The Holy Spirit: Dwelling in us

The Holy Spirit is not only with us as Christians but we are also told that He dwells in every Christian. However, there is a distinction between being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and what the Bible calls being “filled with the Holy Spirit”.

This study looks at the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and filling of a Christian and the effect this has on their life. It also looks at when we receive the Holy Spirit.

Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit

“Do ye not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God; and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6v19).

“But ye are not in flesh but in Spirit, if indeed God's Spirit dwell in you; but if any one has not the Spirit of Christ he is not of him” (Romans 8v9).

“I give you therefore to know, that no one, speaking in the power of the Spirit of God, says, Curse on Jesus; and no one can say, Lord Jesus, unless in the power of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12v13).

“In whom ye also [have trusted], having heard the word of the truth, the glad tidings of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, ye have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1v13).

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which ye have been sealed for [the] day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4v30).

“The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God.” (Romans 8v16).

The Holy Spirit is dwelling within the believer. He has taken up residence within us at the request of the Son and by the will of the Father. He empowers the members of the Church in a special way that was not available to those in previous dispensations. It is by the Spirit that we are first able to say at our conversion and beyond, “Lord Jesus”. Our bodies have become temples of the Holy Spirit where he is now dwelling. Indeed, the scripture says that we are now 'in Spirit' because anyone who has not the Holy Spirit is not Christ’s and therefore is not saved! So if we have accepted the Lord Jesus as our saviour and have asked Him to save us, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. May we come to appreciate this more and more! So the Spirit now declares that we are children of God, having been born again by His work and will. Also we have been sealed as His, much like a parcel is sealed with an address indicating its destination, thus we also have been sealed by the Spirit to be carried with Him to our heavenly destination at that day of final redemption when the Lord comes for us.

Being 'filled with the Holy Spirit'

In the Old Testament and before Christ in the New Testament there are definite examples of people being filled with the Holy Spirit. See Exodus 31v3 (Bezaleel, son of Uri), Micah 3v8 (Micah), Luke 1v15 (John the Baptist), Luke 1v41 (Elizabeth), Luke 1v67 (Zacharias), Luke 2 (Simeon)

“And be not drunk with wine, in which is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5v18).

“And there appeared to them parted tongues, as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with [the] Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave to them to speak forth.” (Acts 2v3-4).

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, Rulers of the people and elders of Israel.” (Acts 4v8).

“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4v31).

“But Saul, who also is Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixing his eyes upon him” (Acts 13v9).

"And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13v52)

“But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall no way fulfil flesh's lust.” (Galatians 5v16).

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8v14)

“And Ananias went and entered into the house; and laying his hands upon him he said, Saul, brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus that appeared to thee in the way in which thou camest, that thou mightest see, and be filled with [the] Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9v17).

There are definite examples of people being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ throughout the scriptures. In the Old Testament it happened to persons who were marked out for special service by God and the Holy Spirit came upon them to empower them for that service. It was not the lot of every Israelite and certainly didn’t mark someone all the time as it was connected to maintaining a pure state (see the Nazarite, also the life of Samson and 1 Samuel 16v14). The Holy Spirit has indwelt only the Church which began at Pentecost so there is something special about being filled with the Holy Spirit.

The scriptures above make clear that being filled with the Spirit is something that should mark a Christian constantly. The Holy Spirit seems to have particularly been noticed during moments of great testimony or witness (see “The Holy Spirit: His service”). The disciples were directed, given boldness, given joy and able to work miracles by the Spirit. The Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit but there are times when we particularly feel His power and help, especially when we are 'walking in the Spirit' and allowing ourselves to be 'led by the Spirit'. If we disregard the Holy Spirit's working in us or give greater place in our lives to fulfilling the flesh's lusts we cannot expect to be walking in the full power of the Spirit. He will not abandon us for He is the Comforter in the absence of the Lord, neither can anything we do remove the cleansing power of the Lord's blood, therefore the Holy Spirit will never leave us but His witness in our lives may be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5v19). It should be our daily exercise to make sure that the Holy Spirit is having His rightful place in our lives so that we can, not only be indwelt by Him, but that, with everything of ourselves gone, we can be filled with His presence. It is then that we can experience the joy in times of trial, boldness in the gospel and power to overcome the flesh (for the Spirit is against the flesh: Galatians 5v17). God has given us His Holy Spirit but we now must ask Him for strength to appreciate that gift and to be constantly conscious of His presence.

What characterises someone who is filled by the Holy Spirit?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control: against such things there is no law. But they that are] of the Christ have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts. If we live by the Spirit, let us walk also by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5v22-25).

There are characteristics which are not found in the natural man which give evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence. The presence of the Spirit does not bring chaos or loudness but rather peace and joy. The Christian will be loving, peaceful, meek, not given to a temper, shouting or sudden changes of mood, but marked by a meek, quiet and loyal spirit with self-control.

There are some fundamental differences between the character of the Holy Spirit in the believer and the character of the sinner influenced by Satan. The believer is indwelt and influenced by the Holy Spirit; the unsaved sinner is influenced by Satan. Satan also has spirits which take possession of men. It would be valuable for a believer to test every spirit by comparing their different effects seen in the scriptures.

Men were sometimes brought to the Lord possessed by other spirits. For examples see Luke 7v21, Luke 9v42,Acts 8v7, Acts 19v14-16, Luke 8v2, 1 Samuel 28 and Acts 16v16. There are some characteristics marking out wicked spirits. First, once they are allowed to take possession of a person they take complete control and the person is no longer able to control themselves (see Mark 5 and Luke 8). Secondly the spirits can often speak through the people they are possessing. Thirdly, they aim to completely humiliate and degrade their victim making them act in an unseemly way, often naked. Fourthly, they give their victim great physical power such as great strength or enable them to do magic arts, capable of great acts (see Exodus 7v11). Finally, they may make much of the person under their influence bringing admiration or fear upon others around them. All this is intended to make much of the person and ultimately keep them from God. Every example given in scripture was healed by the Lord Jesus. People with the spirit of python were released and people possessed by demons were healed; the disciples even being given power over them by the Lord (Matthew 10v1, Mark 6v7, Luke 9v1).

In contrast the characteristics of someone filled by the Holy Spirit are very different. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer claiming them for God, but He does not remove their responsibility to act in accordance with His presence, in other words a believer is not possessed unable to control themselves but can now have self-control over the will of the flesh and its lusts. The Holy Spirit empowers people to speak and gives the words to say but He does not take over their lips and voice, speaking for them. The Holy Spirit also wants to glorify the new creation in a Christian in the presence of God helping them to appreciate the place of sonship. Therefore the joy and blessing of His presence does not go along with stupidity, buffoonery, low resistance to lusts and lack of control (see Ephesians 5v1-6) but rather a meek and quiet spirit of service to God. The Holy Spirit is the power of the believer and will act in a way which is in accordance with His will for the glory of God, for He will never make much of the Christian but rather the God of the Christian. Thus finally, the work of the Holy Spirit will bring people to God with the serving Christian disappearing out of sight.

The disciples, for example, at Pentecost were marked by boldness and had self-control. Thus Peter was able to easily dismiss the claims that they were drunk; standing up and preaching the gospel. They were not marked by changing emotions or feelings but joy, peace and boldness in the gospel.

Let us keep these distinctions in mind to help us "prove the spirits" (1 John 4v1). A spirit of Satan will make much of men to keep them from God, but the Holy Spirit will always make much of God and nothing of man. The Christian, marked by the Spirit, will have new life, joy and peace, not being marked by the things of the flesh also seen in Galatians 5.

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