Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Old Testament Promise

by Edgar R. Lee

It appears, in some quarters at least, our Fellowship is losing much of its passion for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. If so, we are tempted to blame the influence of an increasingly materialistic and sensate culture. But maybe we who are responsible to preach, teach, and pastorally lead our people have become theologically deficient on the one hand, and perhaps intimidated by non-Pentecostal and emergent theologies on the other. Are we deliberately and purposely planning preaching, worship services, and other ministries to perpetuate baptism in the Spirit and Spirit-filled living?

This article is the first in a series where Tim Enloe and I will present the best of recent Pentecostal theological reflection that clarifies and broadens the biblical foundations of our historic beliefs as well as practical suggestions to strengthen preaching and spiritual formation within local churches. In this article, I briefly review prominent facets of Old Testament teaching that ground Pentecostal doctrine and practice in the whole of biblical revelation.

Old Testament Promise

What God has done in the New Testament, He began in the Old. The Old Testament was the first Bible of the Early Church. The Early Church used the Old Testament to support its understanding of the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Old Testament also introduces the work of the Spirit of God whose identity and functions gradually emerge through its successive ages and come to fruition in the New Testament. “Old Testament pneumatology foreshadows much of what appears in the New Testament. It would be difficult to understand some New Testament passages if it were not for the light the Old Testament sheds on them.”1

The New Testament identifies the Holy Spirit as “the promised Holy Spirit.” Before His ascension, Jesus said, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised” (Luke 24:49).2 Peter picked up this theme in his inspired Pentecost sermon, “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). Paul spoke of the “promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:14) and “the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13; more literally in NASB, “the Holy Spirit of promise”). While Jesus spoke about the Father as giver of the Spirit in the Gospels (see Luke 11:13; John 14:16), Peter’s use of Joel indicates God first gave the promise of the Spirit through the great prophecies of the Old Testament (Joel 2:28,29; see also Isaiah 32:15; 44:3–5; Ezekiel 11:19,20; 36:26,27; 37:1–14; 39:29; Zechariah 12:10).3

A knowledge of the Spirit’s work in the old economy aids our understanding of His work in the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles. This article will focus on several key Old Testament narratives and prophecies that provide striking clues to His4 work in the New Testament era.

Moses and the Elders

Moses was the Old Testament prophet par excellence. His miracles during the plagues on Egypt and those manifested throughout Israel’s wilderness wanderings attest the extraordinary way in which the Spirit of God worked through him. Yet, the role of the Spirit in his ministry is not revealed in the Pentateuch until Numbers 11. Here, the constant grumbling and complaining of the people had drained Moses of vitality and enthusiasm. In modern parlance, he was “burned out.” Enervated and depressed, he cried out to the Lord, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now … do not let me face my own ruin” (11:14,15).