The Bible teaches that anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior receives God’s Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation: “In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14, CSB).
To be a Christian is to have the Holy Spirit living in you: “You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9, CSB).
Paul taught the Corinthian church that by the one Spirit of God all believers are united in one body: “For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13, CSB). Drinking of the Spirit is a metaphor for receiving the Holy Spirit at salvation: “Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, ‘Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”’ (When he said ‘living water,’ he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.)” (John 7:37–39, NLT).
If you have, by faith, received Christ as your Savior, then you have the Holy Spirit. But many believers confuse “having the Holy Spirit” with “being filled with the Spirit.” Acquiring the Holy Spirit happens at salvation. All true believers possess the Holy Spirit as a seal marking them as a child of God.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit—submitting to the Spirit’s control—is an ongoing experience in the Christian life. “Being led by the Spirit,” “walking by the Spirit,” and “keeping step with the Spirit,” spiritual parallels to “being filled with the Spirit,” are all biblical descriptions of the goal of Christian discipleship (Galatians 5:16–26). Every believer should seek to be filled with the Spirit as part of his or her continuing relationship with God: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18–20, NLT).
Some Christian denominations teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from the infilling that occurs at salvation. The teaching of a second baptism “in fire” or “power” causes confusion, often prompting believers to question whether they have the Holy Spirit. Some maintain that speaking in tongues is the outward evidence of having received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, although there is nothing in the Bible to justify tongues as a universal experience. We hold to the belief that there is one baptism of the Spirit, and that occurs at salvation.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be empowered and controlled by the Spirit, to experience renewal, obedience, boldness to witness and share the gospel, and freedom from the power of sin (Acts 2:4; 4:8; 4:31, 7:55; 9:17; 13:9; Romans 15:13). It is to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). But to have the Holy Spirit is the mark of all born-again Christians. You can know you have the Holy Spirit if you are, in fact, a follower of Jesus Christ.