Further to our discussion about the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, John Piper takes us to the Aswan High Dam in Egypt to answer the question: How did OT believers experience the Holy Spirit?

asswan dam

I’ve put Piper’s 10 answers below, but you can listen to or read the whole sermon here; and please pay special attention to his exposition of #2 and #3.

1. The Spirit as Creator and Sustainer of Life

2. New Birth and Indwelling of the Spirit

Second, the OT believers experienced the new birth and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When Nicodemus was bewildered about Jesus’ demand for new birth by the Spirit, Jesus responded (John 3:10), “Are you a teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand this?” In other words, I’m not teaching or requiring anything new. Any Israelite who has ever been saved had to be born again by God’s Spirit. Otherwise how would they ever overcome their natural hostility to God? How could they have ever submitted to God’s law and pleased him—as many did, like Abel and Noah and Abraham and Moses and Rahab and Ruth and Deborah and David? Paul says in Romans 8:7–9, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit if the Spirit of God really dwells in you.” There are two groups of humans: those in the flesh (born of the flesh) and those in the Spirit (born again of the Spirit). Those in the flesh are devoid of the Spirit and cannot submit to God’s law or please God. Those in the Spirit are indwelt by the Spirit and are enabled by him to fulfill the just requirement of the law.

This means that all the saints of the OT who trusted God and followed his ways in the obedience of faith were born again by the Spirit and indwelt by the Spirit. For example,Numbers 14:24 says of Caleb, “My servant Caleb, because he has a different Spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into this land.” And Numbers 27: 18 says, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him.’” The OT believers were saved the same way we are: they were born of the Spirit, they trusted in God’s promises, and they followed his commandments in the obedience of faith.

3. The Constant Presence of the Spirit

Third, the OT believers enjoyed the constant presence of God’s SpiritPsalm 139:7–10says, “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Old Testament believers enjoyed the presence of God’s Spirit wherever they went. It gives me a lot of encouragement, when I am called to go places where I feel insecure, to know that the Spirit is within to give me the words I need and that he is also already in the place where I am going to prepare the way and to hold me when I get there.

4. The Spirit as Counselor and Teacher

5. The Gifts of Craftsmanship and Artistic Ability

6. Power to Denounce Evil and Declare Righteousness

7. Victory over Fear

8. Extraordinary Feats of Power to Help God’s People

9. The Ability to Interpret God’s Revelation in Dreams

10. The Gift of Prophecy

  • http://aborrowedlight.wordpress.com MarkO

    excellent! thanks.

  • David L

    Alternatively #2, point 1 could have read:

    Jesus responded (John 3:10), “Are you a teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand this?” In other words, I’m not teaching or requiring anything which should be a surprise. Ezekiel taught you long ago that the people of Israel needed a radical new beginning and you should have been waiting for that and recognised its arrival with me and the Spirit whom I will give (John 7:39)

  • James S

    I replied in in an earlier post on this subject and just want to reiterate what I said as it still applies here. I have always understood the cross as “transcending time’.
    Meaning that since God knew the cross was going to happen and saw it happen from where He is, (outside of time in the eternal), He could effectively reach through time and apply all the benefits of the finished work of Christ to the true OT believers of ‘the promise of His coming’.

  • Ryder

    Hi, this short series of blogs you did on the Holy Spirit has been extremely helpful and clarifying!

    Right now though I’m in an Old Testament Survey class and I am summarizing Saul’s life, and I was just wondering if you could explain a bit about Saul in regards to regeneration? It seems like he ‘becomes a new man,’ but is this perhaps what the author of Hebrews speak of when he talks about ‘those who were made partakers of the Holy Ghost’?

    Is the remainder of Saul’s life sufficient evidence that he fell short of salvation?


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  • Faythe

    Excellent teaching and this makes perfect sense! Thanks for sharing this David Murray!