Old Covenant Believers And The Indwelling Spirit: A Survey Of The Spectrum Of Opinion -- By: James M. Hamilton Jr.

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 24:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Old Covenant Believers And The Indwelling Spirit: A Survey Of The Spectrum Of Opinion
Author: James M. Hamilton Jr.


Old Covenant Believers
And The Indwelling Spirit:
A Survey Of The Spectrum Of Opinion

James M. Hamilton Jr.

James M. Hamilton Jr. is a Ph.D. candidate at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I. Introduction

The issues raised by John 7:39, which clearly urges that a new experience of the Spirit will be obtained after Jesus is exalted, have caused many readers of the Bible to wrestle with the question of how believers prior to Jesus experienced the Holy Spirit. There are at least five positions embraced on this issue. There is a sixth position, and while it is often assumed that this sixth position is widely held, and while some have been understood as holding it, an affirmation of this position has not been found by the present author. What has been found, however, is that voices from all sides of this issue genuinely love the Bible—both Testaments—and seek to grapple with the difficult issues the text presents while being faithful to its teaching.1

This discussion of the history of the inquiry into the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Old Covenant believers will be structured by the six positions represented in the literature. The question is a modern one with roots in Luther and Calvin. Modern dispensationalists resemble Luther in their perception of distinctions between the covenants. Modern covenantal theologians resemble Calvin in their understanding of the continuity of the covenant of grace inaugurated in the garden and continuing to the present. The question of indwelling is rarely addressed by the earlier church fathers.2 No claim to exhaustive coverage is made—that would

require a book-length study. This treatment intends to be representative and fair. The categories are nuanced,3 and inferring what authors think has been avoided as much as possible.

The six positions are as follows: (1) Continuity; (2) More Continuity than Discontinuity; (3) Some Continuity Some Discontinuity; (4) More Discontinuity than Continuity; (5) Discontinuity; and (6) Vague Discontinuity. Positions one and five represent opposite ends of the spectrum. Not one author affirms position five as it is defined here, which prompts recognition of position six. In the paragraphs that follow these positions will be defined. It will be seen that these six points on the spectrum are not foisted upon the discussion but arise from what authors say about the Holy Spirit and Old Covenant believers. This material is summar...

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