God’s Spirit and Ours: The Letter to the Romans
Peace. Power. Life. Love. Joy. Hope. If this list weren’t from the epistle to the Romans, you’d think it was from a hippie soliloquy from the 1960s. But it’s just a partial list of the blessings that are associated with a Spirit-filled life.
What made the recipients at Rome so special that they received a letter like this – like no other in the canon, really? Does it still hold all of the possibilities for us that it did for them?
Romans 5:5 | And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Life disappoints us, because it’s full of people – and people are often no doggone good (to paraphrase Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor in Superman). Here the term “poured out” refers to love, and it’s poured out by the Spirit. The Spirit Himself is a gift from God, much like the Son is spoken of elsewhere. So we have hope.
8:1-16 | Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature 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 mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful natue, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Only the last reference to the Spirit in this excerpt is more than ten words away from some form of the word “life.” Though this is a discussion primarily for a Jewish audience about law leading to sin leading to death, it is also a description of life and peace through the Spirit that’s appropriate for all audiences. Including children – which He testifies that we are. Through Him we cry “Da-da!” – just as His Son did while pleading for His life in Gethsemane.
There are control issues here – “controlled by the Spirit”; “led by the Spirit”. There are declarations here: If you’re in Christ, you have His Spirit; if you have His Spirit you’re in Christ. If you don’t have His Spirit, you don’t belong to Christ. (Well, that answers a lot of questions about whether this Spirit is still given to believers today!) There are challenges here: “share in His sufferings.” There are promises here: “share in His glory.”
Whole libraries could and have been written about this epistle.
8:26-27 | In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
He helps us. Intercedes for us. Translates our groans when words fail us. Through Him, God knows our hearts … the God who searches our hearts finds them through His Spirit. Can we afford to be without this gift?
9:1-2 | I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
Not just a fancy way of saying, “I ain’t lyin’ to ya,” this comes as close to an oath as the writer of the letter to Rome gets. He’s telling the truth in Christ, confirmed by his conscience in the Holy Spirit. (Remember – the One who helps God search our hearts?) The writer hurts constantly for the readers, and God knows about it.
14:17 | For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
From the writer of “whose god is their bellies” comes a nicer way of expressing what the kingdom Jesus described is really all about. If the Spirit is a channel through Whom righteousness, peace and joy flow to us from God … are we receiving all that He wants us to have? We’re not talking about happiness here; you can buy happiness – eat and drink happiness – but joy, peace and righteousness (a package deal) come from God. They last, long after the belly is empty and cramping for more.
15:13 | May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
A blessing … with a condition? “As you trust in Him”? And the result is that we overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit. The world has every kind of power you could crave, except this one. The world can’t offer hope. It’s not part of the entropic nature of creation. It’s part of the eternal nature of the Creator. Do we trust in Him to provide hope?
15:14-15 | I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Here’s that “boldness” again that is so often associated with the Spirit, though the gist of this sentence is that the Spirit sanctifies us. The Spirit sets us apart as holy vessels; ceremonially clean, kosher dishware through which others might be served a full plate of joy, hope, peace and righteousness. We’re among those Gentiles who have become an offering to God. So if you’re making a list of items the Holy Spirit does for us, write down “sanctification”!
15:17-19 | Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.
It’s a little hard to tell whether there’s a cause-and-effect relationship implied here between the Spirit and the “signs and miracles” – or if they’re just parallel items that enabled the leading of Gentiles to obey God. We’ll have to see what is said about it later in the letters to Corinth.
15:30-33 | I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Again, it’s hard to tell whether the “love of the Spirit” refers to the Spirit’s love for the believers or vice-versa or both. (My bet would be on answer [c.] if there was a multiple choice test.) Nevertheless, it’s clear that love is also among the multifacted works and gifts of the Holy Spirit that builds up Christians into a unified kingdom through their prayers for each other and for the success of the gospel.
More observations that questions this time. Hmm. I must be slipping. Let me try to restore the balance:
After reading Acts and Romans do you see the Holy Spirit as primarily a come-down-from-heaven spectacular miracle-working intervenor and confirmer of the gospel, or as a down-to-earth by-your-side in-the-trenches companion and comforter in the daily ministries of believers?
Could He still be both? Or has one role been fulfilled? Have both roles been fulfilled?
Which is a greater, more lasting miracle: the turning of ill or wounded flesh to whole … or the turning of a sick and tortured soul to God?
What is the reason for the hope that dwells within us?
That’ll do for now. We’ll move on to Corinth in Part VI.