people, giving them miraculous gifts. This is consistent with the explanation of Acts 8 above.
I know that it can be confusing to separate the promised "gift of the Holy Spirit" which is received upon baptism into Christ with the miraculous gifts. The ability to perform miraculous gifts is not ever promised to all believers. As far as I can tell from the scripture, these gifts were only given by the laying on of hands BY THE APOSTLES.
As to passages which talk about the indwelling spirit, let me suggest Ephesians 1:13,14, Romans 8:9-11, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:5. There are many more.
John Oakes, PhD