The Bible speaks of God dwelling in people or places in many ways. We must understand the variety of indwellings the Bible teaches if we are to properly understand the indwelling of the Spirit.
God dwelling among Israel in the O.T.
1. God promised to dwell among Israel
And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.
2. The results of God dwelling with Israel
For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you. You shall eat the old harvest, and clear out the old because of the new. I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.
3. Gods dwelling in Solomons temple
1 Kings 6:11-13
Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying: Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.
God dwelled in Solomon's Temple, yet, "the heaven and heaven of heavens" cannot contain God! The dwelling of God in His Temple does not refer to the physical place where God lives, but the working relationship God has with His people. The dwelling of God in Solomon's Temple represented God's willingness to help all who turned to Him for help. In the same way, when the Bible speaks of God the Spirit dwelling in His Temple (church and individual Christians), it refers to His closeness and willingness to help and be active in the lives of those who trust Him.
1 Kings 8:13; 27; 30; 32; 39; 43; 49
13 I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever.
27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!
30 And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.
32 then hear in heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked, bringing his way on his head, and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.
39 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men),
43 hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.
49 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause,
A cloud filled the Temple to show Gods presence. Yet God was not limited to the Temple. It demonstrated a favorable relationship with God and Israel as long as they would be obedient.
4. God dwells in His temple today
2 Corinthians 6:16
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
b. The Church
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
God is not literally dwelling inside us, but He has a favorable relationship with us.
Remember: God is always Omnipresent!
5. The future dwelling of God
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.
Words for Indwelling in the N. T.
There are slight variations of meaning in the words but they basically teach the same thing. They are translated into various English words with similar meaning.
Oikeo - to dwell, inhabit, to dwell in someone or something, to abide in.
Enoikeo - to dwell in, of God or of spiritual things that take up their abode in or among men; to be present in.
Katoikeo - to dwell, to inhabit to abide in.
Meno - To remain in, abide in, dwell in, continue in, to be present, to lodge, often spoken of that which abides or remains within.
Concepts of Indwelling in the N. T.
All of the following passages include the concept of an influencing relationship.
1. Sin dwells in us
But now, it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells [oikoe] in me.
Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells [oikoe] in me.
2. Satan dwelled in Pergamum
I know your works, and where you dwell [katoikoe], where Satans throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells [katoikoe].
(Satan had not personally revealed himself or taken up literal residence, but is speaking of Satans presence and influence in the thought and actions of the ones in Pergamum committing sin.)
3. The Word of Christ dwells in Christians
Let the word of Christ dwell [enoikoe] in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
If you abide [meno] in Me, and My words abide [meno] in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
We are to abide in Him as His Words abide in us.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you abide [meno] in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
How do we abide in His words and have His Words abide in us? It is more than just knowing the Words.
But you do not have His word abiding [meno] in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.
They did not accept the Words and let them change their lives.
4. Truth abides in us
2 John 1:1-2
The elder, to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides [meno] in us and will be with us forever.
5. We are to abide in the doctrine of Christ
2 John 9
Whoever transgresses and does not abide [meno] in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides [meno] in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
This is not saying that we must be living in a house that has Scripture for wallpaper, but our lives are to be conformed to the teachings of Christ.
6. Joy remains in us
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain [meno] in you, and that your joy may be full.
How does someone elses joy abide in us? We have joy that is like His, it affects our lives.
7. God dwells in the Temple
He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells [katoikoe] in it.
However, the Most High does not dwell [katoikoe] in temples made with hands, as the prophet says.
God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell [katoikoe] in temples made with hands.
God was not literally dwelling in the Temple. His Word was there, His influence was there. Israel could see His presence in the lives of those who submitted to His will.
All these passages indicate a close relationship between us and something else. It is a relation that influences our lives.
Whether the passage is speaking of sin, the Word, doctrine, Satan, or joy, they all indicate a close relation that affects our lives.
The Spirit Dwells in Christians
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
1 Corinthians 3:16
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
2 Timothy 1:14
That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
The indwelling of the Spirit is not speaking of the Spirit moving into a literal location inside our bodies. This would be the idea that before we are a Christian the Spirit is not in our bodies, but once we are converted He moves in our bodies. We must remember the Spirit is omnipresent whether we obey or not. Our relationship to the Spirit changes when we obey the gospel. His omnipresence always remains the same.
The Bible not only says the Spirit is in Christians, God the Father and Son are also in us, and we abide in them.
1. God dwells in us
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
1 John 4:12
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
1 John 4:15-16
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
2. Christ is in us
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you are disqualified.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
All of these passages state as a fact that God, Christ and the Spirit are in us, but they do not tell us how or in what sense God is in us.
When Paul says that God dwells among His people, he does not mean God literally indwells in a physical location in their body, but that as their lives are full of the revelation of God, their thoughts, words and actions are godly, and God reigns in their lives. The relationship they have with God is so close that it is described as God dwelling in them.
The Result of Gods Indwelling
1. Those who have God dwelling in them become Godlike (Godly).
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.
2. Those who have Christ in them become Christlike (Christian).
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.
3. Those who have the Spirit dwelling in them become Spiritlike (Spiritual).
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
We have the Spirit dwelling in our lives when we submit completely to His will.
This is not speaking of a physical location. The Spirit is everywhere already. It speaks of a moral and spiritual relationship between us and the Spirit of God.
When we are led by the Spirit and filled with the Spirit by submitting to His will, we become the kind of people God draws near to in a loving relationship. These are the ones to whom God becomes a Father and they His children.
The Spirit doesnt dwell in anyone by force. We must respond to the Word. Some teach the Spirit comes in and saves us. We never read of a direct influence of this nature.
We must respond to the Words the Spirit revealed.
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation. Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
The Spirit didnt come and take over their lives. He inspired Peter to tell them what they needed to do.
The Word is the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17)
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
1 Peter 1:22-23
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,
Those who obey the Word have God dwelling with them.
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Gods omnipresence is always constant. It takes on new meaning for the obedient.
(Wayne Wells preaches in Texarkana, TX.
He is the webmaster for http://godofmercy.com
and can be contacted at email@example.com.)