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H. C. G. Moule
Christ and Sanctification
Ch. 6, The Divine Indweller
"That He would grant you to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith."—Eph. 3. 16, 17.
CHRIST dwelling in the heart; what is the special bearing of this deep phrase as indicated by the surrounding words?
Is it just a large re-statement of the mighty truth that ‘Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates’; that, in the sense of the Mystical Union, He is in us and we in Him, as the tree is in the branch, its cause of life, as well as the branch in the tree, its living effect? This is, indeed, an inﬁnitely precious fact. It needs to enter far more than it often does into the daily food of the believer’s spirit. True, it is a thing which ultimately passes all understanding, all analysis, so that it is soon best to pause and say, as Hooker says in another connection: “O my Lord, Thou art true; O my soul, thou art happy.” United to Him in regeneration, in re-creation, I have from Him, in no ﬁgure of speech, life, life eternal, in all the meaning of that astonishing phrase. I ‘have the Son,’ and He is my life. From Him to me ﬂows the Virtue, which is so widely different from the mere ﬁnite forces of myself. For peace, and strength, and purity I draw upon, I drink into, that Source unfathomable, ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ,’ Who is now, even now, realized or not, in me, and I in Him. I am joined unto the Lord’; He and I are one spirit. Has this marvelous union been, indeed, effected? Then let me use it; let me reckon on it in every need. In temptation, in spiritual languor and decline, in care and perplexity and toil, let me draw upon the fact—not the feeling but the fact—of ‘Christ in me.’
The mystical union, doubtless, underlies the passage before us. But yet it scarcely forms its special teaching. For St. Paul is writing to those who undoubtedly ‘had the Son.’ And for them he prays for a new beginning, a new development; that Christ may ‘take up His abode’ (so literally) ‘in their hearts by faith.’ For one thing, then, this surely means the warm personal realization of this mighty positive fact, which we have just recalled, this vital union of the Lord with the regenerate. It means the deep reception into the inmost heart of the certainty that Jesus Christ is in the believer, after that indescribable but real manner.
But it means other things besides this. It means the divine reality of the love of the new heart to this great and blessed Christ; no more emotional tenderness towards a humanitarian aspect of the name Jesus, but, observe, towards the Christ, the King Messiah, the anointed one of God. It means the ocean-tide of the regenerate affections heaving towards Him. It means—what the context seems specially to indicate—an intuition, a direct gaze, into the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, into the personal application of that love; Who loved me.
But is even this all? I think not. Observe the phrase, ‘that you may be strengthened with might by His Spirit.’ Here is a something, then, that needs not illumination only, nor explanation, nor invitation, but strengthening with might, if Christ is thus to enter in. What does this imply? That this indwelling is a thing from which the heart without such strengthening shrinks; beneath the holy weight of which it would falter and succumb? As in other things, so in this, the Spirit must ‘help our inﬁrmities’; and here I see the truth that in this dwelling of Christ in the heart there is involved that self-surrender which without the Spirit’s grace is unwelcome, impossible, but which the Spirit makes to be a thankful opening of the doors in peace to the inﬁnitely worthy and welcome presence of the King. For if Christ inhabits the heart, it must be not only to console, but to take power and reign. And it needs a divine force beneath our will to make us, without reserve and with open eyes, assent to this and welcome Him in.
These things, at least, I read in this wonderful phrase, and they all bear upon Christian holiness. Realization of eternal life in the Lord is here. Spiritual love to the holy Christ—love, the idea with which the context glows—is there; love continually regenerated as faith lays hold on truth and promise. And the solemn peace of self-surrender is there, the opening of the heart’s door to One who must be Master where He dwells.
Touching upon another point, we brieﬂy notice the Greek original (Katoikhsai) of the word ‘dwell.’ It denotes permanent, settled residence. ‘Why should He be as a wayfaring man that turneth aside for the night’? He is to be at home. The experience is to be, not intermittent, but equable; and this passage, infallible with the voice of Almighty God, is warrant that it may be. Realization of spiritual fact, the sense of spiritual love, spiritual self-surrender, may be for us, beginning now, permanent realities.
Then note the tense of the Greek verb. It is the aorist, and this marks a point, a crisis, a step. Not necessarily a solitary point or crisis in the history of the soul. The idea rather is of point and crisis in the abstract, realized it may be in many steps of consciousness, many upward growths and openings, a climbing ladder. Each step will be an advance so true as to be expressed in terms of a new beginning, a new entrance of the really ever-present Lord. The thought points to blissful facts of holy experience, deﬁnitely deepening views of the King in His beauty, and deﬁnite development of that likeness to Him which comes of ‘seeing Him as He is.’
Deep indeed is this one brief word of God. How much remains beyond analysis and explanation? Let us leave the subject thus, or rather let us take it up here, each for himself, in the immediate presence of Christ. With Him all thoughts of the way of holiness must begin and end. Well said the Scottish saint, Robert McCheyne, one who lived in the inner sanctuary:
Christ for us is all our righteousness before a holy God; Christ in us is all our strength in an unholy world.