Holy Spirit, Old and New Testament
Psalm 139:7 "Where could I go from thy Spirit, where could I flee from thy face?"
1. The Holy Spirit has always been around, working to create, bless and redeem. His presence and work is not unique to the New Covenant church or scriptures. He indwelt, guided and blessed the Old Covenant church also.
2. Who brooded over the formless earth like a hen over her chickens, bringing order and harmony out of the chaotic and uninhabitable and continues to make the earth fruitful? The Holy Spirit! 1 Who strove with rebellious humans for years to turn them back to God and life? 2 The Holy Spirit did!
3. When Abraham trusted God to make his own over-the-hill body and his wife's dead womb fruitful and bear a child they couldn't have hoped for, who was involved in the whole process right from the start? 3 The Holy Spirit!
4. Biblical writers sometimes think of "the Exodus" as the actual departure of Israel from Egypt but often they see it as the whole movement of God bringing Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and settling them in the land of promise.
5. Who was there delivering Israel from Egyptian captivity and bringing them through the Red sea? The Holy Spirit! Who was there in the midst of them, providing, as they wandered through the wilderness in need of food and rest? And who put up with their rebellion and murmuring, continuing to guide them though they grieved him with their wickedness? The Holy Spirit! 4
6. Having freed them from the external conditions of slavery, who was it that dwelled in and worked with them, shaping them with life-transforming truths that redeemed them from internal slavery to all forms of corruption, enabling them to walk with their heads held high? The Holy Spirit! 5 Who built the Tabernacle through those people he chose and gifted? The Holy Spirit. 6 And when God's supreme prophet needed help to spiritually guide the nation of Israel, it was the Spirit of God--the same Spirit that worked with Moses--that began to work in a more marked way with the seventy men chosen as colleagues to Moses, providing national guidance. 7
7. When Joshua and his peers died, Israel forgot what God had done for them the result was anarchy, civil war, renewed slavery and abuse from other nations. It was the Holy Spirit who came upon certain deliverers, galvanizing the tribes into unity that resulted in freedom and rest. 8
8. The Holy Spirit was there when the monarchy arrived, working through Saul until he showed himself an enemy of God's purposes. So the Spirit of God departed from him and came mightily upon David who called the nation to be one people under one God. When he sinned grievously against God, he pleaded that God not take his holy Spirit from him. 9
9. It was during the period of the monarchy that the prophets made their appearance in earnest. Prophets who, like Micah were filled "with the Spirit of the Lord" 10 and Azariah who proclaimed assurance to Judah and her king. 11 Both Nehemiah and Zechariah speak of the entire period before the exile as a time when God dealt with Israel through the Holy Spirit 12 and Peter speaks of "the Spirit of Christ" being "in" them when they foretold of the coming suffering and glorification of the Master. 13
10.Prophets saw a coming day of calamity because of Israel's covenant-breaking behavior but they assured Israel that a time was coming when God would signal the renewal of covenant relationship with Israel by lavishly pouring out the Spirit on men, women, girls and boys, male and female servants, virgins and old men. It would be a day of new beginnings, a day marked out by renewed Spirit activity.14
11. It's important that we remember that the work of the Spirit of God wasn't confined to acts of dramatic redemption or merely "religious" activities. Psalm 104 combines the extraordinary with the steady, everyday blessing of the entire creation. This includes his providing the gift of "wisdom" which means "thinking like God" and learning to live in and enjoy the world under him. The whole of life is permeated with the activity of the Holy Spirit.15
12. Then came the deportation the prophets had foretold and Israel marched into the dark, but even in captivity the Holy Spirit was dwelling, speaking, enabling and promising. Ezekiel was among the captives when the heavens opened and the Spirit of God entered him.16 Again and again he speaks conviction and consolation which comes to its peak in 37:1-14 where a nation dead in sin and exile is assured that the Spirit of God would raise them from their graves and give them life.17
13. When many returned to the land, chastened but not completely cured, they found life hard, their enemies eager, their situation precarious and unimpressive. But Haggai18 gave them the assurance that the covenant promise God gave to Abraham was still intact so they were not to fear, for not only was God faithful to his past promises, the Spirit of the Lord was "standing" in their midst. Zechariah encouraged Zerubbabel, the governor, to believe that the daunting task of establishing Israel again would be accomplished by the Spirit of the Lord.19
14. The literature of the Intertestamental period is littered with references to the Holy Spirit and his work in the lives of believers and elsewhere.20 Before the birth of John the Baptist and the Lord Christ himself, an angel assured the aged Zechariah that he would have a son who would be filled with the Spirit of God even from the womb.21 Luke 22 says the angel told Mary that in conceiving the Lord the Holy Spirit would come on her, "and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (an allusion to the Old Covenant Shekinah--the "glory" that stood over the Tabernacle). And there was the aged Simeon who was told by the Spirit that he would live to see the Lord's Messiah and being "in the Spirit" he came into the temple, saw the Christ child and praised God for his faithfulness.23
15. If all this is true--that the Holy Spirit was always and everywhere present, what are we to make of John's statement that even in the closing days of Jesus' earthly ministry, "the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified"?24
16. The "giving"25 and "receiving" of the Spirit in this passage hinges on the glorification of Christ and it has specific reference to believers in the Christ. It isn't necessary to set it against all we've just surveyed. John knew very well that the Spirit had always been at work in the people of God and beyond, and that he had been with them throughout the public ministry of Christ, because he expressly said this.26 He had never been absent so the "giving" of the Spirit speaks of some specialized sense of his presence.
17. The glorification of Christ involved his atoning death, his resurrection and his glorious ascension to God's right hand.27 Peter said "Exalted to the right hand of God he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear."28 This is precisely what Jesus was talking about when he said: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever"--29
18. The significance of the giving and receiving of the Spirit in the John 7 passage is generated because it relates to the return of the exalted Christ who had ended the earthly phase of his ministry and had become life-giving Spirit.30
19. In Acts 2, what Peter told his listeners was this: they were witnessing a new beginning, a new and special presence of the Holy Spirit who was now—what he could never have been before—the presence and representative of the glorified Christ who with his Father had taken up residence in the Messianic believers who constituted the new temple.
20. The Spirit could not function in this role earlier, precisely because the Christ in his earthly ministry was operating in the realm of the flesh (that is, under ordinary human limitations) and was not a glorified, ascended and universal Christ. For the Spirit to operate in this new way it was necessary for Christ to return to the Father.31
21. In the unfolding purpose of God, the Christ could not stay with them unless he first went away from them (through the process of dying, rising, ascension and glorification) and returned to them in the person of the abiding Spirit.32 So the difference between what went before God's glorifying Christ and what happened after it, is more about the "new identity" of the Spirit than about degrees of intimacy or the kinds of things the Spirit did. The Spirit had become the presence of the glorified Christ who was no longer to be seen in "fleshly" terms (within mere human or even merely Jewish categories).33
22. In the Messianic age the Spirit "of God" while he continues to be the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, he is now identified as the Spirit "of Jesus" or the Spirit "of Christ" or the Spirit "of his Son".34 Once more, this he could not be prior to the exaltation of the Christ, but now the Spirit comes in his name.35 So the John 7 passage really says more about Christology than about the Spirit.
23. Additionally, with the arrival of the Christ a new world order has appeared.36 The Christ is no longer a merely earthly figure but a "life giving Spirit"37 and his people are citizens of heaven, in the world but not of it.38 This means not only do they not view Christ in merely human terms, they don't view themselves or anyone else after the flesh.39 Their perspective is now "spiritual," "heavenly," that is, arising from the Spirit.40
24. In Acts 2, the wind and fire, the gift of languages not known to the speakers, the prophetic proclamation and the profusion of miracles connected with Pentecost, is a moment of crisis and new beginning, tangible proofs that these were the days of the Spirit of which the prophets had spoken.41
25. So it was not the presence and work of the Spirit that was new that was known throughout Israel's history and mankind's experience as part of the created order. What was new was the setting in which the Spirit was now at work, the relationship he now sustained to the glorified Christ and his newly created people. The Spirit is forever doing this kind of work, God breathes into Adam [humanity] the "breath" of life and man becomes a living being, God sends the wind [breath, spirit] into dead Israel in the valley of dry bones and a nation is resurrected. What happens in and through Jesus Christ echoes and brings to fullness all that has gone before and is reflected in the texts alluded to.
26. Close to the end of his earthly ministry, Christ told his people that he would send them another Counselor —one they know—who was already "with" them but would be "in" them.42 While it's true that he later speaks of their whole new experience in terms of being "with" them 43 it's still true that he makes a distinction between "with" and "in".44
27. Jesus was speaking here of the time when the believers would become the new covenanted People and so would become the new temple in which the Christ and his Father would dwell through the Spirit.45 The Spirit was with and in Israel prior to the covenant at Sinai, but with the Sinai events, Israel became something they had not been before. They became a covenant People or nation unto God who now dwelled in and among them as their (senior) covenant partner.
28. This work of Christ, in sending the Spirit [and coming in and as the Spirit] to anoint and indwell the Church, his Body, is what is meant by the phrase "baptized in the Spirit". The phrase is from the Baptist 46 who wants the baptized penitents to know that their Christ is greater than he is. At the appropriate time, the Christ would give them the Spirit or, in the words of John, "he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit."
29. Israel of old and many individuals within it had been anointed before the Christ arrived, but with his coming the purposes and results of the anointings were new, that is, peculiarly focused. They would all come under the heading of glorifying Christ and making him Lord of all and Lord in peoples' lives. The reign of God would rise to its final manifestation in relation to humankind.
30. The anointing of Israel of old with the Spirit, is replaced by the new anointing of a new Israel, who, with Gentiles become the new temple in which God dwells through the Spirit.47 Those who share the faith of Abraham (rather than a place within the Sinaitic covenant), having been baptized into Christ become Abraham's heirs.48
31. This move replaces the Mosaic covenant (which created two families--Jew and Gentile) with a "new" covenant which, in the Christ, makes of the two, "one new man, so making peace".49 Israel is not "dumped" but her covenantal relationship with God is restructured and all people of faith become one with them.
32. By sending the Spirit in Jesus' name and making him available to all who in trusting repentance take on them the name of Christ in baptism, 50 God shows the restructuring work is his. This he does in fulfillment of the words of the prophets, the Baptist and Jesus himself.
33. The Spirit's anointing of Christ's people was all they needed for a complete life with God in the Christ. He provided all things necessary for life and godliness and they needed nothing more! This anointing included gifted men and women who functioned within the Body in various ways.51
34. This is what John had in mind when he spoke of the anointing of the Church with the Holy Spirit who guides the church into all truth.52 No pretended knowledge (via Gnostics or other radicals) is needed to complete them, there are no essentials missing that only the elite have access to. John is not suggesting that each individual has an anointing from the Spirit that makes him/her both infallible and exhaustively taught.
35. It is the New Community that's baptized in the Spirit rather than each independent individual. By virtue of being part of the Community we are indwelled by the Spirit. Salvation and the reception of the Spirit is always personal but they're not available in isolation--only within the covenanted community.
36. Suppose each human has what survives biological death, something we call "spirit" and which is said to dwell in us--we wouldn't dream of saying, "Our spirit dwells only in our brain, our liver or heart" as distinct from, say, our foot or hand. No, our spirit dwells in "us," no particular part of us. Nor would we dream of saying, "Our spirit doesn't dwell in our toes or ears." In saying the spirit dwells in "us" we mean "us" as a corporate whole and not independently in each organ as though we were a collections of independent pieces.
37. There is no "individual" indwelling of the Spirit. There are no "individual" Christians, independent units. It's all right to speak of individual Christians as long as we know they only exist as various parts of a Body. A finger is not the whole body, it is an "individual" part of the body 53 but is an individual "part of the body". We can only speak of a finger or foot or eye in the context of a corporate body.
38. And the indwelling is not any literal tabernacling of the Holy Spirit in us. The "indwelling" is another way of expressing his willingness to identify with and have holy communion with the covenanted Community, the Church. The indwelling is his gracious willingness to be and move among the people as their God in a peculiar covenantal way. "Indwelling" is not to be construed in a spatial sense but in a relatonal sense. We are said to dwell in God as surely as God is said to dwell in us.54
39. Whether the indwelling is "literal" or "figurative" the scriptures teach he indwells us. The good news is he continues to dwell in us and bless us despite our ignorance about the details.
40. Let me summarize:
The Holy Spirit has always been at work, creating, blessing, redeeming, nurturing, guiding, supplying and enlightening.
41. The prophets told of a day when the reign of God would become manifest in the Messiah and that that day would be made clear by the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. That time would be the period of covenant renewal.
42. God's wondrous purposes became fully into view and imminent with the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth in whose life, death, resurrection and glorification the reign of God took on a greater glory than before.
43. The presence and work of the Spirit continued in some ways to be what it had always been, but it now took on a new significance. He became a witness to the glorification of Christ and to the identity of his covenanted people (the Church--made up of all nations). This meant he was working with a new phase of God's purpose and it's that new role that explains much of what is new in the New.
44. The Spirit, who is always the Spirit "of God" is made known as the Spirit "of Christ," "of Jesus" and "of his Son". This was not possible before the glorification of Jesus Christ.
45. The Spirit who had dwelt in the Old Covenant people—and visibly signaled that by the presence of the tabernacle and temple—now dwells in the New Covenant people which is made up of Jews and Gentiles who have received the Messiah.
46. The Christ is said to "baptize in the Holy Spirit" when he sent the Spirit to the new covenanted people in whom he and his Father dwell through the Holy Spirit.
Two more points before concluding this piece.
47. This new role of the Spirit might help explain the "sin against the Holy Spirit" of which Christ spoke.55 For the Jews to reject the earthly Christ was sin but it could later be rectified. To reject the exalted Christ, who is now only experienced through the Holy Spirit, is to sin a sin against the Holy Spirit for which there can be no cure. There was/is no other Christ and there is no other way in which Christ as Lord is brought to the world. To despise the Spirit witness is to close the door to possible salvation..
48. I know of no reason to say, with the majority of writers, that the difference between the Old Covenant and the New is that old covenant saints couldn't keep the covenant because they didn't have the Spirit to enable them. The Spirit, then, is supposed to have been sent to enable new covenant saints to keep the new covenant. I think this is a misunderstanding of the nature of both covenants.
49. The notion that the Old Covenant was "Spiritless" is a blunder and the view that ancient saints lagged behind New Covenant saints in faithfulness, that their love for and devotion to God was inferior and shallow is another blunder. Just by itself, the Hebrew writer's "hall of fame" should put that claim permanently to rest.
50. It's true that new truths were revealed and a new phase of God's purposes arrived with the arrival of the New Covenant manifestation of the kingdom (reign) of God. The work and presence of the Spirit took on a special significance but all his enabling of people in Old Covenant times was just as real as any New Covenant enabling. With the arrival of the "fullness of time" that enabling work had a new thrust and development. It was "eschatological" and related to God's new "end time" people and purposes which were centered in "the last Adam," Jesus Christ.56 All that is true, I think, but it has nothing to do with the depth and genuineness of the faith and devotion of ancient saints created and nurtured by the Spirit. At the ethical level, the glory of their lives was as rich as any in the present. Choose out examples from the New and they can be matched, at least, in the Old.
51. It's not difficult to show formalism, apostasy and immorality in the ancients, but no one in the New Covenant writings condemns these as savagely as prophets in the old. Mere externalism was trashed by the prophets who called on people to have hearts that were circumcised and to give God themselves. Christ himself told us that the whole Old covenant canon could be summed up in the love commands. Paul followed his lead in that.57
52. I'm saying that much of the ignorance we attribute to Israelites under the Mosaic covenant is not theirs--it's ours. I'm saying the Spirit made their lives lovely and sacrificial and God-fearing. I'm saying what is "new" about the work of the Spirit in the new covenantal arrangement has nothing to do with these matters.
1. Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:29-30
2. Genesis 6:3-5
3. Genesis 17:17; 18:11; Romans 4:19 & Galatians 4:29
4. Isaiah 63:10-14
5. See Nehemiah 9:20; Leviticus 26:12-13; Exodus 29:43-46
6. See Exodus 35:10-11, 30-31
7. Numbers 11:10-30
8. See Judges 3:10; 6:34 and other places
9. 1 Samuel 16:13-14; Psalm 51:11
10. Micah 3:8
11. 2 Chronicles 15:1-8
12. Nehemiah 9:30; Zechariah 7:12
13. 1 Peter 1:11
14. See Joel 2:28-29; Jeremiah 31:31-34; 33:19-26; Ezekiel 36:26-28; 37:1-14,24,26-27
15. See Psalm 104, especially verse 30
16. Ezekiel 2:2; 3:4
17. See the piece, Wind of the Spirit
18. Haggai 2:5
19. Zechariah 4:6-10
20. See the works of Max Turner, Millar Burrows and others.
21. Luke 1:13-15
22. Luke 2:25-27
23. Luke 1:35
24. John 7:38-39
25. There is no "given" in the Greek text though the translations are no doubt correct in supplying it. See Acts 19:2 for something similar.
26. John 14:17
27. The cross is seen as an aspect of Christ's glorification. See, for example, John 12:27-28 but Philippians 2:5-11 and 1 Timothy 3:16 would show more can be involved than the atoning death.
28. Acts 2:33
29. John 14:16,26
30. John 14:18,23; 16:7; 1 Corinthians 15:45. Christ retains his humanity, of course--1Timothy 2:5--but it's a glorified humanity. See 1 Corinthians 15:42-50.
31. John 16:5-7; 17:4-5
32. John 14:16, 18,23,26; 16:5-7,16
33. 2 Corinthians 5:16
34. 1 Peter 1:11; Romans 8:9; Acts 16:7; Galatians 4:6
35. John 14:26
36. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15
37. 1 Corinthians 15:45
38. John 17:14, 16; Philippians 3:30 and Revelation 12:12; 13:6 contrasting "earth dwellers" and "heaven dwellers".
39. 2 Corinthians 5:16
40. This is not to suggest that there was no "spirituality" before the Messianic age, far from it. I'm only saying within the stages of development of God's purposes, the Mosaic age, was categorised as the time "of the flesh" where the Messianic age is "of the Spirit". Prior to the Christian era both Isaac and Ishmael were born in the usual way but it's said that, "the son born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit". See Galatians 4:28-29.
41. Acts 2:16-18; Joel 2:28-29; Isaiah 44:3; 1 Peter 1:11
42. John 14:17
43. John 14:23
44. While I believe the distinction is intentional here, the point isn't made just by comparing the prepositions. The Spirit was already "in" them as he was "in" Old Covenant prophets--see
1 Peter 1:11 but I think the passage here speaks of them as the new and indwelt temple soon to be constructed. We don't learn all this simply by comparing the prepositions.
45. Ephesians 2:21-22
46. Mark 1:7-8
47. Ephesians 2:11-20
48. Galatians 3:26-29
49. Ephesians 2:15-16
50. Acts 2:16-39; John 14:26; Galatians 3:9,14
51. 2 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 4:8,11-16; 1 Corinthians 12
52. 1 John 2:20,27; John 16:13
53. See 1 Corinthians 12:17; Romans 12:4
54. John 14:20
55. Matthew 12:31-32 and parallels
56. This simply means that the Messianic age is the "final" age, the "end time," the period to which all earlier dispensations led. When scholars speak of the "eschatological" Spirit they don't mean, of course, it's a different Spirit, only that the renewed and special sense of his presence now relates to the dispensation known as "the end time".
57. Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.