The Holy Spirit in Romans

Romans has often been called Paul’s “systematic theology,” I would beg to differ, but if we are going to insist that Paul is writing a “theology” it would be best to call it “biblical theology” or “narrative theology” because Paul takes the entire storyline of scripture – creation through restoration – and rereads this Jewish story in light of Christ. So in that sense we could call Roman’s an occasional narrative theology…

What doe Paul have to say about the Holy Spirit in Romans?

We tend to think that Romans is deeply Christological, which it certainly is, but more than that its thoroughly Trinitiarian, meaning that Paul has the Holy Spirit play a huge role in his theology. Consider these facts:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s (1598-1655) – Dove of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of God” four times, the “Spirit of Christ” once, “the Spirit of holiness” once, the “Spirit of adoption” once, the “Holy Spirit” five times, and “the Spirit” a whopping fifteen times! In other words the Holy Spirit is all over the book of Romans, and those are just the times the Holy Spirit is explicitly named!

So what does the Holy Spirit do in Romans?

According to Paul the Holy Spirit does a ton of things! Here is a brief list:

1-By the Spirit God pours is love out into the hearts of believers. (5:5)

2-The Spirit sets believers free from the law of sin and death. (8:2)

3-The Spirit helps believers fulfill the law. (8:4)

4-The Spirit lives in believers and will give them life (8:11)

5-By the Spirit believers are able to put sin to death. (8:13)

6-Believers are led by the Spirit. (8:14)

7-The Spirit testifies to believer’s spirits that they are children of God. (8:15-16)

8-Believers enjoy the first fruits of the Spirit. (8:23)

9-The Spirit helps believers in their weaknesses especially when we don’t know how to pray. (8:26-27)

10-The Spirit sanctifies believers. (15:16)

11-The Spirit helps Paul (and us) carry out our mission. (15:19)

All that to say – the Holy Spirit plays a huge role in Paul’s theology in Romans!


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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