Sunday School Today: The Holy Spirit Empowers Believers

The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus Christ to come and empower the church (Acts 1:4-8), and emerged as the abiding Comforter and Teacher of believers (John 14:16-17; 1 John 2:20-27). In John 14:17 note that Jesus told the disciples that the Spirit “dwelleth WITH you, and shall be IN you (KJV).” Here the two tenses—present and future, and the two prepositions—with and in, are significant. As previously noted, before Pentecost the Holy Spirit had access to the earth. He was God’s agent in creation. He inspired the prophets. He even came upon such wicked men as King Saul and Balaam. He also regenerated men. But an inseparable union between the soul of the believer and the Holy Spirit was not formed then as it is now. (This inseparable union as now formed is clearly shown in John 7:37-39; Romans 8:26; Ephesians 1:13,14, 4:30.) While, by the special dispensation of God, the Spirit was in the prophets (1 Peter 1:11); yet, as a rule, He was only WITH the people of God until the day of Pentecost. This is further shown by John 7:37-39. Note John’s explanation that the blessing promised by Christ could be fulfilled only when the Holy Spirit had been given, manifestly alluding to Pentecost. Even the presence of the Spirit WITH God’s people before Pentecost was not necessarily permanent. His presence could be forfeited then by sin. Thus it was that David prayed: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). Before the day of Pentecost, believers could have the Holy Spirit through prayer (Luke 11:13). After the day of Pentecost, as we shall note more at length later, there is no indication that believers should or did ask for the Holy Spirit. He now abides constantly and inseparably in believers. (John 20:21,22 must be considered exceptional, because the recipients of the Spirit were apostles, or anticipatory of Pentecost.)

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