Is Christ in the Believer?
The material on this page was written in the 1970s to respond to the criticisms of Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and the original “Bible Answer Man.” CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research Institute”). The text of this article is published here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.
From: Answers to the Bible Answer Man – Appendix
Christ is Not in the Believer—What a False Teaching!
One would expect from a person who calls himself “the Bible Answer Man” real and genuine answers from the Bible. But with the Bible Answer Man there is an irony. Irony, of course, is a condition of affairs under which what takes place is exactly the opposite of what one would expect. The irony of the Bible Answer Man is that under the guise of giving the public answers from the Bible, he is actually giving them distortions of the Bible. Many of his answers are twistings of the Bible, made to match his own preconceived ideas.
A good example of such twisting took place on a recent broadcast of the Bible Answer Man. In a conversation between an inquirer and the Bible Answer Man, the inquirer raised the question of Christ being in the believer. The conversation went as follows:
Bible Answer Man: “How can Christ be living in you if He’s not the Holy Spirit? Because the Holy Spirit represents the Trinity on earth now since Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. In John 14 He said, ‘I will send you another Comforter. If I don’t go away, He (that’s the Holy Spirit) will not come.’ “
Inquirer: “Are you saying then that Christ is not actually in me?”
Answer Man: “I’m saying…that Christ dwells in you in the person if the Holy Spirit Who represents the Trinity.”
Inquirer: “So you’re saying that Christ is not actually living in me, but just a representative of Christ.”
Answer Man: “Well, let’s get it straight, O.K.? Does Jesus Christ have a body of flesh and bones as tangible as anybody?”
Inquirer: “Yes, He does.”
Answer Man: “Is he inside you?”
Inquirer: “Yes, He is.”
Answer Man: “His body is?”
Inquirer: “Not His flesh and bones.”
Answer Man: “Then He’s not there.”
In the name of the Bible, the Bible Answer Man is telling the Christian public that Christ does not live in the believer. The Bible Answer Man needs to place his preconceived ideas aside and come to the pure Word of God.
Christ—Not Represented But Indwelling
First, notice his twisting of John 14:16-18. These verses read: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you orphans: I am coming to you” (Gk.). The Bible Answer Man uses these verses to say that Jesus went back to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to represent Him on earth. But what do they actually say?
Coming to the pure Word, we discover these facts:
- The Son will ask the Father to send another Comforter to be with the disciples forever.
- The Comforter will be Someone Whom they already know, and Who is already with them.
- The Comforter will come to be in the disciples.
- When the Comforter comes, it is Christ, Himself, Who will come to them. Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans: I am coming to you” (Gk.). Verse 17 says, “He [the Spirit] shall be in you.” Verse 18 says, “I [Christ] am coming to you.” It is clear from the pure Word that the “He” of verse 17 is the “I” of verse 18.
There is no concept here that the Spirit is sent to represent Christ on earth while Christ Himself goes back to heaven. This is a figment of the Bible Answer Man’s imagination and faulty interpretation. Jesus did not say, “I am going to heaven. From there the Holy Spirit will be sent to represent Me, while I Myself stay in Heaven.” No! He said, “I will send the Spirit, and I am the One Who is coming.” Five verses later (v. 23), speaking of Himself and the Father, the Lord said, “We will come unto him [the believer] and make our abode with him.” Surely, this is a reference to the Triune God abiding in the believer.
We must point out that whenever a person is blind to some aspect of the Word, he will inevitably twist that portion of the Word to make it fit his concept.
The Two Sides of Truth
Everything has two sides. This is true in both the natural and the spiritual realms. Everyone has two ears, two eyes, two hands, etc. Every room has matching walls. The earth is held in orbit by two opposing forces. It is the same in the spiritual realm.
Take, for example, the matter of the resurrected Christ. The Bible Answer Man referred his inquirer to Luke 24:39 to prove that Christ, Himself, does not dwell in the believer. Luke 24:39 says: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Christ was bodily resurrected—this is one side of the truth. But the Bible Answer Man makes it the whole truth. He takes literally Luke 24:39, but falls into the serious heresy of saying that because Christ has flesh and bones He cannot dwell in the believer.
Since he takes Luke 24:39 literally, I would ask why he does not also take literally 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Know ye not that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”; Ephesians 3:17: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith”; Romans 8:10: “Christ [is] in you”; Colossians 1:27: “Christ in you, the hope of glory”; Galatians 2:20: “Christ liveth in me”; and Galatians 4:19: “Christ…formed in you”? There is not the slightest hint in these verses that they are not to be taken literally.
Paul Expressed Both Sides
The trouble with the Bible Answer Man is that he has a huge blind spot concerning one side of the truth. He accepts one part of the Bible while rejecting another part. He no doubt does this because the two sides if this truth regarding the resurrected Christ seem mutually exclusive to the natural mind. Those who try to force the Bible into the mold of their human logic face this problem. This dual aspect of the truth, however, did not seem to bother Paul. In Romans 8 he expresses two sides of what seem to be logically inconsistent truths without offering a single qualifier. In verse 34 he says, “Christ…is…at the right hand of God.” This means that the ascended Christ is seated on the throne in the heavens. Surely all real Christians believe this. But in verse 10 of the same chapter he says, “Christ [is] in you.” Both sides of the truth are also found in Colossians, where Paul says, “Christ in you” in 1:27 and “Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” in 3:1. Logically speaking, if Christ is in the heavens, He cannot be at the same time in the believer. But this is what the Bible says.
Christ Dwells in Us
It is the greatest heresy to deny that Christ dwells in the heart of the believer, since this is the scriptural test of whether or not one is a Christian. Second Corinthians 13:5 says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (NASV). This verse says nothing about a representative of Christ being in you. It says if Christ, Himself, is not in you, you fail the Christian test. Yet, the Bible Answer Man would tell all the Christians that Christ does not dwell in them. Surely, this is a great deception. He would have us all believe that the only truth regarding the resurrected Christ is that He resurrected with flesh and bones and ascended into the heavens. That is the side recorded by Mark and Luke (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51). Why would he not tell us that the last word in Matthew is, “Lo, I am with you all the days, even to the completion of the age”? And why would he not also tell us that John closes with the Lord being with the disciples, giving no indication that He ever left? Even the four Gospels are evenly balanced in both sides of the truth: Jesus is in the heavens, and He is also with us—even in us.
Christ Speaks in Us
One more point: if Christ were not in us, how could He be said to speak in us? Yet, in 2 Corinthians 13:3 Paul referred clearly to “Christ speaking in me.” If Christ were not in him, how could Christ be speaking in Paul? No doubt the Bible Answer Man would say that Christ was speaking through His representative, the Holy Spirit. But this is not what Paul said. And since he made such a great point in this Epistle that he (Paul) was using “great plainness of speech” (3:12), I believe he said exactly what he meant.
To deny, as the Bible Answer Man does, that Christ dwells in His people and speaks in them is to deprive them of the precious, subjective, intimate fellowship God desires to have with all of His children. It puts the Christian’s relationship with God into the cold, sterile, objective realm of lifeless religion. For this reason, we protest strongly that the false teaching that Christ is not in the believer is a great heresy.
This is the first of two articles in Response to False Teachings