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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Holy Spirit and Us

Don Stewart :: Can a Person Lose the Holy Spirit?

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Can a Person Lose the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit and Us – Question 9

Once the Holy Spirit enters a person, can He ever leave them? Many people think so. Indeed, we find examples of this happening in Scripture. They include the following.

David’s Prayer for the Holy Spirit to Remain

In Psalm 51, David prayed the following to the Lord.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me (Psalm 51:11 NIV).

David asked for the Spirit of God to remain with him. This, of course, assumes that He could eventually leave him.

The Holy Spirit Left Samson

The Bible gives the example of the Holy Spirit leaving Samson. We read of this in the Book of Judges. It says.

Then she cried, “Samson, the Philistines are here!” When he awoke from his sleep, he said, “I will escape as I did before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him (Judges 16:20 HCSB).

The Spirit left Samson without his knowledge. Again, we see it is possible for the Holy Spirit to leave a person.

The Spirit of the Lord Left Saul

In another instance, the Holy Spirit is said to have left King Saul of Israel. This account is recorded in First Samuel. The Bible says.

Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him (1 Samuel 16:14 NIV).

Saul provides another example of a person losing the Holy Spirit.

What exactly does losing the Holy Spirit mean? Does it indicate that He actually left these people or, in David’s case, could leave him?

View 1: They Lost the Holy Spirit

There are people who believe that these passages teach that these people did indeed lose the Holy Spirit. There is the view that during the Old Testament period the Holy Spirit did not indwell believers on a permanent basis; but rather His presence in the life of the believer was of a limited duration. Therefore it was possible to lose the Holy Spirit.

Some who hold this view believe that the loss of the Spirit of God was limited to the Old Testament. In other words, it could not happen today. However, there are some who think that even today the Spirit of God can leave the believer even after they have trusted Jesus Christ.

View 2: They Lost a Special Anointing of the Holy Spirit

Yet we should not assume that these passages teach that Saul and Samson lost the Holy Spirit. A second view holds that it was not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that left these people, but a particular anointing, or empowering, of the Spirit that departed. The situations of David, Samson, and Saul must be understood in their Old Testament context. David and Saul were kings and had a special anointing from God to rule the people. Samson also had a special anointing from God to lead Israel.

Therefore, what left Samson and Saul, and what David prayed to retain was not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit but rather the Holy Spirit’s anointing to rule in a godly manner. In the same way, the Holy Spirit always indwells a believer, but can anoint that New Testament believer for a specific and temporary purpose when He so desires.

He Will Not Leave New Testament Believers

Whatever the case may be, the New Testament makes it plain that the Holy Spirit will not leave the believer. Jesus said.

And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever (John 14:16 RSV).

He will be with believers forever. This is the promise of Jesus and Jesus does not break His promises!

He Remains Forever

The Apostle Paul wrote about the fact that the Spirit of God will remain forever with those who believe in Jesus Christ. He wrote the following to the Ephesians.

In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13, 14 RSV).

The Holy Spirit is the guarantee for the believer that they will eventually be saved. He is God’s way of saying that He will make certain that each of us who trusts Him will eventually be saved.

In sum, while there are passages that seem to speak of a person losing the Holy Spirit during the Old Testament period this cannot be true of a believer today.

Once the Holy Spirit comes into the life of a Christian to indwell them He remains there forever.

Summary – Question 9
Can a Person Lose the Holy Spirit?

The Bible says that the Holy Spirit seals the believer in Jesus Christ until the day of redemption. We have the promise that He will never leave a believer, at any time, in this present age.

However, there are examples of people whom the Holy Spirit left. Each of these examples occurred during in the Old Testament period. This includes David, Samson, and Saul. David prayed that the Lord would not take His Spirit away from him. In the cases of Saul and Samson, we are specifically told that the Spirit left them.

This has been understood in a number of different ways. Some feel the Holy Spirit could leave a person and then return during the Old Testament period. They did not believe He permanently indwelt people. The testimony of these men is an example of this.

There are those who believe that what happened to these men could happen to believers today; the Holy Spirit could leave them. However, the evidence of Scripture speaks to contrary. Indeed, once the Holy Spirit comes into the life of a believer He is there to stay!

Furthermore, it was not necessarily different in the Old Testament period. The Holy Spirit leaving the person is seen as referring to a special anointing of the Spirit of God for a particular ministry. It was this anointing that left them – not the Holy Spirit Himself.

Whatever the case may be, today it is not possible for the Holy Spirit to abandon a believer. The Bible clearly tells us so!

Do People Need to Ask, or Pray, for the Holy Spirit? ← Prior Section
Does the Holy Spirit Baptize the Believer with Fire? Next Section →
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