The Indwelling Spirit and the Holy Spirit as Gift and Gift-Giver.
This is part of a series surveying the activity of the Holy Spirit through the entire Bible. You can read the rest of the series here.
The last three posts summarized the activity of the Spirit through the narrative of the Synoptic Gospels and Acts. The rest of this series will consider the New Testaments teachings about the Spirit and the Spirit’s effects. We will consider the New Testament letters and the Gospel of John. I include John in this section because, in John, Jesus teaches directly about the Holy Spirit. By contrast, in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, it is generally the narrator who tells us what the Spirit is doing in the context of the story.
I will address the activity of the Holy Spirit topically. The same themes and topics we saw in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) are also found in the New Testament.
This post is about the Spirit’s indwelling and the Spirit as both a gift and a gift-giver.
My methodology is simply to present the various scriptures that fit within these topics and themes, and allow them to speak for themselves. Providing any sort of deeper explanation or exegesis will have to wait for another time. I do some of that in my book.
The Spirit Indwells
The New Testament speaks of both (1) the church collectively and (2) the individual believer as a temple or container in which the Spirit takes residence.
Jesus tells his disciples that they know the Counselor, the Spirit of truth, because “he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17).
Paul tells the believers in Rome:
You are in the Spirit, since 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, though 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 from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. . . [I]f by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. . . When we cry, “Abba, Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:9-16).
Paul tells the believers in Corinth:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you (plural)? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you (plural) are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you (singular), whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Notice in these two passages from the same book that the people (“you” plural) and individual believers (“you” singular) are described as a “temple” for God of the Spirit. Paul similarly tells the believers in Turkey that they “are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22).
Paul as a old man tells his apprentice Timothy to “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:14).
The Spirit is a Gift
The language of the Spirit as both a gift and a gift-giver continues beyond the book of Acts.
Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” The narrator of John explains: “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (7:37-39).
The same language appears in John when Jesus addresses his disciples after the last supper:
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23).
John later explains in his first letter: “Those who obey Christ’s commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:24). We know that we live in [God] and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit (1 John 4:13).
Paul makes the following powerful argument to some of his early converts:
Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? . . . Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? . . . He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Gal. 3:2, 5, 14).
The writer of Hebrews describes Christians as those who “have . . . been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age. (Hebrews 6:4-5).
In his earliest surviving letter, Paul says “He who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:8).
For other passages on the Spirit as a gift, see Acts 1:4; 2:38; 5:32; 8:14-25; 10:44-48; 11:15-17; 15:8-11; 19:2 (or my post thereon).
The Spirit Gives Gifts
The Spirit itself is a gift, but it also gives gifts to God’s people. Here are some example passages:
God also testified to [salvation] by signs, wonders, and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy
Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 2:4; cf. Romans 15:19).
A key passage on spiritual gifts is First Corinthians chapters 12-14. Here’s part of it:
Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. . . no one can say, “Jesus is
Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . Now
to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given
through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the
same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to
another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different
kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one
and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. . . try to
excel in gifts that build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:1, 12).
How amazing is it to have access to these kinds of gifts from God? I “eagerly desire” more of them and I pray that what God has given me has been a blessing to you. We’ll learn more in the next post.
Got questions on these passages? Ask away in the comments!
Like this post? Share it! And read about what God’s indwelling Spirit does for you in my book, Heaven’s Muscle.
Bren Hughes (M.A., M.Div., J.D.) is a lawyer and former minister who lives in the hills of Kentucky.