The New Birth Midrash

Yeshua’s* teaching about the new birth is a Midrash (explanation and application of an Old Testament text). In the text below, Jesus faults Nicodemus for not understanding the concept of the new birth already, even if he did not recognize Yeshua’s terminology. Thus the concept of new birth cannot be an original teaching of Jesus. Nor is its mysterious nature (like the wind) a new teaching.

If Jesus is teaching old material but adding a new phrase (“born again”) to describe that material, we must ask, “What verses did Yeshua draw upon?” My best guess is two passages in Ezekiel and one in 2 Samuel. Let me lay a foundation first.

The Old Testament typically uses the phrase “circumcision of the heart” to refer to regeneration (see Deuteronomy 30:6, 5:28-29 and 10:16 for the phrase or concept).

Look at the text from John 3:1-11 (NIV), verses that lead up to the well-known John 3:16:

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.”

Nicodemus was not just a devout Jew; he was a Rabbi who was also part of the “ruling council” known as the Sanhedrin. It is important to observe that Yeshua expected Nicodemus to be familiar with His teaching that a man must be born of water and the spirit. This implies that whatever Jesus taught was also seen in the Old Testament. To put it simply, God has always regenerated individuals in the same way.

The key to unlocking this mystery is the fact that both the Old Testament Hebrew word Ruach and the equivalent New Testament word pneuma, can both mean “spirit,” “wind,” or “breath.” The interpreter looks at the context to determine which of these terms seems most likely. In this instance, however, the translation is not so clear.

Since the word ruach incorporates all three of these definitions, Jesus plays on this ambiguity by saying that whom the Holy Spirit regenerates is unpredictable because the “wind blows where it will.” He adds, “so is everyone who is born of the wind” (or spirit).

Here are the passages I believe Jesus expected Nicodemus to recall as a teacher of Israel. These passages deal with being born of water and/or wind. The first is Ezekiel 36:25-27:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Note here that God is the one who causes all this to happen. God sprinkles with clean water, God cleanses, and God provides the new heart and spirit (regeneration). The result is that the person regenerated lives a life of obedience to God.

Although not incorporating the idea of a divine breath, Ezekiel 18:31 reads, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?” This is the equivalent of telling a lost sinner that he must be born again! On the one hand, we know that God is the Sovereign who regenerates in a mysterious and unpredictable way (like the mystery of the wind), yet man is held accountable to acquire a “new heart and a new spirit.” Even in Ezekiel, we see the dual track of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

The second passage is Ezekiel 37:9-10:

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Here the mysterious wind of God blows and breathes breath into the slain, and the slain are brought to life. Although we often think of this as an end-time revival of the nation of Israel, it is also illustrative of the life-giving power of the “breath” (Spirit or wind) of the Lord. Remember that the terms breath, wind, and spirit are potentially interchangeable.

The third passage speaks of King Saul in 1 Samuel 10:6. “The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person….” Although the destiny of Saul is a matter of debate, it appears that he was regenerated and was spiritually transformed.

In conclusion, we can see that Yeshua was illustrating an Old Testament truth when He spoke of the new birth. This truth was so evident in the Tanakh (Old Testament) that He expected Nicodemus to immediately connect the dots. Yeshua clarified the nature of the new birth, but His teachings on this subject were grounded in existing Scripture.

Notes

* “Yeshua” is our Savior’s name transliterated from Hebrew. Transliterated from Greek, it’s “Jesus.”

[node:bio/ed-vasicek body]

3261 reads

There are 14 Comments

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hey Ed,

I've gone around and around a bit on this one. So give me your thoughts on this:

In John 3:11-12, Jesus draws a distinction - His knowledge based on His first hand experience in heaven, and Nicodemus' knowledge based on His first hand experience on earth.

Now, when Jesus claim to be telling Nicodemus of heavenly things, that might that refer to the new birth - whereas the truth of Ezekiel is part of "earthly things" that Nicodemus already knew?

Thus the new birth was a piece of new revelation that had not been revealed yet and Nicodemus had no resources with which to comprehend it. Hence, "you do not accept our testimony"

As always, love your theology, and your writing.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Hey Ed,

I've gone around and around a bit on this one. So give me your thoughts on this:

In John 3:11-12, Jesus draws a distinction - His knowledge based on His first hand experience in heaven, and Nicodemus' knowledge based on His first hand experience on earth.

Now, when Jesus claim to be telling Nicodemus of heavenly things, that might that refer to the new birth - whereas the truth of Ezekiel is part of "earthly things" that Nicodemus already knew?

Thus the new birth was a piece of new revelation that had not been revealed yet and Nicodemus had no resources with which to comprehend it. Hence, "you do not accept our testimony"

As always, love your theology, and your writing.

Ted, it is always a pleasure to interact with you. You are an amazing brother.

In my view, God the Son emptied Himself of the use of his supernatural knowledge and only knew (supernaturally) what the Spirit revealed to him as directed by the Father. Thus I believe that most of his teaching was spirit-led exposition of the Old Testament, with, obviously, some new revelation. I believe this is a case in point. Everything he taught in vs. 1-10 was understandable before Jesus came. Now when he focuses upon himself as the object of faith that demonstrates the New Birth in John 3:16 and surrounding verses (the fact that he is the Messiah), that is new revelation.

Everything Jesus shared was an earthly thing at this point. We should not confuse this idea with worldly or unspiritual. The Jews believed that the Law had come down from heaven to earth, and thus what is contained in the Law trumped even a voice from God in heaven. (see this link for a Talmud story about the Rabbis defeating God in debate over this very point, scroll down to the http://www.torahtots.com/parsha/devarim/nitzav3.htm "Down to Earth" heading). I am not saying Jesus believed this nonsense in the Talmud. My point is that the Jews considered the Law an earthly possession from God. I thought about pasting the entire Talmud tractate here, but I do not want to incur Aaron's wrath. I like him and want to stay on his good side Smile

BTW, "HaShem" means "The Name" and is considered one of the most respectful ways to refer to God.

The point of my article is that only the terminology "new birth" is unique to Jesus; the concept of regeneration and examples of it are found in the Old Testament. I suggest you click on the Deuteronomy links in the article to see passages about "circumcision of the heart,' the Old Testament term. Believers have been born again by the Spirit all along. The relationship of the born again believer to the Spirit after regeneration is what has changed.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hey Ed, its a joy to be in the Lord with you,

I'm with you on Deut.30 and Ezek. 36, and that they do in fact teach regeneration. I do not see regeneration as only a NT concept, but a concept from Geneisis to Revelation. What changes is the terminology. Circumcision of the heart, sprinkling of water, new birth, etc.

I also agree with you on the "earthly things" Jesus told Nicodemus about - the OT. This connects with Nic. being "the teacher of Israel". So then, what was the heavenly things Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:11-12? If Nicodemus understood regeneration from Deut. 30, and esp. Ezek. 36, then what was heavenly things Nic. was not believing?

Thanks.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Hey Ed, its a joy to be in the Lord with you,

I'm with you on Deut.30 and Ezek. 36, and that they do in fact teach regeneration. I do not see regeneration as only a NT concept, but a concept from Geneisis to Revelation. What changes is the terminology. Circumcision of the heart, sprinkling of water, new birth, etc.

I also agree with you on the "earthly things" Jesus told Nicodemus about - the OT. This connects with Nic. being "the teacher of Israel". So then, what was the heavenly things Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:11-12? If Nicodemus understood regeneration from Deut. 30, and esp. Ezek. 36, then what was heavenly things Nic. was not believing?

Thanks.

The way I understand this issue is that Jesus is saying, "If you (Nicodemus) are not yet understanding earthly things, then how can I move on to teach you heavenly things?" At that point, he had not been taught heavenly things to understand. The heavenly things would refer probably to additional revelation, as, for example, the next few verses (as you point out) where Jesus declares himself as having coming down from heaven and being the object of saving faith. I compare the "earthly things vs. the heavenly things" to Hebrews 6:1-3

Quote:
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.

"The Midrash Detective"

JohnBrian's picture

I am working on the final draft of a new blog article in which I look at the passages in John that show the cause of belief and also the effect of belief. While driving home tonight I was thinking about this very passage and here are some of my thoughts.

The Jewish people believed that salvation came from their physical relationship to Abraham. Paul spends a good portion of his letter to the Romans establishing that notion to be false. When Jesus speaks of being reborn, Nicodemus thinks Jesus is referring to physical birth.

Jesus refutes that notion in John 3:6 by showing that the physical only can give birth to physical, and that the Spirit is necessary for spiritual birth.

I appreciate you connecting the NT to the OT, by showing that Nicodemus, as a teacher, should have understood the new birth.

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Kevin Miller's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Here are the passages I believe Jesus expected Nicodemus to recall as a teacher of Israel. These passages deal with being born of water and/or wind. The first is Ezekiel 36:25-27:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Note here that God is the one who causes all this to happen. God sprinkles with clean water, God cleanses, and God provides the new heart and spirit (regeneration). The result is that the person regenerated lives a life of obedience to God.

I see in this passage from Ezekiel that there is a promise that God would put his Spirit in man. Did that actually happen to every Old Testament saint? Was every Old Testament saint indwelt with the Spirit of God, or is this refering to something other that an indwelling? Could it be that this was a promise of something that would happen in the future rather than something that happened during the time period of the Old Testament?
I John 7:37-39 we see another promise regarding the Spirit.
37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
In these verses we see a promise of the Spirit which is not going to be fulfilled until after Jesus is glorified, but it is a promise found in the Old Testament scriptures. Could it be that Nicodemus should have been aware of the OT promises regarding regeneration without the actual fulfillment of the new spirit happening until Christ brought it about?

Ed Vasicek's picture

JohnBrian wrote:

The Jewish people believed that salvation came from their physical relationship to Abraham. Paul spends a good portion of his letter to the Romans establishing that notion to be false. When Jesus speaks of being reborn, Nicodemus thinks Jesus is referring to physical birth.

Jesus refutes that notion in John 3:6 by showing that the physical only can give birth to physical, and that the Spirit is necessary for spiritual birth.

I appreciate you connecting the NT to the OT, by showing that Nicodemus, as a teacher, should have understood the new birth.

Good thoughts, John Brian. My studies in Jewish Roots have led me to conclude that there was no one belief the Jews held regarding salvation. There was a significant segment of the Pharisees that thought all Israel (except apostates) would be granted a share in "the world to come." Nicodemus may have had that in mind when Jesus spoke of "birth." I do not think that such is necessarily the case, but it could be. It is a tough read, but the first volume of "Justification and Variegated Nomism" (edited by D.A. Carson as well as O'Brien and Seifred) examines the various view Jews embraced during the time of Jesus.

Others held that God elected people to salvation and then saved them by grace (this seems to be the view of the Essenes/Dead Sea Scroll people). Others obviously believed in salvation by works, trusting in their own righteousness (Luke 18:9). The Talmud (which reflects ONLY rabbinic Judaism, the sole survivor of the 24 sects of Judaism in the First Century) mostly descended from the School of Hillel. The Talmud speaks both of all Jews having a share in the life to come (except minim -- "heretics" like Messianic Jews) and of "meriting" life in the world to come.

In my opinion, Nicodemus was a Pharisee of the School/House of Hillel (Bet Hillel). This was the minority group of the Pharisees at the time of Jesus, and Jesus usually reflects agreements with Bet Hillel and opposition to Bet Shammai (except in matters of divorce). This would mean that Nicodemus believed gentiles could be saved by turning from their false gods and embracing the God of Israel as the true God, but this did not require circumcision nor immersion nor law-keeping. Such gentiles were expected to abide by the Covenant of Noah. Bet Shammai's viewpoints are reflected in the conflicts Jesus had about healing on the Sabbath or ceremonial washings before meals. Jesus clearly sided with the views of Bet Hilliel on these issues (it was appropriate to heal on the Sabbath and ritual washing were not required).

Bet Hillel would have been more open to Jesus' teachings. But I do not know as a fact that Nicodemus favored Bet Hillel. Don't know if this is helpful to you or not, but the Jewish Encyclopedia is free online, and if you find the article on Bet Hillel Bet Shammai, much of this will be documented.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Quote:
see in this passage from Ezekiel that there is a promise that God would put his Spirit in man. Did that actually happen to every Old Testament saint? Was every Old Testament saint indwelt with the Spirit of God, or is this refering to something other that an indwelling? Could it be that this was a promise of something that would happen in the future rather than something that happened during the time period of the Old Testament?
I John 7:37-39 we see another promise regarding the Spirit.
37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
In these verses we see a promise of the Spirit which is not going to be fulfilled until after Jesus is glorified, but it is a promise found in the Old Testament scriptures. Could it be that Nicodemus should have been aware of the OT promises regarding regeneration without the actual fulfillment of the new spirit happening until Christ brought it about?

Kevin, the Holy Spirit regenerated believers in the Old Testament, but did not permanently indwell them, nor were OT believers baptized into the Body of Christ or seated with him in heavenly places. James Hamilton from Southwest Baptist Seminary has written an amazing paper on this subject if you want to study it more deeply: http://jimhamilton.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/them30-1.pdf ]http://jimhamilton.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/them30-1.pdf

There certainly is a change between Testaments, but the Holy Spirit has never been dormant but always active among God's people.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ted Bigelow's picture

I find it interesting that Hamilton does not think OT saints were permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The man has done his exegetical spadework, for sure. But I’m not sure many will find his conclusions convincing.

His entire thesis is that the O.T. saint had regeneration but not indwelling, and that the Holy Spirit only indwelt the temple (not O.T. saints). But one wonders, if OT saints didn't have indwelling, but only regeneration (Themelios 30/1, p. 20), how they could be confident of seeing God (Job 19:25, Psalm 73:25-26)? Wouldn’t they have to rely on a permanent regeneration? But if they had no knowledge through the O.T. of a permanent indwelling, as Hamilton claims, on what basis could they be confident in a permanent regeneration? The question is not addressed.

Jim Hamilton wrote:
“How did old covenant believers become and remain faithful?... They became faithful not by the Spirit indwelling them, but by the Spirit dwelling in the temple (Psalm 73:17), where they longed to be (Psalm 116:18-19).

But the Spirit left the temple hundreds of years before the time of Christ, and never returned (Ezekiel 8-11). One wonders how such people, who apparently had no dwelling of the Spirit to turn to from the time of Ezekiel to the time of Christ, remained faithful? The question is not addressed.

Instead, it seems to me the Scriptural testimony creates a different dichotomy between O.T. and N.T. believer. In the O.T. the believer was indwelt individually, while in the N.T. we are all indwelt corporately, as the church/temple/body. For instance, notice how Jesus speaks of the individual and moves to the corporate in John 7:37-39.

This position accepts that both O.T. and N.T. saints had/have permanent indwelling and permanent regeneration. Hamilton’s article, while acknowledging this fundamental position in other writers, groups it as 2 separate positions (p. 13, positions 1 and 2). It isn't. Nor does he discuss the reasons why such ancient luminaries as Calvin, Owen, and Warfield, and present scholars like Wood and Ferguson, hold it.

John 14:17 claims the Spirit abides/dwells with the disciples before the cross: “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you.” If this is not the holy Spirit indwelling O.T. saints, what is it? Hamilton does not offer an answer on this either, which is noticeable in an article that cites this text several times.

Jesus tells these men in the upper room, in whom the Spirit dwells (John 14:17), that the Spirit will have a changed relationship to them once He (Jesus) is gone: “He will be in you.” The “in you” is plural, and for our English ears should be translated as “among you all.” That is to say, the Spirit will in the future corporately indwell them. That is new, as up to that point, they have not shared, as a collective entity, the indwelling of the Spirit.

So the Holy Spirit indwelt individuals in the O.T., but in the New covenant, they will be corporately indwelt. Behold the church. 2 Cor. 6:16.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
I find it interesting that Hamilton does not think OT saints were permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The man has done his exegetical spadework, for sure. But I’m not sure many will find his conclusions convincing.

His entire thesis is that the O.T. saint had regeneration but not indwelling, and that the Holy Spirit only indwelt the temple (not O.T. saints). But one wonders, if OT saints didn't have indwelling, but only regeneration (Themelios 30/1, p. 20), how they could be confident of seeing God (Job 19:25, Psalm 73:25-26)? Wouldn’t they have to rely on a permanent regeneration? But if they had no knowledge through the O.T. of a permanent indwelling, as Hamilton claims, on what basis could they be confident in a permanent regeneration? The question is not addressed.

Jim Hamilton wrote:
“How did old covenant believers become and remain faithful?... They became faithful not by the Spirit indwelling them, but by the Spirit dwelling in the temple (Psalm 73:17), where they longed to be (Psalm 116:18-19).

But the Spirit left the temple hundreds of years before the time of Christ, and never returned (Ezekiel 8-11). One wonders how such people, who apparently had no dwelling of the Spirit to turn to from the time of Ezekiel to the time of Christ, remained faithful? The question is not addressed.

Instead, it seems to me the Scriptural testimony creates a different dichotomy between O.T. and N.T. believer. In the O.T. the believer was indwelt individually, while in the N.T. we are all indwelt corporately, as the church/temple/body. For instance, notice how Jesus speaks of the individual and moves to the corporate in John 7:37-39.

This position accepts that both O.T. and N.T. saints had/have permanent indwelling and permanent regeneration. Hamilton’s article, while acknowledging this fundamental position in other writers, groups it as 2 separate positions (p. 13, positions 1 and 2). It isn't. Nor does he discuss the reasons why such ancient luminaries as Calvin, Owen, and Warfield, and present scholars like Wood and Ferguson, hold it.

John 14:17 claims the Spirit abides/dwells with the disciples before the cross: “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you.” If this is not the holy Spirit indwelling O.T. saints, what is it? Hamilton does not offer an answer on this either, which is noticeable in an article that cites this text several times.

Jesus tells these men in the upper room, in whom the Spirit dwells (John 14:17), that the Spirit will have a changed relationship to them once He (Jesus) is gone: “He will be in you.” The “in you” is plural, and for our English ears should be translated as “among you all.” That is to say, the Spirit will in the future corporately indwell them. That is new, as up to that point, they have not shared, as a collective entity, the indwelling of the Spirit.

So the Holy Spirit indwelt individuals in the O.T., but in the New covenant, they will be corporately indwelt. Behold the church. 2 Cor. 6:16.

Ted, I do not think the verses you cited prove a permanent dwelling IN OT believers. IMO, the answer lies in John 14:17, the last part of the verse:

Quote:
even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Before Pentecost, the Spirit was "with" the believer and now He dwells "in" the believer. Trying to develop a theological point on the basis of prepositions is difficult, but Jesus himself makes this contrast. It is pretty tough to criticize him for doing that!! Smile Something has changed. What "will be" is not the same as what "is."

I did not read Hamilton to say that the Spirit never indwelt the OT believer, just not permanently. This gels with Psalm 51:11 where David prays,

Quote:
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Here we can note the request David makes for the Spirit to remain; we do not need to pray that. But note also the parallel to the term "presence," namely, "your Holy Spirit." This seems to imply that the Spirit of God represents the presence of God. Thus we might suggest that the many promises of the Lord to be "with" someone, like Joshua 1:9 ("for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go...") might mean that God is with him through the Spirit.

Hamilton does not deny that the Spirit was inoperative in the life of the OT believer, but that the concept of understanding God's "dwelling" was that He dwelt in the Tabernacle/Temple and in the NT He dwells IN the believer.
Certainly John 14:17 suggests some sort of change.

"The Midrash Detective"

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Hamilton does not deny that the Spirit was inoperative in the life of the OT believer, but that the concept of understanding God's "dwelling" was that He dwelt in the Tabernacle/Temple and in the NT He dwells IN the believer.
Certainly John 14:17 suggests some sort of change.

I assume you meant "affirm" rather than "deny" here?

Dave Barnhart

Ted Bigelow's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Ted, I do not think the verses you cited prove a permanent dwelling IN OT believers.
totally agree!

Ed Vasicek ]IMO, the answer lies in John 14:17, the <b>last part</b> of the verse:<br /> [quote wrote:
even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Before Pentecost, the Spirit was "with" the believer and now He dwells "in" the believer. Trying to develop a theological point on the basis of prepositions is difficult, but Jesus himself makes this contrast. It is pretty tough to criticize him for doing that!! Smile Something has changed. What "will be" is not the same as what "is."

totally totally agree! But the preposition's meaning s/b discerned from the verb, which is "dwell." As in, indwelling - John 14:10. As the Father dwells in Jesus, so the Spirit dwells in the disciples, with some nuance in preposition. But the main thing is the same verb in both verses.

Quote:
I did not read Hamilton to say that the Spirit never indwelt the OT believer, just not permanently.

gotta stop agreeing. Here's Hamilton's conclusion:

Jim Hamilton wrote:
Conclusion: Were old covenant believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit? No. They did not need to be. God dwelt in the temple." (p. 22)

Ed wrote:
This gels with Psalm 51:11 where David prays, Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

for another thought on this passage, consider David is praying that the Lord take not the kingly anointing away from him for his sin (1 Samuel 16:14), not the indwelling of the Spirit. Larger context of Psalm 51, and issues raised in it, lead me that way.

Ed Vasicek's picture

dcbii wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:

Hamilton does not deny that the Spirit was inoperative in the life of the OT believer, but that the concept of understanding God's "dwelling" was that He dwelt in the Tabernacle/Temple and in the NT He dwells IN the believer.
Certainly John 14:17 suggests some sort of change.

I assume you meant "affirm" rather than "deny" here?

OOPS! You are right. Those double negatives get me! How about, "....Hamilton does not deny that the Spirit was operative..."

Sorry bout that. Thanks for catching it.!

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ted, this is a big subject, and perhaps all that I am saying you have already said elsewhere and is old hat. But still, I think we have to stand back to get a bigger perspective.

i think we agree that the Spirit is everywhere (Psalm 139:7), and God, though separate from His creation, is present in every molecule. So when we talking about the Spirit being with or in, we are not talking so much about location as relationship. For example, the Holy Spirit was in me, in a sense, before I was saved, in that He is present everywhere and I have always been somewhere.

So what we have are pictures of relationship. God condescends to describe these relationships in human terms, using words like "in" or "with." Hamilton is talking about terminology and the use of OT terms and NT terms.

God declared repeatedly that He does not dwell in Temples built by human hands (I Kings 8:27, Acts 17:24), yet, in a sense, he is said to specially dwell above the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 28:20) and in the Shekinah and in the believer (NT). So what we are really talking about is a fine-tuning of the Spirit's work and relationship to the believer before and after Pentecost.

Peter, for example, confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and his confession was revealed by the Father presumably through the Spirit (Matthew 16:17), yet later, in John 20:22, Jesus breathes upon the disciples so they can receive the Holy Spirit. This was something different than occurred at Pentecost.

When two or three gather in Jesus' Name, he is present in a special way (Matthew 18:20). And then we have the localized presence of God in heaven (Psalm 115:3). We won't get into communion debates here, but you get my point.

So we are talking about relationship and the terminology God uses. Behind that terminology is a condescension to human limits. Thus being "in" in contrast to "with" is used. Just like the filling of the Holy Spirit, we do not get more of him, but we can picture the idea of being filled to overflowing. That is a relational term, too. The Holy Spirit's ministry before Pentecost is correlated to "with" and afterward to "in." 2 Kings 2:9 further demonstrates that we are not talking about mere human ratios or locations. When the Spirit is "with" us, He is helping us and blessing us; when He is in us He is helping us and blessing us, but something somewhere is different.

"The Midrash Detective"

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.