By Mike Willis
(Editor’s Note: Several months ago, we published a written debate between Guthrie Dean and Tom O-Neal in the pages of Guardian of Truth on the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. After reading brother Dean’s material and the various expressions of his dislike of comparisons of his position on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit with Calvinism in the local church bulletin which he edits, I wrote to him asking him to prepare an article on the Calvinist doctrine of sanctification and the work which the Holy Spirit plays in the Christian’s sanctification according to Calvinism. At the same time, I was working on a manuscript on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in which I discussed the same material. Neither manuscript was prepared in response to the other. However, I though that printing the two manuscripts side by side would be helpful to our readers in order to grasp how the two views deal with the Calvinist doctrine of the sanctification of the Christian. So far as I can determine, the only differences between the Calvinist doctrine of sanctification of the Christian and that of brother Dean, according to brother Dean’s article, is that the Calvinist believes that the work of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted and that the Christian cannot fall from grace. I thought it rather significant that brother Dean never touched the subject of the Calvinist’s need for an indwelling spirit. Read both articles for further study. I hope you can enjoy both of them.)
Through the years, members of the church of Christ have been divided in opinion regarding the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the body of the Christian. It is my conclusion that many of them have taken the position that the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian’s body because they misunderstand the divine revelation regarding the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and because it is such a popular subject in denominationalism.
Christians have generally rejected those concepts of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which result in a belief of present day miracles. They have generally rejected any position which states that the Holy Spirit provides supernatural guidance over and above that which is provided in the Bible. Some denominational folks have such a concept of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that their subjective thoughts are equated with divine revelation; any strong feeling that they have on any subject becomes the voice of God speaking to them through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The dangers of subjective revelation should be apparent.
Whereas these positions are generally rejected and understood as false, another view of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit also needs to be exposed. The Calvinistic doctrine of man results in a belief in the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Calvinism’s Need For An Indwelling Spirit
The Calvinist doctrine of man makes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit a present necessity if man is going to successfully resist the temptation to sin. The Calvinist doctrine of man can be accurately stated through quotations from the Philadelphia Confession of Faith; similar quotations as are cited herein can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith. I begin by showing the Calvinist concept of man because of Adam’s sins.
VI. Of the Fall of Man, Sin, and the Punishment Thereof. – 1. Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law which had been unto life, had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof; yet he did not long abide in this honor. Satan, using the subtlety of the serpent to seduce Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation and the command given unto them in eating the forbidden fruit; which God was pleased according to his wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.
2. Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them, whereby death came upon all; all becoming dead in sin and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.
3. They being the root, and, by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind; the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.
4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
5. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and, although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself and the first motions thereof are truly and properly sin” (Article VI, Nos. 1-5).
From this quotation, one can understand the condition of man as a result of the fall of Adam. (1) According to Calvinism, he has inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin. He stands condemned before God and doomed to Hell because of Adam’s sin. (2) Man is corrupted in all of his parts; he has a corrupted nature. Because of man’s corrupted nature, man is wholly “defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.” Hence, the strict Calvinist must take the position that man is unable to do anything with reference to salvation. For the Calvinist, there are no conditions of salvation (not even faith is a condition of salvation). Man is saved because God in His sovereign grace elected to save a particular individual. (3) All actual transgressions proceed from this depraved nature. Calvinists say, “Man sins because he is a sinner; he is not a sinner because he sins.” (4) This corrupt nature remains in the regenerate (note Article VI, No. 5). This doctrine will, become more important later.
In order for the corrupted man to be understand and believe the gospel, a direct operation of the Holy Spirit is necessary. This work of the Holy Spirit is irresistible; it enables the regenerated man to understand and believe the gospel.
“Man, by his fall into a state of sin, bath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself or to prepare himself thereunto” (Article IX, No. 3).
“Those whom God had predestinated unto life, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call by his Word nature to grace of salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by his almightly power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.
“This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all forseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature co-working with his special grace; the creature being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead” (Article X, Nos. 1-2).
“Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men, who are dead in trespasses, may be born again, quickened, or regenerated, there is, moreover, necessary an effectual, insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul for the producing in them a new spiritual life, without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God” (Article XX, No. 4).
According to Calvinism, the gospel is insufficient to produce conversion in man because of man’s inherited corrupted nature.
Whenever man is saved from sin, his nature is not changed. The regenerated man does not have his nature changed; he maintains his corrupted nature.
This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and, although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself and the first motions thereof are truly and properly sin (Article VI, No. 5).
How is regenerated man going to overcome the temptation to sin? All actual transgressions proceed from the corrupted nature and the corrupted nature remains in the regenerated. Hence, how are the regenerate to resist the temptation to sin?
Calvinism’s Answer To Overcoming The Corrupt Nature
The Calvinist doctrine of sanctification explains that regenerated man can overcome the temptation to sin through the strength and help given to him by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“XIII. Of Sanctification. – 1. They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also further sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them. The dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man, yet imperfect in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.
3. In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, pressing after an heavenly life in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ, as Head and King, in his Word hath prescribed to them” (Article XIII, Nos. 1-3).
The indwelling Holy Spirit enables the regenerate elect, who still possess the inherited corrupt nature, to bear witness to the word (Article I, No. 5), to understand the Scriptures (Article I, No. 6), to make him willing and able to believe (Article VII, Nos. 2-3), to strengthen him to enable him to resist sin (Article XIII, Nos. 2-3), to make him concious of his sins (Article XV, No. 3), and to enable him to do good works (Article XVI, No. 3).
Frankly, I am somewhat concerned when I read articles from brethren which state that the indwelling Holy Spirit makes it possible for the Christian to do any of the above mentioned things. The implication, whether stated or not, is that man is unable to do these things without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The next question which must arise is, “Why is man unable to do these things without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?” I know the answer which Calvinists give – “because of his inherited corrupted nature.” I do not know how brethren will answer this question. Furthermore, I do not know how they will explain on what basis God gives this Spirit to some Christian and withholds its from others. If a Christian does not understand a passage and does not abstain from committing a sin, is it because God did not give him the indwelling Spirit? These questions demand attention from those who are writing articles such as the following:
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is common to all Christians, is not miraculous in nature, but the Spirit does everything for us which is promised in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit indwells (Rom. 8:9); provides a habitation of God in us (Eph. 2:22); provides a motive for us to keep our spirits and bodies clean (1 Cor. 6:19-20); enables us to keep the faith (2 Tim. 1:13-14); brings comfort (Acts 3:19); brings renewal (Titus 3:5); is present in times of reproach (1 Pet. 4:14); aids in our worship (Phil. 3:3); helps us live a consecrated life (Jude 20); produces fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 5:9); and many other things. Check a good Bible concordance. (Guthrie Dean, The Only Alternative To The Personal Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Unity Forum, Vol. XXXV, No. 9 [March 1981]).
I call upon brethren, even those who believe in a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to join with me in exposing the Calvinist doctrine of the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Surely those who believe in a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit can see the dangers which Calvinism poses in this area.
Understanding New Testament Scriptures
With this background before us one should be able to understand why Calvinist commentators speak of a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Some brethren make much ado by quoting a large number of commentators who agree with them in holding to a personal indwelling. It is true that a great majority of commentators, influenced by their acceptance of Calvinism, teach a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Some brethren who study these works accept their comments on the subject without considering whether or not another interpretation can be given to the particular verses.
Those who hold to a personal indwelling of .the Holy Spirit in the body of the Christian emphasize the literalness of the language in such passages as the following:
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).
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you (Rom. 8:9-11).
Other passages which sometimes are quoted to prove a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit include Acts 2:38; 5:32; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Galatians 4:6. What do these passages mean which refer to the indwelling Spirit?
Sometimes brethren see only a literal meaning to some of these passages. It should be helpful to look at several usages of phrases which mention the idea of “indwelling” or being “in” another. Let us consider other usages of these same kind of phraseology:
1. The indwelling God. Brethren who have drawn attention to those passages which refer to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (such as are cited above) have ignored similar passages which show that the Father also dwells in us.
No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit . . . . Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God (1 Jn. 4:12-15).
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (2 Cor. 6:16).
If the passages which are listed with reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit prove that the Holy Spirit personally comes inside of one’s body, then these passages prove that God the Father also takes His habitation inside the body of the Christian.
Similar statements are said with reference to Christ indwelling the Christian.
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Rom. 8:10).
And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us (I Jn. 3:23-24).
Whatever position we take with reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit must also be taken with reference to Christ dwelling in us. If we believe that the Holy Spirit actually comes and dwells inside of the Christian’s body, we must also believe that Jesus comes and dwells inside of the Christian’s body and that the Father also comes and dwells inside of his body.
Some try to avoid the force of these passages by teaching that 1 John 4:12-15 and 2 Corinthians 6:16, which teach the indwelling of the Father, and Romans 8:10 and 1 John 3:23-24, which teach the indwelling of the Son, do not demand a personal indwelling of either of them. We are told that the Father and Son dwell in us representatively through the Holy Spirit. If the passages which speak of the indwelling of the Father and Son do not demand a personal indwelling of the Father and the Son, what reason can one give for teaching that those passages which speak of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit demand a personal indwelling?
2. The Father Dwells In The Son. Another group of passages state that God the Father dwells in God the Son.
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works (Jn. 14:10).
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (Jn. 17:20-21).
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). Do these passages teach that God the Father personally came into the body of God the Son and dwelt there? This would be the logical conclusion if one teaches that the “indwelling” passages must be understood literally.
3. The Son Dwells In The Father. Please read again John 14:10 and 17:20-21, which are quoted in the preceding paragraph, to observe that these passages which state that the Father dwells in the Son also state that the Son dwells in the Father. Do these passages mean that Jesus personally dwelt in God the Father? If location is the idea of “dwelling” in every usage, that is the case.
4. Men Dwell In God And Christ. In addition to passages stating that Deity dwells in the Christian, there are passages which state that Christians dwell in God.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (Jn. 6:56).
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us (1 Jn. 3:24).
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit . . . . Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God (1 Jn. 4:13, 15).
Do these pasages demand that we believe that our spirits dwell inside of God? Are these passages referring to location? Some have sought to avoid the force of these passages by saying, “However, being in Deity merely refers to the sphere, while Deity in us refers to personality” (Guthrie Dean, “Dean-O’Neal Debate on the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” Guardian of Truth, Vol. XXV, No. 47 [26 November 1981], p. 739). This distinction is absolutely arbitrary. There is no grammatical or logical reason for such a statement. The same words are used to describe both indwellings. Itis merely an attempt to avoid the force of these passages.
What one needs to reconsider is the meaning of statements which refer to an indwelling of any sort. In addition to these passages which mention indwelling of persons, one reads of indwelling sin (Rom. 7:17), love (1 Jn. 3:17), the word of God (Col. 3:16), faith (2 Tim. 1:5), and truth (2 Jn. 2). Do these verses teach that these items personally come inside the Christian’s body to dwell there? Unless one can understand that words also have a metaphorical meaning that is the case. Actually, this is the case with reference to these phrases; although they have a literal meaning in some contexts, in contexts pertaining to spiritual things, they have a metaphorical meaning, as recognized by the lexicons. Read the following definitions and notice that metaphorical usages are mentioned in each case.
Meno: “not to depart, not to leave, to continue to be present: . . . . to maintain unbroken fellowship with one . . . . to put forth constant influence upon one . . . . In the mystic phraseology of John, God is said menein in Christ, i.e. to dwell as it were within him, to be continually operative in him by his divine influence and energy, Jn. 14:10; Christians are said menein en to Theo to be rooted as it were in him, knit to him by the spirit they have received from him, t Jn. 2:6, 24, 27; 3:6; hence one is said menein in one . . . . (Joseph H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 399).
Oikeo: “to dwell in . . . . trop. en tini to be fixed and operative in one’s soul: of sin, Rom. viii. 17 sq. 20; of the Holy Spirit, Rom. viii. [91, 11; 1 Cor. iii. 16” (Ibid., p. 439).
Katoikeo: “1. intrans. to dwell, settle . . . . b. metaph, divine powers, influences, etc. are said katoikein en tini (dat. of pers.), or en to kardia tinos, to dwell in his soul, to pervade, prompt, govern it” (Ibid., p. 341).
Enoikeo: “to dwell in; in the N.T. with en tini, dat. of pers., in one, everywhere metaphorically, to dwell in one and influence him (for good) . . . .” (ibid., p. 217).
According to the lexicons, John’s phrase menein en (to abide in) is roughly equivalent to Paul’s phrase oikein en (to dwell in) and neither have location as the primary thought when used with reference to spiritual matters.
Another passage which gives insight into these usages is Ephesians 1:3; Galatians 3:27; and Romans 6:3-4. These passages indicate that all spiritual blessings are “in Christ” and that one gets , “in Christ” through obedience to the gospel. To be “in Christ” has nothing to do with one’s location; it refers to a spiritual relationship with Christ. The idea of “abiding in Christ” is that this relationship is sustained and permanent, rather than fleeting and temporary.
If one can understand the metaphorical usage of these passages which have reference to something other than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, why does he have trouble understanding that this same usage is employed by the word of God when it speaks of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? It is simply indicating that we have entered a relationship of spiritual communion or fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14), even as we have entered into a relationship with God the Father and God the Son. The phrase has absolutely nothing to do with geographical location when the Scriptures speak of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit any more than it has to do with geographical location when it speaks of the indwelling of the Father and Son.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 6, pp. 162, 179-182
March 17, 1983