A few weeks ago I posted here regarding a conundrum relating to regeneration, salvation and Old Testament believers.
In his farewell message to his disciples, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit. He states “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Unless Jesus is making an arbitrary distinction, there must be some difference between the current state of affairs and the Spirit’s coming. In other words, the Spirit cannot simply have been present with the disciples prior to Jesus’ ascension with no actual difference between the two states.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel (36:24-28) stated:
“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
Ezekiel sees a time in the future when God will put his Spirit in the hearts of his people. Again, unless Ezekiel is making an arbitrary distinction, it seems clear this Spirit is not currently in the hearts of God’s people and there will be a notable difference when this occurs.
To restate the problem briefly, if the Spirit is required in the work of regeneration and this precedes repentance in the ordo salutis, how did believers come to repentance prior to Christ’s ascension when the Spirit was not present in their hearts?
The best answer I have achieved can be found in the final paragraph here. I am essentially trying to avoid two horns of a dilemma: (a) on the one hand, arguing repentance is not entirely a work initiated by God whilst; (b) on the other, claiming that Ezekiel, and Jesus in particular, were somehow making an arbitrary distinction relating to the Spirit’s coming.
I would really value some comments on this as I have yet to reach a satisfactory answer.