“There is one body and one Spirit just as also you were called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:4).
Although there were distinctions of ministry, one and the same Holy Spirit has been at work in both the Old and New Covenants.
The famous radio broadcast of October 30, 1938, in which Orson Welles and his fellow actors fooled many of the American people into thinking an actual invasion from Mars was occurring, is a classic example of how miscommunication can drastically distort people’s understanding of the facts. Because many listeners failed to hear the disclaimer about the fictional nature of the War of the Worlds dramatization, thousands were panicked into believing that Martians were beginning to invade New York City and the rest of the East Coast. Not many hours after the program ended, most people realized it was not a broadcast of actual events. Nevertheless, apologies and clarifications were necessary in subsequent days.
Scriptural truth is seldom miscommunicated with that same kind of sensational result. But that doesn’t mean we never need to correct previous thinking about certain doctrines. One of these concerns the Holy Spirit. Due to popular teaching on the dissimilarities between the Old and New Covenants, many Christians have understood the Spirit’s Person and role as being sharply different between the Testaments.
But the apostle Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 4:4 that there is but one Spirit (also see 1 Cor. 12:11, 13). Paul also knew that since the Holy Spirit is God, He is therefore unchanging; the same Spirit has been at work throughout redemptive history. We can believe with certainty that the Holy Spirit will always be the saving agent who draws people to the Lord. That’s what Jesus taught when He instructed the Jewish teacher Nicodemus about the new birth (John 3:5-10).
There are important distinctives between the Holy Spirit’s Old Covenant and New Covenant roles (see Acts 1:5). His New Covenant work is more intimate and personal for believers, but His essential character has always been the same.
We should rejoice that there is no confusion between two Spirits, but that there is one Holy Spirit who has been active in God’s plan, from Genesis 1:1 right to the present and for all eternity.
Suggestions for Prayer
Thank the Lord for giving you a clear understanding of the Holy Spirit’s oneness.
For Further Study
Read John 3:1-15.
- What should Nicodemus already have understood about the new birth?
- How far back does Jesus reach to make an analogy about God’s method of salvation?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.