Were Old Testament Believers Filled with the Holy Spirit?

From Ashley via Facebook –

Watching a video of yours on YouTube. Do you think the Holy Spirit only indwelt some believers and not all believers in the Old Testament? If so, how could anyone live a holy life without the Spirit indwelling them? I agree that the anointing of the Spirit for service was only for some in the Old Testament. I just think that the Spirit was still in believers once He regenerated them. What do you think?

  • I think that under the old covenant, believers were definitely saved – not by their works, and not by their genetic connection to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but by their faith connection to God and His promised Messiah, who would bring a perfect sacrifice.
  • I think that under the old covenant, those saved believers were not regenerated in the same way that we are under the new covenant.
  • I think that under the old covenant, those saved believers did not have the same resources for holy living that we have under the new covenant.
  • I think that under the old covenant, those saved believers did not have the same filling of the Holy Spirit that we have under the new covenant.Jesus established, put into effect, the new covenant with His death, His sacrifice on the cross (Luke 22:20).

Luke 22:20 –

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

Part of the promises of the new covenant are the promises that there would be a new work of the Holy Spirit, indwelling the people of God (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26-27).

Ezekiel 11:19 –

Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh

Ezekiel 36:26-27 –

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of 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 keep My judgments and do them.

  1. This outpouring of the spirit among all believers is specifically noted as being fulfilled in the new covenant, not as part of previous covenants (Acts 2, Joel 2:28-29).

Joel 2:28-29 –

And it shall come to pass afterward

That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

Your old men shall dream dreams,

Your young men shall see visions.

And also on My menservants and on My maidservants

I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

The Old Testament has a rich record of the work of the Spirit, but He was not poured out on all flesh under the Old Covenant. Instead, certain men were filled with the Spirit at certain times and only for certain duties. It was rather selective:

  • Joseph was filled with the Spirit of God (Genesis 41:38).
  • The craftsmen who built the tabernacle were filled with the Spirit of God (Exodus 31:3).
  • Joshua was filled with the Spirit of God (Numbers 27:18).
  • The judge Othniel was filled with the Spirit of God (Judges 3:10).
  • The judge Gideon was filled with the Spirit of God (Judges 6:34).
  • The judge Jephthah was filled with the Spirit of God (Judges 11:29).
  • The judge Samson was filled with the Spirit of God (Judges 13:5, 14:6, 14:19, 15:14).
  • Saul was filled with the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 10:9-10).
  • David was filled with the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 16:13).

Here, Joel looked forward to the glorious New Covenant, when the Spirit of God would be poured out on all flesh. Why, even your sons and daughters, your old men, and your young men would be filled with the Spirit of God.

This was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the disciples gathered in the upper room, waiting in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised would come (Acts 1:4-5). When the outpouring of the Spirit came, the 120 followers of Jesus were all filled with the Spirit and began to praise God in other tongues.

At first, any Jew would scoff at the idea of 120 followers of a crucified man being filled with the Holy Spirit. Based on their understanding of the Old Testament they would think, “These 120 people are not kings or prophets or priests; God only pours out His Spirit on special people for special duties. These are common folk, and God doesn’t pour out His Spirit on them.”

Peter used the prophecy of Joel to show them that things are different now, just as God said they would be. Now, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all who believe and receive, even the common folk. Now God offered a New Covenant relationship, and part of the New Covenant was the outpouring of the Spirit for all who receive in faith.

How were the Old Testament believers saved under the law of Moses?

That’s a great question. They were saved by faith. Everybody who’s ever been justified before God has been justified by faith. We cannot keep God’s law and commands perfectly enough to attain salvation by works. That’s very plain. But by faith we are saved.

Present-day believers are under the New Covenant. We have our faith centered by looking back to what Jesus accomplished on the cross. We preach Christ and Him crucified, looking back. People under the Old Covenant were saved by faith, even including those who are shown to be believers in the Old Testament but were outside the family of Israel. They were saved by faith, trusting in what God would do in providing a perfect sacrifice in and through the work of the Messiah. Now, we must be very straightforward: we don’t know to what extent they understood this. But I’ll just give you an example. When an Israelite brought an animal to the Tabernacle, or later the Temple for sacrifice, and they laid their hands upon the head of that animal and confessed their sins, and that animal was sacrificed, they understood that it was an innocent suffering for the guilty. They understood, “The animal is innocent, I’m guilty, and that animal is suffering for me. And one day God will offer a perfect sacrifice for our sins.”

This was the basis of their salvation: their faith in God, and in that concept of God providing salvation through a substitutionary sacrifice.

So, Old Testament believers could be saved under the Mosaic law, but they were not saved by keeping the law. They were not saved by their genetic connection to Abraham. They were saved by, as it says, of Abraham. “He believed God and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). That’s how it has worked for everybody who’s ever been saved. Again, their faith was looking forward to what the Messiah would do. Our faith is looking back to what the Messiah has done.

Did Mary and Joseph plan on living in Bethlehem after Jesus was born?

Is it correct that Mary and Joseph lived in a house by the time the wise men arrived? Do you think they had planned on moving there when they had just gone for the Census?

We don’t exactly know; this will involve some speculation. We just want to speculate consistently with what the Scriptures do tell us. Matthew 2:11 tells us that Mary and Joseph were in a house when the wise men came to visit Jesus. And because Herod commanded the death of all the children under two years of age, we have reason to believe that Jesus was well past the newborn stage when the wise men arrived, which wouldn’t be unusual. If they had left the day after they saw that sign in the sky, it would have been taken them weeks, months, or perhaps even longer to get to Bethlehem.

So yes, it’s entirely reasonable to assume a few things. Number one, that Mary and Joseph lived in a house, because that’s what the Scripture says; it’s not an assumption. Second, Jesus was likely between six months old and two years old. Herod commanded the death of children two years and under, but he might have given a margin just for the sake of safety, in his mind.

I think it is a fair assumption that Mary and Joseph planned on settling down there in Bethlehem. Remember, Joseph had family there. And being a carpenter or a builder more correctly, he had a transferable occupation. It’s not crazy to me that they would say, “We’re not going back to Nazareth. There’s a lot of gossip about us in Nazareth. Let’s stay right here in Bethlehem. In Bethlehem, we’re with Joseph’s family; in Bethlehem, we’re very close to Jerusalem. If the Messiah is going to grow up, shouldn’t He grow up kind of close to the Temple and the center of Judaism?”

But friends, God had other plans. Because of Herod’s despicable massacre of the innocents, Joseph and Mary and the child Jesus had to flee to Egypt, where they stayed for some time. When they returned, they felt it was too dangerous to go back to Bethlehem in Judea. So, they went north, guided by the Holy Spirit into Galilee, where they settled at Nazareth. Because in the plan of God the Father, by the leading of God the Holy Spirit, under the submission of God the Son, God determined that the Messiah would grow up in a nowhere place like Nazareth. And that’s how God ordained it. That’s how God chose it to happen.

I think that they had intended just to settle down in Bethlehem, but then they had to move to Egypt. They didn’t want to stay in Egypt. Maybe they had hoped to come back to Bethlehem, but the Holy Spirit guided them to go to Nazareth, and that’s where Jesus did most of His growing up.

What does “falling away” mean in Hebrews 6:6?

Hebrews 6:6 – If they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Here’s the big picture. Hebrews was written to believers in the first century, who came forth from a Jewish or Hebrew background, but were believers in Jesus. These believers were tempted, and maybe even in the process of pulling back from their faith in Jesus Christ, because of pressure and persecution. They had not yet been persecuted violently unto blood, but it was on the horizon, and they were feeling the heat. Because of that, they wanted to retreat away from those things that were distinctively Christian, while at the same time maybe holding onto some of the things that Christianity and Judaism held in common.

The writer of the Hebrews reminds them that they can’t pull back from the Person and work of Jesus Christ, especially His work on the cross. When Hebrews 6:6 says it’s impossible to renew people to repentance if they fall away, the only way I can square that with the rest of the Scriptures is to say that the people who can’t repent are the people who don’t want to repent – the people who don’t want to repent in Jesus. Maybe they wanted to repent under some Old Testament or Old Covenant ceremonies or rituals, but they didn’t want to repent under Jesus. And that means they could not be saved.

The writer of the Hebrews is saying in a very pointed and effective way that there’s no other way to be saved, except in Jesus. The rituals of Rabbinic Judaism would not bring salvation. It had to be a trust in the Messiah, Jesus Christ – Christ and Him crucified for the sins of His people. That’s where salvation was. And if they were to withdraw from that, there was no possibility for them to be saved.

Your pointed question is, “What constitutes falling away?” It’s turning your back, it’s putting distance, it’s pushing away, your trust and faith in who Jesus is and what He did to save you, especially what He did at the cross and in His resurrection.

For more exposition of this passage, please refer to my Bible Commentary at enduringword.com or on the free Enduring Word App. Here’s a direct link: enduringword.com/bible-commentary/hebrews-6/

How can you spot a false teacher? What should I look for?

The easy answer to your question is to simply compare that person’s teaching with the Word of God. Specifically, the word of God rightly divided.

Let me give you an example. I believe that the Bible speaks of an ecological concern that God’s people should have. We should care about the Earth; we should care about exercising proper dominion over the creation, as God has commanded us. This world is given to men and women, to Adam and Eve and all their descendants, to have dominion over. And that means that we should wisely and properly and never wastefully use the resources of this earth. The Bible teaches that.

But if somebody were to advance the idea that this is the center of God’s plan, that this is the most important thing in the Bible and in God’s plan, I’d say, “Well, listen, you’re teaching something that’s in the Bible, for certain, but you’re giving it far greater weight than it deserves.” That’s part of the concept that Paul referred to in 2 Timothy 2:15, when he spoke about rightly dividing the word of truth. It means giving it proper proportion.

When things are drastically out of proportion – and I’m not talking about things that are a little bit out of proportion; I’m talking about things that are way out of proportion – we should be able to mark that and say, “Well, this person is teaching an idea that’s in the Bible, but they’re not teaching it the way that the Bible presents it in its entirety.” So, someone could teach against the Bible, or in a proportion that’s not found in the Bible. According to New Testament, false teachers can also be those who teach in a way that is only for their own benefit and advancement. This means that we have to know the Scriptures and we have to trust the Scriptures.

So, if somebody isn’t referring much to the Bible in their preaching and teaching, that should be a red light for you right there – maybe they’re a false teacher. Secondly, even when they do refer to the Bible, are they quoting it in context? Are they getting strange and crazy ideas? Are they coming up with things that nobody else has discovered in the Bible, and now they’re here to reveal it to you? Are they teaching things that end up with a bad fruit, a bad effect in the practical lives of many? These things are indications of someone being a false teacher.

Again, I would stress to you that this requires that we know the Word of God, that we dig into the Word. And if my commentary on the Bible can help a few people understand the Word of God better, I’m very happy for that. If it can keep a few people from being sucked in or deceived by a false teacher, I’m very excited about that.

Is being redeemed an ongoing action in the Christian life? Are we perpetually being redeemed?

Is being redeemed an ongoing action in the Christian life? I know our bodies will be redeemed when we die. But are we perpetually being redeemed?

The answer to this question really kind of depends on how finely we want to make these distinctions. There is at least one sense in which our redemption was accomplished once and for all, by what Jesus did at the cross. The essential idea of our being redeemed, is that we are bought out from our slavery to the world, the flesh, and the devil, and now we are put into our service (our slavery, if you will) unto God. We are bought. One idea behind that biblical word that we translate as “redeemed” is “to buy out of the slave market.” So that’s something that’s basically a one-and-done; it happens at one time.

I want to acknowledge that we’re dealing with some tensions and some complex ideas in the Scriptures. So, there’s a sense in which our salvation is already accomplished.

But the Scriptures also give us a sense in which our salvation, or at least the fullness of our salvation, still awaits. The Scriptures speak that we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved (see 2 Corinthians 1:10). All three of those are true at the same time. I think that error only arises from denying any one of those three. Yes, I believe that I have been saved, but I also believe it’s a process going on within me today, and I believe that it will be perfected one day in the resurrection. I do believe that I will be perfected, but that it doesn’t take away from the idea that I already am saved.

So, those three concepts run parallel in the Christian life: we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. And if we want to use redemption in a little bit broader sense, which sometimes the Scriptures do, then we understand that there is a sense in which we are waiting for our redemption. We are certainly waiting for the redemption of our bodies. That happens in the resurrection, when we pass from this life to the next, and so we wait for that. And it’s glorious when it arrives.

How can we deal with ongoing fears?

I know Jesus says that we shouldn’t be afraid. But we still all have fears. How should we deal with them?

Our fears and anxieties are things that we need to continually bring before God. So, if I’m anxious today about something, I need to bring it to God. I need to lay it before His throne. I need to cast my cares upon Him because He cares for me. These are things that I’m called to do as a believer in Jesus Christ, as part of the New Covenant. Now, let’s say that if I do that genuinely this afternoon, and then tonight or tomorrow morning, those anxieties come back upon me, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t real when I did it before. It just means that it’s the kind of thing I need to do repeatedly, again and again, and again.

We need to continually bring these things before the Lord. As we continually cast our cares upon the Lord, we come to Him with that sense of wanting to not only pray about these things, but also to use Scripture memorization to fill our minds and hearts with this knowledge of God’s word. I think that’s going to be a significant benefit as well.

Who is the bobblehead on your shelf today?

Well, that is the famous Los Angeles Dodgers baseball pitcher, Sandy Koufax. To my knowledge, he is not a believer; he’s of Jewish heritage. But you know what, he’s a wonderful man, and was a very skilled baseball pitcher. And I’ll just bring this up briefly. If I seem a little distracted or a little off today, it’s because my father passed away, passed to Heaven, just this last Monday.

My father, Richard Guzik, was a believer, and he graduated to glory. His redemption is completely fulfilled now. And I just wanted to put up that Sandy Koufax baseball pitcher bobblehead, in a little private remembrance of my father. My father was a big baseball fan, and we could always talk about baseball – especially the Los Angeles Dodgers. My father was my youth Little League baseball coach for many years and was very involved with us in that part of our life, as well as in many other things.

So, I just thought how nice it would be to put that up there. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Our family is doing well. Obviously, it weighs heavily on us. There’s a sense of sadness that we think about, but God is with us even in this as well.

How can I speak my friends about Jesus without being ashamed or embarrassed?

I’m struggling with shame after I open up about my faith to my unbelieving friends. How can we overcome these feelings? As a new believer, almost 100% of my friends are into New Age.

First of all, the last thing in the world I want to do is condemn you. There is no accounting for the shame or embarrassment which we sometimes feel for being believers. And I say there’s no accounting for it, because if we think about it logically, there is zero reason for us to be embarrassed about Jesus Christ. Are you kidding me? Embarrassed about Jesus? How could we ever be? Jesus is the most amazing and the most significant person who has ever walked this earth, and if your New Age friends thought about it for half a moment, they would say the same thing.

Here’s the simple point: as much as you can, steer the conversation to simply talking about Jesus. And if you can express it in some way, “Hey, if I’m to be rejected or condemned for being a follower of this Man, Jesus Christ, as He’s explained to us in the Bible, then I’ll take that all day long.” Because there’s nothing to be embarrassed about regarding Jesus.

What you’re feeling is very common. I’ve felt it myself, so don’t feel condemned. Just ask God to help you deal with this. Ask God to give you strength and maybe a wise word. What you’re doing is infinitely better than retreating back into a shell and not talking about Jesus in any way. Keep the focus on Jesus, and you can weather this storm. God bless you for what you’re doing.

Can Gentile believers claim the promises of the Old Testament?

Can Gentile believers claim the promises coming from books like Hosea? Or are they only for Israel? Very good question. I can’t give you an absolute answer. The only answer I could give is: Sometimes. Because sometimes the promises we see in the Prophets, in the Old Testament, are promises made to the people of God in general, and it speaks to Israel as the people of God. But then there are other promises which were made to national Israel specifically. We must look at the context; we’ve got to understand the passage and ask the question, “Is this passage speaking to national Israel specifically, or is it speaking to the people of God in general?” So that’s what I would emphasize on that aspect. Now, I do also want to give room for something. There are certain times and certain places where the Spirit of God will make a promise alive to us, even though it was not specifically given to us. I think that’s an important concept. This is obviously an idea or concept that can be abused. But having experienced it in my own life, and knowing many others who have had a similar experience, I just see that sometimes the Holy Spirit will make a promise come alive to us. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say that it’s almost written in flashing lights, as we take a look at promise in the Bible, and the Holy Spirit is saying, “That’s for you.” Look, I’m not saying that that sense is infallible, it’s definitely possible that a believer could get that wrong. They could think a promise was to them, even think that the Holy Spirit’s saying that the promise is for them, but it was not actually. However, there is this dynamic where the Holy Spirit will take a verse and make it alive to us; I like the old King James way of speaking, that He will “quicken” that verse to us, and say, “This is for you.”

So, we first know by general context, then we secondly must allow for this idea of the Holy Spirit making something alive to us. It was not originally written to us, but the Spirit makes it alive to our heart.

If the gospel is so complex and extensive, how can we share it with people in a few minutes?

It is true that the gospel is extensive. I don’t know if I’d say it’s complex, but it is extensive. There is no limit to understanding the depths, the nuance, the effects, the meaning, and the ramifications of what God has done for us in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. That’s the one aspect of it.

But at its core, the gospel is very simple. At its core, the gospel is this: It’s the good news of what God has done to save us in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, especially what He did in His death on the cross and resurrection to new life. I’ll say it again. The gospel is the good news of what God has done to save us, to rescue those who put their trust in Him, through the Person and work of Jesus Christ, especially what He did in dying on the cross, and raising again to new life. That’s the core of the gospel. That’s what a person needs to believe and put their trust in, to pass from death to life. That aspect isn’t complicated; that aspect can be grasped. Put a focus on that core of the gospel. Now, I can get into the complexities and nuance from the Bible all day long, and I love to do it, but the core of what God has done to rescue us in Jesus Christ, that’s not so complicated. We can grab ahold of it.

Was Jonah was filled with the Holy Spirit all of the time?

Can you tell me if Jonah was filled with the Holy Spirit all the time or just some of the time?

Jonah is specifically said to be a prophet, so I would say that in his work as a prophet, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Jonah was used by God to bring a remarkable revival to the city of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, which was a cruel and brutal and dictatorial empire. I don’t think he could be used of God to bring such a mighty revival unless he was filled with the Spirit. But you could ask whether he was filled with the Spirit when he ran away from God and got on the ship bound for Tarshish. He certainly wasn’t walking in the Spirit when he did that. So again, he was a prophet. God used him mightily to bring forth an amazing revival. I don’t have any problem pointing at the fact that he was filled with the Spirit.

How can we be sure we will go to Heaven when we die?

During Bible study, someone asked if we can be sure that we will go to heaven when we die, or will we know it when we face God?

We certainly will know it when we face God, that’s for sure. But I do think that we can know ahead of time. Romans 8:16 says that The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. I believe that if a person is genuinely a believer, the Holy Spirit testifies to their spirit that they are in God’s family, and that they are children of God. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t such a thing as false assurance, when someone could think they have this but actually be wrong. I think there would be indications of that, though.

The book of 1 John gives us many ways to test the idea that we are walking in God’s light, that we have passed from death to life. Our salvation is rooted in who Jesus is and what He did for us, not on who we are or what we’ve done for ourselves – God forbid. These things bring us assurance of salvation because Jesus can never fail. So yes, I would say it is definitely possible for someone to know the status of their own salvation. Just like anything, it can only be known imperfectly, but I think it can decisively be known.

Do people who reject Jesus Christ go to a holding place called Hell when they die?

Here’s my understanding of this conception. Those who reject Jesus Christ go to a place that in the Scriptures is sometimes called Hades. It’s a place where people await the final judgment. I think there was a difference in the composition of Hades before Jesus finished His work on the cross and after Jesus finished His work on the cross. But we’re only speaking about the nature the composition of Hades, after Jesus finished His work on the cross.

Look, if someone rejects Jesus, they don’t want heaven. If there’s anything characteristic of heaven, it’s Jesus. Jesus is all over heaven. If a person rejects Jesus, they don’t want heaven. I’m not saying that they want hell or Hades, but they don’t want heaven. Part of what we understand about heaven is that God won’t force people there who don’t want to go there.

Those who die rejecting Jesus Christ go to Hades, which is sort of the waiting area. It is a place of torment; Jesus described it so in a story that he told in Luke 17. There they await the Great White Throne Judgment. At the Great White Throne Judgment, those people who were in Hades are sentenced to the Lake of Fire, which is also called in the Hebrew, Gehenna, which we would commonly call hell.

That’s the distinction I would make. Hades is an immediate place where the dead outside of Jesus Christ go. At the Great White Throne Judgment, those in Hades are judged, and they spend the rest of eternity in the Lake of Fire, Gehenna. That’s how the Scriptures bring it forth. These are truths from the Scriptures that on the one hand are terrifying. How can we say they’re anything less than that? But in the end, they bring God glory, and they honor His righteousness. So, I believe that’s how the Scriptures explain it.

How can we tell which Bible version is more accurate?

In Luke 5, Jesus asked Peter to drop nets to catch fish, in the NKJV he “drops a net.” The ESV, NIV, and NLT say Peter “dropped nets.” Which do you think is the best translation on this verse?

The translation I mostly use is the New King James. It differs from other modern translations by the textual tradition upon which it is based. Most scholars regard the textual tradition that is the basis for the ESV, the NIV, the NLT, as being better and superior. I think things should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

If we were going to judge it on a case-by-case basis, we would simply dig into the Greek resources and commentaries and see which has a better rendering, a better reading, in the commentaries. Sometimes it’s the textual tradition that backs up the Old and New King James Versions. Other times, it’s a textual tradition that backs up the ESV and NIV. The differences are usually very small, just as what you’re pointing out here: the difference between “net” and “nets.” Admittedly, very small differences and insignificant differences. So, all I can recommend is that you look at the textual tradition that supports both readings, compare them, and see which is stronger and which is better. That would be the general way that I would explain it.