This is the eighth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation, available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Followers of Jesus take comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit indwells us. That is, the third person of the Godhead has taken up permanent residence in our human spirits, from which He engages in the lifelong ministry of conforming us to the image of Christ.
While regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings sinners from spiritual death to spiritual life, indwelling is the continuous presence of the Spirit in the temples of believers’ bodies.
Without the Spirit’s continuous abiding in our hearts, we have no assurance of salvation, no soothing balm in times of trouble, no unbroken protection against the Devil’s false claims of ownership, no spiritual growth, and no means by which both the Father and Jesus keep their promise to abide in us forever.
It may be rightly said that the Spirit’s occupancy in our hearts is purchased, not rented. We are bought with a price – the redemptive work of Christ (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23) – and we belong to the One who has promised that the Spirit abides with us forever (John 14:16).
Replacing the temple
A good way to understand the indwelling of the Spirit is in terms of Christians replacing the temple as God’s dwelling place. In the Old Testament, God reveals Himself in a variety of ways to human beings. He speaks in an audible voice. He appears in a burning bush. He rides in a chariot of fire and sits enthroned above the living creatures. He comes in a Christophany as the Angel of the Lord.
Other examples could be cited, but we should remember that God most desires to walk with us “in the garden at the time of the evening breeze” (Gen. 3:8), an intimacy that Adam’s sin ruptured.
In His covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendants, Yahweh establishes a more permanent presence. He appears as a pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness, protecting His people from pharaoh’s army, providing cover from the scorching sun by day, and offering light and warmth by night.
When Moses consecrates the tabernacle, the Shekinah glory enters the Most Holy Place and dwells there until it’s time for the Israelites to break camp and move on. When Solomon dedicates the temple in Jerusalem, the glory again overshadows the structure and resides above the wings of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies. Sadly, it is not to last.
After generations of spiritual adultery, God’s people are on the cusp of divine judgment. The prophet Ezekiel sees the glory of God departing the temple (Ezekiel 8-11), to which the glory does not return, even when Herod’s temple, built centuries later, shines resplendently in the Judean sunshine.
That is, until the Spirit-filled Messiah, who has come to tabernacle with sinful and fallen people (John 1:14), rides triumphantly into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and enters the temple. At last, the glory returns. But the significance of this event is lost on the tone-deaf religious leaders who call, not for Christ’s worship, but His crucifixion. Later, the resurrected and glorified Savior ascends into heaven.
On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit falls on Jesus’ disciples and permanently indwells His new temple – the temple of their bodies. The tabernacle and the temple are no longer the earthly dwelling places of the Shekinah glory. God now resides permanently in the human spirits of those who trust in His Son. It is a breathtaking story of God’s faithfulness to call out, save, and secure those who are His own.
The final chapter is yet to come when our Savior returns, creates new heavens and a new earth, and restores face-to-face intimacy with His glorified saints.
A gift to all believers
The Holy Spirit is a gift of the Father and Son to all believers. Further, the Spirit continues to indwell us, even when we sin, although our sin grieves Him. The security of the believer and the permanent indwelling of the Spirit are inseparable doctrines. And the Spirit’s intimate presence motivates followers of Jesus to holy living.
The Spirit produces many life-changing results in us. He confirms our adoption as children of God; places us into the body of Christ as members of the universal church; seals us; convicts us of our need to confess sins; grants us spiritual gifts for service; helps us understand the Bible, which He authored; empowers our prayer life; enables us to overcome temptation; and produces evidence of His presence in our lives.
The Spirit also reminds us of our irrevocable citizenship in God’s kingdom, even when we sometimes act like vagrants. He works constantly to conform us to the image of Christ – that is, to make us more like Jesus. This is the work of sanctification, which we address in a future column.
Next: Baptism in the Holy Spirit