Acts 8:12-19 Receiving the Holy Spirit; hands needed to be laid?



1) I know there are different orders in the scripture about what came first, baptism or repenting or maybe even when someone received the Holy Spirit. I am not sure if scripture makes sense of some sort of systematic order?

2) When does someone receive the Holy Spirit?

3) Philip wasn't one of the twelve, a Bishop, who could lay hands (assuming Priests didn't enter the picture for sometime)?

4) Why did the Holy Spirit come only when Peter and John laid hands on the baptized?

5) thought we receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized, as infants or adults. I think confirmation strengthens the Holy Spirit in us so to be sent out, and maybe that confirmation might be an adult decision for Christ? Maybe I am wrong about the latter.

Anyways, I am trying to under stand those questions, and the context of the verses below... in light of the Catholic "Spiritual Interpretative Tradition" (as it seems Father Barron uses those words at times).

Please answer those questions underneath my statements.


"But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samar′ia had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”" - Acts 8:12-19


We recieve the Holy Spirit in many ways. It just that certain graces are given in certain ways if that makes sense. I was baptized in the Hiy Spirit by an angel and I will be again at conformation I will be reciving different graces during conformation than I did from the angel



There are times in the Catholic church when hands are laid on the head to explicitly express the recieving of the Holy Spirit, most notably in the ordination of a priest. The Bishop lays his hand on the head of the one to be ordained

Having said this, it is not necessary for gestures such as the laying on of hands to be followed in order to receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is as free as that picture of Him resting on the waters in Creation

There are times in our lives when the Spirit fills us, there are also times, such as I am experiencing now, when any person of the Trinity appears to be light years away. Whether hands are laid on us or not, the Spirit fills us and inspires us every day of lives. Sometimes in tiny ways, only discerned after the event, sometimes like the whirlwind that blows us away and sweeps us off our feet

  1. Peter makes the order apparently repenting, baptism, and then reception of the Spirit (Acts 2:38). But, there is an instance in the Scriptures where the Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit even before they are baptized or hands are laid on them: "While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 'Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?' And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days" (Acts 10:44-48).

Perhaps you could say this event was just a sign from God that the Gentiles are welcome into his covenant (Acts 11:15-18) and that it was a one time thing that won't happen again.

In addition, the Scripture you cite in the thread title makes baptism and reception of the Holy Spirit occur even before complete repentance. Think of Simon and how Peter told him he was in "the bond of iniquity" even after being baptized and possibly receiving the Holy Spirit. (I say possibly because Peter tells him, "You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God" (8:21), which sounds as though Simon may not have actually received the Spirit).

You seem correct to guess there is no "systematic order" laid out in Scripture. It seems to depend on the internal state of the person.

  1. Based on the catechism 734-735, the Holy Spirit is received at baptism. But, based on the Scriptural evidence above, this is not always the case. It could be as Loving disciple said, that different graces are received (or different "strengths/quantities" of the Holy Spirit) through different methods (see 1302-1305 of the catechism).

  2. The Scripture doesn't explicitly say Philip couldn't gift people with the Holy Spirit. You might say it implies that because Peter and John were the ones who went down to Samaria in order to give the Holy Spirit, even though Philip was the apostle preaching the gospel in that area. The answer is uncertain to me.

  3. I don't know. Peter is considered to have been the first Pope, so maybe the reason is that they had greater power and authority than the other disciples. Maybe your guess that Philip was not a bishop and did not have the ability to bestow the Spirit is the reason.
    They weren't the only people with this ability, though. Paul had the ability to gift people with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6).

  4. I recommend checking out the catechism, starting with 1285 for all the beliefs on confirmation.

Hopefully, someone else will come along and add his thoughts to the matter.

P.S. You might want to check out the catechism 694-701 where it talks about "symbols of the Holy Spirit."


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