(1) The Fact of the Spirit’s Indwelling

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This is admittedly one of the most difficult topics we have tackled thus far. The difficulty, for one, lies in the fact that we in our modern language are attempting to understand one of the most baffling subjects tackled by the ancients, portrayed in their language, with their first century cultural background, idioms, and grammatical construction. There is a great chasm that separates us and the people of the New Testament times. New Testament Greek, being a dead language, is static (and thank God because this limits our search); while modern languages keep changing and dialects keep multiplying as knowledge grows. Every generation of men and women since the time of William Tyndale looks for a Bible translation they can comfortably read and connect with, and translations are every generation of translators’ way of trying to look at the Book and telling us what it means. There is no perfect translation. I am saying this at the outset of this discussion because we sometimes insist on arguments based on the points that we have lifted from the Bible translations. Let’s us take the discussion to the much higher plane. Go to the Greek New Testament. What do the ancients say?

I call this series of studies “The Holy Spirit’s Indwelling: A Second Look at the Doctrine that Baffles Religious People.” A second look is necessary because of the caveat against false teachers (1 John 4:1). In obedience to this injunction, we test the spirits of those who are in our own backyard and in other backyards. In the book of Acts there is also an example of disciples who, listening to an inspired apostle, received the Word with open hearts (meta pases prothumias, “with all eagerness”) but examined the Scriptures daily whether those things were so (cf. Acts 17:11). We are not to take everything everybody is saying as gospel truth.

The “indwelling of the Spirit” is not “incarnation.” We are not talking here of the incarnating Spirit. To be incarnate is to be “in flesh.” Jesus, while in heaven, was God (John 1:1), or was in God’s form (Philippians 2:6), but when He came to earth He became flesh (John 1:14), He became incarnate. Yet is said that He received the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). Without measure means not in a limited degree, but fully, completely. While he was on earth, Jesus spoke and ministered and performed miracles with the Spirit’s assistance (cf. Matthew 12:28).

I have heard this being argued somewhere. The proponent of the theory, insisting that the Holy Spirit dwells in him bodily, also insists that he has given flesh to the Holy Spirit, that his body becomes the home of the Spirit. This is arguing from the point of English grammar, because to “indwell” also means to “dwell in.” The Holy Spirit literally dwelling in the body of a sinful person? Does the Spirit go wherever you go, move wherever you move? If the argument is pushed to its logical conclusions, the proponent, not having logical answers ready, would resort to sophistry. And sophistry is false logic.

The Bible never speaks of the indwelling of the Spirit in Christians as an “incarnation.”

“Literal indwelling of the Spirit”? If the Holy Spirit literally, personally dwells in you, then the third member of the Godhead has become much smaller. He must become small in order to really, literally, personally dwell in you. (If you don’t accept these conclusions, it is probably because you have a pretty limited concept of what the word “literally” means).

But, you insist, the Holy Spirit could fit inside you because He dwells in you spiritually. You however have no Scripture evidence to prove this. You have abandoned “literal indwelling,” and now you have been willing to embrace the “spiritual indwelling” theory. But the idea of a Spirit dwelling in man “spiritually” is actually redundant and does not mean anything. Besides, you have no proof for this. Your notion is no proof.

Also, if the Spirit of God dwells in you spiritually, then you must admit that He also indwells you in some other way than spiritual. He must do this if you think He is omnipotent. If not, why not?

Now, if he dwells in you spiritually, snugly fitted inside you, then you must admit that He does not dwell in you literally. Also, if He fits inside you, then He ceases to be omnipresent. If you want Him to be omnipresent, then you have to distribute Him. The Spirit is in you now, also in him, also in others. You have turned Him into slices of something of which He is not (cf. Isaiah 55:8). You have humanized your God.

Another question: Why does He need to be snugly fitted inside you?

Have you noticed that “literal indwelling” is just a terminology men have invented which finds no precedent in the Scriptures? In my many years of listening to brethren claiming that the Holy Spirit actually, literally and personally dwells in them, I have never heard them say what the Holy Spirit precisely says or does while He is inside them. Does He communicate to you in Hiligaynon? In Ilocano? In Cebuano? In English? In a trance? Through vision? Does He nudge you? Can you feel it when He is inside you? Do you consult Him? Does He consult you?

You claim to have the literal personal indwelling and yet perform no miracles. Others claim the same literal personal indwelling and also claim to perform wonders. You are correct in not claiming you could do miracles; he is wrong in claiming he could. But the burden of proof now lies on both of you. Where does it say that the Spirit literally and personally dwells in both of you? Will the Spirit dwell in the bodies of people who are worlds apart in points of doctrine?

Does the word “filled with the Spirit” mean “literally filled”? Does it also mean “literally indwelt” by the Spirit? Two apostles were said to be sent forth by the Spirit (Acts 13:4); does this mean “indwelt” by the Spirit? One apostle, “filled with the Spirit,” blinded a sorcerer (Acts 13:8-12). If you think this means he was “indwelt by the Spirit,” may I remind you that the ancients never spoke this way, and if you want to know you may go to a Bible lexicon. It is just your notion telling you that “being filled with the Spirit” means being “indwelt by the Spirit.” You see what you are doing? You are trying to clothe an ancient idiom with your 21st century notion. The word “filled,” as in “filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:9), is the Greek plestheis, aorist passive participle of pimplemi, which means to be “filled with external perceptible things”; it may also be used to describe a man’s inner life, as in “filled with enthusiasm”; it also means to be “satiated” with something. It does not mean “indwelt with.” (See Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 658).

No mention of indwelling in Acts 13:8-12. So you have a man not Spirit-indwelt who performed a miracle.

Not a long time ago I listened to an actor (his name is in the forefront of protests against the Arroyo administration) telling us on TV about all the good things the Holy Spirit had directly led him to do, all of them worldly and material in nature, including what brand of a car to buy, what business to engage in. Apparently he had been deceived into thinking that with the Spirit living in him literally and personally, everything he does and would do, including instigating protests and supporting acts of rebellion against the constituted authority, was right and lawful. He claimed to be a Spirit-indwelt, miracle-working leader of their group, and said the Holy Spirit did some nudging to him as he went car-shopping.

The Holy Spirit of Promise. We sometimes argue that the Holy Spirit had been promised to the apostles only, using Luke 24:48 and Acts 1:8. Strictly speaking what was promised them was the power from on high. This power came when the Holy Ghost came on Pentecost day, accompanied by the sound of the rushing mighty wind and the appearance of cloven tongues like as of fire which sat on each one of them. Filled with the Holy Ghost they each spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance.

We argue that because it has not been promised us, we are not entitled to the power that came with the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Correct. Not everyone receives the promised bonuses and perks, except only those who have been promised these perks and bonuses.

Holy Spirit baptism a promise, not a command? That’s a cute way of saying it. Very simplistic. The apostles were promised the power (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8), yes, but they were also commanded to tarry in Jerusalem until they be endued with that power (Acts 1:4). The transaction involved both a promise and a command. Had they not followed the command to wait in the city, they would not have received the power that was promised them.

During the long haul, one’s interpretation sometimes gets an overhaul.

Acts 2:38. This passage talks about the gift of the Holy Spirit and there’s no denying that this is also a promise. “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” By baptism one puts on Christ (Gal. 3:27). By baptism he also becomes a newborn creature (John 3:3-6; Romans 6:3-6). The three thousand were commanded to repent and be baptized; after baptism they received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. “Repent” (Greek, metanoesate, aorist imperative active) and “be baptized” (Greek, baptistheto, aorist imperative passive) are both commands.

Is dorea the Holy Spirit Himself? Now, what is the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Greek, dorean tou hagiou pneumatos)? In the New Testament dorea is used to refer to spiritual gift (John 4:10); to supernatural gift (Acts 8:20); the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:17); the gift of grace (Romans 5:15; Eph. 3:7); the gift of liberality (2 Cor. 9:15); the heavenly gift (Heb. 6:4); the gift of Christ (Eph. 4:7); the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17).

It is argued that Acts 2:38 contains an epexegetical clause. For example, in Romans 5:17, the “gift of righteousness” is not the gift coming or originating from righteousness, but righteousness itself, in which case, it is translated, the “gift, which is righteousness.” Acts 2:38 is also interpreted as epexegetical, “the gift, which is the Holy Spirit.” May we be forewarned however that this is just an interpretation, that we are arguing from implication, not from explication, and that the passage does not directly say the gift is the Holy Spirit Himself.

We have also have lined up above the different uses of the word dorea, the very word translated as “gift” in Acts 2:38. But other words than dorea have also been translated “gift.” Therefore when you see the word “gift” in your English Bible do not immediately conclude it is dorea, and when you see dorea, do not immediately say it means “Holy Spirit”!

Is the dorea salvation from sins? A minister of the gospel has this objection: “If the Holy Spirit is the ‘the gift,’ that is, the personal indwelling in each Christian, why did Peter use the word ‘gift’ at all? Why didn’t Peter simply say: ‘You shall receive the Holy Spirit,’ rather than ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit’? In John 20:22, Jesus said to His apostles, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ Definitely the promise was that they were to receive the Holy Spirit Himself in some way and not some ‘gift’ that the Holy Spirit would give. On Pentecost, the obedient believers were promised a ‘gift’ that the Holy Spirit would give them as a result of their obedience to the gospel message. What was the gift they received? The forgiveness of their sins! Salvation! Redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ!” (Click here: The Examiner).

Now read Acts 2:38 (RSV) and try making some substitution: “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the FORGIVENESS OF SINS.” How does that sound?

There is no need to make war over Acts 2:38. Both interpretations are based on implications, and implications are just our conclusions. Are there wise men in both camps of this Holy Spirit indwelling controversy? I think there are. “Do any of you have wisdom and insight? Show this by living the right way with the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13, God’s Word, courtesy of WordSearch).

Acts 2:38 is the only passage that speaks of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit AFTER baptism. By baptism here we mean baptism in water. Acts 11:17, paired with Acts 10:44, speaks of the Holy Spirit falling on the household of Cornelius BEFORE they were baptized in water (Acts 10:47). In short: the three thousand got it AFTER baptism; the household of Cornelius BEFORE baptism.

We have just shown that Acts 2:38 does not explicitly say that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the Holy Spirit itself. Neither does it mean “salvation” or “forgiveness from sins.” What is it? I don’t know. I don’t like to venture an opinion that would later on be proven to be wrong.

Acts 5:32. This passage, together with Acts 2:38, is used to buttress our contention that “every disciple who submits himself to the Lord’s command to be baptized not only receives the forgiveness of sins but also the gift of the Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit.” Acts 5:32 says, “And we are his witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (KJV).

Here we find the irate high priest and the equally irate group of people, majority of whom probably belonged to the Sadducean sect, ganging up on the apostles (Acts 5:17-18). Prior to this, the apostles had been strictly commanded not to teach in the name of Christ Jesus, but instead they filled Jerusalem with their teaching (Acts 5:28)! Not only were the apostles accused of teaching a doctrine that runs counter to Sadduceeism–the teaching about the resurrected Jesus! — but they also were trying to hold these religious authorities accountable for the death of Jesus (”you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us!”). In the face of this unbelievably strong pressure, Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)!

Peter irritated them the more by preaching a mini-sermon covering the key points of Christ’s death, His resurrection and His glorification. Peter blamed them for crucifying Jesus. But God (who was also the God of the Sadducees and of their counterparts the Pharisees) subverted their plan by raising up Jesus from the grave, and by exalting Him to His right hand as Prince and Savior, to grant repentance to the nation of Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31). If I were a Jew living in strict conformity to the law, the doctrine about a crucified God is too much for me to swallow. And if I were a Sadducean high priest confronting a rebellious Jewish preacher just fresh from prison, a rebel Jew who was imprisoned for performing a miracle, a miracle done in the name of the Man whom we had just crucified as a common criminal, how would I react? I would be enraged!

Then Peter said, “And we are the witnesses of these things [or, these words]” (literal translation of Acts 5:32a). What did Peter mean? (1) That they were witnesses of Christ’s death, his resurrection and his ascension into glory; (2) That they were witnesses of the words they were preaching. They were witnesses of what they had seen and heard.

And he added that the Holy Spirit also was an additional witness. “And so is also the Holy Ghost.” God the Father resurrected Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit had equipped them to preach with boldness. The religious establishment opposed Peter and the apostles because they were small, insignificant personalities. But oppose the Spirit they could not. They probably remembered what Jesus had said about this Spirit (Matthew 12:32).

The rest of the passage reads, “And so is also the Holy Ghost whom God GAVE to the ones obeying Him” (Acts 5:32b).

The verb “gave” is Alfred Marshall’s translation of the Greek verb edoken, which is aorist indicative active. It is indicative because it is a simple statement of facts. Active because the subject of the verb, “God,” is the one doing the action. It is aorist in its tense, and is referring to the past action of giving. It is a done thing, finished, fulfilled.

Concerning the aorist, J. Gresham Machen says, “The aorist is like the imperfect in that it refers to past time. But the imperfect refers to continuous action in past time, while the aorist is the simple past tense…The Greek language shows no tendency whatever to confuse the aorist with the imperfect” (New Testament Greek for Beginners, pp. 81-85).

If you use Acts 5:32 to apply to every case of Christians baptized today for the remission of their sins, saying he receives the Holy Spirit after he has obeyed the command of baptism, you will surely encounter some problems with one who knows Greek grammar.

I have not made up my mind on what conclusions to make of this discovery. But if you have a better explanation (not one you just copied from Leo Boles, B. W. Johnson, David Lipscomb, or other “restorers”), I am willing to listen to it.

Boles, Johnson and Lipscomb were good scholars, and I learned so much from reading them, but…

I stand here, holding a glass, and I want to drink from that faucet. Some of us may be contented with drinking from that jug which they have passed on to us. If this is the kind of scholar that you are, then let’s be at peace. I am not going to convince you to change. But I want to go ahead and drink from that faucet myself. To be an independent thinker is my choice.

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