The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is God taking up permanent residence in the heart of those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. In the Old Testament, the Spirit would come intermittently upon the saints, empowering them for service but not necessarily remaining with them. The Spirit “rushed upon” Lehi (Judges 15:14) and “clothed” Amasai (1 Chronicles 12:18). The Spirit was with David and able to be removed from him (Psalm 51:11), and the Spirit “fell upon” Ezekiel and spoke to him (Ezekiel 11:5). The Spirit, who had once been with King Saul, “departed from” him, removing His influence and guidance from the king (1 Samuel 16:14).
It wasn’t until Pentecost that the Spirit began to indwell those who belong to God through Christ. Jesus predicted the coming of the Spirit who would live within His people, as well as the new role the Spirit of Truth would play in their lives. Prior to the resurrection and Pentecost, the Spirit was with the disciples and influenced them, but He did not yet indwell them, as Jesus explained to them: “he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17, italics added). John 7:39 explains further: “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The apostle Paul reiterated the same truth about the Spirit’s indwelling: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Because believers have been purchased for God by the blood of Christ, shed on the cross for our sins, our bodies become a living temple where the Spirit of God resides.
The image of the believer’s body being a temple is reminiscent of the Old Testament tabernacle, in which the Spirit of God lived. There, God’s presence would appear in a cloud and meet the high priest, who came once a year into the Holy of Holies. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest brought the blood of a slain animal and sprinkled it on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. On this special day, God granted forgiveness to the priest and His people (Leviticus 16).
The Jewish temple in Jerusalem no longer exists. Now the believer in Christ has become the inner sanctum of God the Holy Spirit, as the believer has been sanctified and forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). In fact, Scripture also says that the believer is the dwelling place of all three Persons of the Trinity. Along with the Spirit, Jesus Christ is in us (Colossians 1:27), as is God the Father (1 John 4:15).
The purpose of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is many-faceted. First and foremost, the Spirit creates new life in believers (Titus 3:5), producing the same new birth Jesus spoke of in John 3:1–8. The Spirit confirms to us that this new birth is real and that we truly belong to God (Romans 8:15–17). He also imparts to believers spiritual gifts to be used to build up the body of Christ and glorify God (1 Corinthians 12:4–11). Further, as the author of Scripture through the writers He inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), the indwelling Spirit helps believers understand what He has written and how to apply it to daily life (1 Corinthians 2:12).
Other functions of the indwelling Spirit include interceding for believers in prayer (Romans 8:26), leading us in the ways of righteous living (Romans 8:14), producing His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23), and installing believers into the universal church of Christ, also called the baptism of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).
One of the indwelling Spirit’s most encouraging functions is to seal believers for eternity by placing His own mark upon us. Doing so assures our arrival in the Lord’s presence when we die (Ephesians 1:13–14, 4:30). The Holy Spirit’s presence within us is the guarantee that we have been purchased by Christ and redeemed from our sins. We can never lose our position as a prized possession. Until we die, the Spirit remains within us, renewing and sanctifying us, comforting us in trials, and sustaining us in afflictions. With the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are never alone, never lost, and never without His power.