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Does one automatically receive the Holy Ghost after they accept Christ or does it have to be received through the laying on of hands as spoken of in Acts 8?

Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

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I think this is an OK question. You may be asking the exact protocol in how the laying of hands performed in order to receive the Holy Ghost, is that correct? –  Anonymous Feb 28 at 4:41
    
I am not looking for the specific protocol for the laying on of hands, just if that is the only way one can receive the gift at all. Is there any scriptures that state that someone received the gift of the holy ghost without the laying on of hands? –  Nelson Feb 28 at 4:46
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See Acts 10:44-48 - Cornelius etc receive the Holy Spirit and start talking in tongues after Peter has just been speaking - no laying on of hands at all. –  curiousdannii Feb 28 at 6:03

5 Answers 5

No, believers do not receive Holy Ghost automatically after they accept Christ or get baptized. These are two separate and important steps. Also laying on of hands not a requirement. Not the physical contact will makes one accepting the Spirit, but it reinforce the ones faith and the Spirit can cooperate with this, so it is better to take part in laying on of hands.

KJV - John 16,7
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

This shows that Jesus didn't let the space behind Him be empty after he gone. He sent the Holy Ghost that is better because it isn't physically limited like Jesus was because of His body during His services in the Earth.

KJV - Acts 2,1-4
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Again receiving the Spirit and baptism is two different act. There can be short time in the between the two but it isn't automatic. The later doesn't follows unconditionally the previous.

KJV - Acts 8,13-15
13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

This was just another example, and the following passage will show a requirement.

KJV - Acts 5,32
32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

The Spirit is given for those who obey Him. We have to be thirsty there should be a desire for it.

KJV - Acts 19,1-6
1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

Also in these passages, baptism and taking the Holy Ghost are two different events and we can observe in this and the previous citations too that accepting the Spirit has signs. They started to speak in tongues and prophesied.

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I agree that there is both a baptism by water and the baptism by fire. Does not verse 6 give further evidence that the people only received the Holy Ghost after Paul had laid his hands on them? –  Nelson Feb 28 at 15:21
    
Is there a difference between feeling the spirit and receiving the Spirit? Here is a link where I asked that question earlier. –  Nelson Feb 28 at 15:31
    
@Nelson, No, "only received" why are you reading into the simple text? –  Rick Feb 28 at 15:31
    
@rick I do not believe it is simple text but explanatory text. Telling us the order in which the apostles did things, which I believe important for us to follow. That is why I am looking for things that specifically say the laying of hands were not a necessary part of receiving the holy ghost. –  Nelson Feb 28 at 15:44
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@Nelson I cited that as an example that receiving the Spirit was separate from baptizing. For example in Acts 2,1-4 there is nothing about laying hands. Who could have laid his hands if Jesus has gone and nobody else had the Spirit yet? Also as I think this isn't about feelings, somebody received it or not, and if he received it there should be some signs of it, like speaking in tongues, that is the most common gift of the Spirit, according to these passages. –  totymedli Feb 28 at 17:52

many factors:

  • asking

    Ask and ye shall receive... Mat 7:7

  • unity

    And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. Acts 4:1

baptism, before, during, or after:

  • the prophets had the Holy Spirit

    For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Pet 1:21

  • during baptism

    And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. Luke 3:22

  • after baptism

    KJV - Acts 2,1-4 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

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Acts 8:15 actually provides the answer:

“Who, when they (Peter & John) were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost

Prayer is the key ingredient that enabled the reception of the Holy Spirit, however, there is more to the story, because there was one there that believed that the laying on of hands was the agent of release of the Holy Spirit rather than prayer and his name was Simon beginning in verse 9 lets focus on Simon and ultimately Peter’s response:

But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries... Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done… And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

Simon wanted to subjugate the Holy Spirit to himself. This is always a sign of a false teaching for then God would be confined to the availability of a man for the laying on of hands. We know that Jesus Christ Himself sends the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise

So the answer to this question is that prayer was the effective agent and only Simon the Sorcerer believed that it was subject to the laying on of hands.

When Cornelius and his guests received the Holy Spirit it was without laying on of hands and prior to baptism.

Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

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I think Ephesians 1:13 Is also a good biblical example of not needing any specific rituals to receive the holy spirit –  Tim Dev Feb 28 at 13:28
    
@TimDev Why was Paul so insistent that he laid his hand on the people before they could receive the Holy Ghost? Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. –  Nelson Feb 28 at 15:25
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@Nelson, where do you read that Paul was so insistent? –  Rick Feb 28 at 15:29
    
@Rick The other apostles don't specifically mention the laying on of hands prior to one receiving the gift. Though in the case of Eph 1:13 it does mentioned that they were "sealed with the holy spirit of promise" and that often gives reference to a physical anointing or ordination of some sort. So far 2 scriptures have been referenced stating the exact same thing that people had been baptized but had not yet received the Holy Ghost. In both cases Paul laid his hands on them and they received it. –  Nelson Feb 28 at 15:39
    
Not true, when we look at multiple very literal translation, when read in proper context, its is sealed due to believing in him. E. G. ... having also believed, you were sealed... or ` having believed, you were sealed` –  Tim Dev Feb 28 at 16:18

The requirement for receiving the Holy Spirit is to believe and be baptized into the Body of Christ

Eph. 1:13 In whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, in Him also believing, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise,

Gal. 3:2 This only I wish to learn from you, Did you receive the Spirit out of the works of law or out of the hearing of faith?

1 Cor. 12:13 For also in one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and were all given to drink one Spirit.

The first mention of the believers receiving the Spirit is actually not the day of Pentecost, but when Jesus resurrected

John 20:22 And when He had said this, He breathed into them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.

He also alluded to this before His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection:

John 7:37-39 37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes into Me, as the Scripture said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. 39 But this He said concerning the Spirit, whom those who believed into Him were about to receive; for the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Thus the Spirit was actually made available to the believers upon Christ's resurrection. We can further see this in 2 Cor 15:45b: "the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit." When we believe in the Lord, the Spirit comes into us to regenerate us (that is the definition of salvation). It is only by the Spirit in us that we can be regenerated and called a son of God (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6). Therefore, we know that to be saved is equivalent to having the Spirit within us.

Further, we know that we are saved when we believe in the Lord

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.

Rom. 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

From this, we can prove that we receive the Holy Spirit when we believe into the Lord. However, why does other parts of the scriptures mention of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as in Acts 2, Acts 10, Acts 8, etc? Actually, there are two aspects of the Holy Spirit, the essential aspect and the economical aspect. One can liken this to the matter of Jesus' baptism. We know that Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20, Luke 1:35) and is even God Himself, who is Spirit (John 4:24). Yet when He was baptized, it says that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him as a dove (Matt 3:16, Luke 3:22). This shows that essentially, Jesus is of the Holy Spirit, meaning that His being is of the Spirit, but He received the Holy Spirit economically at His baptism to start His ministry. The economical Spirit is for our Christian work, whereas the essential Spirit has more to do with our life and being.

The gift of the Holy Spirit economically is received when we are identified with the Body of Christ. In context of all the verses that mention of believers receiving the Spirit, there is the matter of the Body of Christ. For example, in the passage in Acts 8 as the OP mentioned, the believers in Samaria believed into the word and received the Spirit essentially, but they had not yet received the Spirit economically to identify them with the Body of Christ. The reason the Holy Spirit did not fall upon them outwardly and economically was so that the apostles, through whom the practical establishing of the church had been initiated in Jerusalem, might come to bring them into identification with the Body of Christ. This case is different from that of the ones in the house of Cornelius, who, when they believed in the Lord, received the Holy Spirit both essentially within them for regeneration and economically upon them for baptism into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and identification with the Body of Christ. That was because the gospel was preached then directly by Peter, who played the main role in the initiation of the practical establishing of the church.

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Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Mar 1 at 13:48
    
I've never heard of the "economic aspect" of the Holy Spirit, so I'd appreciate at least one citation to someone who uses the same phrase, preferably a commentator. If you need help in providing a hyperlink in your questions or answers on this web site, just let me know. Plus one for a generally good answer. Excellent first effort! Don –  rhetorician Mar 1 at 19:42
    
Thank you for the comment. It's actually quite difficult to find places that specifically talk about the economical aspect of the Holy Spirit per se, however, I'm sure you are familiar with the economical Vs. essential (or ontological) aspect of the Holy Trinity, which encompasses the Holy Spirit (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity#Economic_and_ontological_Trinity). –  Ruolin Mar 1 at 20:26

In Acts 8, why is the HS a 'gift'. I think you mean the gifts of the HS. The gift of the HS is given at baptism (Acts 2:38)

Depending on your doctrine, the powers of the HS are awesome!!! (1 Corinthians 12:8-10), like you said, they are given by the Apostles. That is ONLY BY THEM. I cannot find someone other than the Apostles passing the gifts around.

So depending on your doctrine, in Acts 8 Simon realized the gifts were given by the passing of the hands, and he wanted to buy this ability.

*

How does one recieve the gift of the Holy Ghost? At baptism.

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