Some reputable, knowledgeable and faithful brethren believe in the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians. I respectfully disagree with them for the following reasons:
1. Nowhere does the Bible state that the Spirit dwells personally in a Christian. Admittedly, the Holy Spirit dwells in God’s children. To deny this is to deny plain passages of Scripture. Paul wrote, “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (2 Tim. 1:14; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 8:9). But the issue is not whether the Spirit dwells in us, but how does he dwell - personally or through faith?
Let us notice that God the Father resides in the Christian. John wrote, “God dwelleth in us” (1 Jn. 4:12; cf. vv. 13,15,16). Does God personally dwell in us? John explicitly states that God dwells in us, but I know of no one who maintains his personal Being is in us.
Jesus also dwells in us. Compare the following two Scriptures:
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin (Rom. 8:10).
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you (Rom. 8:9).
Why is it that brethren make Christ’s indwelling in Romans 8:10 representative (through instrumentality), but make the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in Romans 8:9, the verse before, personal? I fail to see the logic of such reasoning (cf. Gal. 2:20 and Col. 1:27 for Christ dwelling in us).
2. A personal indwelling necessitates an incarnation. When Jesus was born, he was God in the flesh. “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt. 1:23).
Jesus’ Being, Entity or Person dwelled in his fleshly body, actually and totally. Hence, an incarnation. Why is not the same thing true if the Holy Spirit, who is God (Deity, Acts 5:3,4), dwells in our bodies personally and totally? There would be just as many incarnations as there are Christians. It would be just as proper to call a Christian “Emmanuel” as it would be to call Jesus by that name.
3. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us is by metonymy of speech. Metonymy of the cause is a figure of speech where the cause is put for the effect. Many times the person acting is put for the thing done. This is true in regard to the Holy Spirit.
Thomas Horne wrote, “A Metonymy of the cause is used in Scripture, when the person acting is put for the thing done, or the instrument by which a thing is done is put for the thing effected, or when a thing or action is put for the effect produced by that action” (Introduction to the Scriptures, Vol. 2, Part 1, p. 454). Horne lists several ways the Holy Spirit is put for the thing done:
a. The Holy Spirit is put for his Effects, as in 2 Corinthians 3:6. b. The Holy Spirit is put for his Operations. c. The Holy Spirit is put for the influences or Gifts of the Spirit, as in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. Quench not the Spirit. d. Spirit also denotes a Divine Power or energy, reigning in the soul of a renewed man. e. More especially the Holy Spirit is put for those peculiar and extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit, which, for various uses, whether public or private, spiritual or temporal, are bestowed on man. f. The Spirit is also put for revelations, visions or ecstasies, whether really from the Holy Spirit, or pretended to be so (Ibid., pp. 455-456).
E.W. Bullinger makes the same observation as Horne concerning the Spirit being put for the gifts and operations of the Spirit (Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, pp. 540-543). D.R. Dungan says, “God and Christ and the Holy Spirit are frequently mentioned, whereas the result of their efforts in the redemption of the race is intended” (Hermeneutics, p. 271).
“It is inconsistent to contend that Jesus Christ, who is Deity, dwells in us by faith while maintaining the Holy Spirit, who is also Deity, the third person in the Godhead, dwells in us personally. We just as well say that Jesus dwells in us personally as to claim the Holy Spirit does. Both are the same in nature and essence.”
Abraham told the rich man concerning his five brethren, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Lk. 16:29). Moses and the prophets had been dead hundreds of years, but their writings prevailed. Though Moses and the prophets are stated, their writings are meant. Here is a simple example of cause for effect. Moses was read in the synagogues every sabbath day (Acts 15:21), that is, Moses’ law was read.
By metonymy of speech it is easy to see how the Holy Spirit is said to be in all Christians at the same time, namely, through miraculous endowments and gifts during the days of miracles or by his influence and nature that are common to all Christians in every generation.
To the apostles Jesus said of the Spirit, “for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (Jn. 14:17). The Spirit was in the apostles through the power with which he endowed them. Just prior to his ascension Jesus said to his apostles, “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued (clothed, WEW) with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). The word “from” (ek) denotes the same thing as “of” (opo) in Acts 2:17.
Peter, quoting Joel, said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of (from, Marshall’s Interlinear) my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17). The pouring out was the miraculous power, not the Spirit himself. A person is not poured out. What the apostles received was from the Spirit as Acts 2:17 and Luke 24:49 clearly and succinctly states. This was also true of Cornelius and his household as well as all those in the church who received miraculous gifts (cf. Acts 10:45; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Heb. 2:34). God said he would pour out from (apo) his Spirit upon all flesh.
4. We are to be filled with the Spirit. Paul writes, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). “Be filled” is translated from pleurousthe (present passive imperative) which has the import of a command. Being filled with the Spirit is a human effort, progressive in nature, and reflected in life by the fruit of the Spirit. The parallel verse in Colossians 3:16 shows we are filled with the Spirit through the medium of the word of God as we allow it to dwell in us richly.
If we received the Holy Spirit at baptism in his totality, as some interpret Acts 2:38, how could we be filled with the Spirit subsequent to conversion as taught in Ephesians 5:18? If we have the Holy Spirit personally and totally, how could we get any fuller than full?
5. The gift of the Spirit is no more the person of the Spirit than the gift of God and the gift of Christ are their person. Acts 2:38 states we receive the gift of the Spirit after repentance and baptism. Why do some conclude this is the person of the Spirit? Isn’t it just as plausible that the gift is something the Holy Spirit gives us rather than himself?
Jesus said to the woman at Jacob’s Well, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, arid he would have given thee living water” (Jn. 4:10). The gift is not God, but what he gives -living water. Paul wrote, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Eph. 4:7). The gift is not Christ, but the office and function in the church, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11). Christ determines these, not ourselves.
In like-manner the Holy Spirit gives all those whose sins are forgiven through obedience to the gospel a gift, viz., the gift of salvation (cf. Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21). Remission of sins in Acts 2:38 is a condition of salvation, having, therefore, to precede salvation in order to gain deliverance (salvation). Remission of sins and salvation are no more redundant than are “sanctified” and “justified” in 1 Corinthians 6:11. There is a logical sequence in both passages.
It is scriptural and logical to conclude that the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts by faith. Paul said to the Ephesians, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17). If Christ dwells in us by faith, why not the Holy Spirit by the same process?
It is inconsistent to contend that Jesus Christ, who is Deity, dwells in us by faith while maintaining the Holy Spirit, who is also Deity, the third person in the Godhead, dwells in us personally. We just as well say that Jesus dwells in us personally as to claim the Holy Spirit does. Both are the same in nature and essence. We are told that we don’t even sense the indwelling, or experience it, but we just accept it by faith. This seems like a strange concept wherein a Divine Being resides in our bodies and he has no effect on us whatsoever in exercising his mind and characteristics.