By Evan Kardaras, Sub-Deacon in Sydney, Australia.
Some of our Protestant brothers and sisters, object to the reception of the Holy Spirit in the Mystery of Chrismation. They do not believe we receive the Holy Spirit, through the laying on of hands of the Priesthood. They believe the Holy Spirit is received simply through faith.
While it is true that the Holy Spirit fell upon Christians simply through faith in the book of Acts (I’ll come back to this point later), we also see the Holy Spirit being received only through the laying on of hands of the Apostles.
In Acts chapter 8, we see a group of Samaritans believe in Jesus and receive Baptism (Acts 8:12). We then read that the Apostles in Jerusalem send Sts Peter and John to visit these new Christians. They then pray for them that they may receive the Holy Spirit, and impart to them the Holy Spirit, through the laying on of hands. They do this, as the Samaritans had not received the Holy Spirit previously through faith and baptism (Acts 8:14-17).
We see a similar scenario in Acts chapter 19. St Paul visits Ephesus and asks some disciples whether they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed in the Lord Jesus. They said no, and that they didn’t even know there was such a thing as the Holy Spirit. St Paul then proceeds to baptise them. He then lays his hands upon them and they receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6).
In both scenarios above, we see two solid examples from the Holy Scriptures, that prove people believed in Jesus and could only receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of the Apostles.
As Orthodox Christians, we have a demonstrable line of succession, through the laying on of hands, from our Priests today, all the way back to the Apostles. Thus when we receive the laying on of hands at Chrismation from our Priests, we are following the examples cited above and thus receive the Holy Spirit.
In doing so we demonstrate that we are in line with the Scriptures and are thus a Bible based Church. We also demonstrate that we are a continuation of the Church of Acts, in that we follow the same practice as the Church of Acts.
Some may ask why the Holy Spirit was received simply through faith in other parts of the book of Acts? In my humble opinion, this is because God was showing to the Apostles, that He was allowing people from all nations, to be part of his family, without discrimination based on race.
Remember, this was all new to the Apostles. They themselves had only received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in the early chapters of Acts. So when they saw the Holy Spirit fall upon people from all nationalities, when they simply believed, the Apostles realized this gift was free for all humanity. It confirmed to them that God was pouring His Spirit and thus His salvation upon all peoples.
Thus, when people didn’t receive the Holy Spirit in the later chapters of Acts, the Apostles knew they had the green light from God to impart this gift to anyone that believed, regardless of race.
I hope you have found this post beneficial and pray you remember these passages for discussions with our Protestant brothers and sisters. I’ve been amazed that in discussions with a Protestant pastor, he was not aware of the above examples. I have also spoken to Protestant layman that likewise could not respond once showed the examples above.
This highlights the importance of understanding our faith as Orthodox Christians. In doing so, we can have productive and fruitful discussions with people from other traditions, thus building bridges between them and the Orthodox Church.