Enabled to Live Holy

You likely have admired the multitude of electric vehicles gracing the avenues and flying down the freeways. They are futuristic in design, silent in their lack of combustion, yet reveal an underlying power with instant acceleration. It is no wonder they have inspired a cult of admirers. And yet, it is comical to point out that their true source of power is electricity produced in a coal-fired power plant. One could say they are the greatest coal-enabled vehicles since steamboats dominated the Mississippi and steam locomotives crisscrossed the continent. On a spiritual level, the spiritual person finds great admiration in witnessing holiness in action in the life of a fellow-believer. In true holiness there is witness to a miraculous, heavenly design; there is the humble quietness of divinely-directed movement, and there is evidence of a real and eternal power working from within.

It is the Father who commands this need for holiness, “because it is written, Be holy; for I am holy” (1Pe 1:16).[1] It is Christ who purchased our redemption and translated us from a life of sin to a life of holiness. And it is the Holy Spirit who enables the development of holiness in the life of a believer.

The Work of the Holy Spirit Is Evident at Salvation

The believer looks back with gratitude upon the working of the Spirit to bring conviction of sin and the need of salvation. How wonderful it was when, in our moment of greatest need, the sufficiency of Christ was revealed to us in His work at Calvary! Paul described it thus, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6). The Scriptures make clear that we enjoy salvation, regeneration and sanctification.

This work of transformation continues in our lives today as we await our future perfecting: “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6 ESV). This does not imply any insufficiency in the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Paul testifies, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2Co 5:17). In salvation there truly is a new birth and a complete spiritual renovation. However, what is true of us spiritually will be true of us entirely. Thus, the Holy Spirit is at work to enable our body and soul, our mind, our will and our emotions to come into obedience to the claims of holiness. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Th 5:23).

The Development of Holiness Requires Conviction of Sin

In his first epistle, John warns the saints that there are many false spirits at work in the world seeking to deceive, enslave, and incite rebellion against God. How comforting is the instruction of Paul: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1Co 2:12). The Holy Spirit has renewed our conscience and written the law of God upon our hearts, and He patiently calls for us to be a sanctified people in a defiled and defiling world. Paul expresses this conflict so aptly, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15 ESV). The world knows nothing of the battle the believer faces in this refining process; the unconverted are sadly ignorant of such because they don’t know the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus taught this to the disciples when He said, “The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (Joh 14:17).

The Exhortation to Holiness Requires the Illumination of Scripture

As He resides within us, the Holy Spirit is inextricably linked with the revelation of the Word of God. In some of the first canonical words written to the early church, James exhorted, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:21 ESV). In the school of holiness, the Lord Jesus had already made this clear, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (Joh 14:26). It is thrilling to trace these lines of grace through the Book of Acts and witness the promises of the Savior brought to life in the experiences of His first followers.

The Goal of Holiness Is Conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom 13:14). We have already considered the work of the Holy Spirit convicting of sin and compelling us to live in obedience to the Word of God. God’s desire for us is that we would be a living display of Christ in this sinful world. Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the unseen power who makes this possible: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2Co 3:18).

In writing this, Paul revealed what he was experiencing. If we are to be holy, it will be through the enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is instructive to see that the Greek word for “enablement” in the New Testament is first used concerning Paul. As a newly-saved believer, Paul was enabled to preach Christ to the Jews in the synagogue at Damascus (Act 9:22). More of these “enablings” follow: Ephesian believers are enabled to remain faithful, while Paul is enabled to endure any changing circumstance (Eph 6:10; Php 4:13). Paul is enabled to fulfill his ministry, and Timothy is enabled to carry on the work (1Ti 1:12; 2Ti 2:1). Finally, Paul is enabled to remain faithful even when all alone (2Ti 4:17). We, too, through His enabling are exhorted to holiness.

[1] Scripture quotations in this article are from the NKJV unless otherwise noted.