Gifts are awesome. They are celebratory, caring, generous, helpful, etc. Birthdays and Christmas are always filled with anticipation and expectation because of the prospect of giving and receiving. Who doesn’t love to get the spontaneous gift just because someone cares? If you have the gift of generosity, you find joy in the giving of gifts. When we think of the word gift in terms of the Bible, our minds automatically go to Jesus. And rightfully so. He is the ultimate giver who gave the ultimate gift so we wouldn’t have to suffer the ultimate punishment. But his grace isn’t the only gift that was given in the aftermath of the cross. During his famous sermon after Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter tells the crowd that if they “repent and be baptized… in the name of Jesus Christ” then they will receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Gifts usually come to us without expectation of repayment. That is the nature of a gift after all. The true value of a gift is not found in the amount that was paid or the extravagance of it, but in the heart behind it. God’s gift to us in the form of the Holy Spirit is of inestimable value, though we do not always recognize it. Words typically used in the Bible to describe the Holy Spirit are Counselor, Advocate, Comforter, and Intercessor. To be given someone with those descriptors is a pretty epic gift. What about the requirements Peter mentions that are needed to receive this gift? Peter tells the crowd that in order to get the gift of the Holy Spirit, one must repent and be baptized. So does that mean there’s a cost now to the gift because of the actions that must take place beforehand? The answer is yes, but it’s already been paid for. Let’s look a little deeper into it.
In the Old Testament, the presence of God was separated from the people by a large veil of which no one could pass through except a select few. On the occasions where people who weren’t supposed to be there crossed the threshold, they died because they could not endure God’s holiness. It was too much for them. It was like trying to get close to the sun except infinitely more intense and powerful. When Jesus came and died for our sins by taking the punishment for us that we deserved, the veil was torn in two and all of a sudden, we as sinful humans had access to the God of the universe. What changed? Why do we have access now to God when the people of the Old Testament would have died? The answer is Jesus. He paid the cost for us. When we believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness for our sins and acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior, we get washed clean. God cannot look upon sin because of his holiness. That’s why there was separation. But when we ask Jesus into our hearts, God sees us as he sees Jesus.
The Holy Spirit, being the Spirit of God, needs a pure place to reside. That is why it is impossible for the Spirit to enter our hearts before we have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. Only then can we receive the gift of the Counselor, the Advocate, the Comforter. We could spend the rest of our lives trying to repay God for all that he has given to us, and we wouldn’t even scratch the surface. That’s the beauty of a gift though, repayment is not an expectation. We must be wary though not to abuse the gifts that have been given. God operates out of love, and that is the expectation that has been placed on us. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are able to live out that divine call in our lives, to love others as Jesus has loved us.