Q. What Does It Mean to Say That the Holy Spirit Is in You?
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”—1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV1984
A. Over the past several decades, I have been asked the “in” question in a variety of different ways such as: What does it mean to say God is “in” my life, Jesus is “in” my heart, or the Holy Spirit is “in” me? Does it mean that everyone simultaneously has a little piece of God in them? Or is the Bible communicating something far more precious?
First, to say that the Holy Spirit is in you is not to point out where the Holy Spirit is physically located but rather to acknowledge that you have come into an intimate, personal relationship with Him through faith and repentance. As such, the preposition “in” is not a locational but a relational term. Similarly, when Jesus says, “The Father is in me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38), He is not speaking of physical location but intimacy of relationship.
Furthermore, to deny that the Holy Spirit is spatially locatable within us is not to deny that He is actively locatable within us, working redemptively to conform us to the image of Christ. Far from detracting from our nearness to the Holy Spirit, the classical Christian view intensifies the intimacy of our relationship to the Creator as well as the benefits of our redemption. The glorious reality is that you and I can experience union with God — the interpenetration of His uncreated energy with our humanity. While we cannot experience God in His essence, we can experience His energies. As Peter put it, we may as yet participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4; cf. John 17:11; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 1:28–29).
Finally, according to the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is not a physical being, thus to ask where the Holy Spirit is is to confuse categories. Asking spatial questions about a Being who does not have extension in space makes about as much sense as asking what the color blue tastes like. King Solomon reveals the utter futility of believing that the infinite Holy Spirit can be physically contained in any finite space, let alone the human body, when he exclaimed, “Will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27).