The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit


     A study of God is urgently important. The appellative "God," from the Greek theos, simply means divine. God is revealed in His Book as the Creator, One so great that He Himself cannot swear by a greater; and so superior that "there is none else" (Isa. 45: 18, 22-24). The Godhead or state of being God consists of God the Father; God the Son; and God the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1: 7; Heb. 1: 8, 9; Acts 5: 3,4). While each individuality possesses the same traits in so much that to see one is to see the other, they have performed different work in the overall matter of creation, the maintaining of the universe, and the salvation of man (John 14: 7-10, 14: 16-18, see addendum 1; cp. Gen. 1: 1, Col. 1: 13-16).

     It is an indisputable fact that there remains confusion and misunderstanding as to the nature and work of both the Father and the Son, but it would appear that the being and work of the Holy Spirit has engendered the greater confusion. Much of this misunderstanding and consequent misinformation revolves around the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian and how He operates or works.

     As a matter of history, the subject and issue of the indwelling of the Spirit has often been a hotly debated topic. Even the Lord’s church has not historically been without controversy relative to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (see an exchange in the Polemic section, accessed from the Site Map page by clicking on the door on the home page or simply click here).

     In order to illustrate the circumstance of confusion and disagreement relative to the indwelling of the Spirit issue, allow me to share with you an email that came to me:

     "Dear Sir:

     I am much alarmed at the common teaching in churches of Christ regarding the Holy Spirit indwelling a Christian by word only. When I repented of my sins one day and cried out to God to take my life. At this time a long time ago my heart was penitent and broken. Nothing happened till the next morning which was to be like no other. I was filled with the Holy Spirit….

     Most are unable to accept this testimony and write it off in their minds that I was under the influence of drugs or just simply emotional or delusional…. After this occurrence I was later baptized in water at a local Church of Christ. It is a shame that more people cannot be convinced of the validity of this as it was an awesome experience that I will never forget. This prepared me for my ministry of sharing Jesus and the need to have him in our lives with the lost….

     The Church of Christ has so many areas of doctrine on straight, but the indwelling and direct operation of the Holy Spirit has been missed by many."

     Allow me to first say that the Bible clearly teaches the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian. To deny this teaching is to deny the Bible (Eph. 5: 18). However, the same Bible also declares the indwelling of the Father and the Son in the Christian (I John 4: 16; Eph. 3: 17). The question is, does the Bible teach the bodily indwelling and the often associated doctrine of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit? Does the indwelling of the Spirit constitute a totally different indwelling from the manner in which the Father and Son indwell the Christian, would be a pertinent question.

     Consider a few dialectic points:

     It was said that God dwelt in the tabernacle (Ex. 25: 8). Notwithstanding, God, the divine being, dwelt in heaven (I Kgs. 8: 10-13, 30, 34, 36). Beloved, the presence of God was in the tabernacle, but he himself bodily (his "person") was in heaven. Notice how Jesus dwells in the Christian: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." (Eph. 3: 17). Faith is a product of the word of God (Rom. 10: 17).

     I submit that "dwell" simply suggests a relationship and proximity between two. Hence, it is possible for God the Father, Son, and or Holy Spirit to dwell in the Christian (all Christians) and still be bodily in heaven (see addendum 2). Consider the language and teaching of the apostle John:

     "24: And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him…" (I John 3).

     Those who insist that for deity to dwell means personally, bodily, and directly need to carefully examine John’s language. God, whether the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit indwells the Christians in the precise same way the Christian indwells God. Those who "keep on keeping God’s commandments" enjoy a relationship with God and He with them.

     The author of the above quoted email seemed to think that for the Spirit to indirectly dwell (through the word) in the Christian is depreciative of the work of the Spirit. As a matter of biblical fact, action such as begets, sanctification, and convicts assigned to the Spirit is also said to be the result of the word (I Pet. 1: 23, Tit. 1: 9, John 17: 17; John 3: 5, I Cor. 6: 11, John 16: 8). The verse earlier mentioned regarding being filled with the Spirit has a parallel verse that says to let the word of Christ richly dwell in us (Eph. 5: 18, cp. Col. 3: 16). When an action is assigned to both an intelligent being (God) and an instrument (word), it is axiomatic that the Being through the instrument accomplishes the end result.

     Some maintain that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is different from the indwelling of the Father and Son because special association and result is set forth in the scriptures regarding the Spirit and the Christian. Action such as mentioned in such verses as I John 3: 24, 4: 13, and Ephesians 4: 30 is referenced. The Spirit does enjoy a special relationship, but this is due to His special work in revealing the whole truth through the apostles and His work in enabling the word (cp. John 14-17).

     As to the email referring to a special experience prior to baptism, I, too, had an experience that is dear to me. However, I do not attribute it to the direct work or bodily indwelling of the Spirit, but to the joy of believing, repenting, and the honor of confessing that Jesus is the Son of God.

     Many do not take the time to observe the person or persons of address and the associated action being considered in their "proof texts." For instance, Jesus was speaking to the apostles when He said: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you…" (Acts 1: 8, see verses 4-7, cp. Luke 24: 33-49). In the absence of the complete, revealed word, the Spirit imparted miraculous gifts to many in the First Century church (I Cor. 12: 7-11). However, in both of these sited instances, there are special circumstances and time restraints (cp. I Cor. 13: 8-10, Eph. 4: 10-15).

     A resounding biblical truth is: "34: Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10). In the recorded instances of people being saved in the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is seen to work in the same way. The gospel is consistently preached because it is "God’s power unto salvation" (Rom. 1: 16, cp. Acts 2, 3, 7, 8, 16, etc.). Hence, to resist the Spirit is tantamount to resisting the word (Acts 7: 51, 2-60). All equally have the same opportunity, the word of God, and all shall be judged by the word (John 12: 48).

     Some wonder about the scriptures that refer to the Spirit indwelling the apostles and just what was meant. Jesus obviously makes a play on Greek prepositions when he told the apostles:

     "17: 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). Jesus intends for the reader to understand a difference in "with" (par) and "in" (en). Does "with" denote relationship while "in" convey the idea of the direct, bodily indwelling of the Spirit in the apostles? Some believe this to be the case. Again, the Spirit Himself was in heaven (Rev. 4, 5). However, His influence was so increased that He would not simply be "with" them as He had already been, but would at the time of Acts 2 be "in" them. They, the apostles, would be immersed in the Spirit (Acts 1: 5). I understand this to refer to the extent of the miraculous measure with which the Spirit would endow these men for their special work.

     In conclusion, the Holy Spirit does indwell the Christian, all Christians, but in the manner seen in this material. Such an indwelling does not exclude man’s free moral agency and does not involve God in being a respecter of persons. The "bodily indwelling" and the direct operation of the Holy Spirit are not only not taught in the scriptures, but they are also crippling doctrines in that man is taught to be passive and wait for the Spirit to enter and direct. Hence, the advice: "If the Spirit wants you saved, he will save you when he is ready." What a horrible doctrine. The Spirit always desires man’s salvation, it is man’s initiative that is lacking (cp. Acts 2: 37-47). Last of all, the personal indwelling and direct operation view are often fostered by an over active ego: "I am special; the Spirit is in me…." Yes, the Spirit is influential, but in the way He elects, through the gospel, and He always acts in harmony with His laws and not in a way to create confusion and mental and emotional hysteria (cp. I Cor. 14: 33, 40).

     Addendum 1: Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit functioned as comforter in their essential nature and being (John 14: 16-18). So much so that in alluding to the coming of the Spirit as a Comforter, Jesus referred to himself as coming (John 14: 18). The individuality, intelligence and being of the Spirit is intimated in verse twenty-six when Jesus used a strongly masculine Greek pronoun, ekeinos, "he," as opposed to "it," neuter gender, a thing, in designating the Spirit and in verse sixteen, Jesus said "another Comforter" would come. "Another" is from the Greek allos, meaning another one (Holy Spirit) as distinguished from one being considered (Jesus); yet, another of the same kind.

     Addendum 2: By "bodily," I am not referring to a physical body, as God is spirit (John 4: 24). "Bodily" refers to actual being. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are bodily in heaven (Acts 7: 55; Rev. 4, 5). Pantheism that teaches that God is fluid and He bodily fills the universe is a false concept of deity. It is true that He is everywhere, but what is meant is His presence, He is omnipresent (Ps. 139: 7ff.).