Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

By Weldon E. Warnock

Each proponent of a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit assumes the very thing to be proved. He reads the passages that deal with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (or at least to him they seem to) and proceeds to assume they teach a personal indwelling.

Proposed Proof-texts

(1) One passage that is frequently used is Acts 2:38. That verse states, “Repent, and be baptized . . . .for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The verse does not say that one shall receive the direct, personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It says that the person who repents and is baptized “shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This is what the passage states and all that it states.

Grammatically, the “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38 may be the Holy Spirit, Himself, or it may be what the Holy Spirit gives. The Greek, “tou hagion pneumatos,” may be either objective genitive or subjective genitive. If it is objective, it means the Holy Spirit, Himself. If it is subjective, it is what the Holy Spirit gives. Being unable to determine which grammatical structure is correct in the text, we must decide the matter by doctrinal truth. Since the Bible does not teach a personal indwelling, Acts 2:38 would most logically call for the subjective genitive, or, as we know it in English, the possessive case.

Let us examine some comparable Scriptures. John 4:10 speaks of the “gift of God.” Ephesians 4:7 has “gift of Christ.” In both passages, the genitive (God, Christ) is clearly the giver. God and Christ give believers something. In like-manner, the Holy Spirit could just as plausibly be the giver rather than the gift, Himself. Hence, Peter is saying, “. . .ye shall receive the Holy Spirit’s gift.”

My conviction is the gift of the Holy Spirit is salvation that is contained in the promise of verse 39, salvation being a consequent result of remission of sins. This is not redundancy as remission of sins and salvation are not equivalents. Paraphrasing, Peter is saying, “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive salvation from the Spirit. For the promise of salvation is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” This promise was, “. . .whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21).

If it could be proved that the Holy Spirit was objective genitive in Acts 2:38, there would still be the problem of determining whether the gift was literal or metaphorical. We have already seen that persons are often used in the Bible, metonymically, and, therefore, the Holy Spirit could be put for the effect. Hence, a personal indwelling has not been established, even if the gift of the Holy Spirit is objective genitive.

(2) Another proposed proof-text is Acts 5:32. Peter said, “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” This verse has reference to the miraculous witnessing of the Holy Spirit in the first century Christians when miracles were in effect. The Holy Spirit witnessed to the validity of the Word which the apostles and prophets preached (Jn. 15:26; Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:34). There is no personal indwelling in this text, but by metonymy, the Holy Spirit is put for the miraculous endowments.

(3) Several other passages are used to try to establish a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Such passages as Lk. 11:13; Jn. 7:38-39; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19; Eph. 1:13-145; 1 Jn. 3:24 are employed to prove (?) the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We cannot deal with each one of these verses due to the limitation of space. But read the passages and notice that not a one of them, or any others, says one word about a personal indwelling. This point is assumed, and an argument built on an assumption is no argument at all.

Functions Attributed To A Personal Indwelling

After assuming that the Holy Spirit personally dwells in us, some try to find activities and functions for the Spirit to perform, separate and apart from the Word of God. They cannot imagine the Holy Spirit being dormant and inactive while He lives in children of God. So, they try to find something for Him to do. Let us consider some of the functions they attribute to the Holy Spirit and see if they are substantiated by the Scriptures.

(1) “He sheds abroad the love of God.” Romans 5:5 is quoted as proof. The verse states, “. . . because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” This passage, however, simply states what is done and not how it is accomplished. Love for God is learned through the gospel which was dictated and directed by the Holy Spirit. The phrase, “by the Holy Ghost,” simply means that the Spirit is the agency. John said, “We love him because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). We can only know of God’s love through the gospel and we love God as a result of learning of His love.

(2) “He helps our infirmities.” Romans 8:26 is the proposed Scripture for this affirmation. Paul said, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Nowhere in this text is there a hint of the Spirit doing something upon us or in us. The verse’s application is what the Spirit is doing in heaven, not in the human body.

Too, there has been much discussion as to whether verse 26 has reference to the human spirit rather than the Holy Spirit. It is the translator’s judgment on occasions whether the Greek word, “pneuma,” should be translated with a capital (S) or a small (s). It is difficult to imagine that the Holy Spirit has groanings (pains), as the verse indicates. The Spirit is not in pain. Human beings do have sufferings and afflictions, though.

(3) “He strengthens the inner. man.” Paul wrote, “. . .to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:14). In this text, “by the” Spirit,” expresses agency. The Spirit strengthens, but this verse does not tell us how. The Bible plainly teaches that strength comes through the Word of God which was revealed by the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote, “. . . .increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might. . .” (Col. 1:10-11). Strength follows knowledge of God. Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I commend you to God, and to . the word of his grace, which is able to build you up. . .” (Acts 20:32). The Word, as clearly stated, builds us up, strengthens us, and not a direct operation of the Spirit.

(4) “He guides and directs.” Luke wrote of Paul and his companions, “Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not” (Acts 16:6-7). It is affirmed that the Holy Spirit is still leading and directing our lives in a direct and immediate way.

Reportedly, one man claimed that the Holy Spirit led him from one street corner to another street corner where a ready audience was waiting to hear him preach. Another person, through prayer, had the Holy Spirit to reserve a parking space for him in a congested area. The Holy Spirit caused a preacher to miss his plane in order for him to preach to a person in a certain city. But friends, the days of miracles have ceased (1 Cor. 13:8-13). We had just as well say that there are inspired teachers, discerners of spirits, workers of miracles, miraculous faith, wisdom and knowledge, etc., as to say that men today are directly influenced by the Spirit of God. The claim of direct guidance of the Holy Spirit is nothing more than an assertion which cannot be proved by the Bible, nor demonstrated in practice.

(5) “He illuminates the Word.” This is a strange and peculiar position in view of the fact that the Holy Spirit gave us the Word by inspiring men to write it. Was not He able to express Himself clearly the first time without having to tell us later what He meant? The whole idea is preposterous and it reflects upon the ability of the Holy Spirit.

David said, “Through thy precepts I get understanding. . .” (Psa. 119:104). He did not need direct illumination in addition to the Word. Paul wrote, “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph 5:4). Let us read the Scriptures and get understanding. Furthermore, if the Holy Spirit is illuminating the Word of God, for which group is=He illuminating the Scriptures? There are several religious sects who claim Holy Spirit illumination. Since all of them contradict one another, which one of them is the Holy Spirit working through?

In conclusion, we quote what Foy E. Wallace, Jr. so aptly stated, “That the Spirit of God enlightens and converts sinners; comforts and strengthens saints; that love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness; meekness, fidelity, self-control, are all the fruit of the Spirit, we learn not from inner consciousness, but from the Word. of God. The modus operandi-the mode, the medium, the how-is the Word of God . . . .Independent of the Word we could never know ‘whether there be any Holy Spirit.’ All the knowledge of God, Christ, salvation and spiritual influence comes only from the Word of God. Apart from the inspiration of the apostles and prophets it is impossible for spirit to communicate with spirit except through words. God and Christ never personally occupied anyone; and for the same reason the Holy Spirit does not personally occupy anyone” (The Mission and Medium of the Holy Spirit, by Foy E. Wallace, Jr., p. 7).

Truth Magazine XXII: 7, pp. 119-121
February 16, 1978