Can you lose the Holy Spirit?
Does the holy spirit leave us if we sin?
To give a short answer:
The Holy Spirit is the third Person in the triune Godhead.
The Holy Spirit indwells believers at the moment of salvation. And we know from 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19–20 that the bodies of Christians are the Spirit’s temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
¹⁹Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? ²⁰For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
The teaching of the New Testament is that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling is permanent. So we cannot lose the Holy Spirit.
But there is more to say about this.
The Old Testament relates occasions in which the Spirit left someone, such as King Saul
1 Samuel 16:14
Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.
She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.
However, in those days the Holy Spirit worked differently than He does since the time Jesus rose from the dead.
In the Old Testament, the Spirit is never said to “indwell” anyone; rather,
▪︎ The Holy Spirit “came upon” people for a time to accomplish specific purposes, like in the following verses.
The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.
1 Chronicles 12:18
Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, who was the chief of the thirty, and he said, “We are yours, O David, And with you, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, And peace to him who helps you; Indeed, your God helps you!” Then David received them and made them captains of the band.
▪︎ The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to proclaim truth to the people.
¹Moreover, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the east gate of the Lord’s house which faced eastward. And behold, there were twenty-five men at the entrance of the gate, and among them I saw Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah, leaders of the people. ²He said to me, “Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity and give evil advice in this city,
▪︎ The Holy Spirit instructed the leaders of Israel
1 Samuel 16:13
Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.
▪︎ The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of Scripture
2 Peter 1:21
no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
But He did not indwell those people as He now does with believers in Christ.
Before Christ’s finished work and ascension, the Holy Spirit came and went, but He no longer works that way.
He does not come and go in the lives of believers today.
Just before His arrest, Jesus promised His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit, who “lives with you and will be in you”
¹⁶I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; ¹⁷that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. ¹⁸”I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
The Amplified Bible emphasizes the permanency of the Spirit’s presence: “He lives with you [constantly] and will be in you.”
Acts 2 describes the transition from the Old Testament economy to the New as it pertains to the Holy Spirit.
The disciples were gathered for prayer, waiting for the promise of the Father, in obedience to Jesus
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
⁴Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me;
⁸but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
As they prayed, the Holy Spirit fell upon them all and filled them
²And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. ³And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. ⁴And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
Jesus’ promise was fulfilled, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit came upon all who had trusted in Christ.
That outpouring resulted in
▪︎ courage in the face of opposition,
▪︎ love for all humanity,
▪︎ and supernatural gifts
1 Corinthians 12:4
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
▪︎ and abilities to further the gospel
God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
Salvation is impossible without the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:13
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Jesus explained this to Nicodemus in John 3:1–21.
Nicodemus, a leader of the Jewish religion, wanted to know what laws he could keep or additional actions he could perform that would guarantee eternal life.
Jesus responded that there was nothing Nicodemus could do and that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Without the Holy Spirit’s work in a repentant heart, no one can be born again, regardless of how many “sinner’s prayers” he prays or Christian actions he performs. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates and renews a heart.
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit
An issue related to losing the Holy Spirit is eternal security.
There is debate among Christians about whether or not someone can lose his or her salvation.
To lose salvation would be to lose the Holy Spirit who provides it. In fact, Scripture says that the Holy Spirit “seals” our salvation until we experience its completion in the presence of God
¹³In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, ¹⁴who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
For the Holy Spirit to vacate a heart that He had promised to seal would make Him unfaithful. One of the Holy Spirit’s tasks, after moving into a believing heart, is transforming that person into the image of Christ
2 Corinthians 5:16-19
¹⁶Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. ¹⁷Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
¹⁸Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, ¹⁹namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
²⁹For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; ³⁰and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
And we have the promise that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6).
We do not believe the Spirit will undo His work of regeneration, give up on His transformative work, or redefine eternal life to mean “temporary life.”
Since we did not “find” the Holy Spirit, it is doubtful that we can “lose” Him.
Some take issue with the word lose and say that, while a Christian cannot lose the Holy Spirit, he or she can forfeit the gifts and salvation He brings by a willful renouncement of Him.
However, Ephesians 1:13 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”
Can a believer truly break the seal placed on him by God?
The Holy Spirit is the mark of a true believer; therefore, to lose Him would be to lose any hope of salvation in the future.
Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to “grieve the Holy Spirit.”
And 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says that we can “quench the Spirit.”
These passages do not imply that the Holy Spirit has left us, only that He is sorrowful because of our sinful actions.
The grieving and quenching of the Spirit hinders our fellowship with Him but does not nullify our salvation, in much the same way that a rebellious child may lose the fellowship of a parent but is not kicked out of the family.
What causes confusion on this issue is that we cannot know whether someone else has truly been born of the Spirit or whether he is the “shallow soil” as Jesus described in Luke 8:1–15.
Some people seem excited to follow Jesus and may exhibit what appear to be supernatural gifts, but they were never truly born again.
Jesus addresses those people with a stern warning
²¹Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. ²²Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ ²³And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
Many people profess to have the Holy Spirit but eventually prove that they were imposters when their lives turn away from following Him
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Such people did not lose the Holy Spirit; He was never theirs at all
1 John 2:19
They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.