What Is Montanism?

Montanism is a sect which broke away from the church in the second century following the teachings of Montanus and his prophetess followers Priscilla and Maximilla. They claimed to have new prophetic revelation from God and drew a large number in the church to themselves. They spoke against the distinction between the clergy and the congregation because all Christians are equal to each other. Women were allowed to speak prophetically in church just as the men were. The Christian apologist Tertullian at first opposed them, but later became a Montanist himself.

Some of the followers of Montanus claimed that he was the incarnation of the Holy Spirit. The church father Eusebius of Caesarea writes concerning them:

“For some persons, like venomous reptiles, crawled over Asia and Phrygia, boasting that Montanus was the Paraclete, and that the women that followed him, Priscilla and Maximilla, were prophetesses of Montanus” (Church History, 5.14).

Epiphanius gives us some of Montanus’ prophetic words as he claims to be speaking the words of God:

“Behold, man is like a lyre; and I flit about like a plectron; man sleeps, and I awaken him; behold it is the Lord who changes the hearts of men and gives man a heart” (Medicine 48.4.1).

“Neither angel nor envoy, but I the Lord God the Father have come” (Medicine 48.11.1).

“I am the Lord God, the Almighty dwelling in man” (Medicine 48.11.9).

Eusebius quotes Apolinarius of Hierapolis who describes these prophetic utterances as ecstatic in nature and lacking in self-control:

“There first, they say, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a recent convert, Montanus by name, through his unquenchable desire for leadership, gave the adversary opportunity against him. And he became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning. Some of those who heard his spurious utterances at that time were indignant, and they rebuked him as one that was possessed, and that was under the control of a demon, and was led by a deceitful spirit, and was distracting the multitude; and they forbade him to talk, remembering the distinction drawn by the Lord and his warning to guard watchfully against the coming of false prophets. . . . And he stirred up besides two women, and filled them with the false spirit, so that they talked wildly and unreasonably and strangely, like the person already mentioned. And the spirit pronounced them blessed as they rejoiced and gloried in him, and puffed them up by the magnitude of his promises” (Church History, 5.16).

They were all later excommunicated from the church:

“And the arrogant spirit taught them to revile the entire universal Church under heaven, because the spirit of false prophecy received neither honor from it nor entrance into it. For the faithful in Asia met often in many places throughout Asia to consider this matter, and examined the novel utterances and pronounced them profane, and rejected the heresy, and thus these persons were expelled from the Church and debarred from communion” (Church History, 5.16).

Maximilla was reported to have prophesied that war was shortly to break out which never came to pass:

“And has not this been shown clearly to be false? For it is today more than thirteen years since the woman died, and there has been neither a partial nor general war in the world; but rather, through the mercy of God, continued peace even to the Christians” (Church History, 5.16).

According to Epiphanius, she also claimed that she would be the last prophet before Christ comes: “After me there will no longer be a prophet but the end” (Medicine 48.2.4).

Apollonius, another writer not to be confused with Apolinarius, wrote that Montanus taught that the institution of marriage was now dissolved. The prophetesses abandoned their husbands in light of this belief:

“His actions and his teaching show who this new teacher is. This is he who taught the dissolution of marriage; who made laws for fasting; who named Pepuza and Tymion, small towns in Phrygia, Jerusalem, wishing to gather people to them from all directions; who appointed collectors of money; who contrived the receiving of gifts under the name of offerings; who provided salaries for those who preached his doctrine, that its teaching might prevail through gluttony. . . . We show that these first prophetesses themselves, as soon as they were filled with the Spirit, abandoned their husbands. How falsely therefore they speak who call Prisca a virgin” (Church History, 5.18).

According to Tertullian, Priscilla believed that abstaining from sex resulted in prophetic visions: “Purification produces harmony and they see visions” (Exhortation to Charity 10.5).

For serious offenses, they believed there could be no forgiveness from God. Tertullian, as a Montanist, quotes from one of their prophets claiming to be speaking by the Spirit: “The Church can pardon sin, but I will not do it, lest they also commit other offences” (On Modesty 21.7).

According to Epiphanius, they forbade Christians from marrying a second time after their spouse had died (Medicine 48.9.7).

Apollonius records that they accepted expensive gifts and were motivated by greed:

“Does not all Scripture seem to you to forbid a prophet to receive gifts and money? When therefore I see the prophetess receiving gold and silver and costly garments, how can I avoid reproving her? . . . . For we will show that those whom they call prophets and martyrs gather their gain not only from rich men, but also from the poor, and orphans, and widows” (Church History, 5.18).

From these testimonies, we can see several problems with this movement:

  1. The lack of self-control in their prophecies is contrary to Paul’s description of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14:32: “And the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.” A true prophet is in control of his own spirit describing the orderly nature of New Testament prophecy.
  1. Their desire for wealth and taking money from the poor parallels the greed of the Word of Faith movement today. The health and wealth gospel preys upon the poor and needy by giving them empty promises (2 Pet 2:3).
  1. The teaching that marriage is dissolved is contrary to Paul’s teaching in 1 Timothy 4:1-3. Forbidding others from marrying is a doctrine of demons.
  1. Not allowing Christians to marry after their spouse has died is contrary to 1 Corinthians 7:39.
  1. The abolition of the clergy goes against Paul’s instructions to the church in 1 Timothy 3 that each church is to have elders who instruct the people. This is similar to the later belief of the Quakers.
  1. Their imposed fasting and asceticism is legalistic and goes beyond the warrant of Scripture (1 Cor 4:6).
  1. They share in common with the charismatic movement that the gift of prophecy is still given in contrast to the rest of the church at that time which apparently did not have prophets of its own.
  1. Some of them gave false prophecies concerning the future (Deut 18:22).
  1. The egalitarianism of the movement is contrary to Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 concerning women in the church.
  1. Refusing to forgive some sinners is contrary to 2 Corinthians 2:10. God will forgive all who repent of their sins (1 John 1:7).

In other words, they were greedy legalistic egalitarian ecstatic charismatics who gave false prophecies. I can’t think of anyone like that today.

What Is Binitarianism?

Binitarianism is the rare belief that the Holy Spirit is not God while the Father and the Son are God. It differs from Arianism in that it affirms that the Son is God while disagreeing with trinitarianism by denying that the Holy Spirit shares equally with the Father and the Son the one divine nature. It reduces the Holy Spirit to God’s active force and makes him a created being. This viewpoint was common among the semi-Arians of the fourth century who were known as the pneumatomachi or those who fight against the Spirit. The leading spokesman for this group was Macedonius I, bishop of Constantinople. Eusebius of Caesarea and Origen could be classified as binitarians since they held that the Spirit is a created being though they often subordinated the Son to the Father (Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea, 67; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical Theology 3.6.3; Origen, Commentary on John 2.6). Binitarianism was seen most recently in the beliefs of Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God.

The reason why there are so few binitarians is because while they deny the deity of the Holy Spirit, they also deny the chief argument used against trinitarianism: the divine nature cannot be shared by more than one person or else this would lead to polytheism. While they are not trinitarians, they have no problem with God existing as more than one person. But very few of those we might classify as binitarians are true binitarians. They cannot consistently argue against trinitarianism while at the same time affirming that the divine nature can be shared by more than one person. This is why binitarians almost always hold to some form of subordinationism in their understanding of the relationship between the Father and the Son. They are not actually true binitarians, but we call them this because they refer to the Son as God even though there is almost always some qualification in their assertion that the Son is God.

While some scholars assert that the apostolic church fathers were binitarians and trinitarianism only developed later, there is ample evidence to indicate this is incorrect. One of the most common titles for the Holy Spirit in the writings of the early church is “Divine Spirit” which affirms that the Spirit is divine or God (Justin Martyr, First Apology 32; Dialogue with Trypho 7; Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christians 9; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.8.2). The trinitarian formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is common throughout their writings and the Spirit is always closely associated with God. An example of this can be seen in Athenagoras: “Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists?” (A Plea for the Christians 10). The Spirit is viewed as the one who created all things (Shepherd of Hermas, Similitude 5.6.5). And only God created all things (Isa 44:24).

Why Many Charismatics Lack Discernment

I have always wondered why certain Christian leaders say and do things that are wildly unbiblical and lacking in discernment. How can people who know the Bible endorse false teachers and partner with those who oppose the gospel? How could John Piper share the stage with a female Word of Faith preacher and why would Michael Brown interview Benny Hinn? Both charismatics and cessationists can make decisions that are utterly lacking in discernment, but it seems that charismatics are more guilty than cessationists in this regard. Phil Johnson, Justin Peters, and Tom Chantry have all noted the same trend that charismatics who should know better have no problem associating themselves with false teachers. Why is it that charismatics are more prone to listening to false teachers than non-charismatics?

The reason for this is because charismatics view one another as being more in step with the Spirit than non-charismatics. They are willing to overlook serious doctrinal errors in each other’s theology because they are in agreement when it comes to the gift of tongues and prophecy. Charismatics share a common bond in believing that God still speaks today outside of his written Word and that belief leaves them open to searching for revelation from God in charismatic teaching. The reasoning is, “Well, that preacher might be wrong on a lot of issues, but at least he doesn’t believe I’m speaking gibberish when I speak in tongues and therefore I respect him more than that other preacher who thinks I’m crazy but is more doctrinally precise.” Those churches which do not believe that God is still speaking today through prophecy are viewed as places where the Spirit’s power is absent, even if the church’s statement of faith is pristine.

This is especially true in Pentecostalism with its two-tiered system of Christianity where those who have never spoken in tongues have not yet experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. From this perspective, some Christians have been baptized in the Holy Spirit while others have not. Why would you want to listen to a preacher who has never experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit? He does not have the anointing of God while that preacher who may have questionable theology at least has experienced the power of God in speaking in tongues.

Because all of the teachers in the Word of Faith movement are in agreement that tongues and prophecy are for today, this attracts those who agree with them on this issue. We like to listen to those who agree with us, not to those who hold to beliefs that are different from our own. Charismatics have constructed an echo chamber for themselves in which they can listen to voices that affirm their experience of speaking in tongues, even though many of those voices teach heresy. And the more voices, the better. But we are not called to listen to voices that already agree with us, but to the one voice of Scripture which is God’s final and authoritative Word on the subject. God has already spoken once and for all in Scripture. We do not need to go searching for his voice anywhere else.

The Deity of the Holy Spirit

“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” These are the words of the Apostles’ Creed which Christians have confessed throughout the ages. They are the words Charles Spurgeon spoke before entering the pulpit to preach the Word of God. But who is the Holy Spirit? I have written previously on the personal nature of the Spirit, but here I want to outline some of the biblical evidence for the deity of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, sharing equally with the Father and the Son all of the attributes of God. He is the creator of all things and brings regeneration through the preaching of the gospel.

The Holy Spirit is described as Yahweh in the story of Samson: “But he did not know that the LORD had left him” (Judg 16:20). “The Lord” is parallel to “the Spirit” who comes upon Samson in the rest of the story and gives him strength (Judg 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). The Holy Spirit is the presence and power of God. A parallel text is 1 Samuel 18:12: “Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.” This statement echoes the previous verses which speak of the Spirit coming upon Saul (1 Sam 10:10; 11:6; 16:13-16; 19:23). 1 Samuel 16:14 is especially striking: “Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul.” That is directly parallel to 1 Samuel 18:12 which speaks of the Lord departing from Saul. Therefore, to say that the Spirit has left someone is to say that the Lord has left him and vice versa.

The deity of the Holy Spirit is evidenced by his work of creation. Only God can create as Isaiah 44:24 says, “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.'” That means if the Spirit creates, then he must be God. Job declares in Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” We also know that the Spirit is God because he shares the attributes of God. The Spirit is described as being omnipresent or everywhere: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psa 139:7). The Spirit and God’s presence are equated here just as the Lord and the Spirit are equated in the stories of Samson and Saul. The omniscience of the Spirit also demonstrates his deity since only God is all-knowing: “Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (Isa 40:13-14).

One of the clearest evidences of the deity of the Holy Spirit is Acts 5:3-4 where lying to the Holy Spirit is parallel to lying to God. To lie to one is to lie to the other. The Holy Spirit speaks as God in prophecy and through the authorship of Scripture which is the Word of God. In Acts 28:25-27, Paul quotes the words of God as coming from the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet” (Acts 28:25) followed by a quotation from Isaiah 6 where God speaks to Isaiah the prophet. In 1 Corinthians 2:11 we read this amazing statement: “So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Only the Holy Spirit can comprehend God’s thoughts which is impossible for any creature (Isa 40:13). The Spirit must be God in order to comprehend the infinite thoughts of God. This expression is similar to Matthew 11:27 where we read, “And no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son.” Only God can know himself perfectly and the Son is so vast and infinite that only the Father can know him. The Son must therefore be God if only the Father can know him. Therefore, the Spirit must be God if only he can know the thoughts of God. The inclusion of the Spirit in the many triadic or threefold formulas of Scripture is strong indirect proof of his deity (Matt 28:19; 1 Cor 12:4-6; 2 Cor 13:14).

Paul identifies the Spirit as the Lord in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18: “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Christians are described as being both temples of God and temples of the Holy Spirit: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16); “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Cor 6:19); “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16). To be the temple of the Holy Spirit is the same as being the temple of God.

Another place where a quotation from God in the Old Testament is applied to the Holy Spirit is Hebrews 3:7-11 which quotes Psalm 95:7-11. Verse nine says, “Here your fathers put me to the test and saw my works” identifying the Spirit as the one whom the Israelites tested in the desert. Another example of this is Hebrews 10:15-17 where the Holy Spirit speaks God’s words out of Jeremiah 31. The Holy Spirit is described as eternal in Hebrews 9:14 and therefore must be God since only God is eternal. The last evidence that I will make reference to is 2 Peter 1:19-21 which describes the work of inspiration as coming from the Holy Spirit. And since we know that God is the author of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16), the Holy Spirit must be God. Other examples where the Spirit speaks Scripture are 2 Samuel 23:2; Matthew 22:43; Acts 1:16; and Acts 4:25.

Does God Still Give Dreams and Visions Today?

I was asked to write about how I would respond to a woman who claims that she received a dream from God saying that Christ is coming soon. Here is my response:

Thank you for sharing your dream with me. Acts 2:17 does say that in the last days “your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” We should strive to be like the first century church and imitate their faith and trust in God. However, there are false teachers who claim to receive dreams from God and use them to twist the Scripture. For example, Jude 1:8 says, “Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.” That’s why we need to examine the content of our dreams to see whether or not they are in-line with Scripture. Acts 17:11 says that we must be “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so.” If we think that we have received a dream from God, we must examine all of it by Scripture alone and if any part of it is not from God, then it is not a dream from him. The Bible is our ultimate authority and we must test everything by it (2 Tim 3:16-17).

The Bible does teach clearly that Jesus is coming soon: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done” (Rev 22:12). However, Jesus warns us strongly about anyone who would say they know exactly when he will return: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matt 25:13; 24:36, 50). Later he says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). If someone claims that they know exactly when Jesus is coming back, then they are not speaking in accordance with Scripture.

It could be that this is not a dream directly from God, but is the result of your being saturated in the Scripture and the promises of Jesus. If God has given you a dream, you should be like Mary who “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). I do not think it would be wise for you to share this dream with the entire church because some of them are not used to God working in supernatural ways (we are Baptists after all). The truth that Jesus is coming again soon is a plain truth revealed in Scripture and we don’t need a dream to share with others this great message.

Dreams from God are rare occurrences and usually occur in the context of extreme persecution and on the mission field. Here are some links to videos showing examples of people who have received dreams and visions from God in extreme circumstances:

IMB video about Muslims receiving dreams which tell them about missionaries who will share with them the gospel

Another IMB video about a Buddhist woman who came to faith in Christ and was miraculously healed after receiving a dream telling her to seek out Christians.

Richard Wurmbrand’s description of a vision from Jesus which occurred while he was being tortured horribly for Christ in prison over a 14 year period

Other written examples could be added to the list from the testimony of missionaries, but you see that these dreams occur in very unique circumstances to help bring the message of the gospel to places where evangelism is forbidden or to bring comfort in the midst of terrible suffering. Because of this, I think that it is more likely that your dream is the result of you being saturated with the Word of God and looking forward to the coming of Christ to redeem his bride. If this dream has been used by God to cause you to long more for the coming of Christ, then I praise God for it.

See also: “Why I Am A Cessationist”

Did the Holy Spirit Indwell Old Testament Believers? (Part 2)

The Spirit’s indwelling work can be seen in several places in the Old Testament besides the case of Joshua in Numbers 27:18. All of the Old Testament prophets are described as being indwelt by the Spirit as well as those who authored Scripture (2 Pet 1:19-21). Joseph in Genesis 41:38 is described as one “in whom is the Spirit of God” and Daniel in Daniel 4:8-9 is said to have the Holy Spirit from the perspective of the polytheistic worldview of the Babylonians. Bezalel is filled “with the Spirit of God” in Exodus 31:3 and given gifts of the Spirit in Exodus 35:30-36:1. I could give a description of every instance of an Old Testament believer having the Holy Spirit, but I will simply give you some of the biblical references: (Gen 41:38; Exo 31:3; 35:30-36; Num 11:17; 27:18; Deut 34:9; Judg 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 16:20; 1 Sam 10:6, 10; 11:6; 16:13-14; 19:20, 23; 1 Chron 12:18; 2 Chron 15:1; 20:14; 24:20; Neh 9:30; Psa 51:10-11; 139:7; 143:10; Isa 59:21; Eze 11:19-20; 36:25-27; 37:14; Dan 4:8-9; 5:11, 14).

You will notice that in many of these texts it says that the Holy Spirit “came upon them” and gave them special abilities (like Samson which he temporarily lost) or prophetic utterance. It is even used to refer to the Spirit working in unbelievers such as Balaam, King Saul, and Caiaphas (John 11:51) which can come and go. Therefore, this work of the Spirit is different than the saving indwelling work of the Spirit unique to believers. This “second blessing” is the giving of special gifts of the Spirit to individuals and is not a guarantee that they have the indwelling Spirit as a believer already. It also means that just as it cannot be proven that a person has a saving indwelling work of the Spirit just because the Spirit comes upon them, it cannot be proven that the Spirit coming upon them disproves the fact that they already have the indwelling work of the Spirit. This provides a further analogy to understand that the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost does not preclude a previous indwelling work if such a work is necessary for regeneration and sanctification without which no man can be saved (John 3:3; Heb 12:14).

Jesus says in John 3:3 that a man must be born again to be saved. But what does it mean to say that a man is born again if he is not indwelt by the Spirit? John 3:5’s “born of water” (which is essential to salvation) is an allusion to Ezekiel 36:25-27 which is a description of the cleansing and indwelling work of the Spirit. To be born again means to experience what Ezekiel 36:25-27 and Jeremiah 32:40 are talking about. If “normal” people could not be indwelt before Acts 2, how can Jesus say in Luke 11:13 that the Father will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him”? If Old Testament believers were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then could they be demon possessed? How can someone be regenerated or born again without the Holy Spirit indwelling them? How is sanctification possible without the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit? (1 Cor 2:10-16; 2 Cor 3:17-18). How can a person be adopted without the indwelling Spirit? (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6-7). How can a person pray without the indwelling work of the Spirit? (Rom 8:26-27; Jude 1:20). Were Old Testament believers sealed by the Spirit? (Eph 1:13-14). How will they be raised from the dead? (Rom 8:11). How could they experience God’s love? (Rom 5:5). Were they among the worldly people who are “devoid of the Spirit”? (Jude 1:19). If they were devoid of the Spirit, why were they not worldly people?

The strongest argument in favor of all believers in all ages having the indwelling Spirit is that it is impossible to please God apart from him. Romans 8:7-9 says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Were Old Testament believers in “the flesh” or in “the Spirit”? If they were in the flesh, then they could not be saved, since those in the flesh cannot please God, but faith and repentance are pleasing to him. How could they be in the Spirit or belong to Christ if they did not have the Spirit dwelling in them? Paul conditions being in the Spirit with the Spirit of God dwelling in them. For these reasons, the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for all believers because man’s fallen condition has never changed after the fall.

Did the Holy Spirit Indwell Old Testament Believers? (Part 1)

Is the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit only for New Testament Christians or did Christians living before the coming of the Messiah also have this indwelling presence? If you object to my use of “Christians” to describe those believers living before Christ, I already know how you are going to answer this question (a Christian is someone who follows Christ). I would affirm that all regenerate believers in all ages experience the Spirit’s indwelling work and I would like to explain why.

Let me start off by answering the common objections to this position based on John 7:39 and 14:17. The story of Joshua in the Old Testament gives us a paradigm to differentiate between the indwelling work of the Spirit and his subsequent work of filling and gifting. In Numbers 27:18 we read, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” The parallel in Deuteronomy 34:9 also says, “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him.” Notice that Joshua was already indwelt by the Spirit before Moses laid hands on him, but after he did, he was filled with the spirit of wisdom. This distinction between being indwelt by the Spirit in Numbers 27:18 and being filled with the spirit of wisdom in Deuteronomy 34:9 (the receiving of new gifts from the Spirit – in the case of Joshua, a gift of wisdom for leadership) is key to interpreting the falling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2. The way that I interpret the Spirit’s coming in Acts 2 is that the Christians were already indwelt by the Spirit, but the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost is the receiving of new gifts from the Spirit that had never been given before. This being “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) is the receiving of the New Testament ministry of the Spirit with new gifts such as apostleship and speaking in tongues which marked the beginning of this new era. It is in this sense that his disciples received the Spirit (John 7:39). To receive the Holy Spirit is simply another way of speaking of receiving gifts from the Spirit. The receiving of the gifts of the Spirit in Scripture is spoken as a receiving of the Spirit himself. King Saul received the Spirit in the sense that he received the gift of prophecy but did not have the saving indwelling work of the Spirit (1 Sam 10:6-11; 19:20-24).

Just as Joshua received the spirit of wisdom (which I interpret to be the Holy Spirit based on the parallel to Numbers 27:18) from Moses, even though he was already indwelt by the Spirit, the disciples received the Spirit of New Testament gifts and power, even though they were already indwelt by him. Hence, it is a kind of “second blessing” after the initial indwelling which is spoken of as a receiving of the Spirit to mark the dramatic change which takes place due to the new gifts which are given. In John 7:39, the Greek text lacks the word “given” and I think it should be left that way. I would agree with Sinclair Ferguson’s interpretation that when John says “the Spirit was not yet” he is saying that the differences between the Old and New Testament work of the Spirit are so dramatic that it is as if the Holy Spirit did not exist yet. Translators are afraid that if they don’t insert “given” into the text for clarity, people will mistakenly deny the eternality of the Holy Spirit not recognizing John’s exaggerated language to describe the new age of the Spirit.

When Jesus says that the Spirit “dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17), he is not denying that the Spirit is in them now any more than he is denying that the Spirit is with them now when he says that the Spirit will “be with you forever” (John 14:16). If Jesus can speak of the Spirit being with them in the future and yet not deny that the Spirit is with them now, can he not also speak of the Spirit being in them in the future without denying that he is in them now? The future tense is used to describe the certainty of the action, not denying a present reality. The present tense verb that is translated “dwells with” in John 14:17 to describe the work of the Spirit among the disciples before Pentecost is also used in 1 John 3:24 to describe the indwelling work of the Spirit now: “And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” Dwelling or abiding with and being in are two different ways of describing the same work of the Spirit in the life of believers. And now that Christ is in heaven, the Holy Spirit takes on the additional role of being the representative of Christ on earth who has been sent by the Father to communicate Christ’s words to his followers through the inscripturation of the New Testament canon and enlightening our minds to these truths (John 14:26).