The Companionship and Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Dr. Brian Allison

The world is full of lonely people. The Church is full of lonely Christians. Christ Himself experienced times of loneliness (see Mk. 14:32f.), and He typically addressed His loneliness in stealing away and communing with His God. And so W. E. Sangster writes, "Jesus lived in the full enjoyment of His Father's presence through all the days of His flesh. When we speak of Christ's loneliness, we are thinking strictly of human fellowship. When Jesus slipped away from the crowds and the inconsequential chatter of the disciples, for what we are pleased to call 'the lonely nights in the hills,' He was seeking uninterrupted communion with His Father. They were His feast times. In freedom from human companionship, He entered more deeply into the divine" (He is Able, p. 41). Now communion with God – knowing and enjoying the presence and the fellowship of God – is only possible through the presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We read the words of Jesus in John 14:17b,18, "But you know Him [the Holy Spirit] because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." This past week, I was working in my study and I received an emergency phone call from a friend who was in another city. This brother was having a panic attack. He was in a new place and in a new set of circumstances, dealing with new issues; and he found it very overwhelming. I suppose he called in order to receive some encouragement. I shared this particular verse with him. I told this brother that the Spirit of God is with him, that though he feels lonely, he ought never to fear that he is alone. He was comforted.

The Spirit is the believer's eternal companion

The Holy Spirit accompanies the believer – "Because He abides with you." The Spirit is stationed along side the Christian; He remains with him. In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the main character is a man named Christian. It is an account of this man's spiritual journey from this world to the heavenly City. Now, after Christian and his fellow, Faith, appear on trial before Lord Hategood, the judge, another character comes on the scene, whose name is Hope. This fellow Hope becomes Christian's constant companion as he is traveling to the heavenly City; he never leaves Christian alone. He supports him throughout his adventure. He arrives with Christian at the desired destination. And so it is with the Holy Spirit. He is our close and faithful companion throughout the whole of life.

The Spirit's peculiar responsibility as our companion is to help us, that is, to strengthen and comfort us – and that forever. Thus, Jesus said to His disciples, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you [as a companion] forever" (Jn. 14:16). My wife and I have been married for almost 20 years. But one day our relationship will end, maybe in 30 years, or in 35 years, or in 40 years. One day we will no longer enjoy companionship. One day either my wife or I will be left alone. Yet, our companionship with the Holy Spirit will never end. Accordingly, the Christian need never fear being alone. The promise of Jesus Christ is: "I will never leave you as orphans." That is, Jesus will never leave the true believer destitute, uncared for, or without support. The Spirit, as the Paraclete (that is, the Comforter), does spiritually and personally in the life of the believer what Jesus Himself would have done personally by His physical presence.

Now, your friends may ostracize or reject you, but the Spirit is pleased to come alongside and prop up your spirit, and remind you that you are loved of God and that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Or, suppose you find yourself grieving at the loss of a colleague, the Comforter is able to give a sense of inner calm and peace, as well as the assurance that God is in control. Maybe you are being threatened with dismissal from, or termination of, employment. Well, the Spirit can give you quiet resignation and fill your heart with hope and confidence, knowing that God is going to provide. Regardless of the circumstances or the problems with which we are faced, we have this confidence. There is no situation in which we will find ourselves alone; lonely, perhaps, but never alone. Are you feeling ostracized? misunderstood? rejected? Do you feel like your friends have turned on you? Is there an impending crisis on the horizon? Are you wondering how you are going to work through it? Have you heard bad news from overseas? Are you beginning to feel the weight of the stress and burden of a particular personal situation? Remember, as a Christian, you have an eternal companion, and one of His primary ministries in your life is to strengthen and comfort you, and to give you the needed help that your heart requires. God is with you.

When the apostle Paul was imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel, he communicated to his spiritual son in the faith, Timothy, saying, "At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the lion's mouth" (2 Tm. 4:16,17). The Lord came to Paul in that cold, gloomy, drafty cell, and graced him with His presence. The Lord strengthened him when he was forsaken by everyone; he was not alone.

The Spirit is the believer's permanent guest

The Spirit is not only the believer's eternal companion, He is also the believer's permanent guest – "And [He] will be in you." The Spirit is the eternal companion only because He is the eternal residential guest; because He is in us, He is with us. Our hearts are the dwelling place, the home, of the Spirit of God. He really – experientially – occupies our spirits. Believers should have a personal, intimate relationship with the Spirit. For the Spirit to be in the heart means that that heart should be in fellowship with the Spirit. The Spirit is not some force; He is not some thing; He is not some energy. He is not an 'it'! He is a person.

We interact with people, we relate to people. Accordingly, we read, "[Jesus said] That He may be with you forever; that is, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not [that is, is not even able to] behold Him or know Him" (Jn. 14:16b,17a). The world is of a completely different order than the Spirit; there is no moral or spiritual connection between the world and Him. The world is not able to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit can have no association with that which is intrinsically evil and anti-God. Nothing in the world (that is, the fallen, rebellious, unethical system) commends itself to the Spirit.

On the other hand, Jesus says, "But you [behold Him and] know Him" (Jn. 14:17b). What does it mean that believers behold the Spirit? It means that we spiritually perceive, spiritually discern, the Spirit. We spiritually realize that He is within us. For instance, this past week, I had the opportunity to be a moderator at an ordination service. When I was getting ready in the morning and when I was driving there, I thought to myself, "You don't seem to be very nervous or anxious about this. There are going to be various delegates assembled from different Baptist Churches." There was a sense of peace and calm. Further, while I was there, overseeing the proceedings, it seemed that the proper words came to my mouth when speaking. There was a steadiness. There was a peace. I realized that the Spirit was present with me. I discerned His ministry. There was something greater than me at work; something I could not explain in human terms. So, with the Spirit dwelling in you, you 'behold' Him.

Experiencing the Spirit is not essentially a feeling or an emotion; it is a spiritual perception (though the effects of the Spirit's presence may result in certain feelings; for example, the feeling of peace or joy). An example of this kind of spiritual perception is found in 1 Corinthians 7 in which the apostle Paul deals with the matter of marriage relationships and virgins. He concludes, "But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is [i.e., unmarried]; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God" (vs.40). The apostle did not have a feeling of the Spirit; there was not some kind of warm rush that he felt moving up his spine. But as he was giving these instructions, he sensed that the Spirit was present and involved in his communication. We observe the same idea in 1 Corinthians 2:13 – "Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom [not words that arise out of one's own intellect, knowledge and experience], but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." The Spirit instructs the human heart, and one may recognize that the Spirit is at work and that he is being borne along by Him.

Now, true believers not only behold the Spirit, but they know Him. The Spirit is a person and thus we may recognize who He is; we may be aware of His presence. Think, for instance, of your times of prayer. In prayer before the Lord, a believer may be confronted with the sense of His presence and recognize through the Spirit's illumination, as well as by His strengthening of faith, that he is indeed being taught by the Spirit of God, that is, one may spiritually understand the movings of God in his own soul. One may have the spiritual realization that the Spirit is impressing the reality of God and fellowship upon his soul. Again, at these times, the believer realizes that he is involved in something that is beyond him, something that cannot be explained. Further, we read in Ephesians 3:16f, "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." The Spirit Himself makes Jesus Christ real to the heart. You really know Christ, and you know that you know Him, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The true believer knows that the Spirit is accomplishing that good work. And in this sense, the true believer knows the Spirit; he understands the Spirit's presence and work. Of course, to know and 'to behold' the Spirit are very similar activities (generally speaking, to know is 'to behold,' and vice versa).

Because the true believer may personally know the Spirit, the Spirit may become jealous. Only people become jealous. Again, with the indwelling of the Spirit, there is a real, personal relationship between the Spirit and the believer; and that is why He may become jealous. We read, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: The Spirit [Whom] He has made to dwell in us jealously desires us [marginal reading]" (Jas. 4:4,5). Does not this fact truly underscore the intimacy and the wonder of this personal relationship which we sustain with the Spirit? The Spirit wants your full allegiance. He does not want a divided allegiance. He does not want you to become involved in the world, giving your allegiance to the world. The Spirit wants all of you because He is in a personal relationship with you.

The Spirit's presence is Christ's presence

The Spirit's indwelling is Christ's own indwelling. Jesus teaches that with the Spirit's coming to abide with you, and to indwell you, that it will be He Himself who comes to abide with you and indwell you – "I will not leave you as orphans." So, in beholding the Spirit and in knowing the Spirit, we simultaneously behold and know Christ. Jesus teaches His disciples, "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him [by the Spirit]. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him" (Jn. 14:21,23).

The Spirit's indwelling demands a temple

Because the Spirit indwells us, and because the Spirit is holy, we are to be the temple of the Spirit. We are not simply some house or some container. We are temples in virtue of the nature of the Spirit who is holy. We are His sanctuary. Thus, we read in 1 Corinthians 6:19, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." My mother recently stayed with us for a number of days. Prior to her coming, my wife made sure that the room in which she was to stay was very neat, tidy, and clean. Why? We were having a guest, and we wanted to make her stay pleasant. Now, if we go out of our way to make a room, tidy, neat, and clean for a human guest (out of concern, as well as out a sense of duty or appropriateness), how much more should we take pains to make sure our bodies are 'neat, tidy, and clean,' spiritually speaking, for the heavenly Guest? We are to tidy up the temple by being godly; we are to make neat the temple by being holy; we are to clean up the temple by being righteous. The Holy Spirit resides in our hearts, and so we are not to desecrate, abuse, or damage the body. We are not to use it in an unwholesome way, or to commit immoral acts against it.

So, my Christian brothers and sisters, you have an eternal companion, the Comforter; you also have a permanent guest, the Spirit of Truth. How is your fellowship with Him? How is your personal relationship with Him? Do you see Him as a force? as an 'it'? Do you see Him as remote and distant, or is this the One you are communing with each day? If you are an unbeliever, I know that you do not know Him, but you can. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, repent of your sins, and God will give you His Holy Spirit who will abide with you forever; who will indwell you and make the glories of the eternal God known to you. Won't you come, my friend?