Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Friday Q & A #46
"In John 14:17, Jesus says the Holy Spirit dwells WITH you and will be IN you. Since Pentecost, is the Holy Spirit IN all Christians, or does he dwell WITH some and IN others? If so, what's the difference?"
This question was answered by Joe Rigney (Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and Christian Worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary).
When dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit, we ought to expect a little complexity and ambiguity. After all, Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes.” Theologians have made a distinction between the Spirit’s common work (i.e., non-salvific work such as conviction of sin) and his saving work (i.e., regeneration), as well as between the Spirit’s work under the Old Covenant and his work in the New Covenant. Without getting too bogged down by details, I’d like to suggest a couple of statements to help us understand John 14:17.
1. In the Old Testament, while the Spirit did regenerate believers (circumcision of the heart), he did not indwell the saints in the way he does in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31). Rather, the Spirit dwelt with the people, first in the tabernacle, and then in the temple. In other words, if you asked a faithful Israelite, “Where does God dwell?”, his answer would either be “in heaven” or “in that building over there.”
2. Regeneration before the cross was limited in scope; we see special Spirit-empowerings in Numbers and in John the Baptist.
3. In the New Covenant, the scope of regeneration is widened (all nations), as is the scope of the Spirit’s special empowering for ministry (gifts of Spirit).
4. Perhaps most significantly, the Spirit no longer dwells in only one location. Rather, the Spirit now indwells people. We are the temple of God, both individually and corporately. Now if we’re asked where God dwells, we answer, “In my body” and “in the church of Jesus Christ.”
Thus, in John 14, Jesus is telling his disciples that they know the Spirit because he dwells with them, but soon they will know him in a much deeper and profound way: He will actually dwell in them.
Pastor Sam Crabtree is Bethlehem's Pastor for Small Groups, North.