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Tag: Baptism of the Spirit

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Lives of Evangelical Christians

indwelling of the holy spirit

What do Evangelicals mean when they say that they are “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit? The Got Questions website — the go-to place for Evangelicals when they have theological questions — defines the indwelling of the Holy Spirit this way: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the action by which God takes up permanent residence in the body of a believer. Simply put, when unregenerate sinners are saved/born again the third part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, permanently moves into their lives, becoming their ever-present teacher and guide. The Holy Spirit filled the God-shaped hole in their hearts. He is an ever-present reality in their lives, even when they sin. Evangelicals can grieve the Holy Spirit by their actions, but they can’t make him move out and leave them alone. According to proponents of once-saved-always-saved, Bruce Gerencser, the Evangelical-turned-atheist is still a Christian. The Holy Spirit — also called the Holy Ghost — still resides inside of me, although he seems to be upset and pissed off about my godlessness and sinful behavior these days. 🙂

There ya have it. That’s what all Evangelicals everywhere believe about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit! Thanks for reading. I jest. The Bible says in Amos 3:3: How can two walk together unless they are agreed? While Evangelicals generally believe the Holy Spirit indwells all believers, their beliefs diverge from there. Arminians, for example, would take issue with Got Questions’ claim that the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in the body of believers. Arminians believe unbelievers can lose their salvation/fall from grace. Some of them believe that if a person falls from grace — looking at you Bruce — he or she can not regain their salvation. Once lost, always lost. Other Arminians think believers can fall in and out of grace, repeatedly. Years ago, when I was the manager of a Christian bookstore in Heath, Ohio, I got into a discussion with a Freewill Baptist youth pastor about the “security of the believer.” He explained his position this way: suppose he drove home on the freeway at eighty miles per hour, knowing that the speed limit was sixty-five. He knew that he was deliberately breaking the law, a violation of Romans 13:1,2:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers [laws, police officers, speed limits]. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

If, in the course of speeding, he drove off the road, hit a bridge, and died, he would go to Hell. Why? Because the moment he chose to deliberately “sin” (break the speed limit) he lost his salvation.

The owner of the bookstore, who happened to be a member of the church I pastored, at the time, was also an Arminian. When I asked him at what point does a Christian lose their salvation? he refused to answer me. All he told me was that there was a “line,” and that if people crossed that line, the Holy Spirit moved out of their lives.

Further complicating matters is what Evangelicals call the “filling of the Spirit,” the “baptism of the Spirit,” or being “indued with power from on High.” Some Baptists (and other Evangelical sects) believe that once people are indwelt by Holy Spirit, that’s it. They believe that Christians have all of the Holy Spirit they will ever need. Other Baptists, especially Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, believe that not only can believers be indwelt by the Spirit, they can also be “filled” with the Spirit (or indued with power from of High). These special fillings are given to believers so they can do great exploits for God. I experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit many times, especially when preaching.

Charismatics, Pentecostals, and other Evangelical sects believe in what is called the “baptism of the Spirit.” Similar to the filling of the Spirit,” the baptism of the Holy Spirit — a one-time act or a repeated act, depending on the sect — leads to supernatural behavior: things such as speaking in tongues, healing people, raising the dead, and other acts that only God can do.

Are you confused? Let me add to your confusion. The “believers” in the Old Testament were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. According to many Evangelical sects, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given to believers, This didn’t happen until the Day of Pentecost as described in the Book of Acts. Until then, the Holy Spirit came “upon” believers from time to time, but did not indwell them.

You will find variations of these aforementioned beliefs among Evangelicals, each with its own take on the Holy Spirit. You would think God would have spoken clearly on such an important issue, but alas he did not. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism? Not in Evangelicalism, where the unity of believers is subservient to being right. I have no doubt that Evangelicals who stumble upon this article will stomp their feet and say, “that’s not what I believe, or what my church believes, what my pastor believes!” 🙂

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser