The Role of the Holy Spirit (Part I)

We're working through Systematic Theology III, and specifically, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Last time we talked about the personality (or personhood) of the HS.

Today we are going to explore the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

The Language used to speak of the Spirit:

First, it can be difficult to identify the Holy Spirit in the OT.

He appears in the shadows. His work is felt, but mildly referenced.

We must remember that it was the early state of progressive revelation. As a result, we do not see the fullness of His ministry in the OT because that was not the concern of the OT authors (or, therefore, obviously God).

“Spirit of God.”

The term “Holy Spirit” is rarely used in the OT.

The Hebrew scarcely uses adjectives (e.g., “Holy Spirit), but frequently puts together two nouns (e.g., Spirit-God -- which means, “Spirit of God”).

This phrase is picked up in Acts 2:16-21, giving clear indication that the NT author’s understood the OT phrase to be an identifying reference to the Holy Spirit.

The point is that the phrase, “Spirit of God,” is synonymous with “Holy Spirit” in the NT.

“Spirit” with no modifier (“ruach”).

Isa. 32:15 – “Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fertile field And the fertile field is considered as a forest.”

Joel 2:28“And it will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind.”

“Breath” (“ruach”-- same word we just saw translated as “Spirit”).

Ezekiel 37:5 - "Thus says the Lord God to these bones, 'Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.’”

Now, the whole context of the chapter is in reference to the Spirit.

The “Spirit of YHWH” is overtly mentioned in 37:1, which makes all of the subsequent references to “ruach” an identifying mark of the Holy Spirit.

So when 37:5 speaks of causing breath (ruach) to enter these bones, it is a reference to the Holy Spirit giving life.

The Spirit was at work in the creation of all that exists:

Gen. 1:2The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”

Here, the Spirit is protecting and making ready the unformed chaos for the Father to mold and create a hospitable world.

Additionally, the Spirit is the member of the Trinity that brings forth life.

Just as He is the One who regenerates to bring forth spiritual life (e.g., John 3), He is also the member of the Trinity which brings forth life in physical creation. This is part of His economic function.

Just as the Spirit is the One Who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11), so it will be the Spirit Who will raise the dead in Christ.

Trees grow leaves, birds fly, squirrels crack nuts, and humans blink their eyes, because the Spirit brings order, life, and animation. Again, this is one of the Spirit's economic functions.

Having said that, Gen. 1:2 also shows the Spirit brings order, life, and animation at the Word of the Father. The Spirit was merely moving over the formless, chaotic waters. He would not bring life until the Father commanded it.

Not only does the Spirit bring forth life, but He also preserves and protects.

Deut. 32:10-11 He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, That hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.”

He is described as hovering over them like an eagle does her young.

He is protecting and preserving them-- and again, it is a work attributed to the Spirit.

Isa. 63:7-14 “I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, According to all that the LORD has granted us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has granted them according to His compassion And according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses. For He said, "Surely, they are My people, Sons who will not deal falsely." So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them. Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses. Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, Who led them through the depths? Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble; As the cattle which go down into the valley, The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So You led Your people, To make for Yourself a glorious name.”

Here, the Spirit is the One prompting the people for the Exodus, but then He protects them during the Exodus as well.

He was involved in the giving of prophecy and Scripture:

Old Testament affirmation:

Ezek. 2:2 “And as He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me.”

1 Sam. 10:6"Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.”

1 Sam. 10:10“When they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them.”

New Testament affirmation:

Acts 1:16Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas.”

Acts 4:25Who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Thy servant, didst say, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, And the peoples devise futile things?”

2 Pet. 1:21 For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

2 Tim. 3:15All Scripture is inspired by God.” (Theopneustos — “God-breathed”).

The Holy Spirit was involved in conveying necessary skills and tasks:

- Constructing and furnishing the tabernacle -

Exod. 31:1-5 "And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.”

- Administration -

Gen. 41:38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?"

Num. 11:25“Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And it came about that when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.”

*Note: Here we see the ministry of the Spirit is not necessarily for the rest of a person’s life. It may just be for a short time to accomplish a specific task or purpose of God.

Deut. 34:9“Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.”

*Note: Here’s an example of the Spirit’s work being felt, but not explicitly stated.

- Leadership and mighty acts (specifically, to make war during the time of the Judges) -

Judges 3:10And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.”