Does the Holy Spirit Ever Leave a Believer?
Genesis 6:3 – “And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh.” Is there a point in which God’s Spirit ceases to deal with man? Does the Holy Spirit ever give up on us, stop convicting us and leave us to our own devices? This scripture indicates that there is indeed a place where He could possibly withdraw Himself from man.
King David had a similar concern after his sin with Bathsheba. He cried out to God saying, “Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalms 51:11). This should be the cry of every believer. We should yearn continually for His presence. But even though David cried thus, and struggled with things at times, we know from scripture that the Lord never really withdrew His Spirit from him.
From the basics and fundamentals of theology and pneumatology we know that in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit did not actually indwell a believer. God’s Spirit was merely with them and came upon them for certain tasks, but He did not indwell the believer. It was not until the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that He began to dwell within us. Jesus told the disciples,
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17). Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit now indwells all born again believers. Paul said, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (1 Corithians 3:16)?
Man Versus Mankind
It must be noted that Gensis 6:3 was said in the context of mankind’s sin and waywardness in general and not men as individuals. There is a difference in God dealing with mankind in general and His dealings with men as individuals. This verse was said concerning the impending judgment of God through the flood (Genesis 6-9). There is indeed a place in which God will get fed-up as it were with mankind and will execute His judgment on this world once again.
The Bible says,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Wherefore God also gave them up… And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:18, 24 and 28).
Sin and the Believer
Does the Holy Spirit ever leave a sinning believer? Can we go so far and fall away from the Lord to a place where His Spirit actually leaves us? If He does leave us, at what point does He do so? This is a theological concern or debate that has plagued the church for generations. I feel the Lord has given me a very solid and balanced approach and answer to this from the Word and Spirit of God, which I will attempt to answer.
Sealed by the Spirit
Once a person is saved, born again and sealed by the Holy Spirit, there is little we can do to push Him out of our life. (Though He is a gentleman and will not remain where He is unwanted.) When we get saved and are born of the Spirit (John 3:3), we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest (guarantee) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Saved by Grace
We are saved by grace (God’s unmerited favor) through faith, and not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we are saved apart from anything we do, forgiven of all our sins and declared the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21), then how can we possibly do anything to lose it or cause the Holy Spirit to give up on us and leave us? This, I’m sure, is possible but not probable. The Holy Spirit will go after us, even when we are running from Him, and go to great lengths to bring us back from the brink of sin and rebellion, before ever giving up on us or leaving us.
Our salvation is all of grace and does not depend on us any at all. “Of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). If it doesn’t depend on us but is totally and completely all dependent upon Him and His grace, then can we ever do anything to lose it or cause the Holy Spirit to leave and withdraw Himself from us?
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:6).
Losing Our Salvation
Many have used Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26 to point out that believers can easily, through willful sin and rebellion, fall away from the Lord and lose their salvation. According to Hebrews 6:4-6, if we have lost our salvation and the Holy Spirit has ceased to go after us, “it is impossible… to renew them again unto repentance.” Therefore, we’d have to acknowledge, it is impossible for such a one to ever get saved again.
Hebrews 10:26 says, “if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remain no more sacrifice for sins.” If we take this at face value and out of context, there is no hope for any of us, because, most every sin is done willfully. Therefore, there would be no sacrifice or payment for any of our sins and we would remain without hope and still in our sins.
As we study the context of each of the above passages, they are not referring to losing our salvation or the Holy Spirit ceasing to go after and leave us at all.
The context of Hebrews 6:4-6 is dealing with us not continuing to lay the same old foundation over and over but going on unto maturity in Christ. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection – maturity; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1). “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak” (Hebrews 6:9). We do not get saved over and over – Get saved, lose our salvation and get saved all over again. We are either saved or we are not.
The context of Hebrews 10:26 deals with us not losing our faith or rejecting our faith in Christ. We are saved by faith and therefore, the only way we can lose our salvation or the only way the Holy Spirit will ever cease convicting, going after and pursuing us is for us to reject faith in Christ. “Cast not away therefore your confidence, Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him. But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 10:35, 38 and Hebrews 11:6).
The Hardening of the Heart
The Bible says, “Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear His voice, Harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8).
We all struggle with doubt and unbelief at times, but is it possible to come to a place where all faith is gone? Is it possible to be so hardened of heart that we lose our faith and actually reject Christ? Is it possible to go so far and come to a place where the Holy Spirit ceases to work in our life and leaves us? From a thorough examination of scripture, we have to acknowledge that this is possible but not very probable.
Sin does, over time, have an hardening effect on us. We must conclude that at least there is the possibility, however remote, that after continuing in sin for an extended period, our hearts become so hardened toward God, that we reject our faith in Christ and the Holy Spirit removes His hand from our life and leaves us. This is indeed possible but not very probable. This is, without a doubt, something that would take place over a long period of time. Only God knows if and when this would take place.
Given Because of Sin
The Holy Spirit doesn’t leave us as a result of sin(s) but was given to us because of sin. The whole point of Jesus coming and dying for us, taking our place, and becoming sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) is because we sin and are in need of a Savior. The Holy Spirit was given to convict us of sin and show us our need of a savior. Jesus said,
“When He (the Holy Spirit) is come, He will reprove (or convict) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on Me” (John 16:8-9). He does the same when we are straying because of sin.
The Holy Spirit will always go above and beyond the call of duty. He will woo us, convict us (John 16:8), and even execute God’s chastening – discipline on us (Hebrews 12:5-10) to produce fruit in us and cause us to live whole heartily for Him. He purges or prunes us as needed to produce the necessary fruitfulness He desires (John 15:1-9).
Only God knows how far He will go and when He will give up on a person, if He ever does. Only He knows when the Holy Spirit will cease to work in someone’s life. The very one I have been convinced has surely gone beyond the brink and beyond the point of no return, lo and behold, when I least expected it, they return to the Lord.
All I knows is that we serve a loving and gracious God Who I doubt ever gives up on us. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).
Find comfort and hope in the following scriptures:
“All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
“This is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” (John 6:39).
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).