Can a person be saved and not receive the Holy Spirit?
In order to answer this question we need to review the TWO primary functions of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
First there is the work of REGENERATION. When someone confesses Christ as their Savior, asking for forgiveness and receiving His love there is a corresponding work of the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer. This is when the Spirit comes in the believer’s heart and the point when they are born again. (There are many blessings and abilities that come into a person’s life as a result of receiving the Holy Spirit in this way.)
Secondly, there is a work of the Spirit to EMPOWER the believer. This was referred to by Jesus as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 1. In this case the Spirit does not come in but rather upon and the purpose is all about enabling the believer to be a witness for Christ.
In order for an individual to be saved, or born again, they must receive the Holy Spirit for regeneration. Receiving the Holy Spirit isn’t something we necessarily ask for, but He comes to indwell the believer who confesses their sins, repents of their old life and places their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. If a person has not received the Holy Spirit they cannot be born again because He (the Spirit) is the One who gives us new birth.
Paul the Apostle wrote:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
He also wrote to the Christians in Rome saying:
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:11 (NIV)
Twice here Paul mentions the indwelling Spirit, because this function of the Spirit is absolutely vital to our being called by the name of Christ and being children of God.
So, in that sense, the answer is no—a person who has not received the Holy Spirit for regeneration cannot be saved.
It is possible, however, for a person to be saved and never have been baptized in (by) the Holy Spirit. This work of the Spirit is not for salvation, but once again, for empowerment for service.
This answer may generate further questions, such as How do I know if I have received the Holy Spirit?
There are several ways we recognize the ministry of the Holy Spirit within us, such as:
- A heightened desire for the Word of God
- Conviction of sin
- A desire to serve the Lord by serving others
- A love for the Lord
- A love for other believers (see 1 John 3:14)
- The evidence of God’s fruit in our lives (see Galatians 5:22-23)
- An understanding that God is our father (See Romans 8:15)
- The testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (Romans 8:16)