In Romans, Paul uses the metaphor of “flesh” to contrast the
way the world is with the way it should be for those in Christ
Jesus. Throughout the letter, Paul tackles a tricky issue: How we
are brought into the covenant community of God as those who
are heirs of the divine promises.
In the world, this would happen through physical descent
or, perhaps, through physical adoption. For Paul, it only happens
through the Spirit of God that changes mind-sets, thus
moving believers from death to life. However, this is not done
through mortal bodies but rather through the divine work of
God as God breathes life into those who believe in Christ Jesus.
Here Paul sees God’s Spirit at work in the lives of the Gentiles.
In Romans 8, flesh connotes physical descent from ancestor
to descendant. Flesh here indicates those ancestors with whom
God made a covenant and patrilineal forebears of the Messiah.
Honor does not accrue through a person’s family of descent but
rather through the Spirit and promise by means of which God
brought heirs of the Abrahamic covenant into being. In dualistic
language, Paul contrasts lively spirit with decaying flesh.
The Spirit of Christ dwelling in humans, whether they are
Jewish or Gentile, has the power to reorient minds to life and
peace—and even to enliven fleshly bodies. Through the Spirit
of God, even mortal bodies become life-filled. Paul does not
argue that only those descended from a particular parent exhibit
a Spirit-inspired mind-set. Quite the opposite: He argues that
despite human descent and fleshly failing, God’s Spirit dwells
in whomever God may choose, slave or free.
O God, give us eyes to see your Spirit at work in the world. Amen.
Ezekiel 37 presents a vision of the dry bones that represent the people of Israel after the Babylonian invasion—the people have no life. God calls Ezekiel to see the devastation and to prophesy to the dry bones with the message that they shall live. The psalmist cries out from the very depths expressing both a need and hunger for God and a trust in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. The story of Lazarus’s death and Jesus’ raising him to life calls forth our own stories and experiences of life and death. It draws us in to a conversation that goes deeper than our intellect. It evokes our questions, our fears, our doubts, and our faith. The Romans text offers the good news that the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. Each of these texts affirms life after death. Death is not the end; death does not have the nal word.
• Read Ezekiel 37:1-14. How has life come to you through death?
• Read Psalm 130. For what do you cry out to God? Pray the psalm, line by line, knowing that God hears and extends mercy and care.
• Read Romans 8:6-11. How has God changed your mind-set, your attitude, to bring you richer life?
• Read John 11:1-45. What in your world needs to die in order for life to come forth?
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