The Trinity in Romans 8 and the Doctrine of Holiness
Romans 8:1-13 is a summary of the preceding 7 chapters in Romans, but now for the first time we read about how the Trinity is involved : God the Father had the plan and sent Jesus the Son to carry it out. The Son came and became a sin offering. Jesus made appeasement for our sins. The Holy Spirit guarantees our salvation and does the work within us to make us spiritually alive now. God the Father is the agent of our justification and the Holy Spirit is the agent of our sanctification (making us progressively holy). Jesus made both possible by His death.
Up until now in Romans the emphasis has been on the sin of man, the resulting condemnation, and Christ’s atoning work to overcome that condemnation. The Holy Spirit has been mentioned once in the first 7 chapters but now in ch. 8 the Holy Spirit is mentioned at least 20 times, so clearly the emphasis has shifted to living the Christian life in the power of the Holy Spirit, or as theologians call it—sanctification.
There are at least four truths to be found in Romans 8:1-13 concerning holiness:
- Our justification has a further goal of holiness. God has made us “alive” so that we might live for Him and do good works.
- Holiness consists in fulfilling the law’s just demands, as Paul wrote in v.4 “in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us”.
- Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is done by those whose minds are set on the Spirit and who are living according to the Spirit.
- Holiness is expected, it is our obligation, as v. 12 says “we are obligated not to the flesh” but to the Spirit.
The Emphasis on the Holy Spirit
The key issue in living life now is in having a spiritual mind set, and living according to the Spirit. The mind set on the Spirit is “life and peace”. The person who lives according to the Spirit fulfills the Law, pleases God, and is manifesting spiritual life in his mortal body—He is truly living for Christ now. Perhaps it would be helpful to examine some parallel passages at this point to reinforce the importance of yielding our lives to the control of the Holy Spirit:
Eph. 2:10 “we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand” Not only did God save us but He is at work in us to do good works
Phil. 1:6 “I am confident that God who began a good work in you will continue working in you to perfect it until Jesus comes back”
Gal. 5:16 “walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” Live under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit who indwells you
Eph. 5:15-18 “be careful how you walk..making the most of your time..understand what the will of the Lord is…be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Yield your life to the control of the Spirit, let God’s Spirit direct, teach, and rule your living.
Problem—The Experience of The Church
In a Gallup poll done several years ago, 95% of the American public said they believe in God. 84% believe in heaven. 50% go to church regularly, but only 12% said Christ has made a major difference in their lives now. This tells us that only a small minority are experiencing the Spirit controlled life taught in Romans 8. Why? Paul gives the explanation in vs.5-8, “those who are controlled by the desires of the flesh set their minds on worldly fleshly things” and “the mind set on the flesh is death”. By death he means they have separated themselves from the life that is in the Spirit. He goes on to say the “mind set on the flesh is hostile to God because it does not subject itself to God” and “those who are living according to the flesh cannot please God” How do you please God? How do you turn your life around? How do you grow spiritually?
The Answer to the Christian Dilemma
- Know that God has not only provided the means by which you can be saved from the penalty of sin, which is the atoning work of Christ on the cross, but He has also provided the Holy Spirit so that you can be saved from the power of sin still at work in your flesh.
- Give up your life, and let Him live in you. Voluntarily yield the throne of your life to Christ.
- In varying degrees, we are all control freaks, but we must learn to yield control to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always at work trying to teach, guide, convict of sin, remind us of Scripture, and give us wisdom. Will we let Him?
- It is our job, our obligation, to be controlled by the Spirit and not the selfish desires of our fleshly bodies. Several passages tell Christians to examine themselves and see who is calling the shots: 2 Cor.13:5 “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith”, and 2 Peter 1:10, “Therefore brethren be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you”
Fumbling the Ball
Paul gives many exhortations to Christians to stop hindering the Holy Spirit, stop ignoring the leading of the Holy Spirit, or stop following the selfish desires of the flesh:
Eph 4:30 “do not grieve the Holy Spirit” –the Spirit is trying to bring peace to your life and lead you into fellowship and harmony in your relationships, but He is grieved by angry words, slander, and malice.
1 Thes. 5:19 “Do not quench the Spirit” –do not throw cold water on the ministry of the Holy Spirit to your heart. He wants to lead you but you will not be led. He wants to teach you but you will not listen.
Isa. 63:9-10 “He lifted them and carried them..but they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit”
1 Cor. 6:19 “Flee immorality…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you”
Past, Present, and Future
Christians are people whose past has been altered, they were dead in sin but now are alive in Christ. Their present has been altered too. They are awakened to God by the Holy Spirit. They are awakened to the Word of God, and to fellowship with other Christians. We also look forward to a changed future when death will be overcome, but in the meantime we need to be, “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16)