Oh, you thought I was talking about Jesus, huh? Nope. Lots of Christians get that one wrong, too.
- Indwell /ɪn'dwɛl/ v. Be permanently present in someone [namely their soul or mind]. Possess spiritually.
- [Indweller /ɪn'dwɛl'ər/ n.]
Only Christians use the word “indwell” anymore, so it’s pretty much our word. You’re not gonna find anyone talking about how they indwell their apartment. Or how there are mice indwelling the walls. Nope, it’s pretty much a word we Christians use to describe a spirit living in someone. Either it’s a demon possessing a demoniac, or the Holy Spirit living in a Christian.
I know evangelists like to tell people, “If you invite him, Jesus will come live in your heart,” and I know popular hymns go, “He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today… you ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart.” I also know those folks are mixing up their persons of the trinity. It’s not Jesus who lives in my heart; he’s too busy at the right hand of the Father, advocating for his followers on our behalf.
In fact it’s the Spirit who lives in my heart. And yours, and every Christian’s. From the instant we turned to Jesus, from the instant God identifies us as his children, the Holy Spirit enters our lives, and is sealed to us as collateral—proof we really will receive the kingdom Jesus promised.
Jesus told his students once he left, the Holy Spirit would come, and take Jesus’s place in their lives.
So when the Spirit came, he came to indwell us. Live in us. Not just hang around us, and pitch in when we need his help. ’Cause we always need his help.
The Spirit’s temple.
Another old cliché is the body is a temple. As fitness nuts will remind us every time we try to get ’em to eat a Big Mac. “My body’s a temple.” Yeah, but to which god? You spend more time spinning than praying.
The original idea comes from Paul’s teaching that we Christians, collectively, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Individual bricks of his temple, as it were.
1 Corinthians 3.16 KWL
- You don’t know you’re all God’s temple,
- and God’s Spirit lives in you all?
1 Corinthians 6.19-20 KWL
- 19 Or don’t you all know your body’s the temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have from God?
- You’re not your own: 20 You were dearly purchased, so think about the God in your body.
Ephesians 2.19-22 KWL
- 19 So then you’re no longer foreigners and strangers.
- Instead you’re fellow citizens of saints. Family members of God.
- 20 Constructions on the foundation of the apostles and prophets—
- Christ Jesus being the foundation wall himself.
- 21 In Christ the whole building fits together, growing into a holy temple, by the Master.
- 22 In Christ you’re also built together into a dwelling-place for God, by the Spirit.
Thanks to sloppy translation and interpretation, we Christians often confuse the plural you with the singular you, and figure “I, by myself, am the Holy Spirit’s temple.” Or “Each one of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” We imagine the Spirit has billions of individual temples—and because he’s infinite, he can dwell in them all at once.
There’s a big of ego mixed into that interpretation. We kinda like the idea “the Spirit indwells me—and you too, but mainly me,” and imagine the entirety of God might be found solely within our person. But no. Christians collectively are his temple. Christians individually tend to get weird and start cults.
The entirety of God won’t be found in any one individual Christian. God doesn’t work like that. He wants us to have relationships with one another, as well as with him; to love one another, not just him. The whole of every Christian, everywhere—which we’d call Christendom, or the body of Christ—is the Spirit’s temple. There aren’t a billion temples. Just the one, same as in ancient times.
God indwells us, and not just me and you and each of us individually, because he’s trying to make us family. His family. And for us to recognize one another as family. We’re to grow together. We’re to pool our resources, share our supernatural gifts, encourage one another, teach one another, and love one another as Jesus loved us.
Since we’re living stones in God’s temple,
So why do we Christians insist on taking pilgrimages to holy places? It’s mostly psychological: We expect to find God there, or more of a sense of God there. And there’s something to it, provided we interact with fellow Christians along the way. But otherwise, it’s really not necessary. We’re part of God’s temple. He’s already here.
Indwelling, Old Testament style.
Many Christians claim the way the Holy Spirit interacts with us today, is significantly different from how he used to in Old Testament times. Back then, the Spirit only “came upon” individuals (as the
But after Jesus, the Spirit “comes upon” nobody. He just indwells us. Permanently. Forever. Unlike those pre-New Testament days.
Here’s the problem with that belief. Before Jesus was born, the Holy Spirit indwelt John.
Luke 1.13-17 KWL
- 13 The angel told him, “Don’t fear, Zechariah,
- for your request has been heard:
- Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son, and you’ll name him John.
- 14 He’ll be happiness and joy to you,
- and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he’ll be great before the Lord.
- He may never drink wine or liquor:
- He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb,
- 16 and many of Israel’s children will turn back to the Lord their God.
- 17 He’ll precede him in Elijah’s spirit and power,
- ‘to turn back fathers’ hearts to their children,’
- and rebels back to orthodox thinking—
- to get the people ready for the Lord.”
Being “filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb,” as the angel Gabriel put it, means the Spirit indwelt John from his conception onward. There was no “coming upon” with John. There was just the Holy Spirit, permanently sealed to John, empowering him to minister to Israel in all the ways Gabriel predicted.
In describing John, Gabriel compared John’s abilities with “Elijah’s spirit and power.” Now that was a Spirit-empowered man if ever there was one. It implies Elijah, same as John, since John was same as Elijah, was also indwelt by the Spirit. Permanently sealed to Elijah, empowering him to minister every which way.
When you read the Old Testament prophets (and it’s a safe bet those Christians who claim the Spirit only “came upon” those prophets, haven’t) you’ll notice the Spirit never just came and went when it came to his prophets. He indwells his prophets. He indwelt Elijah, he indwelt Elijah’s successor Elisha,
Again, chalk it up to ego. We Christians like to imagine we have a special relationship with the Spirit which doesn’t look like anything which came before. But we don’t have the biblical evidence. The Spirit indwelt the prophets, and the only suggestion he left one to empower another came from a fake prophet.
Okay yes: In the Old Testament, the Spirit only indwelt prophets. In the New Testament, he indwells every Christian. Now, have you considered the ramifications of what that really means? Simon Peter sure did.
Acts 2.16-21 KWL
- 16 …but this is what the prophet Joel had said: 17 ‘God said this’ll happen in the last days:
- “I’ll pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and daughters will give prophecies.
- Your young ones will see visions. Your old ones will will dream dreams.
- 18 In those days I’ll pour out my Spirit even on my slaves, men and women.
- And they’ll give prophecies!
- 19 I’ll show wonderful things in the skies above,
- and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and smoke in the air.
- 20 The sun’ll be turned to darkness,
- the moon to blood before the great Lord’s Day comes,
- 21 and everybody who calls on the Lord’s name will be saved.”’
Appears to me the purpose of the Spirit indwelling every Christian is to get every single last one of us to prophesy. That’s why he poured out the Spirit in the past; that’s why he pours out the Spirit now.
As for further empowerment—which is the proper interpretation of when the Holy Spirit “came upon” folks in the Old Testament—you’ll have to look into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That event takes place separate from when the Spirit came to indwell us. (Usually after, but sometimes at the same time. I’ll discuss it further later.)
How do we know we’re indwelt? We’re fruity.
Many Christians, who understand neither what indwelling or Spirit baptism means, mix the two of them up and claim they’re one and the same. Really, they get a lot of things wrong about the Spirit. It’s no wonder: They don’t do any of the things the Spirit came to us to empower us to do. No prophecy. No miracles. Not even fruit. We’ve no proof they even have the Spirit in the first place. Oh, they think they do, ’cause they believe really hard. But belief ain’t proof. Fruit is proof.
If the Holy Spirit is really in us, really living in there, really rooting around and fixing our lives, really making us more like Jesus, we oughta see him at work. Doesn’t always have to be something supernatural. In fact don’t look for miracles; they’re fairly easy to fake. Look for fruit, which despite how often Christians try to fake it, is still much harder to fake. Look for fruit of the Spirit. If we lack it—the real thing—it’s a good bet we lack the Spirit.
Hypocrites, fake Christians who lack the Spirit, will of course insist upon other proof. I’ve heard so many evangelists claim if you wanna know you’re saved, know the Spirit’s in you, just say the sinner’s prayer again. Say it, mean it really hard, write down the date you said it in your bible, and every time you doubt your salvation, go back and look at the date. Where’d they get that formula, the bible? Nope. Pulled it out of their own
The Latter-Day Saints teach if you wanna know you’re saved, just pray really hard. And the Spirit will give you a warm tingly burning sensation (which you totally did not psyche yourself into feeling; they promise) which is likewise the Spirit’s proof you’re saved and that everything Mormons teach is true. Christians will laugh at that one, but we’ll still do that “write down when you said the sinner’s prayer” stunt as if it’s better.
Of course, many Christians claim we know we’re saved ’cause our theology, our beliefs, our orthodoxy, is all correct—contrary to
Ask your fellow Christians whether they see any fruit in you. Try to develop it: If the Spirit’s really in you, it’ll grow; if he’s not, you either can’t, or it’ll come out all fake and hypocritical. Use some of that tiny faith you have and follow Jesus, and watch what the Spirit does with it. Prove he’s in you—and prove it with your every action, for the rest of your life. As we’re supposed to.