THE INDWELLING HOLY SPIRIT
The New Testament is quite clear in affirming that the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians, God’s children. Jesus promised, “‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those who believe in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:38-39). Peter affirmed, “And we (the apostles, hf) are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32). Paul declared, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6). (It is important to note that in this latter text Paul does not say that the Spirit was given to make us sons of God, but rather that the Spirit has been given to us because we have become Sons of God!)
Among those who believe the Bible to be the word of God there is not the slightest doubt but that the Holy Spirit dwells in God’s children. But the manner or mode of that indwelling—whether personally and actually or representatively through the word of God—has been discussed and respectfully debated by equally good and able Bible students. Informed Bible students who hold to the personal and actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit do not contend that the Holy Spirit, since the close of the apostolic age, empowers one to work miracles, speak in tongues, receive new and additional revelation beyond what is contained in the Scriptures (see II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:3; Jude 3; et al), or that the Spirit “illuminates” or “leads” one separate and apart from the “once and for all delivered” faith and the all-sufficient Scriptures (see Galatians 1:6-9)!
The gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16), and one is born again “through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (I Peter 1:23). One is brought forth to spiritual life “by the word of truth” (James 1:18). No one anywhere at any time has ever been saved by some alleged direct and miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit! No one has ever become a child of God without hearing, believing, and obeying the gospel of Christ! No spiritual instruction comes to God’s children outside of the revealed word of God as set forth in the Bible! No one knows anything about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, how to be saved from sin, how to acceptably worship the Lord, how to live a faithful Christian life, or anything about the great beyond except what has been revealed and recorded in divinely inspired scripture (II Timothy 3:16-17)!
Yet, just from reading the Bible itself, with no attempt to “explain” it, here are some things we know about the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of those who obey the gospel and become Christians. On the day of Pentecost, Peter told inquiring sinners to “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Admittedly, it can be debated as to whether “the gift of the Holy Spirit” mentioned in this text is the simple indwelling of the Spirit, or the gift of the Holy Spirit imparted by the laying on of the apostles’ hands as in the case of the Samaritans (cf. Acts 8:14-19). Fortunately, there are many other passages that address this matter.
Paul wrote, “And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). He further stated, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9). (Note: The Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are other designations for the Holy Spirit, and to not have the Spirit results in one not belonging to Christ.)
To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own” (I Corinthians 6:19)? In his second letter Paul declared, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit” (II Corinthians 1:21-22). A little later he said, “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing (our “house not made with hands eternal in the heavens,” v. 1) is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a deposit” (II Corinthians 5:5).
To the Ephesians Paul wrote, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14). The gift of the Holy Spirit to Christians serves as an earnest, deposit, down payment, or guarantee of our eternal inheritance if we will remain faithful to the Lord. We are “a habitation (dwelling place) of God in (through/by) the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). (Note: This latter verse plainly tells us how God dwells in us, i.e., “in [through/by] the Spirit”!) We are cautioned to “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). Personally, I am much more concerned about the possibility of grieving the Holy Spirit by my manner of life than I am about blaspheming the Holy Spirit (cf. Mark 3:28-30), and I think other Christians should be also!
Paul reminded Titus that we have been saved “by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6), and Hebrews 6:4 tells us that we “have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit.”
In the words of N. B. Hardeman, all of these texts are “un-get-over-able” when it comes to knowing that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian. The Bible is abundantly clear that the Spirit dwells in us, and by faith (which comes from hearing God’s word, Romans 10:17), we know that the Spirit indwells God’s children. Yet, that is not the same as saying that the Spirit dwells in us only as the word dwells in us. It is simply a statement of the fact that the Bible tells us that the Spirit dwells in the people of God. The great Restoration scholar, Moses E. Lard, unequivocally stated, “The Holy Spirit then actually dwells in every child of God” (Commentary on Romans, p. 260).
Whatever one may eventually conclude about the manner or mode of the Spirit’s indwelling—whether actually and personally or representatively through the word of God—let us always be careful “not to go beyond the things that are written” (I Corinthians 4:6, ASV), not only with reference to the indwelling Spirit, but with all other matters on which God has spoken!
October 9, 2018
October 21-24: Smyrna Church of Christ, Cookeville, TN.