An earnest is a pledge or assurance of something on its way. An indwelling of the Holy Spirit as simply a general sense of Scripture’s inspiration or God ‘showing up’ in our midst would do little to convince the early Christians they had heeded the right message and were headed in the right direction.
It took unique activity from the Holy Spirit to convince Cornelius that he was doing right in becoming a Christian, and to convince the Jewish Jesus-followers to admit him and other Gentiles into fellowship. The ordinary influence of the Spirit through Scripture was not enough to constitute assurance to both parties. Receiving gifts of the Spirit was evidence of having obeyed the right message:
And we are his witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him (Acts 5:32).
God would not give God’s Spirit (manifesting as miraculous power) to those who heeded false, legalistic teaching. This was Paul’s reasoning with the Galatians who began to doubt the validity of the gospel. Paul stirs them to sober thinking with a timely question:
This only I want to learn from you; did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)
Did you receive the Spirit, Paul asks effectively, under the paradigm of Law or Gospel?
Now what did Paul mean by “receiving the Spirit?” Does he mean the ordinary indwelling of the Spirit through the hearing of Scripture? If so, what proof would this be that the Galatian faith community had obeyed the right teaching? All teaching conveys some kind of spirit. But the text shows that Paul was speaking of miraculous power:
Therefore he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:5)
The fact that the Spirit was given and miracles were worked under the Gospel rather than the Law was evidence that God was standing gospel saints of every ethnicity. That was the “earnest of the Spirit” given to New Testament saints until the time of their redemption or separation from their Old Covenant identification.
God endorsed and supported New Testament saints
“…with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will” (Hebrews 2:4).
As the gospel of Mark testifies,
And these signs will follow those who believe; In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
They will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mark 16:17-18).
But when did this unique role and manifestation of the Spirit reach its zenith? During the “last days” – the time when the two Israels coexisted:
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
Love abides, and is the source of our greatest power – in any era.
Join us each week as we continue exploring fulfilled covenant eschatology by blogging through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King, where this post is drawn from. (And if you get impatient, you can always read the full book inspiring inspiring these posts here.) Please feel free to weigh in below.