Can an unbeliever have the Holy Spirit?

by Matt Slick
2/13/2017

There is no place in Scripture that says an unbeliever has the Holy Spirit. Only believers have the Holy Spirit. However, an unbeliever can receive the Holy Spirit if he becomes a believer. When we speak this way, we are talking about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which occurs only with believers.

  • John 14:16–17, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."  
  • Acts 13:52, "And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."
  • John 4:14, "but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”"  

The world, the unredeemed, cannot receive the Holy Spirit because they have not yet received Christ and are not saved.  Since the world does not receive the truth (John 14:17), it does not receive the Holy Spirit.

  • John 14:17, "that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."  
  • 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."

Those who have not received Christ (John 1:13) are not cleansed by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). Therefore, they are not sanctified.  They are not justified. They are still in their sins and they do not have the Holy Spirit.  But, in order to receive the Holy Spirit, you must believe in Christ (Acts 2:38; 10:44-48).1

However, this does not mean that the Holy Spirit does not work on unbelievers. He convicts them of their sins.

John 16:8, "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment."

Unbelievers can have the Holy Spirit when they repent and trust in Christ

Unbelievers can receive the Holy Spirit when they receive Christ and are born again (John 3:3-8) and are made new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Furthermore, it is Jesus who sends the Holy Spirit (John 15:26) and Jesus said that the Holy Spirit was a spirit of truth (John 16:13).

If you want to receive the Holy Spirit, then you must trust in Christ. You must look to him as the only means by which your sins can be forgiven. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins. Trust in him and what he did on the cross. It was there that he bore our sins in his body (1 Peter 2:24). He died with them and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4).  And, if you trust in Christ you must also turn from your sins. The Lord Jesus wants us to be right before him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 1. Some people believe that baptism is necessary for salvation and reference Acts 238 where it seems to suggest that the Holy Spirit is received after baptism. However, in /Acts 10:44-48 people receive the Holy Spirit before their baptized.  See the article, Is baptism necessary for salvation?
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.