by Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D.
In the first series we made a comparison how Satan does his work and how the Holy Spirit works. If one believes that the Devil in person does his work of urging, nudging, encouraging, influencing, and guiding people that he tempts today, it would be unreasonable to deny the Holy Spirit the same personal action of urging, nudging, encouraging, influencing and guiding Christians. We have shown scriptures that the Holy Spirit could use the heavenly bodies to help create belief and partially know God without the Bible. We have shown that angels could be sent as personal messengers to help Christians. Thus it is clear that urging, nudging, encouraging, influencing and guiding to help Christians is not always and only through the oral/written Bible.
In this second lesson (series #2) we focus on the expression “personal indwelling” of the Holy Spirit. The term “indwelling” has been defined by two Filipino preachers who debated the issue this year as “guidance or influence of the Holy Spirit.” Care should be taken, however, not to create a dimensionalized abode or residence. We should not think of God (the Holy Spirit by extension) as present in heaven but not on earth. Or that when the Holy Spirit is felt on earth that He is not in heaven.
A very basic foundation in the understanding of this issue of “indwelling” is our acceptance of terms and principles recognized in dogmatic theology like omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, transcendence and immanence as attributes of the Godhead.
Claude B. Moss gives these definitions: “transcendence – God is above, beyond and outside all that He has made” and “immanence – God is inside all that He has made, as well as outside; He is the Creator, Preserver and Sustainer of all creation,” (The Christian Faith, pp. 15,16).
If the five terms above are recognized and accepted, then the debate should stop.
If God (the Holy Spirit by extension) is omnipresent and He is immanent, and we believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, then the immanent presence of the Holy Spirit is personal. Could we think of a corner of the universe where the omnipresent God (the Holy Spirit by extension) is not present in person?
Just to exercise our readers’ minds, may I force you to wrestle with the following questions so that you can go higher into the spiritual realm. Please read John 17:20-26 and answer the following:
- How are all true believers one? (see vs. 21, 22)
- How are the Father and the Son one? (vs. 21, 22)
- How is the Father in (inside) Jesus Christ? (v. 21)
- How is Jesus Christ in (inside) the Father? (v. 21)
- How is Jesus Christ in (inside) all true believers? (vs. 23, 26)
- How can person A be inside person B; but at the same time person B is inside person A?
Immanence, however, is not the same as focalized presence where help, urging, nudging, encouragement, influence, guidance is felt in some measure among chosen disciples. Think of the time that the Holy Spirit in a special way was with Jesus during His baptism at the Jordan River and in many miraculous works where Jesus demonstrated the explosions of the Holy Spirit’s power. On the other hand, think of the time of His arrest at Gethsemane and during the trial and crucifixion. Think of the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit’s exploding power was with Peter, but not during his arrest and imprisonment in Acts 4. The conclusion is that God (the Holy Spirit by extension) is omnipresent and omnipotent, but would only display sporadic presence and power that are felt by human senses.
During the Exodus, God was omnipresent but it was only at the locality of Mt. Sinai that God’s exploding grandeur and power was sensed by humanity. In like manner today, there are chosen people where the Holy Spirit chooses to nudge, urge, encourage, influence and guide according to the measure of the need, the intensity of the supplication for help that is lifted up to the heavens and the welcoming attitude of the individuals’ heart.
God (the Holy Spirit by extension) promised to dwell among the children of Israel (see 1 Kings 6:13), but God’s glorious personal presence did not explode in every corner of Canaan where the 12 tribes settled down. Neither was there a continuous day and night glorious personal presence exploding in the tabernacle and temple. There were only sporadic shekinahs in the holy of holies.
King Solomon said, “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1Kings 8:27). The LORD says, “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool, where is the house that you will build me? And where is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 61:1)
Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” If you want to insist on an Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) minister that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in that human body of Jesus Christ, why can’t you accept that the Holy Spirit can dwell in your human body? If we say that only through the word, the Bible, that the Holy Spirit would indwell the Christian, then it would follow that only through the word, the Bible, did the Godhead dwell in Jesus bodily.
These few verses quoted above express the simultaneous transcendence and immanence of God in the universe. Yes, it is difficult to accept this thing if our minds dwell in the dimensionalized material world. But we are talking about a spiritual persona. This should be accepted as true even if it could not be satisfactorily demonstrated physically, just as the Trinity is true yet it remains difficult to explain how three persons is one God. It is difficult to explain mathematically how the Father is in the Son, and at the same time the Son is in the Father.
There are what we call antinomies, seeming contradictions, but these things are true. They have to be accepted by faith because these things are in the higher realm.
(To be continued)