Round 2: Why does God’s Indwelling Presence Matter?

We explored some of the implications of indwelling in the past post. We talked about reframing our discussions and thinking on the presence of God, increasing our appreciation for the cross and resurrection, and heigtening our worship of the Triune God. This post concludes our work together on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I have chosen a few more important implications to consider. Here we go!

  • Our thoughts on belonging and assurance must be deepened. The theme of belonging runs through this doctrine like a thread. The New Testament repeatedly makes the connection between God’s residence in us and his ownership of us. God is deeply interested in giving his people assurance and confidence in their status before him. This status has objective and subjective dimensions. Through the cross-work of Christ we are justified and declared righteous through Christ. Through Christ the Father views us as blameless, perfect, and sinless. This is an objective reality that we believe by faith. Faith stumbles on this truth because our subjective experience is not yet consistent with our position before God. This is where the Holy Spirit comes into the picture. The New Testament helps us understand that the Holy Spirit translates objective truths into subjective experience. In other words, through the cross we are guaranteed forgiveness and righteousness, the Spirit helps us experience the love of God behind this and the certainty of the grace he has given us there. By indwelling us the Spirit is a constant companion working into our hearts confidence, assurance, hope, and helping us hold fast to the truth that we are sons and daughters of God. He helps us feel and know what is true.
  • Our dependence on the Spirit in gospel ministry must mature. The Indwelling Spirit requires a reframing of how we think about and do ministry. The New Testament made plain that doctrinal faithfulness, empowerment and moral integrity are grounded in the Spirit who lives in us. Cultivating this understanding leads to a quiet trust and more precise dependence on God the Spirit. For example, times of study, prayer, writing, preaching, counseling, and conversation can be engaged with a posture of reliance and listening. The acknowledgment that God is close and present to support gospel advancement and ministry changes everything. This awareness, designated as “keeping in step with the Spirit” (Eph 5:25), is a tremendous encouragement for those called to be ambassador’s for Christ in any ministry context. Consistently recognizing and verbalizing dependence to the Holy Spirit along with expressing gratitude is one way we grow and mature in ministry.
  • Our hope and certainty in the future must be strengthened. The power of the Holy Spirit residing in us is highlighted when we look at our promised future. The New Testament is clear, resurrection awaits. This is our hope. As Graeme Goldsworthy would say, our resurrection is “future history.” It is certain. The doctrine of indwelling is an anchor of the soul as we consider this hope. The Spirit is responsible for living in Christ and raising him from the dead. He is responsible for creating life out of nothing, for breathing that creative breath on the Son that enabled him to walk out of the tomb the third day. This same Spirit now dwells in us and guarantees that he will bring life to our mortal bodies and that death will not have the final word. Resurrection is coming and the Holy Spirit is responsible for making it happen. There are many uncertainties when it comes to the future, but the most important things are not up for grabs when the Holy Spirit resides in us.

These are just a few of the important implications of the doctrine of indwelling. I am convinced there are many more worth our time and consideration. Take for example the concept of humility. Indwelling is a rich resource for thinking through what humility looks like. Or we could look at transformation. Indwelling would force us to consider interesting dimensions of both the passive and active dynamics of change. Or we could explore the language of grieving or quenching the Spirit in connection with indwelling, would this change how we view our sin? There is much more here, I encourage you to explore and think deeply about this tremendous gift!

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Indwelling in Romans: Life, Resurrection, and Belonging

“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. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Paul’s treatment of the Spirit’s work is rich and nuanced in this text. Four times in three verses he uses language that firmly establishes the Spirit’s vocation of indwelling the believer.

We learn five important things about indwelling from this text. First, Paul connects being “in” the Spirit with indwelling. The man who has the Spirit residing in him is always “in” the Spirit. This is a static reality, one does not move in and out of the Spirit.

Second, an inextricable link is made between the Spirit and Christ. Paul identifies the third person of the Trinity as the Spirit of Christ. He also equates Spirit’s indwelling work with Christ’s presence in us. The Spirit mediates the presence and purposes of Christ within us.

Third, indwelling is equated with belonging. The Spirit’s presence in our lives communicates divine ownership. When God takes up residence in us by the Spirit we are secure in our adoption. The permanence of his new residence means that God will never leave or forsake us.

Fourth, the Spirit works life and righteousness in us in spite of our sin. The indwelling presence of God is a mighty force working our transformation. Change is inevitable for the person who has become the home of God.

Fifth, the promise of our resurrection is tied to the indwelling Spirit. The text’s logic draws a link between the Spirit who raised Christ from the grave and that same Spirit who dwells in us. If he raised Christ, it is certain, he will raise us as well.

Resurrection, transformation, and belonging, these all flow from the Spirit’s indwelling presence. The Spirit of Christ mediates the purposes and presence of Jesus in our lives. Paul helps us understand that being “in” the Spirit is the same as having the Spirit live within us.

In this text alone we see the significance of indwelling. Our current transformation, our future hope, and our status before God are all dependent upon it. We cannot overstate the importance of the Holy Spirit making his home in us.