Old Testament Passages Good for Every Christian to Know, Part 13

Old Testament Passages Good for Every Christian to Know, Part 13

Old Testament Passages Good for Everyone to Know, Part 13

by Doug Jacoby
In the OT series we've studied key Bible passages in every book from Genesis to Ruth. In deciding which passage from 1 Samuel to select, I was tempted to go with 1 Sam 2:22-25 (Eli's leadership) or 1 Sam 17 (David and Goliath), but eventually settled on 19:18-24, where the Spirit falls on ungodly Saul—and yet he prophesies.

Yet I realize that, given the high level of confusion about the Spirit current in churches today, some advance explanation may be necessary, so that we don't read our text with faulty assumptions. The four points below are intended to help us to think clearly about the Spirit and also about the two testaments.

(1) In the Old Testament, individuals did not possess the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39). This was a promise available only after Jesus' return to heaven (Acts 2:30, 33). However, the Spirit did fall on (or come upon) a number of persons, for example several of the Judges. The Spirit indicated that God is at work, drawing our attention to something important. It did not validate the individual as being right with God.

(2) The OT clearly promised that in the new covenant the Spirit would be in our hearts (Ezek 36:26-27). Yet the NT gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 5:32) is internal, not external. The Spirit dwells in us. 

(3) If the Spirit falls on someone, that does not mean he or she is saved. In the case of Saul, since he acts so wickedly, this should be easy to accept. Yet let's consider the good-hearted Cornelius, on whom the Spirit fell even before his baptism. After this event, during which miraculous activity is present, Peter commands that Cornelius be baptized in the name of Jesus—it's in the name of Jesus that sins are forgiven (Acts 10:43-48). God's purpose is to indicate that the gospel is for the Gentiles, too. (Please read all of Acts 10:1-11:18 if this is a new concept.) Cornelius is not saved by the Spirit falling on him, but when he receives the indwelling Spirit.

(4) In the early centuries of Christianity, it was understood that the Spirit is received in baptism (Gal 3:26-27; 4:6; Acts 2:38; 1 Cor 12:13). Most people have profoundly spiritual experiences now and again. After all, that's how we are wired. Yet spiritual feelings are not to be equated with the gift of the Spirit, which may or may not involve feelings. In fact, unless one has received the indwelling Spirit, he or she is not in Christ (Rom 8:9). That is why baptism is so important.

Now let's think about these issues in the light of 1 Samuel 19:

... The Spirit of God came even on Saul, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth (1 Sam 19:23).

  • Check out the whole chapter. Saul has turned away from the Lord, and is trying to kill David, of whom he is deeply jealous and suspicious. Yet the Spirit came even on him.
  • It is obvious that the Spirit does not convert Saul to God. Rather, Saul's purposes are being frustrated. The Lord has determined that David will be the next king, and Saul is powerless to prevent this.
  • Nor does his prophesying prove that he is saved. Earlier, in 1 Sam 11:6, the Spirit comes on Saul and equips him with physical strength—reminiscent of unspiritual Samson (1 Sam 14:6).
  • Miraculous abilities do not prove that one is right with God. Yet many today stake their salvation on a supposed ability to prophesy, speak in tongues, interpret dreams, etc. Jesus warns us that we are foolish to trust in spiritual experiences, especially if we're not carrying out the will of God (Matt 7:21-27).

The Old Testament contains many passages that help us to understand the Holy Spirit—another reason for every Christian to be a student of all scripture—not just the New Testament. For more, please search under the term spirit at the website, or perhaps take a look at The Spirit: Presence and Power, Sense and Nonsense.

Next week: A famous text from 2 Samuel. (Can you guess which one?)