Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. This week we take a close look at how we are called to life in the Spirit. Several ideas surrounding this call are discussed in our text this week. Those include:
The Requirement for Righteousness
Life in the Spirit
This life in the Spirit is indeed a paradox. In as much as we are sinful beings we are separated from God. Yet through the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit we are no longer condemned but made righteous through Jesus Christ.
Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is written approximately 57 Common Era. It is written to a church that likely has cultural tensions. The Jewish Christians likely wanted to maintain their Jewish customs and culture. The Gentile Christians would have practiced religion in different ways. At this point, the Roman Church was primarily a gentile church. When this letter is written, the Jewish Christians had been expelled from Rome about eight years earlier by Emperor Claudius (New Interpreters Study Bible). After Emperor Claudius died in 54 Common Era the edict lapsed and Jewish Christians began to return to a different and mostly Gentile church. Romans is written to both Jews and Gentiles to let the Jews know they cannot boast of their Jewish heritage and to let the Gentiles know that righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ is all they need for salvation. Its central focus is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Chapter eight deals with the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of Christians. It is the Holy Spirit that indwells and, in fact, must indwell every believer. Paul makes a resolute stand in verse nine that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Thus, we clearly see the importance of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Additionally, other important themes in this chapter include:
Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week we began a study in Romans, Paul’s longest letter. At the time he writes this letter to Jewish and Gentile Christians, they are likely experiencing some tension with religious customs and cultures in Rome. We discussed how the righteousness of God is now not just through the law. Now, there is another way to righteousness and that new way was through Jesus Christ. That’s important because righteousness deals with right relationships. And it is our relationship with God that secures righteousness for the Christian. We also mentioned how Romans 3:23 stands as a perpetual reminder that no one is perfect (except Jesus Christ). We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Paul is writing this letter to both gentile and Jewish Christians who likely still practice the tenets of the Torah. He reminds both groups that neither is perfect, that all have sinned, and that God’s righteousness is received through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is essentially answering the question before it gets asked. Why is this righteousness necessary? The answer is because all have sinned.
Finally, we were reminded in verse 27 that the Jewish Christians could not boast of their heritage, or their works, because even the law requires faith. And it closed reminding us that God is God of both Jews and Gentiles. There is only one God who justifies the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcised through the same faith.
This week we consider the work of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8. Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Commentary title this week’s lesson Called To Life in The Spirit. The Scripture text comes from Romans 8:1-14.
What Takes Place in This Passage:
Verse one begins by rejecting condemnation for Christians who walk after the Spirit. While this verse seems to indicate the qualification that one must not walk after the flesh; it can be understood that if you are a Christian you are no longer controlled by the flesh. An even more pressing question is who was doing the condemning? Chapter seven holds the answer. Chapter seven dealt with the law and sin. Chapter eight answers the question of how to deal with the inadequacy of the Law. We deal with it as verse two says through – “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [who] has set you free from the law of sin and of death” ( that was the condemnation) (NRSV). Note also that “no condemnation does not mean believers are free from the struggle against sin, but that we are free from the sentence of death and judgement on the last day” (NISB).
Verse three reminds us of the weakness of the law and the flesh. In other words, no one can keep all of the rules of the Law. We need a righteous savior and the answer to that need is Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh as the eternal answer for a fallen and sinful humanity.
Verse four takes it a step further. It reminds us that righteousness is required, yet the requirement is fulfilled in those who walk after the Spirit. Again, notice the importance of the Holy Spirit. So then, the law is a guide to righteousness but a guide that no one could perfectly follow. In fact, in Chapter seven, Paul takes issue with the Law (7:5-6).
Verse five reinforces the point that the flesh is concerned about the things of the flesh and the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Verses six through eight deal with the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. The King James Version uses the term “carnally minded” in verse six. Carnal is defined as “that which relates to the body, usually associated with desires such as sensuality, lust, and indulgence”. The New Revised Standard Version uses the phrase “to set the mind on the flesh”. The idea is Christians should be governed by the Holy Spirit, not by our own lustful, self-serving desires. In fact, Paul writes that being governed by the flesh is death but being governed by the Spirit is life and peace. That’s because the carnal or flesh governed mind is hostile to God. Note also that verse eight says “those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God”. Conversely, Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. So again, we see the importance of faith and the Holy Spirit. If we are in the flesh, we cannot meet the requirement for righteousness. Verse nine reassures us. We are not in the flesh if the Spirit of God dwells in us. But note also Paul’s warning. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ”.
Verses ten and eleven help us understand that it is the Spirit of God that brings life through righteousness. In fact, it is this same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead that indwells the Christian and will give life to our mortal bodies also.
Paul begins to wrap this thought up beginning in verse twelve. He reminds us that we have an obligation to live according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God”.
A paradox is a true statement that appears to be contradictory. Some paradoxical Christian affirmations are: God as “one God in three Persons,” Jesus as “fully divine and fully human,” and the believer as “righteous yet a sinner”. We see elements of this definition in these verses. In fact, in my opinion, it is paradoxical that the Holy Spirit indwells humans. In as much as we rebel against the will of God we are sinful beings. Our text tells us the Law condemns, but the Spirit liberates. II Corinthians 3:6 reminds us that God “has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”. Where the law condemns us, the Spirit liberates us. We need a righteousness that cannot be attained through the law. King David writes in Psalm 51:5 “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me”. Yet, through acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior we have the privilege of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We are called to life in the spirit.
Key Characters in the text:
Paul – Originally known as Saul of Tarsus before his conversion to Christianity. He was the most influential leader in the early days of the Christian church. Paul was a primary instrument in the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles. His letters to various churches and individuals contain the most thorough and deliberate theological formulations of the New Testament (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible).
Holy Spirit – The third Person of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit constitute the eternal Godhead. The Spirit inspired biblical writers, makes known the saving work of Jesus Christ, and is God as present in and with the church. The Spirit acts to incorporate all things into the life of the triune God.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Carnal – that which relates to the body, usually associated with desires such as sensuality, lust, and indulgence.
Paradox – A true statement that appears to be contradictory. Some paradoxical Christian affirmations are: God as “one God in three Persons,” Jesus as “fully divine and fully human,” the believer as “righteous yet a sinner”.
Law – That which is prescribed to regulate behavior. The Old Testament law includes the Ten Commandments and various ritual prescriptions found in the Pentateuch or the books of the Law (Torah). Theologically, law expresses the will of God and is to be valued (Ps 119).
Law and Grace – Two differing ways or forms of God’s relating to humanity. A number of theological views as to the regulation of the two terms have emerged (John 1:17; Rom 4:16; 5:20; 6:14, 15).
Law of Nature – The universal moral law, believed by some theologians to be given by God to all persons or accessible to them through the use of their reason in relation to the order found in nature.
Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:
- What the Law can’t do.
- The Law versus the Spirit.
1) We were created in the image of God, yet, born in iniquity. Explain this paradox.
2) The text tells us we must be governed by the Spirit. How are we governed by the Spirit on a day to day basis?
We need righteousness and that righteousness is only found in Jesus Christ. In John chapter 14 beginning at verse 15, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit (the Comforter). It is the Holy Spirit who comforts, secures, and empowers us. The importance of this gift cannot be stressed enough. Our good works aren’t enough to secure righteousness. The Christian Jews Paul included in this letter could not claim their heritage or their customs keeping the law as acceptable righteousness. It is though the work of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that this desperately needed righteousness is secured.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week we will look at the call of the gentiles. In Romans chapter eleven Paul, a Judean himself, speaks directly to the Gentile Christians as the Apostle to the Gentiles. He does so in hopes of saving some of his Judean people. But he also admonishes the Gentile Christians to not be arrogant.