Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John:…
There are signs of an impartation of the Spirit by the apostles which we do not appear to understand fully, because it differs from any impartation of the Spirit with which we have experience. The apostles were enabled to repeat for their disciples their own experience. They were first called to discipleship and then endowed for work. So those to whom apostles preached were first brought into the new kingdom by faith and confession, and then sealed and entrusted with particular gifts for service by the Holy Spirit of promise. The apostles were at first the only agents through whom this further gift of the Spirit came. How far they were permitted to pass this agency in the giving of the Spirit on to their successors has been a matter which the various sections of Christ's Church have regarded differently. Two things require study and consideration.
I. THE NATURE AND OBJECT OF THIS GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST. It was evidently regarded as essential to the full standing of the Christian. A man must be converted and sealed. St. Paul found at Ephesus some disciples who knew only John's baptism, and he asked them this, as a searching, testing question, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" as if this alone could be accepted as the assurance of their full Christian standing. The gift or endowment may be regarded.
1. In relation to the apostles as agents. They never assumed that the gift came from them; it only came through them. God might have sent his Spirit directly and apart from any human agency. Probably he used the human means in order that the source whence the gift came should be recognized and men should not treat it as an accident, but as a trust; also that its connection with Christ should be recognized, and the use of the endowments in Christ's service should be realized. It was a bestowment entirely within the Christian limits.
2. In relation to the believers, who were the recipients of the gift. It was a sealing them as Christ's. It was a taking of them over to Christ's service. It was a solemn convincement that a new and Divine life was in them, and so a sublime urging to purity of life and an ennobling assurance of all-sufficient present grace for whatever they had to do and whatever to bear. It was a holy rest for personal feeling; they were plainly accepted of God. It was a holy urging to Christly labors; they had the powers, they must find their spheres.
3. In relation to the Church, which was benefited by the various endowments as calculated to meet all its various needs. These points assume that the indications of the Spirit's coming on the disciples were such as we find at Pentecost. There was some gift of tongues, or preaching, or praying - some outward sign which all could realize. Show that if the Spirit now comes to the believer in quieter modes, no essential difference is made in the purpose of his coming. He is with us now to comfort us with assurance of full salvation; and to inspire and guide us in the devotion of our powers to the service of others and of the Church.
II. THE MODE AND ORDER OF THIS IMPARTATION OF THE SPIRIT. Observe that it is never regarded, any more than the early Church miracles, as an independent act of the apostles. It is only effective:
1. After prayer, which puts the apostle in right frame to become the agent or medium, and which directs public attention away from the apostles to the real source whence the gift comes.
2. On the laying on of hands. A significant act, by which the vital force filling the apostle seemed to stream forth into the disciple, and the recipient shared in the Divine Spirit-life. If some indication of a gift, talent, or endowment appeared, as a consequence, it need not be anything new; it might be the characteristic quality or faculty infused with new life and energy. But in those days no man received the Spirit apart from some sign of force for service in the Church. This Simon noticed, and it set him upon evil thought. And still God's Spirit comes on prayer, is recognized by the spiritually minded, and is the energy for all holy labors. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: