The Indwelling Of The Holy Spirit (Part III)

By Wayne Wells

The Bible plainly says the Holy Spirit indwells God’s people, but there is much confusion on how the Spirit’s indwelling occurs. Some claim the indwelling refers to a physical location, but physical location cannot apply to the omnipresent God. What physical location is there where the Spirit isn’t already there?

Psalm 139:7-10
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.

Instead of thinking of the indwelling of the Spirit as a physical location, a more accurate concept would be a “working relationship”.

When the Bible speaks of God being far from the wicked, it is not referring to God literally, physically being far away from a certain location, otherwise, He would cease being omnipresent. Physical location is not an issue with the omnipresent God, but His relationship with us can change, depending on our obedience or disobedience. God is "far" from us when we sin, and is "close" to us when we obey. His physical presence doesn't change, but His relationship towards us does change. 

There are several Greek words for dwell or indwell and all have a similar meaning. (There are others, but these are the ones that are used when speaking of God, along with their normal meanings.) 

Oikeo  “to dwell” (from oikos, “a house”), “to inhabit as one’s abode”

Katoikeo  “to settle down in a dwelling, to dwell fixedly in a place”

Enoikeo  “to dwell in”

Meno “to abide, remain”

    Vine's Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words

When we understand the passages that speak of various dwellings, we can better understand the passages that teach the Holy Spirit dwells within Christians.  One of the most constant themes in all of them is the idea of influence. This is one reason I use the phrase “working relationship” to describe the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is not teaching that the Holy Spirit physically lives in our heart (is He in the right atrium or left ventricle?), but He has a relationship with us by which He works in our lives, and it is such a close, personal relationship, that it is described as the Holy Spirit is living in us.

Indwellings in the Bible

1.  Sin dwells in us.

Romans 7:17
But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Romans 7:20
Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Sin is obviously not a person, but it still dwells in us.  This does not refer to a specific physical location where sin dwells, but the constant influence it has on our lives.

2.  We can abide in darkness.

John 12:46
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

“Abide” is translated from meno, which is translated “dwell” 12 times in the KJV. “Darkness” is used as a metaphor for sin. Sin dwells in us, we can dwell in darkness. Either way it is not talking about physical location, but the influence on our lives.

3.  We are to abide in the light.

1 John 2:10
He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

Where in the light do we abide? Once again, this passage is not speaking of physical location but our manner of life. Just as "darkness" is a metaphor for sin, "light" is a common metaphor for righteousness. This passage speaks of our relationship with righteousness and its affect on our lives when we love our brother.

4.  Righteousness will dwell in the new heavens and earth.

2 Peter 3:13
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

This passage is not speaking of a particular location for righteousness, but describes its affect on the new heavens and new earth. Righteousness will be the controlling force at that time.

5.  Both Christians and Satan dwelled in Pergamos.

Revelation 2:12-13
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s 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.

It is easy to understand how the Christians dwelled in Pergamos.  How did Satan dwell there?  If he was dwelling in Pergamos, did that mean that no one else in the world had to worry about him at that time?  No, but Satan's influence was so strong at Pergamos it is described as him dwelling there. This is the same idea pictured by Pergamos being described as where “Satan’s throne is”.


6.  The Word of Christ is to dwell in us.

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell 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.

Where is the word of Christ to dwell in us?  Is it to dwell in our arm or our leg?  That obviously is not the meaning in this passage.  Instead, it is speaking of the influence the word of Christ is to have in our lives.

a.  Some Jews in the first century did not have God's Word dwelling in them. 

     John 5:38
But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.

b.  We must do more than just believe the word, we must let it influence the way we live.

John 8:31
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

     c.  We abide in Christ, and His words abide in us.

     John 15:7
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

Where in the Word of Christ do we abide?  Where in us does His word abide? The meaning is obviously not physical location but rather the influence that both Christ and the Word have on our lives.

     1 John 2:14
I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.

     1 John 2:24
Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.

7.  The truth dwells in us.

2 John 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, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever.

Where does the truth abide in us? Is it our stomach, liver? lungs? It’s almost silly to suggest any of these places because that is obviously not what is being considered in this passage. We must have the truth abiding in us; the truth must guide us and influence us in everything we do.
8.  We are to abide in the doctrine of Christ.

2 John 9
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.

Where in the doctrine of Christ do we abide?  When reading this passage, most people would never think of asking such a question, because physical location obviously has nothing to do with the meaning of this verse.  We abide in the doctrine when we follow it and let it influence our lives.

9.  Faith dwells in us.

2 Timothy 1:3-5
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.

Genuine faith influenced Lois, Eunice and Timothy to live like they did.

10.  The love of God abides in us.

1 John 3:17
But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

The meaning of this passage is simple.  When the love of God abides in us it influences the way we treat other people. 

1 John 4:16
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.

This is the language of a close working relationship.  When we love as we should, we are close to God and he works in our lives.

John 15:9-10
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

When we abide in the love of Christ He will always be close with us and work in our lives just as He was always pledged to the Father, and the Father worked in His life.

11.  Christ’s joy remains in us.

John 15:11
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

[“remain” is from meno – abide, dwell]

12.  Jesus said God dwelled in the Temple.

Matthew 23:20-21
Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.

Stephen and Paul said God did not dwell in the Temple.

Acts 7:47-48
But Solomon built Him a house.
48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:

Acts 17:23-24
As I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.

God did not literally, physically dwell in the temple, but it represented His working relationship with Israel. This can also be seen in Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple. Solomon said the Temple was built to be a dwelling place for God. He also said God dwelled in heaven, but he also said "the heaven of heaven" could not contain God. Solomon understood that God did not literally, physically dwell in the Temple he built, but it represented God's working relationship with Israel.

1 Kings 8:13
I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever.

1 Kings 8:27
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!

1 Kings 8:30
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.

1 Kings 8:38-39
Whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: 39 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act… (also 1 Kings 8:42-43, 48-49)

13.  God dwells in us.

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.”

How is God going to dwell in us and walk among us at the same time? These phrases do not refer to God's physical location, but his relationship with His people.

Ephesians 4:4-6
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

1 John 4:4
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 John 4:4 not only speaks of the working relationship God has with His people, it also speaks of the working relationship Satan has with the world.

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. 16 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.

1 John 4:15
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

14.   Jesus dwells in us and we in Him.

(abide is from meno - to dwell)

John 15:4-6
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. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

1 John 2:6
He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

1 John 2:28
And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

1 John 3:6
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

1 John 3:24
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

1 John 4:13
By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

John 6:56
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

Romans 8:10
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. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

Galatians 2:20
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.

Colossians 1:27
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 3:11
There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Ephesians 3:14-19
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

15.  The Spirit dwells in us.

John 14:16-17
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

Romans 8:9-11
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. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

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?

Why would he have to remind the Corinthians of this truth? Nothing miraculous has been taking place in their lives.  Everything seems normal. But there is something now different about them that was not true before they became Christians.

2 Timothy 1:14
That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

The Bible uses the language of indwelling more in connection with the Father and Son than it does with the Holy Spirit, yet most of the controversy of indwelling centers on the Holy Spirit.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all have their roles. They all work with us and influence us. One of the great comforting doctrines of the Bible is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all actively work in our lives in such a close way that the best way to describe this working relationship is that they dwell within us.

This does not describe the physical location of God anymore than when Solomon said that God dwelled in the Temple in Jerusalem, but it does describe a very close working relationship God has with His people as He walks with us and we with Him.

(Wayne Wells preaches in Texarkana, TX. He is the webmaster for and can be contacted at

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