Monday, December 11, 2006

Which Road Are You Walking? (Romans № 21 Part 1)

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Rom 8.1-4 ESV)

Verses like 8.1 can cause me to do some explaining.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (ESV)

I preach from the English Standard Version but the pew Bible isn't. Rather, it uses the Greek Textus Receptus as its NT text and keeps the longer phrase such as found in the King James:

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
(Rom 8:1 KJV)

These verses can frustrate me a bit; the delicate balance is teaching a congregation to realize there are textual variants in the NT without causing them to despair of having a corrupted Bible—hence, unreliable and unauthoritative. Clarke, himself, does some textual criticism in his Commentary:

"This last clause is wanting in the principal MSS., versions, and fathers. Griesbach has excluded it from the text; and Dr. White says, Certissime delenda; it should most undoubtedly be expunged. Without it, the passage reads thus: There is, therefore, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; for the law of the Spirit of life, etc. It is a fairly assumed point, that those who are in Christ Jesus, who believe in his name, have redemption in his blood; are made partakers of his Spirit, and have the mind in them that was in him; will not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit: therefore the thing itself is included in the being in Christ, whether it be expressed or not: and it was probably to make the thing more obvious, that this explanatory clause was added by some copyist, for it does not appear to have made an original part of the text; and it is most likely that it was inserted here from the fourth verse."

Realize, then, that making educated choices of textual variants isn't "liberal"; our beloved (and very conservative) Wesleyan linguist was making such choices throughout his New Testament Commentary.

Back to our passage; Paul is beginning a great part of his letter, explaining how there is a difference between those who are saved and those who are lost.

There are only two kinds of people in the world:

1. Those who live κατα σαρκα —"according to the flesh"
2. Those who live κατα πνευμα —"according to the [Holy] Spirit"

This great contrast will drive Paul's thought as he explains that there is only one group that has God's favor.

Let's define "flesh" as mainly used in this chapter. The flesh in this sense isn't speaking of a physical body; is the life of the unregenerate sinner. It stands for the world, it is the world. The sinner is dominated by sin; indeed, it is the nature of a person who is depraved. It is the natural man, the person lost in his sins and one who stands condemned before God. It is the person who hates God and the things of God.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." (1Joh 2.15-17 ESV)

"We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." (1Joh 5.19 ESV)

The one in the Holy Spirit, however, is a Christian who shows the fruits of his repentance. He is in the world physically but doesn't live as a member of the sinful world:

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (Joh 15.18-19 ESV)

Paul will use this contrast throughout. To bring this longer post to a close, let me sum up the passage quickly: God had a plan for bringing the world out of a person. He sent his Son who, at the incarnation, became a man who looked like any regular sinful guy (but Jesus was without sin) and, through the sacrifice of his Son, killed off the rebellious streak in a person who came to salvation. Therefore, there is now a contrast between those who are saints through the power of the Holy Spirit (κατα πνευμα) and those who are still sinners through the power of the flesh (κατα σαρκα). Let's watch this great contrast, detailed by Paul, together.