Celebrating the Baptism of Jesus, we are reminded of the Holy Spirit coming to him, anointing him as prophets, priests and Kings of the Old Testament had been anointed. Then we read in Acts (Acts 8:14-17) how after the evangelistic work of Phillip the deacon in Samaria, two apostles were sent down to review the situation. It is not that he hadn’t done things properly, but this is a new departure, and the visible coming of the Spirit on these new believers is a heavenly endorsement of the mission.
The gospel is spreading, as the disciples had been told it would and should. It is perhaps significant that John the apostle, one of those who had wanted to call on heavenly fire to destroy a Samaritan village that refused hospitality to Jesus (Luke 9:54), is now an agent of the gift of God’s Spirit in Samaria.
We need to remember that the presence of the Spirit with believers is always essential. Whether we need guidance about which course God is sending us on, or motivation and strength to get on with it, or transformation of personalities and habits into a holy pattern, or wisdom to begin to understand – we all need the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives.
It is the welcome activity of the Spirit that is vital, not the form of delivery. Here the prayer and laying on of the apostles hands is the occasion leading to the visible arrival, in Acts 10:44 the Spirit arrives while Peter is still speaking, and Christians have normally understood the Spirit to be available to all those baptised in the name of Father, Son and Spirit. One Christian was famously rebuked for praying for a fresh gift of the Spirit for himself by another who challenged him that he had already received the Spirit. He wisely agreed, adding “But I leak!”. We all do, and need to recognise our continuing need for the Spirit to work in and through us.