Baptism and Indwelling
New Covenant believers must be careful not to look with disdain on what God did with His people in ages past. In fact, Yahweh proved Himself blindingly gracious under the Old Covenant in the days before the First Coming of Jesus the Messiah. But what God has provided under the New Covenant is better.
Prior to Christ’s coming, Yahweh had offered the Israelites a covenant in which they would be His people and He would be their God and King (Ex. 19:5–6). He told them how to build Him a throne room (the Tabernacle); and, upon its completion (40:33–34), Yahweh, in the Person of the Glory-Cloud, lifted up off the mountain and took His throne (the Ark of the Covenant) in the Holy of Holies (vv. 31–38). Then the thrice-holy God graciously invited men to approach Him as their God and King.
Throughout the ages from Moses to Christ, to go to that Tabernacle/Temple was to draw near to God. God demonstrated Himself gracious almost beyond men’s imaginations. What people experienced under the Old Covenant was “good” (1 Tim. 1:8). But what God has provided under the New Covenant is “better” (Heb. 7:19, 22; 8:6).
John the Baptist promised that One coming after him would baptize men and women with the Holy Spirit (Mt. 3:11)—that is, would immerse them in a ministry of the Holy Spirit that would transcend all that men had ever known. That ministry began with the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4), and throughout this age the Spirit continues to baptize believers into the body of Christ.
Scripture says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13, emphasis added). This “baptism of the Spirit,” therefore, is not an experience to be sought after conversion. Nor is it to be confused with the filling of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it has to do with the intimate relationship that is the birthright of every believer living on this side of the Day of Pentecost.
That relationship, made available through the baptism of the Spirit, is most dramatically portrayed by the New Testament concept of the “indwelling” ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised His disciples that the Spirit who had been with them would soon be in them (Jn. 14:17). The apostle Paul refined the word-picture when he described the “body” of each individual believer as “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19).
Compare that situation to the one under the Old Covenant. Under the Mosaic economy, God dwelt in a Tabernacle/Temple and graciously invited men to approach Him. But the worshiper never came without a sacrifice and always offered that sacrifice through a priest designated by God. More dramatically, that worshiper only came so close. He would never have thought to intrude beyond the court into the Holy Place and could never enter the Holy of Holies.
Believers today approach God on the basis of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ and through the ministry of a better High Priest who has sat down at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 1:3). Through the finished work of Christ on the cross, we have a new and living way to approach God and are enjoined to enter the Holy of Holies with boldness (10:19–22).
As unthinkable as any such thing would have been to believers under the Old Covenant, it has, nevertheless, been provided for us under the blessings of the New Covenant. In short, the “good” blessedness of the Old Covenant has become the unimaginably “better” blessedness of the New.
In ancient days King Yahweh indwelt the Holy of Holies in the Person of the Glory-Cloud. Today, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, that same God indwells believers in a relationship so close and intimate that it ought to take our breath away.