Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Indwelling of Deity in Jesus

(A look at the claim (when) and proof (how) of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer.)

look to Jesus

I have a fundamental approach to questions and subjects which either I do not understand or I am ready to examine more closely for a better understanding. I look to Jesus. I want to understand what Jesus said and what he did on a particular matter in order for me to gain insight and understanding. There is at least one claim which people have developed to develop their understanding of deity. One example is to rank deity. This is accomplished, in their mind, by ranking the Father as first, the Son as second, and the Holy Spirit as third. The net result of creating a short list of hierarchy ranking is a simplified approach of the subject of deity. However, this claim does little or nothing to enhance the understanding of the saints concerning deity or the indwelling of deity in the believer. What does make for our understanding is to examine and understand what Jesus declared as the proof of how deity, that is, the Father dwelt in Jesus. Then, the saints will be able to boldly and confidently assert the indwelling of deity in them. So, I hope to encourage the saints as is the intended purpose the message of this article.

In the interest of brevity I will refer to these two views which are often given in response to the question of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit only. Essentially, these are two views which express some believers’ understanding of the Holy Spirit in relation to the believer. I do not claim nor have I attempted to present those views at length. Certainly, I wish neither to malign nor disparage those saints who are represented by these views. There is little to be gained from trashing any view which represents a person's struggle to understand the things of God and faith. There is time and opportunity to share and build understanding always. What these two views express in common is the belief that the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer.

two views
The first view is that the Holy Spirit, dwells in the heart of the believer. This claim is not completely empty. Some of the biblical support for this view is taken from the beginning of the earliest preaching of the gospel by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost. Those who heard Peter’s message and repented were baptized in accordance with Peter’s instruction, . . . for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) There is a mistaken, seeming simplicity and thoroughness in this view to which I will come back later.

A second view is that the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer and he does so through the word, that is, the written revelation of the will of God. This view, too, draws from a number and variety of scripture passages and as much as the discussion of these two may take on heated overtones they are nonetheless true to the scripture.

first view: claim

The first view merely claims when (which opens up to another discussion question, namely, the significance of baptism, but also a question not without an answer and for another time) the Holy Spirit was received by the believer. These are the words of the apostle Paul:

and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:5,6

Quite simply, the love which was poured out into the heart of the believer occurred at the time when the Holy Spirit was given to him/her; a gift, that is the Holy Spirit, It is the Holy Spirit who was received (see first view) when those who believed the WORD obeyed the word(s) and responded in faith to those words.

It is unfortunate that the focus of the saints in their quest to understand the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is misplaced from the beginning of their search. This is not because of the tertiary status of the Holy Spirit among the deities of Father and Son. Rather, it is because the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is nothing more than a claim void of any understanding. This claim views the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as being separate and different from the indwelling of the Father and the Son in the believer. In fact, the indwelling of the Father and the Son are foreign to many believers. These are not the things which make for confidence, boldness and joy in the believer.

second view: proof

The second view asserts how the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer. However, here is the fallout from the mistaken ranking and simplification in which the Holy Spirit is the sole focus. There is something that is overlooked by the saints in Christ, namely, the significant truth that, both, the Father and the Son dwell in us as well as the Holy Spirit.

The proof of the word as the evidence of the indwelling of deity in the believer is one readily rejected and dismissed by some saints. Others who profess to accept the evidence of the word often reveal that they do not understand what they profess. It is a proof that  is quite different from the proof some saints offer concerning the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in them. This does not represent a problem concerning the salvation of the believer, precisely because he or she is a believer already. However, there is something significant which arises. It arises in the form of the carnal attitude and the exaltation of self above others, the seemingly harmless ranking of deity is revealed in the carnal behavior of the believers who tout themselves as being "more spiritual." The evidence of this carnality is heard in the expression, "get the the Spirit" or "I got the Holy Spirit." The reason for a believer to seek this "getting" reveals that they do not know that the Spirit is in them and has been dwelling in them. The visible display of what is called getting the Holy Spirit is for appearance mostly and nothing to do with understanding how deity dwelt in Jesus nor in the disciple himself or herself.

The conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10) is a powerful example of both claim and proof coming together. It occurred when he heard and believed the words spoken to him by  the apostle Peter. Those were Peter's words as Peter was commanded by the Lord. It was those words which resulted in Cornelius and his household believing and obeying the words of the gospel. How is it that these two views can be so devoid of any teaching for the non believer? It is because for all the outward, audible claims of faith in Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in them the saints have displaced and dismissed the words the Spirit has given to the saints of the faith that is in Christ Jesus. They have chosen to rely on their own claims and feelings. The dual unfortunate effect of this is evident in the lack of confidence it fosters in them as well in those whom they seek to enlighten and encourage in their understanding of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Earlier I mentioned I would come back to the matter of what I call a mistaken, seeming simplicity and thoroughness associated with the claim concerning the indwelling of deity in the believer. You can read my blog article concerning, not about Cornelius, but about baptism here. I will only add here that much of what is heard in the discussion on Cornelius between claim and proof (though not necessarily with these two terms which have used here) is mistaken. It is mistaken because both sides of the discussion table typically overlook and fail to note the key which the Holy Spirit declares and which falls between claim and proof, the term, words by which Cornelius was to be saved.

the indwelling of deity in Jesus

Foremost for me in the need to encourage the saints on their understanding of the indwelling of deity in the believer is to give thanks to Jesus. He did not leave us clueless. He revealed for our understanding much about himself and the Father. Did Jesus ever make any claims about deity indwelling him? The fact is that Jesus did make claims about deity indwelling him and he was quite specific about those claims which he spoke to Philip. 

9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works’ sake. 12 Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father.

Jesus affirmed to Philip in John 14 that not only did: 
1) the Father dwell in Jesus , but
2) that Jesus dwelt in the Father.

words and works
Additionally, Jesus said that Philip and the disciples had seen the Father. What was the proof of the indwelling of the Father which Jesus gave to Philip? First, the words and second, the works. These words are the same proof today. This is true regardless of whether or not those words were understood by Philip or  understood by the saints today. This is the testimony given by Jesus for the ages to the saints in Christ. These are his words to reassure and affirm the faith and conviction of the believers in Jesus, the Son of God.

This proof given by Jesus lacks the spectacular, sensationalism and flashiness which are the proofs prized by those in the flesh and those who see and judge things according to the flesh.

One can almost expect from as did the Jews right after Jesus had performed a sign, "Show us a sign." Jesus was confident about living on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The travesty, here, is that although the saints read those words of Jesus concerning the words and works and they understand those words, they will not accept them as being true and applicable to them. They continue their walk in search of something more than the spoken and written word of the Lord. Jesus said,

But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

He told the disciples what he knew about the effectual power of words.

It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. 64 But there are some of you who don’t believe.” John 6:63

Here is the close relationship between spirit and word from Proverbs:

Turn at my reproof,
Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you,
I will make known to you my words. Proverbs 1:23

Our struggles to understand how the Father dwelt in Jesus and how Jesus dwelt in the Father are no different than the struggles experienced by Philip. We even mimic his frustration: Lord, just show us how the Holy Spirit dwells in us! Yet, Jesus himself revealed to Philip as well as to us something simple and profound. Namely, it is the eternal nature of his words and the temporal nature of his works, that is, both of which attest to the indwelling of deity in the believer.

claims which lack
Saints who cheerily profess they know the Holy Spirit indwells in them because of the joy they feel reveal a disconnect between their response and the response of Jesus to Philip. There is a similar disconnect with the words of Jesus among saints who joyfully profess they know the Holy Spirit indwells them because of those moments of unrestrained emotional ecstasy into which they throw themselves when the saints assemble in praise to the Father.

There is a common element between these views. It is that they offer nothing more than claims about what one professes to know or what one feels, but both claims reflect a lack (and sometimes a disdain) of understanding the word of the Lord. After all, they reason, those are just words. They have no response, nothing to build up the nonbeliever who reveals his own notions that the Holy Spirit indwells him/her because they are spiritual, they feel spiritual, they pray or they do good works. All these things are commendable and praiseworthy, but in the nonbeliever they are a mere semblance of righteousness and not obedience to the word of the Lord.

This is the outcome of dismissing the significance of words which Jesus regarded as essential and valuable and the means by which He made known the will of the Father to Philip and all the disciples. Words were the proof Jesus gave to Philip regarding his claim that the Father dwelt in him and he in the Father.

whose word(s)
There is much that is heard about American society being anti-intellectual. I will not to go there I do not see it as anything new. It is definitely something which holds just as true of the saints with respect to words even, the word of God. Whether it is quoting and citing the original Greek language of the New Testament or constantly creating and trusting new and fresh, catchy phrases; these can never take the place or create in the believer the same impact as the words and the understanding of scripture. Jesus felt and was quite familiar with the disdain and dismissal of the words which he spoke to the multitudes. There was an aversion against hearing and accepting the words which he spoke in their presence. Jesus made it clear whose words it was that he spoke. The words, he told them, were from the Father who had given those words for the Son to declare.

The declaration of the revelation of the will of God is what God spoke when He said, Let there be light. The word of God is what God spoke to Moses. It was no less the word of God when Moses repeated what God had spoken. The word of God is what the prophets spoke as being from God. The word of God is what Jesus declared as being from the Father. The word of God is what the apostles spoke as being from the Holy Spirit. It was no less the authoritative word of God and no less to be obeyed before, during or since it was written and later, printed. This same word is living and life and no less effectual, powerful and authoritative when we receive the word by which, through which and in which Father, Son and Holy Spirit make their dwelling in the believer.

The Word became flesh, and lived among us. (John 1:14)
This is the epitome, much to the consternation of some minds, of spirit becoming flesh even if only in outward appearance and a mere three years. The word of God is what we saints read silently and out loud for all to hear. The word of God, that is, the scriptures was at no point along the unfolding and process of history diminished. That is, until today by the saints in Christ when they shifted their reliance and trust in the written word of God to something other than the scriptures.

I do not believe the saints intentionally diminish the word of God. Certainly, their intentions can not and do not thwart the will of God. The reason for this state of the word in the church and as concerns the indwelling of deity in the believer is really no different than the disciples who walked with Jesus. They, too, like the saints today, overlooked and misunderstood the words which Jesus spoke to them. 

teaching and remembrance of words
Jesus said to the disciples he would ask the Father to send the Counselor, also called Comforter and Holy Spirit. Jesus was specific as to the terms by which not only the Father and Jesus but the Holy Spirit, too, would come to make their home in that disciple: If a man loves me, he will keep my word. (v 23) How were the disciples to know Jesus’ commandments, that is, his word in order to keep those commandments? They would know those commandments, those words, just as the Holy Spirit carried out his work. This work of the Holy Spirit in them involved the words in them as Jesus said the Holy Spirit would:

teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. 

Jesus revealed to the disciples that the Counselor whom the Father would soon send was already living with them and that he would be in them. How was the Holy Spirit with the disciples? It was by the same words which Jesus had spoken to them. These words were what the Holy Spirit himself would soon use to teach and to bring to the remembrance of the disciples all things which Jesus had taught them. This was the Spirit of whom Jesus said,

the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see him, neither knows him. You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you. (John 14:17)

It is no wonder when I see my brothers and sisters struggling to understand and distinguish between deity and how deity indwells them. The disciples who saw, heard, touched and walked with Jesus struggled no less than the saints today to understand the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit in them. But, Jesus revealed boldly and confidently the proof that the Father as in him through the words and the works. This may not be sufficient for some. They will continue to coin and parrot catchy phrases to bolster their confidence.

Then, there is this;

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,
16 that He would grant you,according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

I have often cited the latter passage for my brothers and sisters who are given to using one of those expressions coined and minted out of fear and uncertainty, not according to their confidence and knowledge of the scriptures. This is not a blast or a condemnation. It represents a need to which I am compelled to respond. The expression about how we ought not to “put God in a box” is precisely what Paul confidently asserted. Indeed, God has put himself in a box, not one made with human hands, but our God-made, God-given heart.