By Weldon E. Warnock
To deny the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the children of God is, to deny the teaching of the Bible. We read, “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (2 Tim. 1:14). Again, we read, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19)? These Scriptures, and others, plainly teach that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. However, the issue is not whether the Spirit dwells in the Christian, but rather how does He dwell. Does He dwell in the Christian personally or does He dwell representatively? Bible students are divided over the manner of the Spirit’s indwelling. It is this writer’s conviction that the Spirit dwells in Christians, representatively, rather than personally or actually.
The Father and Son Dwell In Us
We do not seem to have ,any difficulty in understanding how God the Father and God the Son dwell in us. The Bible teaches that both dwell in us. Listen to John: ” . . . . .If we love one another, God dwelleth in us. . .” (1 Jn. 4:12). Verses 13, 15 and 16 also teach the Father dwelleth in us. Cf. 2 Cor. 6:16. Of Jesus, Paul stated, “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin. ..” (Rom. 8:10). The apostle further declared, “. . .Christ liveth in me. . .” (Gal. 2:20). To the Colossians, Paul wrote, “. . .which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
Who is ready to say that the Father and the Son dwell in us, personally? No one, I am confident. Then why contend for a personal indwelling of the Spirit, but deny the same for the Father and the Son? If we claim the Father and the Son dwell in us representatively or through instrumentality, then why not claim the same thing for the Holy Spirit?
Paul clearly indicates that Christ dwells in us by faith: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. . .” (Eph. 3:17). This is also the manner by which both the Father and the Holy Spirit dwell in us. When we permit Christ to be formed in us (Gal. 4:19), Christ dwells in us. When we become partakers of God’s nature (2 Pet. 1:4), God the Father dwells in us. All of this is done by faith which is produced by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). The same means of indwelling is true of the Holy Spirit. When we allow our lives to be controlled by the Spirit through the revealed Word, the Spirit dwelleth.in us.
To the Galatians, Paul wrote; “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith” (Gal. 3:2)? In the text, you will observe that we receive the Spirit by the Word of God. Among the Galatians, both the miraculous powers of the Spirit (v. 5). and the spiritual graces of the Spirit (v. 14; 4:5,6), came as a result of their hearing, believing and obeying the gospel which Paul preached.
In Eph. 5:18, we are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit.” Paul wrote, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:18-19). The parallel passage is Col. -3:16. It states, “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.” When we let the Word of God dwell in us we are being filled with the Spirit. The Word of God is not the Spirit, but through the Word, the Spirit abides in us.
The Spirit Is God
It seems that a clear understanding as to who the , Spirit is will go far in clarifying the issue. The Bible teaches the Holy Spirit is God. We read in Acts 5:3-4, . `But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost . . . .thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.;’ Peter said the Holy Spirit is God. Cf. Mt. 12:28 and Lk. 11:20.
The word, “God,” means “deity.” Hence, the Holy Spirit being God, is Deity. There are three divine Beings: God the Father (1 Cor. 8:6), God the Son (Jn. 1:1) and God the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5:3-4). Our concept. of the Holy Spirit should be he same as our concept of the Father and the Son as far as divine nature is concerned.
The Holy Spirit possesses the characteristics of a divine Being. He is eternal (Heb. 9:14), omniscient, knowing all things (1 Cor. 2:10.11), omnipotent, being all-powerful (Micah 3:8), omnipresent, His presence being everywhere (Psa. 139:7). He possesses the divine attributes of goodness, holiness, grace, will, judgment and truth (Neh. 9:20; Eph. 1:13; Heb. 10:29; 1 Cor. 12:11; Acts 15:28; Jn. 16:13). As a divine Being, actions are attributed to the Holy Spirit which further show Him to be a person or personality. He hears (Jn. 16:13), speaks (1 Tim. 4:1), commands (Acts 13:2), can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), can be quenched (1 Thess. 5:19) and can be insulted (Heb. 10:29).
In view of who the Spirit is, it is puzzling how anybody who recognizes the divine personality of the Spirit can advocate a personal indwelling. Just think of it-God literally and actually dwelling in us! Such a view is far-fetched and without Biblical support. To teach a personal indwelling of God, the Holy Spirit, one must accept the fact of an incarnation of every person who has received the Holy Spirit. Jesus was ~incarnated-God in the flesh-and He was called Immanuel, “God with us” (Mt. 1:23). Why not call every Christian “Immanuel” if God is in him? Ladies and gentlemen, this is the consequence of proposing a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Too, Jesus accepted worship because He was God. Why cannot Christians accept worship if God is in them?
The Holy Spirit Is A Person
Since the Holy Spirit is a divine person, to have Him in a multitude of people at once is contrary to the very concept of person. A person has a fixed position. He occupies only one place at a time. This is true with any person, whether human or divine. In the Bible, we read of several persons (demons) occupying one body (Lk. 11:24-26), but we never read of one person abiding in several bodies at once.
But someone says, “God is omnipresent, and He can be everywhere at the same time.” This is confusing “omnipresence” with “ominperson.” God is omnipresent but He is not omniperson. To teach that the person of God is everywhere is to teach pantheism, an ‘idea of God that is paganistic. Jehovah is transcendent and immanent, but He is not omniperson. We will say more about omnipresence, shortly, after we consider the aspects of person.
According to the New International Dictionary by Merriam-Webster, “person” means “a being characterized- by conscious apprehension, rationality, and moral sense.” Thus, the Holy Spirit, as a person, has conscious apprehension, rationality and moral sense. He is not, therefore, just an influence, a mere power or force,. or some kind of mysterious and indefinable fog-like substance.
The Encyclopedia Brittanica (Vol 21) informs us that “the natural sense of the word `person’ is undoubtedly individuality.” Quoting from the ;New International Dictionary again, we observe that the word, “individual,” is defined, “An indivisible entity or a totality which cannot be separated into parts without altering the character and significance of these parts.” Notice that an individual is indivisible and cannot be separated into parts. Hence, the Holy Spirit, as a person, an individual, is indivisible.
The Holy Spirit can no more be broken-up into bits and pieces and parceled out among thousands of people and keep His totality and entity than you and I can. You do not divide a person. Such destroys its character and nature. To those who teach that God is everywhere, and, therefore, the Holy Spirit would not have to be fragmented to be in every Christian, make the presence of God, and the person of God, synonymous. But there is quite a difference between the two. (Parenthetically, there is a sense in which God’s presence is not everywhere. Cf. Gen. 4:16; 2 Kings 13:23; 24:20; Jer. 23:39. Too, if omnipresence means that God’s person has to be everywhere and in every place, then God is in an alien sinner.)
Omnipresence of God
God is found in many places by the instrumentality of His creations, laws, works, agents, appointments, etc., while His person is in heaven. This is what is involved in the omnipresence of God. Omnipresence does not mean that God’s person is everywhere, but rather His presence is everywhere through the above avenues of laws, agents, etc. During World War II, Hitler’s presence was felt throughout Europe by his armies, influence and oppression, but he, personally, was in Germany. In like-manner, God’s presence is throughout the universe, but His person is in heaven.
Through the agency of angels, God is said to be present in the Old Testament. The Lord saved Israel from the Egyptians (Ex. 14:30k), but He did it through the “angel of his presence” (Isa. 63:9). Notice the word, “presence.” God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4), but He did it through an angel (v. 2). God went before Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21), but He did it through the medium of an angel (Ex. 14:19). All of these things are attributed to God, but He performed them through agency-angels. God was present, representatively.
In the New Testament, Jesus promised to be in every assembly where two or three are gathered in His name (Mt. 18:20), but who, believes that Jesus is actuallly present? Jesus promised to be with His diciples until the end of the world (Mt. 28:20), but who insists that Jesus is with His disciples, personally? Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56; Eph. 1:20; 1 Pet. 3:22). Since Jesus is in heaven, He is with us by such things as appointments, laws, influence, etc. When and wherever we serve the Lord, we come before His divine presence.
If, therefore, the Father and the Son can be present through agents, works, laws and appointments without being present in person, why cannot the Holy Spirit. The truth of the matter is that the Holy Spirit is present through the instrumentality of His teaching, gifts, works, influence and appointments, rather than His person.
During the days of miracles (the first century), the Holy Spirit empowered men to work miracles (Heb. 2:34; 1 Cor. 12:7-11). The power, by metonymy, is sometimes spoken of as the Holy Spirit. Webster defines “metonymy” as follows: “Use of one word for another that it suggests, as the effect for the cause, the cause for the effect, the sign for the thing signified, the container for the thing contained, etc. (a man keeps a good table, instead of good food).” Hence, by the usage of metonymical speech, the Bible sometimes puts the Holy Spirit when the effect of the Holy Spirit is intended. The cause (Holy Spirit) is put for the effect (work).
A clear example of metonymical speech is in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man, who had five brethren, wanted Abraham to send back Lazarus to testify to the brothers, lest they come to the place of torment. Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Lk. 16:29). Here, Moses and the prophets are put for their writings. The cause is put for the effect.
Thomas Horne, in his classical work, wrote in the section on metonym, “The Holy Spirit is put for His Effects . . . .The Holy Spirit is put for His Operations . . . .The Holy Spirit is put for the Influences or Gifts of the Spirit . . . .More especially the Holy Spirit is put for those peculiar and extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit” (Introduction to the Scriptures, by Thomas Hartwell Home, Vol. II, Part I, pp. 455-456). D.R. Dungan wrote, “God and Christ and the Holy Spirit are frequently mentioned, whereas the result of their efforts in the redemption of the race is intended” (Hermeneutics, p. 271). Cf. “Figures of Speech Used in the Bible,” by E. W. Bullinger, pp. 540-3.
Therefore, in view of what Horne and Dungan correctly stated, the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), at Samaria (Acts 8:14-18), at the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44), at Ephesus (Acts 19:6) and at Corinth (1 Cor. 12:4-11), through miraculous endowments and operations. This is one way the Spirit was in the apostles at the same time (Jn. 14:17) and in the prophets (1 Pet. 1:10-11). The Holy Spirit, personally, was not in the man, but rather the Spirit’s presence was there through the miraculous gifts. The Spirit was present, representatively.
Today, after the cessation of miracles, the Spirit is in us by the influence of His teaching through the Word. Of course, He was in the first century Christians this way, too, as well as through extraordinary endowments. Look at the context of Eph. 5:18. To be filled with the Spirit is to sing spiritual songs from the heart (v. 19), is to give thanks (v. 20), is to submit to one another (v. 21), is a right relationship between husband and wife (vs.- 22-33), etc. When we do the Lord’s will, affected and controlled by it, the Spirit is in us. When we permit the fruit of the Spirit to be a part of us, the Spirit through the fruit dwells in us (cf. Gal. 5:22-23).
Yes, the Spirit is in us, but not personally. He is present through instrumentality and medium of means, and not by taking up an actual abode in our mortal bodies. Nowhere in the Bible does an inspired writer state the Holy Spirit dwells in God’s people, personally.
Truth Magazine XXII: 6, pp. 108-110
February 9, 1978