“He… will be in you.” In these simple words our Lord announces that wonderful mystery of the Spirit’s indwelling that was to be the fruit and the crown of His redeeming work. It was for this that man was created. It was for this—God’s mastery of the human heart—that the Spirit laboured in vain through ages past. It was for this Jesus lived and died. Without the indwelling Spirit, the Father’s purpose and work would not have been accomplished.
For lack of it the blessed Master’s work with the disciples had little effect. He hardly mentioned it to them because He knew they would not understand it. But on the last night, when time was running out, He disclosed the secret that when He left them, their loss would be compensated by a greater blessing than His bodily presence could accomplish. Another would come in His place to abide with them forever.
Our Father has given us a twofold revelation of himself. Through His Son He reveals His holy image, and setting Him before us invites us to become like Him by receiving Him into our heart and life. Through His Spirit He sends His divine power to enter into us and from within prepare us for receiving the Son and the Father. The dispensation of the Spirit is the dispensation of the inner life. The dispensation of the Word, or the Son, began with the creation of man in God’s image and continued through all the preparatory stages down to Christ’s appearing in the flesh. There were, at times, special and mighty workings of the Spirit, but the indwelling was unknown; humankind had not yet become a habitation of God in the Spirit. This was yet to be attained.
Eternal life would become the life of man, infusing his being and consciousness and clothing itself in the forms of a human will and life. Just as it is through the Spirit that God is what He is, and as the Spirit is the principle by which the personalities of the Father and the Son have their root and consciousness, likewise this Spirit of the divine life is to be in us. In the deepest sense of the word, He should be the principle of our life, the root of our personality, the very spark of our being and consciousness. He is to be one with us in the absoluteness of a divine immanence —dwelling in us, even as the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father.
If we would enter into the full understanding and experience of what our blessed Lord here promises, we must, above everything, remember that what He speaks of is a divine indwelling. Wherever God dwells He hides himself. He dwells in nature, but many do not see Him there. In meeting His saints of old He usually concealed himself under some manifestation in human weakness so that it was often only after He was gone that they said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and we knew it not.” In the tabernacle and the temple God dwelt in the darkness; He was there, but behind a veil, to be believed in and feared, but not to be seen. The Son came to reveal God, and yet He came as a root out of dry ground, without form or comeliness; even His own disciples were at times offended by Him. People expect the kingdom of God to come with observation. They do not know that it is a hidden mystery to be received only as, in His own self-revealing power, God makes himself known in hearts surrendered and prepared for Him. When contemplating the promise of the Spirit, Christians want some idea as to how His leading is known in their thoughts; how His quickening affects their feelings; how His sanctifying can be recognized in their will and conduct. They need to be reminded that deeper than mind, feeling, and will, deeper than the soul, where these have their seat, in the depths of the spirit that came from God, there the Holy Spirit comes to dwell.
This indwelling is to be, first of all, recognised by faith. Even when I cannot see the smallest evidence of His working, I am to believe that He dwells in me. In that faith I am to rest and trust His working, and to wait for it. I also must purposefully set aside my own wisdom and strength and in childlike self-denial depend upon Him to work. His first stirrings may be so quiet and hidden that I can hardly recognize them as coming from Him; they may appear to be nothing more than the voice of conscience or the familiar sound of some Bible truth. This is the time when by faith we must hold fast to the Master’s promise and the Father’s gift and to trust that the Spirit is within and will guide us. By faith we must continually yield our whole being to His rule and mastery and be faithful to what appears the nearest to His voice until we come to know His voice better.This indwelling is to be, first of all, recognised by faith. Even when I cannot see the smallest evidence of His working, I am to believe that He dwells in me. In that faith I am to rest and trust His working, and to wait for it. I also must purposefully set aside my own wisdom and strength and in childlike self-denial depend upon Him to work. His first stirrings may be so quiet and hidden that I can hardly recognize them as coming from Him; they may appear to be nothing more than the voice of conscience or the familiar sound of some Bible truth. This is the time when by faith we must hold fast to the Master’s promise and the Father’s gift and to trust that the Spirit is within and will guide us. By faith we must continually yield our whole being to His rule and mastery and be faithful to what appears the nearest to His voice until we come to know His voice better.
Faith is the faculty of our spiritual nature by which we can recognise the divine, in whatever unlikely appearance it clothes itself. If this is true of the divine, in whatever unlikely appearance it clothes itself. If this is true of the Father in His glory as God, and of the Son as the manifestation of the Father, how much more must it be true of the Spirit, the unseen divine life-power come to clothe itself and conceal itself within our weakness? Let us cultivate and exercise our faith in the Father, whose gift through the Son is the Spirit in our hearts. Let us look in faith to the Son also, whose glory centers in the gift of the indwelling Spirit. Likewise, let our faith grow strong in the unseen, sometimes unfelt, divine presence of this mighty power. He is a living person, who has descended into our weakness and hidden himself in our smallness to equip us for becoming the dwelling of the Father and the Son. Let our adoring worship of our glorified Lord seek to grasp the wondrous answer He gives to every prayer as the seal of our acceptance. It is the promise of deeper knowledge of our God, of closer fellowship and richer blessedness: The Holy Spirit dwells in us.
The deep importance of a right apprehension of the indwelling of the Spirit is evident from the place it occupies in our Lord’s farewell discourse. In this and the two following chapters, He speaks of the Spirit more directly as a teacher and witness, as representing and glorifying himself, and as convincing the world. At the same time, He connects what He says of His and the Father’s indwelling, of the union of the vine and the branches, and of the peace and joy and power in prayer that His disciples would have with “that day”—the time of the Spirit’s coming. But before all this, as its one condition and only source, He places the promise: “The Spirit of truth… will be in you.” It is of no benefit to us if we know all that the Spirit can do for us, or that we confess our entire dependence upon Him, unless we clearly realize and put in proper perspective what the Master deems most important. It is as the indwelling Spirit alone that He can be our teacher and our strength. As the church, and each believer, accepts our Lord’s promise “He will be in you” and takes this truth by faith, our relationship to the Holy Spirit will be restored. He will take control and inspire; He will fill and bless the vessel given over to Him as His dwelling.
A careful study of the epistles will confirm this. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul had to reprove them for sad and terrible sins and yet he says to all, including the weakest and most unfaithful believer, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). He was certain that if this was truly believed, and the truth given the place God intended, it would not only be the motive but the power of a new life. He reminded the backsliding Galatians that they had received the Spirit by the preaching of faith; God had sent the Spirit of His Son into their hearts; they had their life by the Spirit in them; if they could but understand and believe it, they would also walk in the Spirit. It is this teaching the church of Christ needs in our day.
C/f: The Indwelling Spirit, Andrew Murray, Bethany Books