The question of whether the Old Testament saints were regenerated or not is one that is not to be ignored. It is said it should not be ignored because if the Old Testament saints were not regenerated, then the question of why not arises. Not so much how come they were not but why not. Also, if not, then why were they called faithful and allowed to write the words of holy Scripture (c.f. Heb. 1:1; 11:4-40; 2 Peter 1:21). It seems clear from reading through chapter eleven of Hebrews that the Old Testament saints were regenerated. That they were saved. The better question is not whether they were regenerated but now it is how were they regenerated? This is the question that is sought to be answered in the following.
The belief in this writing is that the Holy Spirit is the one who regenerates all believers. This is those from the Old Testament to today. It is believed that there is a difference in how this is accomplished, but the fact remains, the Holy Spirit regenerates those in the Old Testament and now alike. Not all people are saved, of course, only those who have believed. Graham Cole rightly wrote, “The basis of salvation is the same whether in view is Abraham, David, or the contemporary Christian: the cross of Christ. The requirement is the same: faith. The object is the same….” (He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, 142). From this arises the question of how did they look to the cross without it happening?
Some believe that the Holy Spirit indwelt believers of the Old Testament, others believe that the Spirit was the key but He did not regenerate as this is strictly a New Testament phenomenon, while others say that there was no regenerative work by the Spirit in the Old Testament it is strictly a New Testament, post-Pentecost action (Cole 144). If the people of the Old Testament were considered in the faith, as Hebrews 11 states, then they must have been regenerated somehow. Earl Radmacher states that salvation, which requires regeneration, has three elements, “a basis, a channel, and an object” (Understanding Christian Theology, 820). Sidney Dyer states that there has always been an eternal, everlasting, gospel that has guided all people to regeneration (The Salvation of Believing Israelites Prior to the Incarnation of Christ. JOTGES, 44). This he pulls from Revelation 14:6 where the angel has the eternal gospel to proclaim.
If this eternal gospel, which Dyer ties to Genesis 3:15, has guided all people for all times to salvation, then it seems that the Spirit had to be doing some form of work on the people. Since Scripture states that no one seeks God on their own (Ps. 14:1-3; Rom. 3:9-18). Since no one seeks God, or good, there had to be something that drove the people of faith in Hebrews eleven to become people of faith. They would not be in Scripture as people of faith if not regenerated.
Therefore, it is believed, by me, that there is a continuity with discontinuity of the work of the Spirit. In this view, the Spirit did a work in the people of the Old Testament that allowed them to believe and become regenerated. Although the work was performed by the Spirit, He did not indwell them as believers are indwelt now. The Spirit performed the work by coming upon the saints of old and regenerating them, but He did not indwell them, at least for long (c.f. Num. 27:18; 1 Sam. 10:10; 16:12-13). Also, the Spirit coming on someone in the Old Testament did not guarantee that the person was regenerated, as many times this was done for specific tasks ordained by God. Even though that was so, it still holds that the Spirit worked in the lives of people in the Old as He does those of the New Testament.
In summation, the Holy Spirit worked in the Old Testament to regenerate the people then same as He does now. The only difference is that He did not indwell them then as He does now, at least not for long. He worked in regeneration but not indwelling for the Old Testament saint. Regardless of how one sees the Spirit’s activities between the Testaments, one must see that salvation has always been by grace through faith. Whether in the looking forward to the provided way or looking back on it now, salvation has always been of God to those who believe.