Romans 8:9-11 and the Trinity

by Luke Wayne

"However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if 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," (Romans 8:9-11).

This passage is one of the Bible's often overlooked testimonies to the truth of the Trinity. Of course, Paul is not teaching about the Trinity in these verses, but when we pay close attention we see that he is assuming the Trinity as common ground between himself and his readers. The language of the passage only makes sense from a Trinitarian perspective. Take note of the phrases Paul uses to describe the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers:

  • "the Spirit of God dwells in you."
  • "have the Spirit of Christ."
  • "Christ is in you."
  • "the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you."

Paul interchangeably called the Holy Spirit the "Spirit of God" and the "Spirit of Christ." This makes no sense if Jesus is not God. We wouldn't interchangeably talk about the "Spirit of God" and the "Spirit of Michael the Archangel." We would not consider the "Spirit of God" to be the same spirit as "The spirit of that really important human teacher." Indeed, this passage equates the Spirit of God dwelling in you with Christ Himself dwelling in you, which is not something that one could say for any man, angel, or lesser "divine being." Yet, there are also careful distinctions here. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, but He is also the Spirit of "Him who raised Christ from the dead." Thus, the Father and the Son are distinguished from one another. Christ and He who raised Christ from the dead are distinct and interactive persons in this context. Thus, we are not talking about one person who sometimes acts as Father, sometimes as Son, and other times as Spirit. We are talking about one God who is Father, Son, and Spirit all at once and interactively. One God, three persons.

We see this further in the rest of the Chapter. The Spirit intercedes to God on our behalf from within us, and thus is personal and distinct from God in heaven (Romans 8:26-27). Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, and also intercedes to the Father on our behalf (Romans 8:34) God is working all things together to conform believers into the image of His Son, so we see a distinction between the Father and the Son (Romans 8:28-29). Father, Son, and Spirit are all personal, distinct, and interactive with one another. Yet, the divine love that we cannot be separated from is interchangeably called the love of Christ (Romans 8:35) and the love of God (Romans 8:39). Again, we see both a unity of being and yet a personal distinction. It is true that the title "God" is generally used for the Father here, but it is equally true that we are talking about one Divine Being who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is one Spirit shared by both the Father and the Son, and yet that Spirit is personal and intercedes in prayer to them. There is one love that is both the Love of God and the Love of Christ. For the Spirit to dwell in us is for Christ to dwell in us, and yet the Spirit's intercession is distinct from Christ's intercession. The Spirit intercedes and Christ ALSO intercedes. Thus, we see that throughout this passage assumes one God in three persons. This passage depends on the presupposition of the doctrine of the Trinity to even make its points. Paul and his brothers and sisters at Rome believed this together, and so Paul could write freely building his theology on these terms with no confusion.