Yesterday, we acknowledged that traditions of interpretation tend toward dualism: ‘Spirit vs Flesh’. Are we spiritual beings, wearing fleshly bodies? Did Jesus ‘put on’ sinful flesh, then shrug it off?
If you have persisted over the previous days, re-imagining the structure of Paul’s worldview, in particular sarx/soma/pneuma and Torah/law, Sin state/sins events, can you stay open in the face of this dominant reading?
Christians have lived this out in holy wars: if our crew is living in the spiritual law, and the other guys in the flesh can’t please God, it’s a great worldview for an imperial army!
Paul is not writing from power, or threatening to impose his way on others or even identifying as Christian, or threatening pogroms on Jews. However, subsequent generations of Christians have risked and committed those sins.
Maybe Paul did not feel guilty, and starts by celebrating ‘now no condemnation’ despite his clear-eyed admissions already, of complicity in sub-optimal daily outcomes.
One re-statement of the architecture of the argument: ‘The Spirit’ in each of us. Just as the movement got past the Baptizer’s repentance, and reached for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, so Paul is claiming more than control over evil.
Another restatement of the architecture: Now and then – adoption and inheritance. This approach takes off in tomorrow’s reading, contrasting our current situation, with our hope for an ultimate future end.
Perhaps 8:13 is a key disrupter: For if ye live according to the flesh, ye will certainly die, but if by the Spirit ye put to death the practices of the body, ye shall live.
Can you see the 3-part flesh, spirit, body?
Certainly, Paul is setting up a choice, and encouraging us to choose his way – but it’s not intrinsically dualistic, or apocalyptic, just a distinction with a difference.
If you find these notes too brief, Today and tomorrow – Search www.billbrucewords.com, ‘Romans 8’, for more. The lectionary invites us to preach this chapter often, not just at funerals!
1 There is then no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
2 For the Torah of the Spirit, of life,
liberates in Christ Jesus from the law
of Sin and Death.
3 The inability of the law, in that it was weakened by the flesh – God, having sent his own Son in [our] sinful, fleshy form and for the sake of sin, condemned sin in the flesh [of Jesus],
4 so that the decree of the Torah might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 Now, those who are on the side of the flesh are intent on the things of the flesh, and those who are on the side of the Spirit are intent on the things of the Spirit.
6 For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace.
7 That is because the mind-set of the flesh
is hostile toward God, for it does not obey
the Torah of God and indeed cannot do so,
8 and those who follow the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in [the sphere of] the flesh but in [that of] the Spirit, since indeed
the Spirit of God dwells in you. If someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his [Christ’s].
10 But since Christ is in you, on the one hand the body is dead because of Sin and on the other the Spirit is life because of [God’s]righteousness.
11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from among the dead dwells among you, he who raised from among the dead Christ Jesus will also give life to your mortal bodies, through his Spirit who dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brothers-and-sisters, we are under obligation, [but] not to the flesh to live according to the flesh.
13 For if ye live according to the flesh,
ye will certainly die, but if by the Spirit ye put to death the practices of the body, ye shall live.
14 Now, those who are led by the spirit of God are sons-of-God.
15 For the Spirit which ye received is not one of slavery [to lead you] back into anxiety, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, in whom we cry: Abba! Father!
16 The very Spirit assures our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children then also heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, since indeed we suffer with him in order that we might also be glorified with him.
1 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah,
that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud.
2 A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
3 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem
as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature,
could never have done that.
4 And now what the law code asked for
but we couldn't deliver is accomplished
as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.
5 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them – living and breathing God!
6 Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.
7 Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing.
8 And God isn't pleased at being ignored.
9 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course,
who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about.
10 But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells – even though you still experience
all the limitations of sin – you yourself experience life on God's terms.
11 It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus,
bringing you alive to himself?
When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!
12 So don't you see that we don't owe
this old do-it-yourself life one red cent.
13 There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life.
14 God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
15 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?"
16 God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are:
Father and children.
17 And we know we are going to get what's coming to us – an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through.
If we go through the hard times with him,
then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!
18 That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times.