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Life Through the Spirit March 19, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
Tags: , , , ,

Here are my thoughts on Romans 8:1-17.

Summary: In this passage, Paul draws an inference from the argument that he has presented in Romans up to this point; in particular, he concludes that since the Gospel has freed believers from their bondage to the obligations of God’s moral law, which is manipulated by their inherent sinful natures to yield death, they are not condemned by God for their sins. To support this point, Paul notes that God’s moral law could not enable believers to be declared righteous by God, so God sent His Son to dwell among us; moreover, Jesus adopted our (decrepit) human nature in order to remove our sins from God’s sight. Thus, those who share the desires of the Holy Spirit are necessarily regarded by God as having satisfied the obligations of His moral law. Paul then expands on the critical role that the Holy Spirit plays in a believer’s life by noting that while the believer’s mind is controlled by the Holy Spirit, which results in spiritual life, the unbeliever’s mind is controlled by his sinful nature, which results in spiritual death. In fact, unbelievers are opposed to God and have earned His displeasure, while believers know that they have a right standing before God only because the Holy Spirit actually dwells in them. Also, while the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit does not save believers from experiencing physical death, the Holy Spirit does assure them that their spirits will dwell forever in a state of blessedness. Moreover, since the Holy Spirit played a critical role in the resurrection of Christ, believers have assurance that their bodies will also be resurrected in a glorious state. Thus, since the sinful nature produces opposition to God and spiritual death, it is clear that believers are meant to live according to the Holy Spirit by gradually – according to God’s timing – destroying their sinful desires. Paul concludes this passage by presenting another salient benefit of possessing the Holy Spirit – that is, the Spirit produces filial feelings in believers towards God in order that they can view God as their Father in heaven. Thus, believers do not have to view themselves as slaves who are forced to live up to the standard of God’s moral law; instead, they can view God as their loving Father. Indeed, the Holy Spirit reassures our spirits regarding the reality of our filial relationship with God, and the Spirit proves that we will share in the inheritance that Christ receives from the Father; it is noted that this inheritance is received after we share in the sufferings that Christ endured.

Thoughts: Romans 8 is generally regarded as an excellent foundational passage for a preacher’s first sermon. From perusing this passage, it becomes clear that the Holy Spirit actually has a starring role in this famous chapter. Paul demonstrates that the Holy Spirit performs various invaluable functions in the lives of believers, including authoring the Gospel, guiding us in our daily lives, proving the salvation of those who possess it, providing spiritual life, guaranteeing our resurrection, serving as the weapon that we can employ to destroy our sinful natures, producing filial feelings towards God, assuring us that we are really God’s children, and guaranteeing that we will share in the inheritance that Christ receives from the Father.

In verse 15 we see that Paul states that the Holy Spirit enables us to refer to God as “‘Abba,Father.'” Hodge explains the use of the name “Abba” as follows:

Abba is the Syriac and Chaldean form of the Hebrew word for “father” and therefore was a most familiar term to the apostle. Doubtless it would more naturally and fully express his feelings of being God’s child than the foreign Greek word. It is rare indeed that any language other than our mother tongue becomes so interwoven with our thoughts and feelings that it spontaneously surfaces when our hearts are overflowing. Hence, expressions of tenderness are the last words of our native language which foreigners give up; and in times of excitement, and even delirium, they are sure to return. Paul, therefore, chose to call God his Father in his own familiar tongue.

This is an interesting theory that should be tested via a survey of multi-lingual believers; are they comfortable with using multiple languages to refer to God as their heavenly Father, or do they always defer to their “mother tongue” in those instances? Speaking for myself, as a multi-lingual believer (albeit to a very limited extent), I always refer to God as my heavenly Father using English. Now if I were to move to another country and immerse myself in the lingua franca of my new home, I would be curious as to how my “Christian conversation” might be altered.

Throughout this passage we see that believers are those who “live in accordance with the Spirit,” as their minds are “governed by the Spirit.” To me, it is not immediately obvious as to how to reconcile this truth with the inner struggles that all Christians endure as described by Paul in the previous passage. My thought in this regard is that as long as someone possesses two principles (the Spirit and the sinful nature) that are competing for control of his thoughts and actions, and not just one controlling principle (the sinful nature), they should be regarded as a believer. In fact, since the Spirit is present in a believer’s life, the believer can wage war against their sinful nature, and every blow that is struck by the Spirit in this battle is a step in the direction of living “in accordance with the Spirit.”



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