Summary: This study examines the Scriptural identity of the Gift of the Holy Spirit and, also, how to receive the Gift and why we receive this precious Gift.
When one obeys the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they receive the Holy Spirit. Paul asked the Galatian brethren (3:2): "This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit from the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?" The Spirit was not received through their observing the Law of Moses but, instead, through the Gospel. They heard it with faith that caused them to obey it. This would be in harmony with Peter’s words in Acts 5:32, "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, Whom God has given to those who obey Him."
It was Peter who had announced earlier, on that day of the founding of the Church, in Acts 2:38-39, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."
What does it mean to receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit?” Some believe that the “gift” is something that the Spirit gives, such as salvation. In other words, the phrase means ‘gift FROM the Holy Spirit’.
However, the Greek grammar of this clause demands us to interpret the ‘gift’ as being the Holy Spirit Himself. In this clause, the noun “gift” is a genitive that is appositional. It is the same thing as the noun it modifies, “the Holy Spirit.” In the jargon of Greek grammar, this is also called an epexegetical genitive. When a clause has a epexegetical genitive, the “of” does not mean FROM but CONSISTING OF. It can be rendered CONSISTING OF or WHICH IS or WHO IS or THAT IS. Thus, we would read the clause of Acts 2:38 as saying, “the gift, CONSISTING OF the Holy Spirit” or “the gift, WHICH IS the Holy Spirit” or “the gift, WHO IS the Holy Spirit” or “the gift, THAT IS the Holy Spirit.”
The most respected Greek grammarians and lexicographers unanimously state that Greek grammar demands that the “gift” (Greek word: dorea) of Acts 2:38 is the Holy Spirit Himself. Consider:
“Dorea…with an epexegetical gen. of the thing given, viz. tou hagiou pneumatos, Acts 2:38; 10:45” Therefore, the Spirit is the thing given.
Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich:
“W. gen. d. tou pneumatos receive the Spirit as a gift Ac 2:38”
“Dorea, denotes a free gift, stressing its gratuitous character; it is always used in the N.T. of a spiritual or supernatural gift in Acts 2:38, ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit,’ the clause is epexegetical, the gift being the Holy Ghost Himself; cp. 10:45; 11:17, and the phrase, ‘the gift of righteousness,’ Romans 5:17.”
Zerwick & Grosvenor:
“dorea gift; d. tou…pneumatos epexeg. Gen., gift of (consisting in) the Spirit.”
“dorea, ‘gift,’…in the NT it is always used of the gift of God or Christ to men, though it never occurs in the Synopt. (but cf. Jn 4:10). In Acts the Spirit is called the dorea of God in 2:38.”
Balz & Schneider:
Dorea…. Unique to Acts is dorea tou hagiou pneumatos (Acts 2:38; 10:45), but here the gen. is epexegetical: the gracious gift is the Holy Spirit.”
“’And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ means in and by repenting and being baptized. The genitive is appositional; as in v. 33 the promise is the Holy Spirit, so here the gift is the Holy Spirit.”
When it comes to such language authorities, I could also quote Howard, Moulton, A.T. Robertson, Robinson and Turner. The above should suffice to make the point that Greek language authorities and grammarians consistently agree that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” of Acts 2:38 cannot mean a gift given BY or FROM the Spirit but must mean that the Holy Spirit IS the gift.
As for scholars who have taught such, we have many. I could quote several theological scholars affiliated with various denominations. Rather than do that, I will quote exceptional men of recognized scholarship within the Restoration Movement -
“We also have believed all this, repented of our sins, and been immersed into Christ…. He now proposes to put His Holy Spirit within us, to furnish us for the good fight of faith, and to anoint us as the sons and heirs of God.”
“The second blessing promised on condition of repentance and baptism, is the ‘gift of the Holy Spirit.’ By this is not meant that miraculous gift which had just been bestowed upon the apostles; for we know from the subsequent history that this gift was not bestowed on all who repented and were baptized. The expression means the Holy Spirit as a gift; and the reference is to that indwelling of the Holy Spirit…without which we are not of Christ.”