Category: Susan Jones

Romans 8:26-39

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 30, 2017.

Many would call the final section of Romans 8 the “crescendo” of the book of Romans.

One author describes it as “the apostle soaring to sublime heights unequaled elsewhere in the New Testament.” In these verses Paul is summing up much of what he has asserted in the earlier chapters of this letter: that God’s love is most definitively displayed on the cross (5:8, 8:32), that the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (5:5) which invites us to receive a spirit of adoption pronouncing us children of God (8:16), that God’s love promises ultimately to redeem us, body and soul (8:11, 23), and offers us the opportunity to share in the glory to come (8:18). During a time of tremendous persecution, these affirmations of faith and words of assurance offer hope abounding to the believers in Rome.

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Romans 8:12-25

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 23, 2017.

A friend of mine recently adopted a baby. For years she and her husband have been interviewing with agencies, putting together books to describe themselves to prospective mothers, and praying that they might be selected. They want to open their home and hearts to a child in need and extend their family. In other words, they want to become family for a child who otherwise might not have one. Adoption is an extraordinary gift – both for the child and for the new parents.

In this mid-section of Romans 8 Paul transitions to this kind of “family” language, from a human life lived primarily for itself (“flesh”) to the gift of a new relationship to God (“Spirit”) and the household of faith. Paul begins in vs. 12 by addressing his readers as “brothers” (later translations add “and sisters”) and quickly moves to the language of adoption, calling those who are led by the Spirit “children of God.” Then he goes further, even referencing God by the intimate Aramaic word “Abba.” This is one of the words Jesus used in addressing God, which can be translated as “Dad” (Mark 14:36). Note the contrast here between living according to the flesh, which leads to isolation and death, with a life lived according to the Spirit, which leads to our adoption as children of God and becoming joint heirs with Christ. Humans cannot escape being indebted (vs. 12) – all of us serve some type of master. We are either beholden to the “flesh” (our own selfish desires and rebellion against God), or we are indebted to the God who invites us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him– with the promise of forgiveness and adoption as His children.

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Romans 8:1-11

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 16, 2017.

The chapter designations in the Bible make it easier to find texts when we are studying Scripture, but too often they break up a free-flowing thought from one chapter to the next. Such is the case from Romans chapter 7 to chapter 8. Paul concludes the final verses of chapter 7 with two agonizing cries from the heart: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Paul has described the problem of human bondage to sin and the deeply personal struggle that ensues from it in Romans 7 (marked by the first person singular pronoun used more than 30 times), and now in Romans chapter 8 he offers an explication of the answer (marked by the recurrent use of the word Spirit throughout these verses).

Paul begins chapter 8 with a contrast between the bondage of sin and death with the freedom that comes from knowing Christ and experiencing the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” In Jesus, God has done what the law could not do. God has created a path to righteousness through the gift of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which offers forgiveness to all believers. In verse 3 he describes the incarnation of Jesus as the “sending of his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh” so that Jesus might “condemn sin in the flesh so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” In other words, Jesus, as God’s incarnate Son, does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Through the incarnation of Jesus, God becomes flesh in the form of a human being, condemns sin through his salvific suffering and dying, and sets us free from slavery to sin and death through his resurrection – freedom from a life lived in servitude to our own selfish desires. God’s justice has been fulfilled in Jesus who sets us free through the Spirit of God that dwells within us. So that those who “walk according to the Spirit,” not according to the flesh, might have forgiveness and new life in Christ. Faith in Jesus does what trust in the law cannot do.

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Romans 7:15-25a

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on July 9, 2017.

When our oldest son was three years old, he loved to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings, not so much for the cartoons, but for the commercials between the shows. He saw Power Ranger action figures, kids on shiny new bikes, tempting sugary breakfast cereals. He thought this was the greatest stuff. He would come to me after watching those commercials, and he would say, “I need this. I want that. Buy this for me.” Each week he would add more things to the list. Finally, I sat down with him and said, “Nathan, they are trying to trick you.” He looked up at me, smiled and said, “But I wanna be tricked. I really like this stuff. I wanna be tricked!” Then a few months later we had a similar conversation that showed some growth: at least he was beginning to struggle with the concepts of right and wrong. “Mom,” he asked, “sometimes I say naughty words, don’t I?” “Yes, I replied. Sometimes you do.” Then hoping to turn the conversation into a learning experience for him I said, “Nathan, why do you say naughty words?” He looked up at me and very self-confidently replied, “Sometimes I think I just like to say naughty words.” Our little boy was caught – between the “Is” and the “Ought” – the world as it is, struggling with the temptation to sin and our fallen human nature, and the good world as God created it to be – and the intentionality gap that resides therein. Even at the age of three, Nathan understood that he had a proclivity to do the wrong, even though he had a sense it would not make his parents very happy.

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