He said to them, Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? And they said to him…
I. THE QUESTION ITSELF.
1. Have we received anything? We have said that we believe in Christ. But to test the truth of our profession, God asks, "Have you received?" Believing is always accompanied by receiving. If, then, any of us have not received, it is because we have not believed. And if we have received but little, it is because we have believed but little. For the promise is, "Be it unto thee according to thy faith."
2. But our text asks specifically have we received the Holy Ghost? In reply to the previous question, some of us may have replied "We received 'peace and joy in believing.'" But passing by these individual benefits that flow from believing, or rather including them and all such like, our question goes to the root of the matter. Receiving the Holy Ghost is the infallible evidence of "believing" in Jesus. This was the great gift which Jesus died to purchase, and which before His departure He promised to send, and which is set before us in the symbol of baptism — "Be baptized...and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
II. THE LEANING GROUNDS ON WHICH WE MAY SAFELY GIVE AN ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION. Note —
1. The nature of the Holy Spirit's work. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit," but there are three respects in which the work of the Spirit is alike in the experience of all true believers.
(1) Knowledge or discernment of Divine things. "Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "The natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit; they must be spiritually discerned." "Eye hath not seen but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit." Some men with the best of natural talents seem ever learning and never coining to the knowledge of the truth. Others again, with smaller talents and lower education, at once and clearly grasp it. Or this contrast is seen in one and the same person — sitting under the ministry for years withrut one clear idea of spiritual things; but all at once, as if scales had fallen from his eyes, seeing all things as clear as day. This is one evidence of the Holy Spirit's inward work.
(2) Conviction of the truth of what we see. "When the Comforter is come, He will convince of sin," etc., and on the day of Pentecost thousands "were pricked to the heart." The gospel comes "in word only" — at the most only enlightens the understanding — and not "in power," till it comes "with the Holy Ghost." But then it comes with "much assurance working effectually" in the heart. It is then the "power of God unto salvation."(3) Holiness of life. Our knowledge and conviction, if they are alone, will prove our deepest condemnation. They are evidences that the Holy Spirit is pleading with us — persuading us — working in us. But they are no evidence that we have yielded our hearts to Him. Felix felt all this when he trembled. A holy life is the evidence of having received the Holy Ghost (Acts 15:7-9). Other gifts of the Spirit may be wanting, but there is no vital difference between us and the highest of the apostles if God has given to us the Holy Ghost, "purifying our hearts by faith."
2. The manner of the Holy Spirit's work. It is —
(1) A thorough work. Through and through the whole man, soul and mind and body, all feel its power — character and conduct, inward desires and outward doings; heart and hand are all influenced by it.
(2) A progressive work. Like as the newborn babe grows in stature from year to year, and progresses in strength, it may be through many a long season of sickness, so it is with those who are born again of the Spirit.
3. A warfare in some more violent than in others, but experienced more or less by all; "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit," etc.
4. A work and warfare to be crowned with victory.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.