1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
Acts 19 shows people in transition from the Old Testament economy to that of the New.
After a brief stop in Ephesus on his way to Israel, Paul returned to minister there for about three years. It became his base of operation during this period. The Temple of Artemis (fertility goddess) was a prominent feature of the city, one of the seven wonders of the world. That temple was the size of the Parthenon in Athens.
And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus.
Apollos left Ephesus before Paul returned from Antioch of Syria, traveling through the interior of what is Turkey today. Ephesus was the principal city in Roman Asia. The most dominant religion was the worship of Artemis, whose temple was the largest building in the Roman Empire. A 70-foot-wide road ran through the city; the Arcadian Way was a colonnaded street.
And finding some disciples
The disciples that Paul found in Ephesus were disciples of John the Baptist, not post-Pentecost disciples.
he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
Paul asked the disciples of Apollos whether they had received the Holy Spirit at the point of their salvation. Note that the Greek indicates “when” and not “since” you believed. Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation (Ro 8:9). These disciples were not New Testament believers. The 12 disciples of John the Baptist were still waiting for the coming Messiah. They did not know whether John’s prediction had been fulfilled in Christ, the Messiah. Faith in the coming Messiah was no longer valid. The Messiah had arrived 20 years earlier. The issue of John the Baptist’s 12 was not whether they believed but what they believed.
The two aorist participles are instances of coincident participles; that is, they occurred simultaneously. The two aorists point to one definite occasion. There was no interval between acceptance of Christ and baptism by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon these people was not after their salvation. Paul desired to find out whether the 12 believed in Christ.
So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
The disciples of John responded that they had never heard of the Holy Spirit. They were unaware that God had launched the church on the day of Pentecost by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer permanently. They amounted to Old Testament believers still looking for the Messiah. They did not know that, when had God launched the church on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, He gave every believer the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. These men did not know about the church economy or the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer 20 years earlier.
There is no evidence for receiving the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation.
There is no evidence in the Bible for receiving the Holy Spirit after salvation. Some use the King James Version, which says, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit since you believed,” to prove the Holy Spirit can come after salvation. However, the Greek indicates reception of the Holy Spirit “when” they believed.
To use Acts as a doctrinal treatise is to ignore the book as historical and narrative rather than doctrinal. Much of what happened in Acts is not normative for the church today. (The Greek aorist participle “believed” is coincidental with the verb “receive” (Eph 1:13).
The Bible explicitly affirms that a person receives the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation (Ro 8:9; 1 Co 6:19; 12:13; 2 Co 6:16; Eph 1:13; Jude 19).