Question:

Jeffrey,

Thank you for your wonderful work in teaching the Bible and for your web site. I have become much stronger in the faith as a result of your help. I have come upon a statement that I am not sure is correct: "At baptism God sends His Spirit to dwell in us. He marks us as true sons (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Spirit will also raise our bodies from death, or mortality, when Christ returns. In that resurrection, the Spirit finalizes forever "our adoption as sons" (Romans 8:23)."

Does our spirit, which comes from God, come at baptism or is this verse referring to the Holy Spirit? Spirit is capitalized in the verse, but should it be? Thank you.


Answer:

People have a strong tendency to make assumptions about what "dwell" means. They imagine that a piece of the Spirit enters into the person -- almost like being possessed. However, this conclusion ignores the many other passages that talks about God, the Father, the Son, the Word, and Love dwelling in us as well. For a detailed explanation see: Indwelling.

"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14).

"Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"" (Acts 2:38).

"Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee" (II Corinthians 1:21-22).

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).

At baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). It is singular, so it is a single gift of significance. You can read this as the Spirit itself being the gift -- in the sense that Paul said it in II Corinthians 1:21-22. Or you can read it as a gift that comes from the Spirit -- the promise of salvation at judgment day if we are found to have remained faithful -- in the sense that Paul used it in Ephesians 1:13-14. Actually the gift of the Spirit itself is a metonomy referring to the gift the Spirit gives to each baptized believer -- the promise of salvation -- a promise found in the word of God, delivered by the Spirit through the apostles and prophets. "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (II Peter 1:19-21). We carry that word around with us in our hearts and since those words came from the Spirit, we carry the Spirit and His promise with us in a figurative sense.