Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” In the previous article we saw that Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20 that he had come to the end of his old life (“crucified with Christ”). As a new creation in Christ he had turned from his old life with all its privileges and sin. He had turned to Christ to receive Him as his Saviour and to enthrone Him as Lord. He expressed that difference in this verse. He described his new life in this way, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” He was now living a life in which the indwelling Christ could live His life in and through Him. Paul was then a willing human instrument in whom Christ could live and through whom He could minister, as Paul made himself available to Him.
This way of thinking about the presence of God as living in His people was not something entirely unexpected. There were prophecies about this in the Old Testament. We will look at one of those prophecies. We will also look at similar concepts in the teaching of Jesus which describe the presence of God in His people.
The Presence Of God In Believers Was Predicted In The Old Testament
There were a number of passages in the Old Testament which predicted that a closer relationship with God was to happen. However we can sum up many of the elements of those passages as we look at one passage in particular in Ezekiel 36:26-27. Ezekiel was describing a new covenant God was to make with His people. It would bring a deeper intimate relationship between Yahweh and His people. His Spirit would be in them and would make them more sensitive to Him. He would also motivate and empower them to walk in His ways. Ezekiel 36:26 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
(We note here how similar a concept it is to Paul’s teaching in Php 2:12-13, in which he describes God’s presence in His people motivating and empowering them to do God’s will. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”) (See my previous article for more on this verse.)
The Presence Of God In Believers Was Foretold By Christ
- Christ Foretold That Believers Would Be Indwelt By The Spirit Of God Jesus spoke of Himself in John 14:16 as praying to the Father to provide Someone to take His place when He finally departed from His disciples. He told them, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another[i] Helper, to be with you forever, 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.”
We note here the different terms that are used to denote the presence of the Spirit. In verse 16, the Spirit was to “be (Gk. eimi) with” them or “remain (Gk. menō) with” them forever (both verbs are to be found in ancient manuscripts). In verse 17 the Spirit was to remain (Gk. menō, same word as in verse 16) “beside” them. “Beside” is another Greek word (para). It means to be to the side of someone or something. So the Spirit was to be located at or in their presence. Then comes another expression later in verse 17. This time the Spirit was to be “in” (Gk. en) them.
Summing up all these different terms we see that God’s presence by His Spirit was to be a permanent presence (with= meta) them forever. It would be an immanent, close by presence (para= beside). It would also be an intimate presence (en = in). One could not think of a more comprehensive description of the presence of God with His people. His presence by His Spirit would remain with them forever. His Spirit would remain beside them. His Spirit would actually indwell them.
Christ Foretold That Believers Would Be Indwelt By His own presence. Jn 14:20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. In stating this truth Jesus was showing the intimacy of the relationship between the Father, Himself and His disciples. In fact the same preposition (en = in) is used to describe the intimacy of these three relationships. How marvellous it is to realise that Jesus is “in” His people in the same way as He is “in” the Father, and they are “in” Him.
A similar expression is found in John 15. Though the disciples would be .joined in union with Christ, they would still need to seek to deepen that union. How? By consciously learning to abide in Christ or to remain in close fellowship with Him. Jesus taught in John 15:4 “Abide[ii] in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
There was no doubt that Jesus would play His part in abiding in His disciples. However they needed to play their part in maintaining a close relationship with Him. How? By abiding in Him and by abiding in His word (and obeying it as a mark of their love for Him). Such a commitment would pay great dividends in answers to prayer, John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Abiding in Christ and in His word places one within the will of God. Prayers prayed according to the will of God will be answered in His way and in His time.
Christ Foretold That Believers Would be Indwelt By The Father And The Son. In John 14:16-17 Jesus had stated that those who obeyed His commandments would be those who loved Him. Such people would be loved also by His Father. In John 14:23 Jesus repeated, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” But He also added, “My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
“We” here refers to both the Father and Jesus. The phrase “make our home with them” in verse 23 is interesting in that it uses some of the words already used in John 14:16-17. The word “home” in the Greek original was (monḗ) which is the noun form of (menō) to “remain”. In addition, the word for “with” them is the word (para) also used in 14:17 to denote the closeness of relationship. So you have this amazing comment from Jesus that both He and the Father would make their home with the disciples. It is little wonder that A.T. Robertson suggests, “If the Holy Spirit “abides” (menei, Jn14:17) in you, that heart becomes a temple (naos) of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 3:16.), and so a fit dwelling place for the Father and the Son, a glorious and uplifting reality.”[iii]
These predictions from the lips of Jesus were fulfilled after Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. There He had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He then poured out this gift on His disciples. This happened on the day of Pentecost. As Peter declared on that day, Act 2:32 “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”
Not only that but the promised gift of the Holy Spirit would be given to all those who put their trust in the risen Christ. As Peter also said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:38-39.
Praise God that those of us who were once “far off” have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13). Praise God too that we have been indwelt by His Spirit and belong to the children of God throughout the world. PRAISE GOD!
[i] Verse 16, “another” is “allos” meaning another of the same kind, rather than “heteros” meaning another of a different kind. The promised comforter would be someone just like Jesus Himself.
[ii] In John 15:4-7, the word for “abide” is the same Greek word (menō) also used in used in Jn 14:16-17.
[iii] AT Robertson, in “Word Pictures In The New Testament” article on John 14:17.
Blog No.155. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Sunday 27th July 2014
Amazon Kindle books authored by Jim Holbeck:
- The Searching And Knowing God Who Loves And Cares: Reflections on Psalm 139.
- The Godly Reward for True Humility. Studies in St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.
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