Index by Subject

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

The denominational world is filled with the teaching and conviction that the Holy Spirit personally and literally dwells within the Christian. Many of these people do not propose to know how this indwelling takes place, nor do they seem to care how it takes place. They are just comforted by the presumed “fact” that it does happen.

This belief in a literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not limited to individuals in various denominations. Some of our own brethren believe in a personal, literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This view is held by some who are sincere and very knowledgeable in the Scriptures, but it is a view with which I do not agree.

There are some things about the Holy Spirit that are very hard to understand. It is not easy to comprehend the workings of the spiritual world while being confined to a physical existence. We must base our understandings of spiritual things upon the teachings of the Word of God, not upon feelings, opinions, desires, or denominational doctrines.

 

The Holy Spirit Dwells in the Christian

We can not deny the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian. The Bible plainly says that He does. Consider the following passages of Scripture.

“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… But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:9, 11).

“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?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

“That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:14).

“Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?’” (James 4:5).

There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian, but these verses are not proof texts for a personal, literal indwelling. Not one of these verses tells us how the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, other than the fact that God has given Him to us. These verses simply state the fact that the Spirit dwells in us.

While many take these verses literally and conclude that the Holy Spirit personally dwells within the Christian, I believe that these verses are best understood figuratively. As such, these verses emphasize the blessings that Christians receive from the Holy Spirit.

 

Fellowship

We know that one of the blessings of being a Christian is that we can have fellowship with God. “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). To have fellowship with the Father and with His Son means to share in the life that Jesus Christ makes available through His death and resurrection. Fellowship with God emphasizes one’s contact and intimacy with God. One way that the Bible describes this contact is by saying that the believer is abiding in God and that God is abiding in the believer.

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

1 John 4:12-16

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian. However, using the same exact language, the Bible also states that the Father and the Son dwell in the Christian. I find it interesting that while people get excited about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they do not mention anything about enjoying an indwelling of the Father and the Son. Why not?

Notice also that not only does the Bible say that all three members of the Godhead dwell in the Christian, it also states that the Christian dwells in all three members of the Godhead. John stated that we abide in God as He abides in us. “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13). Jesus stated that some could abide in Him while He would abide in them. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56). The apostle Paul said that believers live in the Holy Spirit. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Taken literally, these passages are confusing. How can a person dwell in a person who is dwelling within him? This does not make sense literally, but it makes perfect sense if taken figuratively. This indwelling is talking about the closeness of the fellowship that we have with the Godhead. It is so close that each is described as dwelling in the other.

When the Bible talks about deity dwelling in us or us dwelling in deity, we must consider the possibility that it is not talking about a literal indwelling, but rather it is a figurative picture of our fellowship with deity.

 

Influence

One way that a person can be said to dwell in another is to the extent that he can exert an influence over that person. The Holy Spirit (and the Father and the Son) are dwelling in those who show the influence of the Holy Spirit in their lives; that is, they are living in the way that the Spirit tells them to live.

On the night that He was betrayed, Jesus told His apostles that He and His Father would abide with them if they would keep His word.

20 “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 

21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

John 14:20-23

This figure of speech used by the Lord (that of He and the Father being in them and making their home with them) emphasized the closeness of their ongoing fellowship; a fellowship which was conditioned upon their continued obedience to His word.

After the Lord’s ascension into Heaven, the apostles proceeded to carry out the great commission. At one point, the apostles Peter and John were arrested. When they were brought before the Jewish leaders, they acknowledged the fact that Peter and John had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). They made this statement because they could see the influence that Jesus had upon their lives. They were keeping His word, and thus He was with them.

Paul made a similar point to the Corinthians. Although Paul was no longer with them in Corinth, he told them that his spirit would be with them if they acted upon the influence of his letter.

3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.

4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  

1 Corinthians 5:3-5

Therefore, when the Bible talks about the Spirit dwelling in the Christian, we must consider the possibility that it is speaking figuratively of the influence that the Holy Spirit has upon us as we follow His word. If we walk by the Spirit (Romans 8:1) and bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), we can say that the Spirit is dwelling in us.

 

The Holy Spirit and the Word

There is a connection between the Holy Spirit and the word of God. As we read and study the word of God, the Spirit has an influence upon our lives because the Spirit revealed the word unto mankind (1 Corinthians 2:10-12, 2 Peter 1:21). As we abide in the word (the teachings of the Holy Spirit), we maintain our fellowship with God (John 14:21, 23).

None of the passages presented at the beginning of this article stated how the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the Christian. A miraculous, literal, personal indwelling has to be assumed. There are, however, passages that do state how deity comes to dwell in the Christian.

Christ is said to dwell in our hearts through faith. “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (Ephesians 3:17).

Paul taught that Christians receive the Spirit by the hearing of faith. In Galatians 3:2-5, Paul twice asked a rhetorical question, “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith… Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (vs 2, 5). The obvious answer to this question is that they did not receive the Spirit by the works of the law but by the hearing of faith. In another epistle, Paul taught that faith came by hearing the word of God. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

The Holy Spirit is not the word. He is a person, a part of the Godhead. However, we can not ignore the connection between the Spirit and the word of God. Compare the teaching found in Ephesians 5:18-19 and its sister passage Colossians 3:16.

“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18-19).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3 :16).

I have placed an emphasis upon the phrases that are comparable to one another. Notice that they occupy the same place in the passage. How is it that we are to be filled with the Spirit? The Colossian letter answers the question: by letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Thus, we see that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian through the Word of God.

The connection between the Holy Spirit and the word of God can also be seen by considering what the Holy Spirit and what the word of God do for the Christian. Consider the comparisons that are made below.

1. The Holy Spirit teaches: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).

The Word of God teaches: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

2. The Holy Spirit admonishes: “Yet for many years You had patience with them, and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets. Yet they would not listen; therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands” (Nehemiah 9:30).

The Word of God admonishes: (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

3. The Holy Spirit convicts: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).

The Word of God convicts: “Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

4. The Holy Spirit causes us to be born again: “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (John 3:5).

The Word of God causes us to be born again: “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).

5. The Holy Spirit gives us life: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

The Word of God gives us life: “This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life” (Psalm 119:50).

6. The Holy Spirit gives guidance: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13).

The Word of God gives guidance: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

7. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

The Word of God sanctifies us: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

8. The Holy Spirit washes us: (1 Corinthians 6:11).

The Word of God washes us: “That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

9. The Holy Spirit saves us: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

The Word of God saves us: “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

10. The Holy Spirit provides comfort: “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).

The Word of God provides comfort: “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4 18).

11. The Holy Spirit bears witness: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).

The Word of God bears witness: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).

12. The Holy Spirit perfects the love of God: “Now 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).

The Word of God perfects the love of God: “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:5).

13. The Holy Spirit fills us: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

The Word of God fills us: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

14. The Holy Spirit calls us: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

The Word of God calls us: “To which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14).

15. The Holy Spirit builds us up: “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).

The Word of God builds us up: “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

Not only does the Bible tell us that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian, it also tells us how He comes to dwell in the Christian – through His word. As we abide in His word, we enjoy fellowship with the Godhead and the influence of the Holy Spirit can be seen in our life.

 

Consequences of a Literal, Personal Indwelling View

The belief that the Holy Spirit literally, personally dwells within believers is not just a harmless opinion. There are some serious consequences to this view that must be considered.

1. The Written Word Becomes Insufficient. If a Christian can receive the blessings that were designed by God to be received through His word in some means that is independent and apart from the word of God, then the word of God is no longer necessary for the Christian. This conclusion plays into the hands of those who thrive on emotionalism, are lazy, and do not want to study the Bible.

2. A Dangerous Step Towards Emotionalism and the Charismatic Movement. Strange views are held by those in the denominational world regarding the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For instance, some people insist that, through the Holy Spirit, they receive extra-biblical guidance and wisdom. Many of them confuse the trained conscience with the speaking of the Spirit (They say things like, “The Spirit laid this on my heart,” etc.). Some even believe that it is impossible for them to sin because the Spirit dwelling in them would not allow them to sin.

It is not wrong for a Christian to hold beliefs that are true simply because they happen to be shared by his charismatic neighbors. However, the Charismatic Movement as a whole is more interested in what they feel than in hearing a “thus saith the Lord.” Brethren can fall into this thinking as well, and soon the Bible is abandoned in favor of personal feelings which are mistaken for a leading of the Spirit.

3. The Age of Miracles Has Not Ended. God works in this world through His providence. Any time deity interacts with this physical world in a direct way it is a miracle. For a member of the Godhead to literally and personally dwell in my physical body requires a miracle.

4. We Are Emmanuel. That which made Jesus different than any other man was the fact that deity dwelt in His physical body. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). If the Holy Spirit literally dwells in me, then why wouldn’t I also be “Immanuel?” If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell directly and literally within my body, then why wouldn’t I be the “fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9)?

I have never met a Christian who claims to be God in the flesh, yet this is what the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit would make of every Christian.

 

Conclusion

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not an easy subject to understand, but we can understand that which has been revealed in the Bible about this subject.

No one should deny that the Spirit dwells in the Christian. The Bible teaches that the Spirit dwells in us through our faith and acceptance of His word. The Spirit can be said to dwell within us as we manifest the Spirit’s influence upon our lives. The fact that we dwell in the Godhead, and that the Godhead dwells in us, shows the closeness of the fellowship that we have with the Godhead. However, I believe we are in error to take the position that the Holy Spirit literally dwells within us. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit all dwell in us through our faith, and operate upon our lives through the word of God.