(4) Gift of the Holy Spirit and Related Issues


While writing my articles on the subject of the Holy Spirit’s Indwelling, I keep visiting too the PBCAA blog hoping to hear from brethren who have been reading my posts in Mountain View Church blog. In a manner of speaking, the alumni blog serves as the sounding board, reflecting the brethren’s reaction about certain issues.

In my presentation of the issues, I have strived to be as clear as possible. But reading the reactions of some in the alumni blog, I have discovered that it is not always possible. When a brother says he is confused by what I have been saying in my articles, I can only sympathize. But there is always room for improvement.

In this article, I will be discussing the issues related to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.

“GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Acts 2:38 is the only place in the Bible where the phrase “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Greek, ten dorean tou hagiou pneumatos) is found. What does that mean? What is its implication?

Its use outside of the Bible. Doron, and its derivatives dorea, and dorean, all mean “gift” or “present.” “In extra-Biblical use, dorondorea) denotes a complimentary gift” (Colin Brown, gen. ed. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 2:40. This means volume 2, page 40). It is used to refer to the “gift from the gods” (for example, in Homer) as well as the “gift by men to the gods” (Ibid.) Homer the Greek poet (b. 800 BC, d. 750 BC) is best known for his Iliad and the Odyssey. For his biography, click this link: Answers.com. (similarly

Its use in the Old Testament. In the Septuagint, doron is used with the following principal meanings: (a) present that men give to one another (Genesis 32:13); (b) tribute of a vassal state to a conquering state (Judges 3:15); (c) bribe (Exodus 23:8); (d) a gift brought to Jehovah (Psalms 68:29); (e) gift from Jehovah (Genesis 30:20).

The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, dating in the 3rd century BC. The name is from the Latin “Septuaginta,” meaning “seventy,” referring to the seventy (or seventy-two) translators commissioned by the Jewish high priest at the time to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek at the behest of Ptolemy II (otherwise known as Ptolemy Philadelphus) to add to his Alexandrian library. For some information about the Septuagint, click this link: Answers.com.

Doron in the NT. In the New Testament, it stands for: (a) human gifts (Revelation 11:10; Matthew 7:11); (b) gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

Dorea in the NT. It is also used in the New Testament in the following senses: (a) gift of God, which is Jesus himself (John 4:10); (b) gift by the grace of Jesus (Romans 5:15); (c) gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17); (d) unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15); (e) gift of Christ (Ephesians 4:7); (f) heavenly gift (Hebrews 6:4); (g) gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

How to know which gift is spoken of. The above data show that the words doron, dorea, and dorean have been used both in the Bible and in extra-Biblical literature to mean “gift” or “present,” nothing else. The kind of gift that it is may be known by the adjectival participles or the prepositional phrases that accompany the word.

Adjectival participles, otherwise known as verbal adjectives, are participles that function as an adjective to describe the noun (Machen, 232).

A prepositional phrase includes both the preposition and the object of that preposition. “A preposition is a word which is used to help substantives express their case functions. It is so named because its position normally is immediately before the substantive with which it is associated” (Ray Summers, Essentials of New Testament Greek, 32).

Answers.com says a preposition is “a word or phrase placed typically before a substantive and indicating the relation of that substantive to a verb, an adjective, or another substantive, as English at, by, with, from,in regard to” (American Heritage Dictionaries, quoted in Answers.com. Click here). and

What about the object of the preposition? “In the Greek, the object of the preposition may be in the genitive, dative, or accusative, depending upon the thought being expressed by the author” (James Allen Hewett, New Testament Greek: A Beginning and Intermediate Grammar, 59). The object of the preposition is also known as the substantive. In grammar, a substantive is a word or group of words that functions as a noun.

“Prepositions do not govern cases or ‘take objects.’ They help substantives to express their relation to verbs or to other parts of speech. They mark the direction and position of the action expressed by the verb… The function of the cases is much older than the prepositions. The prepositions were developed to aid case functions already in use. In languages less inflected than Greek (English, for instance) the prepositions have come to be the main way of indicating case function. In Greek both preposition and inflected ending must be considered” (Summers, 32).

Acts 2:38. Alfred Marshall’s literal translation of the passage is: “And Peter [said] to them, ‘Repent ye, and let each one of you be baptized on the name of Jesus Christ with a view to forgiveness of the sins of you, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. Published by Zondervan Publishing House).

The part of the text for our consideration reads: “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Greek, kai lempsesthe ten dorean tou hagiou pneumatos). “You” (plural in number, referring to the persons to whom the message was addressed), is the subject of the clause. “Will receive” is the verb; it is transitive, the kind of verb that needs an object to complete its meaning. “Will receive” what? The answer is: “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This is the object of the verb.

Genitive of origin. Again, “gift of the Holy Spirit” is a prepositional phrase. What does the of-phrase, or that prepositional phrase, imply? In this usage it implies origin, and relationship, and I may add, belongingness. For example, tou Zebedaiou, “of Zebedee,” implies a belongingness, a sonship, if not a spousal relationship with Zebedee (cf. Machen, 379; see also Blass, Debrunner & Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 162). “Gift of the Holy Ghost” may mean “gift belonging to the Holy Spirit.”

Objective genitive. The phrase may also be used as an objective genitive (Blass, Debrunner, & Funk, 163). In this case, the “gift of the Holy Ghost” may mean the “gift that originates from the Holy Spirit.”

If that gift partakes of the nature of its giver, the Holy Spirit, then the “gift of the Holy Spirit” also means “spiritual gift.”

Indwelling Spirit? The “gift of the Holy Spirit” cannot be the indwelling Spirit. Firstly, there is no direct statement in the Scriptures that could attest to that. The passage does not say, “and you shall receive the indwelling Spirit,” or “and the Holy Spirit shall dwell in you.” To prove the doctrine that the Spirit indwells every Christian you have to make a lot of assumptions. This is not advisable for learners like us. Only “fools rush in where angels (and careful theologians) fear to tread.”

Secondly, In so many instances, the Bible speaks of the church as the habitation of the Spirit (see series 2 of these lessons). It is enough to say that the Spirit dwells in the temple, the church, and that the church permeates with His presence. He dwells in us as a collective body of Christ.

If however the “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38 means the “indwelling of the Spirit,” it cannot mean the “indwelling of the Spirit in every Christian.” Analyzing the passage of Acts 2:38:

“Repent,” Greek metanoisate, is aorist imperative active, second person, plural in form. Imperative case, because it is a command. Active voice, because the one commanded should do the action himself. It is aorist tense, because it speaks of a one-time, or unitary, action (this also is the other usage of the aorist). It is second person plural in number, hence the subject is you, plural.

“Let each one of you be baptized,” Greek baptistheto, aorist, imperative, passive, third person, singular. The imperative form denotes that this is indeed a command (whoever told you that baptism is not commanded in Acts 2:38 has lost touch with the New Testament Greek texts!). It is aorist tense, signifying a point action (this is another use of the aorist). It is in the passive voice, “let each one of you be baptized.” It is third person singular, “each one of you.” Baptism is always an act performed by an individual on an individual, it is not a collective act.

“You will receive,” Greek lempsesthe, future indicative middle (deponent), second person, plural. In grammar, the indicative is the mood of the verb in making ordinary objective statements, or statements of facts. “The indicative mood is that mood which confirms the reality of the action from the viewpoint of the speaker” (Ray Summers, 12). lempsesthewill happen after the first action is done. “The time of action of the future tense is obvious. The kind of action may be either punctiliar or linear; the context will usually indicate which is intended. Usually it is punctiliar. The most natural construction for indicating continuous action in future time is the periphrastic future” (Summers, 63). Punctiliar action is an action to be done at a certain point in future time. A linear action refers to a continuous action in the future, is future tense, speaking of the subsequent action that

The verb lempsesthe is middle (deponent) second person plural; hence it has to be translated as “you will receive for yourselves” the “gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Thus if the promised gift is the “indwelling Spirit,” it is not the individual “you,” but the collective “you” who will receive it. It is a collective promise, and there is nothing in the verb that denotes that that promise is to be distributed individually. I think we should not make the Greek text say more than it actually says. I am afraid that this is actually what some theologians are doing.

The “gift of the Holy Spirit” is not salvation. If the passage reads this way: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive salvation,” the construction becomes redundant, and to me that does not prove the cause of one who espouses that teaching.

God is praised as the giver of all good gifts from above. “Every good gift (dosis) and every perfect gift (dorema, another variant of dorea) from above is coming down from the Father of the lights with whom change or a shadow of turning has no place” (James 1:17). He too is the source of the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (in which case we may say the Holy Spirit becomes God’s instrument to dispense the gift).

I am inclined to believe that the gift of the Spirit refers to a spiritual gift, not necessarily charismatic in nature. It is a good thing given by the Spirit, hence a “gift of the Spirit.” It originates from God Himself and the Spirit is just his instrument to dispense that gift to Christians. Since the Spirit dwells in Christians, it is some good thing the disciples receive as they imbibe of the spiritual food, and are guided by the Spirit of God, and have allowed the Spirit to take control of their lives. In full it summarizes everything that the Spirit does in your life, which includes interceding for you. However, that is just an opinion.

“THE EARNEST OF THE SPIRIT.” Earnest is a noun, not adjective and is used to translate the Greek arrabon. Vine says it is probably a Phoenician word (because of its Phoenician root) and introduced into Greece. This word refers to the earnest-money or pledge deposited by purchaser and forfeited if the purchase was not completed (Vine’s, 2:11).

In classical Greek. The Greek word arrabon was borrowed from the Semitic erabon, “a legal concept from the language of business and trade” (Colin Brown, 2:39). Found rarely in Aristotle and later grammarians, it means: (a) “an instalment with which a man secures a legal claim upon a thing as yet unpaid for”; (b) “an earnest, an advance payment, by which a contract becomes valid in law” (Ibid., 2:40).

In modern Greek, arrabona is an engagement ring (Vine’s, 2:11).

In the Septuagint, it is used to refer to the pledge Judah gave to the supposed harlot (his daughter-in-law Tamar) in payment for the fleeting pleasures of sex (Genesis 38:17, 18, 20).

In the New Testament, it is used in reference to the “Holy Spirit as the divine pledge for all future blessedness” (Vine’s, 11). It is taught in 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22. The passage reads: “Now he that establisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God, who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (ASV).

God the guarantor. God is identified as the one who “establishes,” the Greek phrase ho de bebaion hemas, a participle used as substantive, translated as “the one making us firm.” The infinitive verb, bebaioo, means “to make a legal guarantee” (Rogers & Rogers, 394). bebaioo is a word that “appears often in the guarantee clause of a bill of sale” (Ibid.). God is the one who makes Christians firm in Christ, and He himself guarantees that act. Since it is in the present tense, it could be translated thus: “Now He that keeps establishing us in Christ,” “Now he that continually makes us firm in Christ.” His faithfulness is a guarantee that even until now He can keep on making Christians firm in Christ.

God the anointer. God is also the one who anointed us. Greek kai chrisas hemas, aorist active participle, literally means “the one having anointed us.” Since it is in the active voice, it denotes the idea that God himself is the one doing the anointing.

The aorist here does not refer to past tense anymore. Let me explain: If the verb is in the aorist tense, indicative mood, “the time of action is usually past” (Spiros Zhodiates, Grammatical Notations, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, 433). On the other hand, the aorist participle “expresses simple action” and “does not in itself indicate the time of the action” (Ibid.). Take it from the scholars like Zodhiates, who is of Greek descent. For his short biography, click here.

The word chrisas is confined to sacred and symbolical anointings. In the Old Testament, only kings and priests and prophets were anointed (1 Samuel 10:1; Exodus 28:41; 1 Kings 19:16). The title “Christ” or “Christos” means “the anointed one” (Acts 4:26; 10:38; Luke 4:18; Hebrews 1:9). In 2 Corinthians 1:21, this is used to describe the believers.

God the sealer. God is the one who also sealed us (2 Corinthians 1:22), the Greek phrase ho kai sphragisamenos translated as “the one having sealed us.” sphragisamenos is aorist middle participle. “The middle voice represents the subject as acting in some way that concerns itself, or as acting upon something that belongs to itself” (Machen, 109). sphragisamenos signifies that “goods were sealed as a guarantee indicating not only ownership but also the correctness of the contents” (Rogers & Rogers, 394).

God the earnest-giver. God gave us the “earnest of the Spirit” in our hearts, the Greek phrase kai dous ton arrabona tou pneumatos en tais kardiais hemon translated as “and [the] one having given the earnest of the Spirit in the hearts of us.” The verb dous, “having given,” is aorist active participle of didomi, “to give.” The aorist participle simply looks at an action as a point action, which is neither past nor present.

The “heart,” kardia, is the chief organ of the physical life. If anything, the “hearts” is to be understood figuratively. It is a metaphor. “By an easy transition, the word came to stand for man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements. In other words, the heart is used figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life” (Vine’s, 2:206-207).

“The Scripture regards the heart as the sphere of divine influence, Romans 2;15; Acts 15:9… The heart, as lying deep within, contains the ‘hidden man,’ 1 Peter 3:4, the real man” (Vine’s, 2:207).

“The earnest of the Spirit.” “The earnest of the Spirit” is the pledge of God’s promise of eternal salvation, and he has sown it in the hearts of Christians. It is a pledge that binds the buyer to pay in full when the day comes. It is God’s way of telling us that He will fully redeem us. By redemption, I am talking about bodily redemption, and that redemption is yet future (Ephesians 4:30).

This earnest-pledge, this deposit, is taken to mean the “Holy Spirit himself.” See the following translations: 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14. This is because the clause is considered by these translators as epexegetical, in which case, “earnest of the Spirit” would thus be rendered as “earnest, which is the Holy Spirit.”

My comment about this epexegetical interpretation is simply this: Both 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 2 Corinthians 5:5 speak of the earnest of the Spirit; but Ephesians 1:14 speaks of it as the “earnest of our inheritance.” Are all three passages speaking about the same thing, the Spirit? If “earnest of the Spirit” could be rendered as “earnest, which is the Spirit,” then “earnest of our inheritance” must also be rendered as “earnest, which is our inheritance?” If not, why not? Next, what shall Christians inherit? Is it eternal life in heaven or is it the Spirit?

Shouldn’t the phrase “earnest of the Spirit” or “deposit of the Spirit” be translated as “spiritual deposit” or “spiritual earnest”? This rendition may not contradict Ephesians 1:14. Our “spiritual earnest” is also our “spiritual inheritance,” and both of these point to heavenly life as the inheritance of the saints. But… there is a problem created by this interpretation too. For this reason we reserve a separate study of Ephesians 1:3-14, which will come out next issue.

Why in the hearts of Christians, not in the heart of the church? Frankly I am at a loss to explain. But let me venture an opinion:

There is no such thing as the “heart of the church.” “In our hearts,” meaning hearts of the Christians, is the biblical expression. Think then of the church as a group of people whose souls have been cleansed of its dross, whose hearts have been washed by the blood of the Lamb. Having been cleansed these hearts now have become the recipients of the earnest-deposit, God’s down payment of what the saints shall inherit in the hereafter.

The church is a blood-bought institution consisting of people individually blood-bought. Since every Christian in it is a blood-bought disciple, every purchase done is an individual transaction. To my way of thinking, the world is a market place full of goods— souls for sale. But the goods are living things, who can always decide when to leave the devil and his market place. Are you following my metaphors? Hope so. As Christ the Son makes the purchases, the Father makes the deposit, the spiritual earnest, His pledge of promise to fully pay what He has contracted to buy in the market place of souls.

All these– the purchasing, the depositing, the earnest-pledge, the market place, the hearts, the indwelling—are spoken in metaphors. But metaphors are as real as anything literal you can ever imagine. The purpose of these figures of speech, such as what we have been using, is to give particular emphasis to ideas or sentiments. Embellishing ordinary language with ornate designs in speech gives language the kind of impact that will arouse curiosity, encourage the search for meanings, and once understood, transport the listener to greater heights.



One Response

  1. Dear Bro. Ed.

    I am following your discussion. Properly said and I agree, the Gift of the Holy Spirit is not the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit but the good thing results of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    I appreciate your being generous of ideas and knowledge. Keep until we finally web the pieces to form the full picture. Keep up.

    Bro. Freddie

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