Theology: The Holy Spirit – THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE OLD AND THE NEW TESTAMENT

“There are great mysteries in connection with the Trinity that the human mind cannot explore. They are beyond the realm of our comprehension. Take for example the location of each member of the Trinity in the universe. The Bible speaks of the Father being in heaven. That is His special residence. The Lord Jesus is at the right hand of the Father making intercession for His people. The Word of God tells us that the Holy Spirit is here on earth dwelling in the Church, the Body of Christ, and in believers. Yet, these Three are so closely knit together that what thought comes to the mind of One is also on the minds of the Others. They are inseparable and work together in perfect harmony and unity.” (Epp, Theodore H.; “THE OTHER COMFORTER”; Lincoln: Back to the Bible Broadcast, 1966, p 24)

 

This indicates correctly the location of the Spirit in this age, however this was not so prior to Pentecost. Just because we have the Spirit indwelling us personally, it does not mean that He has had the same relationship with all believers of all times. Indeed, we have mentioned that we are unique to all ages in the past in that we DO have the Spirit living within us.

 

Let us look at the differences between the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.

 

The Spirit of God is closely related to the Spirit of man in both testaments.

 

The Spirit in the Old Testament was an integrated part of God’s plan of creation from the beginning. He didn’t just happen onto the scene in the book of Acts. Genesis 1:2, “…And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water.” Pache has some further information on the Holy Spirit and His part in creation. (Pache, Rene; “The Person And Work Of The Holy Spirit”; Chicago: Moody Press, 1954, 29)

 

 

The Spirit is mentioned in many other places in the Old Testament. A word study would be of benefit in this area for further study.

 

In the New Testament we see the Spirit on the day of Pentecost and His part in the founding of the Church (Acts 2:4). He is spoken of many other times in the New Testament. We have already mentioned some of His ministries which are declared in the New Testament.

 

The Spirit is an integrated part of both Testaments, yet there are some distinct differences in His ministry. We will see this as we move along.

 

It is of interest that in both of the Testaments, the same word is used of both the spirit of man and The Spirit of God. Indeed, all but two references in the New Testament translated spirit are the same Greek word.

 

Let us look into the two Testaments and see what we can find concerning the Spirit.

 

THE SPIRIT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

 

The Spirit was limited in the Old Testament period. He did not indwell the believer. Isaiah 59:21 does promise a different and better ministry in the future for the Jew. This will be fulfilled in the end time. Joel 2:28-29 looks forward to this time as well. Peter mentioned that this was what happened on the day of Pentecost, yet the entire text looks to the end times for a complete fulfillment. This is one of the cases where we see a partial fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy, and a yet future COMPLETE fulfillment at a later date in time.

 

The Spirit in the Old Testament had a general ministry to the nation of Israel. The Spirit was given to the Israelites for the purpose of instruction (Nehemiah 9:20). There was an aspect of teaching via the Holy Spirit even in the Old Testament. We, however, see this much clearer in the New Testament times when every believer has that teaching in residence.

 

We also see a protective aspect to the Spirit’s ministry in the Old Testament (Haggai 2:4,5). I must wonder just how strongly some of the Old Testament saints might have clung to this particular text and promise in their hard times. “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I [am] with you, saith the LORD of hosts: [According to] the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.”

 

It needs to be understood that in the Old Testament the Spirit did not indwell all believers as He does now. This is seen in the following facts.

 

a. David knew that the Spirit could be taken from him. (Psalm 51:11. 1 Samuel 16:13 mentions the occurrence of the Spirit coming upon David. It was at his anointing by Samuel.) This to me seems to have been a situation that might well have been very frustrating to the Old Testament believer. To know the ministry of the Spirit and to know that He might not be there the next day would have been a worrisome thing. Imagine the sinking feeling that Samson must have had when he knew that the Spirit’s power was removed from him.

 

There is a sense in which we should see this concept within the church.

We know that the Holy Spirit cannot be taken from us, but we should also remember that when we walk in our own power the Spirit has little, if any, input into our lives and ministries. We know that all have the Spirit in full measure, however if the Spirit is not in control, He might as well not be present. The key in this age is to allow the Spirit free movement in our hearts and minds.

 

b. The Spirit departed from king Saul. 1 Samuel 16:14,

 

“But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”

 

Again we see that the Spirit was not resident in the believers. He did come upon individuals at times, but there is no indication that there was an indwelling of the Spirit as there is in the New Testament.

 

Indeed, indwelling was an impossibility in the Old Testament. He is the seal of our salvation, and salvation had not been provided as yet in the Old Testament. The Old Testament saint was awaiting his completed salvation. Their sin was only covered until the Lord Jesus could care for their sins.

 

 

c. The craftsmen of the Old Testament were especially helped with the Spirit for their work (Exodus 28:3; 31:3). It must have been very special to these men to see their skills enhanced by the work of the Spirit. These were craftsmen and yet the Spirit was upon them in a special way for this ministry unto the Lord.

 

In like manner, as we see the Holy Spirit working through us, we also ought to be amazed and astounded by what He can do through us if we make ourselves a channel for Him to work through.

 

d. The Spirit came upon Othniel the judge. Judges 3:10, “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel….”

 

As we go out into the ministry, let us rely on His wisdom in our working with God’s people and see to it that we do not rely on our own wisdom.

 

e. The Spirit came upon Gideon. Judges 6:34, “But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon….” The fact that the Spirit came indicates that He was not already there, thus proving that there was no full time indwelling. For God’s leadership over His people, He seems to like men that are sensitive to Him so that He may lead His people through His leaders.

 

f. The Spirit came upon others as well. Jephthah, Judges 11:29; Samson, Judges 14:6.

 

g. The Spirit was in some. Joseph, Genesis 41:37,38. Just what is meant by the Spirit being in someone in the Old Testament we don’t know. We do know that the New testament speaks to the fact that the Spirit had not been given to the believer as yet. John 14:17 tells us that the Spirit did not indwell, in the Old Testament economy as He was to do in the Church age. “…and shall be in you.” John 7:37-39 also shows the Spirit was yet to be given.

 

It might be suggested that it appeared that the Spirit was indwelling because of the work and effect in the Old Testament believers life. This would not require that it be fact, only that it appeared to be so. If a man was allowing the Lord to have His way in his life, then it would surely appear that the Lord was with, or in them.

 

h. Ezekiel records that the Spirit came twice to him in the first three chapters of his book. If the Spirit came a second time He had to have left.

 

 

This again proves that there was no indwelling, as we know it, in the Old Testament. Ezekiel 2:2, Ezekiel 3:24.

 

i. Miscellaneous references where the Spirit came upon people in the Old Testament. Numbers 11:17, 25, Numbers 27:18, 1 Samuel 19:20, 1

Chronicles 12:18, II Chron. 20:14, Daniel 4:8; 5:11-14; 6:3.

 

Walvoord divides the ministry of the Holy Spirit into several sections such as in creation, as in inspiration and as in revelation then discusses the ministry to, and through man. Cambron has a good outline of the Old Testament and the Holy Spirit.

 

NEW TESTAMENT

 

We won’t go into great detail in the New Testament for we have covered a lot of the subjects in previous sections.

 

He Gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:27:28

 

He Indwells: 1 Corinthians 6:19

 

He Convicts: John 16:7

 

He Intercedes: Romans 8:26:27

 

He Testifies: John 16:13,14

 

He Teaches: John 14:26; 1 John 2:27

 

He Guides: John 16:13

 

There is a difference in the need of the Holy Spirit between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

 

In the Old Testament the believer had the law to show him sin (Romans 7:7), while Romans 3:19,20 relates that the New Testament believer has the Holy Spirit to show him the sin that is in his life. We also have the Word that shows us the sin of our beings.

 

It seems that in the different dispensations, the Lord is trying to prove to the principalities and powers of the air, that man will always fail, no matter what the circumstance that God places him in. The fact that man will fail even when Christ Himself will reign on earth will be that final proof. We have God in residence as believers and we still fail at times.

 

We are left with one question. Why is there a difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament ministry of the Holy Spirit. This has been mentioned previously, but now let us take a closer look.

 

POSSIBLE ANSWERS

 

1. We shouldn’t be surprised, for the Father and the Son have a different relationship to the believer as well, between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

 

2. We don’t know why, might be a suggested answer, however I don’t personally think this is the case.

 

3. The Sovereignty of God. He wanted it that way. That is enough, in and of itself.

 

4. The final possibility is the one that fits all the facts of Scripture. I believe that there is a difference in the dealing with the sin of the believer between the two testaments. The Old Testament sacrifice COVERED the sin of the believer until the cross. The New Testament sacrifice of Christ REMOVES the sin of the believer.

 

There seems to be a definite link between this previous fact, and the cross and ascension. The Old Testament saints benefited greatly from the work of the cross and ascension, in that not only was their sin dealt with, but they were taken to be with the Lord. Previously they were in the Bosom of Abraham (Luke 16). They were taken out of the Bosom of Abraham (Luke 16 and Ephesians 4). The Bosom of Abraham was a place where the Old Testament saint could be placed, after death, to enjoy peace rather

than torment. They could not be in the Lord’s presence after death because their sin was only covered, not removed.

 

This place had no purpose after the work of Christ, so we assume that it no longer exists, or is empty. The torment side of that place does, however, still exist. There the Old Testament lost still exist in torment.

 

There is also one further difference which might relate. God’s dwelling place in the Old Testament was in the Holy of Holies. We, the believers, are now the temple of the Holy Spirit, or His dwelling place. This difference is probably due to the fact that the sin of the Old Testament saint had not been fully dealt with. God dwelled among His people as closely as He could in the Old Testament, but could indwell after the sin was dealt with via the cross.

 

APPLICATION

 

1. Since the Spirit’s presence in the Old Testament upon a believer was for a special call, special work or special ministry, might we apply this to the church age and wonder if we aren’t, everyone, called to a special ministry before the Lord. The thought seems to me to be a valid one. Indeed, we are all gifted specially. If we are all called, why are so few ministering?

 

2. Psalm 51 would indicate that this presence of the Holy Spirit is not dependant on our spiritual life. Indeed, one is left to wonder why the Spirit indwells us, the sin prone creatures that we are.

 

3. We should remind ourselves just how fortunate we are as New Testament believers to have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and having His presence to help, teach, comfort etc.

 

4. One last item of business that we have not really dealt with. We saw that in the Church age He gifted as He willed. This shows that He is a Free Sovereign agent doing what He wills to do. The fact that He willed to come and go in the Old Testament and take up residence in the New Testament should not be a problem to us in that He is all those things that we know God to be. He can do anything that He wants to. He is all powerful, all knowing and all those other things that make our Holy Spirit, God.

 

I would like to close this section with this final thought.

 

In speaking of His book on the Holy Spirit, one author states: “As I was writing this chapter, my wife and I sat on the porch in the hot spring sun, and we talked about the refreshment of the wind as evening came. We especially discussed the power and the mystery of the wind.

 

“It is interesting that in Scripture, in both the original Hebrew and Greek languages, the word used in speaking of the Spirit is the word that can also mean wind.’ In like manner, the Holy Spirit works in different ways in our lives, and in different times in history.

 

“I have seen tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma, and even in my home state of North Caroline when I was a boy. Yes, I have seen the power of the wind. I have seen the air-brakes that use the wind, or the air, to stop the giant truck going down the highway. That same force can lift a giant airplane.

 

“‘The manager of a granite quarry in North Carolina said: ‘We supplied the granite for the municipal building in New York City. We can lift an acre of solid granite ten feet thick to almost any height we desire for the purpose of moving it. We do it with air. We can do it as easily as I can lift a piece of paper.’

 

“‘Air. Air — this invisible envelope in which we live and move, this substance so immaterial that we can move our hands through it as though it had no reality at all. but the power it possesses. How great, how terrible.’” (THE HOLY SPIRIT, Billy Graham, 1978, Word, Inc., Dallas, Texas, Used with permission. p 24)

 

May we be willing to move when we feel the wind of the Spirit blowing our way.[1]

 


[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

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