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The Gist of “God’s Indwelling Presence”

My book God’s Indwelling Presence seeks to answer the question “were old covenant believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit?”

Over at The Gospel Coalition I give my answer to that question in 1,000 words.

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Implications for Today, Part 3 – Avoiding What Does Not Result in the Spirit’s Presence and Power

Here’s the Final Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The conclusions of this essay, then, are simple. To experience the presence and power of the Spirit on mission today we should be born again ourselves, study and teach the Bible, proclaim the gospel, baptize new disciples in the triune name, and pursue the purity of the local church.

This is so simple that I am afraid many missionaries have moved on from this unbroken apostolic paradigm. Once again, across the New Testament, everywhere the Apostles do missions, they always plant churches by preaching the gospel and baptizing converts. Perhaps missionaries have not been taught the unbroken Apostolic pattern of mission (i.e., Spirit empowered, gospel proclaiming church planting[1]), or perhaps they have tried it, decided it didn’t work, and are now trying other ideas. The little or slow growth that might result from following the apostolic program of preaching the word should summon us to prayer, not propel us into reliance upon strategies taught at Harvard Business School. Moving away from relying on the Spirit moving through the proclamation of the gospel to rely instead on worldly strategies from the business world would seem to be the modern day equivalent of Israel’s reliance upon Assyria and Egypt rather than Yahweh.

The New Testament gives no indication that the presence and power of the Spirit will be enjoyed by means of a hurly burly of “ministry activity” that has little or nothing to do with studying and teaching the Bible, proclaiming the gospel, baptizing new disciples into church membership, and pursuing purity in the church. Nor is there any indication in the Bible that the presence and power of the Spirit will be accessed by an activity such as prayer walking. In fact, there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that the Apostles ever engaged in prayer walking, nor is there any indication that they thought it a useful activity on mission. The account of Joshua walking around Jericho is a description of something God did in the history of Israel. That narrative is not a prescription to prayer walk.[2]

Starting schools, hosting events, doing mailouts, advertising on billboards and websites, opening coffeehouses, and all the other stuff that keeps missionaries busy, are all good things if they are feeding into and not detracting from the ministry of a local church which is proclaiming the gospel, teaching the Bible, and beseeching the Spirit to move in power. My fear is that far too many missionaries do not experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit because all their “ministry” is disconnected from a particular local church, which is, after all, the temple of the Holy Spirit. If the disconnect from the local church is combined with no teaching of the Scriptures and no proclamation of the gospel there will be no presence and no power from the Holy Spirit. Building relationships is a fine thing to do, but at some point the gospel must be proclaimed. The Spirit will not work apart from the word.

We must beseech the Spirit to empower our efforts. We set ourselves up for a genuine work of God by faithfully proclaiming the gospel and calling on God to awaken people to hear and believe by the power of the Spirit. If the “ministry” prospers for the same reasons that Coca-Cola or WalMart prospers, good business practice and forward thinking methodology get the glory. On the other hand, God is glorified when his people obey him by proclaiming the gospel and praying for the Spirit to give life. God is glorified when the Spirit strengthens hearts by the formative teaching of the word. And God is glorified when the Spirit purifies the church through corrective discipline. May God be glorified as Jesus builds his church by the power of the Spirit.


[1] I am not talking here about planting churches using the same methodology that MacDonalds or Starbucks uses when they open a new international location. I am talking about planting churches on the preached word empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that God, who has empowered the growth, gets the glory, instead of the clever business strategy or cultural savvy being credited with the success.

[2] See Peter R. Schemm Jr.’s answer the question “Is prayer-walking a biblical strategy?” where he rejects “‘on site’ prayer as the required means for effecting powerful prayer” and asserts that “it is best described as an attempt to wage spiritual war ‘according to the flesh’ (2 Cor. 10:3)” in Daniel L. Akin, A Theology for the Church (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2007), 330–31.

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To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Implications for Today, Part 2 – So What Should We Do?

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

What, then, should we do in order to experience the presence and power of the Spirit on mission today? We must be born again! From there, we should give ourselves to the Bible, that the Spirit might strengthen us in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in our hearts by faith. If we are born again, Jesus loving, Bible reading obedient disciples, we will obey the command of Jesus to make disciples (Matt 28:18–20). This means we indiscriminately proclaim the gospel, that faith might come by hearing (Rom 10:17) as the Spirit gives life to those who hear the gospel (John 6:63). These new believers will be baptized in obedience to the command of Jesus (Matt 28:19). Baptism makes the disciple a member of a local expression of the body of Christ—a local church. And disciples are then given to the formative (teaching from the Bible; cf. Rom 6:17) and corrective (reproof, rebuke, calls to repentance, and if necessary exclusion, Matt 18:15–18) discipline of the church, that the church might be obedient to the commands of Jesus and experience the fullness of God’s presence among them by his Spirit. The church is the program that God has given through Jesus in the power of the Spirit for the making of disciples.

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To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Implications for Today, Part 1 – Power and Presence

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit’s Presence and Power in Mission Today

The Spirit gives life (John 6:63). The wind of the Spirit blows where it wishes (3:8). The Spirit must enable people to see and enter the kingdom of God (3:3, 5). Apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit in the new birth, the human flesh hearing the proclamation of the gospel “is of no avail” (6:63). That is, if people are to be born again, if they are to be made alive, if they are to be enabled to see the kingdom, the Spirit must do for them what they are unable to do for themselves: open their eyes that they might behold Jesus and believe in him (cf. John 6:40).

Not only does the Spirit give life, he indwells. Jesus conditions full experience of the indwelling Spirit on obedience: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:15–16). It seems that if we do not love Jesus and obey him, he will not ask the Father to give us the Spirit. There is mystery here. We do not earn the presence of the Spirit in our lives, but we can grieve and quench the Spirit (Eph 4:30; 1 Thess 5:19).[1] Obedience to and love for Jesus is the pathway toward greater enjoyment of God’s presence by the Spirit. This also urges us to protect the purity of the church and foster holiness within it. The indwelling of the Spirit demands that God’s people be holy individually and corporately. It would also seem that just as some were empowered by the Spirit to proclaim God’s word in the book of Acts (instances where pimplemi is used), so today the Spirit empowers God’s people for ministry.

These observations lead to the conclusion that the Spirit gives life to those who hear the gospel proclaimed, and the Spirit resides in individual believers as well as gathered local churches. We can also say from Ephesians 3:14–19 that God mediates his presence to us by means of his word, which we trust as the Spirit strengthens us so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith (3:16–17).


[1] See Graham Cole’s chapters, “How Do We Quench the Holy Spirit?” 67–81, and “How Do We Grieve the Holy Spirit?” 83–97 in Engaging the Holy Spirit.

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To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Old and New Testament Summary

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Old and New Testaments

In the Old and New Testaments, the Spirit of God is central to prophetic revelation, the presence of God among his people, and God’s power for his people to accomplish his purposes. People are born again and empowered to love God and turn from sin by the regenerating work of God’s Spirit. In the old covenant, God’s presence among his people took the form of his Spirit remaining among them in a pillar of flame and cloud, then the cloud settled on the tabernacle. Later God took up residence by his Spirit in the temple. In the new covenant, God’s people are his temple, and God indwells his people by his Spirit.

Just as the Spirit inspired Old Testament prophets, so also New Testament prophets were inspired by the Spirit. Now that the canon of Scripture is closed, we recognize that while the Spirit illumines hearts to understand the prophetic word, there are no more Spirit inspired prophecies being given like those we read in the Bible.[1] Therefore, I understand Paul’s exhortation for people to “pursue” the ability to prophesy (1 Cor 14:1) to mean that today we should eagerly desire to understand and apply the prophetic word we have received, which is contained in the Bible.[2]


[1] I take the view that New Testament prophecy should not be distinguished from Old Testament prophecy and that this kind of prophecy no longer occurs.

[2] I understand the command to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Cor 16:20) in a similar way, such that while we do not need to pharisaically obey the letter of the law and give kisses to each other, we should obey the spirit of the law and greet one another affectionately and enthusiastically.

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To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Revelation

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in Revelation

In Revelation, the four times John says he was “in the Spirit” appear at the beginning of major sections in the book’s structure (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).[1] One of the distinctive ways John refers to the Spirit appears in the four places where he refers to the “seven Spirits” (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). There are a number of places where John records something “the Spirit says” (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 14:13; 22:17), and these references underscore the fact that God is speaking through John by the Spirit in Revelation. Twice the Spirit is directly connected to prophecy (19:10; 22:6).[2]


[1] Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (London: T & T Clark, 1993), 3.

[2] For an excellent treatment of the Spirit in Revelation, see Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, New Testament Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 109–25.

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To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: New Testament Letters

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Letters of the New Testament

Much could be said about the Holy Spirit in the letters of the New Testament. The scope of this project, and the attention we have given to the Spirit in John and Acts, means we must limit this treatment to a mere summary of the various ministries of the Spirit reflected in the letters of the New Testament.[1]

Jesus offered himself through the Spirit to cleanse believers from sin (Heb 9:14). The Spirit works with Jesus to justify believers (1 Cor 6:11). Jesus was raised from the dead and declared triumphant by the Spirit (Rom 1:4; 8:11; 1 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 3:18). The Spirit attested to Jesus by various signs and wonders (Rom 15:19; Heb 2:4).

As noted above, a number of texts indicate that the Spirit’s work of regeneration in the new covenant corresponds to the Spirit’s work in heart circumcision under that old covenant (cf. Jer 6:9–10; Rom 2:29; Col 2:11–13). Many texts speak of the Spirit’s regenerating work, the new birth which enables people to perceive what they cannot perceive apart from the Spirit (1 Cor 2:12–14; 2 Cor 3:3, 6, 8; Gal 3:2, 3, 5, 14; 4:29; 1 Thess 1:5; Tit 3:5). Some texts explicitly state that apart from the Spirit one is not able to please God (Rom 8:8–9; 1 Cor 12:3; cf. Jude 1:19), making the Spirit the determining factor in whether one belongs to God (1 John 4:2, 6). Connected to this, it is the Spirit who reveals God, whether the revelation is Scriptural (1 Cor 7:40; Eph 3:5; 1 Tim 4:1; Heb 3:7; 9:8; 10:15; 1 Pet 1:11–12; 2 Pet 1:21) or an existential experience of the Spirit illuminating one to understand what God has done (1 Cor 2:10; Eph 1:17; 1 John 5:6, 8).

When believers are baptized in water, they become partakers of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). The reception of the Spirit is the reception of sonship in relation to God (Rom 8:15), and Paul can also say that God gives the Spirit to those who are sons (Gal 4:6). The Spirit gifts believers in various ways, and all these gifts are for the edification of the church (1 Cor 12:4–31; cf. 2 Cor 6:6).[2]

A number of texts refer to the indwelling ministry of the Spirit (Rom 8:9–11, 23; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:13; 2:22; Phil 2:1; 1 Thess 4:8; 2 Tim 1:14; 1 Pet 4:14). Some texts speak of the Spirit and prayer (Rom 8:26; 9:1; Jude 1:20). The Spirit’s role in sanctifying believers is often in view (Rom 5:5; 7:6; 8:2–14, 26; 14:17; 15:13, 16, 30; Gal 5:5, 16–25; 6:8; Eph 3:16; 4:3, 30; 5:18; 6:17; Phil 1:19; 3:3; Col 1:8; 1 Thess 1:6; 2 Thess 2:13; Heb 10:29; 1 Pet 1:2; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). Some texts, like Matthew 28:18–20, are significant for our understanding of the triunity of God (see Rom 5:1–5; 2 Cor 3:17–18; 13:14; Eph 2:18; 4:4–6; 1 Pet 1:2).


[1] For discussion of the Spirit and spiritual gifts in Paul’s theology, see Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 2001), 307–70. See also Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994).

[2] There is not space here to develop these ideas, but see Schreiner’s discussion of spiritual gifts in Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ, 351–70, and for my take on the view that some gifts have ceased, see on Apostles, “So, Aren’t We All Cessationists (at least on this point)” available online: http://jimhamilton.wordpress.com/2008/05/23/so-aren%e2%80%99t-we-all-cessationists-at-least-on-this-point/; and on prophecy: “What Is Prophecy and Has It Ceased?” available online: http://jimhamilton.wordpress.com/2006/08/29/what-is-prophecy-and-has-it-ceased/.

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To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Acts

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in Acts. Before looking at the Spirit in Acts, because this is a treatment of the Spirit in mission, some comments on the mission would seem to be in order. The church is referred to twice by Jesus in the gospels (Matt 16:18; 18:17), with Matthew 16:18 containing the announcement of Jesus’ intention to build the church on the rock, Peter. In view of Paul’s reference to the church being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20), it seems that Paul understood Peter to represent the apostles, who were the foundation, with Christ as the cornerstone (Eph 2:20). This is significant because when we compare what Jesus said he was going to do—build his church (Matt 16:18), with the way that we see the apostles doing ministry in the book of Acts, we find what amounts to an unbroken apostolic pattern. That pattern consists of the proclamation of the way that Jesus came in fulfillment of Old Testament expectation, was crucified and raised, and is now calling all men everywhere to repent, believe, and be baptized. Those who obey the gospel by believing and being baptized are then organized into churches. Never in the book of Acts, nor in the rest of the New Testament, do we see the apostles try some other program for making disciples than the church. It would appear that they understood the commission to go and make disciples (Matt 28:18–20) such that it was to be carried out by Jesus building his church (Matt 16:18) through their labors. Thus, as they take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the end of the earth (Acts 1:8), those who believe the gospel are baptized into union with Christ. Baptism identifies believers with Jesus, making them members of his body, which is to say, members of the church. This is always realized through participation in a local outpost of Christ’s body: a local church.[1]

In the book of Acts we see the church baptized in the Spirit, filled with power by the Spirit (usually resulting in proclamation), and we see hints of the church enjoying the indwelling of the Spirit. One of the perennial questions facing interpreters is the relationship between the events narrated in John 20 and Acts 2. In John 20, Jesus breathes on his disciples and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2 the Spirit comes on the disciples dramatically in power. In my view, these are two different accounts of the Spirit coming at different times and in different ways. In John 20 the disciples receive the indwelling Spirit. In Acts 2 they are baptized in the Spirit. There is no more conflict between John 20 and Acts 2 than there is between the baptism in the Spirit in Acts 2 and the church being filled with the Spirit in Acts 4:31.

There are four accounts in Acts that can be considered baptisms in the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:5 refers to the incident on the day of Pentecost recounted in Acts 2 as a baptism in the Spirit (baptism language is not used in Acts 2). Similarly, baptism language is used in Acts 8:16, but it is used to say that while those who had believed in Samaria had been baptized in the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit had not yet “fallen on” them. This helps us make a connection, though, because Luke says the Spirit “fell on” those hearing Peter’s preaching at Cornelius’ house (10:44; 11:15), and then Peter likens this falling of the Spirit on the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house to what happened on the day of Pentecost. Luke records him saying, “the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (11:15–16). This statement would seem to connect the events in Acts 2, 8, and 10 as baptisms in the Holy Spirit. The fourth baptism in the Spirit comes in Acts 19:1–7, when Paul points the disciples of John the Baptist to the one he prophesied, they are baptized in Jesus’ name, and “the Holy Spirit came on them” (19:6).

Some observations on these accounts will highlight their unique, non-repeatable nature. First, in every case those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit were already believers when they were baptized. Jesus’ disciples in Acts 2 have already confessed him as Lord, so the day of Pentecost does not mark their conversion. There is a time lag in Acts 8 between the Samaritans believing Philip’s preaching, being baptized in water (8:12), and the apostles arriving from Jerusalem (8:14). Once the apostles arrive from Jerusalem, they pray for the Samaritans, and the Spirit falls on them (8:15). The conversion of the Gentiles in Acts 10 might break this pattern, but it seems to me that Peter’s reference to the gift of the Spirit being given “after believing” (11:17, NAS, this captures the nuance of the aorist participle) indicates that here, too, the Gentiles believed, and then they were baptized in the Spirit. Admittedly, these two events were very close to one another. In Acts 19:1 the followers of the Baptist that Paul encounters in Ephesus are referred to as “disciples,” and elsewhere in Acts this is a term that Luke reserves for believers. Then Paul assumes these people are believers (19:2), so it would appear that when they believe what Paul says and are baptized in the name of Jesus we do not have an account of people coming to faith as new believers. Rather, we have members of the old covenant remnant having their existing faith updated so that by means of Paul’s proclamation they now know all that God has done in Jesus.

In addition to the separation in time between conversion and baptism in the Spirit in Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19, we can also observe that these baptisms in the Spirit always result in dramatic, visible, audible manifestations of the Spirit. In Acts 2, a rushing wind is heard, tongues of fire are seen, and those who are baptized begin speaking in other languages (2:1–4). In Acts 8 the description is not as graphic, but somehow “Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands” (8:18). He must have seen or heard evidence, for he is so certain that this has happened that he offers money for the power to do what the apostles did (8:19). When the Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house, “they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God” (10:46). And as for the disciples of the Baptist in Acts 19, “when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying” (19:6). These are the only occasions of visible, audible, dramatic manifestations of the Spirit in Acts. Indeed, only in Acts 2, 10, and 19 does anyone speak in tongues.

We have, then, in Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19 four accounts where conversion is separated from baptism in the Spirit and where there are these dramatic, visible and audible manifestations of the Spirit once the baptism in the Spirit has happened. We can also observe that Luke records numerous conversion accounts in Acts, none of which is accompanied by anything like what we find in these accounts of baptisms in the Spirit (cf. 2:41, 47; 4:3; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 8:36–39; 9:31, 35, 42; 11:21; 13:48–49; 14:1, 9–10; 16:5, 14, 34; 17:4, 11–12, 34; 18:8; 28:24). On the basis of these many conversion accounts where nothing is noted regarding the Spirit, we can conclude that Luke does not mean to indicate that his descriptions of what happens in Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19 are paradigmatic experiences for either conversion or Christian life. It seems more likely that Luke means to indicate that what happens in Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19 is distinct, non-repeatable, and representative for the whole church. This view is confirmed by the similarities between Acts 8:14–18 and 11:21–24. In both texts word reaches Jerusalem that people have come to faith, and in both texts apostolic representatives are sent. Only in Acts 8, however, is anything dramatic about the Spirit noted.

On the basis of these observations on the baptisms in the Spirit in Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19, we can also note that each of these four incidents make a significant statement about the progress of redemptive history and how different groups relate to that progress. Acts 2 demonstrates that these Jewish followers of Jesus are the group in Judaism on whom God’s favor rests. No longer is God’s covenant with Israel as a nation. The new covenant has dawned, the beginning of “the last days” (2:17), and God has poured out his Spirit on the followers of Jesus, designating them as his people, empowering them to draw others into the church. Acts 8 shows the Samaritans that they will not have a Samaritan version of Christianity as they have had their Samaritan Judaism (for the tensions between Samaritans and Jews, see John 4:9). The Samaritans only receive the Spirit once the Jerusalem apostles arrive and pray for them. The whole church is to be under the authority of the apostolic foundation on which Jesus is building his church. Acts 10 demonstrates that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised to be incorporated into the church, for they were baptized in the Spirit apart from circumcision. This point was so significant in the early church that Luke told the story three times in Acts—see chapters 10, 11, and 15. And in Acts 19 those who believe an old covenant prophet, John the Baptist, are shown that they must believe in the one to whom John pointed if they are to taste the fruits of the new age that has dawned. Only by believing in Jesus, in whom God’s Old Testament promises are yes and amen, are these followers of the Baptist baptized in the Spirit. The whole church, then, has been representatively baptized in the Spirit in the four baptisms recorded in Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19.

In addition to the occasions where we see the church baptized in the Spirit in Acts, we also see people “filled” with the Spirit. The incidents in view here are described with the verb pimplemi, “fill,” and these incidents are cases where people who have already been regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit experience a fresh burst of the Spirit’s power.[2] Acts 2:4 tells us that when the church was baptized in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” This shows some overlap between baptism and filling, but while a baptism can be a filling, there is no evidence that each new filling with the Spirit should also be thought of as another baptism in the Sprit. For instance, Peter, who was present at the events narrated in John 20 (indwelling of the Spirit) and Acts 2 (baptism in the Spirit) is also described in Acts 4:8 as “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Then the praying church was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (4:31), as was Paul (9:17; 13:9).[3] In each case people who are believers indwelt by the Spirit experience a sudden empowering by the Spirit resulting in authoritative proclamation (2:4, 11, 14–36; 4:8–12; 4:31b; 9:20; 13:9–12).

The Spirit is also described as “filling” some in Acts with a different verb, pleroo, as well as the related adjective, pleres. This sense of fullness is not the instantaneous empowering kind described with the verb pimplemi, even though these terms mean “fill/full.” The sense of fullness described with pleroo is more along the lines of what characterizes people. For instance, Tabitha/Dorcas “was full of good works and acts of charity” (Acts 8:37). Her life was characterized by these things. Elymas is “full of all deceit and villainy” (13:8, 10) in the sense that these things were characteristic of his dealings. Thus, when the twelve call for “seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit” using the adjective pleres (6:3, cf. 6:5), we understand that the call is not for men who have powerful experiences of the Spirit but for those whose lives reflect the ongoing presence and ministry of the Spirit. This seems to be in view in the description of Barnabas as a man “full (pleres) of the Holy Spirit and Faith” (11;24), as well as in the description of the disciples as “filled (pleroo) with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (13:52).[4]


[1] See Sam Waldron’s paper, “Why Baptism Must Be into the Membership of the Local Church,” available online at: http://www.samwaldron.us/pdfs/BaptismMembership.pdf, accessed 30 June 2008. For a broader treatment of the church, see John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005) and Mark E. Dever, “The Church,” in Daniel L. Akin, A Theology for the Church (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2007), 766–856.

[2] Compare other places in Acts where people are described as being “filled” with other things using this same verb, pimplemi: “filled with wonder and amazement” (3:10); “filled with jealousy” (5:17; 13:45); “filled with confusion” (19:29). In each case we see a temporary “filling” with something that is strongly felt but which does not characterize the continual experience of these people.

[3] The expression in Acts 7:55 seems equivalent to these, though it appears to break the pattern by using pleres (see the next paragraph). When the adjective pleres is used in this construction with the participle huparchon (which seems to point to an ongoing state) nearby, we might have a description of Stephen’s characteristic way of speaking.

[4] Much more could be said about the Spirit in Acts, but space limitations require that we move on. For instance, I have not mentioned the reference in Acts 7:51 to resisting the Holy Spirit. For a helpful discussion with which I agree, see Graham Cole’s chapter, “How May We Resist the Holy Spirit?” in his Engaging the Holy Spirit, 35–49.

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To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: John

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in John. In John we are given significant statements on the Spirit’s role in convicting people of sin, in the new birth, in teaching and testifying to Jesus, and in all of this the Spirit glorifies Jesus.[1] Rather than discussing these topics in the order just articulated, we will take them up in the order in which they appear in John’s Gospel.

In John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus that he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again.[2] There is a focus in this passage on what one is able to do prior to and after the new birth (cf. John 3:3–8). After the new birth one is able to do something one was not able to do before it: see and enter the kingdom (3:3, 5). This indicates that the new birth creates new ability. The new ability that results from the new birth is not physical but spiritual, moral, and volitional (cf. 3:6). We should also note that just as we have no control over our own physical birth, so we have no control over the new spiritual birth. The Spirit, as Jesus says, is like the wind which “blows where it wishes.” We hear the sound but “do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (3:8). A few chapters later Jesus asserts, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Here Jesus makes an important connection between the message he teaches and the need for the Spirit to enable people to profit from that message. If they hear it only in the flesh, without the enabling of the Spirit, the flesh “is of no avail.” But if the Spirit gives life to the one who hears, then the words become “spirit and life.”[3] The phrase “it is the Spirit who gives life” (6:63) points to the same reality as the new birth (3:3–8; cf. 1:12–13).

There are three places in John that refer to receiving the Spirit: John 7:39; 14:17; and 20:22. John 7:39 states that those who had believed in Jesus had not yet received the Spirit, for the Spirit would not be given until Jesus was glorified. John 14:17 states that while the world cannot receive the Spirit, the Spirit, with the disciples as Jesus spoke to them, would afterwards be in them. The connection between the disciples being able to receive the Spirit (in contrast with the world which cannot receive the Spirit) and the Spirit being in the disciples seems to point to the conclusion that receiving the Spirit amounts to being indwelt by the Spirit. Jesus told the disciples in John 14:16 that the Spirit would be with them forever. This is in direct contrast to the way that Old Testament figures were filled or empowered on multiple occasions, suggesting that their experience of the Spirit was not continual. Thus, I would suggest that the disciples were indwelt by the Holy Spirit when, after Jesus was glorified at the cross (cf. 7:39; 12:23–32; 13:31–32; 17:1), when he appeared to them on the day of the resurrection (20:1, 19), he said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20:22). Jesus had earlier stated that the Spirit would come to the disciples only if he went to the cross (16:7), and before that he had indicated that a time was coming and had begun when worship would no longer be at the Jerusalem temple (4:21–24). It seems that by putting an end to sacrifice through his death on the cross (cf. John 19:30), Jesus opened the way for the Spirit to indwell a temple in which no sacrifices for atonement would be necessary. The temple would no longer be a building in Jerusalem but would instead be the church.[4] As soon as Jesus told the disciples to “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20:22) he went on to say, “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld” (20:23). Once the disciples were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, they replaced the temple as the place of God’s presence and as the place where forgiveness of sins was mediated to others.

On his last night with the disciples, Jesus not only explained that while the Spirit was with them he would afterward be in them (14:15–17), he also assured them that the Spirit would teach them and bring to remembrance all that Jesus said (14:25-26). This bringing to remembrance what Jesus said, along with helping the disciples understand the significance of those things, is probably also what is involved in the Spirit guiding the disciples into all truth (16:13). The reference to “all truth” here is contextually limited to the truths that Jesus still has to give to the disciples (16:12) and to the reference to “the things that are to come” (16:13). It would seem that what we read in the New Testament—all of which was composed after the events recorded in John 14–16—can be understood as a realization of what Jesus’ means when he tells his followers that the Spirit will lead them into all truth, and the book of Revelation does declare “the things that are to come” (John 16:13; cf. Rev 1:1, 19). John notes in his Gospel when he is relating insights that were realized after the resurrection, after Jesus gave the Spirit (cf. 2:17, 22; 12:16, 33; 13:7, 19; 14:26; 20:9). The disciples were led into all the truth about what Jesus said and did as the Spirit inspired them to write what we read in the New Testament, and those who are born again continue to be led into the same truths as the Spirit illuminates their hearts to understand the Bible. Jesus also told his disciples that the Spirit would bear witness to him (15:26). In addition to the writings of the New Testament, this may point to the mighty works done by the Apostles in the name of Jesus by the power of the Spirit in the book of Acts (cf. Heb 2:4). In all of this and more, the Spirit is glorifying Jesus (16:14).

The Spirit will teach the disciples and lead them into all truth (John 14:25–26; 16:13), and in testifying to Jesus (15:26) as the disciples testify to him (15:27) those outside the family of faith will come under conviction. Jesus promised that the Spirit “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged” (16:8–11). This appears to mean that the Spirit will convict the world of unbelief by means of Jesus going to the Father—righteously obeying God in going to the cross and being vindicated from that false condemnation. This shows that Satan, the ruler of this world, has been decisively judged. Revealing these things convicts the world, and some who come under conviction are born again by the power of the Spirit.


[1] For a more detailed discussion of the Spirit in John, see God’s Indwelling Presence, 56–99.

[2] For more on John 3, see God’s Indwelling Presence, 58–59, 127–39, and my essay, “The Church Militant and Her Warfare: We Are Not Another Interest Group,” SBJT 11.4 (2008), 73–74 (70–80), available online at: http://www.jamesmhamilton.org/renown/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/the-church-militant-and-her-warfaresbjtformatted.pdf.

[3] The lowercase “s” beginning the word “spirit” points to Jesus’ words not actually being the Holy Spirit but partaking of what may be referred to as the “sphere of the Spirit” as opposed to the sphere of the flesh. This sphere of the spirit is also in view in the statements that God must be worshiped “in spirit and truth” (4:23) and “God is spirit” (4:24). The sphere of the Spirit is God’s order and realm as opposed to the world’s (note the opposition of flesh and spirit in 3:6 and 6:63). See further God’s Indwelling Presence, 59–63.

[4] For more detail on the ideas in this paragraph, see God’s Indwelling Presence.

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Matthew, Mark, and Luke

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Gospels and Acts

In the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, and Luke) the Spirit enables Mary to conceive even though she is a virgin (Matt 1:20; Luke 1:35). There is nothing here like what happens in Genesis 6, when the sons of God went to the daughters of men (Gen 6:4). Nor is the virgin birth comparable to episodes in Greek mythology when the gods took advantage of human women. The text explicitly states that Mary was a virgin (Matt 1:25). The Spirit of God produced in her what would otherwise be impossible: conception apart from male seed.

All four Gospels present John the Baptist announcing the coming of the prophesied one. The OT prophets looked forward to the coming of a uniquely anointed descendant of David, and John came in the power of the Spirit (Luke 1:15) announcing that the one coming after him would baptize in the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8 Luke 3:16; John 1:33). The Baptist is not the only one involved in the renewal of Spirit inspired prophecy: his mother was filled with the Spirit and prophesied (Luke 1:41), as did his father Zechariah (1:67). Then when Jesus was presented at the temple Simeon was filled with the Spirit and prophesied (2:25–27). This renewal of prophecy is significant because there are indications in the inter-testamental literature (between Malachi and the birth of the Baptist) that prophecy had ceased (see 1 Macc 4:46; 9:27; 14:41; 2 Bar 85:1–3).

The Baptist’s announcement that Jesus would baptize in the Spirit seems to indicate that he expected the fulfillment of the prophecies that all God’s people would experience the Spirit (Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 39:29; Joel 2:28–32). Then the Spirit comes on Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32–33). The Baptist thereby identified Jesus as the one whose way he was preparing (John 1:31–34), and the authors of the gospels saw in Jesus the fulfillment of the prophetically generated hopes (Matt 12:17–18). Jesus ministered in the power of the Spirit (Matt 4:1; 12:28; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1, 14; 10:21) and promised the Spirit to his disciples (Matt 10:20; Mark 13:11; Luke 11:13; 12:12). Jesus pointed to the power of the Spirit in his ministry as key evidence that the Kingdom was arriving through his work (Matt 12:28; Luke 4:18).[1] Resisting the Spirit’s testimony to Jesus and opposing what God was doing by the power of the Spirit in Jesus’ ministry is probably what Jesus had in view when he spoke of blasphemy against the Spirit (Matt 12:31–32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10). To persist in unbelief in spite of the Spirit’s attestation is to blaspheme the Spirit.[2] It is also worth observing that Jesus understood the authors of the Old Testament to have spoken by the Spirit (Matt 22:43; Mark 12:36). Significantly for our present purposes, Jesus commissioned his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt 28:18–20).


[1] For an examination of the already-not yet nature of the Kingdom of God in the NT, see Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 41–116.

[2] For a helpful discussion that comes to a very similar conclusion, see Graham A. Cole’s chapter “What Is Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?” in his book Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 19–34.

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: The Old Testament

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, we see that the Spirit is active in God’s work in creation, and from that point forward the Spirit provides God’s presence and power. In terms of God’s presence with his people, there is no evidence in the Old Testament that individual members of the old covenant remnant were permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit.[1] God is present with his people by being with them in a pillar of cloud and flame, by dwelling among them in the tabernacle and then the temple.[2] While God is specially present by his Spirit among his people in these ways, there is no place where he is not (Ps 139:7). God’s presence with his people can thus be regarded as his covenant presence with them. In terms of God’s power through the Spirit, people who have extraordinary experiences of the Spirit’s presence in the Old Testament are thereby enabled to do what no one else in Israel can do. The Spirit is on Israel’s kings and prophets, and yet we should not conclude that the Spirit exercised no interior ministry in the hearts of ordinary members of the remnant under the old covenant. Several statements indicate that just as the Spirit causes people to be born again in the new covenant, so the Spirit also circumcised hearts under the old covenant (cf. Jer 6:10; 9:25–26; Rom 2:28–29; Col 2:11–13). Also, the fact that the Spirit did not permanently reside in each individual member of the old covenant remnant does not mean that the Spirit had no part in their obedience. Psalm 143:10 indicates that the righteous understood the necessity of being led by God’s Spirit, and the desire often seen in the Old Testament to be at the temple was a desire to be at the dwelling place of God (and cf. 1 Kgs 8:57–58).[3] Under the old covenant, God sanctified his people by his presence with them as he indwelt the tabernacle then the temple, and he also mediated his presence to his people by the Spirit’s work in the prophets as they declared God’s word.


[1] See James M. Hamilton Jr., “Were Old Covenant Believers Indwelt by the Holy Spirit?” Them 30 (2004), 12–20, available online at: http://www.jamesmhamilton.org/renown/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/them30-1.pdf.

[2] See Hamilton, “God with Men in the Torah,” and James M. Hamilton Jr., “God with Men in the Prophets and the Writings: An Examination of the Nature of God’s Presence,” SBET 23.2 (2005), 166–93, available online at http://www.jamesmhamilton.org/renown/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/god_men_prophts_art_typst-232.pdf.

[3] See further James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments, NACSBT (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2006), 25–55.

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: The Writings

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Books of the Writings

David, the anointed king, saw the Spirit taken from Saul when he sinned and was rejected from being king (cf. 1 Sam 16:13–14). This informs David’s prayer of repentance when he asks that God not take the Spirit from him (Ps 51:11). This request amounts to an appeal that God in his mercy would allow David to continue as king. Since David is the only person in Israel anointed by the Spirit as king (1 Sam 16:13–14 states that when the Spirit came on David the Spirit departed from Saul), this prayer does not indicate that ordinary members of the old covenant remnant were permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The experience of judges and warriors, kings and prophets was unique.

Psalm 104:30 celebrates the work of the Spirit in creation (cf. also Job 33:4), Psalm 106:33 recalls the way God’s people provoked his Spirit by their disobedience, and 139:7 acknowledges the omnipresence of God’s Spirit—there is no place to hide from him (139:7–12). Psalm 143:10 is a prayer that God would lead the Psalmist by the Spirit in paths of righteousness.

Like Joseph, Daniel’s unique ability to interpret dreams results in him being identified as a man in whom is the Spirit (Dan 4:8–9, 18; 5:11, 14). Nehemiah recounts the way that Yahweh gave his Spirit to instruct Israel and admonished them by his Spirit through the prophets (Neh 9:20, 30). The Spirit clothed Amasai, chief of David’s thirty mighty men, empowering him to profess loyalty to David (1 Chron 12:18). The Spirit empowered Azariah to prophesy to Asa (2 Chron 15:1), Jahaziel prophesied when the Spirit came upon him (20:14), and Zechariah the son of Jehoiada was clothed with the Spirit and prophesied (24:20).

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: The Prophets

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Books of the Prophets

The theme of God empowering select individuals to do what no one else in Israel can continues in the Former Prophets (Joshua through Kings) with the Spirit equipping judges to deliver Israel (Judg 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). The Spirit then comes upon Israel’s king when the man is anointed over Israel (1 Sam 10:6, 10; 11:6; 16:13–14), and this is a significant precedent that will be picked up in the Latter Prophets, as they point to a coming King who will be uniquely anointed by God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God keeps Saul and his men from taking David (1 Sam 19:20, 23), and the Spirit spoke through David as he sang his Psalms (2 Sam 23:2). In Kings it was recognized that the Spirit could transport people from one place to another in extraordinary ways (1 Kgs 18:12; 2 Kgs 2:16).

The picture sketched in thus far becomes the basis for the far reaching prophecies announced in the Latter Prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah through Malachi). Isaiah prophesies a day when a new king from Jesse’s roots will reign. Like David, he will be anointed with the Spirit (Isa 11:1–2; 42:1; 48:16; 61:1). Not only will the king be anointed with the Spirit, in the day that he reigns (32:1) the Spirit will be poured out on the people (32:15; 44:3). Jeremiah does not speak directly of the Spirit, but what he says of the new covenant also refers to the day that Isaiah foresees (cf. Jer 31:31–34).

The Spirit enters Ezekiel on multiple occasions (e.g., Ezek 2:2; 3:24), which seems to indicate that his experience of the Spirit was not continual. The Spirit transports Ezekiel from one place to another (3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 43:5; cf. 37:1). The Spirit’s coming upon Ezekiel sometimes results in him prophesying (11:5). In a passage that is similar to Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant (Jer 31:31–34), Ezekiel prophesies a day when Yahweh will put his Spirit back in the midst of his people (Ezek 36:27), and like Isaiah Ezekiel points to a day when the Spirit will be poured out on God’s people (39:29). Ezekiel had seen the glory of God leave the temple (chs. 8–11), and the prophecy in 36:27 seems to point to a day when Yahweh will once again take up residence among his people by his Spirit (cf. 43:1–5). Ezekiel then has a striking vision where he beholds a valley of dry bones, and he is commanded to speak to the bones (37:1–6). As he does so, he is also told to prophesy to the “breath” (same word as “s/Spirit” and “wind” in Hebrew), and the breath enters the bones and by word and wind they are clothed with flesh and sinew and rise to live (37:7–10). This is a picture of the way Yahweh will raise his people from the dead when he brings them back from exile (37:11–14).

Joel points to a day when Moses’ wish that all God’s people might receive the Spirit (Num 11:29) will be realized (Joel 2:28–32). Micah calls on his generation to see the work of God’s Spirit (Mic 2:7), and he asserts that God’s Spirit is empowering him to prophesy (3:8). After the exile, when the people returned to the land and sought to rebuild the temple, Haggai assured them that as Yahweh had been with the people at the exodus, his presence visible in the pillar of cloud and flame, so now Yahweh’s Spirit is “standing” among them (Hag 2:5, the term rendered “remains” [ESV, NIV, NKJV], “abiding” [NAS], or “is present” [HCSB] is the same root that describes the “pillar” of cloud and flame in the exodus narratives). Similarly, Zechariah announces to the people that the rebuilding of the temple will not be accomplished by human might or power but by the Spirit of Yahweh (Zech 4:6). Those who patrol the earth for him set Yahweh’s Spirit at rest (6:8), and again the assertion is made that the prophets prophesied by the Spirit (7:12).

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: The Torah

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Books of Law

In Genesis the Spirit is not only present as God speaks the world into being (Gen 1:2), he also sustains human life (6:3). The Spirit enables Joseph to do what no one else can: interpret Pharaoh’s dreams (41:38).

The Spirit is not explicitly mentioned in the exodus narratives, but it seems that God’s presence with his people in the pillar of fire and cloud is probably his Spirit (cf. Exod 13:21–22). At the construction of the tabernacle Yahweh filled Bezalel with the Spirit to give him ability, intelligence, and knowledge of craftsmanship (31:1–5; cf. 35:30–35). This filling of the Spirit enabled him to do what no one else in Israel could. Then when the tabernacle was complete the cloud covered it and Yahweh’s glory filled it (40:34–38).

In Numbers the Lord provides help for Moses by giving the Spirit to seventy elders, and Moses expresses his desire that all God’s people might have the Spirit—an utterance that clearly indicates that what he and the seventy leaders experience is not something that the whole nation enjoys (Num 11:17–29). Remarkably, the Spirit came upon the pagan prophet Balaam, with the result that he prophesied truly (Num 24:2), and Joshua, who might have received the Spirit with the seventy elders (cf. Num 11:28), is described as having the Spirit (Num 27:18; Deut 34:9).

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The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: Introduction to “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit”

I wrote up a study of what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit’s role in the Mission of God that badly overshot the word limit. Editing it down to the required length alters it so much that it has practically become another study altogether.

The great thing about having a blog, though, is that there is no word limit! So, I’m going to post the study that was too long in a series of posts. If you decide that you don’t desire to read this in the installments in which it will be posted here, you can skip straight to the whole study. Otherwise, I plan to post the whole thing in little chunks day by day.

May we enjoy the power and presence of the Spirit as we seek to accomplish the mission the Lord has given to us!

The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit

From Garden to glory the Spirit of God works in conjunction with the word of God to accomplish God’s purposes. The creation account describes the Spirit hovering over the waters as God spoke the world into being (Gen 1:2), and in response to the risen Lord’s announcement that he is coming soon (Rev 22:12), “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’” (22:17). The thesis of this chapter is that the Bible teaches that the Spirit of God provides the presence and power of God, working with the word of God to accomplish God’s purposes. The Father speaks and the Spirit gives life (cf. Ezek 37:1–14), and the Spirit gives life through the word of Jesus (cf. John 6:63). This usually involves the Spirit enabling God’s people to believe God’s word and do what it says. The Bible nowhere indicates that the Spirit saves apart from God’s word.

We must base our understanding of the Spirit’s role in mission today on what the Bible says about the Spirit. To this end, we will examine what the Bible says about the Spirit by moving through the Old Testament[1] according to the tri-partite division of it into Law, Prophets, and Writings,[2] and then we will move similarly through the New Testament’s contents by considering the Gospels and Acts, the New Testament Letters, and Revelation.[3] Once we have surveyed what the Bible tells us about the Spirit, we will be able to describe the Spirit’s presence and power in mission today.


[1] Because this essay is intended for missionaries, my interaction with other literature on the subject here will be limited. For more extensive discussions, see my book, God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments, NACSBT (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2006), Graham A. Cole’s He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), and Thomas R. Schreiner’s New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 431–506. For a chart that categorizes all 389 uses of the term ruach (s/Spirit) in the OT, see James M. Hamilton Jr., “God with Men in the Torah,” WTJ 65 (2003), 131–33 (113–33), available online at: http://www.jamesmhamilton.org/renown/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/godwithmenintorah.pdf.

[2] This seems to be the way that Jesus viewed the contents of the OT (cf. Luke 24:44). In this grouping of the books of the OT, the Law refers to the Pentateuch, the Prophets fall into former prophets (Joshua through Kings) and latter prophets (Isaiah through Malachi), and the Writings consists of three groups of books, the Book of Truth (Psalms, Proverbs, Job), the Megilloth (i.e., small scrolls, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther), and the other Sacred Writings (Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles).

[3] For a study of the central theme of the Bible that follows this approach, see James M. Hamilton Jr., The Center of Biblical Theology: The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment (Wheaton: Crossway, forthcoming).

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