Saul and the Holy Spirit

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Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Does the fact this Saul lost the Holy Spirit indicate that he was saved (or regenerated cf. Belgic Confession, Article 35)? Balaam, a Midianite, also received the Holy Spirit to prophesy (Numbers 24:1-2) but he was a non-Israelite and died in his sins (Numbers 31:8 cf. Revelation 2:14). There is no indication that Balaam was saved from anything nor received the spirit unto salvation. Why would we say anything different with Saul when there is no indication that he had faith and works, both of which are indisputable signs of regeneration? When God gives a person the Holy Spirit unto regeneration they believe (1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 John 5:1) and they do good works (Matthew 7:18-20; Ephesians 2:1-10) and do not commit sin (1 John 3:9).

Furthermore, the argument that Saul had the Holy Spirit unto salvation from vs. 6 and vs. 9 is spurious. Vs. 6 reads "œturned to a man another" and vs. 9 reads "œGod turned to him a heart another." (my translation) The word turned is not the word used in the OT/NT to refer to regeneration (as per Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26; Jeremiah 31:31; John 3:5; Titus 3:5) Indeed the same word is used in Psalm 105:25 to refer to the enemies of Israel whom God "œturned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants." Thus the word does not have to mean, and does not mean, that Saul was regenerate (for as we noted above, where is the evidence of his regeneration?). Nor does the use of the word "œanother" imply "˜new.´ If the word new was used then it would refer to something in regards to regeneration done in the heart of Saul. But where is his new heart? I see no such thing. Where is the heart that God gives "œto cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them." (Ezekiel 36:27)

However it is obviously referring to the turning of something in Saul´s life and person, but what? The obvious answer is "˜courage´ for Saul already questions his choosing in chapter 9:21. He would need that courage to defeat the Philistines for God´s people (10:16).That he had this lack of courage within himself is indicated by Saul´s later hiding amongst the baggage (10:22) Finally the "˜other heart´ is also for prophesying, which no one can do unless God directs and strengthens a man to do so.

Likewise Balaam never would have spoken for Israel precisely because he was being paid to do the opposite. But he did as God compelled; God´s will was done even though it did not include Balaam´s salvation. Similarly God can turn the heart of the Assyrian king unto the people for their good (Ezra 6:22 cf. Isaiah 45:1) but he was not regenerate (anymore than God hardening Pharoah´s heart was an indication of His favor to him).

The narrative explicitly tells us that Saul was the handsome and tallest man in Israel (9:2) In contrast, however, when David is chosen we read: 1 Samuel 16:7 "œBut the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." David did not need another heart, but had a new heart unlike Saul. Saul was temporarily given the Holy Spirit to aid him in his work but not because the Lord was saving or regenerating him. Indeed, the Spirit leaves Saul as soon as He descends upon David. But David did not need the Spirit in that capacity to regenerate him because, as we have noted, he already was. Thus Saul was never regenerate and David was.

We also must remember that Saul was a punishment to Israel. (1 Samuel 8) God had promised a king to them, (Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 17:14-20; 1 Kings 2:10) but they did not want to have God reign over them (vs. 7) and therefore He gives them a man who is no good for them (1 Samuel 8:10-18) Saul was not a man after God´s own heart but David was. Clearly the choosing of Saul was to illustrate God´s sovereign purposes in doing what is good for Israel, even when she acts and chooses badly. When God decides what is right and when we are ready to have it, then it is good. As soon as we act (selfishly) on our own impulses disaster results.

(Note also Ursinus´ explanation of David´s repentance in his remarks below).


The interpretation I gave of Saul and "another heart" is shared by every commentator I consulted as well as John Calvin as demonstrated in his Institutes: 2.2.17; 2.3.4

John Calvin:


God inspires special activities, in accordance with each man´s calling. Many examples of this occur in The Book of Judges, where it is said that "œthe Spirit of the Lord took possession" of those men whom he had called to rule the people [Judges 6:34]. In short, in every extraordinary event there is some particular impulsion. For this reason, Saul was followed by the brave men "œwhose hearts God had touched" [1 Samuel 10:26]. And when Saul´s consecration as king was foretold, Samuel said: "œThen the Spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you shall be another man" 1 Samuel 10:6]. And this was extended to the whole course of government, as is said afterward of David: "œThe Spirit of the Lord came upon him from that day forward" [1 Samuel 16:13].


"we point out what special grace the Lord has bestowed upon the one, while not deigning to bestow it upon the other. When he wished to put Saul over the kingdom he
"œformed him as a new man" [1 Samuel 10:6 p.]. This is the reason that Plato, alluding to the Homeric legend, says that kings´ sons are born with some distinguishing mark. For God, in providing for the human race, often endows with a heroic nature those destined to command."

Zacharias Ursinus, in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, notes:

"œThe Holy Spirit left Saul who was one of the elect. Therefore he may leave others also. Ans. It was not the Spirit of regeneration and adoption which forsook Saul, but the spirit of prophecy, of wisdom, courage and other gifts of a similar character with which he was endowed. Neither was he chosen unto eternal life, but merely to be king, as Judas was chosen to the apostleship. It is still further objected: The Spirit of regeneration may also forsake the elect; for David prayed, "œRestore unto me the joys of thy salvation." To this we reply that the godly may, and often do lose many of the gifts of the Spirit of regeneration; but they do not lose them wholly: for it cannot possible be that they should lose every particle of faith, inasmuch as they do not sin unto death; but from the weakness of the flesh, not being perfectly renewed in this life. This the apostle John expressly affirms when he says, "œWhosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (1 John 3:19) David in his fall, lost the joy which he had felt in his soul, the purity of conscience, and many other gifts which he earnestly prayed might be restored unto him; but he had not wholly lost the Spirit of God."

Likewise Matthew Henry explains:

What occurred by the way, v. 9. Those signs which Samuel had given him came to pass very punctually; but that which gave him the greatest satisfaction of all was this, he found immediately that God had given him another heart. A new fire was kindled in his breast, such as he had never before been acquainted with: seeking the asses is quite out of his mind, and he thinks of nothing but fighting the Philistines, redressing the grievances of Israel, making laws, administering justice, and providing for the public safety; these are the things that now fill his head. He finds himself raised to such a pitch of boldness and bravery as he never thought he should be conscious of. He has no longer the heart of a husbandman, which is low, and mean, and narrow, and concerned only about his corn and cattle; but the heart of a statesman, a general, a prince. Whom God calls to any service he will make fit for it. If he advance to another station, he will give another heart, to those who sincerely desire to serve him with their power.


Furthermore, let us bear in mind the words of the Canons of Dordrecht who warn us of speaking about men cooperating with and then losing God´s regenerating grace (how can this view of Saul being regenerate be matched with what the Canons say here? Either one is right but not both together).

CD 3/4; RE Paragraph 8

Who teach: That God in the regeneration of man does not use such powers of His omnipotence as potently and infallibly bend man's will to faith and conversion; but that all the works of grace having been accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit, when God intends man's regeneration and wills to regenerate him, and indeed that man often does so resist that he prevents entirely his regeneration, and that it therefore remains in man's power to be regenerated or not.

For this is nothing less than the denial of all the efficiency of God's grace in our conversion, and the subjecting of the working of Almighty God to the will of man, which is contrary to the apostles, who teach that we believe according to the working of the strength of his might (Eph. 1:19); and that God fulfills every desire of goodness and every work of faith with power (II Thess. 1:11); and that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (II Peter 1:3).

CD 5; RE Paragraph 3 & 4

Who teach: That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever.

For this conception makes powerless the grace, justification, regeneration, and continued preservation by Christ, contrary to the expressed words of the apostle Paul: That, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him (Rom. 5:8, 9). And contrary to the apostle John: Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him; and he can not sin, because he is begotten of God (I John 3:9). And also contrary to the words of Jesus Christ: I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who hath given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand (John 10:28, 29).

[Edited on 9-21-2005 by poimen]

[Edited on 9-21-2005 by poimen]


Puritan Board Junior
:ditto: Excellent, Daniel!

God (via Holy Spirit) uses even the wicked for His purposes. (!) This is an amazing condescension on His part -- especially, when He speaks to them. (Gen. 12:17-19)

Back to Saul....tracing the covenant line(Matt. 1) locks-it-down. Ezekiel 36:26 (that whole chapter) codifies the differentness of the Spirit's administration in the New Covenant. (What Jesus was ragging about to Nicodemus in John 3 -- because N should have known better.)

A fascinating question could be asked: "where are all the instances in the OT where God either talks to or employs the services of the gentiles or others excluded from the Covenant of grace, for His purposes?" (Keep in mind, the purpose of God is to redeem a people via covenant via the Gospel. The OT events are not random.)



[Edited on 7-25-2005 by Robin]

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Excellent work, Daniel! I would be interested to know how it is received by some in your congregation.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
Excellent work, Daniel! I would be interested to know how it is received by some in your congregation.

I updated the work above by adding a few paragraphs explaining David's repentance, as well as adding Ursinus commentary on this event from his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism.


In answer to your interest: No one as of yet has responded to this paper.


[Edited on 8-18-2005 by poimen]


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by Draught Horse
Would any see a connection between Hebrews 6 and the Saul Spiration?

I was thinking the same thing. Here is a perfect example of a covenant member who has received the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and yet has not lost his salvation (Hebrews 6:9).


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Here is a follow up paper to one I wrote above:


It is interesting to read the details concerning David when he commits adultery and murder as contrasted to the sin of Saul. David´s sin is certainly, in our eyes, more heinous and destructive than that of Saul. Saul simply did not completely destroy the Agagites and their animals, but spared the king and the best of the herds. For this he was rejected as king. David, on the other hand, commits adultery by sleeping with another man´s wife and then murders Uriah to cover up his sin. Since they both sinned they both deserved death, but David´s sin was worthy of death 2x (adultery and murder are both sins worthy of the death penalty by law).

However Saul is never given a chance or opportunity to repent; he is cast aside and rejected as king and the Holy Spirit leaves him. David, on the other hand, is given, not only an opportunity to repent, but also is left with his sin for at least nine months before confrontation (since we are told in 2 Samuel 11:27 that his wife bore him and son and then Nathan visited him)!

When Nathan comes to him, he does not reject David as Samuel did with Saul but recounts a parable which leads to David´s public repentance (with the caveat that Psalm 32 is likely a record of his private repentance). After David confesses his sin, the prophet tells him that he was already forgiven. (2 Samuel 12:13) This is most certainly evidence that the Spirit was working in him and would not abandon him (cf. 2 Timothy 2:25) and that he was not now nor ever in danger of losing his salvation! Indeed since he was already forgiven when he wrote Psalm 51, this was not a concern for him.

Indeed, he says in verse 12 of Psalm 51 that he desires that God "œrestore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free spirit." It may be that David thought that God would take His Holy Spirit from him in the capacity that Saul had it as a king (Psalm 51:11) but never that God would take away His Spirit unto salvation for again as we noted, he was already forgiven, and thus he was in right standing with the LORD. And even if he thought he could lose the Spirit unto salvation, it was only because of his weakness.* In any case, God was even more gracious to David, for he remained king for many years after his confession.

Thus even if we were to still claim that Saul and David had the same grace, the same work of the Holy Spirit, the same salvation and the same faith, this story certainly does not inform us of such a thing. Indeed, if anything is clear the point is that David had salvation and Saul never did. For Saul did not have saving grace and thus could never lose what he did not have. What he did have illustrates the truth of Hebrews 6:4 having been a "œpartaker of the Holy Spirit" and yet without salvation (vs. 9) Indeed David was kept in the saving grace which he had for God never abandons those whom He has regenerated, even when they sin as terribly as David did.

John Gill comments on this point:

Ver. 1. And the Lord sent Nathan unto David,.... Quickly after the child was born begotten on Bathsheba, and when it was known and became the public talk of people, and the enemies of religion were full of it, and blasphemed on account of it, 2Sa 12:14; so that David was nine months or more without any true sense of his sin, his heart hardened, his graces dormant, the joys of salvation taken from him, and he without any communion with God, and having little concern about it; though perhaps he might have some pangs at times, which quickly went off; though some think he exercised repentance in a private way before; acknowledged his sin to the Lord, and had a sense of pardon, and before this time penned the thirty second and the hundred thirtieth psalms on this occasion, Ps 32:1; but Nathan is sent to awaken and arouse him, to express a sense of his sin, and repentance for it in public, which he did by penning and publishing the fifty first psalm after Nathan had been with him, Ps 51:1; for though the Lord may leave his people to fall into sin, and suffer them to continue therein some time, yet not always; they shall rise again through the assistance of his Spirit and grace, in the acts of repentance and faith, both in private and public.

*Calvin´s comments are appropriate at this point:

The truth on which we are now insisting is an important one, as many learned men have been inconsiderately drawn into the opinion that the elect, by falling into mortal sin, may lose the Spirit altogether, and be alienated from God. The contrary is clearly declared by Peter, who tells us that the word by which we are born again is an incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23) and John is equally explicit in informing us that the elect are preserved from falling away altogether, (1 John 3:9.) However much they (the elect) may appear for a time to have been cast off by God, it is afterwards seen that grace must have been alive in their breast, even during that interval when it appeared to be extinct. Nor is there any force in the objection that David speaks as if he feared that he might be deprived of the Spirit. It is natural that the saints, when they have fallen into sin, and have thus done what they could do to expel the grace of God, should feel an anxiety upon this point; but it is their duty to hold fast the truth that grace is the incorruptible seed of God, which can never perish in any heart where it has been deposited."
Commentary on Psalm 51:11

[Edited on 9-21-2005 by poimen]
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