religion, christianity, articles
indwelling of Holy Spirit

Effects of the Holy Spirit's Indwelling

By Tim Nichols

religion, articles, christianity

All agree the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit lives in the child of God. There are at least two ideas about how this indwelling is accomplished. Some say it is by means of the Word and others say it is direct and immediate. Although most who affirm a direct indwelling are able to conceive of an inactive, motionless, silent, and voiceless habitation, others are unable to envision this.

They take note that their own indwelling spirit is perceived by its effects (they think and experience feelings insensible matter cannot experience-see Dan. 7:15). They notice that the indwelling of evil spirits, in the New Testament, produced discernible expression. They seem unable to refrain from supposing that there must be some outcome produced by the direct and personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Some then imagine that their own thoughts, feelings, and inclinations are the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian (1 Cor. 6:19­20). When some are asked to explain the means by which he dwells in us, the answer is, "He does so by means of the Word that he inspired men to write." The Spirit dwells in us by faith (Gal. 3:2, 14). Saving faith comes by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). Therefore the Holy Spirit dwells in the child of God by means of the Word of God. Others say the Spirit dwells in the child of God directly-without means.

When asked to explain the effects of his indwelling, those who say the Scriptures teach that the indwelling is by means of the Word can show many effects of the Spirit in their life. Those who affirm the direct indwelling cannot show any effects that are not already accomplished by the revealed Word of God.

The alleged direct indwelling seems to be a function without a purpose, an act without an action, a cause without an effect, a service without an aim, a source without an end, and an object without an objective.

When we gather all of the scriptural evidence that bears upon this subject to compare and synthesize what is revealed, we are compelled to conclude that the pieces can only be made to fit together correctly when we see that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian by means of the Word.

This is not a matter of forcing the statements of Scripture to fit our preconceived opinions after the manner of Procrustes who "stretched his victims or cut short their legs to make them fit the length of his bed." It is more analogous to a hand and a glove. The Scriptures reveal both the hand and the glove and the hand can only be said to fit perfectly into the glove when we are able to see that the means by which the Holy Spirit acts ("dwell" is an action verb) in our lives today is his inspired Word.

He is said to be in us. He is received by the "hearing of faith" (Gal. 3:2), and such faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). All that he is said to accomplish in us he is said to accomplish by means of his inspired words. All fits into place when we allow ourselves to see both the hand and the glove that God reveals.

Consider the following from the pen of D. R. Dungan:

The law of analogy. - Everything must be found to agree. Harmony is one of the first demands of truth. Two truths are never contradictory. It is impossible for contradiction to be found where there is truth in all concerned. Hence, when any fact has come to be known, and about it there can be no longer any doubt, whatever may be reported after this, which is contradictory thereof, is rejected at once as being certainly untrue. And yet this rule must not be employed so as to prevent investigation, for it is possible that we may be perfectly satisfied with an error. We have long regarded it as truth, and may make it the reason for the rejection of facts that would be of great value. But if the new fact is admitted, then that which has been accepted must be displaced, for it is impossible for both to be correct. Hence no interpretation can be true which does not harmonize with all known facts (Hermeneutics, pp. 83, 84).
This method demands that all facts shall be reported. - It assures all concerned that if all facts are reported, and they are permitted to speak for themselves, error will not be possible. But it is not always possible to obtain all facts that have bearing on any given subject. Indeed, it is very probable that complete success in this respect has never yet been attained. All the mighty works of Jesus were not reported; but enough were presented for the faith of all who were willing to believe. John said that he did many other signs besides those which he recorded, but that the record he made was sufficient. This method demands that when all the facts can not be had, as many shall be reported as possible. The falling of one apple would not be enough to prove the law of gravity, for there might have been something peculiar (1) in the then present condition of things; or (2) in the form of the falling body; or (3) in its contents; or (4) something present which had attraction for it and not for other bodies. On the other hand, it is not necessary that all bodies shall have been observed in their relation to each other; a large number will do, if they embrace the several kinds of material, and are tried in many circumstances-provided there is no opposing fact. One opposing fact will be enough to introduce an exception, at least, to the rule. Hence it would not be a universal law. Before reaching a conclusion, then, all facts attainable should be gathered (Hermeneutics, p. 84).

Concerning this word dwell (oikeo), the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says:

This word ... can mean intrans. 'to dwell,' 'to live'... and also trans. 'to inhabit,' 'to take as one's abode'.... More important, however, is the fact that [oikein] is used to describe inward psychological and spiritual processes.... Similarly we read in Rom. 7:18: 'For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing'... and 7:20 goes on to say that sin dwells in me.... The dwelling of sin in man denotes its dominion over him, its lasting connection with his flesh, and yet also a certain distinction from it. The sin which dwells in me... is no passing guest, but by its continuous presence becomes the master of the house.... Paul can speak in just the same way, however, of the lordship of the Spirit (Kittel, p. 135, vol. 5).

When one gladly receives the Word (submits to it with all his heart), the Holy Spirit has dominion over him. He knows the will of the Master only by means of the words the Holy Spirit has inspired.

Although the word dwell (oikeo) does not always imply dominion (Acts 28:16), it often does have that connotation (Rom. 7:17­20). This meaning seems to fit perfectly with all else that is revealed in the New Testament concerning the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian.

The presence and influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is an evidence that Christ dwells in us (1 John 3:24). It is an earnest and a seal of greater blessings in heaven (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5; Eph. 1:14). As both an evidence and as an earnest, the Holy Spirit's presence within us needs to be perceptible in some way.

The earnest given to us imparts to us both confidence and knowledge that heaven is waiting to receive us (2 Cor. 5:5). The brethren in Ephesus had "heard the word of truth," "believed" it, and were "sealed with that holy Spirit of promise [w]hich is the earnest of our inheritance." As a consequence of receiving this earnest Paul prayed that God would give them "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him" and that their understanding would be enlightened, and that they might "know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, [a]nd what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us­ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power" (Eph. 1:13­19).

The Spirit that is in us causes us to know that he abides in us and that we abide in him (1 John 3:24), and the means by which this knowledge is given to us is the Word or, in this case, his commandments with which we can compare our lives (1 John 3:24).

These are the stated effects of the Spirit who dwells in us and they are effects produced by his powerful and living Word when our broken wills yield to his influence.


Published February 1997