Is It Jesus Himself?
Within the community of those who believe in the one true God, there is emerging a concept of the Spirit of God which I believe is false, contrary to the Scriptures, and contrary to the gospel – in fact, I believe it to be an extremely dangerous teaching. This concept has arisen partly because some of us are anxious to prove that the Spirit of God is not a separate, independent person from Christ and the father. However, it is also largely based on an over emphasis on statements made by Ellen White, and the ignoring of some very clear biblical evidence.
There are different variations of this teaching, depending on who you talk to, but the main focus of this belief, is a rejection of the idea that God and Jesus live in Christians literally. Let me explain what I mean by this word, “literally”.
1. I do not mean physically
2. I do not mean in a bodily form
3. But I mean that God the person, and Jesus the person, do actually live in the Christian.
4. This means that I understand that being a person, does not necessarily mean that there has to be a physical body or a bodily form. There has to be a body for a person to be present in the PHYSICAL realm, but when we are speaking of God, it is presumptuous to limit him to the capabilities of human beings.
God is Omnipresent
There are several biblical statements concerning God’s nature which make it easy to demonstrate this truth, even if we cannot understand it perfectly.
“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)
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (1Kgs 8:27)
One of the issue I have with those who reject this reality is that they have established certain limited ideas concerning God, and they have set these ideas in stone. For example, they will declare that since he is a person, God must be limited to one location, that he cannot be in two places at the same time. Some of them will also insist that since he is a person he must exist in a bodily form and that without this bodily form he cannot be a person. Such persons therefore reject the idea that God can be in heaven while literally living in a Christian at the same time. What they will say is that his attributes are in the Christian, some of his qualities and abilities, but not he himself! They will follow through with the logical conclusion that God is present with only us in a secondary way by means of his agencies such as the angels. They will insist that God and Jesus have no personal contact with us, because they are both billions of light-years away in heaven, engaged in the ministry of the sanctuary.
Now I will concede that there are many passages in the Bible which support the idea that we are made partakers of God’s power, his attributes, his nature and his character. I have absolutely no issue with that understanding. What I am disturbed about however, is the concept that would deprive us of the literal presence of God and his son! What really bothers me about this is the fact that there are very clear and striking Bible passages which present the truth of the literal indwelling, in a personal way, of both the father and the son, in the Christian. If it were simply a matter of human reasoning and logic, I would yield to the opinions of these brethren, but when I examine the evidence of the Scriptures I am mystified and deeply concerned to find them insisting that Christ and the father do not actually live in us, and even more alarming, to find that this unscriptural perspective seems to be spreading.
One of the clearest passages in the Bible which teaches this fact of the literal presence of the father and his son, is John chapters 14 – 17. To fully grasp the significance of this passage we have to put ourselves in the position of the disciples at the time when Jesus spoke these words. These disciples were in deep distress for a particular reason, they were greatly concerned by the fact that Jesus was about to leave them and they would be left without his guidance, his direction, his wisdom and most importantly his presence. It is in this context and against this background that Jesus gave them the promise of the coming comforter.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;” (John 14:15-16)
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:18-19)
In the name of reason and common sense, let me ask, when such a promise is made to people in that kind of situation, with that kind of need, what are they supposed to understand? What is it that they are really seeking for? Are they looking for the attributes of the person, the power of the person, the wisdom of the person, or the companionship of the person? It is not an accidental thing that this passage in the Bible is the only passage where the Holy Spirit is clearly and definitely identified as, “he”. The reason is because here, Jesus is not simply focusing on the abilities which are to be given by the Holy Spirit, he is focusing on the personhood, the companionship, the friendship of a companion, the comfort of another being. This was the need of the disciples in that moment and that this is what Jesus promised to give.
Of course the Trinitarians takes this passage and rightly focus on the personhood of the Holy Spirit, but wrongly, and contrary to the rest of the passage, identify the Holy Spirit as a third person, separate and distinct from Christ and the father. A little careful reading of the passage demonstrates very clearly that this comforter is simply the literal presence of the father and the son in an invisible, non-bodily form.
“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)
The disciples clearly understood that as he was speaking of this other comforter, Jesus was actually referring to his own presence. They believed him when he said, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you”, they believed him when he said, “he dwelleth with you and shall be in you”. What they did not understand was how such a thing could be possible! How could it be that they would see him, experience him, interact with him while the world would not be able to do so? How could he, “manifest” himself unto them and not to anyone else? Jesus’ answer was too clear to be misunderstood:
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’ response to his disciples was that he and the father would come to such a person and make their home with that person. It is very difficult for me to understand how anyone can read these words and come to the conclusion that the father and Jesus do not personally and literally come to dwell in the Christian. This is further emphasized by the apostle John in 1 John 1:3,
“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)
How can one have, “fellowship”, with attributes, with power, with abilities? It is possible only to have fellowship with a person. John understood the reality of this fellowship because he is the one who recorded the statements made by Jesus in John 14 where the comforter was promised.
But this is not all; the apostle Paul teaches very clearly that our bodies are the temples of the living God. The full impact of that statement can only be understood when we realize that the sole purpose of a temple is that it is the dwelling place of a deity. God himself emphasized this point when he said in Exodus 25:8,
“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.” (Exod 25:8)
The popular concept of a sanctuary or a temple today, is that it is a place where people congregate for worship. However this is a distortion of the truth which has become established over the years because of the misuse of the word “temple”, to apply to the places where religious people meet for worship. But as I said, a temple is designed to be exclusively the dwelling place of a deity. This is the understanding the apostle Paul had in mind when he said,
“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)
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1Cor 3:16-17)
Let us consider the implications of this a little more closely: when Paul referred to our bodies at the temples of God, it is very clear that he was making an application based on the temple which had been given to the Hebrews at Mount Sinai and which had been the center of their system of worship. Now he says that it is our bodies which are the temples of the living God. God does not dwell in temples made with hands, but here Paul declares that the true dwelling place of God is the bodies of believers. This makes no sense at all if God does not literally dwell in the believer. Even in the old system, the evidence of God’s attributes could be seen in many places. The law itself gave detailed descriptions of God’s purposes and God’s will for the Israelites, but this was not the presence of God. The sanctuary or the temple, was unique in that the literal presence of God was manifested in that building. There, Moses was able to meet with God face-to-face and to speak with him audibly as a man speaks with his friend.
How could it be possible that in that ancient system, in a worldly sanctuary, the sanctuary of the old covenant, God was literally present, yet in the antitype of that system, the new covenant application of the sanctuary, we should have something inferior? How could there be the literal presence of God in the illustration, and yet in the reality we only have attributes of God, and no literal presence? It does not make sense! If this were the way it really was, then we would have to conclude that God’s people were better off before Jesus came, under the typical system, than we are since he came, under the antitypical reality! But praise God it is not so, if we will believe and accept what the Bible says we will understand that God and Jesus do literally and personally dwell in the believer.
Worship The Temple?
I have heard some present the argument that if we believe that Christ is literally within us, that this will lead to idolatry and that it is logical then to believe that we should worship ourselves, or worship one another. This is a foolish argument which is neither based on good reasoning nor the facts of Scripture. When God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, no one will deny that the presence of God was literally at that bush. On the basis of this faulty reasoning of these brethren, we could then conclude that it would be a legitimate thing to go and worship that bush! Likewise, since the presence of God was clearly and undisputedly in the sanctuary set up by Moses, then it would also be a legitimate thing to start worshiping that sanctuary! I could go on with this, but I think it is easy to understand the point. The fact that God dwells in me is not a reason to worship myself or to worship you because you have the same experience. We worship God, not his subjects, nor the places where his presence is. The presence of God at a certain place does not turn that place into God!
Old Covenant Ideas
This kind of thinking reflects a mindset that is focused still, on Old Testament perspectives. This was the kind of thinking that the Samaritan woman had when she met Jesus at Jacob’s well. She was concerned about the proper place of worship, she was concerned about where her focus should be when she worshipped. She was accustomed to the physical and the material and she wanted to limit God in this way. Jesus’ answer to her still needs to be emphasized today.
“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
What was Jesus’ point? The point was, God is spirit, therefore he cannot be limited to material things in physical spaces. This was always true of God, but it was not always understood, Jesus now makes it plain that the true worshipers will worship God in keeping with his true nature. This means they will no longer limit him to places and things, but they will worship him in spirit, meaning they would relate to him as a spiritual being not trying to tie him down as physical beings are tied down. They will worship him in truth, meaning according to reality and not according to the system of illustrations and symbols. This is the truth about God, whether he is in heaven or in earth – God cannot be limited to physical places.
What we believe on this issue is very important because there are serious misconceptions which arise from coming to the wrong conclusion. Misconceptions which not only affect how we view the Christian life but also how we approach and live that life. One path takes us inevitably on the road of human works and legalism, the other path takes us on the road of dependence on Jesus and the rejection of human abilities.
When we believe that Jesus literally lives in us the focus is never on our abilities, never on our efforts to do what is good, never on our shortcomings. Those who understand and believe this have their eyes fixed on Christ they are constantly aware of his presence and in this awareness Christ is directing their behaviour, speaking to them, comforting, uplifting, strengthening them himself from within. Such people are never alone, constantly victorious, unable to be defeated by the enemy.
But those who believe that we have Jesus’ attributes, but not Jesus himself must depend on themselves. In a sense it is people who have been given the job of living the life of Christ, without Christ. Behind all of this is the assumption that what we need are the attributes of God rather than God himself. With this kind of thinking where will our focus be? Of course it will be in God’s gifts, God’s instructions, God’s help, but obviously not on God himself or on Jesus himself! Inevitably those who embrace this kind of thinking are heavily fixated on the law because they view the Christian life as a process of producing holy living by responding to God’s instructions, rather than Christ himself producing that holy life by himself living through us.
I do not want to be overlong with this so I will end at this point, but I hope those of you who read this article will be able to grasp the reason why our position on this issue is so critical. Ultimately the end result would be either an attempt to live the Christian life without Christ or, an experience of true fellowship with the Father and with his son where our attention is constantly focused on them.
(Source: David Clayton from Restoration Ministry)