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Difference between the Holy Spirit's Ministry OT and NT

Posted by Matt Postiff October 1, 2011 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

Another question posed to me: "How was the Holy Spirit that was with early believers like Abraham, Moses or David different than the Holy Spirit living in me?"

There is not a clear consensus on the answer to the question.

1. Some theologians say the Holy Spirit's ministry to believers is essentially the same in both testaments.

2. Others say there is a distinction between the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the OT and His ministry in the NT after Pentecost.

     2a. Some make a hard distinction, so that the Spirit did not indwell OT believers at all; He came upon them and left them sometimes, but He permanently indwells NT believers.

     2b. Some make a softer distinction, so that the Spirit did do something in OT believers but He does more in the NT believer.

I believe (2b). Here's my explanation.

a. The same Spirit is active in the lives of OT believers and NT believers.

b. The Spirit of God did have a ministry to OT believers. Proverbs 1:23 suggests this. He worked in them to help them believe and guide them. This ministry falls somewhat short of what the Spirit does in our lives today.

c. The Spirit of God has an extensive ministry in NT believers and in the church. He baptizes believers into the body of Christ and into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13 and Gal. 3:27). That Spirit-baptism ministry was promised by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:11) and by Jesus (Acts 1:5). Peter recalled it in Acts 11:16-17 as happening in the past, so we know it first happened after John the Baptist but before Acts 11. I pinpoint it as actually happening in Acts 2 at Pentecost. It was not something the Spirit did for OT believers, because there was no body church for them to be baptized into.

d. The Spirit also indwells every NT believer from the time of salvation. If someone does not have the Spirit, that person is not a believer (Rom. 8:9). He also teaches us (1 John 2:20, 27), guides us (Rom. 8:14, Gal. 5:18), prays for us (Rom. 8:26), seals us (Eph. 4:30), and other things.

e. To summarize, I believe that the Spirit baptizes and indwells every believer in this age. Those specific ministries were NOT done by the Spirit in the OT era even though He was active in the lives of believers in "lesser" ways.

f. Take caution when studying the book of Acts. It explains things that happened, but what happened was not necessarily the "normal" for the entire church age. Acts is a book of transition from the OT to the NT era. We express this by saying that "not everything in Acts is 'normative,' that is, not everything teaches the normal pattern of how things are." For instance, sometimes you see someone saved in Acts, but the Spirit does not come into them until sometime after their salvation. What happens today is that the Spirit indwells every believer from the moment they are saved.

g. In terms of application, many of us do not really understand what we have as Christians in terms of God's Spirit. The spiritual resources available to us are amazing, yet we grieve the Spirit and often don't walk in the Spirit. What are we doing!!!???

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