The Permenant Indwelling of the Spirit on Old Testament Saints

If the Old Testament saints were real believers, the Holy Spirit indwelt them. No one can be born again, believe, or repent without the inward work of the Holy Spirit and no one can stay a believer for one second without the ongoing permanent internal work of the Holy Spirit regardless if it is in the Old Testament or New Testament. Without the Holy Spirit constantly in and at work in our hearts, we will immediately apostatize..

If you believe Old Testament saints believed by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit but kept believing without the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit then saints in the OT were not as depraved as we are, as they did not need the ongoing indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. This discussion really is a debate about the nature of total human depravity in the Old Testament. Nothing less than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit keeps a true believer believing, repenting, and obeying. B.B. Warfield wrote, “shall we say that only in the New Testament times men are dead in sin, and only in these days of the completed Gospel and of the New Covenant do men need the almighty power of God to raise them from their spiritual death? Certainly the Bible lends no support to such a notion.”

The first area of the Spirit’s work is in the process of regeneration or being born again. The classic text for this can be found in John’s gospel: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Of course this begs the question: what does this have to do with the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament? Later on in His dialogue with Nicodemus, Christ has this to say to him: “You are Israel’s teacher…and do you not understand these things?” (John 3:10). The point that Christ was making is that Nicodemus should have known the truth that the Holy Spirit is the source of new life because it is revealed in the Old Testament. For instance, Moses told the Israelites prior to entering the Promised Land that “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). This circumcision of the heart is the work of God’s Spirit and can be accomplished only by Him.

Paul tells us with regards to faith in 2 Corinthians 4:13 that we have the SAME Spirit of faith as was written in the Old Testament. There is NO substantial difference with the Spirit of Faith in believers between Old Testament and New Testament believers. The Spirit of faith regenerated them by circumcising their hearts and indwelling them and preserving them throughout their lives in the same exact way that we are regenerated, circumcised in the heart and indwells and preserves us throughout our lives.

B.B. Warfield wrote regarding 2 Corinthians 4:13, “We may be surprised to observe that he seeks the norm of his faith in the Old Testament saints. “Having the same Spirit of faith,” he says, “according as it is written, I believed, and therefore did I speak” – referring for the model of faith back to the words of this hero Psalmist. … It is the faith of Abraham which is the standing model of faith to both Paul and James …It is observable next that the Apostle attributes the faith of the Old Testament heroes, to whom he would direct our eyes as the norm of faith, to the work of the Holy Spirit. He felicitates himself not merely on having the same quality of faith with them. He looks deeper. The ground of rejoicing in their fellowship is that he shares with them the “same Spirit of faith.” … And certainly the New Testament tells us in repeated instances that the Holy Spirit was active throughout the period of the Old Dispensation in ALL the varieties of activities which characterize the New.”

Regarding Old Testament saints,

The law was written in their hearts. Describing the righteous under the Old Testament, David says, “The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip” (Psalm 37:31).

The knowledge of Yahovah was theirs. Describing believers under the Old Testament, David says, “And those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; For Thou, O Lord, has not forsaken those who seek Thee” (Psalm 9:10; cf 1 Samuel 2:12 and 3:7)

The forgiveness of sins was given. In Psalm 32:1, 2, David says, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit is no deceit!”

The Spirit of faith of theirs. In Ezekiel 36:27 God says “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” In Psalm 143:10 David says “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.

The ancient Jews understood that the God saved them by regenerating them, washing them and putting His Spirit within them. The Gemara says with regards to Ezekiel 36:22-27, ““Happy are you, O Israel. Before whom are you made clean, and who makes you clean? It is your Father who is in heaven” They clearly understood this passage to be in current tense and was about regeneration..

In Romans 8:9, Paul tells us the following “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” How much more simple can it be? If ANY man does not have the Spirit within, they do not belong to Christ and if they do not belong to Christ then they are not saved. They cannot be saved apart from the Spirit dwelling within.

So what does John 14 mean? This seems to be the heart of the issue. Did Christ mean that the Holy Spirit did not dwell permanently in His people? Of course not! Christ is not talking about the Spirit of faith here as the scripture does elsewhere. Christ is speaking about the Spirit of Truth, which holds a two-fold function in this passage. Christ says “I will ask the Father, and another Comforter He will give to you, that he may remain with you — to the age; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwells in you, and shall be in you.”

There is a difference between a corporate local indwelling of the Spirit versus an individual indwelling of the Spirit upon a believer. Israel as a corporate body had a corporate local indwelling of the Spirit in the form of the Shekinah Glory as well as the individual indwelling of the Spirit on believers. This corporate local indwelling of the Spirit is part of the theocratic work of the Spirit. The theocratic work of the Spirit represents, in a word, the presence of God with His people corporately. The concept of Shekinah is connected to the Greek term “Parousia”, “presence” and is used in the New Testament in the same way for the Divine Presence in the mist of the church. In the New Testament the Spirit corporately dwells in the midst of local churches. Only when a corporate local body of believers apostatizes from the faith is the corporate indwelling of the Spirit removed. An individual genuine believer can never apostatize, and therefore never lose the permanent indwelling of the Spirit.

In John 14 Christ just told the disciples that they know Him because he “already” dwells in you. You already know him, he dwells in you.. So this cannot mean the Spirit of faith. Christ is speaking about the Holy Spirit’s theocratic work of truth, the Spirit of truth. At Pentecost the apostles were given a special endowing of the Spirit, the Spirit of truth to write the New Testament Scriptures by inspiration of the Spirit of God. He would come and comfort and dwell corporately in the Church in her midst again, just like He did with the Church of Israel of Old with the Shekinah Glory but departed the Church of Israel when she went apostate. Israel did not have the corporate dwelling of the Spirit guiding her and with her when she apostatized, However that did not mean that there were no believers during that time who had the Spirit of Faith. Now the Spirit of Truth will return to the Church and He will guide the Church into all Truth.

To conclude, a final quote from B.B. Warfield, “The Spirit of God of the Old Testament performs all the functions which are ascribed to the Holy Spirit of the New Testament, and bears all the same characteristics. They are conceived alike both in their nature and in their operations.”

Additional quotes by Warfield,

“We may be accustomed to think of the Holy Spirit as an essentially New Testament Possession; and to conceive, in a more or less formulated manner, of the saints of the Old Testament as left to their own native powers in their serving of God. Heroes of faith as they were, it would be peculiarly difficult, however, to believe that they reached the height of their pious attainment apart from the gracious operations of the Spirit of God. Or shall we say that only in the New Testament times men are dead in sin, and only in these days of the completed Gospel and of the New Covenant do men need the almighty power of God to raise them from their spiritual death? Certainly the Bible lends no support to such a notion.”

Warfield’s deductions from this:  “Surely this must mean much to us, that we live in the era of the Spirit.  A Dispensation in which the Spirit of God is poured out upon all flesh while extending the bounds of God’s kingdom until it covers the earth.”


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