Will the Holy Spirit ever leave a believer?
The Holy Spirit dwells in every believer permanently and guarantees our eternal salvation. However, disobedience to God’s Word and Spirit could suppress the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is the Spirit of God who remains active and manifests God’s power and presence in the life of every believer today.
This Triune God shares equal divine attributes. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit never contradict each other.
Thus, as the Heavenly Father has promised, “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:8) and so has Jesus Christ, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18), so the Holy Spirit will also never leave a believer (John 14:16).
It is consistent with the eternal security of the believer’s salvation in Christ.
A genuine born-again Christian cannot lose salvation because of the permanent indwelling of the Spirit of God that makes the person belong to Christ forever (Romans 8:9).
Therefore, a believer can neither lose salvation nor the Holy Spirit.
But then, how about God’s people in the Old Testament, like David who seemed to fear losing the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11), Samson who did not realize that the Holy Spirit had departed from him (Judges 16:20), or Saul who was troubled after the Holy Spirit departed from him (1 Samuel 16:14)?
Possible explanations for this question are associated with the different ministries of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments.
The Holy Spirit’s Ministry in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit ministered selectively and temporarily to certain individuals for special assignments. There are many instances, such as:
▪︎ The Spirit of God spoke through Moses to the Israelites (Numbers 12:2, 6-8).
▪︎ The Spirit of God appointed Joshua (Numbers 27:18) and Caleb (Numbers 14:24) to lead the Israelites entering the Promised Land.
▪︎ The Spirit of God empowered Othniel (Judges 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), Jephthah (Judges 11:29), Samson (Judges 13:25) to deliver the Israelites from their enemies.
▪︎ The Spirit of God inspired David to write many psalms (2 Samuel 23:2).
▪︎ The Spirit of God equipped Bezaleel with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and special ability in crafts (Exodus 31:1-3).
▪︎ The Spirit of God even came upon Balaam, the false prophet (Numbers 24:2), causing him to bless the nation of Israel rather than curse them.
Note that the Holy Spirit worked through people with different personalities and backgrounds (prophets, priests, kings, soldiers, political, and religious leaders).
The Holy Spirit came upon these people to accomplish God’s purposes through them.
The Holy Spirit’s ministry in the Old Testament is for the introduction and revelation of God (Yahweh) through the Israelites to the other surrounding nations.
The Holy Spirit’s Ministry in the New Testament
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit also ministered to various types of people (prophets, priests, preachers, teachers, apostles, Pharisees, fishermen, tax collectors).
Jesus promised to His disciples that God would send the Holy Spirit in His name to teach and remind them all things He said to them (John 14:26).
As a result, the gospel was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The role of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus said, is to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). In other words, the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the New Testament is for the salvation of Christ’s believers through the revelation of Christ to the world.
After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus reiterated His promise on the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), which was already predicted by John the Baptist (Mark 1:8).
It is noteworthy that it is Jesus Himself who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. This promise was eventually fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), bringing about believers’ union with Christ and with other believers in the body of Christ.
Pentecost was a unique, single event in history that marked the inception of the Church. This event remarkably fulfilled Christ’s prophecy on Peter (Matthew 16:18), whose preaching to the international crowd on that day drew 3,000 souls to Christ (Acts 2:38), resulting in the unprecedented church growth (Acts 2:40-47).
It is amazing to see how the Holy Spirit has graciously worked through a person who denied Christ three times — obviously, the Holy Spirit never left Peter!
The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life of Every Believer
The Holy Spirit remains active today.
This is good news for Christians living over 2,000 years after the Pentecost. All this means is that the same Holy Spirit, who worked in the Old and New Testament times, is still at work today.
He can work through every believer including you and me! The Holy Spirit’s ministry in every believer can be summarized from the Bible as follows:
The regenerating work: A divine impartation of a new nature or spiritual birth to the repenting sinner (John 1:12-13, 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12:3).
▪︎ The baptizing work: A divine identification and union of the new convert (believer) with Christ (the head) and His body (the Church) (Mark 1:8; Acts 11:16).
▪︎ The indwelling work: A divine inhabitation or permanent residency within the believer (John 14:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; Romans 8:9).
▪︎ The sealing work: A divine stamp of approval that guarantees the salvation of the repenting sinner upon believing in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5).
▪︎ The filling work: A divine control in the believer’s life (Luke 1:15; Acts 4:31, 13:52).
▪︎ The sanctifying work: A divine consecration and transformation of the believer into Christlikeness (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 1:2).
▪︎ The empowering work: A divine anointing upon the believer to perform special tasks from God to accomplish His purposes (John 14:26; Acts 1:8; 1 John 2:27).
All of these ministries happen instantaneously to the believer at the moment of salvation.
▪︎ The first four ministries can never be lost and therefore, need not be and should not be asked for again (Willmington’s Guide to the Bible).
▪︎ The last ministries, however, are ongoing work; they can be lost and therefore should be asked for as many times as needed through our intimate love relationship with God by His Word and His Spirit (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18; John 17:17; Psalms 51:7).
What Does This Mean?
The Holy Spirit will never leave a believer.
The moment we believe in Jesus Christ and accept His lordship in our lives,
▪︎ the Holy Spirit gives us a new nature through the new (spiritual) birth,
▪︎ gives us a new identity in God’s kingdom,
▪︎ dwells in us permanently,
▪︎ and guarantees our eternal salvation.
As we continue to walk in the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in and through our lives.
While our internal conditions are renewed, our external circumstances however do not necessarily change.
Trials, troubles, and temptations do not go away and our free will also remain.
Our decisions could be either led by the Spirit or by our own will depending on who takes the control: The Spirit or the flesh.
God is love, so He will not violate our free will. But God has offered His Word and His Spirit to guide and help us to walk in His ways.
If we disobey Him, we quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and bring sorrow to Him (Ephesians 4:30).
In other words, disobedience is the reason why God’s people could temporarily lose the effects of the control, purification, and/or anointing of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Therefore, “If you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).