We ended the last part of the first episode by pointing out that God has always wanted to be intimately acquainted with His people. He instructed His people to construct a sanctuary so that he could come and dwell among them (Exodus 25:8, 22). Prior to the fall of man into sin, we pointed out that God would walk with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8, 10). Sin was the separating problem and our sanctification is the reuniting or reconciling answer to our dilemma. To show that God was not able to fellowship with sinful man He drove them from the Garden and separated them from not only that paradise but the joys of His presence with them (Genesis 3:9-24). A symbol of reconciliation can be seen when they learn of their lost state in being found naked and when attempting to hide or create their own covering by hiding behind trees or using leaves, the Lord killed an animal (sacrifice) and clothed the man and his wife with animal skins. This sacrificial system continued through the Old Testament to atone for the sins of man when he sinned against a holy God, which would allow open fellowship to continue between man and God. In Leviticus 16:17 we find out about the sacrificial work of the high priest, “When he goes in to make atonement in the holy place, no one shall be in the tent of meeting until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household and for all the assembly of Israel.” But how did the sacrificial system work? How did an animal sacrifice create pardon for the sinner? In Leviticus 17:11 we get the explanation, “'For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.'” This means that the animal was substituted for the sinner in suffering death and this covered the sins that were committed. God could then have spiritual fellowship with His people again. The author of Hebrews mentions these sacrifices for atonement, “but into the second (Most Holy Place), only the high priest [enters] once a year, not without [taking] blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance” (Hebrews 9:7). God made a promise that He would dwell with the people in Exodus 29:45-46, “"I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.” Notice that this presence among the people of God was God the Father dwelling with them. This point will be significant when we examine the life of Jesus and discuss further the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.
God only met with the High Priest in the midst of the inner sanctuary above the mercy seat in between the two cherubim in the Most Holy Place. When He moved among His people outside of the tabernacle or temple, it was always in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was how God was represented in the Old Testament to inspire prophets, anoint kings and judges and to appoint priests. The Spirit was the presence that dwelt among the people of God and rested upon them. In Isaiah 63:14, we see, “…The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So You led Your people, To make for Yourself a glorious name.”
For a good example of the Spirit working mightily in the life of a man of God, consider David. The Bible says in I Samuel 16:13, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.” The Spirit was with David from the day of his anointing onward. David understood the dangers of falling into sin and losing the presence of the Lord when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He prayed to God for forgiveness. In Psalm 51:11 he cries out to God, “Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” David remembered what happened to Saul when he rebelled against God. In I Samuel 16:23, we learn how the Holy Spirit of God was replaced on Saul by an evil spirit from the Lord as the text reads, “So it came about whenever the [evil] spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play [it] with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him.” What was life like before the Spirit of God was taken from Saul? In I Samuel 10:6-10, we learn, “"Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man. It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you. And you shall go down before me to Gilgal; and behold, I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings. You shall wait seven days until I come to you and show you what you should do." Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day. When they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them.” He had a mighty move of the Spirit and even began to prophesy. Now listen to what his life was like after the Spirit of God was taken from him and given to David. In I Samuel 18:10-14, the text reads, “Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing [the harp] with his hand, as usual; and a spear [was] in Saul's hand. Saul hurled the spear for he thought, "I will pin David to the wall." But David escaped from his presence twice. Now Saul was afraid of David, for the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence and appointed him as his commander of a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. David was prospering in all his ways for the LORD [was] with him.” When David sinned, his heartfelt plea to God is to not depart from Him by asking that the Holy Spirit not be taken away from Him. The Holy Spirit was symbolic of the divine presence of God with David.
Before we come to the conclusion that this involvement of the Spirit with Saul and David was a rare occurrence, consider the following. The Holy Spirit was involved in the lives of people all throughout the Bible. The list of people that were led by the Spirit is extensive. Joseph (Gen. 41:38) Moses and elders (Num. 11:14-17; 25-26, 29)-Joshua (Numbers 27:15-19) Othniel (Judges 3:10) Jepthah (Judges 11:29) Gideon (Judges 6:34) Samson (Judges 13:25; 14:6,19; 15:14) Saul (I Sam. 10:1-10). Not to mention…Azariah, Deborah, Nathan, Gad, Huldah, Balaam and many other prophets, prophetesses and people of God. Even into the New Testament people still living under the old covenant were filled with the Spirit of God. Consider Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:15, 34-35, 44-45; Matthew 1:18-20) Zechariah (Luke 1:67-77) Simeon (Luke 2:25-32) Anna (Luke 2:36-38). If that was overwhelming to consider how many people had the Spirit with them, it would surprise you to know that the list is hardly exhaustive. We also have to be honest and say that every involvement of the Spirit of God is not recorded for us to review either.
Knowing that the Spirit has been at work since the beginning, and has been with so many faithful people of God, why would we not anticipate that the Spirit would have some vital role in leading the people of God today? It would be a shame if under a better covenant, with better hopes and promises that we would enjoy less of the Spirit than what was given to a people living under the former covenant. We want to spend some time now looking at the way that the Spirit of God was promised in the prophecies of the Old Testament to come and work under the new covenant.
Our research begins in the book of Ezekiel. The prophet stated in Ezekiel 18:31-32, “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD. "Therefore, repent and live." Once again we see a connection with repentance from sin and the creation of a new heart which is accompanied by a new spirit. But when was this prophecy to be fulfilled? Let us turn to Ezekiel 36:26-28 where more on this promise is proclaimed, we see “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.” This new heart and new spirit that God promised His people would be in conjunction with the Holy Spirit not only being with us (as in the days of the old covenant) but also within us. This dwelling of the Spirit of God would in some way help us to be careful to observe the commands of the Lord. This will be possible because our heart of stone will be replaced by a heart of flesh. It will be pliable and formidable to the leading of the Spirit. Under which covenant is this promise fulfilled? To find that answer we turn to Ezekiel 37. In a vision Ezekiel saw a valley full of dry bones and began to inquire about what they represent. In Ezekiel 37:11-14, he finds the explanation in this message, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.' "Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,’ declares the LORD.” This is a profound vision because it captures the way that God sees us when we are dead in sin. The interesting part of this text is the resurrection to life that takes place when the Holy Spirit is placed within a people and they come to new life and become inhabitants of a new land. Jim McGuiggan commenting on this makes a deep and enlightening statement, “Nor will it hurt us to note that the preacher wasn’t allowed to just preach the bones to life… ‘Not by eloquence, or learning or argument, but by the Spirit of God, shall life come to the dead soul.” Without explaining this any further here, keep reading in the context in verses 26-28, where the Lord said, “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.” Here we learn that all of the promises made in this passage apply to the new covenant that God was going to make with His people. It would be an eternal covenant and it would involve the presence of God with us in a temple, tabernacle or sanctuary ushering in peace.” When was this fulfilled? Another passage in Ezekiel will provide guidance for this answer. In Ezekiel 39:29 we find, “‘I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ declares the Lord GOD.” In our last episode we mentioned that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred on the first Pentecost following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus shed His blood as the blood of a new covenant and the Holy Spirit was poured out when Jews from every nation gathered in Israel. But this outpouring was not just for the Jews. This promise being fulfilled opens the door for the Lord to be in relationship with all mankind through the Holy Spirit dwelling with the faithful. He will be our God and we will be His people, when he tabernacles with us forever.
Please take note that Ezekiel was not the only prophet of old to speak of the way that the Holy Spirit would interact with a new covenant people. In Isaiah 44:3-5 we hear these words, “For I will pour out water on the thirsty [land] And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants; And they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water.' "This one will say, 'I am the LORD'S'; And that one will call on the name of Jacob; And another will write [on] his hand, 'Belonging to the LORD,' And will name Israel's name with honor.” While Ezekiel envisioned a valley of dry bones, the prophet Isaiah gets a picture of a desert land that represent the spiritual condition of the people. The remedy for this thirsty land or dry ground was to pour out water which represented the Holy Spirit which would include great blessings to come. What is the result? They will come to life and grow strong, claiming to belong to the Lord. This perfectly encapsulates the events that unfolded in Acts 2 following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on a people that had by wicked hands crucified the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ. They needed desperately to find their way back into a right relationship with God as a perverse generation of people.
Just in case you haven’t picked up on the theme here, consider what the prophet Joel was led by the Spirit to proclaim. In Joel 2:28-32, “It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem There will be those who escape, As the LORD has said, Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.” We have connected all three of the prophets we have examined to the events of Acts 2, but this prophecy without question was fulfilled on that Pentecost because Peter claimed that what occurred and what was being seen and heard was in direct correlation to the prophecy of Joel and he quotes from this passage (Acts 2:16-21). Notice that this prophecy references some of the ways in which the Holy Spirit’s outpouring would benefit all mankind. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are also mentioned here. The point cannot be overlooked is when these prophecies were fulfilled. These promises pointed to the new covenant when the Holy Spirit came to dwell among the people and provide a leadership toward obedience to the will of God.
If we consider what occurred in Acts 2, I believe that we can make better sense of how the Spirit takes on a significant role in our walk of faith. The Holy Spirit filled the upper room where the apostles were gathered. They began preaching to the multitudes and the people were hearing the gospel in their native language to which they were born. In the first 35 verses, Peter preaches a sermon where he convicts the people that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and that they need His salvation after crucifying Him. In verses 36-41, we hear their conviction of this truth and then what Peter commands them to do. It happened in this way, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified." Now when they heard [this,] they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter [said] to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.” A few points of interest here that should grab our attention. First, there is something that we must do when we are convicted of our sins. Many in the world, along with their other false doctrines will state that there is nothing for us to do; that Jesus did it all. If that were the case this is how Peter would have replied. Second, our responsibility after being convicted that Jesus is Lord and putting our faith in Him, is to repent (turn away from) our sins and be immersed in water for the remission or forgiveness of our sins. Repentance is where we express our sorrow for our wrongs committed against a holy God and baptism is where they are washed away by the blood of Jesus. Thirdly, take note that it is in this process that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is at the point of our obedience to the gospel that we have this gift and Peter refers to this as a promise for any and all who would come in response to the call of the gospel. On this occasion we see that about three thousand souls decided to respond and they were added to the Lord’s church. This is in direct fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies that we have covered where water would be poured out on the parched ground and new life would begin. This is also in fulfillment of the dry bones being preached to and them finding a quickening by the Holy Spirit. We will be sure to address these matter further in our next episode as we look primarily at what the New Testament says about the Holy Spirit. For now, we need to be aware that the Holy Spirit was a gift that is given to every believer that puts trusting faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. From this point forward God has a renewed relationship with the believer in that they have the abiding presence of God through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us.
For those early believers this presence of the Spirit was life changing. Listen to Acts 2:42-47, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they [began] selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
The obvious question at this point is if the Holy Spirit is with us or in us, what does our life on earth look like when lived in this reality. The best answer that I can give is to look at the life of Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures. After all, He was the firstborn among many brethren. He is the example of what it looks like to live and move in step with the Spirit. He was conceived or born of the Spirit. In Matthew 1:18, the gospel records, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” In our next episode we will discuss how we need to be born again of the Spirit in baptism. Take notice here that Jesus was confirmed by the Spirit at His baptism as God’s Son. In Matt. 3:16-17, we see the event unfold, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove [and] lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." Other occurrences of this can be found in each gospel (Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-33) In Acts 10:38, we find, “"[You know of] Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and [how] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” God was with Him in the Holy Spirit. We too are called and blessed as children of God when we are baptized into Christ where we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. After His baptism, Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. Luke 4:1 states the following, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness” His endowment of the Spirit was able to be given without measure. In John 3:34, this is confirmed, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” We are filled with the Holy Spirit in varying measures according the teaching of the apostle Paul as members of the body of Christ. Jesus was led by the Spirit, which means he walked in step with the Spirit even in the most trying times of his life as in the wilderness temptations (Luke 4:1-2) We are told to be filled with the Spirit and to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus even ministered in the power of the Spirit as in Luke 4:14, “And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.” We are told that the Spirit in us give us strength or empowerment to serve as well. He was prophesied to be full of the Spirit. In Isaiah 11:1-2 we learn, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” The in Isaiah 42:1-4, it is written, “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one [in whom] My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise [His voice,] Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coast-lands will wait expectantly for His law." Then in Isaiah 61:1-3, the prophet wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn [in] Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Jesus said He fulfilled all of these prophecies. In Luke 4:17-21, we find, “And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing". We too must live out the promises made to us by the word of God regarding the Holy Spirit.
Jesus wasn’t just another prophet, He was God in flesh among us. In John 1:1-3, 14, we read this about Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. ... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Then in Hebrews 1:1-3, this is confirmed, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
We briefly mentioned that it was the Holy Spirit causing Mary to give birth to Jesus without knowing a man that made Jesus both God and man in the flesh. Matthew 1:23 gave Jesus the name Immanuel, which mean “God with us”. While our physical birth is not caused by the Holy Spirit in this way, and we are not God in the flesh, our spiritual birth causes us to be filled with the presence of God becoming children of God by faith. God is making His presence known by the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we die, we rest assured that we belong to God. At the end of His earthly life, Jesus offered Himself to die by the eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14). We will one day face death with certainty by the seal or mark of the Holy Spirit in us. Just as the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 1:4; 8:11; I Tim 3:16), our resurrection to everlasting life will one day lead us to be in the presence of God forever. Until then, it is our duty and privilege to be led by the Holy Spirit who is with us and in us. I hope this study has been helpful. We are going to be getting into the meat of our series in the next episode as we look into the finer details of some of the ways that the Holy Spirit works in our lives. The lesson will be titled, The Spirit and the New Covenant.