(1 John 3:24) Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gives us.
My brother tells me that while he was a very young child, his Sunday School teacher had him learn the following memory verse:
(Acts 2:38) Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is salvation.
It was years before he discovered that "which is salvation" is not in the Bible!
Some argue that if the Holy Spirit indwells a Christians and that God and Jesus do not, a Law of Symmetry is violated. This "law" is derived from the equality of the members of the Godhead. However, in any other context we readily see that the three members of the Godhead have different roles and characteristics.
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."
(John 14:16-17) "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."
(John 14:25-26) "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
(Eph 3:16-17a) I pray that out of his glorious riches [God] may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
It is also argued that all three members of the Godhead are always everywhere, that is, omnipresent. The question is posed: If the Spirit is everywhere, how can his indwelling have any special significance? After all, the Spirit is not only in me; he is in everything.(Rom 5:5) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.(1 John 4:12) No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
But we all know that Jesus existed for years in human form, in one special location. Members of the Godhead can be fully God yet have a special local existence.
In Genesis we frequently read of God appearing in the form of a man. He walked in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8) and he appeared to Abraham as a man (Gen. 18 1-33). God can have a special, local existence and still be fully God and fully omnipresent.
The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove (Matt 3:16). He came upon the apostles with the appearance of tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). Some Christians had special gifts, but many did not. The Bible plainly teaches that the Spirit can have a special relationship with one person or appear at one place and still be fully a member of the Godhead and fully omnipresent.
Obviously, it is not only the presence of the Holy Spirit that matters. Rather, the special relationship and empowerment of the Holy Spirit are what make the indwelling significant.
Because of the Restoration Movement's roots in Presbyterianism (a Calvinist church) and frequent contacts and similarities with the Baptists (partially Calvinist), the Churches of Christ have always taken pains to distinguish their views from the Calvinist interpretations of the Bible. Not surprisingly, some are afraid that if the Holy Spirit has any influence on us, we would lose our free will - and we certainly wouldn't want anyone to think that we are Calvinists!
The Bible clearly teaches that we have freedom and free will. It also teaches that the Spirit "controls" (influences), "leads," "helps," and "empowers" us. How can these be reconciled?
(Phil 2:12-13) Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
This verse does not mention the Holy Spirit but plainly refers to it. The Bible often tells us about God without using the word "God," and it tells us about the Holy Spirit sometimes without saying "Spirit." It is wrong to try to avoid finding the Holy Spirit except in the most undeniable passages. A true understanding of the Holy Spirit sheds light on many other doctrines and many passages not specifically speaking in Holy Spirit terms.
(1 Cor. 2:14-16) The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
We believe that God answers prayers, and when our loved ones are healed, we thank God for it. But no one knows how he does it, and no one can prove that he was involved. We know through faith and we know through experience that prayer is powerful. And we know that the Bible says so.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty many Christians have with the indwelling Spirit is the inability to see what the Holy Spirit can do. For example, Gus Nichols, a renowned preacher and author, and far from a liberal, published a book on the Holy Spirit. He concluded that the Spirit actually indwelled all Christians but that he could not determine what the indwelling Holy Spirit did. After all, Nichols concluded, he had never had a vision, felt a prompting, been spoken to by God, or otherwise been noticeably affected by the Spirit's workings. But the rest of us noticed the Spirit working in Dr. Nichols' life. This man was one of God's greatest servants, and he was too humble to see that the Holy Spirit had made him too Christ-like to recognize his own example of what the Spirit can do.
This very thing was prophesied by Jesus when Nicodemus asked him how to be saved.
(John 3:5-8) Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where ever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
Jesus said that the workings of the Spirit will be mysterious and subtle. Neither its source nor its path will be obvious. Look out your window at the wind. Do you see it? But do you know that it is there? While the wind is invisible, its effects are visible and they prove the presence of the wind to those who have experienced it - or have been told what wind is and how it works.
Similarly, Jesus told his apostles,
(John 14:16-17) "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."
The workings of the Spirit cannot be known or seen by the world. The Spirit is therefore more than miracles and signs. And his working cannot be understood strictly scientifically or rationally. (That is not to say that the Spirit is irrational. The Spirit's workings do not contradict sound logic. Neither can they be logically tested. The ultimate proof is revelation. On the other hand, there is nothing irrational or unscientific in the Bible's claims. Rather, these matters are outside the scope of science.)
Just so, the Spirit is only seen through its effects, but the presence of the Spirit is clearly seen by those who know what to look for and whose hearts have been opened to its workings. The many verses already discussed in the preceding tell us much about what to look for. There is even more:
1. Spiritual Judgment
(1 Cor. 2:14-15) The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment… .
Those who have the Spirit are able to understand Spiritual things that seem foolish to the world. Christians do not look at the world or God the way non-Christians do, and this is very much due to the influence of God through the Spirit.
(1 Cor. 6:11) And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
(Titus 3:4-7) But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Your receiving the Holy Spirit saved you. That’s why Acts 2:38 says what it does about the Spirit:
(Acts 2:38-39) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off..—for all whom the Lord our God will call.
All who are baptized for the forgiveness of sins receive the Spirit. This promise applies to all Christians, not just the Christians of the First Century—but also their children and all who are far off. Not just those on whom hands are laid, but “all.”
Similarly, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians,
(1 Cor. 12:13) For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
All of us were given the Spirit, and this Spirit put us into the one body. Our relationship with the Spirit doesn’t end there. We are given the one Spirit so we can drink this Living Water as a fountain of continuous salvation—so continuous that we will never thirst for salvation again.
3. Fruits of the Spirit
This fountain produces more than salvation. It urges Christians to produce fruit pleasing to God.
(Gal. 5:22-24) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
These qualities come from a Christian's penitent heart, but the Christian's heart is strengthened by the Spirit.
4. Strengthening of the heart
(Eph. 3:16-19) I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
This strength can also empower the Christian to a dynamic faith and an understanding of God’s love and grace far beyond the Spirit-less man.
Another fruit of God’s Spirit is unity. There is only one Spirit and there is one church only.
(Eph. 4:3-6) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Christians can be filled with the Spirit. The more a Christian tries to obey God, the more the Spirit strengthens the Christian to do just that.
(Eph. 5:18-21) Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
The Spirit encourages worship in song, thanksgiving, submission, and reverence (this is much broader than just the assembly). Moreover, the Spirit encourages prayer:
(Eph. 6:18) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
(Jude 20) But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
By now it should be obvious that all our worship is Spirit led.
(Phil. 3:3 ) For it is we who are the circumcision, we ... worship by the Spirit of God, ... glory in Christ Jesus, and ... put no confidence in the flesh... .
Similarly, the Spirit produces Christian joy.
(1 Thes. 1:6) You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
“Sanctification” is the Spirit’s work of making Christians increasingly holy and always penitent.
(Rom. 15:15-16) I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
(2 Thes. 2:13) But we ought always to thank God for you; brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
9. Evidence of salvation
The Spirit’s work also evidences our salvation. A baptized believer can tell that he still has the Spirit, and therefore is still saved, by looking at the state of his sanctification.
(1 John 3:24) Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
10. Other works of the Spirit
Moreover, we learned from our earlier readings that the Spirit does the following:
• Gives life.
• Eliminates Spiritual thirst.
• Wells up to eternal life.
• Permits service in the new way of the Spirit.
• Sets us free from the law of sin and death.
• Teaches us to live according to the Spirit.
• Teaches us to set our minds on what the Spirit desires.
• Gives life and peace.
• Gives life to our mortal bodies.
• Helps us put to death the misdeeds of the body.
• Makes us God’s children.
• Let’s us cry, “Abba, Father.”
• Testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
• Intercedes in our prayers and compensates for our weaknesses.
• Serves as a deposit, an earnest, a seal, and a guaranty.
• Makes each of us a temple
• Fills us with ever-increasing Glory.
What more could you want or need? Some of these things are evident only by faith. Others are plain to all. Others can see your life and tell if you’ve been filled with the Spirit. If you’ve been baptized as a penitent believer and if you live the life the Spirit desires, you’re saved and anyone can tell.
F. Other key passages
There are a number of other passages that deepen our understanding of the Spirit.
1. Hebrews 8
The preceding discussion provides the background to understand the prophecy of Jeremiah quoted in Hebrews 8.
(Heb. 8:7-13) For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:
“The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares theLord. “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness andBy calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
will remember their sins no more.”
The new covenant is superior to and different from the old covenant. Unlike the old covenant, where God’s followers had no help to know God’s will, under this one, God will put his laws in the minds of the Christians, and he will write them on their hearts!
Does this mean that God will only save exceptional Bible students? Does it mean that Christians will be more intense Bible scholars than the Jews were? Certainly not, for that would mean that God was counting on man’s efforts. The Bible is plainly saying that the effort will be God’s under the new covenant.
Hebrews says that all God’s children will already know him and will be forgiven by this same power. How can this be? By now it ought to be obvious. Jeremiah was prophesying the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit, according to 1 John 2:27, teaches us “all things,” meaning all things Spiritual. He teaches us all the things discussed in the preceding section, and that is very many things indeed.
Once again, none of this eliminates our own free will or the importance of our cooperation with the Spirit. But it means that we are absolutely guaranteed the help of God in understanding and doing his will, and we encourage this help and our being filled with the Spirit by putting to death the misdeeds of the body by the Spirit.
As we humbly empty ourselves by admitting our sins and our need for God’s help, not just to be saved but to be taught by God, the Spirit fills the emptiness with himself and replaces pride with power.
2. The baptism of Jesus.
There are only three events recorded in all four Gospels: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the feeding of the 5,000, and the baptism of Jesus. The first emphasizes the obvious importance of the sacrifice of Jesus. The second emphasizes the importance of caring for others (benevolence). And the third, Jesus’ baptism, teaches us about our baptism.
(Matt. 3:13-17) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill allrighteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus needed neither to receive the Spirit nor to be made God’s Son. Thus, Jesus was baptized for our benefit as a powerful, visual lesson on baptism. Exactly as is true for each of us, when Jesus was baptized, he received the Holy Spirit and God declared him to be his child and that God is well pleased with him. When we are baptized, we always receive the Spirit (although not in the form of a dove), and God makes us his child and makes us well pleasing to him.
What is the difference between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism? The pat answer is that John’s baptism is only for repentance, but there is much more to it than that.
(Mark 1:4) And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The phrase “for the forgiveness of sins” is word-for-word, letter-for-letter identical to the same phrase in Acts 2:38 describing Christian baptism. Both baptisms are declared to be for the forgiveness of sins. The true difference is seen in Acts 19:
(Acts 19:1-6) While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples andasked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Paul determined whether the Ephesians’ baptism was of John or of Jesus based on his query as to whether they had received the Holy Spirit, not whether they had received forgiveness of sins. Thus, the importance of the new baptism announced on Pentecost is not that sins were to be forgiven. John had already been baptizing for this purpose. The importance was forgiveness of sins due to the indwelling of the Spirit.
(Acts 2:38-39) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
The significance of this difference will be further considered when we study grace.
3. The Spirit and prophecy
I have one last lesson before we move on to grace. The coming of the Holy Spirit was prophesied in the Old Testament, and these prophecies tell us much about the indwelling. The prophecies begin with Isaiah’s prophecies about Jesus.
(Isa. 44:3-4) For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.
God tells the Jews that their spiritual descendants, the Christians, will receive an outpouring of the Spirit.
(Isa. 59:21-60:3) “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
Moreover, God’s Spirit will be given to the new children of God “forever.” Isaiah is not speaking only of the miracles to occur in the First Century. He plainly says that the gift of the Spirit will be “from this time on.” He also associates the coming Spirit with God’s Glory, which he says will rise upon the church and appear over it as it appeared over the temple when it was dedicated. It will illuminate the church with the brightness of the dawn. He calls on the church to“rise and shine” with the radiant Glory of God.
Ezekiel makes a similar prophecy regarding the coming Kingdom. The context of these prophecies makes clear that God is speaking figuratively of the church, the New Israel.
(Ezek. 11:19-20) I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them aheart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
(Ezek. 36:26-27) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees andbe careful to keep my laws.
(Ezek. 37:14) “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.”
(Ezek. 39:29) “I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
When the Jews returned to Judea after their Babylonian captivity, God promised that the Glory would return to the temple and his Spirit would remain among his people. His Spirit would give life. Moreover, God would act on the hearts of his people to “move” his people to obey him and to have “undivided” hearts. However, this promise was not fulfilled until the coming of Jesus and the establishment of the church as the New Israel.
(Hag. 2:5-9) “This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory; says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine: declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house: says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace, declares the LORD Almighty.”
Centuries before Jesus came, the Old Testament was written to tell us that God’s Spirit dwells in all Christians. These prophesies assure us that the Spirit’s work in our lives is a part of God’s eternal plan for us.
The indwelling Spirit makes Jesus’ baptism superior to John’s. It saves us and empowers us. It is not just the Word. The Word is of critical importance, but by itself it only kills. We are saved by grace, and grace is delivered to us and made effective by the Spirit’s indwelling. Only Christians have the Spirit and all Christians have the Spirit. Lose the Spirit and you will lose your soul. Possess the Spirit and you are saved.
The indwelling is not “representational” or indirect. The Spirit operates directly on the hearts of all Christians. This operation is like the wind. Only its effects can be seen. And it is not evident to or even understandable by those with a worldly mind. It is seen only through the eye of faith.
Denial of the Spirit’s indwelling renders numerous passages nonsensical. The Spirit is spoken of in nearly every opening of the New Testament. It is just not enough to decide what these passages don’t mean. It is just not enough to criticize the views of others. We must incorporate the teachings of these passages into our own beliefs. We will all be better Christians if we study them, understand them, teach them, preach them, and live them.
We need to end the practice of some of believing in the Spirit’s role and work and refusing to publicly preach and pray about it. The Spirit is not divisive. It is unifying. There are times when it is best not to raise an issue that will only serve to divide God’s people. But we have now tried for over 150 years to ignore this question, and the result is nothing but division. It is time to change tactics.
1. What arguments support the Word-only view? What are the arguments that support an actual indwelling?
2. Why has this issue been troublesome to the Churches of Christ, when other similar groups readily accept an actual indwelling?
3. What can the Holy Spirit do in the life of a Christian today? What has the Holy Spirit done in your life?
4. How would you respond to a Pentecostal who believes that he needs the assurance that comes from speaking in tongues?
5. What does the Bible mean when it says that Christians should love, pray, and worship in the Spirit? What does the Bible mean when it says that Christians should be filled with the Spirit?
6. In Acts 6 seven men were appointed to provide food to the Hellenistic widows. These men were to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Most commentators teach that these were the first deacons. Are our deacons today supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom? If so, what does this mean?
7. When a believer is baptized and is saved, he receives the indwelling Holy Spirit. Romans8 teaches that he remains saved so long as the Spirit continues to dwell in him. Suppose he sins in such a manner as to lose his salvation. He must also have lost (or quenched) the Holy Spirit. How can he get the Holy Spirit back? What Bible passage demonstrates that a former Christian can regain the Holy Spirit? Does the former Christian have to be rebaptized to regain his salvation? Can he be re-baptized?