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Our Basic Orientation To Life As Christ Believers…

Our Basic Orientation To Life As Christ Believers.

 Of the three lessons of Lent, the Old Testament Jeremiah 37:1-14, the New Testament Romans 8:6-11 and the Gospel John 11:1-45, the Romans passage helps us to move away from thinking only about individual sins and individual spiritual activities to explore our basic orientation to life as Christ’s believers.

The Apostle Paul often thinks in terms of being totally different, and he has done this throughout his Epistle for today.  In v. 6, the first difference is the team of flesh and death, set over against the team of Spirit, life, and peace.  Here for the Apostle, the body when it is used differently from how God intended it to be used, it is a sinful body. But when Paul used the shorthand flesh an expression for the body, he means when it is used inappropriately, it is sinful flesh (called in Greek sa,rx – sarks). This means to have the wrong attitude, the wrong approach, or the wrong mindset in life (see v. 6,) When an individual’s  basic life commitment is to the flesh, as defined by Paul, then that person’s mindset is the flesh. And that kind of direction of development in turn is focused on death. It is focused on death, because the flesh will not last. It will die not only physically but also spiritually, because when a person’s focus is on the flesh his or her focus is not on God, on what lasts and is eternal. And so the death of v. 6 is not only physical death; it is also spiritual death, separation from God.

Over against this backdrop, that leaning is on the mindset of the Spirit. When a person’s direction on development in life is Spirit guided and Spirit regulated, the focus is on life both here and now and in the hereafter; (see 5:21, 6:4, 6:22-23) concentrating primarily on peace with God and with people (see also 5:1 and 1:7).

In v. 7 of our text, Paul draws the conclusion that the mindset of the flesh is hostile to God. In v. 8, he finally concludes with a long sentence that begins in v. 6 where he makes the point that those who are in the flesh are not able to please God. At first glance we might think that that we are set free; but there is no truth there, of course, what it means is for us to take note of the way he uses the term flesh. Paul’s point is, people who have lives in such a way in using their bodies in a fleshly manner  and have not been freed from that condition by Jesus are unable to please God.

It is with this understanding that this makes sense, “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 (v. 9). The believers, that is, those who were in Rome and who heard this letter read, were not in the flesh, but rather they were in the Spirit. How did they know that? Because said Paul, “the Spirit of God dwelt in them.” So the presence of the Spirit marks those who belong to Christ.  In other words, Paul was so sure of this Spirit-indwelling business that he went on to write, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.”

Continuing his train of teaching, The Apostle said, “But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (v10). Therefore, the result of that indwelling of Christ is another set of difference.  For Paul there are three things that happen. 1. The body is dead because of the killing power of sin that separates believers from God and from each other.  2. The body is dead because, positively, it has been killed to the power of sin through the action of being baptized (6:1-11, 7:1-6). And 3. On the other hand, over against the dead body “the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” That is, “the Spirit is life” in the sense of life-giving. The Spirit dwells in the body that was killed in baptism, and it gives life.

In his conclusion, Paul said, “ 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.(v. 11).  In that verse, he defines for believers that: First, believers are defined in terms of the Spirit, namely, the Spirit that dwells in them. And what Spirit is it? It is the Spirit that is the One Who raised Jesus from the dead.  Second, all believers are characterized as the ones whom the One Who raised Jesus from the dead will make alive. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so believers will be raised, too. The Apostle Paul expressed this much more expansively in 1 Corinthians 15.

God will do all this making alive in the future, at the resurrection of the dead, when full deliverance occurs. Therefore our focus during this Lenten journey is not to miss the larger issue not of sin but of our mindset. For Paul then, the proper mindset is the Spirit, the same Spirit that makes Christ present today and the same Spirit of the One Who raised Jesus from the dead.

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