Let’s read Acts 8:14-17, “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” This passage makes it clear that “baptism” and “receiving the Holy Spirit” are indeed “two different things,” for verse 16 tells us that the Holy Spirit had NOT fallen upon them but that “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The difference between them is this: Water baptism introduces people into the kingdom where they become disciples of Christ; receiving the Spirit results in people being put into the church, which is the body of Christ. Matthew 28:19 teaches us the former, for it says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (NKJV). 1 Corinthians 12:13 teaches us the latter, for it reads, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…”

Your question “How does one receive the Holy Spirit” is a very good one, for in the book of Acts we have no less than THREE different PATTERNS in the receiving of the Spirit. In Acts 2:38 we see that the Spirit was received IMMEDIATELY AFTER BAPTISM, for it reads, “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.” We saw in Acts 8:17 that the Spirit was received AFTER THE APOSTLES LAID HANDS ON THEM, for it said, “Then laid they their hands on them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.” We see the same pattern in Acts 19:6 where believers in Ephesus received the Spirit AFTER THE APOSTLE PAUL LAID HANDS ON THEM, “And when Paul laid his lands them, the Holy Ghost came on them.” And finally, in Acts 10:44 we see the Holy Spirit being received THE MOMENT THE GOSPEL WAS BELIEVED, for it states, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” In that case, baptism actually followed the receiving of the Holy Spirit and there was no laying on of hands by an apostle.

We might very well ask, “Why are there three different patterns connected with the reception of the Holy Spirit? AND “Which pattern applies to us today?” We may not know exactly why God chose these different patterns, but we can be sure that God had a special reason in each case. For example, it has been suggested that in the pattern seen in Acts 8:14-17 God wanted the Samaritans, who had cut themselves off from the Jews centuries before this, to recognize the church in Jerusalem and thus the reception of the Spirit was conditioned upon the apostles coming from Jerusalem and laying their hands upon them. This would serve to show the UNITY between the Jewish and Samaritan believers and would prevent a division that would have occurred if the Samaritans had formed their own church in separation from the church in Jerusalem. As far as which pattern applies today, we believe the pattern seen in Acts 10:44 is confirmed by the apostle Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1:13, for we read there, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (NKJV). (173.4) (DO)