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The Ministry of the Spirit in the Days of the Judges | Theology Matters

  • January 2017 Issue
Theology Matters
One notable feature of the book Spirit would be in them permanently of Judges is the repeated (John 14:16–17).
pattern of Israel’s disobedience followed by divine discipline and subsequent deliverance. This pattern is not like a natural cycle, such as the waxing and waning of the moon or the flow of the tides. Rather, Judges records Israel’s spiritual decline through this catalog of disobedience, repentance, and forgiveness. The ultimate cause of this downward spiral is reflected in this refrain: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).

Yet when Israel cried out to God for help, He sent leaders to deliver them. These leaders succeeded not only because of their military prowess but also because of their faith as a result of the power of God’s Spirit (see Heb. 11:32; Judges 6:34; 11:29; 14:6, 19; 15:14). Many of these heroes were flawed. Gideon struggled with fear and doubt. Jephthah was rash. Samson was self-centered and sensual. How could people of such inconsistent character be used by the Holy Spirit? In part, this is explained by the distinctive nature of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the Old Testament. He came upon select individuals for a limited period of time, enabling them to accomplish particular tasks for God. In contrast, Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would be in them permanently (John 14:16-17).

Theologian Charles Ryrie describes the Holy Spirit’s ministry during the Old Testament era this way: “It was a general ministry to the nation which other peoples did not enjoy, but indwelling of all individuals within that one nation was not a part of that ministry.” This describes an important difference with the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the church. According to Romans 8:9, the Holy Spirit indwells everyone who belongs to Christ. The Holy Spirit is Christ’s gift to the church. He unites us to Christ and joins us to one another. He equips us with spiritual gifts that we use to serve the church. He gives us the ability to say no to the sinful nature and to overcome the power of sin. The Holy Spirit bears witness within our spirit that we belong to Christ (Rom. 8:16). The Holy Spirit carried out a dynamic ministry to the nation of Israel during the Old Testament era. But His ministry to those who are in Christ is even more remarkable. He is our guarantee that God will complete the work He has begun in us (Eph. 1:14).

To learn more about the Holy Spirit’s ministry, read The Holy Spirit by Charles C. Ryrie (Moody).

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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