Romans Bible Guide – Day Twenty
March 5, 2016
Previously, in Romans: Paul has begun exploring just how good life in Jesus, with the Spirit of God, can be, even in our current state of vulnerability.
9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Points of Interest:
- ‘you are not in the flesh’ – For a moment, we’ve got to wonder if Paul’s pushing for an alternate reality spiritual mind game, imagining a new, disembodied existence. Let’s see if it’s something else, though, by examining what Paul says about being “in the flesh” vs. “in the Spirit.”
- ‘you are in the Spirit’ – Firstly, this is more about identity than behavior or day to day living. And the Spirit of God doesn’t dwell in some of Paul’s Roman Jesus-following readers, but in all of them – maybe all of them individually, and certain all of them collectively.
- ‘will give life to your mortal bodies’ – For a moment, Paul sounded like Plato and other Greek philosophers, who taught that the body is a decaying mess of trouble, but the human spirit is immortal and beautiful and worthy of cultivation. Paul says that being united with Jesus in new life, though, means life in our dying bodies. This could be a promise of resurrection after death, a hope Paul certainly believed in and taught. But given where Paul goes in the second paragraph, it also seems like a present-day reality worth exploring. A more alive experience inside our own bodies is ours to have in this life.
- ‘we are debtors, not to the flesh’ – We owe it to Jesus, or maybe we owe it to ourselves, to not pay into death-dealing ways of living, even if they are intuitive to us. In the American Christian tradition, tinged strongly by Calvinist Puritanism, many of us will tend to jump right to private moral choices when we hear this. And fair enough as part of the picture – to owe it to ourselves to not become, or go on as, porn consumers and drug addicts feels like moving towards life in our bodies. But this is by no means all, or even most, of what Paul is focused on. To be caught up in society’s competitiveness, status contests, violence, and race or class or nationality-based exclusion and violence would be equally relevant here, as death-soaked ways of the flesh that Jesus frees us from.
- ‘you have received a spirit of adoption’ – A huge part of life in the Spirit over life in the flesh is to be accepted and loved, and so to live without fear. When it comes to Spirit vs. flesh, Paul is still riffing on his opening assurance of no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The primary benefit of the Spirit is being God’s children and God’s heirs.
- ‘Abba, Father’ – It’s a sweet little beat that Paul leaves the Aramaic word for Dad here, un-translated. This is what Paul would have called his dad as a kid, even what Jesus would have called Mary’s husband Joseph, when Jesus was young. It’s not just what we all get to call the God of the Universe, but the kind of relationship that God wants to have with us.
- ‘if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we also may be glorified with him’ – Rome under the first century Caesars was not an easy environment to be a follower of Jesus. Under Nero, that was about to become much more true. Paul says, as do all the New Testament writers by the way, that it’s worth it. Being God’s kid, with Jesus as big brother, leads to a life-filled present and a glorious future, so hold onto the family name, even when it’s hard, for whatever reason.
Taking It Home:
For you – Whatever it was you called your dad as a kid, try starting a conversation with God with that name. If you didn’t have a dad, or if that was a lousy relationship, use the name you wish you would have had. Keep in mind that this parent-God chooses to adopt you and wants you to be in this relationship without fear. See where this conversation goes; try letting it linger.
For your 6 – Simply ask that God would be this same kind of parent to each of them.