I have a question that I hope you can answer for me. I understand that water baptism, the one Paul mentions is necessary for salvation. However, I am confused about a point that was brought up in Bible class which was that people received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost before they were baptized (Acts 2). Also, in Acts 10:43-48, we find that people (Gentiles) received the Holy Spirit and later were baptized. How can we explain that it is possible to receive the Holy Spirit without baptism? It is my understanding from several verses in the Bible (Acts 2:38) that when you believe and are baptized is when you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Can you please clarify exactly when you receive the Holy Spirit and if it is at the point of baptism, how did they receive it prior to baptism? Is that still possible today?
Thank you for your kind comments about the web site that I omitted in reproducing your question. In response to your question, please begin by reading the answer already posted on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38 already posted. The difference between the Acts 2:38 gift and that received by the Apostles earlier in the chapter and in Acts 10 is that the former refers to the ordinary gift of the Holy Spirit received by all Christians upon baptism. The latter refers to the extraordinary gift of the Holy Spirit sometimes referred to as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit differs from the indwelling of the spirit in several ways. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by miraculous signs; the gift of the Holy Spirit is not. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is poured out from Heaven and has no human administrator; the gift of the Holy Spirit follows baptism by a human administrator. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a command; the gift of the Holy Spirit is associated with the command to be baptized.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is received after baptism as a fulfillment of the promise associated with baptism in Acts 2:38. It is received only by those who have obeyed the command to be scripturally baptized (scriptural method – immersion – and scriptural purpose – for the remission of sins). The extraordinary gift of the Holy Spirit is received as a sign to unbelievers, especially the enablement to speak in tongues (1 Cor. 14:22). In Acts 2 it was a sign to the unbelieving Jews to whom the Apostles were preaching. In Acts 10 it was a sign to Peter and his companions (Acts 10:45; 11:15-17) that God had granted life unto the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
As far as the Scripture is concerned, you are correct that there is no record that the Apostles who received the baptism of the Spirit on Pentecost had been baptized on or after that day. However, one may conclude that they did receive the baptism that John proclaimed which was for the remission of sins (Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3), or the baptism that Jesus proclaimed which was related to and preached at least on occasion in the area where John was preaching and baptizing (Luke 3:12; John 3:22-23; John 4:1-2). One stated purpose of John’s work was to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). The apostles were surely among those “prepared.” It seems that on the day of Pentecost those baptized by John or Jesus were set into the church to which God added those who were being saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:47).
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)