Acts 19:2
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
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(2) Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?—Better, as connecting the two facts in the English as in the Greek, Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?i.e., on your conversion and baptism. We are left to conjecture what prompted the question. The most natural explanation is that St. Paul noticed in them, as they attended the meetings of the Church, a want of spiritual gifts, perhaps, also, a want of the peace and joy and brightness that showed itself in others. They presented the features of a rigorous asceticism like that of the Therapeutæ—the outward signs of repentance and mortification—but something was manifestly lacking for their spiritual completeness.

We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.—The standpoint of the disciples so exactly corresponds to that of Apollos when he arrived at Ephesus, that we may reasonably think of them as having been converted by his preaching. They must, of course, have known the Holy Spirit as a name meeting them in the Sacred Books, as given to the olden prophets, but they did not think of that Spirit as a living and pervading presence, in which they themselves might claim a share. They had been baptised with the baptism of repentance, and were leading a life of fasting, and prayers, and alms, but they had not passed on to “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17). It lies on the surface that they were Jewish, not Gentile, disciples.

Acts 19:2-7. Having found certain disciples — Who had been formerly baptized by John the Baptist, and since imperfectly instructed in Christianity, he said, Have ye received the Holy Ghost? — The extraordinary gifts, as well as the sanctifying graces of the Holy Spirit; since ye believed — These disciples were converts to the Christian faith, that is, they believed that Jesus was the Christ; but Paul inquires whether they had received the Holy Ghost, whose operations on the minds of men for their illumination, conviction, conversion, sanctification, and comfort, were revealed some time after the doctrine of Jesus being the Christ was made known. He asks whether they had been acquainted with this revelation; and had been made partakers of this blessing. This was not all. Extraordinary gifts of the Spirit had been conferred upon the apostles, and other disciples, presently after Christ’s ascension, and these had been frequently communicated since upon certain occasions; and he inquires whether they had received these; whether they had had that seal of the truth of Christ’s doctrine in themselves. Observe, reader, although we have now no reason to expect any such extraordinary gifts as were given then, the canon of the New Testament having been long since completed and ratified, and it being our duty to depend upon that as the most sure word of prophecy; yet there are graces of the Spirit, given to all true believers, which are to them seals of the truth of their faith, and earnests of their future inheritance in their hearts, (2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13,) and it concerns us all, who profess the Christian faith, seriously to inquire whether we have received these. The Holy Ghost is promised to all believers, who sincerely, earnestly, and importunately ask his influences, Luke 11:13. But many are deceived in this matter, and think they have received the Holy Ghost, when really they have not. As there are pretenders to the gifts of the Spirit, so there are to his graces and comforts. We should therefore strictly examine ourselves on this subject; and inquire whether we have received the Holy Ghost since we believed? The tree is known by its fruits. Do we bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, &c., all goodness, righteousness, and truth. Are we led by the Spirit? Do we live and walk in the Spirit? Do we experience his renovating power, and are we under his government? See Galatians 5:22; Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 5:9; Romans 8:14; Titus 3:5. We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost — They had heard and knew that the Holy Ghost was promised in the Old Testament, to be given in the days of the Messiah, and they did not doubt that that promise would be fulfilled in its season; but they had been so much out of the way of receiving information in this matter, that they had not yet heard that the Holy Ghost had actually been communicated to any, especially in his extraordinary gifts. It is probable that they were Hellenist Jews, natives of a remote country, who, having been in Judea (perhaps attending some of the feasts at Jerusalem) upward of twenty years since, had heard John preach, and had received his doctrine concerning the Messiah; but, having returned to their own country, had not been made acquainted with the effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of pentecost, and with the progress of Christianity since that period. And he said, Unto what were ye baptized? — Into what dispensation? to the sealing of what doctrine? It seems, those who were baptized by the apostles, commonly received the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. They said to him, Unto John’s baptism — We were baptized by John, and believe what he taught. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance — John called sinners to repentance, to prepare the way of the Lord, and admitted the penitent to the baptism of water, saying, that they should believe on him that should come after — That is, the whole baptism and preaching of John pointed at Christ. After this John is mentioned no more in the New Testament. When they heard this — Their hearts were so impressed with it, that they readily complied with the direction and advice of the apostle, and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus — So that they were baptized twice, but not in the same manner, or with the same baptism; John did not baptize in the manner Christ afterward commanded, that is, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And — After their baptism; Paul laying his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came upon them; and, as a proof of it, they spake with tongues and prophesied. These brethren being the first in Ephesus who received the Holy Ghost in his extraordinary gifts, it is probable the apostle afterward ordained, at least, some of them, elders of that church. If so, they may have been among those elders of Ephesus who came to Miletus, and received from Paul the pathetic exhortation recorded Acts 20:18-35.

19:1-7 Paul, at Ephesus, found some religious persons, who looked to Jesus as the Messiah. They had not been led to expect the miraculous powers of the Holy Ghost, nor were they informed that the gospel was especially the ministration of the Spirit. But they spake as ready to welcome the notice of it. Paul shows them that John never design that those he baptized should rest there, but told them that they should believe on Him who should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. They thankfully accepted the discovery, and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Ghost came upon them in a surprising, overpowering manner; they spake with tongues, and prophesied, as the apostles and the first Gentile coverts did. Though we do not now expect miraculous powers, yet all who profess to be disciples of Christ, should be called on to examine whether they have received the seal of the Holy Ghost, in his sanctifying influences, to the sincerity of their faith. Many seem not to have heard that there is a Holy Ghost, and many deem all that is spoken concerning his graces and comforts, to be delusion. Of such it may properly be inquired, Unto what, then, were ye baptized? for they evidently know not the meaning of that outward sign on which they place great dependence.Have ye received the Holy Spirit? - Have ye received the extraordinary effusions and miraculous influences of the Holy Spirit? Paul would not doubt that, if they had "believed," they had received the ordinary converting influences of the Holy Spirit - for it was one of his favorite doctrines that the Holy Spirit renews the heart. But, besides this, the miraculous influences of the Spirit were conferred on many societies of believers. The power of speaking with tongues, or of working miracles, was imparted as an evidence of the presence of God, and of their acceptance with him, Acts 10:45-46; 1 Corinthians 14. It was natural for Paul to ask whether this evidence of the divine favor has been granted to them.

Since ye believed - Since you embraced the doctrine of John that the Messiah was soon to come.

We have not so much as heard ... - This seems to be a very strange answer. Yet we are to remember:

(1) That these were mere disciples of John's doctrine, and that his preaching related particularly to the Messiah, and not to the Holy Spirit.

(2) it does not even appear that they had heard that the Messiah had come, or had heard of Jesus of Nazareth, Acts . Acts 19:4-5.

(3) it is not remarkable, therefore, that they had no clear conceptions of the character and operations of the Holy Spirit. Yet,

(4) They were just in that state of mind that they were willing to embrace the doctrine when it was proclaimed to them, thus showing that they were really under the influence of the Holy Spirit. God may often produce important changes in the hearts and lives of sinners, even where they have no clear and systematic views of religious doctrines. In all such cases, however, there will be a readiness of heart to embrace the truth where it is made known.

2. Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?—rather, "Received ye the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" implying, certainly, that the one did not of necessity carry the other along with it (see on [2053]Ac 8:14-17). Why this question was asked, we cannot tell; but it was probably in consequence of something that passed between them from which the apostle was led to suspect the imperfection of their light.

We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost—This cannot be the meaning, since the personality and office of the Holy Ghost, in connection with Christ, formed an especial subject of the Baptist's teaching. Literally, the words are, "We did not even hear whether the Holy Ghost was (given)"; meaning, at the time of their baptism. That the word "given" is the right supplement, as in Joh 7:39, seems plain from the nature of the case.

Have ye received the Holy Ghost? The extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, as prophesying, speaking with tongues, healing of the sick, &c., as appears by Acts 18:6, and John 7:39; for it could not be, that they, who were instructed and baptized by John, should be ignorant of the essence or person of the Holy Ghost; for the Baptist had seen him descending upon our Saviour; as is remembered by all the evangelists which speak of his baptism, Matthew 3:16 Mark 1:10 Luke 3:22; besides other scriptures which testified of him; and St. John had spoken of him unto all he baptized, that our Saviour would baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire, John 1:32,33.

We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost: this answer must be understood, according to the question, of those gifts now mentioned; and which by the imposition of the hands of the apostles were given, especially at the ordination of such as were sent to preach the gospel, it being necessary for the planting of the church, those miraculous gifts assuring those unto whom they preached, that their doctrine was from heaven; as also to assure the apostles themselves of the success of their ministry, and the conversion of such they preached unto, as Acts 10:44,47. And this acceptation of these words is paralleled, 1 Samuel 3:7, where it is said, that

Samuel did not yet know the Lord; the meaning is, that he knew not that God was wont so to speak unto any; otherwise, that holy man, as young as he was, both knew God, and served him.

He said unto them, have ye received the Holy Ghost,.... Meaning, not the special regenerating and sanctifying grace of the Holy Ghost, for that is supposed in their being disciples and believers, but the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, for it follows,

since ye believed? that is, in Christ; which is taking it for granted, that they had received the special grace of the Spirit of God; for this believing is to be understood of true, spiritual, special faith in Christ:

and they said unto him, we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost; by which they could not mean the person of the Holy Ghost: for they must have known that there was such a divine person as the Holy Ghost, from the writings of the Old Testament, with which they were conversant: and from the ministry of John, into whose baptism they were baptized; who saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus, and bore witness of it; and declared, that Christ who was to come after him, would baptize with the Holy Ghost: nor could they mean the special grace of the Spirit, which they themselves had received; but the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit of God, which they at present knew nothing of, and which were afterwards bestowed upon them: they knew that there were prophecies in the Old Testament, concerning the effusion of the Spirit in the last days, in the days of the Messiah; but they had not heard that these had had their accomplishment; they had heard nothing of the day of Pentecost, and of the pouring out of the Spirit upon the apostles then, nor of any instance of this kind since; they did not know that the Holy Ghost was yet, John 7:39 they knew he was promised, but not that he was given; the Ethiopic version, to avoid the difficulty of the text, renders it, "we have only heard that there was an Holy Ghost".

He said unto them, Have ye received the {a} Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.

(a) Those excellent gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were in the Church in those days.

Acts 19:2. The want of the distinctively Christian life of the Spirit in these disciples must have surprised the apostle; he misses in their case those peculiar utterances of the Holy Spirit, commencing with Christian baptism, which were elsewhere observable (1 Corinthians 12:13; Titus 3:5). Hence his question.

εἰ] The indirect form of conception lies at the foundation, as in Acts 1:6.

πιστεύσαντες] after ye became believers, i.e. Christians, which Paul considered them to be. See on Acts 19:1.

ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ εἰ πν. ἅγ. . ἠκούσ.] As the existence of the Holy Spirit at all cannot have been unknown to the men, because they were disciples of John and John’s baptism of water had its essential correlate and intelligible explanation in the very baptism of the Spirit—even apart from the O.T. training of these men, according to which they must at least have been aware that the Holy Spirit was something existing

ἔστιν (to be so accented) must necessarily be taken as adest, as in John 7:39 : No, we have not even heard whether the Holy Spirit is there (already present on the earth). Accordingly, they still remained ignorant whether that which John had announced, namely, that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit, had already taken place, and thus the πνεῦμα ἅγιον had become present. The supplements, δοθέν, ἐκχυνόμενον, and the like, give the sense, just as in John 7:39, but are quite unnecessary. The view which takes it of existence generally has misled Olshausen to import the here inappropriate dogmatic assertion: that God still stood before their minds as a rigid, self-contained, immediate unity, without their knowing anything of the distinctive attributes of the Father, Son, and Spirit, necessarily conditioned by the nature of the Spirit; and, with Baumgarten, has given rise to the supposition that they were Gentiles.

On ἀλλά, in the reply, see Klotz, ad Devar. p. 11 f. The question occurred to them as surprising; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 14.

Acts 19:2. μαθ.… πιστεύσαντες: Blass points out that both these words are used only of Christians. From St. Chrysostom’s days the men have often been regarded merely as disciples of the Baptist (so McGiffert, p. 286), and Apollos has been named as the person to whom they owed their conversion, whilst amongst recent writers Mr. Wright, u. s., argues that they had been baptised by the Baptist himself. But if we realise the force of the remark made by Blass on the two words, they were men simply in the same position as Apollos, i.e., “ignorabant illi ea quæ post resurrectionem facta erant” (Blass)—their knowledge was imperfect like that of Apollos. There may have been many who would be called μαθηταί in the same immature stage of knowledge. Much difficulty has arisen in insisting upon a personal connection of these men with Apollos, but St. Luke’s words quite admit of the supposition that the twelve men may not have come to Ephesus until after Apollos had left for Corinth, a consideration which might answer the question of Ramsay, p. 270 as to how the Twelve had escaped the notice of Apollos (see Felten, p. 351, note).—εἰ, cf. Acts 1:6.—πιστεύσ.: “when ye became believers,” or “when ye believed,” R.V., in contrast with A.V.—the question was whether they had received the Holy Ghost at their Baptism, and there is no allusion to any subsequent time. The two aorists, as in R.V., point to one definite occasion.—εἰ Π. . ἐστιν: “whether the Holy Ghost was given,” R.V. (cf. John 7:39): (the spirit was not yet given), A.V., but in margin, R.V. follows A.V. in the passage before us: ἐστιν, accipitur, Bengel. There could not be any question as to the existence of the Holy Ghost, for the Baptist had pointed to the future Baptism of the Spirit to be conferred by the Messiah, and the O.T. would have taught the existence of a Holy Spirit—the meaning is that they had not heard whether their promised Baptism of the Spirit by the Messiah had been already fulfilled or not. So δοθέν, ἐκχυνόμενον may be understood. Alford holds that the stress should be laid on ἠκούσαμεν—when we received Baptism we did not even hear of a Holy Ghost.

2. and he said unto them] The different reading in the last verse renders a conjunction needful here, and this the oldest MSS. have.

Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?] The two verbs in the original are in the same tense, and there is nothing to justify the “since” of the A. V. The description of the state of these disciples is not easy to understand. St Paul addresses them as believers. But this perhaps is only because they presented themselves among the real Christian disciples, and his recent arrival made it impossible for him to know the history of all who appeared among the members of the congregation. He presumes they are believers from the company in which he finds them.

And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was [given] This rendering of the Revised Version makes the sense more clear than did the A V., but even yet requires explanation. Of the existence of the Holy Ghost no disciples of John could (as might be conceived from the A. V.) be ignorant, for in his preaching he had proclaimed that the baptism of Him who was to come after him should be with the Holy Ghost and with fire. But in the Greek where, as in this verse, the expression “Spirit” or “Holy Spirit” is found without an article (although in English we are forced to put “the” before it) it signifies not the personal Comforter, but an operation or gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus in John 7:39, the A. V. rightly renders “the Holy Ghost was not yet given,” although there is no verb for “given,” because the noun is without an article in the Greek, and so signifies “a spiritual outpouring.” These disciples at Ephesus, then, imply by their answer not that the name “Holy Ghost” was strange, but that they were unacquainted (as was the Baptist himself) with any special bestowal of the gifts of the Spirit.

Acts 19:2. Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον) The article is not added: the language is indefinite, to accord with the part (pro parte) of those who are being interrogated.—πιστεύσαντες) since ye have received the faith.—οἱ δὲ) but they said, plainly and openly.—οὐδὲ) i.e. not even have we heard this, that there are others (some persons) who receive Him (the Holy Spirit). For they could not have followed either Moses or John the Baptist, without hearing of the Holy Spirit Himself. [Therefore what they were ignorant of was, the effusion of the Holy Spirit peculiar to the New Testament.—V. g.]—ἔστιν, is) that is, whether He is received. See note on John 7:39 (To be is used for to be present, to be given, Matthew 2:18; Genesis 42:36).

Verse 2. - And he said for he said, A.V. and T.R.; did ye receive for have ye received, A.V.; when for since, A.V.; nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was given for we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost, A.V. Did ye receive, etc.? The R.V. gives the sense much more accurately than the A.V., which is, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost at the time of your baptism, when ye first believed?" Something led the apostle to suspect that they had not received the seal of the Spirit (comp. Ephesians 1:13, πιστεύσαντες ἐσφραγίσθητε), and so he asked the question. The answer, Nay, we did, not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was given, as in the R.V., is justified by John 7:39, where the exactly similar phrase, Οὔπω ῆν Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον, is rendered in the A.V., "The Holy Spirit was not yet given." "Esse pro adesse" (Bengel). The sense given in the A.V. does not seem probable. The answer means, "Not only have we not received the Holy Spirit, but we had not even heard that the dispensation of the Spirit was Come." Acts 19:2Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?

The two verbs are in the aorist tense, and therefore denote instantaneous acts. The A. V. therefore gives an entirely wrong idea, as there is no question about what happened after believing; but the question relates to what occurred when they believed. Hence Rev., rightly, Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?

We have not heard

Also the aorist. We did not hear; referring back to the time of their beginning.

Whether there be any Holy Ghost

But, as Bengel observes, "They could not have followed either Moses or John the Baptist without having heard of the Holy Ghost." The words, therefore, are to be explained, not of their being unaware of the existence of the Holy Ghost, but of his presence and baptism on earth. The word ἔστιν, there be, is to be taken in the sense of be present, or be given, as in John 7:39, where it is said, "The Holy Ghost was not yet (οὔπω ἦν)," and where the translators rightly render, "was not yet given."

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