“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God? When they heard this they became silent. Then they glorified God, saying, ‘So God has granted repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles!'” (Acts 11:15-18, HCSB).
Citizenship is generally a function of where you are born. You are a citizen of the country in which you are geographically born or of which your parents are a citizen.
The same is true for citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Kingdom citizens must be born of God; they must be birthed by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told Nicodemus this birth is appropriated by the Holy Spirit: “Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:6).
The apostolic Church recognized that it was the dispensing of the Spirit to people that constituted membership in the redeemed community of God. Receiving the Holy Spirit was the evidence that the Kingdom had come and of one’s participation in it.
When God poured out the Spirit on the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, Peter knew that God was making them citizens of His Kingdom, members of His redeemed community of believers, because they were filled with the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Jewish believers.
In the apostolic church, your membership card was the indwelling Holy Spirit. Receiving the Holy Spirit was what qualified these new Gentile believers for citizenship in God’s Kingdom and the evidence that convinced the apostles and leaders of the church at Jerusalem that these Gentiles were also “saved!”
The work of the Holy Spirit is to appropriate spiritual life to Kingdom citizens—to birth human beings into spiritual beings and to empower them to live as Kingdom citizens.
While the work of God’s Son was to save the world, the work of God’s Holy Spirit is to admit people into God’s Kingdom!
But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him…And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:9-11, HCSB).