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Posts Tagged ‘Romans 8’

I just received an e-mail from a friend of mine informing me that Todd MacDonald, a friend from seminary, passed away last week after battling cancer.  You can read his obituary here and see any other updates on his website.  This is obviously incredibly sad news for those of us who knew Todd.  For me personally it hit me because I had planned on e-mailing Todd this morning to see how he was doing.  Now I know.

I had highlighted Todd’s album, Pilgrims Here, a couple years back, and in that post I briefly mentioned the impact Todd had on my life.  I wanted to take a second and honor Todd again.

I e-mailed Todd way back in March of 2009.  I had been trying to find a way to contact him to tell him about how a random theological conversation at Brian’s (my coblogger) wedding had helped change my life.  While I was searching for contact info (on the internet) I discovered that he was battling cancer.  I’m grateful for the chance to tell him this before he passed away, and for the random e-mails we shared over the past 3 years.

This is a portion of the e-mail I sent him 3+ years ago:

Do you remember being at Brian Marchionni’s wedding a few years back (almost 5, now)?  You and I discussed theology for most of the reception, which was a pretty dorky thing to do.  But, you spent a lot of time convincing me of your reading of Romans 7, specifically that it doesn’t deal with a regenerate man but an unregenerate man.  Seems fairly innocuous, but it ended up being an important time of my life.

One thing that no one knew about me in seminary is that I struggled greatly with depression.  I felt hopeless in the face of it, and felt as if I could never overcome my sin that was largely responsible for my depression.  Basically, in my mind, in the battle between my flesh and the Spirit, I felt as if the flesh would always win.  But after our conversation, I went back and read the NT again to see what I thought about what you said.  It opened up a new world for me, one that actually had hope and I began to believe that sin actually was defeatable.

I’m not saying the change was overnight, but I can honestly say that our conversation that night was a major turning point for me in my battle with sin and depression.  It’s weird, seminary students have theological conversations on a daily basis, but only a small percentage actually make a difference.  This is one that has had a profound impact on me, and I’m grateful to you for your insight.  It truly changed my life.

I’m actually teaching on this tonight.  I’ve been telling people for years now that our conversation that night at Brian’s wedding changed my life, but about a month ago I realized that you probably had no idea; I had decided I needed to write you and tell you.  Soon after that, I found out you’re sick, and was heartbroken.  So, I’m writing to let you know how much I appreciate you and how thankful I am that God crossed our paths at just the right time.  Now that I’m on the “other side” of my depression battle, I can clearly see that you were an instrument in the hands of God, even without knowing it.  God truly is amazing!

Now that Todd has temporarily lost his battle with cancer, I reflect on that conversation (now almost 8 years ago) and can’t believe how far the Lord has brought me.  I don’t want to overstate things in the wake of his death.  Todd and I were not best friends.  He wouldn’t have put me on his short list of closest buddies.  That conversation was not the single most important event in my life.

But it would make the Top 10 major events in my adult life, truth be told.  It was a significant turning point, one, as I said, I frequently pointed to in my teachings about overcoming sin (even before I found out Todd was sick).  I know Todd was grateful that I let him know about this.  He even joked that he was probably fueled by pride in trying to convince me of his position (he didn’t even remember the conversation, as we probably had so many).  Whether or not that’s true, I’m grateful we talked.

So now we await the glorious future of Todd MacDonald.  I’m sad he’s passed, happy he’s not suffering now and excited that there is the hope of the resurrection to come.  Todd MacDonald will one day return, not in a cancer-ridden body, but one transformed into a glorious body like that of our Savior’s (Phil 3:21).  While I have no doubt his suffering was immense, and the suffering his family now endures is unquestionably heavy, I also know that those “present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18).  Amen and amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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It is certainly no accident that with his [the Holy Spirit] entry, there is no further talk of defeat.  In Romans 7:14-25, a rough count that I made indicates that the words “I,” “me” and “my” (in the RSV anyway) were used over 40 times. In that context there was no reference to the Holy Spirit, and thus, defeat.  In chapter 8 where the Holy Spirit’s presence is all pervasive, confidence and assurance are set forth.  The warfare between the two natures goes on, but where the Holy Spirit is in control, the old nature is compelled to give way.  And as long as Christians seek to carry on the warfare at their own charges, they fight a losing battle.  But when the avail themselves of the resources of life and power that are their’s in Christ Jesus, they are more than conquerers. 

From Peter O’Brien, Freedom from Death Talk 1 (on Romans 8:1-4)

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Leviticus & Romans 8

Memorizing Romans 8 and studying/teaching Leviticus at the same time has been an eye-opening experience.  I admit to my limited knowledge of Leviticus, and realize that I am (unfortunately) in the majority in this.  I’ve made it a point this year as I teach through the Pentateuch to grow in my understanding of this neglected book.

Two points jump out at me as I’m also working through Romans 8.  The first seems somewhat obvious.  In verse 3, Paul writes, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering” (TNIV).  For now I won’t get into the discussion over whether that last phrase should be translated “to be a sin offering” or simply “for sin” (ESV).  Either way, the point I’m making is not affected.

All throughout Leviticus we read about various types of sacrifices and purifying rituals to deal with the issues of sin and uncleanness.  Paul is well aware of the levitical background and is making a powerful statement here- that the problem of sin and broken relationship with God was solved by God Himself in His Son.

The second point is the relationship between holiness and uncleanness.  To quote T D Alexander’s book From Paradise to the Promised Land, “… holiness and uncleanness are totally incompatible… [it was] impossible for anyone or anything to be holy and unclean at the same time” (p.212).  Immediately when I read these words, I was reminded of Paul’s refusal to accept that the people of God (those who have been made holy by Him) should be slaves of sin.  “You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit” (Romans 8:9).  “Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness” (6:19). 

For Paul, and Leviticus, the mixture of holiness and impurity is impossible.  This should disturb all of us who are accustomed to having our feet planted firmly in both worlds.  But Paul reminds us that God has made us holy through Jesus, and is continuing to make us holy through the power of His Spirit.  We are to “become as we are,” as it has been said.  God has made us holy.  Now let’s act like it.

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Note: We, along with everyone else in our missions training school, are memorizing Romans 8 this fall semester.  Since our desire is not simply to recite words, but to understand and implement what Paul is teaching in this chapter, we will be periodically posting thoughts, insights or questions from a variety of sources to provoke thoughtful interaction.

Consider these thoughts on the work of the Holy Spirit and how it relates to dealing with sin in our lives.

Not only do Christians have the verdict of “no condemnation” when they convert, they are also empowered by the vivifying presence of the Spirit to walk in newness of life.  The Spirit does not merely convey the Good News.  The Spirit enacts that news in the believer. 

– Ben Witherington w/ Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, p219

… deliverance from the tyranny of sin, effected through the atoning work of Christ, as an experienced ongoing reality, is the work of the indwelling, life-giving Spirit. 

– Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, p528

So, given what is said here about the role of the Spirit, how should we approach our battle with sin?  How often do we neglect the fact that we have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling within us?  Do we really view the Holy Spirit as the key to implementing the gospel & our deliverance from sin in our daily lives? 

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Moo on Romans 5-8

Note: We, along with everyone else in our missions training school, are memorizing Romans 8 this fall semester.  Since our desire is not simply to recite words, but to understand and implement what Paul is teaching in this chapter, we will be periodically posting thoughts, insights or questions from a variety of sources to provoke thoughtful interaction.

“At the risk of oversimplifying a complex section and obscuring many other significant connections, we may view the main development of chaps. 5-8 as a ‘ring composition,’ or chiasm:

 

            A.  5:1-11                                 assurance of future glory

 

                        B.  5:12-21                   basis for this assurance in work of Christ

 

                                    C.  6:1-23         the problem of sin

 

                                    C.’  7:1-25        the problem of the law

 

B.’  8:1-17                    ground of assurance in the work of Christ, mediated by the Spirit

 

            A.’  8:18-39                             assurance of future glory”

 

 

“In chaps. 5-8, then, Paul invites the Christian to join with him in joyful thanksgiving for what the gospel provides—a new life given to God’s service in this life and a certain, glorious hope for the life to come.  …the person who has experienced the gospel as the justifying act of God (cf. 1:17) is assured of finding that gospel to be truly ‘God’s power for salvation’ (cf. 1:16)—power for dedicated Christian services in this life and for deliverance from all the forces of evil and of judgment in the next.”

— Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, pages 294-295

What do you think of Moo’s understanding of the structure of these chapters?  Does this help you understand the flow of thought in Romans 8 any better?  Moo splits up chapter 8 into 2 main sections (vv1-17, vv18-39), how do you think they relate to each other?

For anyone interested, Dr Moo has made some of his shorter writings available online at his website (you can also find a link to the right).

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