May 2: Romans 8:10-11

If the focus in chapters 6-7 of Romans was on the believer’s freedom from bondage to the power of sin, the emphasis in chapter 8 is on the new life we have in the Spirit. The Spirit was referenced only in a marginal way in the prior chapters, but now becomes the dominant theme in chap. 8.

Romans 8:10-11

I have already discussed verses 10ff (especially vv. 14-17) in an earlier set of notes (part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”, cf. the article on Rom 8:1-17). Here I will be focusing on the subject of the current notes, the relationship between the Spirit and the death of Jesus.

The declaration in verse 2 summarizes the discussion by Paul in chaps. 6-7, emphasizing the believer’s freedom from the power of sin, and, in a related aspect, our freedom from the binding authority of the Law (i.e. the Torah regulations):

“For the law of the Spirit of life in (the) Anointed Yeshua (has) set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

By utilizing the term no/mo$ (“law”), Paul is playing upon the relationship between the Law (Torah) and sin—a subject he expounds so vividly in chapter 7. This aspect of Paul’s view of the Law remains difficult for many Christians to understand (and accept); it must have been quite controversial (even offensive) to Jews (as well as to many Jewish Christians) at the time. In using the expression “law of the Spirit” Paul sets the word no/mo$ in a very different context—one that emphasizes how the Spirit effectively takes the place of the Torah regulations for believers. It is the Spirit which serves as the binding, regulating force for believers in Christ. For more on this, see the recent articles in the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”, as well as the earlier articles on Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians and Romans.

The “law of the Spirit” is characterized by life, while the “law of sin” (which includes the role of the Torah regulations) is characterized by death. It is a stark contrast, one that Paul brings out elsewhere in Romans and Galatians, as well as in 2 Corinthians 3 (cf. the recent article and notes).

In the exposition that follows in vv. 3-9, Paul explains both the reason for, and the consequences of, our freedom from sin and the Law. It was achieved by God, through the sacrificial death of His Son (v. 3), and thereby fulfilling entirely (and putting an end to) the Torah regulations regarding sin (v. 4; cf. Col 2:14). Now the right requirement of the Law is fulfilled for us, as believers, when we walk in the Spirit; there is thus no longer any need for a written law code. The same idiom of “walking about” (vb peripate/w) in the Spirit was used by Paul in Gal 5:16 (cf. also here in 6:4 [discussed in an recent note]).

In this new life of the Spirit, even though we are free from bondage to the power of sin, there is still a struggle with the sinful impulses that reside in the “flesh”. Paul discusses this in vv. 5-8, reflecting largely the same teaching he gives in Galatians 5. By submitting to the guidance of the indwelling Spirit—that is, by “walking about”, on a daily basis, according to the Spirit, rather than the flesh—we can avoid and resist/redirect the impulse toward sin that continues to reside “in the flesh”. The implication of Paul’s statement in verse 9 is that we should walk in a manner that is consistent with the reality of the Spirit’s abiding presence in us—that is, by “walking about” in the Spirit, under the Spirit’s guidance.

This provides the expository context for Paul’s words in vv. 10-11. To what was stated above, it is important to add the point of identification made by Paul in v. 9—namely, that the Spirit which dwells in us, as believers, is both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. This reflects a Christological point that Paul only touches upon briefly elsewhere in his letters, most notably in 1 Corinthians, where he declares that Jesus, following the resurrection, became a “life-giving [lit. life-making] Spirit” (15:45). The implication is that the exalted Jesus shares the Divine Spirit with God the Father, being united with Him (according to the principle expressed in 6:17). Thus, if the Spirit (of God) dwells within believers, since it is also the Spirit of Christ, this means that Christ also dwells within us, being personally present through the Spirit.

The ramifications of this are clear in vv. 10-11, where Paul returns to his earlier theme (in chap. 6) of our participation, as believers, in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Here Paul makes explicit what was only implied earlier—namely, that this participation is communicated through the presence of the Spirit:

“But if the Anointed (is) in you, (even if) the body (is) dead through sin, the Spirit (is) life through righteousness.” (v. 10)

Here pneu=ma has something of a dual meaning: it can refer to the human spirit (in contrast to the body), which still has life, even if the body dies; yet, on the other hand, it can also refer to the life-giving power of the Spirit. Since the Spirit belongs to both God and Christ, it possess and communicates the righteousness (dikaiosu/nh) of God to the believer—the same righteousness which Jesus possessed, and which was manifested (and fulfilled) through his sacrificial death.

“And if the Spirit of the (One hav)ing raised Yeshua out of (the) dead houses [i.e. dwells] in you, (then) the (One hav)ing raised Yeshua out of (the) dead will also make alive [zw|opoih/sei] your dying bodies, through His Spirit housing [i.e. dwelling] in you.” (v. 11)

It was the Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead, transforming him into a “life-making” Spirit (1 Cor 15:45). As the Spirit of Christ, it has the same life-making power. Indeed, the same verb (zwopoie/w) was used in 1 Cor 15:45; cf. also 1 Cor 15:22 and John 5:21. Elsewhere in 2 Cor 3:6 Paul specifically states that it is the Spirit that “makes alive”, a view expressed also in 1 Peter 3:18 and by Jesus in John 6:63; the verb zwopoie/w is used in all these references.

Because we are joined with Jesus, sharing in his death, we also share in the power of his resurrection. And, even as we share in his death through the presence of the Spirit—which is also his Spirit—so we share in the life-giving power of that Spirit. Elsewhere, Paul speaks in this regard of the Spirit as a guarantee (a kind of down-payment) for our future resurrection (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; cf. also Eph 1:13); it also means that we have this new life of the Spirit even in the present. Such a ‘realized’ eschatology is a component of Paul’s spiritualism, though it is not emphasized as prominently in Paul’s letters as it is in the Johannine writings.

In the next daily note, we will look ahead to verses 18-23, where our participation in the death/resurrection of Jesus, through the Spirit, is specifically discussed by Paul in an eschatological context.