A 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!