THE HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE
By Larry White
I've seen many articles in Vanguard over the years dealing with whether the Holy Spirit is personally dwelling in the Christian or not, and all of the articles have been in the negative. However, there must be many Christians who believe that the Bible teaches that he does dwell in us (at least I hope I'm not the only one), and I thought it might be interesting to the readers to hear some answers to one of these articles given from the other point of view.
I would like to answer the arguments in M.F. Manchester's article in the July, 1982 issue, entitled The Promise Of The Spirit. I believe that everyone of the scriptures found in this article is misapplied and therefore I will argue for the context of passages, since that appears to be the problem in most cases.
First, we have the idea that the “promise of the Spirit” has to do with “that which the Spirit promised", and we have the statement that “The Spirit of God made a promise to Abraham that 'in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed' (Gen.12:33)". Given what we know of the Godhead, and the relative position and relationship of the three members, it seems that the Holy Spirit would not be making a promise, nor be in that position. The Father seems to be the originator and planner of all things, and so, if anyone was promising something to Abraham, especially the plan of salvation, it would be God the Father. Of course it is understood that the medium of that revelation was the Holy Spirit. But how could it be said that the Spirit of God made a promise to Abraham, and where is it stated as such?
Then we have the argument that the promise of the Spirit in Gal.3:14 was that which the Spirit promised. However, the argument Paul is making here is that one of the proofs that they didn't need to follow the Old Testament law, was that they had received the Spirit by the hearing of faith, that is, his indwelling, in verse 2. This is the context we must keep in mind. Their receiving the Holy Spirit was made possible because the blessing of Abraham had come on them through Jesus Christ, which is the blessing of salvation in Christ. In other words, lest I be misunderstood, Gal.3:14 states that the Gentiles received the blessing of Abraham (which is salvation) so that now they can receive the Holy Spirit, which was promised, by faith; per verse 2.
This, by the way, is the same order that we find in ACTS 2:38-39. First, forgiveness of sins (salvation) and then they are able to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the promise in that context.
Then we have an argument for a seemingly parallel Greek construction: “the gift of God” (Rom.6:23) and the promise of the Spirit, reasoning that it's God's gift, therefore, it's the Spirit's promise. This assumes that both constructions here are Possessive Genitives. But there are other genitive cases, such as Qualitative, Objective, Absolute, Comparative, etc. This genitive in Gal.3:14 is objective, and most Greek authorities say also that it is appositional or epexegetical, (that the phrase, "of the Spirit" modifies "the promise"). All this, means that Gal.3:14; Acts.2:38 and other passages, can be translated to mean that the promise refers to the Holy Spirit as the promise, or as the gift, governed by the context. This would be true also in regard to the broader context of the New Testament itself. For in Eph.1:13 you have "that Holy Spirit of promise", which could be rendered, "that promised Holy Spirit" (RSV, NIV). But to say that Rom.6:23 (the gift of God) and Gal.3:14 (the promise of the Spirit) are parallel, is pretty much a bare assertion. One is the genitive of source, while the other is objective genitive; and it depends on the context to a great extent. In 2Tim.1:1 you have, "the promise of life", which is also in the genitive case. Does that mean "life" has promised someone something? Obviously, "life" is what is promised; so also the Spirit, in Gal.3:14, is what is promised.
If someone wants to prove that the promise is not the Holy Spirit, they should try proving that the Holy Spirit was not promised. Now, that would be an argument. But since the Holy Spirit was promised, (Eph.1:13) that's a strong indication of what the promise of the Holy Spirit is.
Next; as far as the times of refreshing, of Acts 3:19 being the gift of the Holy Spirit referred to in Acts 2:38, please refer to Isa.28:12. "This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing yet they would not hear."
"Israel was a weary people, worn out by sin and rebellion; to cause this people to have rest was a command to walk in the way of true rest, namely, to obey the commands of the Lord." (Young) Jesus pleads for us to come to him and find rest. The times of refreshing is something the Jews looked for under the reign of the Messiah. But they could only obtain it by obedience to that true Messiah, Jesus.
I think it would be appropriate to view this rest and time of refreshing as righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. But simply naming this doesn't prove that the gift in Acts.2:38, was something the Spirit gave. That is a different context. It would be more appropriate to say that we have this refreshing because we have the Spirit himself, and walk in obedience to God. "The churches had rest ... walking in the fear of the Lord, and comfort of the Holy Spirit were multiplied." (Acts.9:31)
The next argument is that the gift that the Spirit gives, is life.
First, I have no argument with Rom.8:1-2 or 2Cor.3:6, that our new life is spirit and is wrought in us by the spirit of life because we have believed the truth of the Gospel in the New Testament scriptures. We live in the spirit and we function in God's kingdom, doing the will of God through the spirit. The old letter of the Law killed, but the Spirit makes alive. However, the idea of a gift is not in either of these contexts (please check the Greek). The Spirit makes us alive, but this has not been shown to be "the gift of the Holy Spirit" found in Acts.2:38. The gift in that context is what was promised to them by the prophecy of Joel quoted in verse 17, which promise, Jesus received from the Father in verse 33 (because it was the Father's promise) and which he poured out upon his disciples, namely, the Holy Spirit. This is the very thing Jesus said he would do in Jno.16:7, and which he stated again in Acts.1:4-5, calling the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, “the promise of the Father,” which he had told them about. He says exactly the same thing in Lk.24:49, which is a parallel passage by the same author; that he would send the promise of his Father upon them. Now, what could be more simple or plain? The promise of the Holy Spirit is that which the Father promised.
The next argument states that "the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians in exactly the same way God and Christ dwell in them, and that is by faith.” I’ve written a longer response to this one argument and sent it into Vanguard. I don't know if it will be published. Briefly stated, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, (2Cor.1:22) personally, (1Cor.6:19) by the gift we receive when we are immersed. (Acts.2:38) This gift is not conditioned on spiritual understanding or maturity, for we are all babes in Christ when we receive it. Having Christ dwell in our hearts by faith, however, requires a substantial growth in our faith; growth into his image, (2Cor.3:18) being one with him in his likeness. So also, the Father abides in us and we in him, as we grow into and abide in his love, (1Jno.4:16-17) Being filled with all the fullness of God takes a mature faith and spiritual strength in our inner man. (Eph.3:14-19) But all of this growth is the work of the Holy Spirit through the ministry of the Spirit, which is the word of the New Testament. But no matter where we are in our spiritual development, the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us, and he sanctifies us as we feed on God's word. We are chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. (2Thess.2:13)
The next argument is based on two similar passages by Paul; Eph.5:18 and Col.3:16, with the statement, "that if a Christian is filled with faith by hearing the word, which produces faith, he is filled with the Spirit.
Concerning these passages, where Paul in one place says to "be filled with the Spirit”, and in the other to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly", I think it would be inappropriate to say that one is the same as the other. If the Holy Spirit is meant in Eph.5:18 (there is some doubt in the Greek), then we would be saying that the word is the Holy Spirit, which it is not. The Holy Spirit revealed the word. He is not the word; he is a person belonging to the Godhead. The word is the sword of the Spirit. (Eph.6:17) To imply that they are one and the same is, I believe, again, inappropriate.
The Greek word “en” in the phrase "with the Spirit", can be rendered variously; in, on, at, with, by, or among, depending on the context. There is a possibility that Paul here is admonishing the Ephesians not to be drunk with wine (fleshly stimulation), but be filled in spirit (spiritual stimulation); being filled with joy, thankfulness and comfort, and from this abundance in their spirit, to sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs. Or it could mean to be filled in the realm of what is spirit. In the Greek it's "filled in spirit", not "filled with the Spirit". The way we fill our spirits (Eph.5:18) is by letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col.3:16) - which might be a better parallel in view of the context than our versions would suggest. This may also be a better understanding to defend when meeting our Pentecostal friends, instead of the confusion we get into trying to make our faith, the Holy Spirit. and the word, tantamount to the same thing.
The last argument of scripture in this article is one from Acts 5:32 where God is said to give the Holy Spirit to those who obey him; referring (as is supposed) to the Apostles only. However, to be brief, I don't see anything in this context that necessarily compels me to apply the phrase "them that obey him”, only to the Apostles. The condition of God giving the Holy Spirit is general, "to them that obey him". Obviously, the Apostles were not the only ones who obeyed God. I don't believe Peter would limit the receiving of the Holy Spirit to just the Apostles, for there were thousands of people who received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and who received miraculous gifts by the Spirit.
I've seen many articles and heard many sermons of late by Christians trying to explain away the Biblical teaching that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us. I think this is, for the most part, reactionary. We've proved that the Pentecostals couldn't possibly have the Holy Spirit, and now we're trying to prove not only this, but that anyone, anywhere, including Christians, cannot have the indwelling of the Spirit either. We are even down to the point of hinting that the Apostles of Christ didn't have the personal indwelling of the Spirit, seemingly regardless of what Jesus and the Father promised. Why doesn't someone try proving that Jesus didn't have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? I think we're reacting, and I think we're wrenching the scriptures from their simple meaning.
The direction in which we grow and mature has very much to do with the content of what we believe. The truth accurately describes the reality of spiritual things to us. And unless our growth is into and in accord with the reality of what really is, we will find our growth hindered. We cannot grow into and be made complete and mature in illusion or lies. We must grow in accordance with the truth of what is, or we will find that our stature is built upon mere vapor. Brethren, unless we have that correct reality of truth in our hearts, we may find it very hard to mature at all.
With all the errors of Pentecostalism aside; I wonder what will be the final effect on the growth of real Christians, members of the church of Christ, if we do, or if we do not believe in the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Obviously, the direction in which we should be moving is toward spiritual understanding and walking in the spirit; toward real meekness, true humility, unfeigned love, and a very present and personal relationship and communication with God our Father; strengthened with his might in our spirits, able to comprehend the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, knowing the love of Christ, being filled with all the fullness of God. It's my belief that the Holy Spirit has a personal and very important role in this, according to Eph.3:16.
But God is gracious, and as we continue to trust him and ardently search him out, he will effect our growth and will see to it that we obtain that truth for which we seek, as we keep asking, and seeking, and knocking. Our part is to make sure that our faith has its source in THE faith, the reality of which the Bible reveals by the true words which it actually uses.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." (2Cor.13:14)