How do our spirits relate to the Holy Spirit?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

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Question: When we receive the Holy Spirit, does our spirit and God's spirit unite to form another spirit? Alternately, can it be that our spirit removed and only God's Spirit lives in us? … or do they both reside in us?

Answer: Greetings friend. Thank you for touching down with us at Mainsail Ministries — and thank you for submitting this question. It has an interesting twist.

Before I answer it, though, I’d like to take a minute to make sure we mean the same things by the same terms… because people understand different things about God’s Spirit, the soul and spirit of humankind, and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Bible uses the terms soul and spirit interchangeably quite often — and we should take a lesson here. We should not worry too much about whether our body, soul and spirit are three distinct entities (as trichotomists do) or whether we are just a body and a soul where the soul functions in a spiritual capacity in addition to its other metaphysical functions (as dichotomists do). (To learn more about this, see our article at the following link: https://www.gotquestions.org/trichotomy-dichotomy.html )

The important thing to know is that God created us humans with a special type of soul that allows us to communicate with him (Genesis 1:26) … and since he is a spirit-being, when we are communicating with God, we are doing so on a spiritual level. It’s just that, unlike God, we have a physical aspect, too… and since our physical needs are always in front of us, they tend to take our focus.

But note this well: we are not bodies that have souls; we are souls that have bodies. It is our souls that will persist in eternity whereas our bodies will be resurrected and glorified (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). So, since it is our spirit that will persist into eternity, what happens to it when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us? Consider the following.

When a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior, he does so through the agency of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). In fact, possessing the Holy Spirit is the identifying factor for being a Christian! (Romans 8:9). Therefore, there is only one time when the Holy Spirit enters a person — and that is at the new birth (John 3:1-8).

It is the Holy Spirit that makes us born again (John 3:3). He is the one who transforms us into new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)… and it is this transforming moment — the one where we become Christians — that is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. So, since this entering of the Holy Spirit is casually and definitively bound to our salvation, it only happens once.

Now, contrary to the beliefs of some Christians, there is no second event in a believer’s life where the Spirit comes in and dwells within him. Some identify “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” as such an event. This is not true, however. A person becomes a Christian through that baptism (John 3:6). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a later or a discrete event that people sometimes call “the second blessing.”  

That being said, a believer can indeed be “filled” with the Holy Spirit at a later date (Ephesians 5:18) … just as he may “grieve” that same Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation (Ephesians 4:30) … but the Spirit remains in each believer through every storm — and he will remain within us until our redemption is complete (John 14:16; 16:17; Ephesians 1:13-14).

Now that you understand what I mean by the terms in our discussion, there’s nothing stopping me from answering your question. So, let’s start by looking at a key passage of Scripture.

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15–16, NIV)

In the above passage, it is clear that two entities are interacting within each person — our spirits and the Holy Spirit. As such, we can eliminate the idea that our spirit conflates with the Holy Spirit to become a single entity. We can also eliminate the idea that the Holy Spirit replaces our spirit and only one remains… because in both of those ideas, only one spiritual entity would remain in the person.

It is clear from this Scripture that two spiritual entities coexist within us. In fact, this passage tells how God’s Spirit testifies with our spirits confirming that we are the children of God — and that requires two spirits: one to give the testimony and one to receive it.

Now, I can see where this might not be the felt truth of the matter. It is difficult for me to distinguish my soul from my own spirit — let alone discern how God’s Spirit seamlessly works with my spirit to accomplish his ends! But, that’s what we have… and I’m thankful that we have the Scripture to help us sort these things out.

Got Questions Ministries has a few articles about the Holy Spirit that you might want to look at as part of your investigations. Find them at the following links — and thank you again for this question.

https://www.gotquestions.org/receive-Holy-Spirit.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/indwelling-of-the-Holy-Spirit.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/Spirit-filled.html

(This question-and-answer is associated with the Monday Musings for July 8, 2019, entitled 20190708 Whose spirit does what… and when… and how?)

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com)