The Apostles and the Holy Spirit
James made the point that only the Apostles laid hands. He said this in the context of healing, which isn’t true Scripturally (as my last post showed); and then went into the giving of the Holy Spirit, saying that only the Apostles could give the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, with the exception of Cornelius, who received Him spontaneously because he was the first Gentile.
A couple of Scriptures from Acts that would dispute that interpretation:
Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the HolyGhost.
James used this Scripture later as proof that Baptism saves us, but I thought it was interesting that it concludes by saying if you do these things, you receive the gift of the Holy Ghost – which James seemed to be denying. There was nothing in that passage about the Apostles laying hands on anyone in order for that to happen.
Acts 4:31 “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost…”
Now, by this time in Acts, they had already added greatly to the number of the original Apostles. So, there’s no reason to think that this was only the 12, unless you want to stretch the meaning to fit your theology.
Now, the Holy Spirit (or Ghost) is mentioned regularly in the New Testament, as someone to whom everyone has access. If He only comes on people by the laying on of hands of the Apostles, it wouldn’t be sustainable, and there would be no need to mention Him so much as a part of the believer’s life.
James mentioned that Cornelius was the exception because God wanted to make such a powerful example of them to the Jews, and so they received the Holy Spirit the same way the Apostles did, without the laying on of hands. As proof, he quoted Peter, who said: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” James said that the fact that Peter said “as on us” and not “as on the Samarians” or some other random incident shows that he was telling it as a unique event.
My dispute with this assumption is that I hold up the possibility that he was simply bringing in a common point of reference.
For example, my wife goes shopping with a couple of friends and they come upon some amazing bargains. Later, my wife goes shopping with other friends and they also come upon some amazing bargains. She goes back to those first friends, and tells them about her recent excursion. Is she going to compare her recent trip to other random shopping trips, or the one that she and the original friends have in common?
In the same way, Peter was bringing in a common point of reference for the folks in the room, because that was what would make it powerful for them.