Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pentecost, The Spirit-With-Us: Romans 8

Romans 8

When we approach the Day of Pentecost, our minds are often drawn to the events of Acts 2, or to the instruction of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians. We tend to think of the relatively spectacular events of the early church or of the public gifts of tongues and prophecy. These are certainly realities in the life of the Spirit-filled church, but when we pay attention to the New Testament we discover a wealth of information about the role of the Spirit in the life of a believer today. Why is the Spirit with us? What is it the Spirit does among us and in my life? One chapter in particular, maybe surprisingly so, provides us with a lot information about the work of the Holy Spirit.

When Paul opens Romans 8, we read one of the most pivotal moments in the epistles:

“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.” (vs. 1,2)

Paul has just described the back-breaking frustration we are left in, caught between the Mosaic law—that tells us what to do to please God—and the law of sin and death—that makes it impossible for me to please God on my own. The only thing that can break the tension set up in chapter 7 is the activity of the Spirit in me; the only thing more powerful than the law of sin and death is the law of the Spirit of life. Because the Spirit-with-us does its work, there is no condemnation for those in Christ. In other words, the believer no longer lives under the “continuous, low-lying black cloud” of guilt and sin (The Message).

Paul then introduces another facet to the Spirit-led life:

“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.” (vs. 4)

The believer is described as someone who now has the option to walk according to a Spirit-lead life instead of being bound by sin and death. Not only are we asked to live this new kind of life, we are given access to the mind and will of the Father and the power to live it out through the work of the Spirit. The Spirit knows the mind of God (Rom 8:27), reveals it to us (1 Cor. 2:10), and empowers us to lead a new kind of life (Acts 1:8, Gal. 5:18).

The Spirit gives life to my mortal body: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he…will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (vs. 11). I have the hope of eternal life with God and a taste of his presence here and now because the Spirit is with me.

The Spirit is my adoption document: “but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (vs. 14). I am heir to the kingdom of my Abba, Father because the Spirit dwells within me.

The Spirit communicates with me: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (vs. 16). Elsewhere we know the Spirit communicates many things (John 14:26; 16:8-11), but here, the message is one of adoption, forgiveness, grace, and “no condemnation.”

The Spirit aids me in my weakness, praying through me and for me: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (vs. 26). It is a great encouragement that the Spirit, who walks every step of life with me, is constantly advocating for me before my Father in heaven. Likewise, the Spirit provides for me a language of prayer I don’t always understand, but is nonetheless genuine intercession.

Paul also describes the Spirit as a taste of eternity. We, and creation, stumble along in a broken and deeply imperfect world, but because of the Spirit-with-us, we carry a seed of the kingdom of God. We are, so to speak, pregnant with eternity.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (vs. 22, 23)

Everything else we know from Romans 8 is true in our lives because the Spirit is the experiential, lynch-pin in the life of the believer.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose....If God is for us, who can be against us?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.... I am sure that [nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God’s Spirit-with-us makes all this real.


Daria said...

I love this! more please, more ;-) hehe--looking forward to hearing the whole thing! and boy, have I needed to focus on these truths...

Phil Steiger said...


Thanks for those kind thoughts! I really get a kick out of preparing for Pentecost and working at expanding my/our view of the work of the Spirit. The NT has so much to say (beyond the "spectacular" gifts).

Anonymous said...

this is really good thanks for reminding every one that the holy spirit is still here and working.

Doug said...

No where is the critical nature of our relationship with the holy spirit, in terms of obtaining true understanding, illustrated more, than in John chapter 14. In chapter 14, the dialogue between Jesus and the disciples reveals a certain ineptitude by the disciples to trully understand the realationship between Jesus and Father God, or for that matter, who Jesus really is. The bewildering aspect of this dialogue is that it comes after they had been with Jesus for over two years at this point. You can almost feel a little frustration in Jesus as he explains the same thing repeatedly, with no avail. Immediately in verse 15, Jesus begins to speak of the Holy Spirit being "with them" and "in them". He goes on to illustrate how they will gain greater understanding through having the Holy Spirit in them. I exert that this only happens as we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This was the baptism Jesus received when John the Baptist dunked him in the Jordan River. The word says the Spirit descended from heaven like a dove and came to "rest" upon him. Until you receive this baptism, you are handicapped in trying to understand the things of God, just like the disciples displayed in their conversation with Jesus.

Anonymous said...

As many as receive Christ have received the power to become the sons of God, the power to walk after the spirit, the power to overcome sin. Without Christ, where would we be besides in trouble? I love studying the bible, it brings joy and excitment into my life. Bible study is important for us all. We must study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, according to the scripture. May God bless all who share the word of God in spirit and in truth.