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Four Outpourings of the Spirit | George D. Watson
Holy Spirit

Four Outpourings of the Spirit

There are four distinct outpourings of the Holy Ghost recorded in the New Testament. The Holy Ghost operates through believers so that their actions furnish us with the marvelous work of the Spirit. It will do you good, and will amaze you as well, to study out the different things which we are told the Holy Ghost did. He killed some people, like Ananias; He struck some people blind, like Elymas; and He called for the separation of Barnabas and Saul (Paul) in special ministry together. It is marvelous how much there is about the Holy Ghost—the distinct successor to Jesus—as the author of revivals, of pardon and sanctification, and all the other inward benefits of grace.

The first outpouring of the Spirit was upon converted Jews; the second was upon converted Samaritans; the third was upon converted Romans; and the fourth outpouring was upon converted Greeks. The fact that the Spirit fell on all these four classes, shows us that every Christian ought to be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

The man who sins and repents, sins and repents, is an Old Testament Christian; he has not reached the New Testament yet. He may read the New Testament, but he lives in the Old. His head is in the New, but his heart and life are in the Old, with old Israel, everlastingly tramping around Mount Sinai. There are also some people today who have been pardoned, but have not got over into the Acts of the Apostles. They read the Acts, and their heads are there, but their hearts are back in the beginning of the evangelists. But a real Bible Christian has been through repentance at Sinai, has been reconciled at the cross of Christ, and has been baptized with the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.


The first outpouring of the Holy Ghost was upon converted Jews. It did not occur till they were of one mind, and in one accord. There was no outpouring while they disputed. You must stop all self-seeking, and get entirely self-abnegated. When they got where every prayer and sigh struck one key, then God opened the heavens and sent on them that wondrous cleansing fire, and made them victors over everything that was earthly, or sensual, or devilish. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”* (Acts 2:4) To be filled with the Holy Ghost is not evidenced by being filled with emotion. You may be so full of emotion that you can’t talk, and yet not be full of true religion. Being full of emotion is one thing, and being full of a divine Personality is entirely another thing. Being full means that everything contrary to the Holy Ghost was pushed out.

Remember that these one hundred and twenty were not the apostles only. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there, and other women as well as men, and they had all been converted before. It is awfully absurd to talk about these people being converted just then. But wasn’t Peter a backslider? Not at Pentecost. Jesus had taken special pains to restore him, and clinched his heart by that thrice-repeated question, “Lovest thou me?”* (John 21:15-17)

Many persons get down and pray for a baptism of the Holy Ghost who no more think of getting it than of flying to the moon. Others think it is to feel happy. That is not it at all, not by ten thousand leagues. Others think it is a sort of unction that comes on some people to help them to preach. Not at all. You can be filled with the Holy Ghost and be sound asleep. You can be filled with the Holy Ghost and have the headache so bad that you can’t talk. Some think it is to “get a blessing.” Why, don’t you know that already the apostles had experienced a wonderful time casting out devils, and healing the sick—and then had a dispute about who should be the greatest in Jesus’ council. The baptism of the Holy Ghost comes into the soul, and cleanses and keeps that soul pure and sweet and calm. That’s ten thousand times more than getting “a blessing”; ten thousand times more than being filled with emotion. It is a Person, brethren; and when you get filled with the Holy Ghost you get filled with a divine Person; a thoughtful, secure, almighty, powerful Spirit that moves you to do His will. That is what the apostles received at Pentecost.


Many people think that the outpouring at Pentecost is the only one on record, and when you talk about four, people get afraid. But you will find that this same thing took place with the humble Samaritans in the eighth chapter. Philip went down and preached, and they had a wonderful revival. Some people there were possessed of the devil. The Bible calls things by their proper names, in plain, unsophisticated language. We do not talk that way nowadays. If Jesus came to the earth now He would find plenty of people on this very street here in Philadelphia possessed with the devil. Somehow demons get into people’s hearts. I’ve seen people foam and gnash their teeth under the best of revival fire. Well, Philip cast the devils out, and this shows what kind of a revival they had. Now, just a few weeks after, the apostles heard of it, and sent Peter and John to look after this young church. As soon as these two arrived, they prayed for the new believers that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Not that they might be converted; not at all. There had been “great joy” among them already, and joy is an unspeakable element in every young convert’s heart. Not that they might get “a blessing.” No, Peter and John prayed specifically and distinctly “that they might receive the Holy Ghost,”* (Acts 8:15) and after laying hands on them, they were filled with the Spirit. Let us not miss the lesson which is taught here. Here was a new church so happy that everyone was rejoicing. They had become the servants of God, and were filled with happiness; but now, right in their new-found joy, these apostles came and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost.

It has been remarked, “If you want to have a revival, read the Acts of the Apostles. Do as they did, and you will have a revival.” Now here was a church not more than six weeks old that received this wonderful baptism. Oh, if I only had received it that soon after I was converted! I began holding meetings and working at once. But if in about six weeks or so, some Peter and John had come and taught me, and led me on into the specific baptism of the Holy Ghost that takes away the evil elements that lurk down in the heart, it would have saved me a thousand slips and sorrows. God often uses His servants, chosen members of His body, to call a definite meeting, or write some quickening book, so that the people may receive companionship to help them on in the way.

Notice that Peter and John are not recorded to have said one word in prayer, except for this one great bestowment. It was definite prayer, definite instruction, and definite work. When people say, “Don’t bother young converts about the baptism of fire,” they had better read the Acts of the Apostles. Do you know that young Christians are the very ones who can seek this full baptism. When church members live many years without seeking this baptism, they form chronic habits. They form the habit of neglecting secret prayer, and neglect the reading of the Bible; and some form the habit of backsliding, and then getting alarmed and saying, “I must get closer to God.” But they soon go back again, and thus form a chronic habit of going forward and then backward. Some have a chronic habit of grumbling, others a chronic habit of distrust.

Young converts naturally believe that God counts the hairs of their heads, but they can soon grow to become philosophical, and skeptical, and think God can take care of The Seven Stars, but not of their little things. “When were you converted, brother?” “Ten years ago?” “Well, are you saved now?” “You hope so!” Chronic doubt; don’t you see?

It is absolutely essential, when we are converted, to take the examples given us in the Bible and be in the apostolic succession. I believe in the apostolic succession—believing as the apostles believed, praying as they prayed, and acting as they acted. If you want to follow the example of the apostles, then settle it now that God’s Word requires you to go on to a personal Pentecost.


The next outpouring of the Holy Ghost you will find described in the tenth chapter of Acts. It was upon Romans—Cornelius and his household. Some people try to make out that Cornelius had never been converted. But if he was not converted, please show me the man who is. He was a “devout man”; that is equivalent to saying that he had religion. He “feared God”; that is the same as declaring that he loved God. “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.”* (Malachi 3:16) He “gave much alms.” This does not prove him to be a converted man, but naturally accompanies true religion. He “prayed to God always.” Will you show me a man here in Philadelphia who has all these and yet is not converted? But that is not all. He had a vision and an angel visited him; and then Peter says plainly that Cornelius was “accepted with [God].” Peter also goes on to say, “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ… That word, I say, ye know.”* (Acts 10:36-37) Peter declared that Cornelius knew the word of peace in Jesus Christ. I wish that before I received the “second blessing” I had come up to all that. It is sad, but it is comical to see how people will go right over the statements of the Holy Ghost and say that this man was a heathen.

Now while Peter preached to them the Holy Ghost fell upon them, and the Jews were astonished, for they had thought that they were the only ones to receive this great baptism. Notice that though Cornelius had no tongue of fire on his head, yet he spoke with tongues and magnified God. He told the experience which he felt within himself.


The fourth outpouring occurs in the nineteenth chapter of Acts. Paul came to Ephesus and found some twelve disciples to whom he put at once the question, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” To which inquiry they made answer, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” Now let us look at this in a common-sense way. They had heard of the Spirit of God, for the Old Testament was full of references to that. But they had not heard of a definite outpouring of the Holy Ghost as a person. Apollos had been their minister—a good one, for he was “instructed in the way of the Lord,”* (Acts 18:25) but he himself had been led into a deeper experience by Aquila and Priscilla, Paul’s traveling companions. They heard Apollos preach, and saw that he had not received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, so they took him and “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”* (Acts 18:26) Apollos then left to preach in Achaia, and while he was at Corinth, Paul came to Ephesus to see this infant church. He met the certain disciples mentioned above, and could tell—likely by the way they prayed and testified—that they had not received the Holy Ghost, so he asked them, and received the reply that they had not heard of such a thing. They had been listening to sermons proving that Jesus was the Messiah. But now Paul prayed for them, and suddenly they received the baptism of fire and spoke with tongues and prophesied.

Years afterward, Paul wrote a letter to these very Ephesians, and referred to this very event in their history. He says, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth… in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.”* (Ephesians 1:13)

It is interesting to see how the blessed Holy Ghost was poured out in these four different cases, on those of four different cultures, and yet each a part of His church. This shows that wherever the gospel of Christ was preached and received, there the whole work was to be done, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost was to follow conversion.

I trust God will open every heart here, that each one may put himself into the attitude in which he may be cleansed and filled with the Holy Ghost. We must have the whole Trinity, having repentance toward God here, faith in Jesus Christ here, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost here. Thus we will be fitted to live and to die.