I recently posted about the law in which I shared some thoughts about Romans 7. Paul concludes the chapter with an assurance of the ongoing and future hope we have in Christ through which we are set free from the law, able to have ultimate victory over sin and encounter the breadth and depth of God’s love and grace. I also briefly touched upon this week’s reading from Romans 8 which continues with that theme, made clear by how this passage begins with “Therefore,” – i.e. In light of everything that has been said before.
It can be all too easy for us to be selective when reading the Bible, especially if we like to include some parts and miss out others. This is something we should avoid at all costs. An example of that is if we look at verse 1 of Romans 8. It is easy to read this and proclaim “there is now no condemnation” but that is certainly not the full picture. The full picture is “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! It is always important to consider the context. The New Testament scholar Ben Witherington lll stated: “A text without a context is just a pretext for what we want it to mean…” This has been expressed in slightly different ways by many scholars and theologians over the years.
What does it mean for us to be “in Christ”? Folks, we truly have such a wonderful and incredible gift from God – Salvation from God in Christ and I cannot state strongly enough how significant that is. If you have a concordance, or electronic Bible, it is worthwhile taking some time to look up passages in the Bible that mention “in Christ” to begin to realise its significance. Here is a short selection of Bible passages on that theme:
- Being reconciled to God: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- Being children of God in unity: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)
- The gift of eternal life: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our LORD.” (Romans 6:23)
- Receiving the love of God: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD.” (Romans 8:38-39)
In Christ we are redeemed, justified, sanctified, and adopted into God’s family. God made that gift possible by sending himself in Jesus Christ. He makes it possible for us to claim it by doing it again in sending the Holy Spirit. This was necessary because (as I said in my post on the law), the law is the means of diagnosis and not the actual treatment.
In itself, the law could not help us overcome sin or escape the penalty for sin. Jesus came “in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering” thus giving us the means and the choice to be set free from sin and live as God intended. The difference is clear. There are “Those who live according to the sinful nature [and] have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” The former leads to death; the latter leads to life and peace.
As believers we must make the right choice every day and we are able to make that choice because we are no longer “controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.” As we saw last week, it isn’t easy to make the right choice. I know I am a work in progress. Sometimes I imagine I journey through life with an ‘L’ plate on my back. There is always more to learn! But there are some practical steps we can take that might help. These include:
- Seeking to have regular (daily) quiet times. These might typically include reading the Bible, prayer and meditation.
- Guarding our hearts and our minds. If you have a TV, I am sure you know what I mean if I said that there is a lot of rubbish on it. We can guard our hearts and minds by being discerning about what we watch.
- Being in fellowship. When we are in fellowship, there will be time when a particular experience is like a mirror being held up to us – perhaps as people speak words of truth and encouragement to us.
- Practicing humility and exercising wisdom. We have to be willing to step back and at times ask ourselves why someone might have behaved in a particular way or said something that we found upsetting. We also have to be prepared to reflect on why we might have behaved in a particular way that has upset other people. Part of that involves us being prepared to apologise and admit that we were wrong. It is sign of emotional and spiritual maturity if we are able to do that.
- Being accountable to one another. I’ve spoken before about having ‘accountability partners’. These are people who can speak directly and honestly into my life, to bring either challenge or encouragement. Understandably we have to be wise about who we are that open and vulnerable with but as we grow together as a Church family, it becomes easier for us to do that.
- Praying for each other specifically.
Let’s take hope in knowing that if Christ is in us, then even though our body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives us life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in us, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in us. Praise the Lord! Amen