Were Old Testament Believers Indwelt By The Spirit? -- By: Robert V. McCabe

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 09:1 (Fall 2004)
Article: Were Old Testament Believers Indwelt By The Spirit?
Author: Robert V. McCabe


Were Old Testament Believers
Indwelt By The Spirit?

Robert V. McCabe1

Did Old Testament believers, as a necessary part of their sanctification, experience the Spirit’s permanent indwelling ministry?2 This has been answered in two antithetical ways: the Spirit either indwelt Old Testament believers or he did not.3 In 1988 Gary Fredricks argued that any believer’s growth in holiness, irrespective of whether he lived before or after the cross, was impossible apart from the indwelling ministry of the Spirit. Fredricks summarizes his position on indwelling: “If holiness is a requirement for all believers, whether before or after the cross, and Romans and Galatians inform us that this can only be accomplished by the power of the indwelling Spirit,…these OT saints were enabled to live their lives through the power of the Spirit.”4 More recently, James Hamilton has defended the antithetical position that the Spirit did not indwell Old Testament saints. Hamilton has suggested that Old Testament saints did not need to be indwelt. “God

dwelled in the temple. He was thereby with them.” How did old covenant believers “remain faithful?… They remained faithful not by the Spirit dwelling in them, but by the Spirit dwelling in the temple.”5

A survey of literature dealing with the Spirit’s indwelling ministry reflects that the current division over whether Old Testament believers experienced this work of the Spirit or did not is coordinate with the theological development of dispensationalism.6 Those who see a consistent continuity between the Old Testament and New Testament, most covenant theologians, affirm that Old Testament believers were indwelt,7 while those who see a fundamental discontinuity between the testaments, many dispensational theologians, affirm that they were not indwelt.8

The Meaning Of Indwelling

Before we are in a position to answer the question about the Spirit’s indwelling ministry in the Old Testament, we must initially define indwelling. We should initially note that the issues associated with the term indwelling primarily involve theological usage, rather than explicit Scriptural usage. In fact, the word indwelling is never found in Scripture. However, this does not invalidate its use as a theological concept....

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