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Why Does the Holy Spirit Dwell Only Within Believers?

Biblical Authority Devotional: Authority of the Spirit, Part 4

by Jeremy Ham on September 29, 2010
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The Bible mentions that the Holy Spirit dwells within believers, but not in unbelievers. Jeremy Ham explains this concept.

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16–17)

Today’s big question: why does the Holy Spirit dwell only within believers?

As we discussed in the previous devotional, when believers hear the truth of the gospel and put their faith in Christ, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit comes to dwell within them. Believers are unique in this aspect, as today’s passage states that unbelievers do not have the Spirit within them.

Jesus spoke to His disciples about how they have access to the Father through Him, and that they would be given “another Helper” to abide with them forever. Jesus said “the world cannot receive” the Spirit. When Jesus referred to the world, He was talking about the people who follow worldly desires and not Jesus Christ—unbelievers (John 15:19).

Jesus did not mean that unbelievers can never receive the Spirit. He referred to the fact that they cannot receive the Spirit in their current state. The unbelievers do not see or know the Spirit. They cannot see Him because believers “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), and unbelievers do not know Him because they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth for a reason, since the Spirit is the one who “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). Sadly, the Spirit of truth does not dwell in unbelievers; however, Jesus said that the disciples did know Him (as they were followers of Christ), and the Spirit dwelled within them.

Later on as Jesus was praying to the Father, He said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:17–18). As followers of Christ, we have the truth, and believers are to go into the world with the truth (i.e., using God’s Word while relying on our Helper—the Spirit—to guide us) and tell them of Jesus Christ.

Today’s big idea: if unbelievers receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, the Spirit of truth will also dwell within them.

What to pray: ask God to help us follow His will to go into the world and tell others of the hope that is within us.

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