The Holy Spirit can be a difficult topic to study. As a topic, it probably ranks as one of the most critical in applying a disciplined, Scripture interprets Scripture approach without Scripture weighting. The promise of the Holy Spirit, along with miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are all important aspects to understand. Together, they form a very vital foundation to know what the Holy Spirit is doing (and not doing) for Christians today.

How Scripture answers "What is the promise of the Holy Spirit?"

God’s promise of the Holy Spirit is for all that obey Him11,13,14,17. It is a “gift of the Holy Spirit”10,17 from God, along with forgiveness of sins, that is part of salvation. The promise of the Holy Spirit is a personal “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” for all/any (e.g. Jew or Gentile13,15,16) who would hear the word and respond/obey11,12,14 in baptism3,10.

The promise of the Holy Spirit can be broadly traced back to what God promised through Ezekiel14 and it is expressly interpreted and applied by inspired writers10,12,13,16. It fulfills God’s desire to dwell among His people15,16 — a repeated declaration through the prophets. When God physically dwelt among man, it was announced by John the Baptist1, the apostle John2, and Jesus3. At last, it begins to unfold in part with Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit (e.g. “Helper”) to the apostles in the upper room4, which He repeats to them after His resurrection5,6,7,8.

The promise of the Holy Spirit for these special messengers of God included guidance into “all truth”4,5,6,7 as well as an outward, supernatural manifestation8,9 confirming their word with miracles. “Not many days” later, on the day of Pentecost, they would experience the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” for the Jews first8 (and once more for the first Gentiles) when the promise of the Holy Spirit is completely fulfilled in/for all “who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God”2,3,10,11,12,13,14,15.

Have you received God’s promised Holy Spirit by responding in obedience like those on the day of Pentecost10? It’s not received by praying some special prayer. Why not respond God’s way and by His command by being immersed in water and joined to His Son?

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

John answered them all, saying, I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

John [the Baptist] responded to them that effectively he was not the Christ since he simply baptized with water.  There was one far greater and mightier than him coming that would have authority to judge between a baptism with the Holy Spirit and one with fire. He is ready and able to clear His threshing floor — gathering the wheat into His barn and the chaff to burn in unquenchable fire.

The early days of John’s ministry and preparing the way for his cousin, Jesus. The people were questioning him as to whether he might be the Christ (vs 15). This is just before he baptizes Jesus when John hears God testifying that the One he has baptized is the Messiah (vss 21-22).

Parallel accounts appear in Matthew 3:11-12, Mark 1:7-8, and John 1:32-34.

Scripture-block application to this question

John the Baptist testifies that one is coming with the power to judge, bringing the Holy Spirit upon those saved (e.g. “the wheat”) or fire upon those condemned (e.g. “the chaff”).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

In this context, John is speaking to and about all disciples and specifically emphasizing the power of judgment (e.g. contrasting salvation and destruction) that Jesus will have. He has already warned in verse 9 that anyone “that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Therefore, the “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” is most likely a restatement of this same contrast, whereas everyone will face either immersion in the Holy Spirit (salvation) or fire (destruction).

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

He [Jesus] came to His own people, but they did not receive Him.  However, anyone that did — by believing in Him as the Christ — He gave the right to become a child of God, having been born again, not of blood or of carnal things or of man’s ability, but of God.

The beginning of John’s testimony of the things he witnessed about Jesus’ time on earth.  He elaborates on Jesus, the Son of God’s, manifestation in the flesh (vs 14).
Scripture-block application to this question

John announces God’s dwelling among man15 through His Son and its effect or result — man being able to be “born…of God”3.

Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus answered him [Nicodemus] with a truism in stating that one must be born again to see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus didn’t understand and asked how someone who is old could be born again as he couldn’t enter back into his mother’s womb.  Jesus answered by expounding on the same truth adding that unless one is born of water and the Spirit [born again] he cannot enter [see] the kingdom of God.
Jesus is approached at night (in secret) by Nicodemus, a Pharisee and “ruler of the Jews” (vs 1).
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus (early ministry) speaks about a time when one can be born again or “born of water and the Spirit”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This is essentially the same as what John already introduced2 and it is fulfilled with Peter’s response and those initially saved on the Day of Pentecost10.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
I [Jesus] will ask the Father to give you [apostles] another Helper – the Spirit of truth – to remain with you.  Those in the world cannot receive Him since they neither see or know Him, but you know Him because He dwells with you and in you.

This entire section of Scripture (John 13-17) is Jesus in the upper room with the twelve apostles. He is speaking to them directly and giving them instruction about his coming death and what will follow.

Regarding the Helper (e.g. “Spirit of truth” or the Holy Spirit) specifically, Jesus later in this context defines more of how He will help them: (14:26) But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. (16:12-13) I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus (last week; upper room) tells the apostles about the “Helper” who will come.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
I [Jesus] have many other things to teach you [apostles], but you are not ready for them yet.  But when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, not speaking from His own authority, but what He hears He will speak, declaring to you the things to come.

This entire section of Scripture (John 13-17) is Jesus in the upper room with the twelve apostles. He speaks to them directly and gives them instructions about his coming death and what will follow.

The “Spirit of truth” is the Holy Spirit, also referred to by Jesus in the “upper room” exchange with the apostles as the Helper (vs 14:26 & 15:26).

Scripture-block application to this question

The coming of the Spirit of Truth4 included the apostles having “all truth”7.

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.
After saying this, He [Jesus] breathed on them the Holy Spirit commissioning them to go out forgiving sins of those that believed.

Jesus has risen and demonstrated His complete bodily resurrection after appearing to many of them including Mary (vs 15) and the apostles (19) and finally to Thomas (vss 24-29).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus (after the resurrection; appearance to apostles minus Thomas) anoints ten apostles with the Holy Spirit and, if the same account as Luke7, gives them “all truth.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.
Then He [Jesus] opened their [the Twelve minus Judas and Thomas] minds to fully understand the Scriptures.  He told them that it was written that He would suffer, die, and rise on the third day.  He also told them that they should preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all the world starting in Jersalem.  Finally, He reminded them that they were witnesses of these things and that He was sending the promise of God the Father so they should stay in Jerusalem until power from on high comes on them.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ life after his bodily resurrection.  Jesus has appeared to several people including the two on the road to Emmaus (vss 13-27) and is here appearing the ten (Thomas is absent).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus (after the resurrection; just before ascension) gives them “all truth” and reminds them of the “promise that will clothe them with power”. This is very similar to and has some overlap with Luke’s continuation into Acts 18 but this appears to be timed when Jesus appeared to the ten6.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
While Jesus was still with them [the eleven], He told them to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise from God.  Jesus had already told them about this and further told them that while John baptized with water, they would soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Luke’s “part 2” account to Theophilus, where he opens with a brief summary (vss 1-11) that recaps/overlaps with the ending of the “part 1” (Luke 24:36-53).

Jesus, with His apostles (vs 2), is reminding them of the “promise of the Father” (“the Helper”) that He first told them about in the upper room before His crucifixion (John 14:15-17, 16:7-14). He is also referring back to the same thing John the Baptist had originally proclaimed, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16)

This is just before He ascends into heaven (vs 9) and the day of Pentecost (chapter 2).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus (after the resurrection; just before ascension) reminds them of the promise he told them about7 and also connects it to baptism with the Holy Spirit that they will experience “not many days” from then.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
They [the apostles] were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues other than their own as the Spirit directed them.
It is the day of Pentecost and Jews have made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem from all different nations (vs 5). The apostles have what appear to be “tongues as of fire” (vs 3) resting on each one of them to the amazement of the crowd. They are able to speak in everyone’s native tongue (vs 6) and Peter begins to preach to them of Jesus.
Scripture-block application to this question

Not many days later8 the apostles are “filled” with a physical and miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

When they heard the preaching of Peter and the rest of the apostles, they were convicted by them and asked what they should do [to be saved].  Peter told them that they each should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that they could receive the remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This “gift” was the promise made for all Jews, but also all Gentiles — everyone whom God calls to himself.

Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost where he recalled several prophetic statements from Joel and David (vss 16-36). By divine inspiration, Peter interpreted these statements to apply their fulfillment to Jesus and the ushering in of the “last days”.

He also specifically refers to the “promise of the Holy Spirit” earlier – given by the Father to the Son (vs 33). More were continuing to be saved and they began meeting together as the Lord’s church (vss 41-47).

Scripture-block application to this question

Peter’s sermon, preached after Jesus’ “glorification”17, convicted those who heard and they asked what they should do to be saved9. Peter tells them that if they turn [to God with their lives] and are baptized in Jesus’ name they will receive forgiveness of sins and the “gift of the Holy Spirit” — a promise that is for “everyone the Lord our God calls to himself”11,17.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Some believe that “the promise” in vs 39 is the promise of salvation, but Peter has just preached about “the promise of the Holy Spirit” (vs 33) that the Son received from the Father. While salvation is certainly a promise of the Father and what we witness happening more broadly in Acts chapter 2, “the promise” in vs 39 would have to be “the promise of the Holy Spirit” Peter just spoke about in vs 33. Furthermore, that “promise of the Holy Spirit” given to the Son of God could not have been salvation.

The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.

You [High Priest and Jewish Council] killed Jesus by hanging Him on a cross, but the God of our ancestors raised Him and exalted him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, thereby bringing Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.  We [apostles], together with the Holy Spirit – who God, the Father, has given to all that obey Him – are witnesses to these things.

In the early days of the Christian movement and God’s establishment of His “new covenant,” the apostles are carrying the message of the gospel across Jerusalem and Judea.  Being confronted by the Jewish leadership (vs 27), as often they were, Peter tells them, “We must obey God rather than men” (vs 29) and witnesses to them about the things he and the others have seen with their eyes.  In this case, Peter may be specifically referring back to witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus documented in Acts 1.

Scripture-block application to this question

Peter says that God gives the Holy Spirit to all who obey Him.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
When you [Gentiles] heard the word and believed, you were marked and sealed with the Holy Spirit who had been promised – the believer’s down payment to the eventual inheritance and full redemption.

The opening of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus ends with a long list of spiritual blessings they have in Christ. The culmination of his list of blessings “in Christ” applies to both Jews (vs 12) as well as Gentiles (“you also”).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul references the same promise of the Holy Spirit for all believers that Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost10.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Christ canceled the burden of a works-based justification that existed with the Law [of Moses] by dying on the cross, as it is written in Deuteronomy 21:23, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”  As a result, the promise of the blessing to all nations made to Abraham was fulfilled in Christ – that Gentiles might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit through their faith.

Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia (a region).  Chapter 3 specifically argues the Christian’s justification through the [New] law of Christ, not the [Old] law of Moses, while at the same time, drawing strong parallels between the two.

Scripture-block application to this question

The promise of the Holy Spirit for all the faithful is a fulfillment, at least in part, of the promise that God made to Abraham that all the nations [e.g. Gentiles] would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3). NOTE: This fulfills precisely what Zechariah15 (and other prophets) foretold.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

I will sprinkle clean water on you to remove all sin and idols from you. And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit that I will put in you, removing the heart of stone from you.  And I will put my Spirit inside you to execute/govern (Heb: “cause”) your walk in my covenant.

Ezekiel spoke God’s words during the Babylonian captivity – after the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple.  Interspersed with his encourage and preaching to God’s people of that day are many references to a time that God promises a true shepherd to care for them (34:13-15), a return of “my servant David” (34:23-24, 37:24), a convenant of peace (34:25), a gathering of a single nation to their land (36:24, 37:14, 22).

Scripture-block application to this question

God promises to provide a “new spirit” that will be His Spirit for those who obey Him.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

God states this through Ezekiel during a time when the temple had been destroyed. Unlike the original Tabernacle and the first temple by Solomon, the subsequent temples rebuilt those that returned to the land (“Zerubbabel’s temple”) and later by Herod would not be filled with God’s Spirit.

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

Sing and rejoice, daughter of Zion, because I [God] will dwell among you. All people from all nations will join themselves to Me in that day and shall be My people. I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.

Zechariah prophesied to those Jews that returned to the land after the seventy years of Babylonian captivity.

Scripture-block application to this question

God through Zechariah speaks of “that day” when He will dwell among all people (Jew and Gentile)13.

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Brethren, due to these promises let’s remove any sin from our body and spirit in order to perfect holiness in accord with God’s will.

Paul has dealt with numerous issues that have sown division and discord among the Christians in Corinth. In this chapter/section, he addresses yet another problem — apparently, some have negatively influenced the church to the extent that they were false teaching.

This verse concludes the argument Paul was making (6:14-18) about them maintaining fellowship with “unbelievers” (6:14) and that contradicts God’s desire and the promises He made to:

  • “make my dwelling among them” (6:16)
  • “be separate” so that “I will welcome you” (6:17)
  • “be a father to you” (6:18)
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul includes God’s promise to dwell with His people as integral to a Christian’s walk.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

“These promises” relate to the previous few verses where Paul quotes from several prophets expressing God’s desire to “make my dwelling among them…and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (6:16)

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

On the last day of the feast Jesus stood up and yelled that if anyone was thirsty, they should come to Him to drink and that whoever believed in Him would lead to what scripture said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  What He said was referring to the Holy Spirit which would be given to anyone who believed in him after his glorification.

Jesus has begun his public ministry and He’s begun to stir up Jerusalem with his controversial teaching and popularity. On this occasion, Jesus has gone “privately” (vs 10) up to Judea for the Feast of Booths (vs 2) and it is the last “great” day.

Jesus makes a summary statement about what “Scripture has said”. It’s not a direct quote from any one passage, but a portion or concept well documented in scripture including His conversation with the women at the well (John 4) and several other poignant statements in the prophets:

  • “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of living water,
    and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 7:17)
  • “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.” (Jer 17:13)
  • “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isa 12:3)
  • “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.” (Ezk 47:1ff)
Scripture-block application to this question

By inspiration, John confirms that Jesus’ statement about “living water” referred to the receipt of the Holy Spirit by anyone who believed11. This promise would be fulfilled sometime after Jesus’ death on the cross10 (e.g. His “glorification”).

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