Acts 19:2 MEANING

Acts 19:2
(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 Therapeutae--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.

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."

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.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".

Courtesy of Open Bible