There is much made about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We need to wash away our preconceived notions and simply allow the scriptures to speak on this matter. Then we can make an honest evaluation about the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christian. In our last lesson we noticed the scriptures’ teaching about the work of the Holy Spirit in revelation of God’s will. Jesus made a promise to the apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit, who would guide the apostles into all truth. Peter says that they did not write down their own words, but the very words of God, as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Further, Paul said that when people read what the apostles wrote, they would understand the apostles’ insights into the mystery of Christ. The scriptures further argue that they are able to make the person of God complete and equipped for every good work. But what is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? The indwelling is commonly explained to be the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. We are told that we need to listen to God speaking to us through the Holy Spirit who will help us and tell us what we should do. Is this correct?
The Holy Spirit Dwells In The Christian
The first thing we need to do is show that the scriptures do speak of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christian.
Romans 8:9. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
1 Corinthians 6:19. “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?” What we need to do is explain what this means for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. We might be surprised to find out that the scriptures reveal there are many things that dwell in us.
What Else Dwells In The Christian?
God the Father dwells in us. “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people'” (2 Corinthians 6:16; ESV). Notice that God says that He dwells within His disciples. I have not yet heard someone argue that God the Father personally dwells within the soul of every believer.
Romans 8:10. “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Not only does God dwell in us, but Christ dwells within us. Paul says this again to the Galatians:
Christ dwells in us. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20; ESV). Again, I have never heard any argument presented that Christ literally and personally dwells within the soul of every believer, telling the believer what to do. No, these arguments are reserved for the Holy Spirit. Yet, the same language is used to describe the work of the Father and the work of Christ.
Sin can dwell in us. “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:17; NKJV).
“Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:20; NKJV). Paul says that sin can dwell within us. Does Paul mean that sin literally and physically dwells within the Christian, causing us to be unable to do what is right? I have never heard such an argument. So we need to ask an important question: what does it mean for sin to dwell within us? When we answer this, we will know the answer to the Holy Spirit dwelling within us because these two concepts are in the same context in Romans. Sin dwells in us when we allow ourselves to be controlled by the flesh. Sin rules our lives. We are not following God’s commands, but we are following our own ways, our own desires, and our own lusts. This is exactly how Paul explains these concepts a little bit later in Romans.
Romans 8:5-11. “5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Notice verse 5 says what it means for sin to dwell within a person: they “set their minds on the things of the flesh.” In verse 6 Paul says such a person is “carnally minded.” The person has his thoughts on the world. He is fleshly, worldly, and is mindful of the physical. Thus, sin dwells within the person. What does it mean for the Father to dwell within the Christian? What does it mean for Christ to dwell within the believer? What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to dwell in the Christian? Paul explains that those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on spiritual things (vs. 5). Rather than be worldly and carnally minded, the person who has the Spirit of God is spiritually minded (vs. 6).
Please notice that verse 9 says that we are in the Spirit. Does this mean we literally dwell in the Holy Spirit? No, we are talking about a relationship and fellowship that exists between the Holy Spirit and ourselves.
Often, people use Romans 8 to show a personal and literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian. But the context is so often neglected. Romans 7 and Romans 8 are not separate letters. Paul is drawing a contrast between the person whose mind is set on the flesh and the person whose mind is set on the spiritual. The person whose mind is on the flesh does things that are hostile toward God. Therefore, sin dwells in that person. However, the person whose mind is set on spiritual things does things that are pleasing to God. Therefore, the Spirit dwells in that person. Paul is making a simple contrast, and is not teaching that the Holy Spirit lives in us and makes decisions for us.
If we can understand how Christ dwells in the Christian, then we can understand how the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian.
John 15:5-7. “5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Notice that if we abide in Christ that Christ’s words abide in us. This is how we dwell in Christ and Christ dwells in us. The scriptures are speaking about a relationship that exists between ourselves and God when we let God rule our lives rather than letting sin rule our lives. Notice these parallel statements by Paul, which explains these terms:
Ephesians 5:18-19. “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.”
Colossians 3:16. “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.”
Notice that in one instance Paul speaks of our need to “be filled with the Spirit” and in another instance calls it letting “the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” How is one filled with the Spirit? By letting the word of Christ dwell in each of us richly. How does the Holy Spirit dwell in us? By having the word of Christ dwell in us and rule our lives.
There is nothing mystical about what Paul is saying concerning the Holy Spirit, Christ, or the Father dwelling in us. We do not argue that Christ’s presence literally resides in us, causing us to know God’s will and make decisions. We do not argue that the Father’s presence literally resides in us, causing us to know God’s will and make decisions. Why should we change the rules and say such things about the Holy Spirit? I believe the only reason we do so is because of the name of the Holy Spirit. The word “spirit” or “ghost” causes us to speak of the Holy Spirit in mystical terms. But the Holy Spirit is just as much of a person as the Father and the Son.
The Holy Spirit is deity, not an active force. The Holy Spirit can be lied to and can be grieved. The Holy Spirit is not a mystical vapor. “Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds from the field? Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God!” (Acts 5:3-4; HCSB). I believe that when we erase from our minds some sort of mystical nature from the Holy Spirit and consider Him in the same terms that we think of the Father and the Son, we realize that the Holy Spirit cannot physically and literally dwell within us. Terms are used to refer to the Holy Spirit just like the Father and the Son who dwell in us.
The Spirit dwells in us when we allow the word of God to rule our lives. The Spirit of God dwells in us when we submit our lives to the rule of Jesus Christ. Paul is not saying something mystical. If the Holy Spirit operates in our decisions beyond the scriptures, then we do not need the scriptures to know God’s will. If the Spirit tells us what to do, then the scriptures are not able to make us complete and fully equipped for every good work, as Paul argued in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The scriptures never teach the believer to listen to inward promptings of the Holy Spirit. The scriptures do not teach the Christian to search within oneself for the answers. While this all sounds very spiritual, the scriptures do not teach these things.