Friday, March 06, 2015

A Read-along of Romans, Chapter 8: Forgiven?

15For 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!’ 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17and 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.
Yesterdays chapter left us hanging. Even as we hear from Paul that everyone is included in God's revealing grace through Jesus Christ, we also must acknowledge our own brokenness. Our main stumbling block? Our own willfulness, which leads into an overinvestment/trust in the flesh (in Greek, "sarx"). That overinvestment causes us to stumble, as much as God intends us to live by what Paul calls the "Spirit." It's a rather masterful touch: Paul places the Law of God over the flesh, intending it to, in effect, govern people into righteousness. If people, under the Law, received its Spirit, then all would be well. Instead, substitution is made, will for spirit. Our will is what mucks it all up. So then, we need something/someone to get us up, out and away from attempting to live from a more God-centered renewal of the spirit.

That's the thing....renewal: what amounts to a kind of continual conversion experience. It makes sense to Paul, and through his rhetorical stylings he is attempting to make it transparent to us. It also serves to give us hope, for even as we rejoice in the revelation that Jesus the Christ has died for us that we might have new life through his resurrection (and thus, union and communion with God), we also have to resolve the very difficult realization that while we can admit that grace we also have to live our lives in a state that is not yet quite all there. We just aren't that constant.

In face, Paul likens that almost state as akin to the whole of creation waiting with eager longing. Soon, but not yet, is the way we live. Instead of despairing, Paul adjures us to celebration, to a work of life lived nurtured by the Spirit. We are exhorted to live a life in which we recognize that we are a called, conformed, justified and glorified people in Christ. That is the Church. That is not only our desired state, but also our summons to practice what we preach as Gospel.

Oh, we will mess up, and truthfully we are always finding new and innovative ways to do so, but with that we also learn from Paul that NOTHING can separate us entirely and irrevocably from the love of God. In Christ Jesus, we have both an assurance and a provocation to accept and live a life renewed by grace.

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