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The following passages seem to support that all believers receive the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion:

Ephesians 1:13 (NIV)

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

Romans 8:9 (NIV)

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.


However, in the book of Acts we find examples of individuals who were already believers but still experienced a post-conversion infilling of the Holy Spirit:

Acts 2:1-4 (NIV)

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 4:31 (NIV)

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts 8:14-17 (NIV)

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 10:44-46 (NIV)

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Acts 19:1-7 (NIV)

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.


Is receiving the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit different events, with the former happening to all believers at conversion whereas the latter may happen post-conversion, possibly more than once and not necessarily to all believers?

What is an overview of how Christian denominations answer this question?

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  • This question needs to distinguish between the conditions existing during the transition period (covered by the historical narrative in Acts) as the baptism of John (the baptism of repentance) was fully replaced by baptism into the body of Christ (which baptism fully incorporates all that is represented within John's baptism), during which transition one needs to discern a more complex condition than that which (generally) prevails today. In that transition period there may appear to be separate events, whereas now those events will be (usually) simultaneous. (Up-voted +1.) – Nigel J Oct 27 '20 at 3:13
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    @NigelJ Nigel, my experience is that to explain away the difficulty of the differences the OP is identifying, those that reject the Baptism of the Holy Ghost as a distinctly separate event after regeneration envoke the "historical narrative" argument to argue away the use of Acts to establish or challenge doctrine. So for the OP to make that distinction in his question, will mean he has to start with that premise. You could, however, answer his question by demonstrating that by starting with that premise the conflict is resolved, hence defending a specific "denominational dependent" view. – Pieter Rousseau Oct 29 '20 at 5:09
  • Ephesians 5:18 says we should (literally) "be being filled" with the Holy Spirit. This indicates that being filled is not a one time event. The distinction you are investigating might be as simple as a leaky bucket having access to a spigot versus repeatedly going to the spigot. Access is a one time gift while availing oneself of that access is moment by moment. "Abide in me other wise you can't do anything", Jesus said. "Walk in the Spirit not the flesh", said Paul. – Mike Borden Oct 29 '20 at 12:06
  • Note: this is an overview question, and your personal interpretation of these passages will not suffice for an answer. – curiousdannii Oct 29 '20 at 22:58
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Do all believers receive the Holy Spirit at conversion but only a few are filled with [empowered by] the Holy Spirit post conversion? Let's trace the Biblical record and then outline the denominational views.

On the 8th day of Tabernacles, Jesus said this to set up our understanding.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) John 7:37-39

Subsequently, at Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out first upon the 12 apostles.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4

Some of the Jews made fun; others wondered about this, asked about it, and received the Spirit also after they believed. Peter replies that the gift of the Spirit is for whoever is called. For them, the pattern was repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Spirit.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Acts 2:38-39

But what about the power of the Spirit (or as the OP puts it “filled with the Spirit”)? After Pentecost, before the conversion of Cornelius, we read this.

And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. Acts 2:43

This was in keeping specifically with Jesus’ promise to the apostles at His ascension.

But ye [apostles] shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

So, at that initial stage, any believer received the gift of the Spirit, but the power of the Spirit was given only to the apostles.

Soon thereafter, Peter and John are arrested, but then released. He tells the others.

And when they [apostles] had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31

The pronoun "they" is a bit tricky to follow, but again, at this stage, it is all who receive the gift of the Spirit, but the power is reserved initially for apostles. But what is happening to the church? The number of believers is growing. The apostles are spread thin. The church is expanding. Squabbles arise.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. … Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. Acts 6:1, 3

They choose Stephen and six others.

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Acts 6:8

We now find that the power of the Spirit has been given to others in addition to the apostles. It is not clear how Stephen received the power of the Spirit.

In another example, Samaria also had believers, but the power of the Spirit had not yet fallen there. Peter and John go there, lay hands, and they are filled with the Spirit.

(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. Acts 8:16-17

Simon the sorcerer sees this and asks for the power, but Peter says no that the gift of God is not for sale.

Further, in Acts 9:17 Ananias lays hands on Saul/Paul who receives back his sight. The power of the Spirit continues to operate in believers. Again, it is not clear how Ananias received the power, except otherwise as a gift.

In Acts 10, we read about the start of the gentiles receiving the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit.

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Acts 10:44-46

From that conversion, the new believers are baptized in water. This sequence is a change from the earlier Pentecost of repent, be water baptized, receive the Spirit (born-again). It is hear, believe, receive the Spirit (born-again), and be water baptized.

Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. Acts 10:47-48

It is at this point that we have found certain things shifting that might raise other questions such as the relationship of water baptism to the new birth or even the purpose of water baptism, but I will continue to focus on the OP question. To reiterate, “Do all believers receive the Holy Spirit at conversion but only a few are filled with the Holy Spirit post conversion?”

We know so far that the answer is that whosoever believes is reborn; that is, has received the Spirit either at their water baptism or prior to their water baptism. And we know that initially it was only the apostles who were filled with the Spirit as they witnessed to the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, which is to say, had the power of the Spirit. But as the church grew and expanded across the world, believers would show or prove the power of the Spirit.

Incidentally, this “spread” was foreshadowed in, among other places, Moses appointing helpers (Exodus 18:24-26). It is necessary.

Besides Acts, what do the various epistles have to say about these two actions of the Spirit? These first verses confirm that believers receive the Spirit and are sealed.

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, Eph 1:13

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Eph 4:30

Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. 2 Cor 1:22

The word “earnest” means a pledge, a down payment. The idea is believers are born again, but do not have the full Spirit as Christ did, yet we also know the Spirit gives gifts to believers as separate “events”. We know living waters will flow.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 1 Cor 12:1

The remainder of chapter 12 goes on to describe the gifts, the powers of the Spirit. Paul concludes we should be zealous for the gifts, and then goes on to talk about love.

Conclusion

In short, we found that all believers receive the Spirit, all believers are born-again. This is a tautology, by definition. We also found some are born-again pre or during water baptism.

We also found that initially the power of the Spirit was reserved for the apostles. The reason is they were the eyewitnesses and were commissioned to spread the word and write it down (another subject). Subsequently, as the church grew, as the apostles did as Jesus commanded (start in Jerusalem, Samaria, ends of the world), the gifts of the Spirit manifested in various believers at various times.

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: 2 Th 1:11

All believers who are born-again have the deposit, all may desire the gifts, and it is God that gives the fulfillment for His reasons.

EDIT TO ADD SO AS TO PROVIDE DENOMINATIONAL INFORMATION OF SCRIPTURES QUOTED: Evangelical churches or Baptist Churches usually teach a credobaptism, rather than the idea of infant baptism that we might find in Catholic, Orthodox, or other denominations. The contrast is shown in the examples from scripture quoted above where beginning with Cornelius someone who hears the good news and believes the message and is born again by the Spirit and subsequently is water baptized.

There are typically two views on whether the power of the Spirit or gifts of the Spirit have ended. Those who believe in the cessation of gifts believe they terminated when the Bible was completed. It is the idea that only the apostles had the power of the Spirit and once the message was written, the gifts were no longer necessary. Others believe the gifts of the Spirit continue as needed, as the church spread across the world.

Oddly enough, I suppose, cessationism is typically a Protestant doctrine and typically believe in credobaptism, although Pentecostals, like Catholics, would believe the gifts continue, but believe in infant baptism.

So, to answer the OP clearly, all believers receive the Spirit (born-again, have the deposit), but only at times by certain believers are they empowered by the Spirit.

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To answer this question I will examine the following verses - most of which were quoted by the OP.

  • Eph 1:13, 4:30 - And in Him, having heard and believed the word of truth—the gospel of your salvation—you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit ... And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Thus, all people who experience a genuine conversion to Christ receive in some form, the gift of the Holy Spirit

  • Rom 8:9 - You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

This confirms the above point that it is impossible to be a Christian without the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is further confirmed by other references such as Gal 5:22 where we need the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit and John 16:13 tells us we need the Spirit to even know Jesus.

Now compare two texts in Acts:

  • Acts 2:3, 4 - They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

... and ...

  • Acts 4:31 - After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Now by placing these two verse side by side we see that many of the same people (the apostles plus others) were present on both occasions. In both cases the description includes the idea of being "filled with the Holy Spirit" and miraculous things occurred. This does NOT mean that the apostles were emptied of the Holy Spirit between these two events; rather, it simply means that "filled with the Holy Spirit" appears to be a Hebraism for an occasion where the power of the Holy Spirit is displayed as His discretion.

Thus, while the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit in the upper room in Acts 1, they were "Filled with the Holy Spirit" on other occasions which means that the Holy Spirit decided to use these people to work miracles such as heal the sick, speak in tongues or whatever in a significant way.

UPDATE

In several places such as Acts 8:14-17, 19:6, etc we see instances of groups or people receiving the gift of the spirit for the first time. The disciples received the Holy Spirit when it was given by Jesus in John 20:22. In subsequent instances such as Acts 2:3, 4, 4:8, 31, etc, we have a simple record that the disciples were filled or were full of the Spirit - a state that was constant with the faithful (eg apostles) after they received the Spirit.

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    What denomination are you representing @Dottard? – Autodidact Oct 27 '20 at 1:59
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    @Autodidact - just what the Bible says - I do not know if any particular denomination would agree - I just report Scripture – Dottard Oct 27 '20 at 2:37
  • That’s not everything the Bible says, you’re missing some critical details and coming to some premature conclusions as a consequence. – Autodidact Oct 27 '20 at 4:11
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    @Autodidact - such as - add an answer yourself. – Dottard Oct 27 '20 at 5:50
  • If you could treat Acts 8:14-17 and similar passages in this answer it would be excellent. – Mike Borden Oct 27 '20 at 11:38
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(note: much confusion comes from the translated and interpreted Greek texts. To clarify I will quote the English as written and then offer a translation that is closer to the Greek without denominational interpretations).

Sealed upon rebirth

The Holy Spirit seals those who believe in Jesus Christ and are saved.

“ “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:5-7‬

It’s at this point that a person is born again of the Spirit and receive a new spirit which is the rebirthing experience. This however is not the time the Spirit is received, rather the Greek reads it’s the time when the seal which the Spirit places on the new believer occurs. A seal of approval for purchase and the believer will be redeemed (picked-up) in the end.

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:13-14‬

This text is confusing because the translation has done a lot of interpreting to the text but in an effort to help the reader they have misled the reader.

It should read something closer to, ... those who believe were sealed as was the sacred promise, by the Spirit, this seal is the guarantee of their inheritance.

It’s not the Holy Spirit that is the guarantee but the seal that the Holy Spirit places on the born again believer. This is proven later in Ephesians when it reads that the Holy Spirit is the sealer but not the seal, by whom and not with whom

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:30‬ ‭

Paul in a different epistle writes the following

“and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:22‬

Once again the Greek’s translation has too much interpretation but at a minimum this passage shows that the seal is separate to the Holy Spirit even in the English. How the Greek should be translated in my mind is the following “...and who has also put his seal on us and having given the deposit OF THE SPIRIT in our hearts.

This will clarify the text that says

“for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭8:16‬ ‭

Once again the text is translated with interpretation.

It should read ... the Holy Spirit had not fallen on any of them, but/except they were baptized in Jesus’ name. Or phrased differently at a minimum they had been baptized in Jesus’ name however they had not yet received the Holy Spirit.”

Later we find that others are baptized in Jesus’ name and also receive the Holy Spirit, meaning that baptizing in Jesus’ Name is not incorrect but baptizing in Jesus’ Name without receiving of the Holy Spirit means the baptized was only water baptized and not filled with the Spirit until the laying on of hands in the impartation of the Holy Spirit occurs.

“On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭19:5-6‬

Granted it’s possible to receive the Holy Spirit even prior to water baptism as in the case of Cornelius mentioned later.

Fullness of the Holy Spirit

Being full of the Holy Spirit is to be led by the Spirit or to be obedient to the Spirit. This is in contra distinction to being led by another spirit or under the influence of another, even under the influence of substances (which open the door to unclean spirits) that alter ones ability to make sound judgment such as alcohol and/or drugs Ephesians 5:18

Not all those who are sealed by the Holy Spirit are also full of the Spirit. Though it’s possible to be sealed and filled simultaneously with water baptism to follow. This is what happened with Cornelius.

“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭10:44-45‬ ‭

It’s important not to conflate the gift of the Holy Spirit with the Holy Spirit. Yes the Holy Spirit fell on those who heard the gospel and yes they were filled with the Holy Spirit but the gift of the Holy Spirit was the speaking in tongues evident by its manifestation.

“For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared,” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭10:46‬ ‭

The gift was the speaking in tongues. And there are many gifts but in this case it was speaking in tongues.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:4‬

Receiving power to witness

Receiving power to witness is a gift and this is explicitly stated by Jesus. Also noteworthy is that Jesus didn’t say they would receive the Holy Spirit. They already received the Holy Spirit.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” ‭‭John‬ ‭20:22

As such the disciples had already received the Holy Spirit. What they had NOT received however was baptism of the Holy Spirit. As such receiving the Holy Spirit or being filled with the Holy Spirit is different from being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

“And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭1:4-5‬

And the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not to receive the Holy Spirit, even though by definition they were immersing/submerging/surrounding themselves in the Holy Spirit but Jesus Himself tells them what they were in fact receiving

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭1:8‬

They would receive POWER or supernatural abilities, for the PURPOSE of witnessing about Jesus Christ to the unbelievers.

This was the same thing/power (same Greek word) that Jesus was immersed in after the 40 day wilderness experience

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭4:14‬

Jesus was already full of the Holy Spirit. And being led by the Holy Spirit. The miracles happen after Jesus returns in the power of the Holy Spirit not prior. The filling is for leading, the baptism is for signs and wonders.

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭4:1‬

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is higher in “intensity” from merely being full of the Holy Spirit. It is supposed to be followed by supernatural manifestations FOR the purpose of witnessing about Jesus Christ and/or judgment. If it’s for personal edification it’s sufficient to be full of the Holy Spirit. But a sign that you have been called to witness with signs and wonders accompanying the preaching of the gospel is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

We know Philip was full of the Holy Spirit but he was also baptized with the Holy Spirit because it can be inferred from the text

“And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭8:6‬ ‭

Summation

  • The Holy Spirit seals the believer with a seal, not with Himself
  • The Holy Spirit fills a believer for ministering to others, and for leading a believer
  • The Holy Spirit can engulf a believer such that they are immersed in the Holy Spirit, this is the baptism of the Holy Spirit
  • The Holy Spirit gives gifts during the filling and/or baptism

Major denominational views

Catholicism

With exception to small denominational particularities most denominations share the historic position of Catholicism, which is that the Holy Spirit is received upon baptism in/with water. As such I don’t intend to cover all denominations. This view makes the point that all believers receive the Holt Spirit and the Holy Spirit then chooses to give different gifts or manifest at His discretion.

What is important to note is that for about half a century now a movement in Catholicism is recognizing the Charismatic view on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Many Catholic scholars have attempted to explain the baptism in the Holy Spirit and have come up with different theological interpretations. The predominant one is that a baptism in the Holy Spirit unleashes the Holy Spirit that is already present within us, by revitalizing the graces we received in the sacrament of Baptism. Deacon Brenton Cordeiro

This is however in the Catholic theological understanding is a bound sacrament, meaning it requires the corporation of the individual to unleash a greater measure of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives, since according to the Catholic doctrine the Holy Spirit is received upon (water) baptism which for most Catholics is during infancy.

Catholic theology recognizes the concept of a valid, but ‘bound’ sacrament. A sacrament is called “bound” if the fruits that accompany it remain bound on account of certain blocks that hinder its effectiveness. The effectiveness of the sacrament is the result of a cooperation between the grace of the Holy Spirit and human freedom. God pours out the grace of the sacrament in our lives, but the full actualization of our Baptism comes about only through our own personal “yes,” our response of faith, to His divine grace. Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa

Those interested in more information A New Pentecost? Catholic Theology and “Baptism in the Spirit” Ralph Martin

Baptist and Presbyterian

It is understood that the baptism of the Holy Spirit once and it’s at

(Will be back to continue this post)

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  • This is an overview question - answers must give an explanation of the position of all major denominations. – curiousdannii Oct 31 '20 at 6:54
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Do all believers receive the Holy Spirit at conversion but only those confirmed are then more filled with the Holy Spirit post conversion?

Yes to the first part and yes and yes to the second part according to the which Christian tradition one is dealing with.

We all the grace of the Holy Spirit at conversion, baptism and even later on in life. The Holy Spirit is never stagnant, but constantly aiding believers to live good Christian lives.

We all receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized, and thus become members of Christ’s followers. That much is certain.

Baptism infuses supernatural grace into the soul in the person being baptized. We become a dwelling place acceptable to the Holy Spirit.

However, some denominations such as Catholics and Orthodox believe that the sacrament of confirmation brings an increase on of graces into the souls, above those initially received at baptism or our initial conversion.

This is how some denominations seek to explain passages like Acts 8:14-17.

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 why Confirmation?

Confirmation deepens our baptismal life that calls us to be missionary witnesses of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society, and the world. Through Confirmation, our personal relationship with Christ is strengthened. We receive the message of faith in a deeper and more intensive manner with great emphasis given to the person of Jesus Christ, who asked the Father to give the Holy Spirit to the Church for building up the community in loving service.

The Holy Spirit bestows seven gifts—wisdom, understanding, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, piety, and fear of the Lord—to assist us in our mission and witness. The impact of these gifts accompanies us in the various stages of our spiritual development.

As the confirmed, we walk with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom enables us to see the world from God’s viewpoint, which can help us come to grasp the purpose and plan of God. It grants us the long-range view of history, examining the present in the light of the past and the mystery of the future. It saves us from the illusion that the spirit of the times is our only guide. The Spirit’s gift of knowledge directs us to a contemplation, or thoughtful reflection, of the mystery of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—as well as of the mysteries of the Catholic faith. We are drawn to meditative prayer, where we allow God to lead us while we rest patiently in the divine presence.

The gift of understanding stimulates us to work on knowing ourselves as part of our growth in knowing God. It is what St. Augustine meant when he prayed, “That I may know You, may I know myself.” When the Spirit pours fortitude or courage into our hearts, we can trust that we will be prepared to stand up for Christ and the Gospel when challenged. As the gift of counsel or right judgment grows in us, we can sense the quiet teaching that the Spirit gives us about our moral lives and the training of our consciences.

The gift of piety or reverence is an act of respect for the Father who created us, for Jesus who saved us, and for the Spirit who is sanctifying us. We learn reverence for God and people from our parents and others who train us in virtue. The Spirit fills us with this gift at liturgy, which is a masterful school of reverence, as well as through popular devotions and piety.

Finally, the gift of fear of the Lord or wonder and awe in God’s presence can infuse honesty into our relationship with God, a frankness that places us in awe before the majesty of God. Yet the gift also imparts an attitude of grateful wonder that God loves us and that we can share in his life.

When we are responsive to the grace of Confirmation and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we begin to bear the fruits of the Spirit. The tradition of the Church names twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (cf. CCC, no. 1832; Gal 5:22). - [Why is Confirmation important? What effect does it have on me?

Here is now the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the increase of graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit after baptism:

III. The Effects of Confirmation

1302 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

1303 From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

  • it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!";
  • it unites us more firmly to Christ;
  • it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
  • it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;116
  • it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.

1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the "character," which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.119

1305 This "character" perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and "the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi ex officio)."

There is a biblical bases for this from the perspective of those denominations the believe confirmation is an adds an increase of grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Scriptural foundation

The roots of confirmation are found in the Church of the New Testament. In the Gospel of John 14, Christ speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles (John 14:15–26). Later, after his Resurrection, Jesus breathed upon them and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), a process completed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4). That Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit was the sign of the messianic age foretold by the prophets (cf. Ezek 36:25–27; Joel 3:1–2). Its arrival was proclaimed by Apostle Peter. Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim "the mighty works of God" (Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17–18). After this point, the New Testament records the apostles bestowing the Holy Spirit upon others through the laying on of hands.

Three texts make it certain that a laying on of hands for the imparting of the Spirit – performed after the water-bath and as a complement to this bath – existed already in the earliest apostolic times. These texts are: Acts 8:4–20 and 19:1–7, and Hebrews 6:1–6. In the Acts of the Apostles 8:14–17 different "ministers" are named for the two actions. It is not deacon Philip, the baptiser, but only the apostles who were able to impart the pneuma through the laying on of hands.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit.

Further on in the text, connection between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gesture of laying on of hands appears even more clearly. Acts 8:18–19 introduces the request of Simon the magician in the following way: "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands ... ." In Acts 19, baptism of the disciples is mentioned in quite general terms, without the minister being identified. If we refer to 1 Cor 1:17 we may presume that Paul left the action of baptising to others. But then Acts 19:6 expressly states that it was Apostle Paul who laid his hands upon the newly baptised. Hebrews 6:1–6 distinguishes "the teaching about baptisms" from the teaching about "the laying on of hands". The difference may be understood in the light of the two passages in Acts 8 and 19.

Some denominations not do see Confirmation as a sacrament, but simply as an act of passage into becoming an adult in their particular community. In many Protestant denominations, such as the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed Churches, confirmation is a rite that often includes a profession of faith by an already baptized person. Confirmation is required by Anglicans and traditional Protestant denominations for full membership in the respective church.

Confirmation is not practiced at all in Baptist, Anabaptist and other groups that teach believer's baptism.

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  • "We all receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized, and thus become members of Christ’s followers. That much is certain." In Acts chapter 10 a houseful of people received the Holy Spirit prior to both baptism in water and laying on of hands. – Mike Borden Oct 29 '20 at 18:08
  • Agreed! The Holy Spirit must somehow always lead a soul on it’s journey towards conversion. – Ken Graham Oct 31 '20 at 15:48
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Do all believers receive the Holy Spirit at conversion but only a few are filled with the Holy Spirit post conversion?

Yes and yes.

God says He will give the gift of His spirit to believers. We don't become believers on our own - God calls and draws us toward Him. His spirit interacts with our spirit to begin to see the world and ourselves differently. Once we are aware of what's going on and have accepted Jesus' sacrifice for our sin, with a repentant heart we are baptised and granted the spirit - a gift, a down-payment, a deposit, of what will be ours in full when 'born from above' at our change or resurrection.

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, (or again) he cannot see the kingdom of God.

There is no promised to be filled with the spirit - not in this age. God delivers a special 'dose' of His presence for special moments, tasks and lives that need a focus and ability that is beyond the ability or desire of a carnal man.

Exodus 31:3 I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship.

God chooses the ones that will receive this special indwelling.

Luke 1:15 he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb (John the Baptist)

Then Saul (who is also Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit... Acts 13:9

and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit Acts 6:5

Stephen's willingness to serve in the way he did was made possible by the extra presence of God.

But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues Acts 2:4

The standard gift of God's spirit is intended to increase within us - filling us as the close of the age approaches. Yet we are still flesh and blood - until we follow Jesus, the firstborn from the dead (we all are dead) into spirit life. Eph 3:19 '...that you may be filled in all the fullness of God' is Paul's prayer for those at Ephesus and all that follow.

We can see from these few examples, that God selects some people to serve in a special and pivotal way - sometimes it's their death! It's God's prerogative to 'fill' as suits His purposes - not ours.

Whether it's being an apostle, a martyr, a teacher or preacher it is God's will superseding our will. We have Jonah's vivid tale of trying to avoid God's charge over him, but God had His way in the end. Paul (Saul), persecuting the church with vigour, only to be swiftly transformed by the indwelling of God to become a chief apostle and writer of much of the NT!

God has a plan of salvation which Jesus was the central figure - the logos became flesh. There are others charged by God to contribute to this plan, selected, chosen, enabled, inspired, focussed, tenacious, single-minded men (and women)... Abraham, Moses, David, Joshua, Jesus, Paul, Peter and all the other disciples - it's a long list of people God picked for a special role and sovereignly ensured they succeeded!

It is not man that enables a person to be 'filled'. This is God's doing. Through God's elders He gives His spirit in measure - usually through the process of hands, prayer etc.

We see that Jesus is given this power of God to give the spirit to others.

Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. Acts 2:33

This spirit promised and delivered through Jesus is different from what was with Moses and the others.

John 7:39 He was speaking about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. For the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

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    Sounds like you are putting all the responsibility on God's prerogative, but what about Ephesians 5:18-20 "18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Isn't Paul encouraging believers to be proactive in their seeking of the fullness of the HS? – Spirit Realm Investigator Oct 29 '20 at 14:03
  • Or what about Luke 11:11-13 "11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”". Isn't this an invitation to believers to be proactive and ask for the HS? – Spirit Realm Investigator Oct 29 '20 at 14:06
  • Absolutely! God always initiates, we respond. The more we ‘seek first the kingdom’, the more He empowers. James 4:8 draw near to God and He will draw near to you. It must be said, it is God alone who makes believers, believers! – user47952 Oct 29 '20 at 20:14
  • As this is an overview question, can you please edit this to explain which denominations teach this position. If you cannot it may need to be deleted unfortunately. – curiousdannii Oct 29 '20 at 22:43
  • Well done on re scoping the Q! – user47952 Oct 29 '20 at 23:19

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