Anticipating the Coming of the Spirit!

Anticipating the coming of the SpiritA few weeks ago I spent five days providing lectures for the Northwoods YWAM School of Biblical Foundations. The students and I interacted on the many subjects related to Pneumatology, specifically the Person of the Holy Spirit, the work of the Spirit in redemption, and the Holy Spirit in the OT and the NT. The students were a joy to teach and, if anything, I think we all walked away with a pretty strong understanding of the necessity for the Spirit to be at work in the life of the Church. In fact,  my longing for the Spirit’s work in my own life continued to grow with each presentation and it was certainly refocused and began to increase in ways that surely testify to the power of the Word of God. This longing was not an experiential moment for me that occurred apart from the Scriptures; rather, it was through this past months deep study of the text that challenged me and brought me to a fuller understanding of God’s plan of redemption and the promise of the Spirit and my current need for His work in me, through me, and around me!

As I had been preparing for the lectures, I entered into the foray of literature regarding the Holy Spirit’s relationship to the Old Testament saints. I began to raise questions that I had simply previous assumed answers for: did Old Testament saints have the Holy Spirit? What was the nature of that relationship? If Total Depravity is true (which I believe it is) than how did OT saints become believers if they didn’t have the Holy Spirit? What was so unique about Pentecost? What was happening in John 20:21-23?

I spent a lot of time working through a vast majority of OT and NT texts in my effort to determine my understanding of the OT people of God and the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, I was able to work through James M. Hamilton Jr.’s God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old & New Testaments. Hamilton’s work is, in my mind, one of the best treatments of the subject. He breaks down the six positions on the Holy Spirit and Old Covenant believers in relation to the New Covenant as follows (p. 23):

  • Continuity: The OT believers were regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (support is found by J. Owen, T. Goodwin, S. Ferguson, D. P. Fuller, W. C. Kaiser, J. A. Motyer, J. B. Payne, B. B. Warfield, and L. Wood).
  • More Continuity than Discontinuity: There are differences acknowledged, but not seen to be fundamental differences (support is found by Augustine, Calvin, D. I. Block, G. W. Grogan, W. Grudem, and G. E. Ladd).
  • Some Continuity Some Discontinuity: Old Testament saints were regenerated but not indwelt (support is found by M. Erickson, G. F. Oehler, J. I. Packer, L. D. Pettegrew, J. Rea, P. Toon, W. A. VanGemeren, and B. A. Ware).
  • More Discontinuity than Continuity:The Old Testament believers were operated upon by God, and by inference His Spirit, but not indwelt (support is found by Novatian, Luther, L. S. Chafer, Blaising, Bock, D. A. Carson, and M. Green).
  • Discontinuity: The Spirit had nothing to do with the faithfulness of the Old Covenant believers.
  • Vague Discontinuity: The Old Testament saints were not indwelt and the question regarding regeneration is not raised (support is found by Origen, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Chrysostom, C. K. Barrett, R. E. Brown, G. M. Burge, C. C. Ryrie, and J. F. Walvoord).

I have historically held to position #4, though I have also become increasingly interested in position #1. However, in light of several statements made by Jesus in the gospels (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; 16:7) and what Hamilton convincingly argues in God’s Indwelling Presence, I think I would come down in the 3.5 range!

This means that I see the Old Testament progressively revealing the promise of a day when the Holy Spirit would not only be with the Old Covenant believers, but would actually indwell the people of God. The people of the Old Covenant were extremely fortunate to have the Spirit with them as God’s presence was found among them, but the New Covenant believers received the fulfillment of the prophets in an unprecedented fashion – God would actually reside in human beings who, by grace, experienced the work of the Spirit. This went from an external presence to an internal presence.

This has done much to draw out deep thankfulness to God for allowing me to be born in the time that I have been born (cf. Matt. 11:11). I get to receive and experience the promise of the Old Testament! What an amazing concept – the Holy Spirit actually dwells within me!

Perhaps we might want to consider the magnitude of this truth. When Jesus said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” in reference to the Spirit in believers, He actually meant it. It’s hard to imagine that so many people almost disregard this doctrinal truth in their quest for the “manifest” presence of God. I don’t mean that to sound as if seeking after God’s presence is foolish or that when the Spirit comes in power it’s not unique. I just find it odd that so many of us tend to overlook the sheer awesomeness of what we currently experience as a reality, regardless of whether we always “feel” like it or not. We take God at His word and we rejoice knowing that the Spirit of God is no longer reserved to simply being amongst us (which is amazing in itself), but currently living inside us! Therefore, it seems that a great deal of our focus should be found in recognizing that the anticipation of the coming of the Spirit has been fulfilled at Pentecost some 2,000 years ago and a great promise that all believers experience through faith in Christ Jesus! Amen!

Luke Geraty is a young budding pastor/theologian who serves at Trinity Christian Fellowship. Husband of one, father of five, and deeply committed to proclaiming Jesus and the kingdom, Luke contributes regularly to ThinkTheology.org and Multiply Vineyard. You can follow Luke on Twitter or Facebook. Interested in having Luke speak at your church, conference, or small group? Send him an email!
  • Steve Foral

    Didn’t the Holy Spirit come at Pentecost for the first time? I always believed that the Holy Spirit had not been around until then except at creation.

  • novice

    Nice post, Luke! I’d like to think I spurred some of this questioning through FB comments. I was just discussing this today and will link to my buddy.

    I miss posting and possibly this summer I can make a few more posts if you’d have me back!

  • novice

    another question…obviously Dispensationalists are going to drift to the bottom of the list (4-6), but does Covenant theology keep to the top of the list (1-3)?

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    novice, sorry for missing this. Yes, Covenant Theology is generally towards the other end of the spectrum. They vary a bit, but that’s the consensus. As you’ll notice above, those who support the Continuity view are all well known Reformed Theologians (for the most part). Owen and Ferguson and Warfield being perhaps those that stand out the most. Calvin held to More Continuity than Discontinuity, as did Ladd and does Grudem.

    Fascinating stuff. Oh, and you can blog whenever you can, brother! Miss reading you!

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  • http://sunestauromai.wordpress.com/ brian fulthorp

    Well, Pentecostals are continuationst and they ain’t generally reformed! lol! I tend to agree with 3 – the OT guys had the Spirit with them and occasionally he came upon them and empowered them ((for certain occasions – designing the tabernacle/temple, leading the people, overcoming enemies, etc), but full on indwelling of the Spirit wasn’t until Pentecost – so even John the Baptist missed out…. he was more in line with the OT Prophets, if not “the” last OT Prophet.

  • http://thegagne.tumblr.com undercover

    Luke another interesting related question: Was Adam indwelt by the Spirit pre-fall? A number of people around here are arguing yes.

    I see only a little evidence for it: inference via God’s breath in Adam and the connection to Jesus breathing the Spirit on his disciples.

    However I think I might find more evidence in the NT for arguments against it, especially in Hebrews…

    Of course things get less black and white when you consider that the Holy Spirit is not some weird force but rather a person in the godhead who acts in relationship with us.

    The indwelling of the Holy Spirit could be defined by a relationship so strong it could be considered marriage – the way a husband and wife become one. This is what it means to be in Christ, and Christ in me.

    Did Adam have relationship with God? Of course! (not sure how it ended though) Did Moses? Yep. Did David? Mmhmm. Were they “filled with the Spirit”? Was the Spirit “in them”? Maybe.

    Isaiah 62 points to Pentecost as something different. A dispensation of time (heh) when the Spirit would be poured out on all, when God would become accessible, not just to Israel, not just to the Levites, but to all. Something was changed, but it wasn’t a new concept completely.

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