Why did the Holy Spirit not descend on these recent believers in Samaria like He did on other believers in the Bible at the moment they accept Christ? Why did the apostles had to lay hands and pray for the Samarians to receive the Holy Spirit?
Acts 8:14 - 17
ESV - 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John. 15 Who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
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In addition to what has already been stated, the short answer is that these Samaritans had previously believed that Messiah would come, most probably believed that he had already come as a direct result of Christ's personal ministry in Samaria (John 4:4-42) and were baptized unto repentance i.e. "John's baptism". (For comparison see Acts 19:1-6) Under the Jewish economy belief in Christ's death, burial and resurrection was not a requirement to saving faith. Although The Lord told his disciples of his impending ordeal on several occasions, they did not understand. (Mark 9:9-10; Luke 9:44-45, Luke 24:44-45; John 20:8-9). Only after his resurrection and upon The Lord breathing on them did they receive the Holy Ghost and truly understand (John 20:22; Luke 24:44-46) Although they believed Messiah had come, these Samaritan believers needed to hear of Christ's death, burial and resurrection in order to have the Holy Spirit indwell. Romans 10:17 "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." We also need to consider as explained in Ephesians 4:8 "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." Ephesians 4:9 "(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" After his death Christ first descended, freeing the spirits of those saints/believers who had died prior to his crucifixion. The price for redemption now having been paid in full, he in essence emptied this holding area (hades/ the grave) of believers who were on "lay-a-way", carrying them into heaven. Post resurrection, the spirits of those who die in Christ immediately go into the presence of God, accomplished by and through The precious Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) Many today profess to "believe in Jesus". Believing in Jesus is not enough. I believe in George Washington but he can not save me. We must believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, that he died, was buried and arose on the third day to have eternal life, to be saved, to be born again. This produces the indwelling and "sealing" of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 1:1 "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets," Heb. 1:2 "Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;" Heb. 1:3 "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;"
"Laying on of the hands" and anointing with oil was part of Hebrew (Jewish) obedience to God in setting apart certain ones for official offices in the Jewish hierarchy. They also laid hands on sacrifices and anointed them with oil. You see, then, that in the case of Acts 8:14-17, the Jews were still tied to Jewish practices, including Peter and John. That Jewish duty faded away with the advent of Jesus calling Saul (Paul) to be His minister of grace in Acts 9.
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