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Seeking to equip people to live as Christian disciples wherever God has placed them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

“Martin Luther: The Freedom of the Christian”

Romans 8:9-17

Paul affirms in this passage that there are two realities in each of our lives. The first is the “flesh,” which, as we have seen, is the part of us that is turned against God and focuses only on ourselves. However, through faith in Christ (which Paul has elaborated on since the third chapter of Romans) we have the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is the “advocate” or “comforter” that Jesus promised (John 14:26).  We are no longer under the control of the “flesh.” This is also to say that we are no longer under the power of sin even though the struggle against sin continues (Rom. 7:7-25).  We are free from its domination even though we still have to acknowledge its presence in our lives.  We have this dual reality in which the “body is dead because of sin.”  Nonetheless, on the other hand, we experience the power of the Spirit as a result of Christ’s righteousness which now covers us.

Paul has said of himself that nothing good dwells in his flesh. This is what he refers elsewhere as our “old self” (Rom. 6:6).  We have these two natures at war within us (Gal. 5:17). The fact is our old nature cannot be improved.  This leads to the fallacy of thinking that we have any merit of our own. We do not cooperate in our salvation because our sinful nature is in fact spiritually dead (Eph. 2:5; Gen. 2:17). There is then a great danger in placing confidence in ourselves, in our “flesh” (Phil. 3:3). Paul acknowledges that even after we have been justified by faith we still face a twofold choice. We can depend on ourselves and “live according to the flesh” or rely on the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. The fact is that our “flesh,” our sinful nature remains in us.  It will not become better. Indeed, it cannot improve because of its basic nature.  It can only get weaker as the Spirit grows stronger within us.

Paul uses the image of adoption. Through Christ we have been adopted into God’s family. This is nothing we can deserve or achieve.  It is however something that we can and do experience. By adopting us God the Father has made us “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” We have been given the grace to live into that reality. In Christ we are free from the power of sin.

Most faithful and gracious God and Savior I praise you that you have adopted me into your family purely through your grace and mercy. Give me the strength in your Spirit to live as your child.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.