What was the significance of Pentecost? There are a few different views of its significance that are held by those within Christianity. Some believe that Pentecost marked the day when the Spirit came to indwell believers. This implies that the Old Testament saints did not have the Spirit of God dwelling in them until then. Others believe that Pentecost marks the beginning of the church; meaning, that the church was a “new creation” of God that did not exist beforehand. Still others would hold that the significance of Pentecost was the “Baptism of the Spirit.” This view is held by many within the umbrella of Charismatic Christianity who believe that this baptism was a “second experience” of salvation that all believers should pray for. In this view, it would be this second experience where one would be baptized by the Spirit and speaks with new tongues.
Among these views then, what do I believe? Actually, I believe none of these views. I do not believe that Pentecost marks the day when the Spirit came to indwell believers because I believe, without compromise, that the Old Testament saints had the indwelling Spirit as well. One reason is that none can be saved apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit of God. Man’s heart has from the beginning, been deceitful, wicked, and continuously seeking that which is evil (Gen 6:5; 821; Ps 14:1-3; Jer 17:9). Man’s heart must be changed by the power of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised.” Now then, is this only true of man after Christ? Certainly not! All men are in this spiritual condition. None will accept the things of God until the Spirit regenerates the heart.
There are some assumptions one has to conclude if one rejects that the Holy Spirit indwelt in the Old Testament. First, as discussed above, one has to believe that man, before Christ, was not dead in sin as we are now; second, one has to come to the conclusion that salvation was by keeping the ceremonial law, and third, faith can be manifested in the person apart from the Spirit. I, personally, reject all of these assumptions and do so because of the teaching of Scripture. To the first assumption, I have already cited a number of verses from Genesis, Jeremiah, and Psalm 14 that describe mans’ depravity, which is his very nature. There is no need to cite them again. To the second assumption, the Scriptures are clear that no one could be saved by the works of the Law. The Apostle Paul states in Galatians 3:11: “Now that no one one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.'” The writer of Hebrews states, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4). Therefore, keeping the Law, whether the Moral Law or Ceremonial Law, saved no one. The Law was given as tutor to lead us to Christ, as Paul says, that we would be justified, not by works, but by faith (Gal 3:24).
Abraham is used as an example by Paul in Romans 4 that righteousness was credited to him through faith. The familiar phrase, “The just [or righteous one] shall live by faith is a verse take from Habakkuk chapter 2. In Hebrews 11, the emphasis in that chapter is that these saints believed God (had faith). This brings up the third assumption; can faith be manifested apart from the Holy Spirit? If we look at verses from the New Testaments such as Ephesians 2:8-9 and John 1:12-13, we learn that faith is a gift of God, and those who have faith in Him were first born of the Holy Spirit. We also learn from the New Testament in such passages as Romans 8:8 and Hebrews 11:6 that those who are of the flesh, and who do not have faith cannot please God. So then, were the Israelites in the Old Testament unable to please God? Were they given a “pass” as it were that though they were fleshly God still regarded them? Or did they have faith in themselves that pleased God? As the Scriptures tell us, none have faith and all are in the flesh until the Spirit regenerates the heart.
In the next article, we’ll discuss then the significance of Pentecost in God’s redemptive history. I will leave you with these Scriptures that do indeed describe Old Testament saints having the indwelling Spirit of God:
“And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied” (Luke 1:67).
“As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (1 Pet 1:10-11).
Joshua Banks is senior pastor and founder of Shepherd’s Rock Bible
Church in Kingsport, TN. He holds a Bachelors degree in Ministry from
Luther Rice University, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and a
Master of Divinity both from Liberty University. Joshua and his wife
Amanda, along with their 5 children, reside in Gate City, VA.