“EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT, HE CANNOT ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”
To be born again of the Spirit means to receive, or to be filled with, or to be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
What happens when a person receives the gift of the Holy Ghost? Is there a way to tell whether or not someone has received it?
Let’s start at the beginning. The New Testament Church began on the Day of Pentecost a few days after Jesus ascended (Acts 2). On that day, the first 120 people received the Holy Ghost and they all spoke in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Other than what? Other than their own. Speaking in tongues wasn’t a work initiated by the disciples. The Holy Spirit that filled them caused them to speak in tongues. Some onlookers who observed the event thought the disciples were drunk on new wine and wanted to know what all the tongue-talking meant.
Peter stood with the rest of the apostles and preached the first sermon ever preached in the New Testament Church (Acts 2:14-36). He said the people were not drunk on wine, but “THIS IS THAT” (Acts 2:16) prophesied by the prophet Joel where God said, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” (not just this 120). THIS speaking in tongues that you are witnessing is THAT, the outpouring of the Spirit. The disciples were waiting for the “PROMISE OF THE FATHER,” the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:4-8 and Luke 24:49), and Peter said, “THIS IS THAT.” In Acts 2:33 Peter went on to say, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the PROMISE of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”
Peter told the crowd that what they were witnessing, what they were seeing and hearing, was 120 people receiving the promise of the Father, receiving the Holy Ghost. What were they seeing and hearing? People speaking in tongues (And staggering? Isaiah 28:11 & 29:9). Twice in his first sermon, in Acts 2:16 and Acts 2:33, Peter unmistakably declared that speaking in tongues reflected the fact that the disciples had received the Holy Ghost.
At the end of his sermon, the people were pricked in their hearts and asked Peter and the other apostles what they had to do (Acts 2:37). Peter told them in Acts 2:38 to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and they too could receive the same gift of the Holy Ghost that they were witnessing. Peter said it was the promise of the Father, and in verse 39 he said, “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.” “What you are seeing and hearing is the promise, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and this promise is for everyone that God calls.” The Lord is still calling people today and the promise has not changed.
In verse 40 of the 2nd chapter of Acts, Peter exhorted the people to save themselves. In verse 41 they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And finally, in verse 42, the Bible says they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine. On the Day of Pentecost, over 3000 people were added to the church by obeying the gospel that Peter preached. They were baptized in Jesus’ name and received the promise that they were seeing and hearing.
Next, Philip, who wasn’t an apostle but an evangelist, went down to Samaria and preached Christ to them (Acts 8). They believed, they accepted Christ, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, they had devils cast out, they were healed, and they had great joy, but they DID NOT have the Holy Ghost. They did not receive it automatically at repentance, not at acceptance, and not at baptism. It wasn’t until the apostles, Peter and John, came down from Jerusalem and prayed for them that they received the Holy Ghost. Receiving the Spirit was a separate experience from believing and miracles.
While the Bible doesn’t specifically say that the Samaritans spoke in tongues, there are several very important things to consider. (1) Philip was most likely converted directly under Peter’s preaching, and Peter taught that tongues is the evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost. (2) The response of the people indicated that the plan of salvation Philip preached was the same that Peter preached in Acts 2:38. (3) Receiving the Holy Spirit definitely did not occur at the moment the people accepted Christ. (4) There was some evidence or lack of evidence that let the apostles know whether the Samaritans had received the Holy Ghost. It wasn’t a long-term thing that you could see played out in their lives, but an instant, recognizable sign. (5) Simon the sorcerer didn’t offer money when he saw devils cast out or healing, but when he saw the people receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he was impressed enough to offer money.
Several years after Pentecost, Peter preached to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Ghost fell on all of them and they all spoke in tongues. That’s exactly how Peter knew that these Gentiles had received the gift of the Holy Ghost: “FOR THEY HEARD THEM SPEAK WITH TONGUES.” Again, here in Acts 10, tongues is expressly shown to be the evidence, the sign, that the people had received the Holy Ghost. We aren’t told what the missing sign was in Samaria, but we are told here of a very definite sign.
So, we have the first outpouring in Acts 2 where they all spoke in tongues and Peter said, “This is that.” Next came the Samaritans, who did not automatically receive the Holy Ghost. Now, we have the house of Cornelius receiving the Holy Ghost where speaking in tongues is definitely shown to be the evidence, the only evidence. From this we can only conclude that the missing sign in Samaria was tongues. That’s how the apostles knew that the Samaritans had not received the Holy Ghost; they did not hear them speak with tongues.
Acts 19 is another blow to the Holy-Ghost-is-received-automatically-with-no-physical-sign theory. The Ephesians were already believers when Paul met them. They had already repented, accepted Christ, and been baptized. They were disciples. Still, Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Ghost since they believed. That’s a peculiar question if people are supposed to receive the Holy Ghost automatically when they accept Christ as their personal Savior, when they believe. When they answered that they had not received it, the first thing Paul wanted to know was how they were baptized. He re-baptized them in the name of Jesus, but they didn’t receive the Holy Ghost automatically then either. It wasn’t until Paul laid hands on them that they received it, and when they received the Holy Ghost, they all spoke in tongues just like in the beginning on the Day of Pentecost.
While there are only three accounts of people actually speaking in tongues in the book of Acts, the context clearly demonstrates that tongues is the evidence (the sign) of receiving the Holy Ghost. In the book of Luke, Jesus told the thief that he would be with Him in paradise. The same account in Matthew makes no mention of paradise. Did the thief go to paradise or not? He went, of course. Matthew didn’t undo Luke’s account; it just focused on a different aspect. Likewise, if tongues is clearly and unmistakably shown to be the evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost in the very beginning, it isn’t voided later, simply because it isn’t mentioned. Like baptism, it can’t be essential in one place and not essential in another. When the 3000 obeyed Peter’s gospel on the Day of Pentecost, they would have received the same Holy Ghost experience that Peter did, and so would the Samaritans, because what they were seeing and hearing was promised to everyone that God calls.
The three instances of people speaking in tongues in the book of Acts wasn’t some random sampling either, such as, “Oh, by the way, eight or ten of these one hundred twenty people spoke in tongues when they received the Holy Ghost.” No, it was a fundamental truth established in the beginning. “This is that” outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:16). Jesus received the “PROMISE” and has shed forth the Holy Ghost that you “SEE AND HEAR” (Acts 2:33). It was the missing sign that revealed that the Samaritans had not received the Holy Ghost (Acts 8). Peter knew Cornelius had received the gift of the Holy Ghost, “For they heard them speak with tongues” (Acts 10). And under Paul’s ministry, “The Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19).
Let’s examine another lesson of the book of Acts, keeping in mind what Jesus said in John 3:3-5: We must be born again of water and of the Spirit or we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. In Acts 2, the message is first taught: 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. There are two key elements after repentance: water baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost.
Acts 8 gives an example of people who believed and were baptized, but who did not receive the Holy Ghost right away. They had to tarry until the apostles came and prayed for them, but they had to experience both things. Acts 10 is an account of people who believed and received the Holy Ghost immediately, but who were not baptized. So afterward, Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. The same two elements. Acts 19 shows baptized believers who had accepted Christ and were baptized, but who were not baptized with the name of Jesus called over them and who had not received the Holy Ghost. Paul had to bring these people through the birth of water and the Spirit. He re-baptized them in the name of Jesus, and then they received the Holy Ghost speaking in tongues just as in the beginning. The people in each example obeyed the same gospel in the same manner and received the same promise. The difference was just in the order of occurrence. Repentance and baptism were commanded. Receipt of the Holy Ghost was promised. All three were essential.
Jesus said in John 3:8 that the wind blows where it wants to. You can’t see the wind come and you can’t see the wind go, but you WILL HEAR THE SOUND THEREOF, and so is EVERY ONE BORN OF THE SPIRIT. In other words, you can’t see the Spirit come and you can’t see the Spirit go, but you will hear the sound every time someone is born of the Spirit. What was the sound heard on the Day of Pentecost? Tongues. What was the sound heard at the house of Cornelius and at Ephesus? Tongues. What was not heard when Philip preached in Samaria?
Mark 16:17 states, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues.” There is no cutoff date here; the sign of tongues will follow the believers throughout the Church Age. True, Mark 16:18 says the signs of taking up serpents and drinking deadly liquids would also follow the believers, but there is no evidence that links those signs or casting out devils with receiving the Holy Ghost. Speaking in tongues, on the other hand, is definitely shown to be the sign of receiving the Holy Ghost and follows throughout the book of Acts and the epistles. Paul tells the church in 1 Corinthians 14:22 that tongues are for edifying the saints and are for a SIGN to unbelievers.
Are you one of the creatures who heard the gospel and believed? Was there a sign of tongues when you received the Holy Ghost? Was there a sound? If you didn’t speak in tongues, maybe the gospel you heard was a little different from that preached by the apostles.
====“And so is EVERY ONE born of the Spirit.”====
The passages we have just reviewed show that tongues is the evidence that someone has received the gift of the Holy Ghost and not the evidence that someone has received the gift of tongues. We need to understand the difference. This difference will be covered in a later chapter.
The record of people being converted by the New Testament Gospel is in Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10, and so on. The general, introductory teaching of Jesus in John 3:16 is not how the apostles preached salvation to the lost. Jesus did not tell Nicodemus to take “believe only” into all the world, beginning at John 3:16. And neither is the discussion about confession in the 10th chapter of the letter to the church at Rome an example of New Testament salvation.
When people were converted by the gospel of the apostles, they repented, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when they received the Holy Ghost, THEY ALL SPOKE IN TONGUES.