The following was written to a brother who stated that the Holy Spirit must have indwelt Old Testament believers, because he stated that “no Holy Spirit, no salvation”. My answer follows.
As to the concept that the Holy Spirit indwelt the Old Testament saints, I thought about the verse you quoted in Psalm 51:11, “and take not thy holy spirit from me” (KJV) and in the translation that I use, “and take not the spirit of thy holiness from me”.
Firstly, I note that in both instances, and in the Douay and Jerusalem Bibles also, no upper case letters are used.
Secondly, as to Christians – believers who have received the Holy Spirit – we are told in Ephesians 4:20, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which ye have been sealed for [or, up to] the day of redemption”. Ephesians 1:8 also speaks this way. The Spirit is never taken away from such.
Therefore, the statement of David’s cannot mean that he was indwelt by the Holy Spirit as we are.
The very possibility that David could lose this spirit, proves that.
Thirdly, if we look at the context, we see that David was repentant and went deeper than just saying sorry. He traced his faults to what was within. Hence in verse 10 he wanted the clean heart and a “ready” or a “willing” spirit within me. In verse 11, he sought the continued presence of God and the spirit of his holiness, i.e. the inward spirit or essence of God’s standard of holiness. And in verse 12, he asked for the joy of God’s salvation to be restored to him, and that a “willing [ready] spirit sustain me”.
Fourthly, Scripture is very definite that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling men depended on Christ being glorified, the work of redemption being completed.
In John 7:39 we are told: “for the Spirit was not yet [come], because Jesus had not yet been glorified”. As we know, the eleven apostles were faithful Jews, and knew nothing of this until the Lord spoke of it at the end of His service here. The repentant thief on the cross was eternally blessed without receiving the Holy Spirit – “Today … with me in paradise”. The Spirit has always worked with persons – from Adam onwards - otherwise none would have ever been brought to God. Jesus told Nicodemus that he should have known these things. But the Holy Spirit working in a person is not the same thing as the Spirit indwelling - as has been the case since Pentecost.
“So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation” - as you accurately quoted. The Spirit could not indwell until such a condition was present; it needed such persons whose consciences had been “perfected for ever”.
Jesus could not have been the minister of the law – it would not have been worthy of Him. [The law was instituted by the ministry of angels – see Acts 7:53, and Gal. 3:19]. In the same way, the Holy Spirit could not serve the ministry of the law. The manifestation of the Spirit waited for the ministry of the Son. Smoke and lightning and thunder attended the giving of the law, inspiring fear. The law led to a spirit of bondage, but the Holy Spirit must inspire liberty and confidence as the Spirit of adoption; “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”. So the coming of the Spirit, with His distributions of gifts, had to wait for the completion of the work of the Son, and His glorification; it had to wait for the announcement of the “great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). Yes, Old Testament believers are eternally saved, but now it is the “great salvation”.
[There will be earthly families and heavenly families – Ephesians 3:15, “I bow my knees to the Father… of whom every family in the heavens and on earth is named”. To give two examples, the church is a heavenly “family”, Israel an earthly one. But this is another subject.]
For the above reasons also, the Holy Spirit could not indwell persons until Christ’s work was completed fully.
MM May 2010