Incarnation Vs. Indwelling

As an objection to the actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every obedient believer, some argue that such a personal indwelling would be an incarnation, of which, they claim, there has only been one; namely, the case of Jesus of Nazareth. What follows is my response to such thinking.

Only One Incarnation

I, too, believe Jesus of Nazareth to be the only incarnation. However, my use of the term “incarnation” comes with a caveat. Because the term is nowhere used in the Scriptures, but is, nevertheless, a word that stands for the divine Logos becoming flesh (John 1:14, NKJV), how we are using it is vitally important. In Webster’s definition of the subject at hand, he says it refers to “the union of God and man in the person of Christ” (New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, Lexington Publications, 1992). I have no problem with this definition as I believe it correctly identifies the scriptural idea being discussed. However, under the same word, Webster’s list as one of its definitions as “an embodiment” (Ibid.). So, if you’re using incarnation as “an embodiment,” then such a definition would include the indwelling of the actual Holy Spirit in our bodies. But, if you’re using the incarnation to refer to “the union of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ,” then it would be wrong to say that our bodies being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is an “incarnation.”

Equivocation

One meaning of “to equivocate” is to use “the double meaning of a word” to one’s advantage. Therefore, for one to insist on using the two very different definitions of incarnation mentioned above as if they were interchangeable, especially after such a difference has been noted, opens one up to the charge of equivocation, which no Christian would knowingly engage in. Anyway, when it comes to the bottom line, the point is not what Webster’s has to say about the term “incarnation,” but that the Bible means by “became flesh.” As surprising as it may sound to some, the thing that makes the Incarnation the Incarnation is not that deity indwelt flesh, but that deity (viz., the divine Logos) became flesh (i.e., human—viz., Jesus of Nazareth). John does not say the Logos entered into a man or dwelt in a man or filled a man. Instead, he says He became a man. This is why the Scriptures point out that anyone who denies Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is exhibiting the spirit of the Antichrist (1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7).

Many Indwellings

There is only one Incarnation. God, in the person of the Logos, “became flesh” and dwelt among us as Jesus of Nazareth. He wasn’t always Jesus of Nazareth. That’s who He was (and still is) when He became flesh. That is far different than Allan Turner, along with other Christians, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. I’m not God incarnate; I’m Allan Turner who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. When indwelling me and other Christians, the Holy Spirit does not become flesh. That is, He does not become anything other than what he is and always has been. That is far different than the Incarnation. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit does not make me the Holy Spirit nor does it make the Holy Spirit Allan Turner. There are many such indwellings (1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:9), but only one Incarnation.

Conclusion

Therefore, I see no validity to the “Why isn’t the indwelling of the Holy Spirit an incarnation” argument.

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