DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT LIVE IN US?
Most Christians today believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of each believer. I have questioned that belief for some time. This paper is an attempt to explain why I questioned this view and my conclusions, based, of course, on Scripture.
I must say at the outset that both the NIV and the King James translations are not very helpful in the study of this subject. The reason I say that is because, as I’m sure most students of God’s Word are aware, the Greek rarely capitalizes proper nouns. When we read of the Holy Spirit (with upper case letters) in English translations, we are reading an interpretation of the text, not a translation. That is to say, when the translators put capital H, capital S they are not translating the text, they are interpreting it. The same is true when the translators put small h, small s. As students of God’s Word we have the privilege and the responsibility of studying the passages that have to do with the Holy Spirit and decide, with His help, when “He” is meant and when it is not.
One reason that I question that the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of man, is that basically, man is sinful and as such can not dwell with God. We read in Psalm 5: 4, “……. with You (God) the wicked can not dwell“. But in Rom.7:17-18 we read where Paul writes, “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature …..”. Can God, in His office of Holy Spirit dwell in the heart of Man with a sinful nature?
Another reason for my question centers on Is. 48:16, “And now the sovereign Lord has sent me and His Spirit”. Isaiah was a prophet of God, it is clear that he was anointed with power from the Holy Spirit. In this passage however, he tells us that he has been sent by God with the Holy Spirit to preach God’s message. That implies that the Holy Spirit is accompanying him, not in him. If the Holy Spirit was in Isaiah then it would not have been necessary for the Holy Spirit to accompany Isaiah.
Another reason for my questioning is found in Eph. 4:24, which reads, “put on the new self created to be like God”. If the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers, why is it necessary for us to “put on the new self”? Surely nothing else is required if the Holy Spirit Himself were indwelling the believer.
Let us also consider I Jn. 3:24, “He abideth in us by the spirit He hath given us”. What this verse says is that the Holy Spirit abides in us by the new nature. If, as this verse says, the Holy Spirit abides in us by the new nature, then obviously it is not God in His office of Holy Spirit that abides in us, it is the new nature. And if the Holy Spirit dwells in us “by” the new nature, why would He Himself also abide in us?
Yet another reason is found in Rom. 8:16, “The Spirit testifies with our spirit….”. Is Paul saying here that the Holy Spirit Who lives in our hearts testifies with the Holy Spirit Who lives in our hearts? That makes no sense. I believe that he is saying that the Holy Spirit testifies with the new nature, which is given to each believer.
One more reason is found in II Peter 1:3-4, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”. This passage tells us that through the new nature, we participate in the divine nature. If the Holy Spirit dwells in us, why would we need a new nature?
But many are confused by I Cor. 3:16 which reads, “Know ye not that ye are the Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”. The Greek word translated “in” is “en” which, when used with a plural can be “among”. I believe that this verse is saying that the Holy Spirit dwells among us. Further, we read in Luke 17:21 of Christ’s statement to the Pharisees, “…..the kingdom of God is within (Gr. “en”) you”. We know that the Pharisees were not believers and therefore the kingdom of God was certainly not “within” them. The kingdom of God was among them in the Person of the King Himself. But again, not within them. If we fail to see the importance of “en” with the plural meaning “among” we have a glaring contradiction in the Word of God, which is not possible.
Further, the “of” in the phrase, “the Spirit of God dwelleth” is, in my opinion, the Genitive of Origin. That is to say, it is the spirit from God that dwelleth among us.
(For a complete study of the subject please see the paper on spirit which discusses every occurrence of the Hebrew and Greek words translated “spirit”.)
THE GIFT OF THE NEW NATURE GIVEN BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO EACH BELIEVER
I have expressed the reasons for my belief that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in each believer. But what God does do, in His infinite grace and wisdom, is to give each believer a gift from the Holy Spirit so that through this gift God communicates with His own and we communicate with Him.
I have used the term “new nature” for this gift that is given by the Holy Spirit to believers even though that term is not used in the Bible. I have done so because that gift is spirit, and to refer to it as “spirit” can make a very complex study even more difficult to understand. Also, I believe that many are at least aware of E. W. Bullinger’s writings on this spirit and they would be comfortable with the term “new nature”.
In John 3:6 we read, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit”. Let us examine the scriptures that have to do with the spirit living in the believer and then see what we can learn about this wonderful and gracious gift from the Holy Spirit, i.e. the spirit to which the Spirit gives birth.
I will first quote the verses that concern this gift and where needed offer a different translation and my reasons for it. Then, in the following section, I will try to pull all these verses together so that we can have an idea based on Scripture of the Holy Spirit’s gift to each believer.
Rom. 5:5, “….the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” . This verse can, and, in my opinion should, read “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the holy spirit ( i.e. the new nature) which He has given us”.
Rom. 8:3-6, ” …. And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what the nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit (can also read spirit) have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” The contrast here is between the “sinful nature” and the spirit. I believe that this spirit is the new nature. That is to say, the old nature is put in contrast to the new nature.
Rom. 8:9-14, “You however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit (can also be spirit) of God lives in you. And if any one does not have the Spirit (can also be spirit) of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit (can also be spirit) of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give you life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit (can also be spirit) who (KJV has “that”) lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit (can also be spirit) you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit (can also be spirit) of God are sons of God”. May I remind the reader that the Greek language rarely uses capital letters for proper nouns, not even for God, so the upper case letters and the lower case letters are interpretations, not translations. Here again the spirit is put in contrast with the old nature. Is it God Who is being contrasted with our old nature? I cannot believe that it is. I believe it is the new nature that is being put in contrast to the old nature. Again, as we put all these passages together, we will, I hope, have a clearer understanding of the spirit given to the believer and therefore be better able to determine when Scripture refers to the gift and when to the Giver.
Rom. 8:23, “… we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”. The “firstfruits of the Spirit” is not God in His office of Holy Spirit. How can God be a firstfruits? In my opinion, that concept is demeaning to God. The “of” is the Genitive of origin, which the Companion Bible Ap. 17 defines as, “This marks the source from which anything has its origin”. So Paul is saying that we have the firstfruits from the Spirit”. I believe the new nature is that firstfruits.
I Cor. 2:9-12 reads, 9) “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. 10) But God hath revealed them unto us by His spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11) For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God. 12) Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
Note that verse 11 contrasts the spirit of man with the spirit of God. Obviously this is not a contrast between the sinful spirit of man and God in His office of Holy Spirit. The “of” in this case is in the Genitive of origin and means “the source”, i.e. the spirit coming from God. It is a contrast between the old nature of man and the new nature which comes from God.
Also, note in verse 12 that there is once again a contrast, this time between “the spirit of the world” and “the spirit which is of (should be “from”, Genitive of origin) God”. Again, I believe that the contrast is between the old nature and the new nature. And note what that new nature is said to do for those who have it, “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” Given that the context is about knowing the deep things of God, I think we may conclude that the things freely given are those deep things of God. In short, the new nature, i.e. the spirit given to believers from God, helps us to search out the deep things of God.
I Cor. 2:14, “The man without the Spirit (can also be spirit) does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”. The phrase, “things that come from the Spirit of God” refers to God in His office of Holy Spirit. What is it then that man needs in order to accept the things that come from the Holy Spirit? Consider that as we read in I Cor. 2:11, “the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of (Genitive of Origin, “from”) God”. In other words, verse 11 of this passage tells us that man can know the things of God through the spirit (i.e. the new nature), and verse 14 tells us the same thing only in the negative, i.e. the man without the new nature cannot accept the things from God.