Andrew Naffin, Theology, church, scripture, N.T. Wright, Karl Barth
There is a lot of talk about the Spirit in the New Testament, but where is the Spirit at in the Old Testament?  What kind of work did the Spirit do?  I think we often miss the work of the Spirit in the Old Testament and regulate its work only to the time of the New Testament. The Spirit is not mentioned in the Old Testament nearly as much as it is in the New Testament, but the Spirit and his work is by no means absent from the Old Testament.  In fact we see the Spirit in the very beginning part of the Bible.  In Genesis 1:2 we see that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.  I thought it would be helpful in this blog entry to take a look at what the Spirit was up to in the Old Testament and how this work correlates to the New Testament.

In the Old Testament we see the Spirit mainly doing three things.  First we see that wherever the Spirit goes, he brings life (Genesis 2:7, Psalms 104:30, Ezekiel 37:1-14).  The Spirit is the very breath of God that brings life to that which was previously dead.   Second the Spirit guides and directs the people of God.  During the Exodus we see the Spirit guiding the Israelites through the wilderness by means of a pillar of fire and a cloud, both manifestations of the Spirit.  The OT talks about the Spirit guiding a person internally and externally in the way to go.  Thirdly, he communicates the truth of God and the love of God to us.  The Spirit is in this sense the divine messenger.  The Spirit reveals all sorts of things to people: judgment, love, God’s laws, what God is like, and even reveals special abilities and skills to people. 

The nature of the Spirit’s ministry is fundamentally the same with a radical shift of location and duration in the New Testament.  More often than not in the Old Testament, the Spirit is described as “coming upon” or resting upon someone.  Occasionally however, the Spirit is said to enter people or to fill people, something that many people believe only begins to happen in the NT.  It seems obvious to me however that the Spirit truly did indwell people in the Old Testament, this however was the exception and not the rule.  Despite the fact that we see this language used occasionally in the Old Testament this is not the usual way the work of the Spirit is described.  Occasions of the Spirit working in this way also seem to be rare.   To have God bring life, lead, or speak through the Spirit were not common events that the people of God regularly experienced.  It seems rather than these were special and often spectacular situations.  However the Old Testament does contain several prophecies that some day in the future, the Spirit dwelling within would be the standard and distinguishing mark of the covenant people.  In the “day of the Lord” all of the people of God would be filled with the Spirit and would be people of the Spirit.  With the coming of Pentecost we see these prophecies being fulfilled.  In the New Testament the pouring out of the Spirit on a person becomes the seal of that person’s inheritance.  The indwelling and work of the Spirit becomes the normal way of life for the people of God in the New Covenant.  Now instead of being a temporary “resting upon”, the Spirit permanently takes up residence within our hearts.  The apostle Paul said that the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit (Romans 5:5). 

People in Old Testament times are saved in the same way that people in the New Testament times are: through faith in Christ.  We just happen to be standing on the other side of the death and resurrection of Christ and living in the age of the outpouring of the Spirit on all of God's people, all the time. 


More good stuff here, man. Lately, I've been thinking about how gentle and subtle the presence of the Holy Spirit seems to be in my own life. Sometimes my own sin seems particularly obvious, and I conclude He must be speaking to me. Other times I become aware of a person nearby who especially needs genuine compassion and kindness. He always seems to leave the last step for me, though.


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Andrew Naffin, Theology, Church, Scripture, N.T. Wright, Karl Barth