A Question I Was Asked:

Why Didn't the Samarians Receive the Holy Spirit at Once?

A Question I Was Asked:

My question is about Acts 8:14-17 where it states that Peter and John were sent to Samaria to the new believers to lay their hands on them because they had not received the Holy Spirit, we are taught at our Church that you receive the Holy Spirit as soon as you believe, I would be grateful if you could put me right on this matter.

UK Apologetics Reply:

I think I would explain it this way: This was the 'age of the apostles,' a most incredible age and - at that time - receiving the Holy Spirit was indeed probably often accompanied by more dramatic signs and indications than is usual in our own day.

Now, that does not make all the extreme and sometimes weird claims of the charismatics and Pentecostals correct by any means, nevertheless, at such an amazing period, God probably did allow more dramatic signs to accompany conversion than in our day. That does not mean we should try to re-create such phenomena because you cannot, these things are in God's hands. It is even possible that the Samarian believers had indeed received the Holy Spirit but a little confusion was caused because of the lack of dramatic accompanying signs. Let us see what the text states:

14. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria.
15. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
16. because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
17. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17; NIV).

But we should also note that it appears that the 'laying on of hands' had been neglected until performed by Peter and John. This act should follow baptism.

Should one receive the Holy Spirit upon initial belief? There are no such biblical guarantees because baptism is instructed, that is, where one is able to undergo it. This should not lead to the impression that baptism itself saves us, nor even that baptism somehow facilitates the Holy Spirit - it does not and, almost certainly, many have received the Holy Spirit and been saved without it (death bed conversions etc.,), nevertheless, baptism is certainly instructed for those who come to true Christian conversion.

Robin A. Brace. January 12th, 2013.