The Indwelling Spirit
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Romans 8:9
What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us? The word used here is the Greek word oikeo, which means to live in a house. This word invokes the ideas of nearness, familiarity, and influence.
Nearness. The fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in us not only means that he is near us, but that Christ himself is near, for the Holy Spirit mediates Christ’s presence (Jn. 14:17-18). Note the names changes: Spirit – Spirit of God – Spirit of Christ – Christ (Rom. 8:9, 10). We shouldn’t interpret that in a Sabellian or modalistic fashion, which thinks of God as revealing himself not as three different persons but as three different modes. The Holy Spirit is indeed distinct from Christ. He is the one who raised Christ from the dead (11). And he is distinct from the Father for he is the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead (11). However, the point is that the Spirit mediates the power of the risen Christ in all who belong to him. Note how Paul prays for the Ephesians: “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:16-17). He is indeed near to us through the Spirit.
Familiarity. Not the kind of familiarity that leads to indifference, but the kind of familiarity that leads to communion and fellowship. Christianity is not just a philosophy, it is not just a religion; more fundamentally, it is a relationship. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ comes to indwell us, so that we can have fellowship with him. He communicates to us the love of the Father and we tell him of our love for him. He does not hold us at arm’s length, but rather he embraces us with love and affection.
Influence. This influence can go both ways: we can grieve the Spirit through sin (Eph. 4:29), and the Spirit can change and empower and fill us as we yield in obedience to God’s will for us. But even though it goes both ways, we must never make the mistake of thinking that the Holy Spirit’s work in us is ultimately dependent upon the fragility of our own weak wills. No, he who began a good work in us will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). He is working in us to bring us into conformity to Christ. He is molding us into Christ-likeness. Are we weak? Yes, but “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom. 8:26). Thank God for the indwelling Spirit!