It is important to understand the significance of the life we are called to live in the Spirit. This means that we are made holy by what the Holy Spirit produces in us and not by our human effort. Holiness does not come from ourselves, but from Christ’s nature in us.
We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit and surrender to his leading, but we can never initiate holiness or live up to it in our own strength. Some people wrongly argue that if we kept the right rules and regulations we would become holy. But rules and regulations can never make us holy.
Only the Holy Spirit can do that. If it is impossible to be saved by keeping the Law of Moses, then it is equally impossible to be made holy by trying to keep that same law. In fact, we have been gloriously set free from the law in all its forms and applications.
We have been joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit. We are now under the law of Christ, or ‘in-lawed to him’ (1 Corinthians 9:21). He now directs our lives by the Holy Spirit. This is where the inclination and the power to change come from. Just as we are saved by faith and not by works, so we are motivated and enabled to live a holy life by the Holy Spirit.
We follow his promptings in our hearts. It has nothing to do with our self effort. However, it is important to avoid some wrong conclusions that people can mistakenly draw from these facts.
Holiness requires our active co-operation
First, there is the wrong conclusion that because the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of the new life in us, we don’t have to do anything at all to become holy. That is not the case. We must believe and act on our faith by putting off the old and putting on the new. We trust and obey the Holy Spirit. We must actively cooperate with the Spirit as we walk in holiness. God is not going to do it for you, nor is he going to do it through you.
Rather, he will enable you to do it. You must choose to live for God and walk in his ways. But you can only be successful as you rely on the Holy Spirit to enable you to do it. Next, there is the wrong view that because we are not under the Law of Moses it means we don’t have to live a holy life. Some even teach that because God’s grace covers all our sin we can live as we like! Paul had to deal with this error, but look closely at his reply: What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Sin cannot keep you from grace, but grace will keep you from sin.
Grace is not a license to sin. It is how we conquer sin. Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Grace covers all our sin and deals with it completely, but we must never use this fact to cover up our sin or justify our sinful actions. The apostle Peter teaches strongly on this point.
Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16