Trinity 8, 2019

The Epistle – Romans 8:12-17

The Gospel – St. Matthew 7:15-21

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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It has been mentioned multiple times here that that 8th chapter of Romans is one that stands out in all of the Bible for its clarity and its hope-filled message.

 

It is a great summary of the Christian’s life and his status in Christ. It is an exhortation to greater life in light of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in us.

 

Our section this morning is a conclusion. “Therefore brethren.”

From our reading that we heard, though, it sounds like the beginning of an exhortation. It sounds like a fact, and it is.  “Brethren, we are debtors…”

 

But Paul actually uses 2 words that are dropped from our reading because what we heard read for our Epistle, like every week, has been pulled out of a letter to be an isolated reading….which is fine.

 

The Church has always taken passages of Scripture and developed what are called pericopes [short sections] to be read in isolation as a lesson or an exhortation or for some specific reason.

 

It can be done safely, and it can be done recklessly, sometimes to the detriment of the passage’s true meaning.

 

This is why we hear sometimes about early manuscripts of the Bible that are found, that have a word changed here or there. But when understood rightly why they are changed or dropped we conclude that it is fine.   

 

For example, if we read a verse like Matthew 8:1 “When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.” (ESV) …we know or should know that the “he” in the passage is Jesus.

 

But when the Church drew up lectionaries to be read on a Sunday, the passage could be changed to say, “When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.” (ESV)

 

 

Skeptics tell us that our Bible has been changed so we can’t trust what it says. The fact is, the passage was taken, isolated to teach something about Jesus on a specific occasion but no damage was done to the meaning of the text at all.

 

All that to say, we are safe this morning when the reading begins like this, “BRETHREN, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.” ..even though it is written originally as, “So then, bretheren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.” (ESV)

 

This is just a subtle point to know about how the Church has handled the Scriptures to set them in a different setting for us to hear.

 

In fact, it makes it more personal.

 

Sometimes the practice is to begin every Epistle with the word, “Brethren”.  This draws our attention to the fact that this is now being read to us 2000 years later and we are included in the audience with those it was originally written to.

 

Paul is drawing a conclusion from something he has just laid out in the verses above. There is a thought process going on here.

 

So, what does he say that leads us to our lesson today? 

 

“…Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. [10] But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. [11] If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (ESV)

 

So those who do not have the Holy Spirit do not belong to Christ. That is simple enough.

 

But if we do have the Holy Spirit, then Christ dwells in us and even though we remain sinful, the Holy Spirit is constantly giving life to us…purging sin from us and working righteousness in us.

 

The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and if we have the Holy Spirit then He will give us life, not only by raising us up from the dead on the last day, but even in this life now…because He dwells in us…He will give us life.

 

And life can be defined as living to God and not ourselves. It is about living.

 

Chrysostom says, “Therefore do not let your body live in this world, so that it may be made alive in the next one! Make it die so that it may never die! For if it goes on living it will die, but if it dies now it will live forever.”[1]  

 

We are called to die right now to sin so that we will live forever.

 

It is about putting to death the passions for evil in this life so that we may live forever in the life to come.

 

 

 

So, then we come to today’s passage and we hear this, “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [13] For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

 

Putting to death the deeds of the body.

Putting to death the deeds of sin that we commit.

 

This is the conclusion or the … now, here is what we are to do. Put to death, not the body we are in…. but the passions for evil and desires for sin. The thoughts, words and deeds.

 

We put to death the deeds of the body by the power that the Holy Spirit provides. By the power of God’s grace.

Origen (184-253): God did not make us in his image in order for us to be bound to the service of the flesh but rather that our soul, serving its Creator, might make use of the service and ministry of the flesh for that purpose. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.[2]

 

It is not putting the body to death but striving to subdue the acts of the body to the service of God and neighbor.

 

We are not indebted to the flesh. In other words, we are not obligated to follow Adam and his first sin that we inherited.

 

We are indebted to the flesh in that we must nourish it, clothe it, feed it, give it medicine. He means that it is not to take charge of our life. 

The Spirit now controls our life, so the flesh must follow his lead. It must receive the law of the Spirit, the guiding of the Spirit, and not let the desires of the flesh control and lead. 

 

We have this teaching in many places. Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (ESV)

 

Matthew 6:19–21

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, [20] but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. [21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (ESV)

 

Mark 4:19, “...the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke what God is speaking to us.” (ESV)

 

Paul goes on today by then saying, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

 

Commentators say that Paul is bringing to mind the Exodus.  The Exodus was a leaving behind slavery and moving into a land of freedom.

 

We have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. God led His people forward out of slavery, not back into it.

 

His presence marked by the Pillar of Cloud would move and the people would follow. We are part of a new Exodus.

 

The Spirit that God has given us now leads us. He directs our thoughts and inclines our hearts to righteousness.  

 

This is not a spirit of slavery…one that enslaves us to sin and captivity and oppression, but it is one that we have received from God…a Spirit of adoption and freedom.

 

Remember that we are not naturally God’s children by birth. We are God’s children by adoption. We are now sons of God because we have been adopted, not because we were created by Him or have done something to bring about an adoption.

 

Cyprian: If we are the sons of God, if we have already begun to be his temples, if (after receiving the Holy Spirit) we live holily and spiritually, if we have lifted up our eyes from the earth toward heaven, if we have raised our hearts, full of God and Christ, to supernal and divine things, let us do nothing which is not worthy of God and Christ, as the apostle arouses and urges us. Jealousy and Envy.[3]

 

“…let us do nothing which is not worthy of God and Christ…”

 

Chrysostom: Note the great honor here. For as believers we do not merely live in the Spirit; we are led by him as well. The Spirit is meant to have the same power over us as a pilot has over his ship or a charioteer over his horses.

And it is not only the body but the soul also which is meant to be controlled in this way.

 

If you put your confidence in baptism to the point that you neglect your behavior after it, Paul says that, even if you are baptized, if you are not led by the Spirit afterward you will lose the dignity bestowed on you and the honor of your adoption. This is why he does not talk about those who received the Spirit in the past but rather about those who are being led by the Spirit now. Homilies on Romans.[4]

 

Being led by the Spirit is another concept that takes a lot of thought.

 

Paul says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…”

 

The Spirit bears witness with our spirit.

The Holy Spirit himself brings to our spirit the assurance of something being true. When we are assured and confident of the truth of something, it is the Holy Spirit bearing witness with our spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit works in us so that we cry out to God. We see that in a minute in the Abba, Father line.

 

But if we are calling out to God in prayer and supplication, it is the Holy Spirit working in us, inspiring us, moving us to do so.

 

God wants us to be assured of Him.

He wants us to be assured of our salvation. He wants us to be assured that we are His children.

 

So, to accomplish that, He sends the Spirit into our hearts and our minds to convince us that we are children of God.

 

He also produces a cry within us. This cry to God.

 

But it has to be a real, heartfelt cry to God. It has to be deep and from the heart. We have to be convinced that God is our Father and that He is stronger than anything we encounter and that He can deliver us from anything.

 

The testimony or the witness of the Holy Spirit is not a voice we hear in our ear. He is the one who works secretly and mysteriously in us toward a life changing attitude… toward God. ..so that we rely on Him and call out to Him.

 

The witness of the Holy Spirit also works by inclining us to, as we learned a minute ago to hate sin, to put to death sin in our lives, to have a desire to kill it.

 

And the testimony of the Holy Spirit also witnesses to Christ. Consider    

 

John 15:26

Jesus says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (ESV)

 

So, the testimony or the witness of the Holy Spirit also brings to mind the person and the work of Christ for us. This further gives us confidence and assurance.

 

 

And finally, this section from Paul closes with this, we have “…received the Spirit of adoption as sons, [so we are God’s sons or Gods children] by whom [by the Spirit] we cry, “Abba! Father!”

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (ESV)

 

So, the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

He brings us to that place where we cry out to God and call Him Father, like a child to a parent….to a father.

And He further witnesses to our spirit that we are heirs with Christ.

 

As Christ inherited all things pertaining to a righteous life and eternal glory, we too, by perseverance and assurance of the Spirit are convinced that we are fellow-hears with Christ.

 

What He has inherited, we too will inherit.

 

In considering the Transfiguration last week, Peter said, “2 Peter 1:3–4

 

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them [we] may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (ESV)

 

We don’t become gods. We partake of the divine nature in that we are fellow heirs with Christ in all that He won for us by His blessed passion, death, resurrection and ascension.

 

So there is a great message for us here today. Let us each call upon God regularly, unceasingly for the witness of the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to our spirit that He is at work in us the bring about a desire for the death of sin in us and the life of eternal rest in the age to come.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (p. 206). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (p. 206). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (p. 208). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (pp. 208–209). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.