Summary: This is a basic overview of the doctrine of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the Christian. We examine when, how, and why the Spirit dwells in the child of God.
When one obeys the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they receive the Holy Spirit. Paul asked the Galatian brethren (3:2): "This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit from the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?" The Spirit was not received through their observing the Law of Moses but, instead, through the Gospel. They heard it with faith which caused them to obey it.
This would be in harmony with Peter’s words in Acts 5:32, "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, Whom God has given to those who obey Him."
It was Peter who had announced earlier, on that day of the the founding of the Church, in Acts 2:38-39, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."
What does it mean to receive the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead, personally comes to dwell within the Christian. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19, "do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" Just as God dwelt in the temple in Jerusalem under the Old Covenant, the Spirit of God dwells in our bodies under the New Covenant.
The indwelling of the Spirit is not the ’baptism of the Holy Spirit’ which the Apostles and Cornelius received; nor is it the miraculous gifts given to some members of the early Church to enable congregations to carry-on their work and worship until the formulation of the written New Testament - those powers to reveal, confirm and record the New Covenant.
Why does the Holy Spirit come to dwell in us? What is His purpose?
1. The Spirit’s Indwelling Is A Mark of God’s Ownership, That We Are One of His Own.
Romans 8:9, "...the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." 1 John 4:13, "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit."
Paul states that the Spirit is God’s official ’seal’: Ephesians 1:13, "In Him [Christ], you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation - having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise."
2. The Spirit is God’s pledge or ’down payment’ on What We Have Been Promised in Heaven.
God has granted to us many precious promises concerning our eternal inheritance in Heaven. We look forward to the our immortal glorified bodies, mansion, our robe and crown. We are told that the Spirit is granted to us as a pledge, surety, or down payment of what we will one day take possession of.
Ephesians 1:13-14, "the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory."
2 Corinthians 5:4-5, "For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He Who prepared us for this very purpose is God, Who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge."
Before we move to the next purpose of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, there is some-thing we need to know. We have learned that we receive the Spirit when we obey the Gospel.
However, according to 1 John 3:24, the Spirit will only remain with us as long as we continue to obey the Lord’s commandments: "And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him [God], and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit Whom He has given us."
The Holy Spirit is just that, a Spirit of purity and righteousness. He desires to live in a holy, undefiled dwelling. But that leads us to our next point -
3. The Indwelling Holy Spirit Provides the Means To Overcome Our Fleshly Nature.
Beginning with the ’new birth’, when the Spirit is given to one, there is the encounter of the Holy Spirit with our "flesh" or carnal nature.
Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please."