Reflection for Sunday, July 12, 2020, OS15
Epistle Passage, Romans 8. 1-11
We pass this week to the work of the Holy Spirit, and in particular to his work of moral guidance. The battle against sin passes into a consideration of Christian ethics. In this regard our behaviour is no longer governed by the Old Testament Law but by the Holy Spirit guiding us. The Old Testament Law had become cumbersome to the point where no-one could keep it. Christian ethics are a response to the Holy Spirit within us. It remains true that we still need some absolutes, like the Ten Commandments, and the commandments stand with the indwelling Spirit.
Christian ethics are not black and white and there are some grey areas. It is possible that an action may be right for one person or one set of circumstances, but wrong and sinful for another. We need the Holy Spirit to show us what we should do or refrain from doing. Under the guidance of the Spirit we can make good moral decisions where right and wrong are not clear. The Spirit allows us the freedom to respond where the rules do not fit. For our ethics to work we need to stay close and spiritually alive.
Verse 1 – ‘So now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ – ‘now’ refers to the gospel events of crucifixion and resurrection. Now, as a result of these historical occurrences, the Spirit is present and we have a continuing presence in our lives.
The Holy Spirit sets us free from the concentration on the negatives of the Law (the thou shalt nots). We serve God positively and move past sin. The Holy Spirit gives us the desire to serve God and please him. The Holy Spirit is the pledge that the time will come in the hereafter when sin will be completely removed.
Verse 3ff – Christ was sent ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ – Jesus was not God changed into a man, but God who took human nature while remaining Himself. Not that the cure for sin was immediate. There is an ambivalence in our situation; we are possessed by the spirit but not completely. Elements of the flesh remain and the old life persists. It is a matter of making progress. We ‘walk’ according to the Spirit. Walking is an appropriate image because it indicates movement and progress in a process of spiritual and moral growth.
Verse 5ff – Paul introduces the idea of our mindset. The word indicates our outlook, assumptions, values, desires, purposes.
The result of the Spirit’s indwelling is life on a new plane, a life of companionship with the Spirit and so a new peace and happiness as we develop an increasing desire to lead a life pleasing to God. Verse 11 emphasises the close connection between the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of believers. However, our resurrection is still in the future because the transfer from flesh to Spirit is incomplete in us because of our egotism and the pull of the flesh.
Reverend Dr. Calum Gilmour