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?"

The promise of the Holy Spirit can be broadly traced back to what God promised through Ezekiel13. It’s then announced by John the Baptist1 and Jesus2. It first unfolds with Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit (e.g. “Helper”) to the apostles in the upper room3, and He repeats it again to them after His resurrection4,5,6. This promise to the apostles includes both guidance into “all truth”3,4,5,6 but also an outward manifestation of power7,8 to confirm their word with miracles. “Not many days” later, on the day of Pentecost, they would experience the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” for the first Jews7 (and once more for the first Gentiles).

But God’s promise of the Holy Spirit was for all that obeyed Him13, and that’s what Peter tells the crowd that was responding to the gospel message9 for the first time. This is the “Spirit part” of what Jesus shared with Nicodemus2 for those born again. It is the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” for all/any (e.g. Jew or Gentile12) that would respond to the gospel12 in baptism2,9 and obedience10,11,13.

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 will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with 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 baptize with the Holy Spirit and with 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 of this appear in Matthew 3:11-12, Mark 1:7-8, John 1:32-34.

Scripture-block application to this question

John the Baptist testifies that one is coming with the power to give the Holy Spirit.

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 with a truth: unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus didn’t understand and asked how someone that is old be born again as he can’t enter back into his mother’s womb?  Jesus answered expounding on the same truth: 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) foretelling the coming of being “born of water and the Spirit,” fulfilled with Peter’s response and those initially saved on the Day of Pentecost9.

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” that 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 Spirit of Truth’s coming3 included the apostles having “all truth”6.

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) giving them the Holy Spirit and, if the same account as Luke6, giving 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. (Possibly the same encounter in Acts 17, but appears timed better with Jesus’ appearance to the ten5.)

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 about3 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 later7 the apostles are “filled” with a physical and miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit as fire1.

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 these words, they were pierced in the heart and asked Peter and the other apostles what they should do [to be saved].  Peter told them that they each should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, and they would then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This “gift” was the promise made for all that the Lord calls to himself, even those far off.

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.”

On believing his message (that Jesus was the Christ), they asked what they needed to do to be saved. 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

On the same occasion8, Peter shares a receiving (e.g. “promise”) of the Holy Spirit for those that would respond to the gospel message in repentance and baptism (of water).

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, bringing Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.  We [apostles], together with the Holy Spirit – whom God 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

A restatement of the same promise Peter made on the day of Pentecost9 that the Holy Spirit would be given to all that obey.

And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)—when you believed in Christ—you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.

For those saved (after hearing the gospel and believing), they are marked and sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the believer’s down payment to the eventual inheritance and full redemption.

Opening Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus and ending a long list of spiritual blessings that they have in Christ.

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 Pentecost9.

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, to the promise that God made to Abraham that all the nations [e.g. Gentiles] would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3).

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 that obey Him.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This is stated by God through Ezekiel during a time when the temple had been destroyed and the subsequent rebuilding of the temple by those that returned to the land (first by Zerubbabel and later Herod) would not be filled with God’s Spirit as those prior had happen.

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