Is the Holy Spirit different now than he was in the Old Testament? What is his role? The Holy Spirit has the beautiful job of molding and guiding those who believe in the promise Jesus offers. But what does that look like? Does it matter if we understand and obey what God says?
Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, we see the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters during creation. He has been present since the beginning as he is a part of the triune godhead. We see instances of the Holy Spirit inspiring and guiding people, but we do not see instances of him dwelling IN people. Even so, God gives a promise to Jeremiah that change is coming.
Jeremiah 31:31-33 “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord. “But this new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.
The new covenant came with Jesus, when sin was forgiven and life was restored. The Holy Spirit dwelling inside of people is the way God’s instructions are written deep within each person who believes. Ezekiel is also given this promise of the Holy Spirit coming to dwell in us with the new covenant.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
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Holy Spirit in the New Testament
During Jesus’ time on earth, he speaks of the Holy Spirit’s role after he, Jesus, ascends back into Heaven. he tells his disciples in the book of John of the indwelling of the Spirit.
John 14:16-17 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him because he lives with you now and will later be in you.
Sin will be forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice, which is sufficient to cover the sins of the world. The New Testament shows this story unfolding as Jesus fulfills prophecy after prophecy, eventually culminating in his death and resurrection, after which the Holy Spirit is given to remain with people. In Acts chapter 2 Peter preaches a sermon, in the power of the Holy Spirit, explaining the meaning of these events: the crucifixion and the resurrection. 3000 people believed that day and all of them were given the indwelling of The Holy Spirit. From that time until now, as people hear the message of forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection, people today receive the same gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13-14 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.
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The Church that Jesus was building began when the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts. Jesus said he would build his church on his own identity, that he was the Christ, the son of the living God, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. His church has been being built from the 1st century until now, and he is using people to build it. Jesus says to Peter in the book of Matthew:
Matthew 16:18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
Jesus also said that the Gospel would be delivered once for all time to the saints. Each generation has the responsibility of passing on the message of the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus also speaks about unity and how we, as his people, are to come together in a unified manner. The church is a coming together of all types of people, filled with the Holy Spirit, seeking to glorify God and share the Gospel message with their generation.
John 17:23 Jesus says in a prayer to the Father, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
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The Holy Spirit is working in and through people to grow us and challenge us to become more like Jesus.
Transformed people, making up the body of the church, are bound together in love and unity as the Holy Spirit produces fruit in their lives. Love is the product. The Holy Spirit is transforming us to be more Christ-like in our character so that we will become the people God created us to be.
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