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God's Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments (Nac Studies in Bible & Theology) Hardcover – August 1, 2006
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About the Author
James M. Hamilton Jr., is assistant professor of Biblical Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) on the Houston Park Place Campus in Houston, Texas. He holds degrees from the University of Arkansas (B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and SBTS (Ph.D.). He has published articles in Trinity Journal, Westminster Theological Journal, and many others.
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The Spirit's work is highlighted in the first days and years of the early church. However, confusion or even disagreement often surfaces on how the Spirit has worked throughout history. The Spirit is mentioned all the way through the Old Testament as God's presence is revealed. But how is this compared to the Spirit's work in the early church or the body of Christ today? Obviously the same Spirit has been at work in each epoch of history, but has all the Spirit's work in each period of time been the same? James M. Hamilton's work seeks to shed light on these questions. He addresses how God's Spirit worked in both the Old and New Testaments and how this work holds ramifications for the lives of believers today.
Based upon the prolegomena that the Bible is completely true, logically connected, and fully congruent in the truth it promulgates, Hamilton tackles the topic at hand (1). The purpose of his work is to answer the question, "were individual believers under the old covenant continually indwelt by the Holy Spirit" (1)? "Indwelling" is obviously the way God resides in his people in the New Testament church and today, but it is not so clear in the lives of old covenant believers.
The author begins by surfacing key texts on the subject (John 7:39; 14:16-17; 16:7). All of these passages support one common theme; the Spirit did not indwell the disciples because Jesus had not been glorified (1). This also unearths questions about old covenant members because there are accounts of indwelt believers before Jesus was glorified (Num 27:18; Ps 51:11).
Before pressing on Hamilton steps back to explain the Spirit's acts of indwelling and regeneration. By using the New Testament concept of "regeneration" he refers to God giving people "the ability to hear, understand, believe, obey and enter the kingdom" (2). In the Old Testament this is described by using the metaphor of "the circumcision of the heart" (47, 138). Referring to "indwelling," the author means "God's abiding, positive, covenant presence in believers through the Spirit" (3). A climactic point of the book is the clarification between these two concepts. Hamilton explicates that these works of the Holy Spirit are related but separate actions in God's people. With this distinction made, the rest of the book seeks to prove that God's presence was "with" people under the old covenant and "in" new covenant members both communally and individually (3).
Throughout church history scholars have taken different stances on the Spirit's presence in the covenants. There is a wide array of opinions on this issue. The spectrum runs from those who hold the Spirit's work and presence being basically same in regeneration and indwelling to not even mentioning the Spirit's role and function in old covenant believers (23). Those who hold to a strong continuity between the covenants tend to believe there is no distinction between regeneration and indwelling, and that old covenant believers were indwelt (13). On the other extreme there is an assertion that the Spirit works in new ways in the new covenant and neglect to address to the Spirit's role and function regarding old covenant fidelity (22). Hamilton deems both of these extremes as weak and takes a "middle of the road" stance. He affirms the Spirit works to regenerate and sanctify members of the old covenant but according to John 7:39 and 14:17 they are not indwelt (24).
So, how is the Spirit's presence in the Old Testament to be explained? In the Old Testament God's presence resided mostly in specific geographical locations such as the tabernacle or temple (25). There are a select number of individuals indwelt, but they are given the Spirit for a special office such as a prophet or political leader (27). Deuteronomy 12:1-14 describes how God's how presence would dwell in the tabernacle and temple, causing it to be the central place of worship and of utmost importance (37). Instead of conveying the Spirit's indwelling as the norm, the prophecies of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 speak of indwelling as a component of the new covenant (41).
To advance his argument the author moves from the Old Testament to the Book of John. This gospel provides the basis of the Hamilton's exegetical support as the rest of the New Testament seems to match up with John's perspective (125). In John the Spirit is called the Paraclete and performs a variety of functions, such as: providing God's presence, teaching, testifying to Jesus, convicting the world of sin, and glorifying Jesus (72). However, central to the author's thesis on the Spirit is John 7:39. This passage (along with 14:15-17 and 16:7) proves that God's Spirit did not normally reside in members of the old covenant but was active in regeneration (75). To further this point, Jesus could not teach His disciples certain things because they were still under the old covenant and had not received the indwelling of the Paraclete (81).
John 7:39 teaches the disciples were not indwelt until after Jesus was glorified. This teaching was not unique to John. Rather, it was founded upon the Old Testament idea of an expected Messiah who would come to usher in a new eschatological era (102). Holding good to the promise of 7:39 and 14:17, Jesus is glorified, he marshals in a new epoch, and in John 20:22 he offers the disciples the promised indwelling of the Spirit (94, 118). The presence of God, the same presence that used to reside only in the tabernacle andtemple, now indwells Jesus' followers (117).
After describing how the disciples received the Spirit, Hamilton again addresses the concepts of regeneration and indwelling. From John 3 it is clear that "new birth," "circumcision of the heart," or regeneration is essential to enter the Kingdom of God. This is true whether one lived under the old or new covenant. Ephesians 2:1 shows the helpless and sinful state in which the unregenerate live. As a result, the regeneration of believers is essential to "see" God's Kingdom and believe. Human ability can't accomplish this, only the Holy Spirit can regenerate (130).
John 3, a passage that primarily unveils Jesus' teaching on regeneration says nothing of indwelling (131). Later on the evangelist clarifies that indwelling occurs after Jesus' glorification (7:39). The temple is no longer the residence of the Spirit, God's presence comes most fully in Jesus who replaces the temple (149). Jesus not only replaces the role and function of the temple, he gives his followers the Spirit too along with the authority and blessings formerly bestowed on the temple (155). This is the basis of Hamilton's argument in distinguishing the Spirit's works in regeneration and indwelling.
The book concludes with some practical and contemporary results of believers being indwelt by God's Spirit. Because the Spirit resides in believers they are given authority from Christ (Matt 18:15-20). The church can submit to one another and be corrected by one another as the biblical guidance is followed (167). In addition, the priesthood of believers is better understood in light of being indwelt. On the authority of John 20:23 Jesus' disciples have a role in mediating the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, because of the priesthood of the believer, every Christian holds the authority to disciple and share the good news of Christ's forgiveness (168).
Hamilton accomplished his objective for the book. He set out to identify whether or not believers in the old covenant indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1). Through the exegesis of selected passages in the Gospel of John he proves the Spirit would not indwell believers until after Jesus was glorified. By giving an overview of God's presence in the Old Testament Hamilton demonstrated how the Spirit dwelt in the tabernacle, temple, and in uniquely selected individuals (25). This validated his stance that the Spirit was with, and not in, the members of the old covenant.
The author also made the important distinction between regeneration and indwelling (131). This point was vital because it explained how members could be made a part of the old covenant community of faith through regeneration. It also illuminated the fact that the Spirit did not indwell most individuals. Therefore, Hamilton logically and coherently made a solid argument that most old covenant members were not indwelt by the Spirit in the same manner that new covenant members are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 6:19).
A couple of the major points made by the author were particularly helpful. First, the explanation of God's presence in the old covenant and how it indwelt the tabernacle and temple and was "with" the members was useful. This, along with the clarification and distinction between the Spirit's works of regeneration and indwelling, can definitely deepen one's understanding of the subject at hand. Many Christians are unsure of how the old covenant members came to faith. In addition, many have wondered about how widespread God's presence was among old covenant members.
Second, Hamilton's exposition of John 20:22 insightful. This has always been one of those passages quickly read over in church that leaves many scratching their heads. At best some have concluded that this is John's version of Pentecost or a "parable-type" preface to Acts 2 (94). At worst the passage could be placed alongside Acts 2 in an argument in questioning the veracity of the Bible.
Before reading this book I was among the Johanine Pentecost crowd. However, after the author expounded on the differences between the Spirit's indwelling, empowering, and baptism, the accounts in John 20:22 and Acts 2 make sense (183). The "felt need" to harmonize these two events has subsided because each holds its own place the Bible's teaching on the Spirit (95). This point, along with the Spirit's role and function in Old Testament, were definite weaknesses in my own theology. I am thankful for this book which has strengthened my understanding of the Spirit's role in the old and new covenants.
I would recommend Hamilton's book to all students of the Bible, especially pastors and teachers. Many believers and even church leaders would not be able to speak intelligibly or biblically on the Spirit's work in both of the covenants. If presented with "Positions on the Holy Spirit and Old Covenant Believers," many Southern Baptist leaders might not even be able to identify where they stood and the texts that support their position (23). Hamilton's work offers both the pastor and the layman a sound biblical approach to understanding the Spirit's work among old covenant believers. This book is helpful to "fill in the gaps" in understanding the Holy Spirit and the Spirit's work in both covenants.
Hamilton's thesis is that in the OT the Holy Spirit did indeed regenerate hearts so that people would believe, but rather than preserving them through the indwelling Spirit, God's people were preserved through the presence of God dwelling with his people in the tablernacle/temple. Hamilton deals well with the relevant OT passages, such as those that say that "the Spirit rushed upon him," and looks at the promises of the New Covenant in some detail. Most of the work of this was looking at the Gospel according to John.
Chapter 4 was the most in depth exegesis, working through a number of questions in John such as the meaning of "Paraclete". For some readers this chapter will be tedious. Overall, Hamilton's writing is crisp. He looks at the issues carefully, but always stays on topic. He makes reference to terms in Hebrew and Greek, but one can benefit from this even without any knowledge of those languages. I found his exegesis clear and compelling.
It's rare that I would give a five star rating to a book on a niche theological issue, but this book is really so well done it has earned it.
Not sure about his assertion that indwelling started in John 20 instead of Pentecost; still pondering that one, as well as his interpretation of baptism by the spirit.
Wish he dealt with the epistles teaching on the Spirit's baptism, filling, and indwelling in order to complete the portrait.