Before going any further, it is important to point out that I do not believe everyone who disagrees with me on the actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the body of every obedient believer is engaged in idolatry. I have fellowship with those who think the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian only in and through the word. In fact, I believe it fair to say that the majority of brethren I have associated with over the years believe this way. I may yet discover they are right, but I don’t think so.
As long as my fellow Christians do not withdraw from me due to my position, then I expect continued fellowship with those who disagree with me on this compelling subject. But my humble opinion, for those who haven’t quite figured it out yet, is that the Holy Spirit personally (i.e., actually or “literally”) dwells in the physical bodies of Christians (1 Corinthians 3:19 and 3:16-17).
However, when some, in order to defend their position that the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian only in and through the Word, begin to make God in man’s image and subject to the same limitations as a creature, I wish to make it clear that such are engaged in idolatry, even when they don’t realize it. There is, In my opinion, no excuse for such thinking. Nevertheless, teachers of God’s Word, seemingly without any embarrassment at all, make all sorts of spatial-limiting arguments for why it is supposedly impossible for the Holy Spirit to actually and equally occupy all the bodies of all obedient believers.
I believe some of the reasons for this is that many Christians today have drunk deeply at the humanist-materialist well. These give lip-service to omnipresence but then turn right around and define it in such a way as to, in effect, deny it. If God is omnipresent, and the Bible says He is, then don’t expect me to be impressed by arguments that claim He can’t be in more than one place at a time and if He were, He’d be divided into pieces (or clones) of Himself. This is nothing but pure humanistic poppycock. Worst yet, it appears to be nothing less than a manifestation of unbelief. And any teacher of God’s Word who makes such a claim is failing his responsibilities.
It must be understood that God’s omnipresence does not prevent Him from manifesting Himself in a localized place. In fact, while it is true that His ontological Being is present to all of space equally, He has, at various times and for various reasons, entered space at specific points and become present in it. These “theophanies,” as they are called, most often involved redemption. There was, for instance, the account of God’s presence in the garden of Eden “in the cool of the evening” (Genesis 3:8ff.). There was His appearance before the Israelites as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus 33:9; 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10ff). Of course, the most dramatic case of God entering time and space was the Incarnation itself (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16). But, and this point needs to be clearly understood, in entering time and space, God, in His self-existent, eternal, and infinite Being, did not cease to be omnipresent. He was, while existing as Jesus of Nazareth, still present to every point of space and was, in fact, holding everything together by the “word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3; cf. Colossians 1:17).
With this in mind, it seems evident that the omnipresence of Immanuel or “God with us” is the real subject of John 3:13, which says, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of God who is in heaven.” I’ve heard people say they didn’t know what this passage was saying, but they knew it couldn’t mean what folks like me think it saying. This isn’t exactly what one would call cogent exegesis if you ask me. Nevertheless, some among us are confident that the ontological presence of the Word, who was Himself God, could not be on earth, in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, and be in heaven at the same time. I suppose it could be that this difficult passage is not saying what I think it’s saying, but the teacher of God’s Word who claims that it “can’t be” is clearly not taking into consideration the omnipresence of Jehovah’s ontological Being—a Being not limited by time nor space. Yes, I know the concept is mind-boggling, but such is, I believe, characteristic of the magnificent nature of Almighty God. When contemplating the nature of God, it is not detrimental to have our minds boggled a bit.
The Importance Of Scripture Properly Interpreted
It has been my experience that when one moves off of center on a particular Bible subject, he’s probably off on something else as well. Why? Because the Word of God, which is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16f) is a palliative against false doctrine. If we take a wrong position on something, we can be sure other passages will confront our wrong interpretation and, if we are amenable, they will surely correct our error. However, when we come to a conclusion that a particular interpretation is right and we are unwilling to be corrected, convinced beyond all doubt that our position is the right one, we will surely have to misinterpret and misapply other passages that impinge our belief. In other words, the Word of God, if we will let it, when properly understood and believed, will make us “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). The starting point for all this is, of course, Genesis 1:1. Failing to grasp the implications here will surely cause us to misunderstand some critical aspects of the nature of both God and His creation. Therefore, it behooves us to spend a little time thinking about the implications of Genesis 1:1.
On the basis of creation texts such as Genesis 1:1 and Proverbs 8:22-23, it can be argued that time, at least physical time, had a “beginning.” In fact, Genesis 1:1, which is neither a subordinate clause nor a summary title, says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” According to James Barr, this was an absolute beginning which, when taken with the expression, “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (verse 5), indicates this was, in fact, the very first day, which may well be intended to teach that “the beginning” was not just the beginning of the physical universe, but the beginning of time itself and that God, therefore, may be thought of as timeless (James Barr, Biblical Words for Time, 1962, pages 145-147). In this statement, Barr appears to reflect what Jude said so succinctly: “To the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen” (Jude 25, ASV of 1901). When this is coupled with Proverbs 8:22-23, which clearly looks back to “the beginning,” it can be said that the Old Testament implies that time started at the beginning. Add to this Jude’s statement mentioned above, along with John 1:1-3, which says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made,” and it seems clear that the Bible teaches the beginning of the creation was not just the beginning of space and matter, but it was the beginning of time as well.
If all this is true, and I think there is little to doubt about it, then the Creator, at least before He created, was neither subject to time (i.e., He was timeless) nor space. In addition, as the immortal and eternal God (Deuteronomy 33:27; Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 1:17), He did not, indeed He could not, consist of the material nature (matter) of His creation. He was, in essence, totally other (i.e., transcendent in nature). All this stands in stark contrast with creation which, by virtue of its creation, owes its existence to something outside itself (viz., God, the Creator). It is in this regard that we are said to live, move and have our being in the Creator (Acts 17:28). How, then, do some New Testament Christians feel at liberty to claim that God is somehow, ontologically speaking, limited by space and time?
(to be continued)