Bible Question:

In Ephesians 1:13, Paul said after that ye believed not when ye believed. Does this mean the Holy Spirit comes into us at a later time than when we believe? If so, does Acts 19:1-6 confirm that we receive the Holy Ghost sometime after we  believe? I thought the Bible taught that He comes into us when we believe.

Bible Answer:

Does a person receive the Holy Spirit when they believe in Jesus Christ or sometime after they believe in Jesus? That is the question about which this article is concerned. The answer that is presented in this article considers what various Bible versions say and concludes with what the Bible teaches. The question that will be answered is, “When does a person receive the Holy Spirit?”

Receive the Holy Spirit - Paul Conversion

Differences In Bible Versions

Part of the confusion about when a person receives the Holy Spirit is due to the fact that some Bible versions translate the Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible differently. That is also true of Ephesians 1:13.

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise . . . Ephesians 1:13 (KJV)

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise . . . Ephesians 1:13 (NASB)

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit . . . Ephesians 1:13 (NKJV)

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit . . . Ephesians 1:13 (ESV)

And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. Ephesians 1:13 (NLT)

If we compare Ephesians 1:13 in the KJV to the NASB, NIV, ESV and NLT, we discover that only the KJV translation implies a person receives the Holy Spirit sometime after a person believes in Christ. But the NASB says “having” believed, and both the NKJV and NLT say “when” a person believes. The difficulty with all of these translations (“after,” “having” and “when”) is that there is no Greek word corresponding to these words in the Greek text used by these translations. These words are supplied by the translators in order to make English Bibles read easier. In contrast, the ESV is a more accurate translation of this verse because it has carefully worded the translation so as to avoid the need to include any such word. The ESV translation is more accurate.

Receive The Holy Spirit — Biblical Teaching

The ESV is the best translation because it simply says, “and believed.” The ESV accurately states that a person receives the Holy Spirit at the moment they believe in Christ. In fact, a more accurate statement is that at the moment of saving faith, a number of things happens instantaneously. At the moment a repentant person believes in Jesus Christ, the the Holy Spirit begins to dwell within (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:22; 2 Timothy 1:14; James 4:5). Believers are also justified (Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:24), adopted (John 1:12; Romans 8:9, 15; Ephesians 1:13), sealed (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), and sanctified (Romans 6:22; Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11).

Romans 8:9-11 clearly states that if the Holy Spirit does not dwell within a person, then the person is not a Christian. Here is Romans 8:9-11 (I added the italics in the following verses for emphasis).

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11 (NASB)

The passage is very clear. If the Holy Spirit is living within a person, then the person is a Christian. But if the Spirit is not dwelling within, then the person is not a Christian.

Receive The Holy Spirit — In the Book of Acts

However, the book of Acts reveals that on three occasions people were not immediately filled with the Holy Spirit after they believed, but afterward. The three occasions were when some Samaritans believed in Christ (Acts 8:12-17), when Paul believed in Christ (Acts 9:3-9, 13-18), and when John’s disciples finally believed in Christ (Acts 19:4-7).

Samaritans Are Included In Salvation

On the occasion when the Samaritans believed in Christ and were later filled with the Spirit (Acts 8:12-17), this occurred so that the apostles Peter and John were able to learn that God had included Samaritans in salvation. That is, salvation was not just for the Jews. This is important because the Jews considered Samaritans to be half-breed Jews. This was also important since later in Acts 15 the apostles and the elders in the church in Jerusalem had a meeting to determine if salvation was just for the Jews or for everyone – Jews and Gentiles.

Persecutor of Christian Was Included In Salvation

After Saul  believed in Christ and was renamed Paul, it was important that some Christians witnessed when Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:3-9, 13-18). Now why was this important? It was essential so that the Christians knew Paul was truly a Christian. They needed to know that Paul believed in Christ. As a result, the Christians learned that God had included Paul in salvation, even though he had been persecuting Christians. This was a major turning point in the growth of the church. This was the most effective way to reveal to the apostles in Jerusalem that God had saved Paul.

John’s Disciples Were Included In Salvation

Later in Acts 19:4-7 when the apostle Paul saw seven of John the Baptist’s disciples filled with the Spirit after they believed, he learned that God had also included John’s disciples in salvation. This was an important fact since John 3:25-30 reveals that earlier John’s disciples were competing with the disciples of Christ. They did not understand that they were part of the same spiritual body or “team.” Then John’s disciples also learned that they were not in competition with Jesus’ disciples, but were included on the same team. John the Baptist was the forerunner who prepared people to believe in Jesus.

Gentiles Were Included In Salvation

Another important fact that we discover in the book of Acts reveals that God included Gentiles in salvation. Acts 10:34-48 teaches us that immediately at the moment the Gentile Cornelius and his family believed in Christ, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Cornelius’ salvation is important because it revealed to the apostle Peter and the other apostles that God was also including Gentiles in salvation. Salvation was not just for the Jews.


Romans 8:9-11 and Ephesians 1:13 and other passages tell us that when someone believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit immediately indwells them. But in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit indwells people after they believed on only three occasions, in order to reveal to the apostles that God was including everyone into salvation.

Suggested Links:

Was Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit before He was baptized?
What are the signs that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit?
Should all Christians experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
When did the Holy Spirit come, after Jesus or before?
What is the fresh anointing or new anointing from the Holy Spirit?
Did the Holy Spirit come upon or fill the Old Testament saints?
What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?