When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that [the people of] Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. They came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for He had not yet fallen on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus [as His possession]. 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them [one by one], and they received the Holy Spirit. – Acts 8:14-17
If it be asked “why” this power was conferred on the early Christians, it may be replied that it was to furnish striking proof of the truth of the Christian religion; to impress the people, and thus to win them to embrace the gospel. The early church was thus armed with the power of the Holy Spirit; and this extraordinary attestation of God to his message was one cause of the rapid propagation and permanent establishment of the gospel. – Barnes
He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed [in Jesus as the Christ]?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” – Acts 19:2
Therefore many teachers conclude that this event here in Acts 8 is an illustration, just like Pentecost, that there is a definite receiving of the Holy Spirit to be experienced after conversion. And many identify this with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. – John Piper
It seems evident from this case, that even the most holy deacons, though full of the Holy Ghost themselves, could not confer this heavenly gift on others. This was the prerogative of the apostles, and they were only instruments; but they were those alone by which the Lord chose to work. They prayed and laid their hands on the disciples, and God sent down the gift; so, the blessing came from God by the apostles, and not from the apostles to the people. But for what purpose was the Holy Spirit thus given? Certainly not for the sanctification of the souls of the people: this they had on believing in Christ Jesus; and this the apostles never dispensed. It was the miraculous gifts of the Spirit which were thus communicated: the speaking with different tongues, and those extraordinary qualifications which were necessary for the successful preaching of the Gospel; and doubtless many, if not all, of those on whom the apostles laid their hands, were employed more or less in the public work of the Church. – Adam Clarke
Christian believers when Baptized in the Holy Spirit, receive the FULL power of the Holy Spirit to be effective witnesses.
When the Holy Spirit falls on people, He empowers them to bless others —
- In the Old Testament, the Spirit would come and go, empowering people for service, but not necessarily remaining with them (Judges 15:14; 1 Chronicles 12:18; Psalm 51:11; Ezekiel 11:5).
- In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit falling on people enabled them to do things they couldn’t normally do (Acts 2:4; 10:44-47; 1Cor 12:4-11), but always for the common good of the believers.
- In other words, the Holy Spirit fell on these Samaritans to empower them for special service, much like He did in the Old Testament.