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Baptism in the Spirit: Is it Normal to Receive At or After Conversion?


The acceptance of Samaritans was a transition for Jewish believers. It should not be underestimated how radical this was for first-century Christians. Thus, it is possible that to confirm the Samaritans’ acceptance, God waited for Peter and John before giving the Samaritans the Spirit. This explanation is possible, but it is only a speculation. It is only speculation that acceptance of the Samaritans was the basis of the interval between their conversion and Spirit baptism. It could just as easily be speculated that the interval was normal, and God timed the normal interval so the Apostles could witness the Samaritans’ reception of the Spirit. Or possibly the interval had nothing to do with Jewish Christians accepting the Samaritans, but had something to do with the ministry of Peter and John. It is all speculation, because all of these are arguments from silence.


Meaning of Oudepo

To establish the speculation that the interval was based on transition and that it was unique for the Samaritans to receive the Spirit after salvation, MacArthur appeals to a particular Greek word that he defines:

A point of grammar in Acts 8:16 makes the meaning clear: “He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The Greek word for “not yet” is oudepo. The term does not simply signify something that has not yet happened, but something that should have happened but has not yet. In other words, the verse is saying that the Samaritans were saved, but for some peculiar reason what should have happened—the Holy Spirit’s coming—had not yet occurred.11

MacArthur defines the Greek word oudepo as “not yet, but should have” to support the claim that the Samaritans’ had not but should have received the Spirit when they believed. That would explain why they were not normal, but unique.

However, the Greek word oudepo does not mean not yet but should have. The standard Greek dictionary used in most seminaries, Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by Walter Bauer, is considered an authority on the Greek language and defines oudepo as “not yet.”12 It gives no other definition nor does it add any connotations such as should have happened. Two popular Greek dictionaries, Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament13 and Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words14 also define the meaning as “not yet.” None of the three Greek dictionaries defined oudepo as “not yet but should have happened.”

However, definitions can be limiting. Often, through usage, a word will take on an additional meaning. Therefore, the usage of this word must be examined throughout the New Testament. In the entire New Testament oudepo appears a total of four times. Besides its usage in Acts 8:16, it appears three time in John’s Gospel (John 7:39,19:41, 20:9).


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Category: Spirit, Summer 1999

About the Author: Michael D. Peters has ministered among charismatic and noncharismatic Christians for over twenty-five years. For the past 14 years (as of Fall 1998) he has pastored Christ the King Covenant Church in Webster Groves, Missouri. He hold a Masters in Theology from Covenant Theological Seminary and is presently pursuing a doctorate in historical theology at Saint Louis University.

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