I was cleaning out some old correspondence from my "sent" box, and found this
letter that I sent to one of our church members after a question and some
comments made in our weekly Bible study. It seemed good to put it on the blog.
Your question was very good and very timely. The Holy Spirit's work in the OT, though similar in the elect, was different in Israel than it is in the church. The Kingdom was external, administered by carnal ordinances and ceremonies, and the work of the Spirit was to keep it confined, to preserve the promise until the Seed should come. When Christ came, the Kingdom was revealed to be not of this world, but inward in the heart, administered by the inward work of the Spirit.
There is now no temple toward which we turn to pray, but we lift our hearts to heaven wherever we are at any time, and can meet in caves or among the rocks, gathered in the name of Jesus. We have no king and no Priest on earth, but One eternal in the heavens.
The Old Testament produced no Peters or Pauls who brought many into life by preaching the Gospel, but Davids and Joshuas and Samsons who slew thousands. David and Samson did what they did by the Holy Spirit, but by the Spirit who had a different object in view than the saving of the world. This is not a different Holy Spirit, but the same Spirit doing other things. The church is promised a holiness and sanctification in such passages as Ezekiel 36:26 and Zech. 12:10 that was only dimly seen in the days of circumcision. David wielded a sword of a soldier, Paul and Peter the sword of the Spirit. Paul did not uses carnal weapons, but weapons that were mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds and bringing every thought captive to Jesus Christ. Amen.
There is nothing in the OT that sets forth the life of the Christian as we find in Paul: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." [Gal 2:20]
In a word, the difference is between promise and fulfillment. The saints in the OT lived in terms of promise, just as a man may be transformed and filled with joy and anticipation when he gets engaged to the girl of his dreams; but his joy and transformation is quite different from what he experiences when the day of marriage finally comes and he is finally married and takes her into his home. But in the church there is even a greater fulfillment or marriage yet to come, for we shall see Him face to face and know as we are known.
We now see much more clearly than Israel saw, but there is still more to come in the eternal glory. That glory we will share with the elect of Israel and the reprobate of the church will suffer the wrath of God just as the reprobate of Israel did.
There is both continuity and discontinuity between the church in the OT and the church in the new. Continuity because both are the people of God and the Spirit was given to them and the elect were truly saved and regenerated by that Spirit. Discontinuity because the church is not Israel after the flesh, born of a fleshly seed, but the Israel of God who by the Spirit are made and administered a kingdom not of this world, a kingdom whose conversation is in Heaven, whose king and priest is in Heaven, and people not of the world whose love and devotion are not to the Jerusalem which is below, but to the Jerusalem which is above, where our Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of God, and to the church where its citizens gather to offer spiritual worship.
If the church overstresses the continuity, we get institutions like Rome who think they are the kingdom of God and they gather in worldly places to offer carnal worship of ceremonies according to the sensual flesh; if the church overstresses the discontinuity, we get dispensationalism and pentecostalism and lawlessness and radical individualism. We Reformed usually get cussed at from both sides! At least when we get it right.
Your question was very good and your comments were right on the money. A great deal of consequence to our lives and our churches depends on how we answer that question. The Spirit does not come by law keeping, but by the Gospel, according to Galatians 3:1ff. The Holy Spirit in the OT knocked down the walls of Jericho; in the NT he breaks down other kinds of walls; those that hold us in spiritual bondage and are far stronger than those made of stones and mortar. If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
[from basketoffigs blog, August 2, 2006. C. W. Powell]