This article first appeared in the June 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer and written for the rubric "A Word Fitly Spoken."
In general, “dwell” refers to the close, rich, abiding love lived between husbands and wives, parents and children, and members of the church within a structure (tent, house, city, land) that promotes and preserves that communion in peace (I Pet. 3:7; Heb. 11:9; Ps. 133:1). The main significance is that the Spirit defines the covenant as “dwelling,” that is, more specifically, as the blessed, abiding, and intimate communion of love between God and His church in Christ and through the Spirit, wherein God dwells in them and they dwell in God forever.
In both its old and new administrations, the covenant promise—I will be their God and they shall be My people—is called in-dwelling. At Sinai, God explains that the law prescribing tabernacle, priests, and sacrifices is so Israel may know “I brought them forth…that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God” (Lev. 26:11; Ex. 29:46). Paul applies this same promise to the New Testament church: “As God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people (II Cor. 6:16). Covenant perfection in the day of Christ is similarly described: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men; and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).
But how is such covenant in-dwelling possible? God dwells in heavens that cannot contain Him, dwells in light no man can approach, and is a consuming fire that cannot dwell with sin (I Kings 8:27; I Tim. 6:16; Is. 33:14). And man dwells in darkness, dwells in flesh that cannot please God and wherein dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18; Eph. 2:1). With men, impossible; with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). So God must also govern the covenant. God does so by choosing the man with whom to dwell and causing him so to dwell (Ps. 65:4). And of all people and places, the Lord chose to dwell in Israel, Jerusalem, Zion, and the ark of mercy in a tent between the cherubim (Joel 3:21; Is. 37:16). The heavenly reality: God chose to dwell forever with His church in His Son, the Christ, who being “God with us” and Head of the body, does not merely make this covenant dwelling possible, but is Himself the dwelling place (Ps. 90:1; Col. 2:9).
In the covenant, God not only dwells near us, working with and for us, but God dwells in us, working in and through us (John 14:17). Furthermore, although the covenant is unilateral (God alone establishes, maintains, and perfects it), the covenant is also a mutual in-dwelling. By the gift of the Spirit of Christ, God dwells in us and we dwell in God; Christ dwells in us and we dwell in Christ (I John 4:13; John 5:46). We do not, therefore, merely experience the covenant, but we dwell in it, which is to say, we actively live, love, believe, trust, and securely abide in God.
But how absurd to suppose God depends on us dwelling in Him for Him to dwell in us! We dwell in Him only because He dwells in us; we love Him only because He first loved us (I John 4:3, 19). In fact, our dwelling in God is the necessary, certain, irresistible work and effect of the in-dwelling Spirit. Thus, when Love, Grace, and Truth dwell in us, we dwell in love, grace, and truth with God and our brother (I John 4:16; II John 1:2). When Knowledge and Wisdom of the Word dwell in us, we dwell in the word, believing and living in it (Col. 3:16; II Tim. 1:14). When the Comforter dwells in us, we dwell in comfort, peace, and safety (Ezek. 34:28; Is. 57:15). When the Holy and Righteous Law dwell in us, we dwell in holiness and keep that law as fruits of the Spirit (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:22; I John 3:24). And all this is as necessary, certain, and irresistible, as when the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, then that same Spirit will raise our mortal bodies to life immortal (Rom. 8:9-11). Necessary indeed.
And wonder of grace! Truly, blessed are they who dwell in the secret place of the Most High (Ps. 91:1). Surely, goodness and mercy will follow every man, woman, and child who dwells in the Lord’s house, for in all generations, He is our dwelling place (Ps. 23:6, 27:4).
Rev. William A. Langerak (Wife: Karen)
Ordained: September 2003
Pastorates: Southeast, Grand Rapids, MI: 2003-2019; Trinity PRC, Hudsonville, MI - May 2019-Website: www.prca.org/current/news/churches/usa-canada/trinity-prc-hudsonville-mi
Address3421 Hillcrest Rd.
State or ProvinceMI