Book Review—God’s Indwelling Presence

Hamilton, James M., Jr. God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old & New Testaments. NAC Studies in Bible & Theology. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publishing Group, 2006. 233 pages, Hardcover. $19.99.

(Review copy courtesy of B&H Publishing Group)

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Special Features:

3 Appendices:

1) The Use of emphusao- in John 20:22

2) “He is with you, and He is in you?”—The text of John 14:17c

3) Rushing Wind and Organ Music: Toward Luke’s Theology of the Spirit in Acts

Bibliography, Author Index, Subject Index, and Scripture Index

Sample Chapter: PDF

:0805443835 / 9780805443837


LCCN:BT121.2 .H245 2006

Subjects: God\Holy Spirit, Pneumatology, Biblical Theology

James M. Hamilton, Jr. (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Houston Park Place Campus, Houston, Texas. (from the back cover)

Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Elisha—saved, right? (Most of us would answer correctly: yes.) And if they were saved, did God also dwell within them? This is another way of asking the question that often rears its head at the seminary café: “Were Old Testament believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit?” Of course, many Christians would gladly leave such questions in such cafés, but Dr. Hamilton opens his study by showing that this question reaches into the church pew as it touches such fundamental doctrines as the depravity of man and the inerrancy of Scripture.

Hamilton sought to prove that Old Testament believers were, in fact, indwelt when he began his dissertation for SBTS; but as he studied the Word, he became convinced of quite the opposite. God’s Indwelling Presence presents his findings and concludes that Old Testament believers were not indwelt, furthermore that the church is of more importance than what many Christians have ever imagined.

The Problem

In John’s Gospel, Jesus presents the Holy Spirit performing two (apparently) contradictory actions. In 7:39 and 14:16-17, the coming of the Holy Spirit awaits Jesus’ glorification; but in 3:3-8, 6:63, and 8:44 (for example), He makes it clear that none can become God’s children without some Spirit activity. The obvious question concerns how Old Testament saints ever got saved and remained saved if the Holy Spirit was not yet in operation.

The Solution

Hamilton solves the problem by affirming two basic propositions. First, he distinguishes between the Spirit’s work in regeneration and indwelling, allowing the former in the lives of Old Testament saints while reserving the latter for the church. Second, he expands upon John 14:17c—“He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you”—by asserting the following:

In the old covenant God faithfully remained with His people, accompanying them in a pillar of fire and cloud, then dwelling among them in the tabernacle and the temple. Under the new covenant, the only temple is the believing community itself, and God dwells not only among the community corporately…, but also in each member individually (p. 3).

The Process

God’s Indwelling Presence develops and supports these two propositions, and Hamilton utilizes the oft-neglected discipline of biblical theology to do so. Thus, he allows the text itself to develop and synthesize the doctrine. The various chapters display a breakdown of his chosen method, with Chapter 1 serving as an introduction and preview.

Chapter 2 presents a survey of major scholars and their opinion regarding the degree of continuity between Testaments. Hamilton places these scholars in a continuum, ranging from “complete continuity” to “complete discontinuity.” Though he does not engage the covenant/dispensational debate, Hamilton maintains that some affirm too much continuity while others affirm too little.

Chapter 3 shows that the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Old Testament saints did not involve indwelling. Whenever an Old Testament believer received the Holy Spirit, he was actually set apart from the rest of the faithful; this setting apart indicates that indwelling was not normative. The means for sanctification and preservation of the faithful was by God’s presence in the midst of the people, in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.

Chapter 4 displays the Holy Spirit’s work in John. This examines most references to the Spirit and catalogs His actions. It also examines the nature and meaning of paraclete and finally concludes that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples in John 20:22.

Chapter 5 uses John 7:39 to prove that Old Testament saints were not indwelt. Indeed, the indwelling Spirit was part of their eschatological hope and so could not have been experienced before Christ’s glorification. Hamilton understands Christ’s “glorification” to be His crucifixion.

Chapter 6 examines the separate subjects of regeneration and indwelling in John. First, Hamilton shows that they are indeed separate subjects, not to be confused. Second, he shows that in John, indwelling signifies the time when God “takes up residence in His new Temple,” the community of believers—corporately and individually—which would be called the church.

Chapter 7 then seeks to explain the importance of this doctrine for the modern church. If the church is now God’s Temple and if God’s Temple must be kept holy, then church discipline must be pursued with vigor. And if the church is now God’s Temple, that would make each believer a priest and thus “all believers need to be involved in formative and corrective discipleship” (p. 168).

Three appendices answer a few objections. In the first, Hamilton demonstrates that the use of the Greek emphusao- in the LXX does not refer to indwelling, though it does in John 20:22. In the second, he gives an eight-page exercise in textual criticism to deal with a variant in John 14:17c that few support but that could conflict with his thesis.

The third appendix is the longest, and it deals with the Spirit’s activity in Acts. Hamilton attempts to portray a lexical distinction among three basic activities. First, the Spirit baptizes, as a fulfillment of Israel’s eschatological hope. Second, the Spirit indwells and fills as a condition of the normal Christian experience. Third, the Spirit specially empowers certain individuals for matters of inspiration and proclamation. Through all of this, Hamilton seeks to demonstrate coherence with his already developed thesis.

With God’s Indwelling Presence, Hamilton seeks to demonstrate biblical cohesion where some might imagine a contradiction. As he says, “We can expect to find in the Bible a unified non-contradictory theology” (p. 1). For Hamilton, the subject is Pneumatology, and even progressive revelation should not contradict itself, though changes may emerge. Within the framework he constructs—i.e., the specific problem as he states it—he succeeds. But he leaves this reader with two major questions:

  1. For all his focus on the Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, Zerubbabel’s Temple, and the New Covenant Church-Temple, Hamilton does not mention Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezek. 40-48). One may argue that these chapters are irrelevant to his topic, but Hamilton actively uses the Temple as a foundational point in his argument. This passage is conspicuous by its absence. Whatever his view of Ezekiel’s Temple is, even a brief mention would have been helpful. It leaves one wondering how that Temple would fit into his coherent solution.
  2. Hamilton concerns himself with the Spirit’s different operations under the Old and New Covenants. He proposes that the Spirit’s previous role in the Tabernacle/Temple is performed now through indwelling. However, as he seeks to demonstrate biblical coherence, he omits any mention of how this role was performed for the Patriarchs or ante-diluvian believers. Again, it leaves the reader wondering how coherent the solution is once these groups are taken into account.

Every writer writes with presuppositions, and Hamilton is no exception. Though he does not always state them, some may be inferred. For the benefit of the SI readership, I thought it helpful to list a few that may be major issues for some readers. These are not “weaknesses” of the book, and none of them finally concern the author’s main point; rather, they are theological points the author holds to, and the discerning reader should note the following:

  1. Much of Hamilton’s argument presupposes that regeneration precedes faith. This becomes important when distinguishing between regeneration and indwelling, though it does not ultimately undo his thesis.
  2. Hamilton seems to embrace an “inaugurated eschatology” and quotes G.E. Ladd accordingly (p. 100). His treatment of the church’s relation to the New Covenant follows.
  3. In his third appendix, Hamilton argues that the baptism of the Spirit does not occur for each believer but that the church was “representatively baptized” on four separate occasions (Jerusalem Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, disciples of John the Baptist) (p. 183).

The publisher has stated that they have directed the NAC Studies in Bible and Theology series toward church leaders and those who would prepare them (p. xii). I would concur that this appears to be the audience to whom this volume was directed. It is scholarly but not impractically so. By this I mean that a pastor could spend his time profitably in this book, though it is best read through rather than used as a reference.

I found Hamilton’s main argument convincing and encouraging. Though he set out to write a Biblical Pneumatology, the implications are large for Ecclesiology (as he points out in chapter 7) and for the individual Christian’s relationship with the Lord. What an immense thought that He who dwelt between the cherubim now dwells within this body! What an opportunity! What a responsibility!

carpenter.jpgAaron Carpenter serves as pastor at Central Baptist Church (Dixons Mills, AL). Happily married, he has one son, and a daughter born this past May. He received B.A. and M.Div. degrees from Pensacola Christian College and Pensacola Theological Seminary (both in Pensacola, FL). His favorite pastimes include reading, Formula One racing, and experimental coffee drinking.

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