23 April 2021Romans 8.1-11
There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (v. 1)
In verse 1, as in yesterday's reading, we have the word 'therefore'. Paul’s argument is always based on what he has already said. In chapter 7, he was grappling with the conflicting experiences of the Christian life. Now he looks at the way in which that life is sustained by the Holy Spirit.
There are two major contrasts here. The first is between law and grace. Paul has very mixed feelings about the Torah, the Jewish law in which he was brought up. He sees it as a genuine gift of God, but he also believes it is impossible for us to get right with God simply by trying to follow it ourselves. Jesus Christ, as the living Word of God, offers us a radical transformation that the law on its own cannot.
The other contrast is between life ‘according to the flesh’ and life ‘according to the Spirit’. It would be easy to think of ‘the flesh’ as our bodily existence and desires – perhaps especially our sexuality – and there have been times when Christians have fallen into that trap. But that’s not really what Paul means. ‘The flesh’ means a life that is lived in a self-centred way, unrelated to God and God’s kingdom. Living ‘according to the Spirit’ does not mean cutting ourselves off from the physical realities of life on earth. Instead, it means allowing our lives to be taken over by the Holy Spirit; allowing it to shape and direct us so that we live that ‘more abundant life’ of which Jesus spoke (John 10.10).
Methodists have always placed a strong emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, assuring us of our relationship with God and sanctifying us – making us more like Christ in all we think and do. One of Charles Wesley’s most popular hymns (And can it be) echoes this passage:
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown through Christ, my own. (Singing the Faith 345)
- What are your deepest fears? How might your relationship with Christ help you to overcome them?
- How have you seen the Holy Spirit at work in your life, and in the lives of others?