Does God remove the Holy Spirit from a believer today?
The above question is part of a larger set of questions: Why did the Holy Spirit leave King Saul in the OT? Why did David pray that the Spirit would not leave him after a serious sin? Is there application there for believers today or is this only something that was an issue during their dispensation? Does this relate to losing your salvation in any way in our dispensation? I wonder why God would remove his Holy Spirit (that I would assume was saving/sealing him), but would not do that to a believer today that sinned to the point that Saul did.
This is a difficult set of questions and should not be dealt with superficially. Consequently, I’ll give a little background and then answer the question. I refer you to three posts made previously on August 14,15 and 17, 2012 in this site. These will provide additional background that will be helpful. As the writer to the Hebrew says,
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
14But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb. 5:13-14)
God created man to resolve the Angelic Conflict. God cast Satan down on the earth when he sinned (Ezek. 28:15) and Satan took one third of the angels with him (Rev. 12:4). Satan destroyed the earth (void and without form, Gen. 1:2), and God recreated the earth placing man on earth to show that only when the creature is dependent on the Creator, would there be harmony and blessing. There can be only one will (Luke 22:42), the Sovereign Creator’s, and any will contrary to God’s will results in destruction and misery (1 Thes. 1:7-9).
This is a Classical Dispensational approach to human history to show that the creature continues to defy the Creator regardless of the promises, laws and provisions the Lord makes for man. However, when man humbles himself before the Creator and depends on the Creator, then there is redemption and great blessing (1 Pet. 5:5). Thus God revealed specific dispensations, from God’s perspective, to reveal what is required for the creature to walk in harmony and blessing with God.
David lived during the Jewish Age. That is the time of Abraham through the time of Christ. God provided promises called covenants to Abraham and David (Gen. 12:1-3; 2 Sam. 7:12-16). Additionally, there were the Palestinian and New Covenants given (Deut. 30:1-12; Jer. 31:31-34) to help Israel trust God and enjoy His blessing. These were all unconditional covenants that depend only on God and will be fulfilled at the Second Advent of Jesus Christ. The Mosaic Law (or Covenant) was a conditional covenant and designed as a system that made Israel separate from the rest of the world as God’s people, but also to lead people to Christ (Gal. 3:24).
During the Jewish Age, the Holy Spirit “endued” or “clothed” certain individuals. The enduement was not for saving or sealing, but for specific operational or experiential power in God’s plan. For example, the Holy Spirit worked through Joseph as prime minister in Egypt (Gen. 41:38). Artisans, who worked on the tabernacle, were endued by the Holy Spirit (Ex. 28:3; 31:3). God took from Moses and “put the [Holy Spirit] upon them” for administrative purposes (Num. 11:17,25). Joshua, as a political and military leader, was given the Spirit (Num. 27:18). Certain judges were given the Spirit (Othniel – Judg. 3:9-10); Gideon – Judg. 6:34; Jephthah – Judg. 11:29; and Samson – Judg. 13:24,25; 14:5-6; 15:14). There were some kings who were given the Spirit (1 Sam. 10:9-10; 16:13). And certain post-exilic rulers were given the Spirit (Zech. 4:3,12-14).
However, the Spirit may only be present for a short time. The Holy Spirit could be removed as God sovereignly determined. For example, the Holy Spirit could be removed as divine discipline, as in the case of King Saul (1 Sam. 16:14) and from David (Ps. 51:11).
A person in the Jewish Age could request the Holy Spirit (2 Kings 2: 9-10; Luke 11:13). And Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples to sustain them just before the ascension during the ten day period until the Day of Pentecost (John 20:22).
This is in contrast to the Church Age ministry of the Holy Spirit. In the Church Age, the time from Pentecost to the Rapture of the Church, the Holy Spirit indwells every believer (Rom. 8:9). However, not every believer is filled with the Holy Spirit, that is, empowered or controlled by the Holy Spirit. Paul commands the Church Age believer to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). There is never a command to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit – it is a reality. The filling command exists, because when the believer sins, the filling ceases and the believer must repent, confess his sins and depend again on the Holy Spirit through filling (2 Cor. 7:9-11; 1 John 1:9; Eph. 5:18).
So, let me go back to the questions in the beginning. The Holy Spirit left King Saul, because Saul rebelled against the Lord (1 Sam. 15: 22-23). God removed His blessing from Saul. God gave blessing to David to prepare him to be king. David prayed that God not take the Holy Spirit, because David had just committed adultery and murdered Uriah the Hittite (Ps. 51:11). David knew God could remove the Holy Spirit from his life.
There is tremendous application for the believer today. Today, the believer will always be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit establishes the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit for Jesus Christ to dwell (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Jesus said He indwells the believer and He must have the temple established (John 14:20; 17:21). However, when the believer sins today, he loses the divine operational power in which to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). As long as a believer is filled with the Spirit, he will not sin (Gal. 5:16) Have you ever wondered why Christians can be nice sometimes and horrible at other times? They are not filled with the Spirit, even though they may be genuine believers.
Removal of the power of the Holy Spirit, in no way causes a believer to lose his salvation. Salvation is maintained by the shed blood of Jesus. There are many other issues to consider in eternal security (see the post made on May 18, 2013, Is suicide the unpardonable sin?).
God removed the Holy Spirit from King Saul, but he was still a believer and he will be in heaven. King Saul died a horrible death (1 Sam. 30), because he went down the downward spiral into the Sin unto Death (1 Sam. 30; Eph. 4:17-19; 1 John 5:16). It is only in this life that a believer can suffer. After death, there is no more sorrow and no more tears, because the old things have passed away (Rev. 21:4). God does not remove the indwelling of the Holy Spirit today, but the believer can go through the downward spiral (Eph. 4:17-19) and end up in the Sin unto Death (1 Cor. 5:1-5; Jam. 5:19-20; 1 John 5:16). He will be saved, yet through fire (1 Cor. 3:15).
These questions are very important in the interpretation of Scripture. You will get one answer if you take a Literal Historico-grammatical approach to Scripture interpretation. You will get a multitude of other answers with a number of other systems of interpretation. The Literal Historico-grammatical approach to interpretation means that the Bible student will interpret Scripture literally in its natural sense, unless the passage is clearly describing a symbolic or hyperbole matter. It, “historic-,” means that Scripture must be interpreted in the time in which it was written according to the history, culture and environmental factors that influenced the writer. And it, “grammatical,” means that Scripture must be interpreted according to the grammatical rules of writing of Hebrew, Chaldean and Greek languages. This system will give a student the answer to many of his questions and why Classical Dispensationalism is the best approach to understand God’s sovereign plan and purpose as revealed in Scripture.