Hank’s Questions about the Personal Indwelling of the Spirit, Part 4


But, I don’t understand the position of those who believe that at baptism, the Spirit “personally” relocates himself inside of the new Christian, and from then on, is able to help said Christian, in ways not possible, if he were not personally in them. Which, brought me to my questions for you. For, if the Spirit must “personally” be inside of a person to help him produce fruit, help him pray as he ought, help him obey and love God more, etc. – then those who do not “have” the Spirit, wouldn’t have any such help(s). Right?

Which, would mean that all innocent and unbaptized youth, are not able to produce any (actual and genuine) fruit of the Spirit. Nor, would they have any help in the times when and where they know not what to pray. And, how wrong does that sound? As if, in order for an innocent and pure person to get help in praying and producing any (real) fruit of the Spirit, he or she must first separate themselves from God by sin, and get baptized?!

Right. But help is help and not the same thing as enablement. Again, because of the influence of Calvinist thought in our history, we insist on pushing everything to the extreme: either the Spirit helps me or I can’t do it at all. Calvin said that. The Bible does not.

Similarly, that position would have the same problem regarding the mentally disabled who are un-immersed and presumably innocent. Can they not fully love God, produce the fruit of the Spirit, and have help with their prayers?

And, as I previously asked, what about all of the “regular” OT children of God who did not “have” the Spirit? We’re they not able to love and obey God as “easily” as we can today? Could they not produce the (real) Fruit of the Spirit? Was God just as able to help them with, and understand their prayers when they had struggles in praying?

Again, what exactly do you believe that the Spirit does to/for the Christian, that he does not do for innocent children, mentally disabled, and all of the OT saints?

I know you busy, but I do look forward to hearing your understanding of all of this. And, I appreciate all of the time you sacrifice, writing all that you do.

I do need to address some of Paul’s strong either/or language that many consider to teach that we cannot do anything good except as enabled by the Spirit. This is the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. As you correctly point out, our experience is to the contrary. There are unsaved people who do good works.

Consider —

(Rom. 3:9-20 ESV)  9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,  10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;  11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.  12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”  13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”  14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”  15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;  16 in their paths are ruin and misery,  17 and the way of peace they have not known.”  18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Is Paul’s point that the unsaved — those without the Spirit — can do no good at all? Or that they can’t do enough good to merit salvation? Those are two very different things, and the second is enough to justify his argument: that we must be saved by grace through faith in Jesus or not at all.

We find a hint just before this passage —

(Rom. 3:3 ESV)  3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 

“Some were unfaithful” clearly implies that some were faithful (as plainly stated in Heb 11). Paul follows the list with —

(Rom. 3:20-24 ESV)  20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 

Clearly, his point is the necessity of faith as a means of salvation — because we cannot merit salvation. He is not seeking to prove that we can do nothing good at all. Just not enough to be saved on our own merit.

We could go through each OT passage quoted in Rom 3:9-20 and demonstrate that in context none means that all humanity is incapable of any good deed without the Spirit. Rather, NT Wright points out that a recurring theme of these quoted passages is that, despite our wickedness, God will move among his his people to save.

Let’s take, for example, Rom 3:9-12, a quotation from —

(Ps. 14:1-7 ESV) The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.  2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.  3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.  4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?  5 There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.  6 You would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge.  7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Does the psalmist really mean that no one at all does good? Or is he being hyperbolic?Is he speaking only of those who deny God? After all, the psalmist is unlikely to be speaking of even himself if he means that no one can do anything good at all — in which case the Psalm itself would not be good.

The commentators explain,

Vv 2–4 provide a theological perspective on the fool and his folly. The designation “fool” is not a human label, for those so named in the psalms were anything but fools in a human perspective; the ultimate reason for the status of “fool” was provided by God, who “looked down from heaven” and saw the acts of human beings.

Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50 (WBC 19; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 147.

Verses 1–3 are perhaps hyperbolic, for v. 4 narrows the indictment to “all the evildoers” (see below on the tension between vv. 1–3 and vv. 4–6). These persons victimize God’s people (v. 4).

J. Clinton, Jr. McCann, “The Book of Psalms,” in 1 Maccabees-Psalms (vol. 4 of NIB, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 729.

Fortunately, our interpretation of Psalm 14 may be helped by neighboring psalms. … Like our psalm, Psalm 12 also begins with what initially sounds like a universal condemnation of humanity (vv. 1–2), but we then learn that Yahweh offers special protection for the poor (Hb. ʿānî, v. 5, the same term used in 14:6) and for “us” who pray the psalm (v. 7). And Psalm 15 opens with the question “Who may live on your holy hill?” and answers it with “he … who does what is righteous” (15:1–2). 

Robert L. Jr. Hubbard and Robert K. Johnston, Psalms, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series. 2012, 89–90.

So I think the Calvinists get a little too caught up in their theorizing. But that doesn’t mean we have to run to the opposite extreme. If humans are capable of some good without the Spirit, that hardly means we don’t need the Spirit!

Rather, the best view, I think, is to think of the Spirit exactly as Jesus describes him: as a Helper. The Spirit doesn’t do it all for us. But we really need the help — and the history of Israel should be more than ample to demonstrate the reality of that need.

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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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21 Responses to Hank’s Questions about the Personal Indwelling of the Spirit, Part 4

  1. John says:

    This is not a criticism of Hank, but of the way that the Holy Spirit, as well as Christ, has been developed within the Church of Christ. The idea that God “relocates”, is so mechanical, so lifeless. To me, it shows that the CoC is still caught up in the small, “God is there and we are here” notion. When God is accepted as “All in All”, and that salvation is realizing this wonderful truth, then we have the celebration, “God has been with me all along!!!!”

  2. Price Futrell says:

    It seems to me (but what do I know) that one cannot “produce” the fruit of the Spirit.. It is the Spirit that produces fruit “through” us. Yes, one can do good but is that good something that the Spirit inspired ? If not, then it is fruit of Price, or fruit of Jay.. not fruit of the Spirit. Or, what am I missing?

  3. laymond says:

    It seems to me the two originators of this thread, should listen to what the other says more closely .
    As I read Hank’s question it is , why can’t a person (of any age) if they come to God through love, trust, and faith, produce good works without being indwelled by the HG , through baptism.

    I haven’t heard a good explanation as of yet. Because Paul said so, is not a good explanation. especially since I don’ see where Paul ever said that, All good works begin with God I believe in the book of Revelation, it says we will all be judged by what is written in the book of life. I don’t know that the date of our baptism will be the most important thing written there.

    It might help if someone were to describe just what the fruit of the Spirit is.

  4. laymond says:

    Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
    Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
    Eph 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
    Eph 5:10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

    If this doesn’t describe children, I don’t know what it does describe.

  5. Chris says:

    Laymond wrote:
    “It seems to me the two originators of this thread, should listen to what the other says more closely.
    As I read Hank’s question it is , why can’t a person (of any age) if they come to God through love, trust, and faith, produce good works without being indwelled by the HG , through baptism.”

    Laymond, you raise an interesting question, and it made me think of Cornelius in Acts. It describes the man and his family:
    Acts 10: 2: “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.

    Sure sounds like a man who had trust, faith and a love for others, but despite his good works, he still needed to hear the gospel and he still needed the Holy Spirit. Now, if God saw it fit that a man like Cornelius needed the Holy Spirit (despite Cornelius’ already evident generous spirit and faithfulness), I believe we all are in need of Him as well.

    I believe that a person, much like Cornelius, whose heart is already soft and inclined to follow God, who has displayed a love and a trust for God, will want ALL that God has for him, and that includes His Holy Spirit and most assuredly, God wants to bless His children and give them ALL that he has for them.

  6. Larry Cheek says:

    Are you saying it looks to you that the message in scriptures to Cornelius and family would nullify the concept that, (what was good enough for Abraham is good enough for us too,? In regards to baptism was not needed by Abraham.

  7. hank says:

    Nobody (that I see) has addressed my question(s). Such as:

    “Again, what exactly do you believe that the Spirit does to/for the Christian, that he does not do for innocent children, mentally disabled, and all of the OT saints?”

  8. Chris says:

    Larry asked:
    Are you saying it looks to you that the message in scriptures to Cornelius and family would nullify the concept that, (what was good enough for Abraham is good enough for us too,? In regards to baptism was not needed by Abraham.

    Larry, my focus was on Cornelius and the need for salvation and the Holy Spirit, despite his good works, not Abraham, faith and water baptism. Cornelius and his family were baptized after receiving the Holy Spirit.

    This seemed an exception to the pattern of water baptism and then the reception of the Holy Spirit, but that’s a whole other topic.

  9. Jeremy says:

    Mostly unrelated comment:
    Jay, sometimes your site will randomly render a page in mobile format in my desktop browser. When a page displays in the mobile template, I lose all context of whatever quoting mechanism, and who is saying what. All the text just renders the same. If I try to click on “view full site,” it just takes me back to the mobile page. It happened to me on this page, and even in 3 different browsers (Safari, Chrome, and Firefox). I don’t get it, and I am a web guy myself. Sometimes it is readable in Safari’s Reader Mode, which is how I usually prefer to consume your content. But I digress.

    Somewhat related comment:
    I think the writer(s) are getting too hung up on the word “personally.” I tend to think this is a CoC vs Baptist debate issue. We have based some of our theological viewpoints around the opposite of what our “opponent” is saying, without a full regard to what the Bible actually says. I kinda hate the term myself, because it doesn’t hold any meaning to me. The word “personally”, for me, doesn’t make things any different than not having the word present.

    Mostly related comment:
    When I think of someone having “God’s Spirit” inside them, I think of when someone says something like, “Oh that person has such a kind spirit.” In other words, everything they do has an air and a spirit of kindness. If someone ever accused them of being unkind, no one would ever believe it! The “spirit” part of that is their general nature, their default state, so to speak. Does it mean that they *are* kind, that they do kind things? Yes, of course. But it’s much deeper than that. Someone can occasionally do kind things but have an unkind spirit. You can teach someone what kind actions look like and how to do them, but not “infect” them with a kind spirit, so to speak.

    When I picture God’s Spirit, I think of it much like this. It’s not just doing the right things, which would be more akin to following the words of the law. But it’s more of how you carry yourself in seeing others and seeing the world. Having God’s Spirit produces the fruit of the spirit, but simply doing the good things of the fruit of the spirit doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the spirit itself.

  10. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Regarding the rendering of the site in your browser, do you run ad blocking software? Several readers have had trouble with ad blockers as they interfere with javascript, which is a big part of the commenting software.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    In the Churches of Christ, the question of the personal indwelling of the Spirit is whether there’s a “direct operation” of the Holy Spirit on the heart or mind of the believer or whether the Spirit’s work is mediated exclusively through the word of God — that is, received rationally by understanding the Bible or other communication of God’s will, such as a sermon or Bible lesson.

    Most Christians in the church-universal believe in a direct operation, as this is a very natural interpretation of several passages, including —

    (Ezek. 36:26-27 ESV) 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

    The language of indwelling comes largely from Rom 8, where Paul is comparing the Spirit’s leading to the leading of the Israelites by God in the wilderness via a column of smoke and fire. But there are passages that speak of the Spirit operating internally — Jer 31:31ff, Deu 30:6, Eph 3:14-19.

    (Eph. 3:14-19 ESV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith– that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

    Paul couldn’t be more clear that the Spirit’s work in our inner being grants more than mere knowledge.

    Following Bobby Valentine’s comment, I would urge you not to think of the Law or Judaism as merely about obedience without having the right heart. The Torah plainly teaches the necessity of having one’s heart attuned to God’s will. Deu 10:10 ff. So the NT teaching of the Spirit in contrast to the OT is not about having a good attitude versus mere surface obedience. That is not Paul’s point anywhere in the NT because the OT urged heart-felt obedience. Rather, the contrast is the one found in several passages, including Eze 36 quoted above — whether God works in our hearts through his Spirit to help us obey.

  12. hank says:

    Jay, Ezekiel 36 doesn’t actually say, what you believe it means.

    “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
    Ezekiel 36:26‭-‬27

    Notice that God promises them “a new heart” AND “a new spirit” – two things. God also says that he will their heart of stone AND give them a heart of flesh. Surely, you know that this is figurative language? The people didn’t actually have a non fleshly heart of stone! Of course, they all had actual heats of flesh, just like we all do, today. God wasn’t even talking about their actual hearts – he was talking about their dispositions and attitudes. God was NOT saying that he was gonna give them an EXTRA heart and/or spirit. Rather, he was saying that he was going to change their current heart and spirit. I’m sure you understand this about the first part of the passage. That, God wasn’t actually going to remove their heart and give them a different one. But then, you all add to the 2nd part, and make it literal. Why most translators make the “new spirit” (with a small “s”), but the “my Spirit” (Capital “S”), I do not know. Since, “my Spirit” and the “new spirit” to be put in them, was the same spirit! Have you ever noticed and wondered about that?

    God, did NOT say that he was going to take out their heart and put the third person of the Godhead inside them. You guys are clearly reading this passage eisegetically. It just doesn’t say what you guys believe it does. Why do YOU think the translations have two different “spirits”?

    The truth is, that the new heart and the new spirit, both point to a changing of their attitudes and mindsets. Not actual removals and transplants. Just like when Moses charged the people to circumcise the foreskins of their hearts. It was figurative language because to actually attempt to circumcise their actual hearts, would have meant immediate death.

    But yeah, you guys are eisegeting the passage and making the fist half of the same passage figurative, and the second part literal. And insert the idea of the third person of the Godhead.

  13. Price says:

    Hank… Pretty sure “heart” is used symbolically for ones mind, will and emotions. As in a person being cold hearted. Doesn’t mean that their heart is somehow below 98.6. Heart of stone likely refers to their refusal to listen to His instructions.

  14. dwight says:

    I think Hank’s point is that if heart and heart of stone and heart of flesh is symbolic, then why shouldn’t “new spirit” and “my spirit” be so as well. If the heart of stone is a hardened heart or stubborn heart, then new spirit/ God’s spirit is in the sense of being holy and righteous and Godly that only comes from knowing God. I have to agree with this concept. Sometimes “pneuma” means spirit and sometimes it means Spirit and sometimes it means breath and sometimes breath means that which is influenced by God to life spiritually or physically.

  15. Ray Downen says:

    Some people I’ve known who were NOT church members, who had NOT been baptized yet were warm-hearted and friendly and sought always to live unselfishly. Some people I’ve known who were church members are not apparently warm-hearted or friendly or unselfish. I’ve had to decide that goodness is not confined to those who are “in Christ.” Some who are NOT in Christ show all the signs of loving other PEOPLE and serving other PEOPLE, while others who are NOT in Christ are mean and selfish. I’m sure that Christians should be at the front of the line in serving others. Always. Because we’re living as JESUS lived, and seeking to serve as JESUS served. But we shouldn’t be surprised if some who are NOT in Christ are right in there serving with us.

  16. Price says:

    @ Dwight. And yet we know from Joel and Peter exactly what kind of brew Spirit He had in mind. It seems obvious what the outcome was so it seems easy to me to see what was intended. What else could it mean? That Gid was announcing that we’d be more friendly with Him in the future ?

  17. hank says:

    Dwight, you are correct. That, was/is precisely my point. The “heart of flesh” = the “new spirit” = the “my Spirit”. As Jay puts it (at least for the first part of the passage), it is “the seat of emotions”.

    God said that he would 1) remove the heart of stone. 2) put in a heart of flesh. 3) give a new spirit. 4) put in his spirit. IMO, all of that means the same thing. Namely, that they would have a completely new attitudes and mindsets. The would have “the mind of Christ”, if you will. They would have “the heart of God”. They would have the same “spirit” as God.

    It doesn’t say anything about the third person of the Godhead. “My spiirt” can mean the same thing as “my heart.”

    Just like “the spirit of Christ” CAN mean “Christ’s heart/mindset”. The 3rd person of the Godhead is not “the spirit of Christ”.

    People are just so quick and prone to make every good “spirit” mean – the 3rd person of the Godhead.

  18. Price says:

    Hank, how would you interpret Rom 8:9 ?

  19. hank says:

    Price, you asked:

    “Hank, how would you interpret Rom 8:9 ?”

    Which reads:

    “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. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
    Romans 8:9‭-‬10 KJV

    We are not “in the flesh” (living according to our unspiritual and carnal desires, which are of the world, and not pleasing to God), but “in the spirit” (living according to the spiritual and righteous inclinations that are from God, and pleasing to him). We are “in the spirit” (and not “in the flesh”) so long as (and to the extent), that we are thinking like God wants us to, and continually checking our hearts are soft and not hard.

    When we are so living and thinking, we are said to have “the spirit of Christ”. Which is basically, IMO, the same thing as having “the mind if Christ”. Or, “the heart” (or “spirit” of God). I don’t believe that the HS is called “the spirit of Christ”. The HS is not “the spirit of Christ”.

    Next, Paul says that “if Christ be in you…” And this (IMO), is key. Is Christ really in us? Yes, of course he is! “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live… Christ liveth in me”. We know that Christ lives in us. He also lived in his disciples in JN 15 (before Pentecost). The question is not IF he lives in his disciples (both before and after Pentecost), the question is HOW. In my view, he lives in us in the same manner, and to the same extent as does the HS.

    I don’t believe that one person of the Godhead lives within us any more real or less than does another. I don’t believe that the HS is REALLY in us, himself and personally, but Jesus is not REALLY in us. Only “representatively” by the actual abiding if the HS. I don’t believe that. I believe that both live in us in the SAME way and to the SAME extent.

    And, I definitely don’t believe that the HS is called “the spirit of Christ” OR that the HS is called “Christ” in Romans 8:9.

    That’s just weird…

  20. Dwight says:

    How does the HS dwell within us?
    Let’s go back to the Staff of Aaron, the pillar of smoke and Ark and Tabernacle and the Temple in the OT. In these the power and glory of God is said to have dwelt.
    In the Ark the staff and the law was contained in and thus when they moved the Ark, God was said to have moved with it.
    When they placed the Ark in the Tabernacle God was said to be in the Tabernacle and this is true of when the Ark went into the Temple.
    The High Priest would approach God past the veil into the Holiest of Holies.
    But was he really there?
    The reality was that God was there in a sense, but not in the whole.
    I 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!”
    This is true of Jesus and the HS as well.
    We are told that Jesus went to heaven to be with God and we are also told that Jesus is within us.
    Does God, Jesus and the HS all have a physical presence with us?
    Yes, as we are called the Temple, which housed God, etc.at least their essence or glory or ???
    But, no we cannot contain that which is entirely bigger than us in all regards.
    God lives in us to the extent that we have a place for God, the HS and Jesus and is active to that same extent.
    When Moses carried the staff, he carried the power that God imbued into the staff. God formed a bond between himself and the staff,
    We as saints are bonded with God and a channel for God, Jesus and the HS.
    The Jordan contains the Sea of Galilee, even though it is a river.

  21. Price says:

    Hank, I would not attempt to define God but in that passage the HS is described as the Spirit of Christ which I understood you to say, perhaps incorrectly, that it wasn’t so

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