The Holy Spirit, the third member of the godhead and trinity, fulfills an ongoing but invisible role of connection and communication between people and God. Awareness of the Spirit’s presence differs in expression between the OT and NT, but reliance upon the Spirit as a signal of the presence of God is constant. I believe that there is an experience of the empowering of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer that is distinct and separate from the indwelling of the Spirit that takes place at conversion. Paul asked the Ephesians if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed, or since they believed.
No matter which translation you choose, the Scriptures clearly teach that there is an experience with the Holy Spirit that is separate and distinct from that of salvation. When Philip went to Samaria preaching Christ unto them, many believed and were baptized. When the church in Jerusalem heard that the Samaritans had received the Gospel, they sent Peter and John, “Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)” (Acts 8:15-16). Once again we see an experience of the Holy Spirit that was separate and distinct from conversion.
In the second chapter of Acts, when the people said, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? 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 Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:37,38). Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, but Ananias came to him and laid hands on him that he might receive his sight and receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9). I believe there is an empowering experience with the Holy Spirit that is separate and distinct from conversion and there is a three-fold relationship between the Holy Spirit and the believer that is represented by three Greek prepositions – ‘para’, ‘en’, and ‘epi.’
In John 14, Jesus told the disciples, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:16-17). ‘With you’ speaks of the ‘para’ relationship, the coming alongside. The ‘en’ in the phrase ‘in you’ is equivalent to our English preposition ‘in’ as in “He is going to dwell in you.”
I believe that the Holy Spirit is dwelling with a person prior to conversion. He is the One convicting him of his sin, convincing him that Jesus Christ is the only answer. The Holy Spirit is constantly testifying of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. I also believe that the moment a person receives the witness of the Holy Spirit, Jesus takes away his sin. When anyone invites Jesus to come into his heart, to take over the rule and control of his life, I believe that the Holy Spirit then comes into that person’s life. He is with each one of us to bring us to Christ, and when we come to Christ, He begins then to dwell in us.