Saturday, December 31, 2011

Believing In Him (part 51)

Lest we surmise that a revival of talk of justification and its requisite accompaniment of the family of God is not applicable to this portion of Paul’s letter, we need only skip down to verse twelve, where we hear “So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation” (8:12a).  To whom or to what?  “Not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” (8:12a), for that is the old age of division and a fractured humanity.  Emphasizing the seriousness of the new obligation of the new covenant, Paul expands upon and punctuates that statement with “(for if you live according to the flesh, you will die)” (8:13a).  Further elaboration has Paul offering the contrasting position: “but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (8:13b).  This business of God’s kingdom come to earth is a matter of life and death. 

Without getting sidetracked into an examination of what Paul may mean with verse thirteen, we find him quickly returning to the familial theme with verse fourteen and “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” (8:14).  What is the evidence of being led by the Spirit?  Again, it is belief in Jesus as Lord (the mark of justification/participation in the Creator God’s covenant people), and the resultant participation in His kingdom purposes (with its promises, cross-shaped responsibilities, and blessings).  Further extending the family metaphor, and perhaps offering a suggestion as to the nature of the composition of the congregation of believers to which he writes, Paul goes on to adapt the language of, and rely upon familiarity with, the practices surrounding the act of adoption in that day, writing “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (8:15) 

Though there are numerous ways to hear these words, and while it certainly is suggestive of the type of relationship that can be individually enjoyed with the Creator God, it is important to keep this in line with what we have learned to this point in the letter, and to assert that this ability to cry out to God is about Paul’s continued insistence that all peoples can now rightly cry out to the God of Israel as their Father.  Before now, in their role as the covenant people, which we realize had degenerated into a defensive, protective, and excluding stance, it was only Israel that could rightly and justly cry out to their Father God and expect to be heard.  This is no longer the case.  Paul declares that “The Spirit Himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.  And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ)---if indeed we suffer with Him so we may also be glorified with Him” (8:16-17). 

Talk of heirs reaches back to what was suggested in the fourth chapter, being firmly ensconced within the world of the Abrahamic covenant and the inheritance to be had by all those that are his children, by a faith like that which he exercised.  Here again, Paul reaches out to the four corners of the world, suggesting a united, renewed humanity under the new covenant and in the new age that has dawned in the Resurrection, with that humanity joined together with the Christ, and called to a kingdom-oriented life that takes its cues from the suffering and shame of the cross.  This suffering, which we can certainly equate with conceptions of honor and shame as the implications of a willful journey to the cross are explored and embraced, is efficacious as the means by which Jesus’ Lordship is proclaimed and by which the kingdom of God is advanced. 

Because every act that would, in that day and age, bring shame upon the believer (at least as understood by the world and the court of public opinion), was an embracing of the cross and of the tenets of a Lord and a kingdom that is manifest in such ways, and because every shame-embracing act is performed because of the hope of resurrection and the renewal of creation, Paul cannot help but say “For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us” (8:18).  For those that believe in Jesus, behind every kingdom-directed thought and every kingdom-inspired action lies the idea that just as Jesus was raised from the dead into a glorious existence of a glorified body here in a creation that has begun to experience its renewal through the resurrecting power of the Spirit, so too shall all those that believe in Him (with that belief the evidence of the Spirit’s present work and evidence that the power of the new creation is at work) experience the same.  

1 comment:

  1. This may be sounding repetitious, but I'm still enjoying your posts.