What Does it Mean that the Spirit is Holy?

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Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time (Sacraments)


I heard a radio program today ask us to pick one word to describe the Holy Spirit.  My automatic thought was “powerful.”  However, it struck me, that there is a single word, an adjective that is most commonly put with “the Spirit”: Holy.

I was pondering the fact that we often talk about the Spirit’s power, and the Spirit’s work, but in today’s public Christian arena we rarely talk about what the Spirit has to do with Holiness.  I think it is worth while to think about the Spirit in this framework:


The Spirit is a marker of set-apart-ness.

My suggestion here is that one of the major works of the Spirit is as a marker of distinguishing between God’s people and not-my-people.  Those who have the Spirit are HOLY, set apart, and those who are not set apart, do not have the Spirit.

Those who are IN God’s family are members of Christ’s body, and take on God’s name.  They are set apart as different.  As in the Exodus: “But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”  (Exodus 11.7) God makes a distinction between the church and the world.  That distinction is marked out by the anointing of the Spirit.  The oil of Royal anointing was a marker labeling a man as king.  The unction of the Spirit is a marker of royal family membership as well.


Paul says a few things in Romans that tend this way:

1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ… (Romans 1.1-6)

This opening to Romans is about many things, but one of those is about holiness/set-apartness and membership in Christ.

JESUS was PUBLICLY PORTAYED as KING, by resurrection.  The unction and declaration was “according to the Spirit.”  It was not “according to the Holy Spirit,” but “according to the Spirit OF HOLINESS.”  Why “of holiness”?  Because the quality of the Spirit being emphasized is his characteristic ability to set people apart, and to be a public displayer of the right, the in, the chosen.


Paul says similar things here:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8.9)

How was Jesus said to be declared set apart for God as king?  By his resurrection from the dead.  New life was the chosen sign of the Spirit’s power (Romans 1.4).

The same in Romans 8.10-11:

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.


The chosen means of the Spirit’s distinction is New Life, and the chose image of the Spirit’s granted New Life is Baptism.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Romans 6.3-4)

We are both buried AND raised in baptism:

…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2.12).

We are actually buried and raised by the work of the Holy Spirit, but it is publically shown in baptism.  In which we are SET APART… in which we are declared HOLY.  See also Ezekiel 36.22-32 for baptism, new life, and spirit in connection.


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