Holy Spirit in the Old Testament (2) By Babatunde Olugboji
Following up on last week on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, we will examine some of the Holy Spirit’s specific work in the OT, as follows:
- Regeneration: Or rebirth, from which we get the concept of being “born again,” as espoused in John 3:3. You may be wondering what the conversation of Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3:3 has to do with the work of the Holy Spirit in the OT. Jesus later told Nicodemus: “You are Israel’s teacher…and do you do not understand these things?”(John 3:10) Jesus’ point was that Nicodemus should have known that the Holy Spirit is the source of new life because this was revealed in the OT. 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” (Deu 30:6). This circumcision of the heart is the work of God’s Spirit that can be accomplished only by Him. (See Ezekiel 11:19-20 and 36:26-29).
The fruit of the Spirit’s regenerating work is faith (Ephesians 2:8). Now we know that there were men of faith in the Old Testament because Hebrews 11 names many of them. If faith is produced by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, then this must be the case for Old Testament saints who looked ahead to the cross, believing that what God had promised in regard to their redemption would come to pass. They saw the promises and “welcomed them from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13), accepting by faith that what God had promised, He would also bring to pass.
- Indwelling: (Or Infilling). This is where the major difference between the Spirit’s roles in the Old and New Testaments is apparent. NT teaches the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). When we place our faith in Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Paul describes this permanent indwelling the “guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14). In contrast to this work in the NT, the indwelling in the OT was selective and temporary, and for specific tasks. The Spirit “came upon” Joshua (Numbers 27:18), David (1 Samuel 16:12-13) and Saul (1 Samuel 10:10). In Judges, we see the Spirit “coming upon” the various judges whom God raised up to deliver Israel from their oppressors.
The indwelling was a sign of God’s favor upon that individual (e.g. David), and if God’s favor left an individual, the Spirit would depart (e.g. Saul in 1 Samuel 16:14). Note that the Spirit “coming upon” an individual doesn’t always indicate that person’s spiritual condition (e.g., Saul and Samson). So, while in the NT Spirit only indwelling believers and that indwelling is permanent, the Spirit came upon certain OT people for a specific task, irrespective of their spiritual condition. Once the task was completed, the Spirit would presumably depart.
- Granting of ability for service: Much like the way the spiritual gifts operate in the NT, the Spirit would gift certain individuals for service. Bezaleel in Exodus 31:2-5 who was gifted to do much of the artwork relating to the Tabernacle.
- Creation: Genesis 1:2 speaks of the Spirit “hovering over the waters” and superintending the work of creation. Similarly, the Spirit is responsible for the work of the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), bringing people into the kingdom of God through regeneration.
In conclusion, the Spirit performs much of the same functions in OT as He does in this current age. The major difference is the permanent indwelling of the Spirit in believers today. (John 1:17)
Are you spirit filled?
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