Paul's letter to the Romans
The work of the Spirit
So where have we got to? Those who are in Christ Jesus are not
condemned, because in him the life-giving law of the Spirit has
brought liberation from the law of sin and death. What the law
was unable to do, because our lower nature robbed it of power,
God has done. He sent his own Son with a body like any sinful
body, and in that body God declared the judgment on sin.
He did this so that what the law requires could after all be achieved in
us, now that our actions are no longer subject to the dictates of our
lower nature, but directed by the Spirit.
When people live at the level of their lower nature that is what their minds become obsessed with. When they live by the Spirit they focus on the things of the Spirit. The first possibility ends in death, the second brings life and peace. To rest content with what is unspiritual is to be God's enemy, indifferent to God's law. If you are like that you cannot possibly please God.
But that is not the way you live. You are on the spiritual level - since God's Spirit is dwelling in you. The person who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. However, if Christ lives in you then the body may be dead because you sinned, but your spirit is alive because you are justified. And if the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from death lives in you, then God - who raised Christ Jesus from death - will also bring your mortal bodies to life through that Spirit.
So, my friends, there is no necessity for us to exist on the
level of our lower selves or to live unspiritual lives. That
would mean death. Provided that by the Spirit you put an end to
the body's wrongdoing you will live.
This brings us to the end of a long section, beginning with chapter 6, that ties together the seemingly contradictory themes of freedom from the law and obligation to the law. Paul has put tremendous emphasis both on what the law requires and on the situation brought about by God's initiative in Christ. He has left no room for any claim that the second renders the first unnecessary.Everyone driven by the Spirit of God is a child of God. The Spirit you have received is not an enslaving spirit dragging you down to a life of dread. Rather it is a Spirit that brings us into the family, allowing us to say 'Abba! Father!' In that moment the Spirit of God joins our spirits in declaring us to be children of God. And children are heirs. We are God's heirs, Christ's fellow-heirs, if we embrace his suffering in order to enter into his glory. Our present pain will be nothing in comparison with the glory, as yet hidden, that is stored up for us - that is my belief.
The created world itself is longing for the manifestation of God's children. For no fault of its own God condemned it to frustration, but never without hope. The whole universe will be released from its bondage to death. It will at last enter into the freedom and splendour of the children of God. Up till this moment, as we know, the world has been moaning in all its parts as if in chidbirth.
We too, though we have received the Spirit as a foretaste of what
is to come - we too groan inwardly, waiting for our bodies
to be set free. We anticipate salvation, it is our
hope. But what we are hoping for is something we have not yet
received. That waiting for what we do not yet have tests our
capacity for endurance. [14-25]
Blessings present and to come . . . Paul makes a clear distinction between justification, becoming 'right with God', which is a present possession, and salvation, entering at last into glory with Christ, which is something we hope for.The Spirit makes up for our limitations. We don't even know how to pray properly, but the Spirit prays on our behalf in a way that goes beyond ordinary words. And God, who knows us completely, understands what the Spirit is saying - pleading for God's people in God's own way.
God works with those who love him, who have answered his
call, as was his plan. God makes things turn out for their
good. He always intended them to share the likeness of his
Son, so that his Son might be eldest in a large family. He
called them, he justified them, and he gave them his
Older, and some newer, translations use words like 'predestined' and 'fore-ordained' at this point. Paul certainly didn't mean that God had decreed the particular fate of individual humans from the beginning, and we would prefer not to give that impression in our paraphrase. Paul does believe in the priority of God's grace, and that is what he is trying to express in passages like this.What is there to add? With God on our side who can defeat us? If God didn't spare his own Son, but gave him up for us, we can be quite sure that he won't hold back anything at all that he might give. Will anybody press charges against those whom God has chosen? If God acquits who could pronounce us guilty? Not Christ Jesus to be sure - who not only died for us but rose from death and stands at God's right hand to plead our cause.
What could come between us and Christ's love? Affliction or hardship? Persecution? Lack of food or clothing? Danger or massacre? Scripture does say: 'For your sake we are being killed all day long, we are looked on as sheep to be slaughtered. (Ps 44:22)' Notwithstanding any or all of these calamities victory is ours, through the one who loved us.
This is something I am completely certain of: not death or
life, no spirit, no authority in this world, nothing that
already exists and nothing yet to come, no powers above or
below, nothing in all the world - can ever come between us
and the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.
paraphrase and notes by Evan Lewis