Christ in you
One of the greatest truths in the Bible is the truth that God has come to live in his people. This is the very essence of the New Covenant and it is what sets Christianity apart from all other religious beliefs. During Old Testament times God’s emphasis was that he would dwell “among” his people.
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. (Exod 25:8)
During the transition period between the Old and the New Covenant the Son of God came to dwell with humanity for a short period of time in a physical, bodily form, and during this period God described our state as having, “God with us.”
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matt 1:23)
But beyond all this, God had a greater experience in store for his people and when Jesus returned to heaven and was glorified, this greater experience came to his people. The apostle Paul describes this amazing experience, the privilege of New Testament believers, in the following words:
. . . . ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2Cor 6:16)
This was the fulfillment of the promise which God had made hundreds of years before through the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel where he had stated that one day he would completely transform the experience of his people so that they would be able to serve him in a way which would be acceptable to him. In Jeremiah, he expressed it as writing his laws on the hearts and minds of his people, while in Ezekiel he described it as putting a new heart and a new spirit in them.
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:33)
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezek 36:26-27)
This is what makes the New Covenant different from the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant, God’s law was not written on the hearts of his people, in the Old Covenant they were not given a new heart and a new spirit, but God promised that one day, this would be their experience. This writing of the law on the hearts of God’s people was not simply achieved by memorizing the ten commandments, it was something completely different than anything that anyone had experienced before. In actual fact, this referred to the experience where God’s people would have the very mind of God, their thoughts and behavior would be like his, because he himself and his son would come to live in them. There are many verses in the New Testament which speak of this experience:
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Col 1:27)
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1John 4:4)
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Rom 8:9)
This is the essence of what it means to be “born again,” and those who have experienced this new birth can testify to the reality of this experience.
Amazing as it may seem, there are some within the Christian community, even among those who believe in the one true God of the Bible, who have set out to deny and to oppose this truth of the literal indwelling of Christ and the Father, in their people. This denial is not because of lack of evidence in the Bible, there can hardly be anything more clear than the emphasis of Paul and John in the following verses:
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2Cor 13:5)
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1John 1:3)
I am not going to try to judge the motives of those who deny this truth, perhaps it is based on certain statements by Ellen White, perhaps it is based on their own personal experience, or lack of it, or maybe there is some other reason. Whatever the reason, their opposition is diametrically in conflict with very, very clear teachings in the Scriptures.
First of all these brethren make the claim that it is not possible for Christ to live in his people because he is presently in heaven, ministering in the heavenly sanctuary (they also apply this limitation to the Father). According to their ideas, even God cannot be literally in two places at the same time and they conclude that this belief leads to pantheism, the doctrine that God is in everything and everything is God. Of course, God himself makes the claim that he is omnipresent, that he is everywhere at the same time. This is one of the most prominent teachings of the Bible:
Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD. (Jer 23:24)
However, these brethren conclude that it is not God himself who is actually filling heaven and earth, but that he is present by a “representative,” whom they label as “the third person of the godhead,” and who, many conclude, is not God himself, but an indefinable agency from God. Others who are more bold, or more reckless, conclude that this “third person” really is a title which applies to the angels of God who go back and forth all over the universe doing the bidding of God. Whatever the explanation, the bottom line is a denial of the truth that God and Jesus do literally dwell in their people.
What is the spirit?
One of the reasons for this strange denial is ignorance of what the spirit of God really is and this is based on a general ignorance of what a person’s spirit is. According to the Bible, a person’s spirit is an integral part of his being, inseparably bound up with the person so that it is impossible to separate them, until a person is dead. It is more than simply the thoughts of a person, more than simply the attitudes and personality of a person. It is a very real component which is actually the true essence of the person himself as the following verses very clearly demonstrate.
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1Cor 5:5)
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (Jas 2:26)
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (Acts 7:59)
The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen. (2Tim 4:22)
Notice that in all these verses the spirit is represented as being the essential element of the person. It is the thing that will be saved, it is the element that determines whether a person is alive or dead, it is the part that is preserved by God to be revived in the resurrection and it is the part of our being where Christ himself is joined to us. The spirit is the essential element of a person’s identity and this can be demonstrated very simply: When the Son of God came to earth, he came as a fetus in a woman’s belly. He left his knowledge, his awareness, his personality, his bodily form behind. If he left all these things behind, put them away and created a new life and identity as a human being, then in what sense can we say that Jesus was the same person that had lived in heaven from all eternity as the Son of God? He was the same being because it was his spirit that came to dwell in the human body in Mary’s belly! The element that made him the same person, even though he had a different personality, was his spirit. This is what was transferred from heaven to Mary’s belly, everything else was gone. The Bible says,
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: (Heb 10:5)
The body was not the son of God, even the personality that he developed as a man was not the son of God. The Son of God was the spirit that came to inhabit the body that had been prepared.
So then, we can understand that the spirit of God is not simply an “agency” sent by God. The spirit of God is an aspect of God himself – in fact it is the essential aspect of God’s being. If a person is separated from his spirit he is dead and God without his spirit is not God. As Jesus himself told us,
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
So the spirit of God is God himself and the spirit of Christ is Christ himself in the same way that my spirit is me, myself. It is not possible to separate a person from his spirit unless the person is dead. This is what happened to Jesus in the moment of his death.
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:46)
So it is absolutely contrary to the Scriptures to identify the spirit of God as a “third person,” or an independent “agency,” distinct from God and Jesus, and it is even more ridiculous to suggest that the spirit of God refers to angels!
Words & spirit
In John John 6:63 Jesus made a statement which has been misunderstood and misrepresented by some. He said,
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)
This statement has led to the other erroneous conclusion that the spirit equates to the words of a person, to their mental disposition. Since the words of Christ arose from the mind of Christ, the conclusion is that the words carry his spirit, his way of thinking, his thoughts, and that it is through his words that Christ lives in his people. But as we have seen the spirit is much more than that. Typically, those who hold to this belief will explain that when we receive the words of Christ those words will affect the way we think, will work on our personality and as we respond to them, we will become more like Christ. According to them, this is how we are born again and this is how Christ lives in his people. Not as a person, not as a living being, but by enabling us to think like him, through the agency of his words.
But again, the Scripture is very clear on this point as well. As a person receives and believes his words, such a person will receive the faith to enable him to receive Christ himself. The life is not in the words, but in Christ. The words are only an agency for creating faith (Rom 10:17), but that faith must go on to take hold of Christ himself.
In John 7:37-39, Jesus spoke of the coming of the holy spirit using the symbol of flowing water:
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:38-39)
This verse alone should settle the issue even if there were no others. Here it tells us that the holy spirit was not yet given! If this applied to the words of Jesus or any other words, then this verse would be meaningless. The words of Jesus had been present ever since he began his ministry, and in fact, even from the Old Testament times when he led Israel. But this passage makes us understand that the coming of the holy spirit was not the coming of words or of angels, it was the coming of Jesus himself to dwell in his people. This occurred at Pentecost and this extraordinary event could not take place until Jesus was glorified.
When John spoke of the future ministry of Jesus Christ he expressed it as a ministry in which he would baptize his people with the holy ghost and fire:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Matt 3:11)
In no way could we construe this to mean that he would baptize his people with “words” or with “angels.” This was literally fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the church was filled with the power of God which came upon the believers in the visible form of tongues of fire. The result was that they all began to speak with other languages – languages which they had never studied, which they had not capability to understand before that moment. This was not angels speaking through them, this was not their mental state being altered by reading or remembering the words of Christ. This was the infusion of a supernatural life, the impartation of information, abilities, power that existed nowhere else but in Christ himself. This was Christ coming into his kingdom, the glorified Christ returning to live in his people.
And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. (Acts 3:12-13)
As a man, it was not possible for Jesus to be in more than one place at a time, he was not omnipresent. Even when he returned to heaven, something had to happen to him first before he received this ability. He had to be glorified, he had to be filled with the spirit of God, united to God in such a way that all the powers and abilities of God flowed through him, so with this ability, he was now able to be in all places at the same time. He now had the ability to extend his own person into each of his people in all parts of the world and even the universe. In his last conversation with his disciples Jesus tried to explain this to them and even though he had to speak to them in parables, they eventually understood what he was saying.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)
Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:22-23)
Jesus declared that the comforter that he would send was already dwelling with them, but in the future, he would be in them. No longer on the outside, but on the inside. It is very clear that he was speaking of himself and when the disciples inquired further, seeking clearer understanding, he told them plainly, “my father and I will come and make our home with the one who loves me and keeps my words.” Keeping the words of Jesus would result in Jesus and God coming to live in such a person. Jesus, the comforter who they knew face to face, a living person, would be with them in a new way, living on the inside, in their spirits. The Bible is so clear on this matter that it is amazing that anyone should believe otherwise. In Ephesians 4:10 it tells us,
He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (Eph 4:10 NIV)
The NIV expresses the truth in plainer words than the KJV so I have quoted it here. The KJV says “that he might fill all things,” but the NIV highlights the meaning by stating, “in order to fill the whole universe.” Jesus returned to heaven, was glorified in order that the victory which he had accomplished on earth, the perfect life which he had created in himself, might be passed on to his people. The only way he could do this was by being able to be everywhere at the same time, to be himself, the very life in his people. It is only as Christ himself lives again, in us, that we can live holy lives, none of us is, or can be righteous in himself. None of us has the capability of living a righteous life, in himself. It is only Christ who has that ability and it is as we allow him into our lives that he will live again in us, just as he lived here on earth in bodily form many years ago. The difference is that at that time it was his own body, this time it is in my body, by my permission. Amazing!
The Bible does teach that God works to preserve, safeguard and bless his people through the ministry of angels.
But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Heb 1:13-14)
The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. (Ps 34:7)
In fact, God does the same thing through the ministry of those who are his children. It is God’s method to work through an agency because in this way, God gives others the privilege of working along with him and additionally, it means that everything which he does is transparent and involves witnesses. We have been ordained and chosen to preach the good news to others despite the fact that God could do it much better through angels, or even simply through using his own power, independent of human involvement. But it is God’s appointed way of accomplishing his purposes so, whenever there is somebody who is open to receive salvation, or who needs a miraculous intervention, God will send one of his children to be a vessel through whom he will work.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
But does it mean that God is limited to working only through angels and humans? Are we to conclude that because angels are with us and protect us, God himself is not also with us personally, and even living in us personally? Does this mean that because God works through angels they are described as “the holy spirit?” Does it mean that they are a “third person,” in the godhead? If this were so then we might very well also say that we also are the holy spirit because God works through us also! We might very well say that we are the “third person” of the godhead because his spirit is in us and his power flows through us! But though God works through us as he works through angels, this in no way entitles either Christians or angels to receive the title of “holy spirit.” The holy spirit is the very essence of the life and person of God flowing through his son Jesus Christ. Nobody and nothing else is entitled to bear the title of “the spirit of God.” We are the sons of God because we possess his spirit, his life in us, our fellowship is with God and his Son. Let nobody remove this wonderful blessing from us and attempt to replace it with the ministry of angels!
It cannot be angels
The final, decisive evidence is Jesus’ promise to send another comforter, one like himself to be always with his people. There is no reasonable way that one could conclude that this comforter is an angel, or a group of angels. Jesus said of this comforter, “he dwelleth with you and shall be in you.”
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)
Somebody might say that this comforter was a special angel who was at the time present with them, but note – Jesus said in the future he would be in them! God has never given angels a ministry of living inside of his people. The only time that we find angels living inside people is when people are devil possessed! At such times fallen angels take control of the bodies of people by force. This is not the way of God and he has never commissioned his angels to act in such a way. The only being who can live inside another being without forcefully entering and hijacking the person’s mind and faculties, is God himself, through his spirit, no other being has that capability.
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2Cor 6:16)
Our bodies are the temples of the living God, not the temples of angels. In this statement the apostle Paul is taking our minds back to what happened during Old Testament times when the presence of God was manifested in the most holy place of the sanctuary. God instructed the Hebrews to make images of angels in the curtains of the sanctuary and they were to carve two golden angels on the top of the mercy seat. However, God himself was the only living presence inside that sanctuary. His presence was visible as a light shining between the two carved angels on the mercy seat. The presence was not the angels, it was the shekinah light, the symbol of God’s very presence in that temple.
This is what Paul alludes to when he says, “ye are the temple of the living God.” We are the place where God dwells not through angels, but himself, the living shekinah.
We are living today in the age of the New Covenant, in a time when our privileges are greater than those who lived in the age before Christ. If in those times of the Old Covenant they had the privilege of God’s presence manifested in a temple made of animal skins, then how much more in the gospel age should we expect the living presence of God in our bodies which are declared to be his true temple! This is what he declares to be the truth and this is what we should believe and experience.
(Source: Restoration Ministry)