Were OT Saints Devoid of the Holy Spirit? • Denis’ Blog, Portfolio and Resumé

Were OT Saints Devoid of the Holy Spirit?

Thoughts on the Holy Spirit

on the wings of a snow white dove by liz west under Attribution 2.0 Generic

Has the Holy Spirit only begun indwelling believers since the Church Age?

A Firm Position

Many Christians firmly believe that the Holy Spirit only dwells in believers since the Church Age. However, I do understand that there is quite convincing evidence to the contrary -- although I would by no means be categorical, because the Word of God does not really mention the topic much: mentions of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament are veiled, similar to the mentions of the Angel of the Lord, who in a better light we understand to be Jesus-Christ himself.

In my comprehension, the Holy Spirit is understood to indwell believers today because of verses similar to John 7:39:

But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified

also consider John 14:17-18 & 26:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you [...] But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you

and John 16:13:

However, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come

and yet again Acts 2:4:

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance

All of the previous verses are interpreted together to mean that the Holy Spirit did not dwell in believers beforehand.

Weighing the Impossibilities

Here is an interesting fact to note concerning the giving of the Holy Spirit: the most known account is found in Acts 2, which mentions that the disciples "[...] were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." But we may not ignore John 20:22, which, when speaking of Jesus talking to his disciples after His resurrection, says,

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive you the Holy Ghost.
That event occurred before Pentecost. The apostles present at that time were again present at Pentecost. Why then would they receive the Spirit a second time? That would certainly not be the case. Consider Romans 8:9 and 11 [NKJV]:
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. […] But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Clearly, one who is saved must bear the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if the disciples gained the Holy Spirit a second time, they must first have been saved, then unsaved, then saved again. That is not possible. Rather, John 20:22 and Acts 2:4 must be speaking of two events of a very distinct nature. It seems that at both events, powers were delegated through the Holy Spirit. John 20:23 records Jesus saying, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” We hear of Paul using that apostolic authority later against Hymenaeus and Alexander, “whom [Paul] delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (I Timothy 1:20) Acts 2:7-8 chronicles how the people “were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?”” That was the miracle of the many languages, a partial accomplishment of Joel 2:28.

Cogitating our Way Out

In both cases, though, we do not see those manifestations of the Spirit as a necessity of salvation as in Romans 8:9, but rather as a seal of the presence of the Spirit of God. But in the light of the fact that the Spirit must unequivocally indwell the believer, it is fair to ask a couple of questions:
  1. Were the saints of the Old Testament an exception to Romans 8:9, which clearly states that all believers must have the Holy Spirit?
  2. If in millennials to come one were to peruse the Christian writings of this time, might he just as easily conclude that the Holy Spirit did not indwell the believers of today?
The second question is both a thinking question and a clue to the first. In our assessment, it is only fair to remember that the law contains “a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things”. (Hebrews 10:1) It should therefore not come as a surprise that what was promised both by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28) and by Jesus himself (John 7:39) as something to be accomplished in the Messianic era should not appear clearly until then.

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

However, when one pays close attention, the beating drum of the Holy Spirit is to be found throughout the Old Testament. That indication is not tenuous, but distinct. Consider Genesis 1:2, where we discover that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”; Deuteronomy 34:9, in which “Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him”; Exodus 31:3, which tells of how Bezalel was filled “with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship”; 1 Samuel 10:10, Judges 6:34, which informs us that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon”; Judges 15:14, in which we learn that “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon [Samson]; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands”; which reports that “then the Spirit of God came upon [Saul], and he prophesied among them”; Mark 12:36, which reminds us that “David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool”; Psalm 51:11, in which David entreats the Lord not to “take Your Holy Spirit from me”; Isaiah 63:11, which complains about Israel in these terms: “Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them”; and, yet again, Micah 3:8, in which the prophet states that he was “full of power by the Spirit of the Lord”. Therefore, in the light of Romans 8:9, which states unequivocally that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (that is, Christ's), two particular texts of the Old Testament are revealing. One is Psalm 51:11, in which David, after his sin with Bathsheba, entreats the Lord, pleading:
Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
We see how in that psalm the Holy Spirit is clearly linked with “the joy of Your salvation.” The same is true in Isaiah 63:10-11, in which we read of Israel:
But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying: “Where is He who brought them up out of the sea With the shepherd of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them, […] As a beast goes down into the valley, And the Spirit of the Lord causes him to rest, So You lead Your people, To make Yourself a glorious name.
Once again, the concept of rejecting the Holy Spirit, found in Ephesians 4:30 — “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” — and Matthew 12:31 — “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men” — has the contextual significance of foregoing salvation or forgiveness of sins; to that aspect Isaiah 63 and Psalm 51 both refer to. It can therefore be very clearly be understood that the saints of the Old Testament were in no way an exception to Romans 8:9, which requires that all believers must have the Holy Spirit, but that the principle stood throughout all ages—albeit less visibly under Israel.

Manifestations of the Spirit

We are then left with two manifestations of the Spirit: one is absolutely necessary, and is bestowed at salvation. That is named the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The second manifestation of the Spirit is of miraculous signs and wonders, and has not been given equally, as is stated in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 [NKJV]:
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
That manifestation, contrary to the first, is not silently indicated through works, but is rather a seizing of man for the work of God. (Judges 14:6, 14:19, 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Samuel 19:20; 2 Chronicles 20:14) Although that state is certainly not the norm, it contrasts much more highly with the rest of the Bible, and is also mentioned most frequently. Because of its typical voyeurism, its occurrence is most likely to eclipse the first — but most important — manifestation of the Holy Spirit, especially in the Old Testament which delves less deeply in the explanation of doctrinal aspects. As stated in 1 Corinthians 12, the saints of the Old Testament were more likely to manifest gifts of healing, miracles, or prophecy. But as we are not devoid of the Holy Spirit today because of the lack of those gifts, which the Spirit distributes “to each one individually as He wills”, in the same way the men of the Old Testament did not lack the Holy Spirit because of the presence of the same gifts.

Putting the Interpretation Together

When Joel and Jesus predicted the coming of sings, they did not predict that the Holy Spirit would finally indwell believers, but rather that He would perform signs for the edification of the brethren. Take, for instance, John 14:16-17, in which Jesus promises the following:
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
Jesus is not promising something new: “for He dwells with you”. The disciples had already obtained the Spirit. That was not the point. But in verse 26, He adds, “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Now that is something that many believers in whom the Spirit has dwelt never experienced! That is also the reason for our trust in the apostles, to whom all things were taught and transcribed in the epistles. And may I suggest that by the same Spirit the prophets spoke many wise words, saying,
do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Psalm 51:11-12

For Further Reading

I at first thought I might be a lone outpost in a desert place on this view, but as it occurred, I was not. I have found the following couplet of articles well-written and useful because of the many biblical references they contained:

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