Updated: May 21, 2020
If you’ve grown up in the church, you will have heard things like “Christ lives in you,” or “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” But what does that actually mean? How can God or Christ or the Holy Spirit live in us? Paul, John, and Peter talk about this idea in these verses below. Emphases added.
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
“When God was pleased to reveal his Son in me...” Galatians 1:15-16
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” John 1:4
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:9
“We are partakers [sharers] of divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4
In Genesis 1:26, God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” First, who are “us” and "our" this verse is talking about? It’s the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in perfect unity and community. We see from this verse that God created us to take part in the community and union of the Trinity. That is supported by 2 Peter 1:4. We share in the divine nature. Share with whom? Jesus. By creating us with God’s image, God put some of his divine DNA into each one of us. Sure, some people do not reflect the divine image, but that image never goes away. God, the three in one, made humanity in their image before humanity fell. It predates anything humanity did to damage their relationship to God.
Who are these verses referring to? We must conclude they're referring to everyone, not just Christians. The verse that says to me that our actions or thoughts have no adverse effect on Christ in us is John 1:4, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” The light of Christ illuminates all mankind, and it predates any response on our part. It predates our choices, our actions, and even our lives. If Christ is the eternal Word, begotten before all ages, then the illumination of the light of Christ predates all of humanity’s actions, even Adam's and Eve's actions in the garden.
This has profound ramifications for how we see others. Regardless of their actions or their beliefs, they contain the imago dei, the image of God, the divine spark that illuminates all humanity. The next person you see, remind yourself they contain the image of God. When you disagree with someone, remind yourself they contain the image of God. Remember that even when you are not happy with yourself, you contain the image of God. That pilot light that was lit from the foundation of the world has never been extinguished.