Sunday 16th June, 2019
Series: Romans 8
Preacher: Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Romans 8:1-12
Over the next three weeks I am going to be exploring in depth one single chapter of the Bible – Romans 8 – but before we jump into that I thought it would be good to have a brief overview of the book of Romans just to put it into context.
If I was going to sum up the book of Romans in one word … maybe I should choose salvation … but I will choose the word “Foundations”. Paul was writing to the church in Rome with some foundational teaching about Jesus and the saving Grace that come through the cross because he was worried about the spiritual foundation of the church.
You see, the church in Rome was unique for unique for a number of reasons. Firstly, unlike most of the churches around the Mediterranean, it was not set up by Paul or another of the Christian missionaries. Rather it is believed that it was set up by Jewish Christians who were at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:10 tells us that there were visitors from Rome there, and we assume that they were part of the 3000 people who were saved that day, and ultimately went back to Rome and set up a house church there.
From putting pieces of the bible together, we assume that the original church leaders were Aquilia and his wife Priscilla but this church had some difficult times. Initially the church in Rome was made up of mainly Jewish people but as it grew some non-Jews were converted and joined the church. Then something happened in 49AD which turned the whole church upside-down.
The Emperor Claudius, out of total frustration in having to deal with squabbles with the Jewish population, expelled all Jews from Rome for a period of time. As Acts 18:2 tells us, that included the church leaders of Aquilia and Priscilla.
Remember that the Jews had started the church in Rome. All the positions of leadership at that point were probably held by Jews, and now they were all gone! Can you imagine what our church would be like if all the current leaders and past leaders of our church were to suddenly be sent away? The church barely survived. By the time the letter of Romans was written, the Jews had returned, but the foundations of the church were shaky. So Paul wrote this letter, clearly outlining the foundational beliefs – you can read about it in the first 7 chapters of Romans … that we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards, that none of us can be made right with God through our actions, that God through Jesus work on the cross offers us a free gift of forgiveness and grace. It is a solid block of teaching on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.
And then we hit chapter 8. This Chapter is sometimes described as the “most dense” chapter in the Bible – that there is more profound wisdom and insight per verse than any other part of the Bible. And we are going to step through this chapter verse by verse and see if we can glean a little of this wisdom and insight. But I can tell you right now … I am not going to do this chapter justice. I am only going to be scratching the surface of its depth and of how this chapter can speak into your life. That is why I will encourage you to read through this chapter on your own and allow it to continue to speak to you and reveal its treasure.
Verse 1 – “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What a way to start a chapter. You are not condemned. The verse actually starts with the word “therefore” and whenever you see the word “therefore” you need to ask the question, “What is it there for?” It points us back to chapter 7 where Paul speaks of the personal impact of sin. In 7:21 Paul speaks honestly from the heart when he says that he wants to do things God’s way but it is like a war raging inside of him and he often ends up doing the things he doesn’t want to do. I think we can all relate to that.
During the week I read a story about a poor guy in the US who was a first time Dad. It was mother’s day but his wife was working a double shift at the hospital, so he went down there with their baby and surprised her with balloons and flowers and a huge banner. It was great and then he carried everything back to the car, stuffed everything back in and headed home.
On the way home, people began to honk their horns and flash their lights at him. He didn’t realize what was going on unti heard a long scraping noise go down the roof, followed by a loud thump. He watched in horror in the rearview mirror as the baby capsule slid off the roof of the car, bounced off the boot and onto the road. He screeched to a halt and ran back down the highway to the baby carrier. The baby was okay but that didn’t stop the waves of guilt and fear crashing over him.
While there’s a part of us that says, “How could he?” there’s another part of us that relates to this poor guy. We recognise all the mistakes we have made, the dumb things we have done born out of hurry or frustration or distraction.
And that is what Romans chapter 5-7 is about. We all make mistakes, we all make dumb choices, we all have that experience of sitting there on the side of the road going, “how did I let that happen”.
But Paul says, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”. How can Paul say that??? Doesn’t Paul know about my stupid mistakes or the ways that I have tripped up because of frustration or boredom or distraction? Yes Paul does know about that … but says in verse 2 that “through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life sets … you … free!” The condemnation we deserve was placed on Jesus (v3) so that we might be made right (v4). That is why Paul can say, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.
That is profound in itself, just sit with that for a moment. Because of Jesus – if you are in Jesus – you are not condemned.
But let’s go a little deeper into this. Paul in his writing is using a dichotomy (is that the right word?) He is setting up a picture where there really is 2 ways to live. Let me explain on the screen.
Can you see how this works? But it goes on in verse 5…
We will look more at this next week … but it is obvious that Paul is clearly setting up a choice … there are two ways to live, to live according to our natural desires and to live according to the Spirit. The choice is yours.
And it is a choice. It is not something that just happens. Actually, Paul would argue that our natural response is to live by our natural desires … it requires a choice to live by the Spirit.
Let me take this a step further by picking up on a phrase used numerous times in verse 5 to 8. The phrase in Greek is “phronema” which the NIV translates as “to have their minds set on” but that doesn’t convey the fullness of that Greek word. Phronema is the basic direction of one’s life. It is the fundamental orientation, convictions and heart attitude that steers the course of our life. Are you getting this? Paul is not saying that we should just have the Spirit living in us … he is saying that we need totally have our lives and our minds oriented in such a way that they are all about God. Spirit Orientated.
Let me see if I can put this another way.
In verse 9, Paul tells us that the Spirit lives in us … but in verse 4 he says that our goal is to live according to the Spirit – that our goals is to live in such a way that acknowledges that reflects the Spirit. But how do we do this? How do we move from having the Spirit live in us being spirited orientated? The answer is phronema. It is the choice that I mentioned before, the decision to change our mindset. To have our minds set on the spirit way of living.
Having the “mindset” of the Spirit is the crucial middle step between having the spirit live in you and living according to the spirit.
In practical terms … if we choose to have the mindset of the Spirit … to have our minds set on the Spirit … then we need to be proactive about what we are feeding into our minds. If we are only reading the gossip magazines, watching highly graphic TV and only talking dribble with our friends … how is that choosing to have the mindset of the Spirit. That is why Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I’m not saying that you are not allowed to watch Game of Thrones … just make sure it is balanced out with something that is pure and praiseworthy. Choose to have the mindset of the Spirit.
How are we going with this?
Next week I am actually going to explore the problem of when we find ourselves on both sides of the equation … when we strive to live the spirit led life but sometimes find that we have strayed into being led by our natural desires. What happens if both are happening at the same time? That’s next week.
To conclude … if I wanted to sum up the first 12 verse in Romans 8 it would be this:
• If you are in Christ … there is no condemnation. (Did you hear that … you are not condemned because of Jesus being the sin offering on our behalf we are made right with God! There is no condemnation).
• But in response … we need to live with the mindset of the spirit. Our Phronema – our life orientation, convictions and heart attitudes – the things that direct our decisions and steer the way we live – needs to be God … we have our minds set on life in the Spirit.
It is a choice … where do you set your mind on today?