Romans – Being human
“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God's grace.” Romans 6:14
Prior to his miraculous conversion to Christ, Saul of Tarsus was a highly educated Pharisee, a firebrand of Orthodox Judaism who volunteered to travel the countryside rounding up and jailing followers of Jesus for their apostasy.
We see Saul first in the book of Acts as he stands supervising the stoning of the mighty Christian deacon, Steven, who unapologetically directed His accusers to Christ Jesus, the promised Messiah. After the stoning of Steven, Saul began persecuting Christ’ followers in earnest. It was during one of these posse-like excursions that Jesus got ahold of Saul and confirmed what Steven and others had been declaring.
Saul, knowing the Old Testament and the Law as well as anyone, by the revelation of God instantly knew everything about Jesus he’d heard was true and real. Simultaneously he realized he was a deeply sinful and deceived man. He thought himself to be pleasing to God for his loyalty to his training in the Law of Moses – when he was actually fighting against God the whole time. All this comes rushing into his psyche and he just asks, “What do You want me to do, Lord?”
God gave Saul instructions and when Ananias, the man God called to go to Saul, prayed for him, literal scales fell from his eyes. The physical blindness he’d experienced since meeting the Lord on the road was healed, but more importantly, the spiritual blindness he hadn’t even known was there, was removed and, for the first time, he could truly see.
After several years of traveling, preaching, and fleeing attempts on his life, Paul began writing letters to places he had visited and established followers of Christ; Galatia, Thessalonica, and Corinth among the first. Then, perhaps compelled by his calling as apostle to the Gentiles, Paul wrote his first letter to a city he had not yet visited, Rome, the cultural center of the Roman Empire.
Romans is different than the other letters. Here, more than in any of his writings, Paul writes about being human. More specifically, the experience of life with and without God’s grace. Through the course of the letter weaves a tapestry by contrasting and comparing life with and without Christ, Jewish and Roman, carnal and spiritual. He has lived both sides and speaks with authority about the lives most have, and the life everyone could have.
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)
“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.” (v5-8)
But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)” (v9)
Paul who in one place referred to himself as the ‘Chief of Sinners’ knows better than most how the sinful nature can keep even the most religious person separated from God. Saying the right words, fasting, even being zealous for everything you think is right, is of no value from a selfish and sinful heart. Paul has learned, and calls us, to cultivate a different life, a Spirit-controlled life.
Dear one, God did for you what you could never do on your own, through Christ God declared an end to sin’s control over you. Surrender afresh to the Holy Spirit’s control, leading you to peace with God and abundant life in Christ, in spite of any physical circumstances. This is being fully human. This is the life of grace.