HOW DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT DWELL IN US?
by Wayne S. Walker
There is so much false doctrine about the Holy Spirit that constant attention to basic Biblical truth on the subject is both good and necessary. “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). Obviously, there is some sense in which the Holy Spirit affects the lives of God’s people today. Since, as the Scriptures clearly teach, references to the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit’s power are limited to the first century, references to the Spirit’s influence today must be understood in a different sense. So the question for this article is, “How Does the Spirit Dwell in Us?”
The Bible teaches that Deity can dwell in man. God the Father dwells in us (I John 4:12). Christ the Son dwells in us (Ephesians 3:17). And the Holy Spirit dwells in us (2 Timothy 1:14). Since the Father, Son, and Spirit are one in their Deity, whatever is true of the indwelling of the Father and the Son must also be true of the Spirit’s indwelling. While some take the extreme position that there is no indwelling of the Spirit in the Christian, the Bible teaches that there is such a thing. The major disagreements center on the manner of this indwelling.
The Calvinists teach that the Spirit directly comes into the heart of the elect to produce faith and remove Adamic sin. Holiness people claim a special manifestation of the Spirit or a second work of grace essential to “entire sanctification.” Pentecostals and Charismatics believe that the Spirit dwells miraculously in the Christian today and still performs miracles through them. Some brethren postulate a literal and personal, though not necessarily miraculous, indwelling of the Spirit directly in the Christian’s body, separate and apart from the word. Others say that the New Testament teaches no such concept but that the indwelling of the Spirit is through and by means of the word.
So what does the Bible say about the indwelling of the Spirit and how it is accomplished? First, we must understand the Spirit’s omnipresence (Psalm 139:7-10). God the Father is a person. He is omnipresent, but His person is said to be in heaven even though His presence is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is also a person. Therefore, to say that the Spirit dwells in us no more means that His actual person is in us any more than to say that God dwells in us means that His actual person is in us. When we say that God dwells in us we are talking about being in a right relationship with Him (I John 4:15). Why cannot we understand the same thing with regard to the Spirit?
This now raises the question as to how this indwelling takes place. Paul asked, “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?” (Galatians 3:2). This implies that the means by which we receive the influence of the Spirit in our lives is by the hearing of faith. Ephesians 5:18-19 says that we are to be filled with the Spirit, the result of which is singing praise to God. But Colossians 3:16 says that we are to have the word of Christ dwelling in us, the result of which is singing praise to God. The logical conclusion is that we are filled with the Spirit by means of the word of Christ dwelling in us. We need to remember that the sword or instrument of the Spirit for His work is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
All questions about the Spirit’s indwelling cannot be answered in one short article. But there are just too many objections to the idea of a literal, personal, direct indwelling of the Spirit in the Christian to accept it as truth. When we speak of God’s dwelling in us, we are referring figuratively to the influence of God being seen in our lives. The Holy Spirit dwells in us (I Corinthians 6:19-20). Does this not simply mean that through the influence of His word, He directs our lives to bear His fruit (Galatians 5:22-23)?
— In Search For Truth, January 1997; via The Gospel Observer, January 19, 1997