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The Indwelling Holy Spirit


“But 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 that indwells you.”    Romans 8: 11 

How does the Holy Spirit dwell in God’s people?

The Father and Jesus dwell in their people and their people dwell in Them

The Spirit dwells in God’s people and God’s people dwell in the Spirit

The word dwells in God’s people and God’s people dwell in the word

As far as I know everyone agrees with the above statements.  They certainly reflect my understanding.  But a segment of the Restoration Movement raises the questions,  “Does the Father, Son, Spirit and the word abide in us the same way?”   “Is this spatial, relational or representative or some other way?”

There is within the Restoration Movement with which I am acquainted a decided difference of belief (but thank God not another division) about the indwelling and work of the Holy Spirit.  On the one hand there are some who believe the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian representatively through the word of God and that the Holy Spirit works only through the word (this position is known as the “only through the word” belief); others believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in us personally and while the word defines the way of salvation, the Spirit works in other ways for the good of God’s people.  I am of the later persuasion.  Diagrammatically this can be stated as follows:


Only through the word position

Personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit position


God and Christ abide with us and we with Them.




The word dwells in us and we in the word?





The Holy Spirit dwells within us and we in the Spirit?




Possible explanations


First:  It has been stated by some that Colossians 3: 16 and Ephesians 5: 18-19, when taken together, prove that the Holy Spirit dwells in us only through the word?

Colossians 3: 16  “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your heart to God.”

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

Some argue that because of the similarity of the passages they can be equated.  “The passage in Ephesians is a command and the parallel Colossian passage, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, describes how the command is to be obeyed.  Thus Ephesians 5: 18 and Colossians 3: 16 are equated, and to be filled with the Spirit is accomplished through the Word”  Foy E Wallace Jr.

The author of the above quotation is assuming the very thing that he claims the two passages prove.  He is equating “letting the word dwell in you” to “being filled with the Spirit,”  One can claim equally well that the word dwells in us by being filled with the Spirit.  John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from birth.  Does this mean that the word was dwelling in him at birth?

We know that the gospel comes to us in at least four dimensions (and more) because we can read, “for our gospel did not come in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1: 5) The enumeration of these dimension shows that they are not to be equated for that would be mere redundancy.

In Acts 2: 41 we read of those who had received the word and were subsequently baptized.  However at the reception of the word they had not received the Spirit because they had not at that point in time been baptized.

In Acts 8: 14 we read that the Samaritans had received the word but we are told in verse 16 that the Spirit had not fallen on them. These two passages demonstrate that one receive the word before the Spirit.

Letting the word dwell in you is not necessarily equivalent to being filled with the Spirit.  I have known individuals who were knowledgeable concerning the word but not particularly concerned with the Spirit.  I am thinking of one individual who said, “Love, love, love, I sick and tired of hearing about love,” yet he could quote the Scriptures.  This was sad for him, and sad for us because he was our minister. 


Second:  Others have stated that Galatians 3: 14 proves that the Spirit does not literally dwell in us because we  “receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

“In order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  Galatians 3: 14

While I agree that the reception of the promise of the Spirit is through faith.  I do not agree that it shows it is not a literal indwelling.  That is not a necessary inference.  To me the term means that we believe in the reception of the Spirit, because we trust that God does not lie and will keep His promise.  The reception of the Spirit, during the first century and certainly later, is sometimes made without any tangible, discernible evidence.  Jesus said that being born again is like the wind, we can’t see from where it comes or goes.  Realizing that in the first century the coming of the Spirit was demonstrable.  It was necessary during that time.  Now we have His word and the gifts have ceased.  How do we know that we receive the Spirit?  Because God said we do.  We trust Him.  It is by faith.  How do we know are sins are forgiven in Christ.  The same way; He said so.


Third:  How do Christ and God dwell in Christians?  (Ephesians 2: 22)   “In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”  The “dwelling of God” is apparently the whole corporate body of believers.  Paul is saying that you, Gentiles, are being built together with the Jews into a dwelling place of God.  Some take “in the Spirit” to refer (1) to the agency of the building process, others take the phrase (2) to designate the mode of dwelling in the body of believers as “spiritual” still others take it (3) to mean that God dwells representatively through the Spirit.   The immediate context (v. 20) suggests that Christ is the chief corner stone of the foundation rather than One dwelling in the building.  For that reason I personally don’t give much credence to the third alternative.  If the latter is the case at least the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are of the same nature, spirit, and order, Deity.  Probably the first alternative is preferred.


Forth:  I believe the definitive passage about the indwelling of the Spirit is the discourse that Jesus had with His Apostles shortly before His ascension.  This discourse is recorded in John 14, 15 and 16.  In this discourse Jesus prepares his disciples for His departure because He know that from this time forward they will not share the close, personal relationship that they had shared for the past three years.  He is trying to comfort them by saying that He is going to the Father to prepare a place for them and if He goes He will come again and receive them to Himself in that place and He promises He and the Father will send another Comforter to be with them and in them.  In regard to the indwelling we find the following ideas.

Jesus is going to the Father.  He will be spatially away and the Father is away.  John 14: 2, 3, 12, 28; 16: 5, 7; 16: 10, 17

But despite this fact that He is away, He and the Father will dwell in them and they in Jesus and the Father.   He will come to them in some sense. The sense is that if one loves Jesus, confesses His name and keeps His word, the Father will love him and Father and the Jesus will come and make Their abode with him.   John 14: 20, 18, 23

Jesus said that He would ask the Father, and the Father would send another helper, The Spirit of truth, who would be with them forever.  The Spirit would come.  John 14: 16-17, 26; 15: 26; 16: 7, 8, 13

The Spirit would be with them but He would be in them.  John 14: 17

This passage tells us that the dwelling of the Spirit will be different from the dwelling of the Father and Jesus our Lord. 

Jesus and the Father “come” relationally though They are spatially away.

They dwell in us in a relational sense.  This relationship is like a vine and its branches.  It is not literal.  It is a ”mind” thing.  They are “in” our hearts and mind when we keep the commandments, love one another and have the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit on the other hand “came” spatially and was poured out for all mankind.

The Spirit is with us relationally but also spatially.  He is dwelling within the body.  It is both a “mind’ thing and a “body” thing.  Paul urges the Corinthians to flee immorality because it is a sin against the body.  All other sins are outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.  Then he says, “Or do you not know that you body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own.  For you have been bough with a price; therefore glorify God in your body,” 

The word of God does not dwell in us literally obviously, but it is in our hearts and mind to influence and shape us.  The dwelling of the word is a “mind” thing also.


Fifth:  ”Does Spirit dwell in believers representatively through the written word?

As far as I can determine there is no indication in the Scriptures that this is the case.  There is no reason to be bound by the speculations of others; it is better to leave the question open.  Certainly the Spirit and the word are not of the same nature; the Holy Spirit is Deity with all the prerogatives thereof; the written word is a product and instrument of the Spirit.

Conclusions about the indwelling of the Spirit.


Therefore I conclude that the Spirit dwells in Christians personally and spatially within their bodies and relationally in that we are said to be in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit dwells in us.


Conclusion about abiding in the word and the word in us.


I conclude that the word is said to dwell in us, when we allow the word to influence and control our hearts and mind and there is no evidence that the Spirit dwells in us through the word.


Conclusions about the dwelling of the Father and the Son.


Therefore I conclude that the dwelling of the Father and the Son is relational and not spatial.

Objections to a personal indwelling

1.  “On the other hand, a personal and literal indwelling would demand sinless sanctification- the theological doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy- for who dare indict the Holy Spirit as having committed sin in permitting a Christian to transgress God’s word?  Richard E Black

This objection seems to be confusing the irresistible grace of John Calvin with the doctrine of the indwelling Spirit.  God works powerfully and actively in our lives but not irresistibly.  The power He exerts is the power of love, which was demonstrated in the passion of Christ.


2.  “Furthermore, when the Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit omnipresent or presence everywhere (Ps 139: 1-10) it is not communicating that the Holy Spirit is physically distributed throughout the universe, but that the Holy Spirit is present (with all His fullness) in every part of creation; that is. The Holy Spirit exerts direct causal influence everywhere in space and time.  Thus Scripture teaches God’s creative and sustaining relationship to the cosmos rather than His physical location in the cosmos.”  Bible Answer Man

Notwithstanding the omnipresence of God the Scriptures also speak of Deity in a localized sense. Jesus told His disciples that He was going away to be with the Father in heaven but that They would send the Spirit so that He might come to be with them and in them.

There are many, despite omnipresence, in whom the Spirit does not dwell, those who will not trust and obey Him. 


3.  “If the Spirit dwells in a person directly He must provide direct testimony for that immediate in the demonstration of it.”  Foy E Wallace Jr.

This writer writes as if he was quoting Scripture, but no reference is given because the above is his own idea.  The writer has a right at this time to believe what he will, but he should not expect others to agree unless there is a compelling reason.

4.  Since the Holy Spirit is Deity, those who believe the personal indwelling would have to logically conclude that Christians are incarnate (i.e. God in the flesh) as Christ was.  Although they do not usually admit this, it is a necessary inference because the Spirit Himself is Deity.”  Ian McPherson

This may be a necessary inference for the above writer, given his presuppositions, but it is not for anyone I know who accepts the indwelling of the Spirit.  No one seriously considers the indwelling to be comparable with Jesus “who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men.

5.  “A second argument in favor of the figurative indwelling is that the alternative, a literal indwelling, implies a direct operation of the Spirit.”  Gill Yoder

This gives the reason why some in the Restoration Movement deny a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  They are afraid that the indwelling supports Calvin’s direct operation of the Holy Spirit.  A cursory look at the Scriptures will show that the Holy Spirit is given to those that trust and obey.   John 7: 39; Acts 5: 32

6.  “Our first argument is that an infinite being cannot exist within a finite space except by miraculous power.”   Gil Yoder

The writer then expands this argument with a reference to Solomon’s temple and the statement in 2 Chronicles 6: 18.  “But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth?  Behold heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built?”

I don’t know and I doubt if the above writer knows what God can and cannot do.

I believe that He appeared to Moses in the burning bush.

I believe that the three men who appeared to Abraham were not mere men.

Certainly God does not dwell in temples made by man (Acts 17: 24), but if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.  Perhaps things are different with us (2 Corinthians 5: 17; Ephesians 2: 10); for we are God’s creation not man’s.

It seems to me that if the Spirit was able to dwell within the Apostles (John 14: 17), then we can believe that He can dwell in other believers also.  The statement about being in the Apostles could not mean representatively through the word, because the word had not been given.  It was the indwelling Spirit in the Apostles that was to produce the word.


God bless


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Last Update   09/26/12