Monday, May 07, 2018

Reading Through the Letter to the Romans #2 (5.12-8.39)

Romans KeenerThis post continues my reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans accompanied by Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. In this section Paul focuses on the supernatural nature of the Christian life. The believer is joined to God and enabled to live out God’s righteousness by the Spirit. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In 5.12 Paul transitions from talking about entrance into the family of God and into righteousness, to how a righteous life is lived within the family of God. This new life of righteousness is a gift from God, based on Jesus' righteous life and death and confirmed through his resurrection. It is bestowed on the believer through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thus, the believer no longer is a slave to sin, but to righteousness, and is enabled from within to choose to serve God and practice righteousness. Believers must recognize (reckon) and live within this new identity in Christ. The believer is now obligated to Christ rather than the law. Rather than being controlled from the outside by the law, which was insufficient to produce God's righteousness, we are now transformed from within by the Spirit. Thus, as the believer trusts in what Christ has done and yields to the Spirit and is connected to the whole body of Christ, God's righteousness is produced.

Paul elsewhere defines Jesus’s obedience in terms of humbling himself to the point of shameful execution on a cross, perhaps in contrast to Adam seeking divinity. Adam, by seeking greater life, brought death, whereas Jesus by dying brought life. Just as Adam introduced sin, Jesus now introduces true righteousness (5:19) that stems from solidarity with his obedience. Paul’s understanding is not that Jesus merely reverses Adam’s punishment (although his accomplishment includes that), but that Jesus came to form a new basis for humanity, enabling people to serve God fully from the heart. Romans 5.12-21, 77

For Paul identity is determined by being in Christ, but the believer must still choose to believe the eschatological reality sufficiently to live accordingly. Through faith one receives a new identity, and through faith one must also continue to embrace and live in that new identity, so that obedient works become expressions of living faith. Romans 6, 82

For Paul, the law is good (7:12, 14); the problem is not the law but flesh, which law was designed to control, not transform (8:3). Nevertheless, the regulations of the law pointed God’s people to his righteousness. When approached the right way, as God’s message and witness rather than a standard to achieve, the law supported the truth of the gospel (3:31; 10:6–8). Thus the law must be approached by faith rather than works. Its content must be inscribed on the heart by the Spirit rather than depending on efforts of the flesh (8:2–4). Romans 7, 88

Paul sums up his argument by contrasting the life lived by the external motivation of the law with the internal transformation of the life lived by reliance on the indwelling Spirit. The life that can live out the revelation of God's character in the Torah is a supernatural life produced by the indwelling Spirit, who connects the believer relationally to the Trinity, enables the believer to be involved in God's mission and goals, and works in the believer, through the external circumstances (especially suffering), to prepare believers for glory. The Spirit, who has intimate knowledge of God's will, prays for and with the believer to accomplish God's purpose. Therefore, the believer can be confident that nothing in all creation can stop the accomplishment of God's plan for the renewal of creation and completion of God's glorious image in humanity.

Western Christendom today has imbibed the radical Enlightenment’s skepticism of the supernatural, suspicious of miracles and other divine interventions. For Paul, however, the genuine Christian life is “supernatural” (i.e., divinely empowered) from start to finish, a life by God’s own Spirit. Apart from acknowledging and embracing the Spirit, the best imitations of Pauline religion are just “flesh.”  Romans 8.1-12, 104

Whatever the other benefits of the Spirit’s intercession (8:26–27), the Spirit works within believers during their sufferings to prepare them for conformity with the image of the crucified and resurrected Christ (8:28–29), i.e., to share his glory (8:30)...Believers never have to worry about the efficacy of this intercession, because it is born from God’s own presence within them (8:27), working to bring about his purpose (8:28). Romans 8.13-30, 107–108

Paul in 8:37 declares that believers “prevail completely” (BDAG ὑπερνικάω), experiencing utter victory. This is because even the harshest circumstances cannot dislodge believers from God’s love and the incomparably greater hope of glory that awaits them (8:18; hope made firm through affliction, 5:3–4). They are special to God; he is with them and has a purpose for them, working even their sufferings for eternal glory (8:28). Romans 8.31-39, 112

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