THE PROCEDURE OF DIVINE INDWELLING

Two items of caution from God: 1. There is only one Holy Spirit. “There is one body and one spirit, just as you are called in one hope of your calling.” (Eph. 4:4)  2. The world is full of counterfeits. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) The Bible gives this warning for a good reason. The right Spirit must indwell us.

When John the Baptist said of Jesus, in Matthew 3, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” it is not possible to pin down the “you” to any individual or group because it would occur over a span of time and it would occur at God’s discretion. Hebrews 2:4 tells us that various “gifts of the Holy Spirit” were given “according to His own will.” One thing is certain, man does not have charge of this to control it.

In Acts 1:2 we read that before Jesus was taken up He “gave commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen.” It is important to remember this. These were chosen men. At verse 5 He said to them, “John truly baptized with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Looking at this promise and observing its fulfillment in Acts 2, we see that the “pouring out” of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was what Jesus referred to as  baptism in the Holy Spirit.

He also promised them special power. At verse 8 Jesus told them, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” When the Spirit came the power came. This was not a random act.  These men were chosen to be His witnesses and God chose to give them power to confirm this fact.

Being baptized in response to the Gospel message is a different thing from being baptized in the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit Himself fell on every person who is baptized, as in Holy Spirit baptism, they would receive power as the apostles did and speak in other tongues as the recipients did in each New Testament case of Holy Spirit baptism. If it were the same action it would produce the same result. But it doesn’t.

In whatever sense the Spirit comes into a person at baptism, in that same sense He remains, for the scripture says many times that He “dwells” in us. To see the difference between the “gift of the Holy Spirit” and the physical presence of the Holy Spirit, look at the picture given of it in Acts chapters 6 and 8.

In chapter 6 they chose seven men who were “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” (Vs.3) One of those chosen was Philip. (Vs. 5) In chapter 8 an angel of the Lord came to Philip and told him to go southward toward Gaza. He was full of the Holy Spirit and yet an angel came and told him to do this. When he got there he found not only the eunuch there but also the Holy Spirit was there. The Spirit spoke to him, telling him to go join the eunuch in the chariot. He was full of the Spirit and yet the Spirit was outside him talking to him. How can this be?

Obviously the Spirit was in him in a non-physical sense.The Bible tells us that God dwells in us, Christ dwells in us, and so does the Holy Spirit. It also says that we are in God and we are in Christ. If we try to see these as physical indwellings it will surely be confusing. Most religious people make this same mistake in regard to Jesus’ statement that the Spirit “will convict the world of sin.” (John 16:8) They miss the process. They fail to see that ”the message preached” is the procedure by which the Spirit does that, so they think the Spirit will personally convince each person.

In the same way that the word is central in that procedure, it is also central to the indwelling of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus expressed it this way: “If anyone loves me he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23)

John pictured it this way: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either. He who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (1 John 3:23-24) Obviously then if the word abides in us the Godhead abides in us and we abide in them. This what the Bible says, not my theory.

We may not be capable of understanding this fully but we can accept it by faith. Consider the fact that God’s word is living and powerful. God does not have to leave heaven and execute what His word orders. “It will accomplish what I send it to do.” (Isaiah 55:11)

But there is another concept of Spirit action, one that human minds conjure up, especially pagan cultures. God called that an “abomination.” In Deut. 18 when the Israelites were about to enter Canaan, God warned them that the land was full of pagans who apply occult principles in their worship. He listed several specific items of it such as “diviners, interpreters of omens, soothsayers,” etc.and said, “The lord your God has not appointed such for you.” He said the people of the land do such things and that was why He was driving out those nations from before the Israelites. He said “All who do such things are an abomination.”

Since the whole category of pagan concepts is extremely offensive to God, it is very important that we avoid being influenced by them in trying to relate to God. We can do this by holding closely to the Spirit’s own specifications. God takes good care of the things beyond natural law that need to happen. Let’s take care to do our job, which is obedience, and let the Spirit do His job in His own way.

Think about some facts. The Bible says there is one Holy Spirit, yet He dwells in many people at the same time. Obviously the meaning is not that the Spirit Himself leaves heaven and comes down and is incarnated physically in each one of us. That is the way pagans would think of it. There is another sense in which He dwells in us. When John said “Test the spirits” he also specified what the measurement standard is. At verse 13 he said, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.” It is a mistake to isolate such a statement and interpret it according to human concepts. Rather, look at what else John said in the same place. In the previous verse he said, “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love has been perfected in us.” If God leaves heaven and comes down to be in us when we love one another, we would see Him. But no one has seen God.

At verse 6 he said, “We are of God. He who knows God hears us.” This is one characteristic of Spirit indwelling, acceptance of the truth. I have often said, “If the Spirit were dwelling in you, you would not be saying things that contradict His word in the Bible.” Jesus said it in a most simple way. “If anyone loves me he will keep my word and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) So then, according to the Bible, not only does the Spirit of God dwell in us when we keep the word, but God and Christ do also. Yet the Bible says God is on His throne in heaven and Jesus is at His right hand and the Spirit is in God. If all three of these are in heaven how are they in us?

Do you believe that these three dwell in us? I do, in the sense that the Bible says they do. I do not believe the pagan concepts of Spirit indwelling. That is Satan’s counterfeit, fiction designed to deceive and destroy. The “pseudo signs and wonders” of the lawless one are effective “in those who perish because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:9-10) Jesus said that many people who accept this deception will come before Him at the judgment with claims of having done miraculous things in His name. He will say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me you who practice lawlessness.” (Mat. 7:23) Lawlessness means they did not keep the word. They claimed Spirit indwelling and miraculous power without keeping the word.

The Bible connects Spirit indwelling with keeping the word. Jesus said, “The seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11) “Take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17) When people accept pagan concepts of the spirit they seem to lose sight of the importance of truth. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is “The Spirit of truth.” (John 16:13)

In concepts such as “pentecostalism” human emotional expressions and excitement are mistaken for power and they miss the power in God’s word. Because we gather to study the Bible and quietly learn from the inspired word, they think we are powerless. Some of our own brethren are now saying we are “dead,” that we need to get hit with the Spirit to wake us up. But what did Jesus say? “They draw near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” He added that they worship in vain, “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9) Very often those who have the most in the showcase have the least in the stockroom.

I understand the desire for a closer fellowship with God and I understand the desire to have His blessings on our life in this world. We can have this. But it is achieved by heartfelt commitment to His word, not by implementing human methods of stirring up physical and emotional excitement. There are an awful lot of lying charlatans in the world of religious fables, where no one proves anything and everyone claims all sorts of things. There is darkness there and false doctrines run rampant. But we have the “more sure word of prophecy confirmed.” Yes, it takes faith to trust God for all that His word promises. But those who do will not be disappointed.

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