Did Old Testament believers possess the Holy Spirit the same way as the New Testament believers?

September 18, 2019 0 By William Hollis

Horton: This is one of the questions that
— I just wrote a book on the Holy Spirit and — a very arrogant thing to do. But, really enriched my own experience of
the Spirit, as well as thoughts about questions like this, and made me more uncertain of the
answers that I had for it. I think, on one hand there’s a danger, and
Dr. Ferguson has written on this really well in his book on the Holy Spirit. There’s a danger on one hand to so defend
the unity of the one covenant of grace that we don’t recognize the peaks and the valleys,
the differences from old covenant to new covenant. And, then the other danger is the opposite
danger to not recognize the unity of that one covenant. And so, in that unity of the one covenant,
you have to have — if people are believers, if David is confessing his sin, he’s prompted
by the Holy Spirit, he’s repentant, he’s trusting in Christ, he’s born again, you
know? He is a justified, converted believer. And yet you have to recognize that, you know,
when Jesus — when John tells us that the Spirit had not yet been poured out, and even
when you get to John 20, and you have a sort of mini-Pentecost there with the disciples,
it’s clear that that’s not the big thing that happens in Acts 2. That’s why they’re to go and wait for
the Holy Spirit to be poured out. This the prophets anticipated. None of it had been fulfilled in Jesus’
ministry, and I think that’s why Jesus says, “Greater things shall you do when the Holy
Spirit comes, when I am ascended and the Holy Spirit comes,” because it’s not just that
the speaker has to be God, but the one opening our hearts to embrace the speech has to be
God. And that outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost
was a decisive event in the history of redemption that had never happened before. And ever since, we have been living in a completely
different era, and yet one in which we share with our Old Testament brothers and sisters,
faith and repentance and renewal. Now, what exactly that means and the extent
to which they — the Holy Spirit was upon them, but maybe not indwelling them, you know,
all sorts of questions arise, but the New Testament, seems to me, makes it pretty clear
that it — the Holy Spirit came in such a way upon the people of God that fulfilled
the request of Moses, that all of the people would be filled with the Spirit of God that
had never been done in the history of redemption, but finally at Pentecost that gift of the
Spirit came upon the church. Nichols: I think that’s helpful. I think we also need to look at John 3 and
Nicodemus. This is always very fascinating. You’ve got John 6, where John gives that
editorial, “the Spirit has not yet been given.” But then you have John 3, where Jesus says
to Nicodemus, “You should have known this. You should know that you need to be born of
the Spirit.” So there is this newness to Pentecost, but
this continuity, this unity, and looking at those two texts, even just three chapters
apart are helpful for us to put that in a good perspective. Thomas: Yeah. So I mean, the answer is yes and no. I think if you’re asking the question, “How
is a person under the old covenant saved?” then the answer has to be in precisely the
same way as a person in the new covenant is saved. By the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration,
producing faith and repentance, and a promised Christ that was seen in type and shadow. But, you know, Psalm 51, verse 11: “Cast
me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” So, yes, Pentecost is epochal. It’s a redemptively significant moment,
a unique moment in redemptive history. So, there’s something about the fullness
of the Spirit and perhaps the experience of that fullness under the new covenant that
is different from the old covenant, but if the question is: Were Old Testament saints
indwelt by the Spirit? I think I would have to say yes.