How can the Holy Spirit dwell within a sinner?


This is a two part question:
Since the Holy Spirit is God how does he reside within us if God can’t be with sin. If it is because we are redeemed by the cross, then what becomes of mortal and venial sins then? If the Holy Spirit is able to reside in us because we are redeemed by the cross doesn’t that make the idea of mortal sin and venial sin null and void?


What do you mean when you say that God can’t be “with sin”? You mean he cannot co-habitate with it, or cannot be in its presence? If that’s what you mean, that’s obviously not the case. Christ came to save sinners, as He clearly stated Himself. The Holy Spirit also (God’s 3rd hypostasis) assists sinners.

We are not redeemed by the Cross as a historical event. We are redeemed by Christ’s Living Presence now, which works in us the transformation from sinner to saint – gradually, over time. The idea that we are completely and instantaneously redeemed now if we only believe in the efficacy of Jesus’ historic suffering, is a protestant line of thought, not a Catholic one.

No. The Holy Spirit resides in us to transform us. He is present precisely because we are not perfect yet, i.e. we are still sinner to some extent (but not all to the same extent).


Technically speaking, there is at least one sense in which The Holy Spirit is already inside every single human being - Christian or not - due to the fact that God is Omnipresent. He is everywhere. There is another sense, of course, in which He is only within those whose souls have been regenerated. The question then, is what is different about the regenerate soul that it is “filled” with The Holy Spirit in a way that the unregenerate soul is not? I would argue that the difference is not so much on the Spirit’s side, but on ours. He is already Present, the question is: are we in communion with Him?

The unregenerate soul cannot commune with The Holy Spirit. It’s ontological substance does not mix. Its like oil and water. The regenerate soul does mix - it “vibes” with the Spirit. The unregenerate soul is deaf and unresponsive. The regenerate soul is alive and responsive. Which is why mortal sin would cut off our connection with The Holy Spirit - because mortal sin is a decision we make to transgress against that ontological justice, and thereby destroy that grace that was in our soul, taking us out of communion with the Spirit.

This is only one way of looking at it, and it is not perfect. You would have to consider the possibility of regeneration in the Old Testament without concomitant infilling of The Holy Spirit, something theologians speculate about. But I think this is a helpful way of looking at it.


Sin does not hurt God. It hurts us.


This topic is one that is often misunderstood. We hear the phrase God loves the sinner but hates the sin. We also heard that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

In my opinion it stands to reason that even though the above are true, it is also true that God is not compatible with sin. Thus when we sin, it causes us to be separated from God. When the Israelites sinned, God was not with them and they lost the battle. When they repented, God was with them and they were victorious.

It is the same with us. We are redeemed by the cross, true, and we should make use of it for the forgiveness of our sins, and God will reside in us. We lose God when we sin, not that He abandons us, but when we repent, in our case by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are made right with God and thus be one with Him again.

As for venial sins, we are still in a state of grace but it makes us vulnerable to fall and thus we are in a precarious situation. We need to purify ourselves from them.

No, the Holy Spirit would not be able to reside in us due to the presence of our sins. The cross redeems our sins when we repent, that is its purpose.

We are like a vessel. Is it empty or filled with sins? If our vessel is full, then there is no room for the Holy Spirit. Thus we have to empty ourselves so that we can receive the Holy Spirit.

This also explains why Baptism is not a guarantee of heaven. It only is if we are free of sins.


Thank you to all who responded all were very good answers. I’m Catholic, I just had a friend ask the question, who is not a Christian. Thanks


Fr. Hardon, S.J. wrote: "God is present everywhere and in everyone, even in sinners and infidels by His “ordinary” presence of immensity. But the Blessed Trinity dwells only in the just, …”

God gives us actual grace, even before our conversion. What is actual grace? “Temporary supernatural intervention by God to enlighten the mind or strengthen the will to perform supernatural actions that lead to heaven.” - Modern Catholic Dictionary


God can very much reside within the sinful…otherwise, since we are all sinners, the Holy Spirit would have no power. It is the sinner that Christ was sent to save, not the righteous.


I will instruct you and teach you
the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not keep with you. (Psalm 32:8-9)

I don’t recall the source but I once heard that the relationship of your soul to the in-dwelling Holy Spirit is kind of like that of a horse (your soul) and its rider (the Holy Spirit). When you allow yourself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, it is like when a horse responds to the commands of its rider and all is well. When you commit a venial sin, it is like when a horse ignores or resists the commands of its rider. When you commit a mortal sin and so you lose the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it is like when a horse bucks and throws its rider off completely.


We are all sinners so if the Holy Spirit couldn’t dwell in us no one would have a chance to be with God ever.


David’s plea in Psalm 51 ‘Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me’ made me think that the Holy Spirit leaves us when we mortally sin and caused me severe anxiety. I once asked a priest about this. It was a long time ago and I don’t quite remember his exact words, but he said something like… God doesn’t take the gifts He has given us away. When we sin, the sin sort of covers the anointing of the Holy Spirit… much like how you can conceal a book or another object with a cloth. When we repent, the cloth is removed and the fruits and gifts of the Spirit are manifest again (he actually said that they increase because of God’s mercy). But the seal of the Spirit on our souls never truly goes away.

Like the others said, if the Spirit truly left us we can never hope to repent or break sin. I remember reading a testimony from a priest found guilty of child sexual abuse. He said that when he was confronted about the crime he thought of lying about it and getting away with it. But something told him to tell the truth and he did. He later recollected that it was the Holy Spirit. One would imagine God abandoning such a person- but He didn’t. He doesn’t condone sin, but without Him we can never hope to acknowledge our sins and make reparation.


Mortal sin “excommunicates” us so to speak, returning us to the fallen position of Adam after his first sin, to the state we were in before Baptism/justification. Sin separated man from God to begin with and continues to in our lives now. This is why we need to repent after grave sin in order to be restored to communion with God, and this is exactly why we can only partake in the Eucharist again after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, because the Eucharist is partaking of and communion with God.

Mortal sin, by its nature, is a statement against and opposed to God and love. While venial sin tends towards movement away from God, it isn’t intrinsically oriented against love of Himself and neighbor but is generally due to weakness of the “flesh” rather than to a deliberate, conscious act done with full knowledge that causes grave harm to someone. God overlooks the lesser sins, sins that don’t “lead to death” (1 John 15:6) because forgiveness is His tool of salvation after all; Jesus lives among and dies for us while we’re yet sinners (Rom 5:8), offering forgiveness all the people respond to Him in faith and love


Jesus could not take on human flesh that was contaminated with sin. That is different from the Holy Spirit
visiting sinners. Sin, all kinds, are alive and well. Dame it!


This probably is a relevant answer to the OP question.

God does not abandon his people but God cannot be with sin, which is antithesis to God.

If we should not receive Communion in a state of mortal sin, it comes to reason that God cannot dwell in our human person in such a state.

However, God is everywhere, He is omnipresent, so He does not literally leave us. We can communion with God again when we repent of our sins and receive Him in Communion.


A central tenet of our faith is that in some critical way God does, indeed leave us, or we leave Him, Adam & Eve the first to experience this “exile”. Which is why with the reconcilation that Jesus accomplished we’re now able to commune with God again. “Apart from Me you can do nothing” Jesus tells us, and once united we must remain in Him and He in us in order for us to be who were created to be, in order for justice to reign within us, in order for us to have “life and life abubdantly”. Man was made for communion with God and it’s quite obvious that this spiritual union is lacking in our world.

Having said that, yes, Acts 17 tells us that we can’t even live, and move, and have our being without Him. But we can do all that without even recognizing His existence, without faith IOW. And faith, in response to grace, is the basis of that communion.


A bit of terminology. … what do you think the term ‘God is dwelling in us as in communion with Him’? That God is physically in our body and soul.

Of course, God is our God and we are His sons and daughters by virtue of our Baptism. So whether we sin or not, that would not affect our Baptism. We still have that indelible mark of the Holy Spirit, but does God resides within us when we are in a state of mortal sin?

Probably that distinction may lack some clarity here.


Ok, for New Covenant purposes, no He doesn’t. That’s what mortal sin is all about. Baptized people with indelible marks can reportedly still go to hell.


God cannot dwell in someone who is in a state of mortal sin. God can dwell in sinners because of His grace and love for us; Jesus lived in a world FULL of them. Venial sins are not confessed in Confession by Canon law, although it is highly encouraged; this is also cleansed in Purgatory. Mortal sin MUST be confessed ASAP before receiving the Eucharist, otherwise another mortal sin is committed, and you must “answer for the Body and Blood of Christ.” This is NOT cleansed in Purgatory. The Holy Spirit resides in us so that we have a chance to go to Heaven.


Hmmm salvation is a free gift not based on our behavior. We don’t lose salvation if we are led by the holy spirit


Void ?
What an odd ball question.
I think - the word ‘redeemed’ is a Protestant word -
Once Saved. ALWAYS saved !
I shrug my shoulders at those people - who are THAT convinced.

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