Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (part 4)

July 29, 2012     Time: 00:39:45

Last time we looked at the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, under the old covenant. What we saw there was that the Holy Spirit wasn’t the permanent possession of the Jewish believer. The Holy Spirit would come upon certain leaders or persons that God had anointed for very specific tasks. The presence of the Holy Spirit in a person was temporary and specific – it was selective. Therefore, the average Old Testament believer – the average Jewish believer – did not have the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within him in the way that we, Christians, do who live in the post-Pentecostal period.

There is a chart on the third page of your outline that will help to illustrate the contrast between the old covenant and the new covenant.

If the Holy Spirit was not the permanent possession of Old Testament believers but, rather, is a post-Jesus Christ development then where was the presence of God evident in Israel? If not in the individual believer, where was God’s presence? Well, the answer is – in the temple. It was the Jewish temple, and in particular the Holy of Holies, that was the place where the presence of God was. Within the temple there is the Holy Place and then there is the Holy of Holies and it was here that the Shekinah Glory was evident and that the presence of Yahweh – of God – was especially felt or concentrated.

Look at a couple of passages with me from the Old Testament. 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, this is the story of Solomon’s dedication of the temple which he had built for God in Jerusalem,

When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house. When all the children of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.”

Here the glory of God, in a very visible way, comes to reside in the temple that Solomon had built for God.

With Israel’s apostasy and God’s judgment upon Israel, the presence of God reluctantly, slowly left the temple and deserted Israel so that Israel was now bereft of God’s presence and was ripe for judgment. Look at Ezekiel 9:3 which describes the withdrawal of God’s presence from the temple in preparation for God bringing judgment upon Israel, “Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherubim on which it rested to the threshold of the house; and he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his side.” Notice there the Spirit of God, or the presence of God, is beginning to withdraw from Israel. The glory of God has exited the Holy Place and is now on the threshold of the temple. Then in Ezekiel 11:23 we see the glory and presence of God departing further, “And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.” That is the Mount of Olives.[1] So the Spirit of God, or the presence of God, is leaving the temple and goes up to the Mount of Olives and then leaves Israel. Israel is now abandoned by God to her enemies and they come and conquer Israel.

So during Israel’s faithful period, at least, the presence of God – the permanent abode of God in Israel – was the temple. The Spirit would come to anoint people for special tasks in the old covenant time. But the Spirit of God was not the permanent presence of the believer.

Permanent Presence in the Believer

By contrast to this – and this is such an exciting truth when you think about it – in the new covenant, what corresponds to the temple in the old covenant? Well, it is the Christian believer; we are the temple of the Holy Spirit! He now abides in us. Just as the Holy Spirit, or the presence of God, once resided in the temple, now he resides in us as his temple. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Here Paul says that your physical body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. He resides in you. Hebrews 3:5-6:

Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.

So we are literally the place where God’s presence and Spirit abides in the world today. He is residing in us as temples of the Holy Spirit. He is the permanent possession of the Christian believer. We don’t need to pray as David did, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me”[2] because he is going to be with us until death unless we apostatize or throw him out of our lives. He is now residing within us as our permanent possession empowering us, gifting us, transforming us, sanctifying us, and strengthening us to live the Christian life. What an advantage we enjoy over these old covenant believers.

How does this take place between the Old Testament temple and the New Testament? It is something that, in the New Testament, is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul writes, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” It is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we are incorporated into the body of Christ. This is how you become a Christian. You are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit then becomes your permanent possession as he indwells you and strengthens you in your Christian life.

What is interesting, however, is that, historically at least, this transition between the old covenant and the new covenant didn’t take place instantaneously.[3] As the Gospel spread geographically, this transition from old covenant to new covenant takes place gradually over time, not instantaneously. As you read the book of Acts, it seems to do so along the pattern laid down in Acts 1:8; speaking to the apostles, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The Holy Spirit has not yet been given; this is pre-Pentecost still. In a sense, this is still the old covenant era. But, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, “you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Here the promise of the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles and it begins with their local community, Jerusalem and Judea. This would be Jewish believers; the Jewish people themselves are the first to be evangelized. Then the Samaritans, who were half-Jews; these were persons who had Jewish ancestry but had intermarried with Israel’s pagan conquerors who had conquered the land when God judged Israel. So they were regarded as half breeds by Jews because they were not pure Jewish blood; they were mixed race. Finally, the uttermost parts of the Earth and these would be the Gentiles – those who were not of the Jewish faith at all.

Acts 1:8 says, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the Earth, the Gentiles.” And what is really interesting when you read the book of Acts is you see how this scenario is played out over time. For example, in Acts 2 you have the event of Pentecost described. Here the Holy Spirit falls upon the disciples at Pentecost and they begin to speak in other tongues, other languages, proclaiming the Gospel and they received the Holy Spirit first in Jerusalem (the Jews). Then in Acts 8 you have the story of how Philip goes down to Samaria and begins to preach the Gospel to them and the Samaritans, then, also receive the Holy Spirit. Maybe it would be worthwhile reading this passage. Acts 8:14-17:

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

So what had happened in Samaria was that Philip had preached the Gospel, he had baptized them with water but it says very plainly they had not yet received the Holy Spirit even though they had undergone water baptism. But when the delegates from Jerusalem and Judea come down to Samaria, they ratify what Philip had done in bringing the Gospel there. They lay their hands upon them and now they, too, receive the Holy Spirit and are baptized in the Spirit.

Then, in Acts 10 and 11, we have the story of how the Gospel now comes to the Gentiles. This is where Peter is sent down to Caesarea to preach to the household of a Roman centurion named Cornelius and Cornelius and all his household hear the Gospel and the Holy Spirit falls upon them and also manifests himself in charismatic gifts. The Gentiles now receive the Holy Spirit for the first time.[4]

Also you have this very interesting and peculiar story in Acts 19 of Gentiles in Ephesus who received the Holy Spirit. Let’s turn over and look at that because it is so curious. Acts 19:1ff:

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus.

(Ephesus is in modern day Turkey. It is a seaside city in Asia Minor called Ephesus, far from Jerusalem, obviously; far from Palestine)

There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”

(So these people in Ephesus were disciples of John the Baptist of all things. But they had never heard of Jesus. They had never placed their faith in Christ. They had somehow heard of the ministry and message of John the Baptist and were faithfully following John’s message but had no idea there was such a person as the Holy Spirit. So verse 5 continues)

On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all.

Here again we see the Holy Spirit being given to persons who are apparently Gentiles but who had not been fully informed about the Gospel of Christ. They were only partially informed, knowing only John’s baptism. But now being fully informed about the Gospel, Paul lays hands on them and they also receive the Holy Spirit.

So what you see throughout the book of Acts is the pattern of Acts 1:8 as it is played out. There is first the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon Jews in Pentecost then upon Samaritans through Philip’s ministry and then to the uttermost parts of the Earth as the Gospel is brought to the Gentiles. What is interesting about this is that, although some Pentecostal and Charismatic groups say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second work of the Holy Spirit in the life of someone who is already a Christian, when you look at these passages it is very evident that that is not the case. In none of these cases have the people received the Holy Spirit yet. This is a first time, initiatory experience of the Holy Spirit. It is not a second work of grace in the life of a person who is already indwelt with the Holy Spirit. This occurs in the lives of people who have not yet received the Holy Spirit in any measure. So although the baptism of the Holy Spirit is something that is important in the New Testament, it is not, I’m convinced, a second work of grace that needs to take place in the life of someone who is already a believer. This is something that takes place in the life of an unbeliever which is his regeneration and conversion to Christ. Remember 1 Corinthians 12:13, it is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we are incorporated into the body of Christ. When a person comes to Christ, he is baptized with the Holy Spirit, placed into the body of Christ and becomes a regenerate Christian. This is not a second work of grace that needs to be added to the work of the Holy Spirit already in someone’s life.


Question: A chicken and egg question: which comes first – the Holy Spirit or the decision to accept Christ?

Answer: OK, this is a controversial theological question that you have raised. You may not realize how controversial this is! You asked, “Which comes first, the decision to receive Christ or the regeneration of the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” One might be tempted to avert this question adroitly by saying they are simultaneous.[5] By deciding to become a Christian, at that moment the Holy Spirit enters you and they are simultaneous. However, theologians aren’t going to be staid by that answer. What they will ask is which one is explanatorily prior to the other? Even given that they are simultaneous, which one is logically prior to the other? The idea of logical, or explanatory, priority is a familiar one to theologians. It is a little bit like causal priority. Think of a chandelier hanging from a chain on the ceiling. Clearly, the chain on the ceiling is causally prior to the chandelier’s hanging in the air. It is not that the chandelier is logically, or causally, prior to the chain hanging from the ceiling. The one depends on the other. I hope that is clear. Similarly, even if the decision to receive Christ and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit are simultaneous, do you receive Christ because you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and therefore enabled to do so or do you receive the Holy Spirit because you have decided to place your faith in Christ? That is the watershed that separates Calvinism from Arminianism. Calvinist, or Reformed, theologians believe that you are incapable of exercising faith in Christ unless and until you are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. So there has to be, in a way, a kind of secret, hidden work of the Holy Spirit that regenerates you so that you can place your faith in Christ. Oddly, then, on the Reformed view, no unbeliever ever believes in Christ. You are already a regenerate Christian when you place your faith in Christ. Only a regenerate person can believe. By contrast, the Arminian view would say that it is through what is called the prevenient work of the Holy Spirit, that is to say he comes prior to the reception of the Gospel and his baptism and he prepares the heart of the unbeliever so that the unbeliever can respond to God’s grace and to the Gospel when he hears it. Then the Holy Spirit will be given in response to the decision that the unbeliever makes to follow Christ as his heart has been prepared. I am not going to decide that issue now. Wait until we get to the section of this course called Doctrine of Salvation and then we will take up this issue again. But you can see you’ve pulled a thread here that is one that is very significant.

Question: One other nugget from these verses is how, in this movement, God allows people to come and make decisions even though they don’t have all the bells and whistles. They respond to the knowledge they have. Just like we see in modern day mission work and what have you, there is people that respond to what they have and then it is validated, or enhanced, by somebody coming to them.

Answer: Cornelius is a wonderful example of that, isn’t it? This Roman centurion, who is called a God-fearer, his heart is prepared and he is ready to embrace the full truth of the Gospel when he hears it. What is interesting about this geographical progression, and you’ve probably thought this already, is that in one sense for many people in the world this transition may not have yet occurred from old to new covenant. Someone living in central Mongolia or Siberia who has never heard the Gospel in his own language may still, in one sense, not yet be in this new covenant period because this is something that unfolds chronologically as the geographical reach of the Gospel spreads.

Question: Does this baptism of the Holy Spirit have anything to do with 1 Peter 3:21 – that baptism now saves you? Or is this completely different?

Answer: 1 Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” I think it is pretty clear that there he is talking about water baptism because of the phraseology “not as a removal of dirt from the body” – not washing you externally.[6] That seems to be very clearly talking about your water baptism. However, in saying that baptism saves you, I do think that he is referring to a deeper reality that is represented by baptism. It is not that just being dunked in the water saves you. It is not that this has some sort of power in and of itself to save you. But I think it is what baptism represents as he says here: an appeal to God for clear conscious. It is turning from your sins, turning to God and God will baptize you with the Holy Spirit, not just with water, and make you a regenerate Christian. But because water baptism was just done without second thought for everyone who converted to Christ you could say (as many of you who have been baptized into Christ) they have put on Christ. The idea that a person could be a follower of Christ, be a Christian, and be unbaptized was just unthinkable. It is sad that so many Christians today seem to think that you can be a Christian without completing your initiation or conversion experience through water baptism. But for these first century believers, or New Testament believers, that was not a thought. Paul writes in Romans 6 that every one of you who has been baptized into Christ has put on Christ. There I think he is speaking of water baptism, not Spirit baptism. But it is because water baptism represents this whole process that includes Spirit baptism as well.

Question: Can you comment a little bit more on the relationship between receiving the Holy Spirit and being regenerated – what exactly regeneration is and how that plays in?

Answer: We will talk again more about regeneration when we get to Doctrine of Salvation. But by way of a preview, the word “regenerate” means to make alive again. So the idea there is that whereas a person is spiritually dead because of his sins, his relationship with God is ruptured, when a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit and regenerated, he is born anew. He becomes spiritually alive whereas before he was spiritually dead; his sins are forgiven and his relationship to God is restored so that now he has clear access to God and can draw upon God’s grace and the power of his Holy Spirit for living his life. So I think it is primarily a kind of restoration, or healing, of a person that also involves the restoration of this relationship. It is a relational and spiritual sort of healing, or restoration, to what we should be.

Question: In the incident with the believers in John – and I think in a few other places in Acts, too – it talks about people receiving the Holy Spirit after they had hands laid upon them by Paul or the apostles. Since we are not Pentecostals, we don’t believe that you have to have that laying on of hands to get the Holy Spirit. So I was wondering if you could comment on the connection between the two and when that seemed to no longer be necessary.

Answer: Right, it is very curious, isn’t it? They are baptized with water but they apparently haven’t received the Holy Spirit at that point. It requires the laying on of hands. It doesn’t explain why this is done, but I suspect it has something to do with the unity of the early church and preserving, as you go to these diverse groups, the apostolic authority. These people are being incorporated into the church which is under the authority of the apostles. The apostles have to come to Samaria and lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. This means Philip can’t just go off as a sort of maverick doing his thing. This is ratified and done under the authority of the church in Jerusalem and the apostles. So I take it that this is a way of guiding this transition that we’ve talked about in such a way that the church doesn’t fragment and splinter but it remains under the apostolic authority. That would be the best explanation I could give and that it isn’t necessary today, I think, to have laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit. We are not in a similar historical circumstance that they were.[7]

Question: Maybe this complicated theological problem that you alluded to could be better understood if we look at the decision to accept Christ as being made under one ministry of the Holy Spirit, that is drawing, and then after that decision is made then we have the indwelling ministry which is a totally separate ministry of the Holy Spirit. That helps me understand it a little better anyway.

Answer: Yeah, that would be more inline with a kind of Arminian perspective, I think, on these things.

Question: One question and one comment. Regarding Acts 19 where Paul says “Did you receive the Holy Spirit” and they said “No” and then he asked “Into what then were you baptized?” How can anybody read that and say baptism is purely symbolic and not efficacious; that there isn’t an infusion of the Holy Spirit with water baptism? That’s my question. My second comment, on the laying of the hands: in the churches today that have sacraments, confirmation is the laying on of hands. In the first century, and in some Orthodox churches today I believe, baptism and confirmation were at the same time and they both were an infusion of the Holy Spirit. It was in a different form with a different meaning. That is why you have the laying on of hands and the Holy Spirit coming upon you and also at that time, as many denominations believe today, it is also through baptism. But just to ask the question: how can Paul make that comment “then what baptism did you receive if you didn’t receive the Holy Spirit?”

Answer: We will talk more about the laying on of hands as a sacrament when we get to the Doctrine of the Church in this class and talk about the number of sacraments and whether there are any sacraments indeed, since this is an issue on which some Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox disagree. So we will come back to that later. With regard to your question, this is kind of a double edge sword. On the one hand, Paul seems amazed that they could have been baptized and not received the Holy Spirit. When they say they have not even heard there is a Holy Spirit, his response is “well, then into what were you baptized?” He seems to have thought they should have received the Holy Spirit and they didn’t. So that would seem to support the view that a person who is water baptized ought to receive the Holy Spirit.

Followup: [off-mic] They would be speaking about the baptism of John where there was no infusion of the Holy Spirit.

Answer: Right, yes and that explains to him why they don’t have the Holy Spirit because John’s didn’t and he would seem to think that there should have. Then, as I say, it is sort of a double edge sword because in verse 5 they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus but it wasn’t then until afterwards when Paul lays his hands on them that they receive the Holy Spirit. One wonders why these weren’t simultaneous.

Followup: That would be the confirmation! That’s baptism followed by the confirmation. It is two sacramental acts as some would call them. And at this time in this particular place they were done together as they were in the early church.

Answer: The question is, though, there are many denominations who would say that the Holy Spirit is received in and through water baptism. These are simultaneous acts. That would not seem to be the case if you take this as normative for all cases. I tend to think of these cases as being non-normative because they are so peculiar. When you look at these different passages, the relationship between water and Spirit baptism just seems to be all over the place. Some receive, like Cornelius, Spirit baptism before water baptism. Others, like these Ephesian disciples, get water baptized and then they get the Holy Spirit. I think it is hard to take from these historical incidents a kind of normative rule for us today.

Followup: I would say that after John’s baptism which was purely water there is no distinction in the New Testament between water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit.[8] It is one and the same. It is only those that come along and try to make a difference between them that there is confusion. When it says baptism in the New Testament, it is water baptism in which you receive the Holy Spirit. It is not a water baptism and a baptism of the Holy Spirit. There is no distinction in the New Testament between the two.

Answer: Well, yeah, I guess I would see that differently in these cases in the book of Acts where they do seem to be separated.

Followup: Again, I am going back to what the fathers say and everything else. It is only later on when really after the Reformation where commentators started to say that is really water baptism or that is baptism of the Holy Spirit. They started to make a distinction. There is no distinction in the early church.

Answer: Well, OK, I am kind of just repeating myself at this point. I think it is going to depend on how you read these passages in Acts. I find it difficult to find a sort of normative view in this because it seems to sometimes precede water baptism and sometimes after water baptism.

Question: This is just a general question coming from the standpoint of looking at the Bible and biblical theology, not systematic theology. Just in looking at the big picture of the Bible, when you interpret the Gospels based on this the Holy Spirit doesn’t come upon the church until Acts 1:8; are we to interpret the Gospels as being still in the old covenant mindset so that we are looking at the events in the Old Testament under the old covenant?

Answer: That is the way I see it. Right up through John the Baptist, you have this old covenant sort of system. Then Jesus begins to inaugurate the new covenant in his teaching and through his death. But with respect to the Holy Spirit, at least, this transition doesn’t take place until Pentecost. The disciples did not have the Holy Spirit in the sense that we do. They weren’t regenerate in the same way that we are today. I don’t think you will find any place in the Gospels where it talks about how the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and so forth. On the contrary, some of Jesus’ last commands to them are to receive the Holy Spirit. For example, in the upper room in John he gives them this command again “receive the Holy Spirit” and then in Luke/Acts you have this tarrying in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon you. I see the disciples’ situation as being closer and more analogous to old covenant believers than to ours. Therefore it is a little bit of a misnomer to ask, “Were the disciples regenerate Christians during their lives, prior to Pentecost?” That is to confuse new covenant categories with old covenant situations. The followers of Jesus prior to Pentecost weren’t Christians; they weren’t regenerate, I don’t think. That doesn’t come until Pentecost. Pentecost is such an important hinge, it seems to me, in church history because it is really at Pentecost that you get this shift from the presence of God being not the permanent possession of the believer to this New Testament situation where our bodies are literally the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are now regenerate, born again persons indwelt with and empowered by the Holy Spirit.[9]


[1] 5:03

[2] cf. Psalms 51:11

[3] 9:57

[4] 15:00

[5] 20:05

[6] 25:12

[7] 30:12

[8] 35:03

[9] Total Running Time: 39:44 (Copyright © 2012 William Lane Craig)