Does the Holy Spirit live inside Christian’s today?

The relationship of the Holy Spirit to believers today is a vitally important challenging doctrine to understand. The relationship of the Spirit with the believer gives comfort (John 14:16) and understanding (John 14:26) to the Christian.

A previous article stated that the Holy Spirit resides within each believer. The indwelling of the Spirit is the personal presence of God the Spirit within the saved person. The indwelling of the Spirit is more than a symbolic declaration of the Christian’s newfound closeness with God. The Holy Spirit actually takes up residence within the Christian.

Why do Christian’s believe this? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is repeatedly affirmed in the New Testament. Jesus promsied the disciples that after His death and resurrection He would send them the Holy Spirit who “shall be in you”. (John 14:17) This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the 120 disciples were “all filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:4) That same day Peter told the Jews that God would give the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who believe. (Acts 2:38-39)

The possession of the Holy Spirit immediately became the hallmark of genuine Christianity. The presence of the Holy Spirit is so crucial to the Christian life that Romans 8:9 says, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” The presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the person is confirmation of the individual’s salvation. Those who do not have the Holy Spirit are not saved.

The indwelling of the Spirit is also taught in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Corinthians 6:19 says the same thing, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you.” 2 Timothy 1:14 says, “the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” 1 John 3:24 says, “And hereby we know that (Christ) abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.” The New Testament states repeatedly that God the Father and God the Son gave the Holy Spirit who takes up residence within the body of the believer.

This presence of the Holy Spirit is a major part of what makes the New Testament Christian different from an Old Testament believer. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus keeps His promise to abide in in His disciples and to never leave nor forsake them. At salvation the believer is given the Spirit. The Christian does not need to get the Spirit again, nor to get more of the Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Christian who seals and secures his salvation.

Is the God of the Old Testament different from the God of the New Testament?

A common assertion is that the Bible presents two very different depictions of God. The God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath who flooded the earth, wiped out cities and commanded the destruction of nations. On the other hand, the God of the New Testament is shown through Jesus to be a God of love. He is patient, ready to forgive and tender towards sinners. Does the Biblical presentation of God change from the Old to the New Testament?

Describing the God of the Old Testament as a God of wrath and the God of the New Testament as a God of love is a caricature. The Bible gives a uniform description of God. The God found in Genesis is the same God found in Revelation. God does not change. His character and purpose has remained the same throughout the history of mankind.

The God the Old Testament is a God of great love. When God showed a portion of His glory to Moses He declared Himself to be, “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7) The Psalms are full of descriptions of God’s love. “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all:and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (Psalm 145:8-9)

Even in times of terrible judgment the compassion of God is evident. In the book of Lamentations the prophet Jeremiah weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet he says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) God’s love was not restricted to the Israelites. The prophet Jonah did not want to preach in Nineveh because he knew God is “a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and fo great kindness.” (Jonah 4: 2) Jonah hated the Assyrians, God did not. God rebuked Jonah for his callousness towards the Ninevites. God asked Noah if He should not spare Nineveh that had 120,000 children? Just like with Sodom and Gomorrah God was ready to forgive and hold back His judgment. From the very beginning of the Old Testament God shows Himself to be a God of great love.

The God of the New Testament is a God of wrath. Consider Jesus’ stern warnings about hell. He said in Matthew 25 that all those who are not His followers will be condemned to everlasting torment in hell. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Jesus promises the most terrible judgment on unbelievers. He is clearly a God of wrath.

The wrath of God is not only found in the gospels. Romans 1 warns “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Colossians 3 teaches the Christian to put aside sinful attitudes. “For which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.” The book of Revelation is filled with the wrath of God and the judgment of Jesus. The severity of the judgments in Revelation rival anything found in the Old Testament. In Revelation 19 Jesus is described as descending from heaven. “Out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of the Almighty God.” The Jesus of the New Testament is the God of judgment who executes His wrath upon all the lost.

The God of the Bible is the same throughout. Jesus and Jehovah are not two different Gods, or two different personalities of God. They are the same God who pardons and punishes sin. His love and His wrath are equally functions of His holiness. He is the Holy God, Sovereign over His creation, exercising justice and mercy, showing love and wrath, giving grace and punishment, to all. He is God who does not change.

How do I apply the Old Testament to my life today?

The Old Testament is profitable for Christians today. Understanding and applying the Old Testament can at times be challenging because it was written to God’s covenant people, the Jews. Important to understanding the Old Testament is remembering that Christians today are not the same as the Jews of 3,000 years ago.

Israel is not the church and Israel is not America. One cannot immediately apply the Old Testament commands to the New Testament Christian. Old Testament commands must be read with the understanding that Jesus has completed the Mosaic law (Ephesians 2:15) and brought in a new covenant with His people. The Old Testament reader cannot claim the promises given to the Jews as if they are promises to the church. One cannot view the judgments and blessings of the nation Israel as if God is going to do the same to America. Understand the Old Testament by recognizing who it was written to and why.

The Old Testament is not a book of puzzles that can only be figured out once the person has found the hidden key. The Old Testament must not be read as if it contains hidden truths that can only be discovered by modern technology or by interpreting secret codes. The Old Testament does not contain special meanings that were unknown until the church came along. The Old Testament is not the New Testament concealed in allegory, nor does the New Testament reveal the true, undiscovered meanings of the Old Testament.

Some things in the Old Testament are made more clear by the New Testament. Some things not revealed in the Old are made known in the New Testament. The Old Testament is best understood in light of the New Testament, but the meaning of the Old Testament is the same whether it was read before Jesus’ birth or two thousand years after His resurrection.

When reading the Old Testament the kind of book being read shapes how the book is understood. The book of Proverbs is not to be interpreted using the same methods as the book of Obadiah or the book of Genesis. History is different from poetry. Poetry is different from prophecy. Prophecy is different from the Psalms. The Psalms are different from the Law. These differences are very important. A command cannot be interpreted as if it is a promise. A Proverb should not be understood as if it was a prophecy. A detailed a look at how to understand specific kinds of Old Testament literature would take much more time and space than this article allows. Understand the Old Testament one book at a time according to the individual books literary genre.

Read the Old Testament as true history that is intended to teach of the glory of God, the plan of God to redeem a people to Himself, the Sovereignty of God and the holiness of God. The Old Testament is understood by following the normal rules of understanding written language. Look for purpose of the author in writing each book, or in some cases each section of the book. Understanding when the book was written and why it was written. Care must be taken to rightly understand what God said to the Israelites. Just like the New Testament the Old cannot mean something it never meant. Once the original intent and meaning of an Old Testament passage has been understood then principles can be drawn from the intended meaning and applied to New Testament Christians.

Every book of the Old Testament is of great profit to the believer today. Sometimes the Old Testament requires more work to understand how it applies to our lives today. Find good study materials, like commentaries and bible studies, to help. Study of the Bible takes work, but the Old Testament is no less profitable because of the energy required to mine its rich treasures.

Why don’t Christians follow all the Old Testament laws?

No Christian in the world follows all the laws given in the Old Testament. No Christian even attempts to follow all the Old Testament commands. Regardless of how a person views his obligation towards the Old Testament, the keeping of the laws regarding temple worship and sacrifice is impossible in this present day. Very few Christians are concerned about their inability to offer a burnt offering in the temple. Very few Christians attempt to keep other commands. Most Christians are not concerned if their garments contain fibers from different kinds of materials or if the meat they are eating falls into the category of “clean”.

Why Christians do not keep all the Mosaic law? The typical answer given to this question breaks into three categories the laws given to Israel at Mt. Sinai. Ceremonial laws were those which governed the worship of the Israelites. Civil laws were those given to govern the operations of Israel as a nation and her people as citizens. Moral laws were those laws which summarize God’s universal standards of right and wrong (the ten commandments are usually cited as an example of the moral law). The common explanation asserts the ceremonial laws are fulfilled in Jesus, and thus are no longer needed. The civil law is no longer needed because God does not at this time have a self-governing nation as His people on earth. The moral law is the only portion of the Mosaic law which is still binding on people today.

This author prefers a simpler view to the classic one given above. The Christian is under no obligation to obey the law of Moses because Jesus has fulfilled the law of Moses and because the church is not Israel. The law given to Israel was intended for that nation from the time of Moses until the time they finally and fully rejected their Messiah. The law given to Israel was always limited in its scope, purpose and duration. Christians today are under obligation to keep the commands given to believers in the New Testament. Christians have no responsibility to observe a Sabbath because that law was in no way repeated to the church. Instead, Christians are under obligation to do something that is not found at all in the Old Testament- gather together every Sunday with other Christians. When the New Testament repeats an Old Testament command Christians are bound to obey it, but asking Christians why they do not follow all the Old Testament laws is a bit like asking an East Berliner why he doesn’t follow all the laws of Communist Germany.

This does not mean the New Testament Christian disregards the Old Testament. Some of the laws given in the New Testament are summations of Old Testament laws. For example, the New Testament forbids immorality but does not describe what that is. To understand what God defines as immoral sexual behavior one has to read the Old Testament. The Old Testament also gives the historic and moral foundation on which New Testament commands are based. When Jesus was asked about divorce, he pointed to the events of creation recorded in Genesis 1-3. The Christian does not scorn the Old Testament but reads and studies it to learn the character of His God and the nature of the requirements God places on His people.

Because God’s character does not change one would expect significant overlap between the commands given to Israel and the commands given to the church. One would expect similarity between the Law and New Testament commands. One would expect the same basic principles to be at the foundation of God’s commands to His people. One would expect certain unalterable, moral laws to be universally applied to all men. This is exactly what we find when comparing the laws of the Old and New Testament. Christians don’t follow the commands of the Old Testament because God has given in the New Testament the commands which He expects believers of this age to obey.

Why do the gospels have different accounts of Jesus’ life?

Some skeptical about the truth of the Bible claim the four gospels are filled with contradictions. These apparent contradictions are offered as proof the Bible is unreliable. The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each present an account of the life of Jesus. If all four gospels are true accounts why do they offer differing versions of the same events in Jesus life. Examples of these differences can be found in the number of demoniacs healed in Gederah- Mark and Luke say there was 1 but Matthew says there were 2; the order of events at the crucifixion; the people Jesus stood before in His trial- John says Annas and Caiaphas, the other gospels just say Caiaphas. The gospels offer a wide selection of these kinds of differences. Why do the gospels at times present events in different ways?

To answer this question several things need to be remembered. The gospels are not biographies. This does not mean the gospels are fictional accounts, but the purpose of the writing of the gospels was not tell the life story of Jesus. The gospels are presentations of doctrinal truths about Jesus. The events contained in the gospels are not given for biographical but theological purposes. The gospel are not laid out in a precise chronological fashion. Though all four gospels move from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to His death, none of them attempt to present an exact timeline of the events in Jesus’ ministry. This is why the gospels present the events in different orders. The miracles, teachings and significant events are arranged in thematic fashion which seeks to drive home a particular doctrinal point without entirely disregarding the broad chronology of Jesus’ life.

The gospels are not histories. The authors are not interested in detailing a precise historical formulation of Jesus. Generally a historian would seek to arrange things in a very orderly and sequential fashion and to include as many details as possible. The gospel writers are presenting the message of salvation to their readers. Historical details are the means of communicating rich gospel truths. The records of Jesus’ travels from place to place are not a description of the way of life of first century Palestinians, but the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God who came to bring salvation. Critiquing the gospels for their failure to be biographies or histories is to misunderstand the goals of the authors.

All other considerations aside, the reality is none of the supposed contradictions are actually contradictory. Some portions of the gospel may require more effort to correlate together, but in all cases no account excludes the information contained in another account. They offer additional details to the record. When Mark says there was a demon possessed man living in the tombs, he does not exclude the existence of another. The purposes of the narrower account is served with the discussion of the deliverance of the one man. The details of the gospels simply do not contradict one another. The gospels are complementary accounts that present the wonderful truth that Jesus God made flesh, the promised Messiah, who died and was raised to life for the salvation of men.

Did Jesus claim to be God?

Many cults and false religions attempt to disprove Christianity’s claim that Jesus is God by declaring that Jesus never claimed to be God. Some religious scholars assert that Jesus never claimed to be God. Is this true? Are Jesus’ words empty of any claim to be Divine? Does the Bible tell us that Jesus believed He was God? The easiest way to answer this is to read any of the four gospels, but especially Mark and John. In those two gospels the claims of Jesus’ deity are repeated over and over again in many different ways. The disciples claimed Jesus is God, the demons who opposed Jesus claimed He is God, some of those Jesus healed claimed He is God and God claimed Jesus is God. Jesus Himself claimed to be God.

Two of the most frequent claims to be God made by Jesus are not well understood by people today because of a misunderstanding of the meaning of the phrases Jesus used. Jesus claimed God is His Father and to be equal with His Father. This is no claim of parentage or familial relationship. This is a theological statement that declares the speaker to be God. When Jesus said to the Jews, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30), they began picking up rocks to stone Him to death. Jesus asked them why they wanted to stone Him. The answer given by the Jews show they understood exactly what Jesus was saying. They knew Jesus was claiming to be God and they wanted to stone Him “for blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (John 10:33)

Jesus claimed for Himself the name I Am. The name I Am is not a mere statement of one’s current existence, as it is used in Descartes’ famous assertion, “I think, therefore I am.” The name I Am is the key name of God given in the Old Testament. I Am is the name of God given to Moses to tell the Israelites who was leading them out of Egypt. It is the source of the name Jehovah, or Yahweh, found throughout the Old Testament. When Jesus told the Jews, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58), He was claiming to be God. The Jews responded by attempting to stone Jesus. They understood His claim, and because they did not believe Jesus to be God they wanted to put Him to death for blasphemy.

These are just two examples of Jesus’ claims to be God. They are not isolated examples, but could be joined with many other statements in the Bible in which Jesus made explicit claims to be God. Added to these claims are the many times Jesus claimed to do that which only God can do. The person who would consider who Jesus is must confront these claims. He can disregard Jesus’ claims or to accept Jesus as the God He claims to be. One cannot brush Jesus aside a great teacher or a moral example. If Jesus is not God as He claimed, Jesus is not good. He may be a charlatan perpetuating a fraud on millions. He may be a maniac believing the delusions of an addled mind. Jesus claimed to be God. Do you believe Him?