Q. I have question about Acts 8:9-25. I believe as you, that in the church age that all who accept Christ as savior have the Holy Spirit sealed within us at that very instant. However the story about the Samaritan believers seems to contradict this. What’s your take on why they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit until the laying on of hands by Peter and John?
A. A couple of different explanations have been offered for the events of Acts 8:9-25. The one that I like is that Phillip, who was not the Apostle by that name, but a Greek believer who was one of the first seven deacons, had not been given the authority to convey the Holy Spirit, although he had received Him (Acts 6:3-6). This view holds that in the earliest days of the Church only the Apostles could do that, perhaps based on John 21:22-23.
If so, this would explain why Phillip, here in the role of evangelist, could preach the Gospel and lead people to the Lord, even baptizing them in the Name of Jesus but could not convey the Holy Spirit.
This doesn’t mean that Phillip’s believers weren’t sealed with the Holy Spirit at the moment they first believed. They key to the passage is the phrase “come upon” in verse 16. It’s used several times in the book of Acts to describe a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Gentile in order to demonstrate to Jews that the Holy Spirit wasn’t just for them.
A similar event is described in Acts 10:44-46 which reads:
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came upon all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”
For over 500 years there had been contention between the Jews and the Samaritans. Their relationship during that time has been likened to the one between white people and their slaves during the 17-1800s.
I’m of the opinion that Peter and John were sent to Samaria partly because many Jews felt that if the Samaritans could receive the Holy Spirit then anybody could. But that’s just my opinion.