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Article 81 - The Holy Spirit and the Christian
The Holy Spirit and the Christian
Jon Gary Williams
Does the Spirit work in the life of the Christian? Yes. The scriptures reveal a very close relation between the two. One needs to read but few pages of the New Testament to discover this great truth. What do the scriptures reveal about the Spirit's working in the life of God's children?
The Bible teaches that in some sense the Spirit dwells in the Christian (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6).These verses emphasize that the Christian belongs to God. This close relation is expressed in terms of God's Holy Spirit abiding in his child.
However, though these verses speak of a dwelling of the Spirit, they do not explain the manner in which this takes place.
Where does the Spirit dwell? The place of the Spirit's dwelling is man's heart (Gal. 4:6; II Cor. 1:22).
But, what is man's heart? (Matt. 9:4; Mk. 2:6,8; Lk. 24:38; Rom. 10:9,10; Lk. 1:51; Matt. 5:28; Jn. 14:1,27; Rom. 16:18; I Jn. 3:19; Heb. 10:22)
From these verses it is learned that with the heart man thinks, reasons, believes and imagines. In the heart man can lust. The heart can be troubled, deceived and assured. The heart also involves man's conscience.
Hence, the heart is man's mind - the center of man's will, reason and emotion. It is here that the Spirit can dwell.
The Bible clearly teaches that to be "after the Spirit" is to be "spiritually minded" (Rom. 8:5,6). Thus, the Spirit works through the mind of man.
How is the dwelling of the Spirit accomplished?
Since the Spirit dwells in the Christian's mind, there is only one way this can be done -- through words, through language.
Man perceives things through his five senses: by touching, tasting, smelling, hearing and seeing. The words (truths) of the Spirit can only be perceived by hearing or seeing. Hence, the Spirit communicates through words (II Sam. 23:2; Jn. 16:13; Acts 8:29; 10:19; 13:2; 20:23; 21:11; I Tim. 4:1 Heb. 3:7 II Pet. 1:20,21).
The Spirit is "received" by the "hearing of faith." (Gal.3:2) But, from where does faith come? From the word (Rom.10:17).
Since faith comes by hearing the word, then the faith by which the Spirit dwells must come through the word. There is no other way.
The Bible teaches that "the truth, the word of God...effectually worketh also in you..." (I Thess. 2:13). How is this accomplished? There is only one way -- when the word is taken into the heart. When this occurs it can be said that the Spirit is working in the heart. As the Christian takes the word into his mind (heart), the Spirit dwells in him.
Christians are to manifest the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22). How? By following the inspired word revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Christians are said to "live in the Spirit" and "walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25). How is this done? By following the Spirit's word. It is in this way that the Christian is "led" by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14).
That which "abides" in the Christian is what he has "heard" (I Jn. 2:24). However, that which is heard is the word delivered by the Spirit. Hence, it can be said that the Spirit abides in the Christian by means of the word.
Through the Spirit we "mortify the deeds of the body" (Rom. 8:13). How is this accomplished? By following the word given by the Spirit.
The word given by the Spirit is "living and powerful" and discerns the "thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). Again, the relation between the Spirit's word and the heart of man is evident.
The Christian is "transformed" by the renewing of the "mind." In this he proves God's acceptable "will" (word) (Rom. 12:2). Hence, the word works through the mind of man.
Paul said, "we have the mind of Christ" (I Cor. 2:16). How is this possible? By receiving the word revealed by the Spirit. Since the Spirit works through the word to convert the lost, it is
reasonable that he would continue to influence the Christian by the same means.
The correlation between the Spirit and the word
In every instance, what is said to be done by the Spirit is also said to be accomplished through the word. Various attributes are ascribed to both the Spirit and the word:
|| The Spirit
| The Word
| In creation
| Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13
| Heb. 1:3; II Pet. 3:5
| Gives life
| II Cor. 3:6
| Jms. 1:18
| Born of
| John 3:5
| I Pet. 1:23; I Cor. 15:4
| Saved by
| Titus 3:5
| Jms. 1:21; Rom. 1:16
| Is truth
| John 14:17; I John 5:6
| John 17:17
| Is power
| Rom. 15:13
| Heb. 1:3; 4:12
| Led by
| Rom. 8:14
| Ps. 119:105
|| Acts 9:31
| I Thess. 4:18
|| II Thess. 2:13
| John 17:17
|| Rom. 8:11
| Col. 3:16
The word of God - the instrument of the Spirit
The "sword of the Spirit" is the "word of God" (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). The Spirit does not personally and directly touch the heart of the Christian. Rather, his word is the instrument he uses to accomplish this purpose. (As a man does not directly strike the tree, but uses an axe to transfer his energy to the tree, so the Spirit uses his word as the instrument to transmit his influence into the heart of man.)
Parallel passages on the subject of dwelling
The books of Ephesians and Colossians are "sister" books. They discuss much of the same material but express it in different ways. Ephesians 5:18,19 and Colossians 3:16 are classic examples of parallel texts.
Eph. 5:18,19 "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."
Col. 3:16 "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."
One states, "be filled with the Spirit" while the other states, "let the word of Christ dwell in you." The parallel is obvious - to be filled with the spirit is to have the word of Christ dwell in one's heart.
There is a remarkable parallel between the relation the Father, Son and Spirit have with the Christian. What is said of one is also said of the others.
1. Dwells in the Christian (II Cor. 6:16)The Son...
2. Walks in the Christian (II Cor. 6:16)
3. The Christian dwells in Him (I Jn. 4:15)
1. Dwells in the Christian (Col. 1:27)The Spirit...
2. Formed in the Christian (Gal. 4:19)
3. The Christian dwells in him (II Cor. 5:17)
1. Dwells in the Christian (Rom. 8:11)The close parallel among the three persons of the Godhead means that whatever dwelling attribute belongs to one belong the others as well. In addition, note the number of times the Father, the Son and the Spirit are said to be "in" the Christian.
2. Fills the Christian (Eph. 5:18)
3. The Christian walks in him (Gal. 5:16)
1. The Father - 8 timesIn view of the above, it can be concluded that the Spirit dwells in the Christian in the same way the Father and Son dwell in the Christian - spiritually and representatively by the means of the word He revealed.
2. The Son - 16 times
3. The Spirit - 6 times
Satan is also said to "enter" people (Lk. 22:3; Jn. 13:27). Does this mean that he literally, personally takes up abode in people? No. How, then, does this take place? Where does Satan abide? In the "heart." (Acts 5:3) Hence, Satan can influence the heart of man in the same way that the Spirit does.
Some believe the dwelling of the Spirit is an actual, personal dwelling separate from the word of God. Following are some reasons offered for believing this view and a response to each.
"The Bible says the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 6:19).
First, it is assumed this refers to a personal, literal dwelling. But, is this what Paul meant? Since the context deals with how the Christian is to use his "body" (12-20), it was understandable why Paul (in emphasizing that the Christian belongs to God) used the term "body" to describe the dwelling of the Spirit in the Christian.
Though Paul used the term "body," it is obvious he was not meaning to say that the Spirit actually dwells throughout man's physical body. The meaning here is much deeper.
Man is a three-fold being: spirit, soul and body (I Thess. 5:23).
The word "spirit" refers to man's immortal, eternal nature which is made in the image of God (Lk. 8:55; Acts 7:59; I Cor. 5:5; Heb. 12:9,23; Jam. 2:26).
The word "soul" refers to the motivating life within man's body (Matt. 2:20; Lk. 12:22; I Pet. 3:20). Note: At times the word "soul" is used interchangeably with "spirit." (Matt. 10:28)
The word "body," of course, refers to man's physical nature.
It is not the Christian's physical being or the life motivating the body in which the Spirit dwells. Rather, it is in the Christian's spirit, his inner self, his mind. "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit" (Rom. 8:16). How is this done? The only way it can be done - the Spirit bears witness through the medium of his word.
In I Corinthians 6:19 the word "body" is actually a figure of speech called metonymy, wherein one word is used when another word closely associated with it is intended. (cf. Lk. 22:20) Here Jesus used the word "cup" when he was actually meaning the contents of the cup, the "fruit of the vine" (v.18).
"In Acts 2:38 all Christians are said to be given 'the gift of the Holy Spirit' which is a dwelling of the Spirit."
It is argued that the "gift" of the Spirit refers to the Spirit himself. However, this is not necessarily true. From a purely grammatical standpoint this can refer to a gift from the Spirit. For example, "the gift of God" (Acts 8:20) and "the gift of Christ" (Eph. 4:7), refer to things from the Father and the Son.
Those who believe the "gift" is the Spirit himself believe this is speaking of a personal dwelling of the Spirit meant to be received by all Christians at baptism. However, there are many reasons to believe this is not the case and that, in fact, it is referring to a miraculous measure of the Spirit intended only for some Christians.
To what does the "gift" refer?
If the "gift" refers to a dwelling of the Spirit meant for all Christians, why, in no other case of conversion, is it again mentioned?
In all other instances when the word "gift" is used in relation to the Spirit, it refers to the miraculous. If a miraculous measure of the Spirit is not intended in Acts 2:38, it is an exception. Note these examples:
Acts 8:18-20 After seeing the apostles lay hands on others giving them the Spirit, Simon wanted to buy this power. Peter told him, "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." (The "gift" here is clearly referring to the miraculous.)Since in other instances the word "gift" is used of the miraculous, it is only consistent to so understand it in Acts 2:38. Note the following chart.
Acts 10:44-46 At the house of Cornelius the Jews who had come with Peter saw "that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues..." (Obviously, this "gift" has to do with the miraculous.)
Acts 11:15-17 Again, concerning Cornelius and his house, Peter said, "Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us..." (Again, this "gift" denotes the miraculous.)
Ephesians 3:5-7 In discussing his apostolic work and how by the Spirit he was revealed the mystery of Christ, Paul wrote: "Whereof I was made a minister, according of the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of power." (The "gift" here again pertains to the miraculous.)
Ephesians 4:7,8 Speaking of Christ ascending to heaven and sending the Spirit (cf. Jn. 15:26; 16:7), Paul stated, "according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." (Clearly, the "gift" here has to do with the miraculous.)
Acts 2:38 states, "and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit..." Note: In all other cases where the Spirit is said to be received, reference is clearly to the miraculous.
| Gift of God
|| Acts 8:20
| Gift of the Holy Spirit
|| Acts 10:45
| The like gift
|| Acts 11:17
| The gift of the grace of God
|| Eph. 3:7
| The measure of the gift of Christ
|| Eph. 4:7
| Gave gifts unto men
|| Eph. 4:8
| Gift of the Holy Spirit
|| Acts 2:38
|| Non-miraculous (!)
Acts 8:17 When Peter and John laid their hands on the Samaritan Christians it is said that "they received the Holy Spirit." (Clearly, this refers to the miraculous.)
Acts 10:47 When the Spirit came upon Cornelius' household, Peter said they "received the Holy Spirit." (Again, a clear reference to the miraculous.)
Acts 19:2 After meeting the men who had been baptized with John's baptism, Paul asked them, "Have ye received the Holy Spirit....?" Verse 6 states that when Paul "laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them." (The context clearly shows Paul's question referred to the miraculous.)
Since in other instances "receiving" the Spirit clearly refers to the miraculous, it is reasonable that it refers to the miraculous in Acts 2:38 as well.
Note: The Jews on Pentecost knew nothing about a dwelling of the Spirit. All they knew about the Spirit related to the miraculous. Note the context of Acts 2.
a. The miracle of the coming of the Spirit (v. 1-4)
b. The miracle of the apostles speaking in foreign languages (v. 4-12)
c. Peter's referral to Joel's prophecy of the miracles seen that day (v. 16-21)
d. Christ giving the Spirit through whom the miracles were done (v. 32,33)
Hence, Peter's reference to the "gift of the Holy Spirit" should be viewed in light of the context of Acts 2. A non-miraculous dwelling of the Spirit would have been far from the understanding of those who heard Peter's words. Their only knowledge of the Spirit was the miraculous demonstration of the Spirit they saw that day. Question: Would Peter suddenly mention another concept of the Holy Spirit (a non-miraculous dwelling) with which the people could in no way relate?
It is argued that Acts 2:28 implies the gift of the Spirit was meant for every Christian - - that since all Christians could not perform miracles, this cannot refer to a miraculous measure of the Spirit. However, this argument is only assumption and the following parallel passage shows why.
1. When giving the great commission, Jesus said, "And these signs [miracles] shall follow [accompany] them that believe..." (Mk. 16:17).
2. Though this seems to imply that all those who would become believers could perform miracles, we know this was not the case.
3. Mark 16:17 and Acts 2:28 are addressing the same thing and are speaking in general terms. That is, miraculous powers would be found within the body of believers (the church) but not everyone would be given these powers. (Compare also the parallel wording of John 7:39)
Note: The phrase "gift of the Holy Spirit" is found only one other time, and in that case it refers, not to a non-miraculous dwelling, but to the miraculous (Acts 10:45). Good exegesis dictates that the expression "gift of the Holy Spirit" has the same meaning in both texts.
"To say that the Spirit dwells through the word makes the Spirit and the word the same."
This is flawed reasoning. The Spirit and the word are not the same, rather the word is the means by which the Spirit works (Eph. 6:17). To those who believe the Spirit actually, literally and personally dwells in the Christian separate from the word, the following questions are in order.
What would the Spirit do for the Christian? Would he give him greater faith? Would he give him love for truth? Would he give him conviction? Would he give him understanding?
However, these are all attainable through the word. There is nothing the Spirit is said to supply the Christian that is not also ascribed to the influence of the word. Is not this saying that God's word is not all-sufficient? Yet, we know that by the scriptures the Christian is "thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16,17).
Would this not mean that the Spirit overrules the mind of man? To say that the Spirit dwells personally and directly in man, separate from the word, suggests that he must, in some measure, impose his will on man, hence, overruling man's will. If this is not the case, then what is the purpose of such an indwelling?
The scriptures reveal that the Holy Spirit does many things for the Christian, all of which are accomplished through the medium of the word He has given. The following partial list shows the extensive nature of the work of the Spirit.
- The Spirit sanctifies (Rom. 15:16).
- The Spirit gives the Christian assurance that he is a child of God (Rom. 8:16).
- The Spirit helps the Christian fight against sin (Rom. 8:12-14).
- The Spirit encourages holiness in the Christian's life. The Holy Spirit is called the
"Spirit of holiness" (Rom. 1:4).
- The Spirit supplies hope for the Christian (Rom. 15:13).
- The Spirit gives the Christian confidence (Rom. 8:1,2).
- The Spirit gives the Christian strength in time of trial (Eph. 3:16).
- The Spirit gives the Christian the message that is to be taught (I Pet. 1:9-12).
While there are many things the Spirit does for the Christian that are accomplished through the word, there are things He has done, is doing and will do, independent of the word.
- In the first century the Spirit worked directly through miraculous measures (Acts 2:1-4; I Cor. 12:8-10). Those miraculous measures ceased (I Cor. 13:8-10).
- The Spirit helps the Christian in prayer (Rom. 8:26,27).
- The Spirit will one day be involved in the resurrection of the dead (Rom. 8:11).