January 25, 2015.
Daily Reading: Romans 7-8.
Background: Romans 5-6.
Concepts and Connections:
1. Old Law and Christ: As we have seen from the previous chapters, Paul is making an argument of the difference between being under the Old Law given by Moses and being in Christ. Though the law in an of itself if holy, spiritual and good, it brings with it the knowledge of sin and this knowledge increases sin in man for we are of the flesh. The law defined sin and is the only reason we know what sin is. But in this knowledge, we sin all the more. That is why is was necessary for Christ to come as a sacrifice for our sin. The letter up until this point has basically laid a solid case that man by nature sins and is not able to keep the law. This is explicitly seen in chapter 3. However, one man did come and adhere completely to the law, the man Jesus Christ. Through His perfect life He was able to offer reconciliation for us, as we are buried with Him in baptism and raised to walk a new life, covered in His blood (see Romans 6). When we die to sin, we have died to the law, for it was the law that brought the knowledge of sin. We make a conscious commitment to Christ and put off the life of the flesh. We are no longer bound to the law, just as a wife is not bound to her husband after he dies. Through Christ, we died to the Law and we live for Him. We are no longer under the Mosaic law, but rather the law of Christ (see Romans 8:2, I Corinthians 9:21 and Galatians 6:2).
2. Flesh versus Spirit: Continuing on with this idea of the law bringing forth death due to our fleshly nature, we see a side of Paul in this chapter that we can easily relate to. There is a war constantly going on inside himself between the Spirit and the flesh. With his mind, he wants to serve the spirit, for he delights in the law of God. Yet, his flesh struggles with sin. This inner conflict is troublesome to Paul as he wants to do one thing to serve God, but his inner members lead him to sin. Yet, because his mind is seeking the things above, it is not his mind that seeks to do sin, but the fleshly part of himself. Paul knows that there is nothing good inside of him, because it is in man’s nature to sin. The law came and gave proof to this concept, revealing righteousness to the children of Israel, but showing them that they could never actually live up to the righteousness that the law displayed. However, the key point is that Paul’s full intention is to do good, even through he often falls in the flesh. If he did not intend to do good, then it would be his mind and flesh that were working iniquity. But since his mind was set on righteousness, it was not his mind that was sinning, but rather his flesh that fought against his mind. Even in this, however, Paul was still dead, for he knew that he could never live up to the righteousness that was set forth in the law. Who would set him free from the body of death? Jesus. Jesus came and died, shedding his blood that we might be washed clean and set free from the bondage of the law. Where there is no law, there is no sin. Thus, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), having their mind set on the Spirit and being washed in the blood.
1. Living in the Spirit: A clear distinction is made at the beginning of this chapter between the mind set on the flesh and the mind set on the Spirit. We saw in the previous chapter that Paul, as with all of us, was fighting an inner battle between flesh and Spirit. Yet his mind was always set on the Spirit. In this chapter he elaborates on this concept, saying that the mind that is set on the flesh can only please the flesh and cannot please God, for it does not submit to the law of God. When we are raised with Christ, we have put off our old bodies of sin and are to live according to the will of God. This needs to be more than just lip service. Yet, we will still struggle with the flesh, but if we are consistently satisfying the flesh, then it may be that our mind is actually set on the flesh as opposed to being set on the Spirit. We are not to walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. It would benefit us to take an honest look at ourselves from time to time to evaluate where our mind is set, and if we find that it is set on the flesh, to turn in back over to the Spirit.
2. Fellow heirs with Christ: All of this talk about walking according to the Spirit has a purpose. Paul is leading to the point where we can understand that if we walk by the Spirit, then the Spirit lives inside us. If the Spirit dwells within us, we are the sons of God, and as sons, we are fellow heirs with Christ. Some translations say “coheirs” with Christ. This is a strong statement. How often do you view yourself as a coheir with Christ? Maybe that even makes you uncomfortable, as we don’t seem to deserve such a high position in the eyes of God. We are not worth. Or rather, we were not worthy. Yet through the blood of Christ, we have been made worthy, washed clean of our sin and made holy and righteous in the sight of God. When we receive the Spirit, we become the sons of God. What an amazing privilege we are given as fallible human beings to be fellow heirs with Christ.
3. Restoring creation to its original state: In verses 18-25, Paul describes a future glory that we don’t often think about as the way heaven will be. However, this view of restoring creation to its original state would seem to fit with the teaching of scripture about the resurrection better than our version of floating on clouds in a spiritual state, as wisps in the air. We can see in prophecy, both in the Old Testament and the New, where the coming kingdom is described more as a restoration of the original state (see Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21). There are several passages that mention a “new heaven” and a “new earth,” which could be referring to a “renewing” of earth (see Isaiah 65:17, II Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1-2). In this passage specially, Paul talks about how the creation is longing for that day, in pains as in childbirth to be released from the bondage that came through the fall. We are waiting for our full adoption as sons of God and for the full redemption of our body (see Romans 6 for being raised with a resurrection like Christ). In this hope we are saved. When sin and death entered this world through the fall, everything was immediately waiting to be redeemed, even Adam and Eve. Christ came to fulfill this redemption, and it will be completed with His second return (see I Thessalonians 5:1-11).
4. Nothing to separate or destroy: God is omnipotent, and if we are fellow heirs with Christ, sons of God, then we need not fear anything else that could work to do us harm. We know that all things work together for good for those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. There is nothing that we should fear, for our God is greater than all. Nothing can harm us spiritually nor does anything have the power to separate us from the love of God. That is not to say that we cannot willing choose to leave this bond (see I Corinthians 10:12, Galatians 5:4, I Timothy 4:1 and II Peter 2:20-22), but that nothing has the power to force us to fall. We trust in our Lord that He is able to keep us from falling, as we have set our mind on the Spirit. It is interesting to note that Paul not only mentions that death cannot separate us from the love of Christ, but that life also could not separate us. One of the biggest dangers we face as Christians is not physical threats to our life, but life itself, as there are so many temptations and distractions that come from our everyday lives. But Paul was confident that even this could not cause a separation between God and those who have set their mind on the Spirit. Thus, our evaluation of what our mind is actually set on becomes all the more important. If our mind is set on the flesh, we cannot please God. Yet if our mind is set on the Spirit, we will not fall.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Genesis 10-14.
Set your mind on the Spirit and walk according to His ways.