Office Hours: Hywel Jones On The Role Of The Holy Spirit In Sanctification

Office HoursThe Holy Spirit has sometimes been described as the forgotten member of the Trinity. Whether that is true it is important to recognize the Spirit’s role in progressive sanctification, that gradual, gracious renewal to the image of Christ. He is the Spirit of Holiness. The same Spirit who hovered over the face of the deep, who led Israel through the wilderness, who came upon the church in power at Pentecost, who swept over the dry bones (Ezek 37), and to whom our Lord pointed Nicodemus (John 3), is the same Spirit who sanctifies us. The Father and the Son are at work within believers but they work through the Spirit. It always a great joy to talk with Hywel Jones but no more than about this topic. He is Professor of Practical Theology and brings a wealth of biblical studies and practical wisdom and insight to this topic. This may well be an episode to which you will want to listen more than once.

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  1. Happy NewYear
    Can you perhaps direct me to a source for getting a grasp on the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament? I have checked the table of contents in Berkhof, the institutes, Vos, and Horton’s ST, but have found no reference to the issue of whether all of the elect of the OT were ‘indwelt’ by the Spirit, or were only a few of the elect so filled. The general question is not whether He operated in the OT, but how so in relation to salvation and whether the terms indwelling and born-again are appropriate for use in OT conversation.
    Thank you

    • Hi Brian,

      Happy New Year to you.

      It’s helpful to define some terms here.

      1) Old Testament can be used broadly or narrowly. Broadly it can = the whole typological period prior to the NT. Narrowly, however, it refers to the Mosaic covenant. On this see:

      Strictly, narrowly, the new covenant is new relative to Moses, not Abraham.

      2) One reason it isn’t a major question in most Reformed theologies is the conviction that the covenant of grace is so unified that, despite the differences in administration between Moses and the new covenant, the ordo salutis (the order of salvation, the application of redemption) is the same in the period before the NT (OT considered both broadly and narrowly) as it was under the NT.

      Witsius’ comments are typical for most confessional Reformed folk:

      III. Moreover, seeing all believers were sons of God in every period of time; we may with propriety assert, that the Spirit of adoption was granted to them all in their measure and degree. For certainly what Paul says, Gal. 4:6. “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts,” and Rom. 8:9, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” is true of all periods. All who are regenerated, are born of the Spirit, John 3:5, 6, 8. From the Spirit proceedeth faith, Gal. 5:22, by which they obtained εξουσία, a right, to become the sons of God. And if they had any degree of love, righteousness, peace, holiness, and the like, without which true faith cannot subsist, they could have them from no other but the Spirit. And as the Spirit they had was, doubtless, such as became their state; and they themselves were the adopted sons of God; why then should we not call it the Spirit of adoption?

      IV. We more than once read in the Old Testament of that Spirit, as bestowed on believers at that time: such was that generous spirit in Caleb, which made him follow God fully, Numbers 14:24. Such that, concerning whom Nehemiah said, chap. 9:20, “Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them;” which we are to understand of the elect among the Israelites, in that perverse generation. Such was that, which David prayed might be given him, Ps. 143:10, “Thy Spirit is good, lead me into the land of uprightness;” and Ps. 51:10–12, “Renew a right spirit within me; take not thy Holy Spirit from me; uphold me with thy free spirit.” In short, as God said to Israel of old, “surely they are my people, children that will not lie:” so also, “he put his holy Spirit within them,” Isa. 63:8, 11.

      V. Moreover, the operations of this Spirit may be considered either absolutely in themselves, or in relation to the distinct economies of the several periods. What the Spirit of adoption operates indiscriminately in the sons of God, are principally these things. As God has, ever since the very first sin of our first parents, proposed his gracious covenant, the summary whereof was, in all ages, handed down by the instruction of the patriarchs; it was a part of the office of the Spirit of adoption to stir up, and lead by the hand, the minds of believers to the knowledge, meditation, and apprehending of that saving grace; to intimate to the soul the things externally handed down by the tradition of the oracles, vouchsafed to the patriarchs and prophets, and thus impart some relish of divine love, first more sparingly, afterwards more abundantly. By this means, that horror or dread is banished, which the thunders of the law, a consciousness of guilt, and the just apprehension of divine vengeance had begot in the soul.

      Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man: Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity, trans. William Crookshank, vol. 2 (London: T. Tegg & Son, 1837), 1–2.

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