Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 4, 1968
NUMBER 34, PAGE 2b-3,5b

The Territorial Integrity Of The Word Of God

William E. Wallace

The expression comprising the title to this article is one I am using as a stepping stone to the point I seek to develop. Involved is the principle which all theories about the Holy Spirit's work and influence must respect.

We hear much about the territorial rights and territorial integrity in the international affairs of modern nations. Red China has often encroached on the territorial integrity of India. The war in Viet Nam is related to the violation of territorial rights, and the recent Middle East war involved territorial integrity.

Integrity is defined as "state or quality of being complete, undivided, unbroken, entire," and we may add, all-sufficient. Another way of expressing my thought is with the word franchise, or charter, as granted to early American colonies.

This is a lesson as to the method of Holy Spirit indwelling and influence. There is considerable disagreement on how the Holy Spirit influences and indwells the Christian. It is with this issue that we grapple in this article.

We are taught that the Holy Spirit dwells in the church (I Corinthians 3: 16-17; Ephesians 2:21-22) and in individuals (I Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 8:9-11; II Timothy 1:4). It is not likely that this indwelling would be any different in mode or method than the indwelling of God (I John 4:13) or of Christ (Romans 8:10). Is the indwelling personal, or impersonal? Direct or indirect? Miraculous or conventional? Literal or symbolic?

It appears to me that any discussion on this point must begin with a consideration of the territory God assigned to the word, or the function God ordained for the word. The word was God's power in creation (Genesis 1:1-3) and by his word all things are upheld (Heb. 1:3). From John 17:17-21 we learn that it is the function of the word to sanctify and that belief and unity come via the word. The word begets and saves (James 1:18-21). From it comes wisdom (II Timothy 3:15-17). It is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction, — it thoroughly furnishes us unto all good works. The word is the basis of judgment (John 12:48). What is there left for the Holy Spirit to do in us? What may the Holy Spirit, dwelling within us, do that the word has not been assigned to do?

The Holy Spirit cannot infringe on the franchise of the word without (1) interfering with the word's assigned operation, (2) encroaching on the word's territorial assignments, (3) reflecting on the word's all-sufficiency. How may the Holy Spirit indwell and influence us without over stepping the function of the word? First, whatever He does He must do in connection with the word — not separate and apart from it, or else He violates the territorial integrity of the word. A few passages declare how the Holy Spirit avoids competitive action with the word. Acts 5:32 refers to God giving the Holy Ghost to "them that obey him." Obeying the word depends upon receiving it. After receiving and obeying the word the Holy Spirit was received. In Galatians 3:2 the reception of the Spirit is dependent on the "hearing of faith." Galatians 4:6 declares that God "hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." The Spirit is sent into the hearts of sons, and the only way one may know he is a son, is as "The spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God..." (Romans 8:16). The bearing of witness involves testimony or words — the words of the Spirit, the Bible. Thus it is through the word, the Bible, that the Holy Spirit bears testimony. If the human spirit meets the demands of the Holy Spirit's revelation, the word, the Bible, then the Holy Spirit bears testimony with our Spirit that we are the children of God. What may He do in our hearts in the way of crying "Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6) that the word has not already done? Could the Holy Spirit not cry "Abba Father" via the word, conjointly with it, in some connection with the word without being competitive with it?

It seems certain that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit cannot be miraculous, for there is the matter of the free moral agency of man involved; the principle that God is no respecter of persons; and the problem of a person being possessed with unmetered or naked divine power. Yet in some way the Holy Spirit "Inspires the word of God, warms the church from coldness to enthusiasm, and strengthens the Christian in the struggle between the flesh and the spirit." The personal presence of the Spirit is reflected in the fact that He can be resisted (Acts 7:51) and quenched (I Thess. 5:19). Also, his presence is seen in the fruit manifesting such presence (Gal. 5:22-23.)

So what is the method or mode of the Spirit's "indwelling"? In some way there is a personal touch or presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of sincere recipients of the word. Because of the omnipresence of deity we may not be able to offer a fully satisfying explanation of just how divine "power" in the presence of the Holy Spirit indwells us. We must remember that there is "One God and Father of all, who is above all (transcendent), and through all (imminent), and in you all (omnipresence)," It is in God that "we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Inasmuch as the real and the eternal and the infinite and the infallible nature of deity defies adequate portrayal by human terminology, it seems certain that we will fall short of adequately picturing the method of the Holy Spirit's indwelling. This is not to say the indwelling is "better felt than told" or that it is too mysterious to contemplate, but rather it is to say as God said, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, ...For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9) So long as our positions do not violate the integrity of the word of God, we can well tolerate different ways of describing what the Holy Spirit does for us and how he dwells within us.

I suggest that the indwelling idea is a way or device of expressing that feature of divine motivation which reaches deeper than the formal, deeper than the surface, to a real guidance, or genuine motivation. The indwelling idea is a way of expressing the depth dimension. The Holy Spirit in us, or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — these Bible ideas and biblical nomenclature of like nature are figures designed to impress upon us that the word of God is not lifeless expression. In some the dynamic or power of God involves a depth dimension in the individual which is productive of sound religion, right living, and good works. This depth dimension is described in terms of the Spirit of God within us. Just how the Spirit operates or dwells within us specifically escapes a satisfying doctrinal analysis. All dogmatic positions are subject to, and susceptible to, worthy or healthy challenge. But it is certain that what the Spirit does in us or how the Spirit works in us, is neither miraculous nor competitive with the word.

One extreme leads to the concept of divine direction in the personal and corporate life separate and apart from the influence of the word. The other leads to a formal, lifeless, or depthless assent to ancient works in the book we call the Bible. Each individual may have a personal and satisfying way of explaining the indwelling, or a way of expressing himself regarding the indwelling, but to be sound our positions must give due respect to the word's franchise, to the territorial integrity of the word of God.