Book Review: God's Indwelling Presence, by James M. Hamilton, Jr.
Synopsis: The question of the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Old Testament saints is a difficult and complicated one, which has received a variety of different answers from within the Reformed community. In God's Indwelling Presence, James M. Hamilton, Jr. undertakes to trace out a biblical theology from the whole testimony of the scriptures, but most particularly the Gospel of John, in order to discover a biblically-consistent testimony regarding Old Testament pneumatology; the result is a thorough, up-to-date, and compelling case for a position which may be surprising to some, but in support of which Hamilton has laid out some very compelling evidence. All in all, this is a very insightful and engaging work, and deserves a reading far beyond the borders of the scholarly community.
The sharp disjunction the evangelist draws between the Holy Spirit's work before and after the glorification of Christ, particularly in John 7:39 and 14:17, can be a little baffling to many of a Reformed persuasion, who recognize the necessity of the Spirit's life-giving work for the faith and salvation of anyone â€“ including the Old Testament saints, who like us were born dead in trespasses and sins. Furthermore, on the surface these passages seem to be in contradiction to other parts of John, including Jesus' dialogue with Nicodemus, in which he impresses upon him the necessity of the Spirit's work in regeneration, and expresses disapproval that Nicodemus is not already aware of this truth from the Old Testament scriptures.
This apparent contradiction has led to some confusing and obscure interpretations of John 7:39 and 14:17, as well as to some tenuous positions on Old Testament pneumatology. But according to Hamilton, much of the confusion results from an unnecessary blending together of two distinct works of the Spirit, regeneration and indwelling. Regeneration is a work which the Spirit has done throughout redemptive history, and corresponds to heart circumcision in the Old Testament; individual indwelling is a promised eschatological blessing confirmed only after the glorification of Christ. And the isolated examples of certain prominent individuals who were apparently indwelt in the Old Testament, when considered thoughtfully, do not pose a threat to this general paradigm.
Hamilton's findings reflect a developed understanding of the biblical theology of the temple, as well as the Holy Spirit. The temple was the place where God dwelt among his people, and sanctified them by his influence from that holy place; but when Jesus came, he himself was the primary place which the Spirit indwelt, he extended his sanctifying influence to his disciples, and he looked ahead to a day in which there would be no one holy place to worship, because the Spirit would indwell his followers as the final, eschatological temple.
Hamilton's conclusions are all the more interesting since, by his own confession, he originally set about to prove a common Reformed belief that the Holy Spirit did in fact indwell the Old Testament saints; but as he studied, his findings led him to a different understanding. And I can honestly say as well, that my own opinion was likewise strongly bent toward Old Testament indwelling before I read his work; but by the time I finished, Hamilton had made his case strongly enough, and sufficiently answered all my objections, that he had me convinced. Whether your position is for or against Old Testament indwelling, you would do well to read this engaging little work for a clear, compelling voice in support of a position on Old Testament pneumatology that allows for both continuity and discontinuity in the work of the Spirit before and after the glorification of Christ.
Available at Monergism Books.