The Indwelling Gift of the Holy Spirit

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The Indwelling Spirit (AI generated image)

This is Part 9 in a series about the timing and precedent of receiving the Holy Spirit.

And now, Part 9 examines the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit, particularly its nature and benefits.

As is a running theme throughout this series, I contend that the biblical paradigm concerning the Holy Spirit is that the Spirit’s work in salvation is of a different scope and timing than what it means to receive the gift of his indwelling presence, or the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The “baptism” in the Holy Spirit is simply a metaphor for what it means for Jesus to send the Spirit to dwell with a repentant, water-baptized believer. It is the initiating instance of the Spirit coming to rest on the believer, which, from the believer’s perspective, is what it means to receive him. And when the Spirit comes, he makes his home in the believer permanently, which is the indwelling.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is a New Covenant blessing. This gift, which is the indwelling presence of the Spirit, is only for those who are in the New Covenant. In order to be given this gift, one must have entered the New Covenant. This is why receiving the Spirit is conditioned on faith, repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), as water baptism is the culminating moment among these conditions in which God does his work of justification and regeneration, thus bringing the convert from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to his kingdom of light. Claiming that the salvation work the Spirit does in water baptism is the same thing as what it means to receive him in the baptism in the Holy Spirit is putting the cart before the horse. In fact, it is saying the cart and the horse are the same thing.

As we will see here, a concept of the Spirit indwelling the convert in order to work salvation is premature when considering the nature of the indwelling Spirit, and what he does and signifies. 

The Indwelling Spirit

The nature of the gift of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit’s remaining presence in the believer’s life. When Jesus gives the Spirit to an individual in the New Covenant, it is not for a temporary timeframe; it is permanent. The Holy Spirit does not leave the believer, but remains. He makes his home in the heart of the believer, forever. This is what is called the indwelling.

In the Old Covenant, God gave the Spirit to a select few individuals, always for reasons of empowerment in fulfilling God’s purposes (this is what I term the Old Covenant “ondwelling” Spirit (see Part 10 coming soon)). Peter’s point of quoting Joel in his Pentecost sermon is that where once the Spirit was only given to a select few, now, in the age of the Spirit, he is poured out and available to all who call on Jesus’ name (Acts 2:16-21; Acts 2:33; Acts 2:38-39). But not only this, he comes to live in the believer.

While he walked the earth, Jesus spoke about the coming of the Holy Spirit, which believers were later to receive (John 7:37-39). In receiving the Spirit, Jesus ultimately means the indwelling Spirit, as he later in his ministry described:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)

When Jesus says, “he dwells with you and will be in you,” he is referring directly to the indwelling Spirit. Many passages refer to the fact and reality of the indwelling Spirit (see below), which is given upon meeting the conditions of belief, repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).

Some of these passages that teach about the indwelling Spirit also locate his presence in the seat of the individual’s heart (2 Corinthians 1:22; Galatians 4:6). The heart in biblical understanding basically represents the core of a human in most ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, morally, and so forth. The Spirit, therefore, knows the one he indwells intimately as well as has the ability to affect the entire person.

The indwelling Spirit, in a representative sense, also includes God the Father and Jesus. The Spirit is the representative of the Godhead and the personal means by which God indwells the believer. When speaking about the coming Spirit, Jesus said,

And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:21-23)

Jesus said he would manifest himself to his disciples by both he and the Father coming to them to make their home with them. John also tells us something similar:

if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:12-13)

The Holy Spirit is God, and by default includes the essence of God despite the nature of his personhood. God dwells in the hearts of believers by his Spirit.

The Benefits of the Indwelling Spirit

When the New Testament speaks of the Holy Spirit, the vast majority of references describe the sanctification work of the Spirit. By “sanctification” work, I mean all the things the Spirit does and represents that benefit and aid the believer in his new life, leading to eternal life.  

In examining every instance where the New Testament mentions the Holy Spirit, as well as other references to the work of the Spirit in general, a clear distinction emerges between the Spirit’s working salvation for the repentant believer in contrast with his subsequent work of sanctification. These could be further described as the Spirit’s work of “initial sanctification” and “progressive sanctification,” the former relating to the specific work the Spirit does in working salvation (justification and regeneration) for the repentant believer, and the latter relating to the continual work of aiding, empowering, and perfecting the saved believer. This work of progressive sanctification includes empowerment for living the Christian life, which, for the believer, includes both the Spirit’s inner and external working and manifestation.

Such delineation of the Spirit’s work is expected and keeps in line with the biblical paradigm that the Spirit’s work in salvation is of a different scope and timing than what it means to receive the gift of his indwelling presence. It is not that the paradigm dictates or creates the distinction, but that the distinction shows the paradigm.

Once God accomplishes the salvation work of justification and regeneration, the convert is then eligible to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit—because the conditions are then met (Acts 2:38). Jesus then sends the Holy Spirit to indwell the convert. And everything the Spirit does from this moment on is for the progressive sanctification of the saved believer in living the Christian life.   

Here is a list of the working of the Holy Spirit, categorized by his salvation work (initial sanctification) and his indwelling work (progressive sanctification):

Salvation Work (Initial Sanctification)

  • Works initial sanctification (1 Corinthians 6:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2)
  • Works justification (forgiveness) (1 Corinthians 6:11, Titus 3:5)
  • Works regeneration (John 3:5-8, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Titus 3:5, Colossians 2:12-13)
  • Gives life (John 6:63, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Galatians 5:25)
  • Circumcises the heart (Romans 2:29, Colossians 2:11)
  • Frees us from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2)

Indwelling Work (Progressive Sanctification)

The gift of the Spirit is his permanent indwelling presence (John 7:39, John 14:17, Acts 2:38, Acts 5:32, Acts 8:15-17, Acts 9:17, Acts 10:44-47, Acts 11:17, Acts 15:8, Acts 19:1-7, Romans 5:5, Romans 8:9, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 2:12, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Corinthians 7:40, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Galatians 3:2, Galatians 3:5, Galatians 3:14, Ephesians 2:22, Ephesians 3:16-17, 1 Thessalonians 4:8, 2 Timothy 1:14, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 4:14, 1 John 3:24, 1 John 4:13)

What the Indwelling Spirit Signifies

  • Serves as a proof of belonging to Christ (Romans 8:9)
  • Serves as a proof and witness of our sonship (Romans 8:14-16, Galatians 4:6)
  • Serves as a seal (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30)
  • Serves as a guarantee and promise of future resurrection (Romans 8:10-11, Romans 8:23, 2 Corinthians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:5, Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30)

General Benefits of the Indwelling Spirit

  • Incorporates and unifies us with other believers (1 Corinthians 12:13)
  • Is the basis of unity of all believers (Ephesians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 12:13)
  • Gives us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)
  • Is a conduit for God’s love (Romans 5:5)
  • Is divine fellowship (2 Corinthians 13:14, Philippians 2:1, Hebrews 6:4)

Specific Workings of the Indwelling Spirit

  • Helps us in our progressive sanctification (Romans 15:16, 2 Corinthians 3:8, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Galatians 3:3, Galatians 5:22)
  • Strengthens us in our inner being (Ephesians 3:16)
  • Aids us in our hope (Romans 15:13, Galatians 5:5)
  • Helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26, Philippians 1:19)
  • Intercedes for us in prayer (Romans 8:26, Ephesians 6:18)
  • Intercedes for us in general (Romans 8:27)
  • Fills us (Ephesians 5:18)
  • We worship by the Spirit (Philippians 3:3)
  • We can pray in the Spirit (Jude 1:20)
  • Comforts believers (Acts 9:31)
  • Fills with joy and peace (Acts 13:52, Romans 14:17)
  • Leads us in spiritual living (Romans 8:4-6, Romans 8:13-14, 2 Corinthians 3:3, Galatians 5:16-18)
  • Leads us to eternal life (Galatians 6:8)
  • Leads in evangelism efforts (Acts 8:29, Acts 10:19-20, Acts 11:12, Acts 13:2, Acts 13:4, Acts 16:6-7, Acts 19:21, Acts 20:22-23)
  • Empowers for evangelism (*Acts 1:8, Acts 4:8, Acts 4:31, 1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 1 Peter 1:12, Revelation 22:17)
  • Empowers spiritual gifts (Acts 2:4, Acts 2:33, Acts 7:55, Acts 11:24, Romans 15:19, 1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Corinthians 14, Galatians 3:5, Ephesians 1:17, Hebrews 2:4)
  • Strengthens through gifts (Romans 1:11)
  • Empowers speech (Matthew 10:20, Mark 13:11, Luke 12:12, Acts 6:10)
  • Empowers prophecy (Luke 1:67, Acts 2:17-18, Acts 11:28, Acts 21:4, Acts 21:11, 2 Peter 1:21)
  • Empowers/teaches knowledge of the future (Luke 2:26, John 16:13, 1 Timothy 4:1, 1 Peter 1:11)
  • Teaches and brings recall (John 14:26 (speaking to the Apostles))
  • Guides into truth (John 16:13 (speaking to the Apostles), 1 Corinthians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 2:13, Ephesians 3:5, Hebrews 9:8)
  • Aids in church leadership (Acts 15:28)
  • Gives gifts of church leadership (Acts 20:28, Ephesians 4:8-12)

The Spirit indwells believers in order to bring about God’s purposes for them. It is God’s presence with us and in us. This fellowship with the Spirit is the realization here and now of the salvation that God has worked for believers. And also, having the indwelling Spirit is God’s promise that we will take part in the full future realization of salvation—the redemption of our bodies at the end of all things, which is not really an end, but another beginning (2 Corinthians 5:1-5, Ephesians 4:30).  

Coming up in Part 10, I will examine the Old Covenant “ondwelling” Spirit.


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