From the Comments: How Do We Know the Holy Spirit Personally Indwells? Part 3

HolySpirit7Eighth, how do we know that the Spirit is indwelling us?

Well, lots of ways.

* We know it by the Spirit’s testimony in our hearts (Rom 8:26).

* We see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Gal 5:22-25). Paul could not more plainly say that these things come about due to the Spirit’s work in us —

(Gal. 5:22-26 ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Notice that the Spirit produces heart-changes. This is not about Five Acts of Worship or how to use the church treasury. It’s about the core of who we are, our character, our passions, our desires. And these are far more important to God than whether we comply with some imagined handbook on how to do the assembly. He wants us to “will and to do” his will. He wants us to actually desire what God desires.

* We cry out to God as Abba!

(Rom. 8:15 ESV) 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

We love God as a three-year old loves his father. He doesn’t have to be commanded on threat of a spanking. He loves his Daddy because he can see his Daddy’s love for him in his Daddy’s eyes. He feels the love of his Daddy when he’s tucked in at night. It’s unfeigned, natural, and deep in the core of who he really is. And his Daddy doesn’t have to write a book to make it so, but he might.

Ninth, here’s the great paradox at the heart of Christianity. We cannot love God or worship God out of fear. If we only worship or love because of fear of hell, then our real motivation is self-love. We are afraid for ourselves, and so we try to learn to love the person terrifying us.

But with the Spirit, our hearts are changed to truly love and to truly worship. It’s not feigned in order to get something (self-love). We learn to love selflessly. By the Spirit.

(Gal. 5:18 ESV) 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

“Led by the Spirit” is yet another Exodus allusion. If the Spirit leads us as the Israelites were led by a column of smoke and fire, we no longer need a map. The Spirit is enough. But where does the Spirit lead? To rules about church names and structures? Or into the arms of Jesus? To deeper faith? To greater reliance on prayer? (So now we see something of what it means to pray in the Spirit.)

To wrap up (getting sleepy), the Spirit changes us to serve, submit, sacrifice, and even suffer as Jesus does. It helps us have the heart of Jesus. And thereby obedience is no longer about fear of hell but having a passion to do what pleases God because we so love God — and that’s so much better. We internalize the commands as part of our essential character rather than trying to please God by seeking out silences to obey on penalty of damnation.

I’ve tried it both ways. I much prefer the Spirit-led way.

None of this contradicts the scriptures. Nor does the Spirit create new revelations that require writing down new scriptures. It’s not like that. We tend to confuse the fact that the Spirit inspired the scriptures with this being the only way the Spirit can work — but that is far too narrow an understanding of the Spirit’s work in us. And far too narrow an understanding of what God wants from us. He wants far more than obedience. He wants our hearts. Circumcised by the Spirit to want to live as Jesus lived.

Does the Spirit work through the Scriptures? Absolutely. Only through the Scriptures? Of course, not. Sometimes it’s through a sermon. Or through a word from a friend. Or from experience. Or in prayer. It could be a sunset that reminds you that God loves you so much that he painted the sky just for you.

Does it replace the Scriptures? Obviously not. The Spirit inspired the Scriptures.

Does this mean the scriptures are not enough? Yes. They are sufficient for what God designed them to be. But they aren’t God. And they don’t replace the personal work of God the Spirit in each of us.

(2 Cor. 3:1-6 ESV) Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

This is surely built on the contrast found between Deu 10:16 and 30:6 covered earlier. The letter is good and holy and from the very breath of God. But it only brings death unless we have the Spirit so that we can love God as we should.

(Deut. 30:6 ESV) 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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10 Responses to From the Comments: How Do We Know the Holy Spirit Personally Indwells? Part 3

  1. laymond says:

    Jay, please allow me one question before I comment on your post.

    Do you believe the indwelling of the holy spirit will save your soul from destruction.?

  2. bcampagnolo says:

    Jay this:
    “We love God as a three-year old loves his father. He doesn’t have to be commanded on threat of a spanking. He loves his Daddy because he can see his Daddy’s love for him in his Daddy’s eyes. He feels the love of his Daddy when he’s tucked in at night. It’s unfeigned, natural, and deep in the core of who he really is. And his Daddy doesn’t have to write a book to make it so, but he might.”

    Made me think of “good good Father”

    I love your site, it has been particularly helpful in my journey and most recently during our ‘gospel’ meeting where we had an entire night of the opposite of this discussion / post (maybe the topic was the outdwelling of the Holy Spirit)? (I thought the gospel was GOOD news?) Good news to me is not having to pay for my rebellion and then living a life in sacrifice and thanksgiving running and skipping after the hand that is reaching out to hold mine.

    My prayers are with you, and many others I send to your site to look at things are thankful as well.

  3. Christopher says:


    No discussion of the Holy Spirit is complete without a consideration of passages like the following from 1 Corinthians 2:

    “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

    This is reminiscent of what Paul says of his near death experience at sea (in which he dispaired of life), that is happened so they might not rely on themselves but God, who raises the dead.

    I think the faith of we in the CoC has been based far more on “wise and persuasive words” than a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. THIS, in my view, is the big disconnect between doctrine and scripture. It seems that many have tried to make scripture square with observable natural reality rather than trying to discover the spiritual reality expressed in verses like these. Maybe it is true that God does not perform miracles through people anymore (though the mere existence of charlatans is hardly proof), but that does not mean He doesn’t still perform them. Indeed, maybe doing them in the past that way was merely a “learning style” best suited to our “dull” minds, and not because it was intrinsically necessary. Maybe this notion that God only performed miracles to validate the words spoken by His representatives is, like the notion that people burn alive in hell forever or the notion that instrumental music in church worship is evil, is wrong.

  4. Ray Downen says:

    I marvel that so often the word “spirit” in the Bible is thought to refer to God’s Spirit when it’s not evident that indeed it is not your own animating spirit which is in reference. Many people I’ve known have evidenced the “fruit of the spirit” in speech and action when they were not Christians but simply good people.

    Every Christian is assured of being helped by God’s Spirit. Many church members show little evidence of what Paul calls “good” fruit. Yet they were promised the Spirit just as were those whose lives show fruit which is Paul says is GOOD.

    So I’m persuaded that Paul’s list of good fruit is things which are reachable also by those outside of Christ. Could he have been speaking of our spiritual nature rather than of something God does to us because we turned to Jesus? Does God cause people to be evil or does He place in each of us a heart which normally seeks good instead of evil?

  5. One of the most powerful passages on the indwelling Spirit is found in Romans 8:

    “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9–11)

    Spirit of God = Spirit of Christ = Christ = Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead

    If those aren’t the same, we’ve got a crowd living in us! And if they are the same, we have all the help we’ll ever need to live a godly life.

  6. Chris says:

    Seems like there’s a lot of church folks in the same shape as the disciples Paul encountered while at Ephesus, when he asked “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

  7. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher wrote,

    I think the faith of we in the CoC has been based far more on “wise and persuasive words” than a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

    Exactly — and one reason I’d love to see more testimonies in our assemblies.

  8. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond asked,

    Do you believe the indwelling of the holy spirit will save your soul from destruction.?

    First, “destruction” is the right word, used by both Jesus and Paul to describe the fate of the damned.

    Second, “soul” carries a range of meanings in the NT from corpse, to our mortal natures, to ourselves, to our inner beings, to our lives … but it does not refer to the innately immortal part of us because no part of us is innately immortality. Immortality is a gift from God to the saved and to no one else. Hence, in modern English, we probably be better understood to say “save yourself from destruction” rather than “save your soul” as if we are destroyed at all, it’s body and soul.

    (Matt. 10:28 ESV) 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    Third, the indwelling Spirit is often closely associated with our salvation.

    (Tit. 3:4-7 ESV) 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    I’ve never been too keen to divide “salvation” between regeneration, justification, forgiveness, salvation, atonement, etc. It all happens pretty much at the same time. And Paul certainly seems comfortable crediting the Spirit with being a or the means of our salvation.

    Of course, there are plenty of other passages that credit our salvation to God or to Jesus — and they’re all true. It’s a trinitarian salvation, which is why we’re baptized into all three names.

    Conventionally, we think of being forgiven and then receiving the Spirit (one reading of Acts 2:38), who then regenerates us. But Paul suggests that we might think of the Spirit as cleansing us as the fountain free of the Prophets or the outpoured Spirit of Joel etc.

    In the Christian age, no one is saved without receiving the Spirit. See Acts 19, Rom 8:9-11, etc. But all three members of the Trinity are active in our salvation, and whether we’re saved to receive the Spirit or saved because we received the Spirit is like asking whether a car goes because of the gasoline or the drive shaft. Both are true. It’s all in there together.

  9. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    You nailed it. (You have a habit of doing that.)

  10. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    I wish I’d thought to say that. Yes, we have the fullness of all of God in three persons via the Spirit. Should be enough to get us to the end. And to humble us just a bit. You’d think.

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