Holiness and the Spirit: A discussion on Romans 8

In the post below I mentioned my conversation with Rob Classen at Two Rivers Church a couple weeks ago. Conversation with him and the congregation. They have been spending a long while going through Romans 8, one of the more interesting chapters on the Holy Spirit in the NT. So, this was a nice overview and a chance for broad response to both my thoughts and to the sermons of the past week (which you can hear here). He gave me some basic questions to help spark the talk, and I wrote out some verse references and basic comments to make sure I didn’t sit there staring blankly, with only a little drool coming out my mouth.

When I say basic comments, that’s it. Just a few phrases jotted down. Those who were there so ran with the conversation I didn’t even need most of my basic thoughts. Unfortunately, I don’t have a recording of that.

So, I’m going to post the basic questions and basic answers.

I’ve never started a meme before. But I’d love to maybe start one with this, to keep this conversation going and see who we draw in. If you have a blog post some of your own answers to all or some of the following, and then let me know in the comments you have a post. If you don’t have a blog, just add to the comments here.

So here we go:

  • Why do most people not seem to care so much about the Holy Spirit?
  • Why do you think Romans 8 is such a key passage to teach us about the Holy Spirit?
  • In It’s a Dance: Moving with the Holy Spirit we read, “Now I realize the Spirit is the only way to move past sin” (p. 114). Can you elaborate on that?
  • Some more quotes to consider and discuss:
    1. “Holiness is about the Spirit” (p. 115)
    2. “Keep your eyes on the prize and holiness happens” (p. 115)
  • In Romans 8:26 we read, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express”. We are told the HS is our intercessor, our translator, and that he prays for us when we can’t. Do you agree that this an important part of the HS’s role in our lives? How do you think this all works in us?

Here’s what I wrote down as brief responses:

Why do most people not seem to care so much about the Holy Spirit?

Don’t know that much. A lack of church teaching. Don’t want to let go and let the Spirit work. The Spirit is elusive to understand and is hard to categorize and put into a handy box.

Why do you think Romans 8 is such a key passage to teach us about the Holy Spirit? In your book you say, “Now I realize the Spirit is the only way to move past sin.” Can you elaborate on this?

The law tells us what sin is but doesn’t empower us to do anything about it (Romans 7). Focusing on sin, whether by sinning or by focusing on not sin or other people’s sins, leaves us trapped in the Law. The Spirit comes to us. And God leads us to what we can do.

Some verses:
Romans 8:12-17

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

1 Peter 1:13-16

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Romans 8:28-30

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

“Holiness is about the Spirit” What does this mean to you?

Ephesians 4:17-24

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Romans 8 says this is the work of the Spirit to make us new.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Romans 8 tells us this is the work of the Spirit.

“Keep your eye on the prize and holiness happens” Can you elaborate on this?

First we ask what the prize is.
Colossian 3:1-4

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I think of an analogy with running [on my sheet I just wrote ‘running analogy’, but I’ll fill it out a bit more here]. When running up a hill I look ahead, at a spot at the top or at a marker far away. If I’m exhausted and feel like I can’t run anymore I keep my eye on what is ahead, and then say I’ll just go to there. When I get there I find another marker ahead and get to there. Always keeping my focus on some point in front instead of each wearied step.

Philippians 3:12-14

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The path is walking with God, following the Spirit in our gifts and fruit. 1 Corinthians 12. As we focus on our calling, our hopes, our positive contributions, on Father and Son and Spirit, on the Kingdom, we increasingly have our very instincts and drives changed by the Spirit we’re working with.

Romans 8:5-11

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.


Last Sunday we talked about Romans 8:26 –the Holy Spirit being our intercessor, our translator, and that he prays for us when we can’t. Do you agree that this is an important part of the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives? How do you think this all works in us?

We don’t know God. And we don’t even really know ourselves. We don’t know language to speak or to hear. The Spirit knows us fully, and knows God fully, so we can learn the language of our reality in asking and hearing.

Psalm 42:7-8

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

The Spirit is the counselor. Teaching us about ourselves and about God. Leads us to all truth.

John 15:26-27

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 16:5-15

“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

This is participation with God, with others, with ourselves in an increasingly holy way. Or rather, leading us to be wholly who God has made us to be.

God is the whole God, and holistically leads us to true wholeness.

So that’s what I wrote down. Play along if you will. I tag everyone reading this. Here’s the quick questions again:

  • Why do most people not seem to care so much about the Holy Spirit?
  • Why do you think Romans 8 is such a key passage to teach us about the Holy Spirit?
  • In It’s a Dance: Moving with the Holy Spirit we read, “Now I realize the Spirit is the only way to move past sin” (p. 114). Can you elaborate on that?
  • Some more quotes to consider and discuss:
    1. “Holiness is about the Spirit” (p. 115)
    2. “Keep your eyes on the prize and holiness happens” (p. 115)
  • In Romans 8:26 we read, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express”. We are told the HS is our intercessor, our translator, and that he prays for us when we can’t. Do you agree that this an important part of the HS’s role in our lives? How do you think this all works in us?
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