Holy Spirit Lingo = Common but Consequential Confusion

Every growing Christian understands and desires to know the person, and experience the power, of the Holy Spirit. Yet, almost every week I hear common descriptions of the Spirit’s work that are confusing and consequential for the average believer. Francis Chan wrote that the Holy Spirit is the “forgotten God.” In my recent book, Transforming Presence, I proposed that He is the “misrepresented God.”

Almost every week I hear common descriptions of the Spirit’s work that are confusing and consequential for the average believer. Francis Chan wrote that the Holy Spirit is the “forgotten God.” In my recent book, Transforming Presence, I proposed that He is the “misrepresented God.”

Commonly, I hear Christians praying as they enter a church building for a service, “Thank You, Lord, that we can come into Your presence.” This would have been a normal prayer for the Old Testament believer because the presence of God was understood as being in a physical temple. But for a discerning New Testament believer the biblical prayer exclaims, “Thank You, Lord, that Your presence has come into us!” This is the prayer of a new covenant believer. Because of the power of the cross and cleansing blood of Jesus, He now lives IN us!

“Thank You, Lord, that Your presence has come into us!” This is the prayer of a new covenant believer. Because of the power of the cross and cleansing blood of Jesus, He now lives IN us!

Again, having written an entire book about the indwelling person of the Holy Spirit, I could remind you of the 10 vital practices for a new (covenant) experience of the Holy Spirit. But in this devotional, I want to simply let the New Testament speak for itself. This is hardly a comprehensive treatment of all that the Bible teaches about the Spirit, but please read carefully and note the words I have emphasized.

Clear New Testament Teaching

  • John 14:20 – In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I IN you.
  • John 14:17 – Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be IN you.
  • Romans 5:5 – And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured INTO our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
  • Romans 8:9–11 – You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells IN you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is IN you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells IN you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells IN you.
  • Romans 8:15–16 – For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
  • Romans 8:23 – And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan INWARDLY as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells IN you?
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 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,
  • 1 Corinthians 12:6 – And there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all IN everyone.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:22 – And who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit IN our hearts as a guarantee.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:3 – And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:6–7 – For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone IN our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God IN the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure IN jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 4:6–7 – For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone IN our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God IN the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure IN jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

  • 2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is IN you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
  • Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives IN me.
  • Galatians 4:6 – And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son INTO our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
  • Ephesians 3:16 – That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit IN your inner being.
  • Ephesians 3:20 – Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work WITHIN us.
  • Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work IN you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 2:13 – For it is God who works IN you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

  • Colossians‬ ‭1:27‬  – “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ IN you, the hope of glory.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:14 – By the Holy Spirit who dwells WITHIN us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
  • Hebrews 13:21 – Equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working IN us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • James 4:5 – Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell IN us”?
  • 1 John 3:24 – Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God IN him. And by this we know that he abides IN us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
  • 1 John 4:4 – Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is IN you is greater than he who is in the world.

Those Common, Confusing Phrases

Now, I would challenge you to go back to these verses and try to insert some of the common expressions from songs and the platform in our regular gatherings. In today’s lingo we hear that the Holy Spirit is “beyond”, “above”, “around”, or primarily “outside” us in some way, like some amorphous force. These sincere but misguided statements are confusing and consequential. I would challenge the reader to find any clear New Testament teaching that would support these popular notions.

In today’s lingo we hear that the Holy Spirit is “beyond”, “above”, “around”, or primarily “outside” us in some way, like some amorphous force. These sincere but misguided statements are confusing and consequential. I would challenge the reader to find any clear New Testament teaching that would support these popular notions.

Consequential?

The consequences of this confusion are many, as I noted in Transforming Presence. Allow me to summarize just a few:

  • This breeds great confusion about the difference between the work of the Holy Spirit in the old covenant vs. the new covenant.
  • This diminishes the sufficiency and meaning of the work of the cross that has provided and guaranteed the indwelling person of the Holy Spirit.
  • This leaves believers with a false dependence on man-made, artificial stimuli in order to experience the person and power of the Holy Spirit. Worship leaders today often equate the person of the Holy Spirit with the emotion of the songs, the digitized lights, the smoke machines, the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the thunderous volume of the music.
  • This leaves believers ignorant of the indwelling person and power of the Holy Spirit for victorious daily living.

In conclusion, Andrew Murray summarizes this concern so very well: (emphasis added)

“I have been very deeply impressed with one thought. It is that our prayer for the mighty working of the Holy Spirit through us and around us can only be powerfully answered as His indwelling in every believer is more clearly acknowledged and lived out. We have the Holy Spirit within us; Only he who is faithful in the lesser will receive the greater. As we first yield ourselves to be led by the Spirit, to confess His presence in us; as believers rise to realize and accept His guidance in their daily lives, God will entrust to us larger measures of His mighty working. If we give ourselves entirely into His power, as our life, ruling within us, He will give Himself to us, take more complete possession of us, and work through us…It is as an indwelling life that the Holy Spirit must be known. In a living, adoring faith, the indwelling must be accepted and treasured until it becomes part of the consciousness of the new man: The Holy Spirit possesses me.[i]

“Our prayer for the mighty working of the Holy Spirit through us and around us can only be powerfully answered as His indwelling in every believer is more clearly acknowledged and lived out.” Andrew Murray

 

“It is as an indwelling life that the Holy Spirit must be known. In a living, adoring faith, the indwelling must be accepted and treasured until it becomes part of the consciousness of the new man: The Holy Spirit possesses me.” Andrew Murray

 

Copyright © 2020 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

[i] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1979) 8-9