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  • Writer's pictureSteve McAtee

The Transitional Ministry of the Holy Spirit

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

Notes compiled by Marty Zide and Steve McAtee

If you read the Bible with a special focus on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it will clearly be seen that He had different roles in different time periods. He functioned differently in the OT than He does now. We also see that there was a time of transition in His ministry in the book of Acts. If we do not understand this, it will lead to a lot of errors in our understanding of Him.

This is not an attack on the immutability (the unchangeableness) of the Holy Spirit. We see the same truth with the Father and the Son. They all did things differently at different times. They may function differently, but their essence stays the same.

1. His work in the Old Testament

When we speak of the Holy Spirit coming on the day of Pentecost, that does not mean that He was not present before that. He was but in different ways. He was with people, but He did not permanently indwell them. He would come and give special enablement for individuals to do special ministries, but would then leave them. Back then, sin would interrupt the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of a believer.

Judg 14:5-6 - Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done.

Ex 31:2-3 - See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship.

Ps 51:11 - Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

2. His work in the Book of Acts

Any serious study of the book of Acts will show that it is a book that covers some major transitions from one time period to another. There is a transition from the dispensation of Law to the dispensation of grace. In regards to the Holy Spirit, the day of Pentecost marks a major change in His ministry. Although He was always present, He came in a new way on this very important day.

Many of the things that were experienced in the book of Acts cannot be duplicated in our present day. For example, there were people who were saved before the day of Pentecost who was still alive after the day of Pentecost. They did not receive the permanent indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit until they were introduced to His new ministry by the Apostles.

When the gospel went out to the Samaritans and the Gentiles, the Apostles were sent there to minister to them. This was done to authenticate the one true gospel message. Since that time, the message has gone out both to Jewish people and to Gentiles and the day of Pentecost has taken place. Therefore, since that time, when a person becomes a believer, all four major ministries of the Holy Spirit immediately take place.

Acts 1:5 - for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.

Acts 1:8-9 - but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

Acts 2:1-4 - When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Acts 8:14-17 - Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.

Acts 10:44-45 - While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

Acts 19:1-6 - It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? And they said to him, No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit. And he said, Into what then were you baptized? And they said, Into John’s baptism. Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.

These types of circumstances cannot be duplicated in our present day. The reason is that no one living today has been baptized by John the Baptist. Secondly, the gospel has gone out to all the different groups of people on our planet. No new groups have to be introduced to the gospel message. Thirdly, all who are saved now are saved on this side of the day of Pentecost. Since the day of Pentecost, and since both Jewish people and Gentiles have been introduced to the gospel message, all immediately receive the Holy Spirit.

Coming Next – The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts


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