16. Tarrying for the Holy Ghost

There are many saints that have a belief that we must wait a period of time after we have gotten saved before we receive the indwelling of The Holy Ghost. This belief is commonly called ”Tarrying” and it can be very harmful for new saints because it assumes that they are not saved until the waiting period is over. This is all false and contrary to the doctrine of Christ.


This belief that one must tarry has grown from a misunderstanding of the scriptures. The pivotal point of the misunderstanding rests in the definition of the phrase “The Holy Ghost”. The fact is that this phrase has more than one meaning. It can mean God, The Holy Ghost, or the gifts that God The Holy Ghost bestows upon the church. What has happened is that saints are misunderstanding the bestowing of the gifts as being the indwelling of God The Holy Spirit. Unfortunately there has been an error in recent times that have translated the words for “gifts” into capital letters, giving the impression that it is God, The Holy Spirit. A simple rule of thumb had been that, if it was capitalized “H” and “S”, then it meant God, whereas it would means something else if not capitalized.  Now that we are sure that there have been errors in the capitalization of the words, the best rule of thumb is to compare the context with the basic doctrine and see which is correct. This error in translation does not appear in early texts of the scripture, but it is not always easy to acquire a copy of the very early Greek text. It is easy, however to evaluate what is being said and compare it to the basic doctrine. If there seems to be a contradiction, then we know that the translation of that phrase should be reviewed.


The faulty translations from the bible provides places that can easily lead to a misunderstanding that saints must wait for God, The Holy Ghost to come and indwell them. I will examine four such places and show how the misuse of the definition of “holy ghost” has led to errors that have developed into false doctrines in the church.  The four places are found in Luke 24, Acts 2, Acts 8, and Acts 19. In each of these cases the correct use of the phrase “holy ghost” is the gifts and power of God The Holy Spirit. The error in each case is to use the phrase to mean God The Holy Spirit Himself.


In the book of Luke 24:46-49, Jesus instructs His disciples to “tarry” at Jerusalem until that which was promised by The Father should come. That which was promised was the power from on high. This power is the power that ordains the church and grants gifts for ministry and other works within the church. It is true that the One granting this power is God The Holy Spirit, but the thing that they are being sent to wait for is not the indwelling unto salvation, but the empowerment unto the Church. The gifts of God are bestowed on men through The Holy Spirit, and those gifts are only available to those who are saved. The men that Jesus was talking to were already saved. These are the same disciples that cast out devils in Jesus name. They were with Jesus and believed on His name and were saved already. They did not have to wait to receive God The Holy Spirit they already had Him and had already used His power in Jesus name. Now, Jesus is sending them to wait for the birth of the Church. The Holy Ghost came to give each person gifts as He deemed needful for the church. The reason that they had to tarry there was to wait until Jesus completed all of the things that He wanted to do with His disciples before He was taken up to the throne of God. Jesus’ ministry had to end before that of The Holy Spirit’s began, therefore the disciples were told to “tarry”. Therefore Jesus was instructing them to tarry for the gifts and not for The Holy Spirit Himself.


The Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the next place that needs to be examined. As you see from the previous passage, Jesus sent the disciples to wait for the “power” from on high. At Pentecost, this is the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit has come down and has given unto everyone there a gift for use in the building of the church. Those in the Upper Room were all Disciples of Christ. The Apostles were there along with many others that believed on Jesus. They were all saved and set apart for God’s use therefore they did not require the indwelling of The Holy Spirit a second time. These people had already been transformed into saints by the washing of the regeneration of their spirit  (Titus 3:5) and had become “new creatures” in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). What they received on that day was power; power which they immediately demonstrated by speaking in diversity of tongues while preaching the gospel to the Jews at Jerusalem. When Peter and the others came out to the people they did so with a boldness and confidence that they did not have moments before God gave them the power. It was the Jews that were persecuting the church and causing them to hide in the Upper Room, but when the power came down, they acted swiftly and boldly in preaching the gospel. The power can only be given to those who are saved therefore Jesus would not have sent them to wait for the power if they would not be able to receive it. All the people at Upper Room were already saved. Therefore “the holy spirit” that they received was not for salvation but for the gifts of the church.  Once again the faulty translation could lead some to believe that these people were saved but had to “tarry” for something in addition.


The third event I would like to examine is found in the Book of Acts 19:1-7. Here Paul encounters some of John’s disciples and he questions them as to whether they had received “The Holy Ghost” Again the words are capitalized when they should not be capitalized. The first thing to note is that these men were baptized by John, the same man that baptized Jesus. Their salvation is just as sure as Christ’s was, therefore Paul’s question could not possibly refer to their status as saints. Paul is asking these men if someone had come to them and bestowed upon them the power of the gifts that came down at Pentecost. We know this also by the response of the men. They indicate that they had not so much as heard if there be any Holy Ghost. If the phrase actually applied to God The Holy Ghost then this would mean that the disciples of John didn’t know of the Trinity. This would seem impossible since John understood that God was The Trinity. What these men are saying is that they did not know that The Holy Spirit had come down and bestowed the gifts upon the church.


What happens next is a point of confusion for many people and that confusion doesn’t have to do only with the faulty translation but also a misunderstanding of a reference made by Paul. The confusion is on verse five in which it seems that Paul is baptizing the disciples of John again. This misreading can lead to a belief that there can be more than one baptism or that the baptism of John was somehow insufficient to bring them to salvation. Both beliefs are error. The truth is that when Paul starts to recount the actions of John The Baptist, that account covers both verse four and five. In other words, those getting baptized in verse five refer to the men that John the Baptist were speaking to, not to those that were there with Paul. Paul did not baptized these men again, he only “laid hands” on them, which is to impart the gifts of The Holy Spirit upon them.  Again we can see that the wrong interpretation of the phrase “The Holy Ghost” can lead to a variety of errors in doctrine such as “tarrying for The Holy Ghost”, “Two baptisms”, and questions about the validity of John’s baptism. If we understand that the phrase applies to the gifts of The Holy Spirit, then this passage can be understood without any confusion at all. The problem for most saints is that they create solutions to what they perceive to be discrepancies in the bible, when in fact they are not discrepancies but faulty translations on our part. It is always good to know the basic doctrine of Christ so that whenever there seem to be a contradiction we will first investigate the translation and context in which the scripture is being used. Such a practice is what keeps the true spiritual warrior from being as easily deceived as those who do not read their bibles regularly.


The last passage of scripture I want to examine is found in Acts 8:12-24. The error in this account is the same as the others, the capitalization of the phrase “The Holy Ghost”. In this passage, Phillip has evangelized and baptized many people, including Simon the village sorcerer. As Phillip leaves the town, he sends to Jerusalem so that Peter and John can come and “lay hands” on the people. If misread, the scripture can appear to show that what Phillip did was not enough and that he people had to “tarry” for Peter and John before they received salvation. This is wrong, like the rest. What has happened here is that Phillip has brought the people to salvation and he has sent for Peter and John to come and ordain the leaders of the church by the laying on of hands and the bestowing of the gifts of The Holy Spirit. What Peter and John are doing is setting up the church to carry out the work of God. This requires that they examine and try those who would be leaders to ensure that they are worthy of such positions. Once The Holy Spirit confirms that the person is worthy, the apostles bestow the necessary gifts upon them through the laying on of hands. The “holy ghost” that Peter and John are brining is the power and not the indwelling. The people received the indwelling when Phillip baptized them.


This passage contains verses that show us that what is being referred to is the power of God The Holy Spirit and not The Holy Spirit Himself. We know this because Simon the sorcerer asked to buy the “power” with money. Simon saw that whosoever the apostles laid their hands on received “power” and he wanted the power. Simon had salvation, because he believed the preaching of Phillip and was baptized, but what he wanted was the power that comes with being a leader of the church. The problem with Simon was that he had received a renewed spirit by believing, but he had not yet begun to renew his mind (Romans 10:1-2), therefore he attempted to obtain the things of God in the same way that he obtained things in the world, with money. Peter’s answer to Simon also identifies how the phrase “The Holy Ghost” should be used. Peter rebukes Simon by saying that he is attempting to buy the “gifts of God” with money. The “holy spirit” that came upon people through the laying on of hands was not God The Holy Spirit but the gifts of The Spirit. It is very fortunate that in verses 19 & 20 the true meaning of the phrase is revealed, however many overlook this revelation because they are already convinced by the previous verses that it means God The Holy Spirit. Therefore many continue to use this passage as support for their belief that you should tarry for The Holy Spirit.


To understand just how quickly The Holy Spirit actually responds, let us examine a couple of other scriptures that do not pertain to tarrying. In Luke 23:39-42, the thief on the cross makes a confession to Christ and immediately Jesus says to him, “This day” shall you be with me in Paradise. There was not waiting for him. The indwelling of The Holy Spirit came immediately and that man, who was moments from death, entered eternity saved by the indwelling of The Holy Spirit. Another instance is in Acts 5:3-10 in which The Holy Spirit strikes down Ananias as soon as he lies to Peter. There was no tarrying for Him to act; it came immediately. The same was true later when Sapphira, his wife, came before Peter and lied. The result was immediate death. Peter told Ananias that he had not lied to men but to The Holy Ghost. Whether bringing eternal life or death, it is plain to see that God The Holy Spirit acts with the swiftness of God and there is no reason why men would have to tarry for Him. Therefore it is an error for the church to believe that to be truly saved we must tarry for The Holy Ghost.


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