"Ye are all the sons (uioi) of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26).
"And because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4: 6).
This is the divine order. We are born of the Spirit through faith in Christ Jesus, and thus are made sons; then God sends forth the Spirit as the Spirit of sonship to dwell in our hearts. The indwelling of the Spirit is therefore, it will be observed, not coincident with, but consequent upon, becoming sons.
This divine order is shadowed forth in God's dealings with Israel. On the passover night, while still in Egypt, Israel was completely sheltered by the blood; but it is not until they had crossed the Red Sea that we read either of salvation, or of God's "holy habitation"; and we know that, as a matter of fact, God did not dwell in the midst of His people until they were brought out from Egypt, through the Red Sea, into the wilderness. So now. A soul may be quickened, born again, be under the protection of the blood of Christ, but he must be indwelt by the Spirit of God before he can cry, "Abba, Father" (Gal. 4: 6). Accordingly, we do not find in the epistle to the Romans any distinct mention of the Holy Spirit, as dwelling in the believer, until we come to the eighth chapter. As long as the believer does not know his deliverance from sin and from the law, we search in vain for any teaching on this subject; but no sooner do we get the complete answer to the question raised, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" than we are told, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (Rom. 8: 9).
The truth then is that every saved soul has the indwelling Spirit; and doubtless when the gospel was first proclaimed - proclaimed as it was in all its fullness, simplicity, and power - those who received it by the grace of God were brought at once out of darkness into light, and immediately received the seal of their redemption in the gift of the Holy Ghost. But now in the confusion that reigns around, when the gospel has been so largely corrupted by human admixtures, that the fullness of the grace of God in Christ Jesus is seldom preached, there are numbers who, though quickened, are still groping in the twilight, groaning in the house of their bondage, and consequently have not yet received that Spirit of adoption whereby alone believers can cry, Abba, Father. For "the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8: 16); and hence if we do not know that we are children of God, and cannot cry in filial confidence, Abba, Father, it is because we have not the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.
Our object now is to unfold what the Scriptures teach concerning this subject. As we have seen, the Spirit of God takes up His abode in us, consequent upon our becoming sons. And this it is which distinguishes a Christian from the saints under the old dispensation. Jewish believers were quickened, born again, but they knew nothing of God's Spirit as dwelling in them; "for the Holy Ghost was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7: 39). He wrought by His power; for it was He who quickened the Jewish saints, as well as Christians; He also strengthened them for walk and service; but His coming down from heaven as a person to dwell in believers, and in the Church, was consequent upon the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. This difference is marked in one aspect very plainly by a prayer of the psalmist: "Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51: 11); but the apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesians says, "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4: 30). Working by His influences in the heart of the psalmist, it was possible for him to lose that blessed power; but believers now, though they may grieve, are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. Just as the presence of the Holy Ghost upon the earth, in the house of God, characterizes Christianity, so His dwelling in God's children distinguishes them from the believers of all past dispensations. For it is the Holy Spirit that unites us to Christ, makes us members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (1 Cor. 12: 13; Eph. 5: 30); and this union, this place as members of His body, was not possible until Christ had been glorified, and had taken the place of Head in heaven.
There are several prominent aspects of the indwelling Spirit which we desire briefly to notice.
1. As a witness. The presence of the Holy Spirit on earth is the witness of accomplished redemption. For before our Lord departed, He promised to send "another Comforter" (John 14: 16, 17, 25, 26; John 15: 26, 27; John 16: 7-14); and He distinctly told His disciples that "He would send the promise of His Father upon them," and that they were to "tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high" (Luke 24: 49). The descent therefore of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost was the infallible sign of the completion of redemption or rather the proof that God had accepted and was resting satisfied in the finished work of Christ. For "it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (1 John 5: 6).
But here we speak rather of the Spirit as dwelling in God's children, and as such, as we have seen, He "bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8: 15, 16; Gal. 4: 6, 7). In this aspect, He is the witness of accomplished redemption to the individual soul - as will be seen when treating the next point - and hence every child of God ought to know by this sure testimony that he is saved. But it may be asked, How is this witness borne to our sonship? The very fact of His presence within us testifies to it; but by His presence He forms within us affections suited to our relationship, begets in us desires after the enjoyment of the Father's love, enables us in the holy intimacies of our filial place and position to cry, Abba, Father, verifies to our souls the word on which we have trusted as revealing to us the relationship and the blessings which belong to us as God's children, and thus bears very distinct witness with our spirit. No! it is not an audible testimony, and it is discerned and apprehended by our spirit alone; but it is none the less, nay, it is all the more, real on this account, because indeed it is a living secret between ourselves and God. The strength and distinctness of His testimony, it ought not to be forgotten, will depend upon conditions. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." In other words, just as being led by the Spirit of God is an evidence of our being the sons of God, so it is, when we are led walking in simple, loving obedience and dependence, that our spirit will discern most clearly His testimony to our sonship. But if we are so walking as to grieve Him, we shall listen in vain for His testimony, for we shall have grieved Him into silence. God will not therefore permit any of His children to walk carelessly, resting the certainty of their salvation on the ground of their being children; but He reminds us that if we are His we shall be led of the Spirit, and that He will bear witness with our spirit, and teach us to cry, Abba, Father.
2. As a Seal. This truth is set before us in several passages. "Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us" (2 Cor. 1: 21, 22). Again, "In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1: 13); and in the same epistle we are exhorted to "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). The Holy Spirit given to dwell in believers is Himself the seal; i.e., God thereby marks them out, takes possession of them as His own, and declares them by the Spirit being within them to be His property. If one may use the illustration, just as the broad- arrow declares the thing on which it is marked to belong to the Queen, so the Spirit of God sets us apart, marks us out as belonging to God. But the figure is that of a seal. Now the seal not only indicated ownership by the impress upon it, but it was put also for protection. Hence believers are said to be sealed until the day of redemption. They are secured by the seal until the Lord shall return to receive them unto Himself. And hence only believers are sealed; and they are not sealed until they are the Lord's, until they are brought out of the house of their bondage (as before seen), through the death and resurrection of Christ, until they not only are safe, but are also saved.
3. As an Earnest. Two of the passages already cited speak of the Spirit as the earnest. "Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor.1:22); "In whom after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1: 13, 14). It is the latter passage which defines most exactly the character of the earnest. The Holy Spirit as now given is regarded as "the earnest of our inheritance"; that is, He is the first-fruits of that which we shall inherit in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. As indeed when a sale is effected of a property, a portion of the purchase-money is paid down as earnest-money for the completion of the bargain, so God graciously gives us the indwelling Spirit as the earnest of our inheritance, thereby assuring us that we shall possess all that He has promised, and binding Himself (if we may so speak) to accomplish His own faithful word; for the earnest-money is both a promise and a pledge. But the Holy Spirit is even more, because, as we have seen, He is also the seal, thereby securing us for the inheritance, as well as certifying us that God will put us into possession of it to the praise of His glory.
4. It would lead us far beyond the scope of these pages to enter fully upon the offices of the indwelling Spirit. We can therefore only briefly indicate that He alone is our power for worship (John 4: 23, 24; Phil. 3: 3); for prayer (Rom. 8: 26, 27; Eph. 6: 18; Jude 20); for walk (Rom. 8: 14; Gal. 5: 16-26); for service (1 Cor. 2: 4; 1 Thess. 1: 5, etc.); for the apprehension of truth (1 Cor. 2: 9-16; John 16: 13; 1 John 2: 20-27); for growth (Eph. 3: 16-19), etc. Indeed, as the Spirit characterizes our existence before God - for we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in us (Rom. 8: 2) - He only is the source of power for all the activities of our spiritual life, whether those activities have God or man for their object. Blessed fact! for it is only when we know our own weakness and nothingness that we can learn the lesson of dependence; and when we are dependent, the Spirit of God is free to act within us according to His will.
A caution is often given, and much needed both by anxious souls and young believers, not to confound the Spirit's work in us with Christ's work for us. Thus another has said, "We are constantly prone to look at something in ourselves as necessary to form the ground of peace. We are apt to regard the work of the Spirit in us, rather than the work of Christ for us, as the foundation of our peace. This is a mistake . . . The Holy Ghost did not make peace; but Christ did. The Holy Ghost is not said to be our peace; but Christ is. God did not send 'preaching peace' by the Holy Ghost, but 'by Jesus Christ.' (Compare Acts 10: 36; Eph. 2: 14, 17; Col. 1: 20). The Holy Ghost reveals Christ; He makes us know, enjoy, and feed upon Christ. He bears witness to Christ, takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto us. He is the power of communion, the seal, the witness, the earnest, the unction. In short, His operations are essential. Without Him we can neither see, hear, know, feel, experience, enjoy, nor exhibit aught of Christ. This is plain, and is understood and admitted by every true and rightly-instructed Christian. Yet, notwithstanding all this, the work of the Spirit is not the ground of peace, though He enables us to enjoy the peace. He is not our title, though He reveals our title, and enables us to enjoy it." No; the foundation or ground of peace is Christ - Christ in His finished work which He accomplished on the cross. For whoever believes "on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification," is justified; and "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 4: 24, 25; Rom. 5: 1). The foundation of peace then, it should ever be remembered, is outside of ourselves; and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as pointed out, is consequent upon our becoming the sons of God.
But we cannot be too sensible to the fact that, if believers, we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us; nor too solicitous not to grieve Him by unholy actings in the flesh. (See Eph. 4: 29-32). Hence too the solemn interrogation of the apostle, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6: 19, 20); and the exhortations, "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh"; "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5: 16-25).