In defense of the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Published On: April 27th, 2024|5479 words|27 min read|By |Views: 193|

Given the way that Paul uses rhetoric with the Corinthians, some may wonder why “A defense of the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit” is even necessary. When he rhetorically asks them, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” in 1 Corinthians 3:16, he’s not asking for an answer.

He writes in a way that makes it clear they knew the answer was obviously, “Yes, we know God’s Spirit dwells in us.” And if once wasn’t enough, he’ll do it again in 1 Corinthian 6:19 — and the answer there is still, “Yes.”

So why do we need a defense of what Paul expected would be obvious to his readers?

Background

Between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it’s the Spirit who garners the most misunderstanding. Whatever the reasons for this, the landing spots for these misunderstandings are best described by the ‘pendulum effect‘. On the one extreme, liberties have been taken to make the Spirit into an irresistible, supernatural force of the Father.

Here lies “beyond scripture” teachings such as inward call, speaking in tongues, and total depravity. You could argue that an entire doctrinal construct — Calvinism — centers around taking what scripture does teach about the Holy Spirit — that there is a literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit — to an unauthorized extreme.

The other extreme exists in reaction to the first extreme. This is where I lived; it was my upbringing. This extreme strips all the power of the Father’s Spirit away from today’s scripture. It reduces and confines any working of the person of the Holy Spirit to be only things that can be fulfilled through God’s word. It might even teach that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” promised to all who obeyed on the day of Pentecost was actually the miraculous gifts (plural) of Holy Spirit given by the laying on the apostles’ hands.

This other, opposite extreme effectively says, “No!” in response to Paul’s rhetorical question. Instead, it qualifies his, “Don’t you know…God’s Spirit dwells in you?” by concluding that it’s not God’s Spirit dwelling in us, but rather it’s only by/through His word that this occurs.

The Bookends

A good starting point for this study is 2 Cor 6:14-:7:1. Unlike the rhetorically framed statements about the Holy Spirit in his first letter, Paul doesn’t explicitly state “Holy Spirit” here. Instead, he uses a metaphor. The type is the physical temple of the Old Testament. The antitype is the physical body of the New Testament Christian. This metaphor of the Holy Spirit indwelling the New Covenant Christian just He did the Old Covenant temple is well documented.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me,” says the Lord Almighty.

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

Peter also uses the metaphorical device. He’ll write about saints being “living stones” (1 Peter 2:4-10) and their active and collective “building” of the local/universal body. And besides the letters to the Corinthians, Paul will conclusively tell the Ephesians, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)

While all of these are applicable for this defense, I prefer to focus on the 2 Corinthians 6:14ff passage as it serves to set one end for our own metaphor – the right bookend – as a way to frame our study. After stating the obvious through rhetorical questions in the first letter, in the second letter Paul gives a ‘mash-up’ of several statements and themes from the Law and Prophets.

There are several references we could point to, from Exodus to Leviticus to Isaiah. But my favorite, and a candidate for summation of the Old Testament quotations Paul makes in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 would have to be, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:22-32)

The other bookend framing this defense is Solomon’s temple…as well as the Tabernacle that came before it. This is where we read of the Father literally filling the Holy Place with His Spirit. The Father said about this filling by His Spirit was so that, “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.” (Exodus 29:45)

And with these two bookends we have the framing for this defense of the literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The one bookend was Paul’s metaphor that describes a New Covenant Christian’s intimate fellowship with God. And it’s this inspired writer’s application of the Old Covenant Temple statements that points us to the other bookend of how God dwelt with His people then.

In between these bookends is the anguish and separation — the suffering — of the Father and Husband when His wife strayed and betrayed (expressed through much of the Prophets but especially in Ezekiel with his unique temple/Spirit/dwelling visions/passages).

With these bookends, we see the inspired connection between the Father’s dwelling of old and new. One nationalistic, the other personal. The pattern is the same…but neither affords any room to be taken figuratively, whether stated or implied. If taken at face value — which is the only authority we have at this point — Paul is impressing upon Christians to be holy because they were made holy [by the Father]. To be holy we must “separate” and “cleanse ourselves from every defilement”.

How do we know what those “defilements” are? Paul doesn’t go into it in 2 Corinthians 6:14ff, but we already know this, right? It’s through or according to His word we can identify “defilements”. And the really neat part is that the metaphor still holds here as well.

What happened after we read about the building of the Tabernacle and its literal filling of God’s Spirit? After Exodus, we read about the law and statutes in Leviticus. God’s Spirit performed the work of making the people holy; God’s word performed the work of instructing them how to be holy.

For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. Leviticus 11:45

Paul’s addressing the “Why” we should “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit” (2 Cor 7:1). The “How” is not the “Why” — that’s a different question. Paul answers the “Why” by pointing to the fact they/we have been given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

God Born

The apostle John addresses his first epistle to Christians to encourage them to complete their joy (1 Jn 1:1). Where Peter might refer collectively to Christians as “saints” or Paul might say “in Christ” or “the elect”, John refers to his audience as “children of God” or “God’s children” (1 John 3:1,2,10,) This is a familiar phrase to us, but what might be a little more odd or unfamiliar is “born of God” (1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 5:1,18) Or, literally, “God born”.

Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

The phrase “born of God” helps explain how John gets to other declarations like “We are from God”. (1 John 4:6) These statements and others by John seem shocking, extreme, or maybe a little over the top…until we connect his epistle with his gospel —

John’s gospel introduces the Son as the Word (more on this later). But tucked in verses that we typically refer to when teaching about the Son is the beginning of a thread that carries through John’s gospel all the way to Acts 2:38-39. John introduces the concept that a person’s belief in the Son is what gives them “the right to become children/born of God” (John 1:12-13).

The next time John elaborates on this radical, even supernatural birth, is in his recording of the dialog between Jesus and Nicodemus. Here we learn important details that being “born of God” involves being “born of water and the Spirit”. It also is a requirement for entrance into “the kingdom of God”. (John 3:5)

Then we come to the woman at the well in John 4:1-15. It’s a significant step in our “Born of God” journey thanks to John’s inspired commentary connecting “living water” and the Holy Spirit. (John 7:37-39)

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39

Take a moment to read John 4:7-15 and take special note of three phrases from Jesus: “the gift of God” (vs 10), “living water” (vs 10), and “will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (vs 14). Again, based on John’s inspired commentary later in 7:37-39, reflecting on this exchange should point us to a literal indwelling of the Spirit.

It’s the Holy Spirit who is the promised “gift of God” (Acts 2:38-39). He is the “living water” in our otherwise “dead” flesh. He is the “spring of water” that, if we allow Him to perfect us, is “welling up to eternal life”.

Acts of the Apostles

John helps us understand the connection between the Holy Spirit and “living waters”. He also identifies the timing — fairly precisely — as to when this ‘time of the Spirit’ would transpire. In that last passage in our “God Born” thread, John says the Spirit would not be given until the Son was glorified. Later, he records Jesus telling the disciples, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

Jesus had to “be glorified” and “go away” before the Spirit would be “given”.

And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. Acts 5:32

The backdrop of John’s gospel provides the building blocks and timing of being “God born”. Then we come to Acts, specifically chapter 2, which is after Jesus had been glorified and gone away. We will consider several more poignant and consequential events in Acts given a literal and personal indwelling. But before we do that, let’s review (or establish if needed) two foundational concepts about the Holy Spirit:

  1. The Father makes us holy (just like He *made* the Israelites holy — nothing of their own; purely His “selection”) through His promise (Ez 36) and “gift of the Spirit” (Ac 2:38-39, 5:32)…from there our calling is to be holy,
  2. Being full/filled with the Spirit (literally) is what every Christian is striving for in their pursuit to be holy. Yes, in the first century, some demonstrated their “fullness of the Spirit” with some outward manifestation (e.g. sign/wonder, tongue, prophecy). But the call to be “full of the Spirit” applies to everyone who has been “born of God”. Going back again to John, it’s central to his entire argument in his epistle and why he says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him [His Spirit], and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:9)

With those two realities and a capstone verse (Ac 5:32) in mind, here’s a rundown of how some of the Acts accounts should be understood given that “God has given [his Spirit] to those who obey him [hearing His word]” for those who are “God born”:

Peter has just preached a sermon using Joel 2 to make an inspired application of the “last days” and the promise from the Father that He would “pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (vs 17). This group of “all flesh” is the same “saved” who later are described as “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord” (vs 21).

He also refers to the Son as being “at the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit (vs 33). He responds to “what shall we do [to be saved]” with “be baptized” where they’ll receive two things — forgiveness of sins (cleansed) and the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (made holy).

The “gift” isn’t “the word” — that’s what they heard to respond (5:32). His climax/conclusion is exactly what he said earlier (vss 17,21,33) when he tells them “the promise” [what promise has he already preached?] is for “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself”.

  • Chapter 6: The church in Jerusalem is asked to choose men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (6:3) and later Stephen is described as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (6:5). I believe “wisdom” here must be understood as “wisdom from above” (1 Cor 2:12-13, Jms 1:5, 3:13-18) — e.g. God’s word. Therefore Stephen, and the other men that should be chosen were to be full of thee things – the Holy Spirit, wisdom/God’s word, and faith. Their “fullness of the Spirit” was their behavior — demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit — which, of course, was in accord with the other things they were to be full of (wisdom/God’s word and faith). Their “fullness of the Spirit” wasn’t about performing miracles at this point. The apostles had not laid on hands until after their selection (vs 6) and “great wonders and signs” followed (vs 8).
  • Chapter 7: After preaching, Stephen is again described as being “full of the Holy Spirit” when he “gazed into heaven”. He’s about to die. For him, the pinnacle of his spiritual journey in the physical has been reached. I think it can be argued that at that moment he was fully demonstrating a “fullness of the Spirit”. Or, given his pending death, maybe this is him completing his “renewal of the Holy Spirit” that we read of in Titus 3:5 (or the same thing – “sanctification by the Spirit” in 2 Th 2:13).
The first thing to note about the entire topic of being “Baptized with the Spirit” is that Scripture never presents this as a proper noun. It’s man who turns this into a proper noun. It’s man who capitalizes the “B”.

Effectively, this turns it into an event that can only mean one thing and that only happens in two special circumstances. Don’t misunderstand here! Was there a Holy Spirit baptism that had a special meaning and only happened twice? Absolutely! It’s documented in Acts 2 and again in Acts 10. Scripture clearly interprets this for us.

However, the fact is that Scripture only ever speaks about these as little “b” events. These were unique events where the first believing Jews (the apostles) and the first believing Gentiles (Cornelius’ household) were effectively used by the  Holy Spirit. They were “clothed”, “immersed”, dare we say “filled” with the Holy Spirit to be a witness for others. Collectively, it was God’s witness through them that the gospel/New Covenant had arrived for all mankind. In both instances, it was for others’ benefit.

The literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit we’re advocating for here was not that. It’s the long-promised dwelling of God with His people — those who have been washed and made holy by their free will obedience to accept Jesus and their Lord and Christ.

Peter makes an illuminating statement about the Son in another great “Godhead passage” when he says, “God [the Father] anointed Jesus of Nazareth [the Son] with the Holy Spirit and with power.” Lots to say here, but given an understanding that the Father’s gift/promise for mankind is a literal dwelling with man, how wonderfully does this statement show/prove the “all God/all man” question?

It’s not an accident that Peter refers to the Son here the way he does, really calling out the human/manhood part of the Son’s dwelling (e.g. common name and birth location). This man was full of the Holy Spirit based on the fact that the Father “graced” him with it (“God anointed”).

Furthermore, Peter is emphasizing here the “fullness” with which he was anointed by saying “the Holy Spirit and with power.” It wasn’t just the Holy Spirit, but it was also this great, witness-able power (which he continues to describe how they witnessed it). Of course, this fits perfectly with what we already wrote about Acts 2:33 (see above). We also have John’s statement that Jesus “was speaking about the temple of his body” (Jn 2:21 – why a “temple” if not because of this anointing?).

Much like Stephen, Barnabas is described as someone who “was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith”. It doesn’t necessarily mean he was able to perform signs and wonders, but simply that he was a “good man” (e.g. righteous, a “man of God”, demonstrating the “fruit of the Spirit” in his otherwise ordinary, human behavior).

Receiving the gift/promise of the Holy Spirit was a descriptor of someone having been baptized in the name of Jesus (vs. any other baptism). When Paul meets “some disciples” he qualifies the legitimacy of their salvation by asking them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

This wasn’t akin to asking, “Can you perform miracles?” Instead, it indicates that someone’s receipt of this long-promised and great gift of the Father was something talked about plainly, in literal terms, with new converts (just like we see in all the rest of the epistles; plain and obvious statements about this literal dwelling of God e.g. Rom 5:5). Paul’s first question to them wasn’t “Were you baptized for the forgiveness of sins?” It wasn’t “Did the person say, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?’”

Furthermore, Paul’s first reaction when they say “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” is to baptize them so that they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Then he lays his hands on them for “the Holy Spirit [to come] on them” for miracles. Even if this was the original objective or purpose for their meeting (something we’re not told), Paul’s first reaction was to qualify their water baptism (the same baptism you and I participate in) — effectively giving them an “inward manifestation” that would make them holy — before giving them the “miraculous manifestation” of the Holy Spirit.

His Role (not It’s Role)

A popular argument around this topic is to point out the similar, or even identical, roles of the Holy Spirit and God’s word. Indeed, there are many. However, having similar or identical roles doesn’t make the two the same, nor should it. Nor does it logically allow for them to be replaceable in every circumstance — it could, but it’s not a logical given.

While scripture teaches that one can obey the word, obey the Father, obey the Son, and obey the Holy Spirit, it’s a logical (and scriptural) fallacy to conclude that all four of these objects of obedience are the same or interchangeable in any circumstance.

We would never argue that since the Father and His word share so many scripturally-designated characteristics they are the same or interchangeable. God, the Father, isn’t the word! Likewise, we would never argue that the Son and the word are always interchangeable. The word didn’t die for our sins.

Ironically, it is the Son — and only the Son — who we could argue was the Word that died on the cross. It’s ironic because the Son is the only person of the Godhead with whom we could say that (based on Scripture). Yet, we attempt to argue this for the Spirit…but scripture doesn’t give us that authority.

The other fundamental error or oversight in this argument is that the Holy Spirit is a “who”, not a “what”. The Holy Spirit can feel. We don’t “grieve the word”, but we can “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). We aren’t “sealed by the word”, but it’s the Holy Spirit “by whom we are sealed”.

The “sealing” work of the Holy Spirit that Paul mentions in chapter 4 is the second time in that letter. He introduces this unique work of the Spirit at the beginning of Ephesians (1:13-14), where he elaborates on this “sealing” a bit more. Note the distinction between the role of the “word of truth” in initial belief (cause/action), followed by the sealing of the “promised Holy Spirit” (effect/result).

Please refer back to God Born and Acts of the Apostles and note how perfectly those sections harmonize with what Paul states more as a matter of fact to his audience in Ephesus. He takes for granted that they already understand the nature of “the promise of the Holy Spirit” and how they received it. Note also how he uses this incredible gift — being made holy by God’s dwelling — as a motivator for his reason for writing at all…that they remain strong.

Of course, just as we pointed out in The Bookends, Paul does the same thing with the Corinthians. In his first letter, he makes ‘matter of fact’ statements about the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Then in his second letter, he circles back to that core principle to motivate them in his discussion about their earthly “tent” (2 Cor 5:1-6). Then later in his climax (2 Cor 6:14-7:1).

Finally, the word doesn’t intercede for us in our prayers. However, “the Spirit himself (person, not “it”) intercedes…according to the will of God (e.g God’s word)” (Romans 8:26-27). Isn’t that interesting? Do you see that two things are happening there? The Spirit is interceding. Stop! According to God’s word. Stop! Two discrete things. Closely connected, working together, perfectly harmonized, but two separate things. BTW, this is not unlike anything else we read about the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and God’s word in their purpose and relationship.

If we’re going to argue that the Holy Spirit and the word are the same or simply interchangeable and refer to the same thing, then we have to show that’s true in every single scriptural reference. That’s simply not the case.

There’s one final aside on this attempt to argue that the Holy Spirit and the word are always referring to the same thing and therefore are interchangeable in scripture. Jesus said he must depart for the Spirit to come (John 16:7). Of course, the Word already existed and still exists, yet there is a distinct and separate coming of the Spirit that Jesus marks by his departure. It would be a mistake to associate the Spirit’s coming as only applying to the apostles. Yes, there was a special/miraculous manifestation (e.g. work/giving of the Spirit) for them. They also were guided into ‘all truth’ through the Spirit.

Furthermore, first-century Christians received gifts of the Spirit that we don’t receive today since their ‘word-confirming’ work/need has ended. However, all of the elect in this “Spirit Age” have received varied gifts of the Spirit. All of the “God born” have received the singular gift of the Spirit (Acts 5:32). We are all made holy by/through that promised gift. It’s by that gift that we have the right to draw near (the unholy can’t draw near), regardless of whatever stage of “being holy” we might be at in that moment. And, God forbid, that any of us should turn away after having “shared in the Holy Spirit” (the effect) by not walking according to his word (the cause).

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-13) (xf John 4:10, 7:38-39, Acts 2:38-39, 5:32)

If you’ve been born of God (e.g. immersed in water in the name of Jesus), are you not included in that?

Questions Begging Answers

Understanding the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as literal is the natural understanding of Scripture. In other words, it’s what Scripture states very plainly (in most cases) and to understand it as *not* literal we need good reason (e.g. other scripture that interprets it as something other than what is written).

The “indwelling statements” are just what they say. When we come across other passages that appear to contradict or say something different, it’s relatively easy to understand them through that first lens. Most of the time it’s cleared up right in the immediate context. 1 John 3 and 4 is a prime example of this, it’s also been demonstrated throughout this very defense.

Now go the other way. Let’s assume that all of the “indwelling statements” are not just what they say. (Investigating why we would even do this is a whole other discussion. Unfortunately, often it’s because of another false doctrine. In other words, it’s a reaction to something other than scripture! Holy Spirit is a prime example…so is election/predestination — eg Eph 1/Rom 8.) You still must address and be able to “fit” or reconcile other passages that would appear to contradict that first lens.

These questions require some serious reconciliation if the “indwelling passages” aren’t simply what they say they are.

  • 1

    Acts 2:38: Peter told people who had already been convicted by the word (the word had done its work) that if they responded they would receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit”. Similarly, Acts 5:32 summarizes the same pattern (individual responds to word —> God gives Spirit). What exactly is the “gift” that they would receive if they had already received/believed the word by hearing it?

  • 2
    Acts 2:33, 10:38: If Jesus was a man who “God anointed” with the promised Spirit and who was the living Word (John 1), how was this anointing (e.g. indwelling) not literally the person of the Holy Spirit? And if it’s not, how is our anointing (e.g. indwelling) not the same? Isn’t that exactly the point of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2?
  • 3

    Hebrews 6:4-5: Why does the Hebrews writer describe the Christian experience and distinguish between “sharing in the Holy Spirit” and “having tasted the goodness of the word of God”?

  • 4

    Ephesians 6:17: Explain why Paul attributes the word of God to the Spirit’s sword and not the whole Spirit Himself. Shouldn’t he have just said, “and take the helmet of salvation, and the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”?

  • 5

    1 Timothy 1:14: Reconcile Paul’s instruction to Timothy, “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

  • 6

    Philippians 2:13: Explain how Paul’s statement that, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” is “just representative of the word” instead of what he states matter of factly.

  • 7
    Romans 8:27: Paul identifies “the mind of the Spirit”, “the Spirit”, and “the will of God”. Since we understand the “will of God” to be God’s word, explain how or why Paul would distinguish between these three things as he does.
  • 8

    Romans 12:6: What is the “grace” (e.g. gift) given to us if it’s not the gift of the Holy Spirit recieved when we were baptized (Acts 2:38-39)?

Why It Matters

The last question in that list highlights a particularly poignant chapter regarding the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 is a thesis on the ‘Spirit Age’ of the Christian dispensation, these last days. Romans can be a challenging book in general, but two topics touched on by Paul in chapter eight elevate that chapter in particular to the status of “difficult” by many. Interestingly, the likely reason that both are a challenge has to do with the pendulum effect.

One of those is his declaration about the Father that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined” (Romans 8:29). This indeed provides some fodder for Calvinists and their so-called tenants of “unconditional elections” and “irresistible grace”. However, we don’t need to go the other unscriptural extreme to oppose this false doctrine by concluding, for example, that Paul wasn’t talking about an omnipotent Creator knowing all things from the beginning. Didn’t God know the name and fate of King Cyrus before he was even born? (Isaiah 44:28-45:1) We don’t need to pivot and say Paul was actually talking about “the plan and not the man”.

The other “difficulty” with Romans 8 is for those who refuse to accept the literal, personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But it doesn’t have to be so if we just accept what Paul is saying. Paul wants his God-born audience to know that they are not alone. He wants us to be reminded of the fact that “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus” (8:2). He pleads for his readers to not act according to the flesh, “but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” We are called to be “full of the Spirit” just as Stephen and Barnabas were before us.

And that’s why this matters! That’s why it matters for those who have been born of God to understand that they literally have been given the Spirit of God Almighty. It’s not so that we can perform miracles or speak a prophecy; the time and reason for that have long passed!

The literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit matters as a motivator for those of us who are God born to remain faithful to our calling. This is how Paul uses it with the Christians in Rome in chapter 8. It’s also how he uses it with the Christians in Corinth in both of those letters. And why he raised it to the Christians in Ephesus in that letter…and the Philippians in that letter…and the Galatians in that letter. And why he raised it to Timothy in his personal letters to him. And John and Peter do the same.

The literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit is what makes it personal. It’s what allows John to write, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:9)

The calling of those born of God isn’t some miraculous overtaking of the Holy Spirit compelling us to act against our will. It’s a calling to be holy because we were made holy. It’s a calling to be filled with the Spirit in everything we do and say. It’s a calling to be like our Savior, a man, who was also anointed by the Father with the same gift/promise and lived out the Spirit’s ‘fullness’ to perfection.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

About the Author: D Brackett

I have lived most of my life as a Christian but admittedly not a serious Bible student until mid-life. I don't hold any theological degrees nor is my profession related to the church or ministry. However, Scripture tells me that God has given us His Word for any layman like myself to understand.

Authors are free to express their conclusions about Bible topics and others are free to offer their thoughts through public comment. In keeping with the mission of this site, all commentary is expected to be based on and backed up by Scripture that is – to the best of the person’s ability – used as Scripture itself would interpret it.

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