“The Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:39
Prior to Pentecost how did the Holy Spirit work in the lives of those who came to faith? Before Christ died and the Holy Spirit came down like fire, was He actively regenerating (effectually drawing) a preselected few as the Calvinists claim? Did the role of the Holy Spirit change in any way from the Old Testament times to the New Testament times with regard to soteriology?
In other words, was Enoch, Lot, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David and the rest of the Old Testament saint effectually regenerated by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the same way Calvinists suppose the elect are today?
Many Calvinists seem to speak very dogmatically about the meaning of John 6:44 when discussing soteriology with their non-Calvinistic brethren, but when speaking among themselves it appears Calvinists can be a bit more objective, as reflected here by John Piper’s response to a question about the role of the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost:
The relationship between the old covenant and the new covenant is complex and I do not have all the intricacies worked out yet. The work of the Holy Spirit before Pentecost is part of this problem…
The hardest verses for me are John 14:16ff, “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another helper, that he may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not behold him or know him, but you know him because he abides with you and will be in you.”
Also 7:39 is especially troublesome: “the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” I’m not at all sure I understand John’s pneumatology (especially 20:22), but I suspect the key to it is found in the identification of the earthly Jesus with the Holy Spirit: “He is with you but will be in you” (14:17 cf. 6:63).
Since the Spirit which Christians enjoy is known to be the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), perhaps John thinks it inappropriate to think of the Spirit in this sense as having come. Theologically I would ask who the agent is in accomplishing the “drawing” of 6:44 and the enabling of 6:65? Do we postulate that God the Father works directly without the agency of the Spirit? Or can we not suppose that the Spirit was redemptively at work during Christ’s earthly ministry and that the Spirit which has not yet come is that particular manifestation of the Spirit which will equip the apostles uniquely for calling to remembrance all things (14:26) and guiding into all truth (16:13)?
These are just gropings. I do not have the problem of Johannine pneumatology solved. <link>
When responding to a fellow brother’s pressing question, Piper humbly admits his own confusion and even speculates about the unique role of the Holy Spirit with regard to guiding the apostles during His earthly ministry (which ironically sounds a lot like our interpretation of John 6…see HERE). Yet, when teaching the TULIP systematic, Piper dogmatically asserts,
In John 6:44, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” This drawing is the sovereign [irresistible] work of grace without which none of us will be saved from our rebellion against God…. In other words, running straight through the Gospel of John is the truth that God the Father and God the Son decisively [irresistibly] draw people out of darkness into light. And Christ died for this. He was lifted up for this — that all of them might be [irresistibly] drawn to him — all the children, all the sheep, all who are of the truth, all those whom the Father gives to the Son. <link>
How can it be assumed that the Holy Spirit is effectually regenerating (i.e. “drawing”) preselected individuals prior to Christ’s death and the subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit?
The Traditionalist’s interpretation of John 6 does not have this problem because we do not assume that mankind lost the moral ability to willingly respond to God’s clear revelation due to the Fall, especially revelation brought by the Incarnate Word of God Himself! There would be nothing preventing the natural man from understanding and believing Jesus’ teachings from our perspective.
We believe that Jesus is only revealing His identity to His closest followers and hiding the truth from the rest (Mk 9:9; Mt. 16:20; Mt. 11:25). We understand that Jesus is using parabolic language to blind the self-righteous Jews of that day from recognizing Him as their long awaited Messiah (Mk 4:11-12, 35). That, and that alone, is the reason His Jewish audience was incapable of coming to Him in faith (John 12:39-41). There is absolutely no reason to believe that all of humanity are born morally incapable of coming due to some kind of incapacitated nature inherited from the Fall of Adam. That imposed doctrine creates Piper’s confusion and contradictions represented above.
If it is true that all people are born morally incapable of willingly responding in faith to God’s revelation, there would be absolutely no rational reason for Christ to use parabolic language in order to hide the truth from the Jews of his day, as reflected in the passages below:
“As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).
“Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ” (Matt. 16:20)
“But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was” (Mark 3:12).
“Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him” (Mark 8:30).
“The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ” ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ …With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.“ (Mark 4:11-12; 33-34, emphasis added).
What would be the purpose of putting a blindfold on the corpse of Calvinism’s totally depraved reprobate?
- Mark S. Kinzer, Post-Messianic Judiaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), 129-130, 135, 152: “Whatever answer we give to this question [the question of judicial hardening], we know that Paul was convinced that God partially hardened Israel so that blessing might come to the nations of the world… Whereas a traditional reading of Romans 9-11 has seen the hardening of nonremnant Israel as exclusively punitive in nature, the texts we have been exploring point in another direction… Also building upon Hays, Harink makes the theological implication thoroughly explicit: ‘It is not possible to see Israel’s present hardening as its unique (but unknowing) participation in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ…’ While in Pauline language, Israel has experienced a ‘partial hardening’ that temporarily prevents her from corporately embracing Yeshua-faith, she nevertheless remains a holy people, set apart for God and God’s purposes.”