“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:8-10)
Here Paul is contrasting the believer and the unbeliever. The terminology is flesh vs. Spirit, a reoccurring theme in the New Testament. It is unmistakable, if you do not have the Spirit of God you are not His. If you do have the Spirit of God you have life. There is no life (eternal) without the Spirit of God. Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Timothy 1:14 all teach the same truth that the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer. How anyone can deny this plain truth is difficult for me to understand.
The question then arises, “When does the Holy Spirit come to dwell in a believer”? Or, “When did the Holy Spirit first indwell believers?” Following are some passages that should point us in the right direction.
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)
This is a very important text concerning this topic. These truths are readily evident.
- The Holy Spirit will be given to those who believe in or upon the Lord Jesus Christ. “Whoever believes in me…” and “those who believed in me were to receive...”
- The coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell believers was tied to the glorification of Jesus. “The Spirit had not been given…”, “Jesus was not yet glorified“.
Yet another important passage is also found in John’s gospel.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)
That the Holy Spirit would come to be “in” the believer is without question. He who is the “Spirit of Truth” (“I am the way, the Truth…), “will be in you“, “I will come to you“. So Christ himself would live in the believer by means of the Holy Spirit. (“Christ in you the hope of glory”)
The “If” is clearly answered. What about the “When”? Jesus himself said it would not happen until he was glorified (John 7:39). So we ask ourselves “When was Jesus glorified?”. The answer is when He died and was raised from the dead. (John 12:23, John 13:31)
Jesus’ glorified body was one that was recognizable, it bore the scars of his crucifixion, he ate and drank with his followers, walked with them, and yet could just appear in a closed room at will. He came out of the grave in the same glorified body in which he would ascend to the Father and now sits at this right hand. It is a different body, but a body. And, we who trust him are promised a body like his.
Not many days after his resurrection from the dead John recorded this event.
“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)
I can find no reason to believe the disciples did not receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at that moment. If the one who spoke things into existence said “Receive the Holy Spirit” how can I doubt it happened?
Notice also that it was only after the Lord had risen from the dead that the disciples really believed and understood that He was indeed Lord. Peter, who was fearful and denied the Lord was never the same, becoming a fearless preacher of the good news about Jesus and His resurrection.
So, against conventional wisdom and common teaching, I believe those who believed on Jesus were first indwelt after his resurrection and before Pentecost. There is a difference between the Holy Spirit being “in” and “upon” a believer. Jesus said of the events leading up to, and including Pentecost and beyond, these words.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
The purpose of Pentecost was Holy Spirit power for witness, not so believes could be indwelt. He said “You will receive POWER”, that the Holy Spirit would “come upon” them, and they “Will be my witnesses…”. At Pentecost they were “filled” with the Spirit and then were filled again and again after that. In Ephesians, believers, those already indwelt by the Spirit, are commanded to be “filled” with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Peter himself gives clear testimony as to when he first received the Holy Spirit. First in Acts 11 when he made his defense of baptizing Gentiles he declared:
If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)
Peter says here that he received the gift of the Holy Spirit, not at Pentecost, not when he was baptized, but when he believed.
Then when Peter was opposing the believing Pharisees who were demanding that Gentile believers be circumcised he said to the elders of the church in Jerusalem these words:
“And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8,9)
Peter was very, very clear. He gave the Gentile believers the Holy Spirit “just as he did to us“, “He made no distinction between us and them“, he treated them all exactly alike, He “cleansed their hearts by faith” and they like Peter received the Holy Spirit when they believed.
I know this goes against the grain of common teaching but it is what it is and I didn’t make it up. Peter should be as good an authority on the matter as you could want.
In some sense the people of God, from time to time had the presence of God “in them” for purposes of revelation or some other task. Peter gives us the record of one of those instances in 1 Peter 1 where he recorded:
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10-12)
It was the “Spirit of Christ” in them who was unfolding revelation about the wonderful grace that would be ours.
The conclusion of this post is that the promised Holy Spirit lives in every person who puts their trust in Jesus and is ready to empower us for witness when we meet the conditions of complete surrender to His will to reach the lost and are willing to wait upon Him in prayer.
“the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:26-28)