Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
When Paul came to Ephesus he found men and women who had been told about Jesus, at least to the extent of the baptism of John. He obviously thought they were Christians when he first met them. But, as he watched them, he observed that something was missing, and I am sure there is puzzlement in his voice when finally he says to them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? This question indicates that the normal Christian pattern is that the Spirit is given immediately upon belief in Jesus Christ. There is no suggestion here that the Spirit of God is given a long period after belief in Christ.
There are many people who believe in Jesus and yet who today do not evidence much sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. There are many churches in our land today where, as I am privileged sometimes to speak in them, I want to say to the people, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? There is no sign of it.
The Holy Spirit is given upon belief in the Lord Jesus, but that does not stop with one act of believing. We are to keep on believing in the Lord Jesus and thus to manifest his power and vitality in our lives. It is that continual act of believing which releases the freshness of the Spirit in our lives. Paul says to the Colossians, As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him… (Colossians 2:6 RSV). As you received him by an act of believing, keep on believing, walk in him, live in him, so that you might demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit.
So what is wrong if there is no evidence of the working of the Spirit? None of the joy, none of the grace, none of the power? It is because we are not believing in him. We believed in him once, but that believing has ceased. There is now no sense of expectancy, no fresh anticipation of his working in our lives today.
Are there signs of the Spirit of God in your life? Are his presence, his power, his working, the freshness, the vitality, the enthusiasm, the excitement of the Spirit visible in your Christian life? If not, you have ceased believing in Jesus. There must be this expectation of his working, for he makes himself available to us continually, moment by moment, to fulfill every demand life makes upon us, as we expect him to do so. That note of expectancy is the evidence, or the sign, of faith which marks the difference between the sterility, the deadness, and the dullness of religiosity without the Spirit, and the fullness, the freshness, and the vigor and power of a Spirit-filled life. So this question, addressed to these halfway Christians of long ago Ephesus, still has meaning for us today, as we understand the need for a continual act of faith in the Lord Jesus.
Lord Jesus, how frequently I fail to understand the truth of your promise that you have come to live within me. Grant to me anew, Lord, the faith to lay hold of this promise and to make visible in my life.
Have we settled for being ‘halfway Christians’, absent evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit? What is the key to releasing the freshness and vitality of his power in and through us? Is our daily walk characterized by believing in God’s Word and in his indwelling presence?