“How Does The Spirit Indwell The Christian?” (Or, Some Guys Just Love Trouble)

One of my favorite preachers (taken during his younger days) (CAN YOU GUESS WHO THIS IS?)

Neal Pollard

The controversy preceded my birth.  Wendell Winkler was the first man I remember talking about the Open Forum, spirited debate between Gus Nichols and Guy N. Woods over how the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian.  In those days, despite the vigor with which each man presented his view, the matter was not seen as divisive or worthy of a breach in fellowship. So long as the Spirit’s Deity was not denied or so long as one did not believe that the Spirit miraculously or directly operated upon the heart of an individual to convert or exert His will upon that one, the “how” was not seen as crucial.  I remember that many of my role models, Wendell Winkler, Hugo McCord, William Woodson and Roy H. Lanier, Jr., on one side and Franklin Camp, V.E. Howard, and Winfred Clark on the other, loved each other and worked together despite their divergent view on how the Spirit dwells in us.

 

Society as a whole has become more rancorous and divisive.  Turn on talk radio or cable news shows and you will see partisan bickering that approaches “media rage” levels.  At times, God’s people have adopted such tactics and attitudes.  While I was taught the representative view growing up, I have adopted the view that the Spirit non-miraculously, but personally, indwells God’s children.  Some of my dearest preaching friends maintain the representative view, but we love and work alongside each other.  Yet, there are some who seem to be utterly consumed with one extreme or another on this matter.  Right here, I am not referencing those who claim direct Spirit guidance apart from the Word, who seek the Spirit as proof or defense of their making decisions or moves that conflict with written revelation.  I mean those who are arguing for how the Spirit indwells.  These men have spent an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy and have troubled and even divided congregations of God’s people.

 

Every preacher’s personal life and work as a preacher will be audited by the perfect, Divine Auditor some day.  Will it be the case that some have been so issue-oriented that they left undone the weightier matters of the law–to include not just justice and mercy and faithfulness but also evangelism, edification, and enlistment?  That very thought should humble all of us to the core and give us pause as we reflect on what kind of stewards we are of our charge as gospel preachers.  The same principle applies to whatever hobby horses we chase and what kind of attitude we display while riding them.  We used to be warned in school that “you can be right and be wrong.” Let us be careful that, in trying to show the world or our brethren that our view is right, we do not find ourselves in the wrong!

32 thoughts on ““How Does The Spirit Indwell The Christian?” (Or, Some Guys Just Love Trouble)

  1. Pingback: “How Does The Spirit Indwell The Christian?” (Or, Some Guys Just Love Trouble) | Preacherpollard's Blog

  2. Great post Neal. I wonder how the church would look if brethren could lovingly disagree while continuing to seek truth. Instead of lining up and pointing fingers, we ought to circle up and ask God to give us a spirit of unity and a desire for peace.

  3. Neal, Thank you for a good post and a plea for balance and love as we study and discuss with each other the things we are learning. And we welcome you to the “Spirit non-miraculously, but personally, indwells God’s children” view.

  4. Jason Moon

    Figuring it’s one of the men you named in the article…and I can rule out a few of them…so I’m going to guess a very young Hugo McCord.

  5. ruth meeks shappley

    My father, H. L. Meeks (google him please) believed as did Bro. Gus in the indwelling (not to miraculous degree) but was a close friend of Bro. Wood. Your remarks on this are correct, Neal.

  6. ruth meeks shappley

    Corection!!!! Apparently there were several men with this name. The H.L. Meeks to whom I refer is under “influence of H L Meeks by Don Fox. In google

  7. Neal, I think that is actually Benjamin Franklin Camp (known as Frank) taken about 1910. Franklin Camp’s father. Also, in the original picture were T.B. Larimore and John T. Lewis. Does my heart good to see it though. I do miss brother Camp.

    Thanks for the article, by the way!

  8. Richard Johnson

    Brother Pollard, very good article. I enjoyed being around you during my years at Harding as a student and my wife, Andrea as Bible secretary. I am not sure what I believe on the indwelling of the HS, only that I do believe it happens. Would you mind sharing more on your statement in the article about “I have adopted the view that the Spirit non-miraculously, but personally, indwells God’s children.” ??

    Thanks,
    Richard Johnson

    1. Richard,
      I appreciate so much hearing from you. I think you are referring to my cousin, Paul, who has been a teacher at Harding for several decades. It will be a joy for me to pass your compliments on to him.
      My view is that the Bible explicitly teaches that the Holy Spirit literally and personally indwells Christians (somewhere in the neighorhood of 16 times in the New Testament). However, I do not believe He operates directly on my heart, reveals truth to me, or influences my will in any way apart from or in addition to the Word. In New Testament times, when the Holy Spirit operated miraculously, He never operated directly upon the human heart or overtook man’s free will. I believe, in this regard, He has remained consistent and convicted people through His Divine revelation (the Bible). Hope that helps, my brother. God bless.
      Neal

      1. Richard Johnson

        Neal,

        You are exactly right, that was Paul Pollard. I’m sorry, it’s been several years since I was at Harding and I didn’t have Paul as a teacher, but did enjoy getting to know him and hearing in HU’s lectureships and chapel, etc. I appreciate your thoughts on the Holy Sprit as well. I am going to be teaching that subject to our Bible class soon and I really need to do more studying on the subject before then. Your comments are helpful.

        God bless and I enjoy your blog,
        Richard

      2. You wrote “My view is that the Bible explicitly teaches that the Holy Spirit literally and personally indwells Christians (somewhere in the neighorhood of 16 times in the New Testament). ” I don’t doubt the indwelling or verses that say that, but which ones teach that he ‘literally’ and ‘personally’ indwells? I have no problem believing in the indwelling. It just seems common that those who believe in a literal or physical indwelling in our bodies but to no purpose. If the Spirit indwells but takes no part, no action, no influence but is rather, just there, then what is the reason for it? I have heard many how take this view but have no understanding or explanation of it. The more I study it, the more I see a reciprocal relationship. Often as scripture speaks of the Spirit indwelling in us, it also says we are in the Spirit, or we walk after the Spirit, or we walk or live in Christ. Scripture also teaches that God dwells in us, Christ dwells in us. The Spirit dwells in us. Do those who hold this position also believe in a literal indwelling of God in their bodies? This is part of my struggle understanding this position among other reasons. I have a lot of struggle with this topic because I can’t find anyone willing to discuss it and listen to concerns I have on the subject and it is disheartening but rather focus more on just saying I am wrong but give no reason. I tend to believe the Spirit indwells in us by our understanding and application of the Christian life through ideas dispalyed in Galations 5 with the fruit of the Spirit. In closing, the most simplified and easiest way to explain my position is this: Say during the holiday seasons, someone exhibits all the seasonal traits. Love, giving, decorating, spreading good cheer, etc… Someone says, man, he sure is full of the Christmas spirit. Does that mean the person litterally has a Christmas Spirit inside them? No, it doesn’t, it simply means that person is exemplifying all that is good about the Christmas season. Likewise, when we live the Christian life and live after the teachings in the sciptures, then I believe we have the Holy Spirit, God and Jesus all in us by the way we are living. Let Christ be seen in us…how? By the way we live.

        I am sorry if this goes against mainstream ideas. I certainly don’t want it to sound argumentive because it isn’t meant to be. Its how I am understanding the subject among people unwilling to discuss it with me.

      3. It certainly doesn’t go against mainstream ideas. I hold the view I do because the Bible explicitly says He dwells in us. Since scripture does not go on to qualify or explain that, I cannot go beyond what it says, Shawn. Yet, though I may not understand something doesn’t negate the truth of it. However we say He indwells us (literally or representatively), we must affirm, with Scripture, that He does. Ephesians 1 calls His indwelling a guarantee or downpayment. Someday, we’ll be in the presence of God for eternity. For now, we have that “arrabon” (guarantee).
        When we are talking about God, His nature, work, or the like, we are swimming in deep waters. Just know that we’re not talking mystical, miraculous, or some direct operation upon the heart. Interestingly, in the first century–when the Spirit did work miraculously–He never moved men’s hearts to believe or overtake man’s will. Hope that helps, brother. I appreciate your other examples, like Christmas spirit, but that uses the word differently. “Spirit” in your example speaks of an attitude or disposition. The Holy Spirit is a Person–one of the three everlasting personalities of the Godhead. He’s not a ghost, feeling, etc. He is God. So, the analogy breaks down for that reason.
        What I’ve long loved about you is your diligence as a Bible student as well as your love of God! You’ve shown that once again and God will bless that kind of approach (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15). Hope all’s well with the fam.

      4. What do you mean by a representative indwelling?? Does that fall under the idea of an actual physical indwelling? Thats one of the parts that hold me up in the ‘physical’ indwelling. When scriptures speak of us being in the Spirit, does it also mean we are physcially inside the Spirit? Col 3:16 says ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’. Is the word physically dwelling in us? If not, why? What does it mean for the word of Christ to dwell in us? Why or how is it incorrect to relate the indwelling of the Spirit in us any differently than how the word of Christ dwells in us? Maybe I am having trouble understanding the difference in the indwellings.

        I appreciate your reply and hope to have a reasonable discussion, whether on blog or personal correspondance. I do understand the Spirit to be God. I know there is no literal Christmas Spirit. : )

      5. By “representative” I mean through the Word only, as opposed to “actually.”
        Our trouble comes in trying to understand spiritual matters through the limitations of our physical selves. A good question is to ask, “Is God limited?” Could God remain infinite and boundless while actually indwelling Christians? Certainly! He’s not limited in any way. The “literal” indwelling, as I hold it, does not minimize in any way what the Word does. In my mind, that’s a separate discussion. We all know the power of the Word–it convicts, in converts, and it continues to work in our lives as we study and learn it.
        Of course, we both agree that God does not limit His work through the word only–i.e., providence and prayer, for example. He accomplishes neither of those through the Word only. What we must maintain is that the Spirit does not work miraculously upon us nor does He overtake our will.
        Hope that clarifies a bit.

      6. So, from what I have expressed of my views on the matter, do my beliefs tend to fall under what is called ‘representive’? From what you explained, I am assuming it is. If so, I am just curious if that is the view you maintain as well. I to agree that the Spirit does not work miraculously on us, regardless of how the indwelling occurs.

        Thanks again for your willingness to discuss it with me.

      7. I would say you and I see things exactly the same EXCEPT I do not believe the Spirit indwells only through the Word. I believe, based on 16 NT passages which affirm it, that He indwells me actually, personally. When I was baptized (Acts 2:38), the Holy Spirit began to indwell me. He doesn’t directly influence me or operate upon my heart a part from the Word. This would refer to His work rather than the manner of His indwelling.
        So, in summary, the only difference in our views, as I understand yours, is the “manner” of His indwelling within the Christian.

  9. Lindell Doty

    We we speak of God, Christ and Spirit now we are talking pure spirit. Not objects. I believe our human limitations in understand the nature of spirit contributes to our understanding the dwelling of
    the Holy Spirit. Eph 3 makes it clear that all three members of the God head are in us. God the Father is not personally or literally in us but spiritually in us, the Son is not in us personally or literally but in us spiritually, also the Holy Spirit is in us Spiritually not some literal or persona way whatever that means. God the Father is in us, God the Son is in us, and the God the Holy Spirit is in us when we are Christians. The Holy Spirit uses the word, His sword, to effect the heart. When we are Christians both the word and Holy Spirit are in us conjointly. But, we need to be careful in perceiving spiritual matters by the understanding we have of material matters. Literally and physically are not terms which aid our understanding of Spiritual matters.

    1. Thanks, brother. I greatly appreciate what you’ve added. I was using the term “literally” as contrasted with “figuratively.” If someone says “I literally died,” they’ve misspoken. If the Holy Spirit actually (truly) indwells us, that is either literal or figurative. In hermeneutics, we are rightly taught to accept a statement as literal unless driven to the figurative. I cannot see any contextual evidence for those literal statements to be taken figuratively. As you rightly say, we are dealing with spiritual matters. More than that, we are dealing with matters pertaining to the infinite God. As finite beings, we cannot fully fathom the infinite. All we have to proceed with is His complete, sufficient revelation.
      I pray that your work continues to go well, brother Doty. I have long respected and appreciated you.

  10. Spencer Strickland

    Neal, I have appreciated your attitude , preaching, and writing for several years and still do. I was not aware of your view on the Holy Spirit. From my studies I have concluded that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian through the word of God. Although I would not go into all of the arguments here, it is clear that all three members of the Godhead are said to dwell in the Christian–Father (1 John 4:15); Son (Eph. 3:17); and Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11). It has always been interesting to me that those who advocate that the Holy Spirit personally and actually dwells in the Christian never say that the Father and Son dwell in the Christian personally and actually. Why would the Holy Spirit dwell in the Christian in way separate and apart from the other two members of the Godhead? I might also add that the term “indwell” is not the best way to translate the word used in Romans 8 since “indwell” can be defined in the dictionary as “to possess (a person), as a moral principle or motivating force” (dictionary.com). That sounds like Calvinism which is why I stay away from the word “indwell.” Most reliable English translations simply translate it as “dwell” and that is probably the best way to translate it in my judgment.

    With regard to many well-respected brethren disagreeing over this matter, I would say that the men on both sides of this issue are much more learned and intelligent than I am and thus I would give credit where credit is due. At the same time, at the end of the day, either those who advocate that the the Holy Spirit dwells personally in the Christian are wrong; those who advocate that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian through the word of God are wrong; or both are wrong. I think if we are honest that we have to admit that. While I’m not among those who are interested in being divisive, I’m not prepared to say that this is all just one big matter of opinion. Some one is right, someone is wrong, or both are wrong. I respect the men greatly on both sides of the issue as well as their studiousness, but I’m not prepared to say it is okay to believe what you want to believe on this issue because “Brother so-and-so” and “Brother so-and-so” disagreed on it and we all respect them (I don’t mean that to sound ugly).

    My position has always been, if you believe something in the scriptures that I find contrary to them, then I am always willing to continue the discussion about it in a kind and respectful way and not close the door on the discussion. Just my two cents . . . .

    Brotherly,
    Spencer Strickland

    1. Thanks, Spencer. I’ve held you in the highest of regards since I first met you at PTP back when we all fit in one room. 🙂
      I am grateful that we can, as brethren, discuss things like this and not disparage one another or hold it as a fellowship issue.
      Here is how I would reply to what you’ve brought up. The Bible says the Holy Spirit ἐνοικοῦντος (which literally means “dwell in” or “inhabit”–just like faith “lived in” Timothy in 2 Tim. 1:5). I take the position I do because the Bible affirms that the Holy Spirit “dwells in” the Christian (Rom. 8:9,11; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Tim. 1:14). No matter whether we say this literally occurs or representatively occurs, we must affirm that He dwells in the Christian. While there is not one passage that says the manner of the Spirit’s dwelling in the Christian is through the Word only, I do not see how one holding that view is guilty of violating what the Bible teaches. Nor will I press a man to produce it as part of an ultimatum. I believe he can hold (and teach) that view without it impacting our ability to work together and have fellowship. There are other examples of this occurring. Brethren who believe that a person who dies goes straight to heaven or hell versus a place of waiting in the Hadean World both hold their views based on what they believe scripture to teach. Does that mean one of them has to repent or be lost? I don’t believe so. Another example would be brethren who believe the fruit of the vine should be in one cup rather than allow for multiple cups. They each hold their view based on their understanding of Mat. 26 and 1 Cor. 11. So long as they don’t divide God’s people over the matter, they can each hold their view and be in fellowship. When a divergent interpretation of Scripture does not affect the church’s identity, a person’s salvation, or in any other way negatively affect one’s eternal destiny, disagreement does not demand that they view it alike. Certainly, Paul shows regarding the weaker and stronger brethren that “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks” (Rom. 14:5-6). I think this shows that there is ground where brethren can take divergent views but should not divide over them (nor does Paul counsel one side or the other to change their view).
      I think that’s how I can best answer the basic question you pose. We both affirm what Scripture teaches: the Spirit dwells in the Christian. We do not agree on the manner. You say He does so through the Word only. I say He does so literally. A basic law of hermeneutics is to take a passage literally unless driven to the figurative. I just don’t find anything in the contexts above that drive me to the figurative. But in my view it would be outrageous to make this a test of fellowship. I hope you agree with that assertion, brother. Again, I love you and appreciate all you do for Christ and the good you’ve done in His kingdom.
      Brotherly,
      Neal

      1. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. ~ Romans 8:9. — This passage tells me that I am not in the flesh but in the Spirit if God’s Spirit truly dwells in me. It also tells me that if I don’t have the Spirit of Christ, I am not His.

        But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. ~ Romans 8:11. — This passage tells me that God’s Spirit dwells in me. It also tells me that God will give life to my mortal body through His Spirit who dwells in me.

        I am a simple Christian. I have had a long struggle trying to wrap my mind around the concept of how the Spirit lives in me. I can understand “live through the Word” concept. By faith, I accept that the Spirit lives in me because the Bible says so. However, the second passage above states that God will give life to my mortal body through His Spirit who lives in me. All of us are living because we have God’s breath in us. Only God can make living creatures. What does Paul really mean here (life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit living in you)?

        This is one concept/truth I have not understood. I have read many articles old and new on this but alas, I have not grasped/comprehended this truth. I have tried to accept/understand rationalize it this way. The first century Christians had the Spirit living in them personally/literally since they did not have the fully revealed will of God — Bible (NT) — to guide them in God’s ways. We have the Bible (NT) and we know God’s revealed will which can inform us (transform our minds), leading us to walk in the way of Christ. Now we have the Spirit in/on us as God’s seal of ownership and promise/guarantee of final salvation/eternal life. By faith I can accept this. We have the written Word/God’s revealed will in our hearts/on our minds to guide us into all truth. Otherwise, what does the Spirit (Paraclete) do in us if not to remind us of the Word, the revealed will of God? Of course, the infinite Godhead (Deity) can be anywhere and everywhere at the same instance ~ in us, in all, and beyond time and space (see Ephesians 1:23; 4:10).

      2. Brother Thomas, thank you for a very thoughtful post. You ask a great question, but I’m not sure it’s one that we have to know the answer to. The Holy Spirit never directly operated upon the human heart to cause or prevent actions. God created us with free will and would be working against His own design to interfere with that. However, I’m not sure it is necessary for us to understand what the Spirit does within us if we know the previous statement. He MAY be a way whereby God works via providence or answered prayer. We know He strengthens us (Eph. 3:16). However He does that, it does not happen contrary to our will. God convicts, persuades, etc., through the Word, which the Holy Spirit moved men to write. As you say, we have Scriptural affirmation that the Spirit of God is in us. However we believe that to be (literally or representatively), we must affirm what Scripture does. Thank you for striving to understand the Bible better. Your blog seems very helpful, too. Thanks, Thomas.

  11. To all our “posters,”
    Thank you for the comments. Like you, I’ve got many other things I need to be doing and do not know where I would find the time to answer everything being written. Let us humbly, carefully tread on any subject having to do with our infinite God. He is not bound by time, space, or any of the other limitations He created for us on this earth. Paul says, “how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33). May we take our common ground on what is revealed, knowing that going beyond that or taking away from that is where we lose divine approval. John 13:34-35.

  12. The passages you gave in your comments are in epistles that were written to churches in the apostolic age that had miraculous gifts. Why would anyone think that when Paul mentioned that the Spirit dwelled in them that he was referring to what is called a “non-miraculous” indwelling? Is Paul referring to a “non-miraculous” indwelling in chapters 6 and 9 of 1st Corinthians and then switching to miraculous endowments in chapters 12-14? Did Paul mean a “non-miraculous” indwelling in Romans 8 in spite of the fact that the church at Rome had miraculous gifts? (Romans 12:3-8)
    One difficulty I see with the belief of those who claim a “non-miraculous” indwelling is being able to distinguish between references in the epistles to a miraculous indwelling with a “non-miraculous” indwelling. Can those who have this belief explain how they distinguish between these or why they think there needs to be a distinction?

  13. One answer I think I would give is to ask how you would apply and accept anything stated in the New Testament as binding or applicable to us today. What proves too much proves nothing. Paul’s injunctions about singing in Ephesians 5:19 or about women’s role in 1 Timothy 2:ff were written to the church during the miraculous age, but that does not nullify them. There seems to be a big difference between the miraculous gift imparted by the laying on of hands of the apostles and the non-miraculously indwelling received at baptism. When Paul mentions that the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian as a seal (down payment) in Eph. 1:13-14, there’s no discussion of the miraculous going on. In 1 Corinthians 6, which you mention, Paul’s subject is fornication and protecting the body against sin. He actually takes on the subject of miraculous gifts later in answer to a seeming question by the brethren (which he signifies with, “Now concerning…”). He wasn’t concerned with miraculous gifts in 1 Corinthians 6 when he mentions the Holy Spirit being in the child of God. I suppose I’m unfamiliar with your line of argumentation and cannot understand why you would find the position disconcerting (especially when New Testament writers so often, explicitly say that the Spirit indwells the Christian). If a brother or sister say that the Holy Spirit moves the Christian to do or keeps him or her from doing or acts against or overtakes their will, we have a huge problem. God has never operated in such a fashion. A charismatic view is unsustainable and unbiblical. Simply believing that the Spirit indwell the Christian but does so non-miraculously in no way violates the eternal truths of scripture and should not be a bone of contention between faithful brethren.

    1. From your reply, I get the idea that you think I proved more than I intended too. But I didn’t do that.
      The principles in 1 Corinthians 6 about fornication apply to Christians today. Fornication was wrong then, it is wrong now. The principle is still applicable. Does anyone have a problem teaching Mark 16;15,16 to show that baptism is necessary for salvation while leaving the signs (miraculous endowments) of Mark 1617-20 in the apostolic age where they belong? If we can use Mk.16 to teach baptism is essential for salvation while leaving the miraculous in Mk.16 in the apostolic age where it belongs why can we not do the same with passages such as 1 Corinthians 6?
      Chapters 12-14 are not the only place in the Corinthian letter where you read of miraculous endowments. You read of them almost in the first verse (1Cor.1;4-8). He also refers to miraculous endowments in chapters 3 and 6 as I have already shown.
      Ephesians 1;13,14 are also verses found in an epistle written to a church in the apostolic age. The Ephesians were sealed by the miraculous endowments they had received from the hands of an apostle. In fact, is not the statement made in Ephesians 1;13 an answer to Paul’s question in Acts 19;2? Acts 19;2 is like an arrow pointing to Ephesians 1;13.
      PAUL: “Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed…?” (Acts 19;2).
      ANSWER: “…in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph.1;13).
      What passage do you believe teaches that one receives what is called a “non-miraculous indwelling” when they are baptized?
      As long as members of the church believe that the Holy Spirit convicts, leads, directs, and edifies only through the word then whatever other differences they have don’t matter.
      Wouldn’t you agree?
      I just know that there are difficulties that cannot be answered by those who believe that Christians recieved a “non-miraculous indwelling” of the Holy Spirit at baptism.
      If one agrees with me that is fine, if they don’t that is fine too.

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