In Acts 19 Paul arrives in Ephesus to plant a church. He meets about 12 disciples. But, apparently after spending some time with them, he notices that there is something a little 'off' about these guys. They are seemingly followers of Jesus on some level, but Paul notices that something is missing. So much so that he asks them the question, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
Couldn't that be a little insulting? "You guys are disciples but you aren't the real deal. Did you even receive the Holy Spirit?"
If we are "the real deal" there will be fruit, or evidence, to prove it. If God lives in us by his Spirit and has made us a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) it should be obvious. It was obvious to Paul that these disciples were missing the Spirit.
They admitted that they had not received the Spirit, and had not even heard that through Christ the promised Spirit is now available to believers. They didn't know that Pentecost had come - that the promises of the Old Testament and what John the Baptist had pointed forward to - had come to pass! They were missing a HUGE piece of the puzzle.
Notice that Paul did NOT say to these guys, "Hey, it's ok brothers. After all, you are Jews - the people of God; you were following John the Baptist and looking forward to the Messiah; you were even baptized by John in repentance of your sins. You're good. God will understand." Some today may have responded in this way, but Paul did not. He told them that John the Baptist was pointing to Jesus. Then the disciples believed Christ and received Christian baptism rather than John's baptism. (These guys were close...but Christ's apostle knew that close is not good enough!) Think about it. These were not Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims or Atheists. These were guys who believed on Jesus in some way; were repentant of their sins before God and had received baptism from God's prophet John...but that was not good enough! If these guys weren't ok, no one is ok! They lacked the Holy Spirit, who is given through faith in Jesus Christ. And if you don't have the Spirit of Christ, you don't belong to Christ (Romans 8:9)!!!
This passage in Acts is showing us the importance of the Holy Spirit. In a day when many are saying that everyone is ok - that ultimately all will be included - the message of the apostles, who were sent by Christ with his message still ringing in their ears, is clear. There is one way. We must come to God (consciously, in this life) through faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God, who took upon himself the sins of 'many' (Mark 10:45), laid down his life for his church (Eph 5:25), was made a curse for us (Gal 3:13) and became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21); who died and rose again. Jesus gives the Spirit. Why is this so important?
The Holy Spirit is the evidence that we have been accepted by God and can expect life forever with him. The Spirit is the 'down payment,' or guarantee that we have eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). Ephesians 1:13-14 says it this way: when we believed the gospel we were sealed with the Holy Spirit, "who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we aquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." In other words, only believers in Jesus, who receive the gospel of Christ in faith, become recipients of the Holy Spirit. And having the Spirit is the guarantee that the rest of what God has promised his children is indeed coming.
Do you see the importance of the Holy Spirit, as Paul saw it?
Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
Is their evidence in your life that you have God's Spirit (you are a new person, producing the fruit of the Spirit; the power of the Spirit; you love the truth; etc).
Better yet (since we can fool ourselves), are you part of a local church, where believers can see evidence in your life that you have the Holy Spirit?
Scripture tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith; to test ourselves. "Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Cor 13:5, ESV).
Let us not forget or neglect the Holy Spirit. May we value him, and realize how blessed we are as believers, that the promises have been fulfilled and we can now receive God's Spirit through faith in Jesus!! Come to Jesus and drink if you are thirsty (John 7:37-39). He is the giver of the Spirit and eternal life!