Assertions And Assumptions About The Holy Spirit

Jerry C. Brewer

Insisting that the person of the Holy Spirit dwells directly in the body of Christians, many good people who would never embrace Pentecostalism find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They must either believe and teach that the Holy Spirit influences the Christian directly, or they must contend that The Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian’s body without doing anything. The former is Pentecostal/ Calvinistic doctrine, and the latter involves an inert, do-nothing Holy Spirit inhabiting the human body contrary to God’s law of parsimony. The latter view is affirmed in the manuscript of an article by Hugo McCord which was sent to me, under date of Nov. 11, 1999, and derives from certain assumptions as indicated in the following from that manuscript:

“The Indwelling Does: Certify the Christian’s acceptance by God. Abraham had an outward, physical certification or seal that he was accepted by the Lord (Rom. 4:11). A Christian has an inward, spiritual certification or seal, a sphragis, namely, the indwelling Spirit, that he has been adopted into God’s spiritual family, and may exclaim, ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8:15; Eph. 1:13). The indwelling Spirit ‘himself testifies’ (not audibly, but by his presence) along ‘with our spirit that we are God’s children’ (Rom. 8:16). …The indwelling Spirit does nothing! He is mute and motionless, but he is the Christian’s most precious possession, like ‘one pearl of great price’ (Matt. 13:46) kept in a bank lock box. The pearl and the Spirit do nothing, but both are of great value.”

The assertions in the above statement are based on certain erroneous assumptions about the scriptures cited. First, it is assumed that the seal and earnest of the Spirit which involved revelation and confirmation in the first century church are synonymous with a direct, personal, indwelling of the Holy Spirit today.

The earnest of the Spirit was revelation imparted to gifted men in the first century church. The “earnest” was not the Spirit himself, except by metonymy where the cause is put for the effect.

The only places in the New Testament where the word “earnest” is used are 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; and Ephesians 1:14. In the first, Paul refers to inspiration in the apostles in contrast to the Corinthians, as indicated by use of the pronouns “you” and “us” and “our.”

The second reference is in the midst of a defense of Paul’s apostleship which he begins in 2 Corinthians 3. In chapter four he refers to the revelation of truth in the apostles as light that “hath shined in our hearts,” and the apostles as “earthen vessels” which contained the treasure of the gospel. In chapter five, he says, “Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who hath also given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” (5:5). Capping his argument with the statement that the apostles had been given “the ministry of reconciliation,” (5:18), he says they were “ambassadors for Christ,” who urged reconciliation to God. (5:20). “The earnest of the Spirit” was inspiration in the apostles, and the seal of the spirit was miraculous confirmation of it. These constituted their credentials as ambassadors and empowered them to speak with authority.

That’s the same use made of the terms in Ephesians 1:14, and demonstrated in Acts 19:6. After Paul baptized the twelve at Ephesus, he laid hands on them and they spake with tongues and prophesied. Their gift of prophesy was the earnest of a completed revelation to come and it was confirmed by the seal of miraculous tongue-speaking. (1 Cor. 13; Eph. 4:7-13). This was their seal of authority to prophesy and—like the great seal of a state which attests to the genuineness of documents issued by the state’s authority—it was outwardly manifested.

The admission that, “The indwelling Spirit does nothing! He is mute and motionless,” is prima facie evidence that Christians today do not have the Holy Spirit in them as a seal, and to assert that, “The indwelling Spirit ‘himself testifies’ (not audibly, but by his presence) along ‘with our spirit that we are God’s children,’” is sophistry. If the indwelling Spirit is a seal for Christians today, He visibly attests his presence. That’s what a seal is — a visible sign of authority. That’s what the great seal of a state on official documents attests — the authority behind the document. No state could do business today with a silent, unseen or mute seal. The very nature of a seal requires that it be seen or demonstrated to attest the genuineness of that which it seals. A do-nothing, mute, motionless Holy Spirit attests nothing and can, therefore, be a seal of nothing. The assertion that the Holy Spirit is a mute, motionless seal in the Christian today is false. Either the Holy Spirit demonstrates His presence—which would be miraculous— or He is not a seal at all for Christians in the present age.

A second assertion is based on the erroneous assumption that the phrases “the Spirit of his Son” (Gal. 4:6) and “the Spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15) are references to the Holy Spirit. That probably comes from the capitalization of the word “spirit” by the translators. But the context does not yield the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is under consideration. Both passages refer to the spirit or attitude in which we render service unto God. Contrasting our service with that under the Law of Moses, Paul says those in that dispensation served God as servants, but we are his sons through adoption. (Eph. 1:5). As such, we serve him in the attitude and disposition of children, not as bondslaves. (Rom. 8:15). That is the teaching and tenor of the context of Romans 8 and Galatians 4 and as God’s children, we are emboldened by the attitude of “the spirit of adoption” to cry “Abba, Father.”

The “Spirit of adoption” and the “Spirit of his Son” refer to our relationship as children, not the direct, personal, indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the bodies of Christians, and our God who cannot lie gave us the full assurance of sonship within the context of Galatians three and four: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ?” (Gal. 3:26-27).

The seal and earnest of the Spirit belonged to the miraculous age of the church. The claim that the Holy Spirit is the seal and earnest for us today, but remains “mute” and “motionless” and “does nothing” is specious. The earnest and seal of the Spirit were those miraculous endowments given to men in the first century that manifested themselves in outward demonstrations. They are not synonymous with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians today. To assert that, based on Ephesians 1:13, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6, is to argue from a faulty premise. These passages do not teach that the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians today, either directly or indirectly.

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Author: Editor

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