By Pastor Glenn Pease
Indwelling has a variety of meanings. It can mean that matter indwells matter as a kernel or fruit within a shell. A yoke indwells the white and both dwell within the shell. It can refer to a situation where one substance is intermixed with another, as with salt and water, or medicine within your blood system. Then there is the non-material indwelling the material. When an artist really puts himself into his art, we say his spirit indwells it. A musician lives in his composition. It reveals his nature, personality, or mood.
This is what we mean when we say God indwells His creation. His beauty and harmony of nature are built right into what He has made. Another type of indwelling is related to heredity. Parents indwell their children in the sense that part of them has been reproduced. Man being made in the image of God conveys this idea, and so God indwells men in the sense that they have qualities that are from His nature. We can speak of one man dwelling in another in the sense of influence or inspiration. If a man is a follower of another's methods or ideas, you can say that he just lives in that man.
All of these ideas of spiritual indwelling fit the meaning of being indwelt by God, but they all fall short of the full meaning. Paul makes it clear in this passage that God's indwelling is not just figurative, and does not just relate to His image, influence, and inspiration, but to a literal indwelling. God actually abides within our literal flesh just as Jesus literally entered the flesh of a human body in the incarnation. The term Christian refers to those who are Christ ones, and that is what we literally are as Christians. We are little Christ's. We have the same Holy Spirit indwelling us as He had. The source of His wisdom and power is within us as it was in Him. In verse 11 Paul makes it clear that the very Spirit of God who raised up Christ is the Spirit that dwells in the believer, and it is He who will also raise us up to life immortal.
It is no wonder that Paul was such a man of assurance and certainty. Paul didn't claim to know everything, for he said that we know only in part. Much was mystery to Paul, but he was sure of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We want to study this passage verse by verse in order to grow in the knowledge that is necessary to have the assurance of Paul.
In verse 9 in the KJV Paul says to the Roman Christians, "You are not in the flesh." If you take this literally you would think Paul was writing to disembodied Christians. It sounds like a weight watchers paradise. But the modern versions make it clear that Paul is saying they are not controlled by the sinful nature. He is saying that the natural man is not controlled by the Spirit, but the Christian is to be so controlled. Those who are in flesh live their life with no regard for God and His will. They live in a sphere that is flesh controlled and dominated. In contrast Paul says the Christian is controlled by the Spirit.
Paul's method of getting people to examine themselves is far superior to that of asking people if they are saved. Instead of asking them, he describes the two spheres in which all people live, and then let's them judge for themselves which sphere they are in. To be in the Spirit is the opposite of being in the flesh. If you are in the Spirit and controlled by the Spirit God will play the dominant role in your decisions, thoughts, and acts. John wrote in I John 14, "Hereby we know that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." The indwelling Spirit is the key to Christian assurance.
Then Paul says, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, He does not belong to Christ." We must possess the Spirit to be possessed by Christ. He must be ours if we are His. Mutual possessing and mutual indwelling is what salvation is all about. These are terms that are not familiar to us because we have taken a few biblical concepts to describe salvation and have ignored the rest. This is a statement of absolute finality, just like the statement, "You must be born again." You must have the Spirit of Christ is saying the same thing. Having the Spirit is a good biblical phrase that we ought to use, for it means to be a child of God. We tend not to use this terminology because it brings the Holy Spirit into the center of the plan of salvation, and we tend to be weak in our understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit.
In verse 10 Paul says, "But if Christ is in you...," and so we see that Christ in us, the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of God, are all used interchangeably. They are one, and you cannot have one Person of the trinity in you and not have the others. Where one is, all are. Then Paul says your body is dead because of sin. What does this mean? Does Christ dwell in a corpse? Was He resurrected and ascended, and then sent back to dwell in dead bodies? What Paul means is that the body of the Christian is subject to death. It is in the realm of the dying, and will return to dust because of sin.
In other words, the Christian is only partially saved in the present. Sin still has power over the realm of the flesh, and as Paul goes on to say, not until the resurrection will our bodies be made spiritual and enter into the realm of the Spirit and be saved. Christians, therefore, are half and half. They are half saved and half not saved, but the half not yet saved has a guarantee to be saved if the Spirit indwells them.
Then Paul ends verse 10 by saying, "Yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness." It is alive because of the righteousness of Christ. Jesus said, "He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die." The Christian is alive even if he is dead. Death no longer has dominion over them. The body which is still subject to death is not the controlling factor in the Christian. His body does not run the show as it does for those in the flesh. For the Christian the Spirit is in control, and so the power of the resurrection is already in operation in the Christian life. The resurrection life is a life in which the Spirit is in control, and not the body. There is no difference between the bodies and the lost and those of the saved. The difference is in the Spirit. The spirit of the lost man is a slave to his body, but the spirit of the saved is a co-partner with the Spirit of God.
In verse 11 Paul makes it clear that sin and death will not gain the slightest victory over the children of God. He wants to make it clear that though the body is dead and not in control it is not to be abused, for it will be a part of the total plan of salvation. Jesus indwelt a body, and even though it died it saw no corruption. God will not let any body He has dignified by His indwelling be left in the grip of death. All that God indwells shall be eternal and so if the Spirit indwells us, we can have perfect assurance of immorality. Just as certain as Jesus rose with a body changed and made immortal, so shall all Christians rise and be changed. The power of the resurrection is the power of the Spirit, and no temple of the Holy Spirit will lie forever in the dust, for the Spirit will give life even to our dead bodies.
In the light of all that the Spirit does for us now and for eternity Paul goes on to say that we have an obligation to live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. We do not owe the body anything, for its fleshly nature only brings us down, but we owe the Spirit everything, for He lifts us up to the dignity of being God's child.
Paul goes on in v. 13 to say that we will die if we live according to the sinful nature of the flesh, but we will live if we put to death the deeds of the body by means of the Spirit. This is life now and forever. We must be in constant battle with the body to keep it under the control of the Spirit. We must present our bodies as living sacrifices as Paul says in chapter 12 of Romans. We must die daily or the body will dominate us and lead us in many ways that are not truly life, but paths to death. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and if you let your body determine what you will do, it means you will do much less for Christ and for your own spiritual growth than is you are controlled by the Spirit. The flesh will keep you from doing much that is God's will for your growth.
By the grace of God the Spirit working with our spirit can overthrow the tyranny of the flesh and reign in its place. The Spirit can gain control and discipline the body and bring it under submission. This will lead to the fruit of the Spirit being produced in your life. The Spirit will help us put to death the desires of the body to be lazy and indifferent to the things of God, and the desires to do what is contrary to the will of God. If the Spirit is not in control, the body will quench the Spirit and we will be carnal and not spiritual. Something has to die, and it is either the flesh or the Spirit, and which it is determines the quality of your life now and for eternity. Assurance of salvation; assurance of eternal life, and assurance of abundant life now are all dependent upon the indwelling of the Spirit of God.