It happened that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the upper [inland] districts and came down to Ephesus, and found some disciples. 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.” And he asked, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John performed a baptism of repentance, continually telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, [to confidently accept and joyfully believe] in Jesus [the Messiah and Savior].” After hearing this, they were baptized [again, this time] in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in [unknown] tongues (languages) and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all. – Acts 19:1-7
They must, of course, have known the Holy Spirit as a name meeting them in the Sacred Books, as given to the olden prophets, but they did not think of that Spirit as a living and pervading presence, in which they themselves might claim a share. They had been baptised with the baptism of repentance, and were leading a life of fasting, and prayers, and alms, but they had not passed on to “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). – Ellicott
Paul says, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” We scratch our heads and say, “I don’t get it, Paul. If you assume we believed, why don’t you assume we received the Holy Spirit? We’ve been taught that all who believe receive the Holy Spirit. We’ve been taught to just believe that the Spirit is there whether there are any effects or not. But you talk as if there is a way to know we’ve received the Holy Spirit different from believing. You talk as if we could point to an experience of the Spirit apart from believing in order to answer your question.”
And that is in fact the way Paul talks. When he asks, “Did you receive the Spirit when you believed,” he expects that a person who has “received the Holy Spirit” knows it, not just because it’s an inference from his faith in Christ, but because it is an experience with effects that we can point to.
That is what runs all the way through this book of Acts. All the explicit descriptions of receiving the Holy Spirit are experiential (not inferential).
He could ask it, I think, because receiving the Holy Spirit is a real experience. There are marks of it in your life. And the best way to test the faith of these so-called disciples is to ask them about their experience of the Spirit.- John Piper
” Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26