As we’ve seen, in Acts 2:38 the apostle Peter tells the Jews that have gathered that they need to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. He also says they would receive the Holy Spirit.
It’s fair to ask, “Receive the Spirit in what way?” People in the Old Testament had the Spirit of God come upon them and operate through them. Yet John says the Spirit “wasn’t yet” until after Jesus’ crucifixion (John 7:39).
Does Peter mean that everyone will do miracles? Doesn’t seem like it; for some time after this, the only people we see doing miracles are the Twelve (Acts 5:12). In fact, that was long seen as the mark of an apostle (1 Corinthians 12:12). John the Baptist was said to have been filled with the Spirit from birth, yet never did miracles (John 10:41).
Jesus spoke of an indwelling Spirit, a comforter. That seems to be what Peter is talking about, the presence of God living within us (Romans 8:9-11).
Some people have tried to make much of the fact that the word repent is plural, the word be baptized is singular, and the word “receive” (the Spirit) is plural again. They say that Peter was promising the Spirit to those who repented, not those who were baptized. Need we give serious discussion to that? Notice the phrase “every one of you” after the command to be baptized; unless we’re merely trying to be argumentative, we’ll note that all were told to repent and all told to be baptized.
Peter tells them that if they repent and are baptized, they will receive the Spirit. This is the normal way in which God gives his Spirit, at least according to the book of Acts. Everyone who obeys receives the Spirit (Acts 5:32). Are the Samaritans in Chapter 8 and Cornelius in Chapter 10 possible exceptions? Sure. God is still God, as I mentioned yesterday.
But I’m not sure that we’re being told that the Samaritans hadn’t received the indwelling Spirit in chapter 8. What they were lacking certainly seems to have been observable. It seems more likely that they hadn’t yet received tongues or any of the other outward signs. (I discussed this in an earlier post on “Signs of an Apostle“)
And I think it quite possible that Cornelius and family received similar manifestations. Something happened to let those present know that the Spirit had come upon them. It was something so different that it made Peter remember Pentecost (Acts 11:15). Did they also receive the indwelling? Possibly. We can’t really say. Either way, we know that this was an exceptional case.
Just as Peter said that this promise was for “you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call,” so I believe that it remains today. Repent and be baptized, and you’ll receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.