The Word Made Fresh
1Therefore, there is no condemnation of those who are in Christ Jesus 2because we have been freed from the law of sin and death by the law of the spirit of life. 3You see, by sending his own Son in the very likeness of sinful humanity, God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, couldn’t do. He dealt with sin by condemning sin in the flesh. 4Therefore the law’s requirement can be fulfilled in us because we don’t live by the flesh but by the spirit. 5You see, people who live by the flesh desire the things of the flesh, but people who live by the spirit desire the things of the spirit. 6To live by the flesh is death, but to live by the spirit is life and peace. 7The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God because it refuses to submit to God’s law – in fact, it cannot submit to God’s law – 8and that is why those who live by the flesh cannot please God.
9But you don’t live according to the flesh. Instead, you live according to the spirit because the Spirit of God lives in you. Those who don’t have the Spirit of Christ don’t belong to Christ. 10But even though the body is dead because of sin, if Christ is in you then the spirit is life through righteousness. 11If the spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, He will give life to your mortal bodies through that same Spirit.
12Therefore we are in debt, but not to our bodies which live according to the flesh. 13If you live by the flesh you will die. But if by the spirit you lay to rest the deeds of the body, you will live. 14Everyone led by God is God’s child. 15You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery which makes you succumb to fear. You have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Father!” 16it is by that same spirit testifying to our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if we are God’s children we are also heirs of God and heirs with Christ as well – but we are glorified with him only when we suffer with him.
18I think all the suffering we might experience today isn’t worth comparing to the glory about to be revealed to us. 19The whole creation is eagerly waiting for the children of God to be made known, 20because the creation served no purpose of its own, but only served the will of the one who gave it hope. 21So, the creation will be set free from its bondage to failure and will enter the freedom of the glory of God’s children. 22We know that all of creation has groaned with labor pains until now; 23and not just creation, but we ourselves also groan inside while we wait for our adoption and the redemption of our bodies. 24But we have been saved by hope, invisible hope because what can be seen is not hope. No one hopes for what has already been seen. 25But when we hope for something we can’t yet see, we wait patiently for it to come.
26You see, the Spirit helps us when we are weak. Because we don’t know how to pray as we should the Spirit comes to our aid, sighing for want of mere words. 27And the One who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit wants because the Spirit acts on behalf of the saints according to God’s will.
28We know that everything works together for the good of those who love God and are called to do God’s purpose. 29God knew in advance who would be conformed to the likeness of his Son, making his Son the firstborn of all who follow and worship him. 30All those whom he knew in advance he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31So, what can be said about all this? If God is for us, who is against us? 32Won’t the One who didn’t withhold even his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, also give us everything as well? 33Who can accuse God’s chosen ones? If God is the One who justifies; 34who can condemn? Why, Christ Jesus, of course! He died and was raised from the dead and is now at God’s right hand and intercedes for us. 35What can separate us from the love of Christ? Hardship? Distress? Persecution? Famine? Nakedness? Peril? Sword? 36After all, it is written “For your sake we are being put to death all day long like sheep being slaughtered.”
37No! In spite of all these things we are more than conquerors through the One who loves us. 38I am absolutely certain that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us, 39and nothing, neither life nor death, nor angels or kings, nor things present or things yet to come, nor powers, 39nor height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ our Lord.
1-8: The terms “flesh” and “spirit” are central to Paul’s understanding of the faith. “Flesh,” in the broad sense, is human nature, not just the physical body. “Spirit” is the presence of God within us, directing us toward the fullness of life. He argues that the law cannot overcome human nature. The law can only condemn sinful behavior. Since human nature cannot submit to God’s law, we must strive to live according to the Spirit.
9-11: Of course, we are in the flesh, but Paul’s point is that if we belong to Christ Jesus, the indwelling Spirit helps us overcome our sinful human nature to the end that we will have eternal life.
12-17: Paul introduces the concept of adoption into his understanding of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In Roman law an adoption resulted in the cancellation of all previous debts and responsibilities and the acquisition of all familial rights within the new family including the right of inheritance. In terms of Christian teaching this equates to the forgiveness of sins (cancellation of prior debts) and entry into eternal life with Christ as joint heirs.
18-25: There were persecutions of Christians throughout the early history of the church, and that is probably what Paul is alluding to here, but it is also true that life in this “present time” is filled with disease and dis-ease. The Jews had long believed that the “present age” would one day be replaced with the “age to come,” and Paul builds on this belief with a description of the process by which God will bring it about, comparing it to childbirth. He acknowledges that it is a future that has no precedence — it cannot be “seen.” Therefore, we await the glorious day and our final “adoption” with patient hope.
26-27: Since our adoption is not yet complete, we still struggle with the weakness of our human nature. But while we struggle, the counterbalance of our spiritual nature maintains our connection to God.
28-30: Verse 28 is one of the most quoted verses from Paul’s writings. John Calvin latched onto verses 29-30 to uphold his doctrine of predestination — that some were chosen for salvation from the beginning. That is clear enough, but Calvin went on to insist that everybody else will go to hell. We Methodists (along with most Christian denominations) simply point out that the word “only” does not appear here. In other words, the text does not say, “For only those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son … and only those whom he predestined he also called; and only those whom he called he also justified; and only those whom he justified he also glorified.” So, we give Jesus’ word (“For God so loved the world … that whosoever believes …”) more weight than Paul’s in the matter. All these arguments aside, it is clear that what Paul primarily means here is simply that God never intended for Christ to remain forever his only child, but rather that he should simply be the firstborn within a large “family”.
31-39: Paul ends this section with an eloquent depiction of the unfailing love of God for all who acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.
Faith in Christ overcomes all our fears, jeers, and spears. Eternal life is worth more than immediate personal needs.