Book Review: God’s Indwelling Presence

God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old & New Testaments

by James M. Hamilton, Jr.

This is a fantastically researched and written book. It was originally a thesis, and has now been published in book form. I hope to see more from this writer in the future. A good portion of the book is spent defending the idea that believers in the Old Testament were not indwelt (had) the holy Spirit. The funny part is, he initially expected to be saying the opposite when he started his research. The root of this problem comes from the fact that most people believe that for a person to “keep the narrow path” requires the indwelling of the holy Spirit. So then, how could OT believers stay faithful without it? As a result he also spends a lot of time defending the idea that the holy Spirit has always been “regenerating” people throughout all time – that is one aspect of the Spirit’s ministry and activity. However only after the glorification of Jesus on the cross is the Spirit available for indwelling (another aspect of the Spirit’s minstry and activity). Regeneration and indwelling are separate.

Another large portion of the book is looking at the description of both Jesus and the Spirit in the Gospel of John. Many illustrations of old temple/new temple are drawn. The basic outline goes something like this. Sin and sacrifice were taken care of in the Old Testament temple. Jesus, calling himself the temple in John takes care of sin once and for all on the cross. Then we are the temple, because God dwells in us through the Spirit. We are priests for God.

Kostenberger rightly notes that “Jesus’ words echo the demands of the Deuteronomic covenant.” Solomon could not earn God’s presence by obeying. Nor does John 14:15,23 says that the disciples could earn the gift of the indwelling Spirit if they obeyed. Both texts, 1 Kings 6 and John 14, are addressed to those whom the Lord has drawn to Himself and enabled to obey. Just as the people’s obedience in the old covenant would create a holy environment in which Yahweh could dwell in the temple in the midst of the people (Num 35:34), obedience to the word of Jesus results in a sanctified temple – the corporate and individual bodies of the believing remnant – in which God can dwell pg 158

By giving them the Spirit He makes the disciples the new locus of God’s presence. The words that immediately follow reinforce the conclusion that the reception of the indwelling Spirit is to be understood in terms of the temple, and they also correspond to Jesus’ own ministry. Just as Jesus replaced the template as the place where sin was dealt with, He tells the disciples, “If you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven them, if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained (20:23)”. Ridderbos, among others, notes that the passives, “are forgiven” and “are retained” are divine passives. When sacrifices were formerly offered at the temple, God forgave His people (see Lev 4:20,25,31,35 5:10,13,16,18 6:7 19:22). Now in Jesus, sacrifice for sin has been made, God has breathed His Spirit into a new temple, and this new temple is the place where forgiveness is to be found (20:23). Forgiveness is possible because of Jesus’ death on the cross, but when He gives His disciples authority to forgive and retain sins He gives the church the ability to mediate the forgiveness of His death makes possible. Those who are not united to the body of Christ are not forgiven. As Coloe puts it “The new Temple, endowed with the Spirit, will be an ongoing source within the world of life-giving waters (John 4:14, 7:38) and cleansing from sin (20:23). pg 159

And there is one more interesting point that he brings up in an Appendix that I have to post separate for lengthy discussion! This review is long enough! I highly recommend this book.


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