Monday, July 21, 2014

A Challenge to Myself and You Theology Readers

Lately I've tried to keep up a practice of reading two chapters of Holy Writ (read "the Bible") for every one chapter I read of theology/biblical studies/related topics. This is an exercise I have begun to keep me grounded and to remind me about this religion that I'm a part of. Often, when one reads too much theology s/he may tend to forget the whole purpose behind the theology (or at least, this is what happens to me), that being the spread of the Gospel, the Glory of God, and our worship of God in both of those two things. So, I encourage you to join me in this endeavor, and hopefully we will grow in our knowledge, faith, and love of the God revealed in Scripture and understood more clearly through theology.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Paul's Vision for the Spirit-Filled Life and Our Eschatological Hope: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 8:5-11

Introduction
There is no shortage of commentaries and articles on Paul’s magisterial epistle to the Romans. But while justification by faith is indeed a primary focus of Paul, his theology of justification is inextricably linked with sanctification, pneumatology and, even, eschatology.[1] Indeed, the latter three are integral to understanding Paul’s argument in Romans 8:5-11. It is my hope here to propose an exegetical and theological study of Paul’s doctrines of sanctification, pneumatology, and eschatology as they are presented in Romans 8:5-11. To that end, I will argue that Paul is not exhorting, encouraging, or commanding the Roman believers to live more in accord with God’s commands; rather, he is describing to them the very nature of their faith, displaying his vision for both the Spirit-filled life and eschatological hope of believers.
Exegesis
            Romans 8:5-11 begins with a conjunction (γὰρ), and so is either linking, completing, or qualifying what had been written previously. In this case, what had been written previously and what is being linked, completed, or qualified is 8:1-4. It is impossible, therefore, to understand the significance of Romans 8:5-11 without first taking into consideration what was being argued first.
            Romans 8:1-4, in short, argues that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because those who are in Christ Jesus have been liberated by the power of the Spirit (verses 5-11) from the Law, which previously produced death (7:6-12) because of man’s inability to keep it (8:7) apart from the power and liberation given by the Spirit to believers (8:9-11), which not only enables believers to keep the Law but also guarantees the fulfillment of the Law by those same believers (8:4). The γὰρ in verse 5 then is continuative and qualifying: it provides the substance to Paul’s argument, grounding his stated claims with proof that the Law is fulfilled by believers, who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.[2] With this in mind, the exegesis of Paul’s “proof” in verses 5-11 may proceed.
            This section of chapter 8 begins in verse 5 by developing an antithesis between those who are according to the flesh (οἱ γὰρ κατὰ σάρκα ὄντες) and those who are according to the Spirit (οἱ δὲ κατὰ πνεῦμα) in double-lined sentences.[3] The antithesis is continued and assumed throughout the rest of this passage. The absolute dichotomy between those who are according to the flesh (κατὰ σὰρκα) and those who are according to the Spirit (κατὰ πνεῦμα) cannot be overstated. They are absolute polar opposites. They are so utterly distinct that Schreiner is willing to call the difference a difference of “ontological character.”[4] That is, those who “walk” according to the flesh (verse 4) do so because they are themselves of the flesh (κατὰ σὰρκα). This ontological character is evident throughout the passage, and though some would try to equate “being according to the flesh” with “walking according to the flesh,”[5] Paul’s logic in the subsequent verses suggest that “being according to the flesh” is not equivalent to “walking according to the flesh.”[6] That is to say that, according to the text, it seems very unlikely that Paul would equate being or existence with action.[7]
            To make this antithesis clear, Paul describes what it means for those κατὰ σὰρκα and those κατὰ πνεῦμα to be κατὰ σὰρκα and κατὰ πνεῦμα. For Paul, to be κατὰ σὰρκα is to set one’s mind on the things of the flesh (τὰ τῆς σαρκὸς φρονοῦσιν), and to be κατὰ πνεῦμα is to set one’s mind on the things of the Spirit (τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος). This runs contrary to Cranfield’s interpretation of this, whereas he interprets this to mean “those who allow the direction of their lives to be determined by the flesh are actually taking the flesh’s side in the conflict.”[8] However, the subsequent verses (7-9) appear to rule out his interpretation, and Fee goes so far to say that there is no basis in the text for such an interpretation at all.[9] Therefore, here Paul is arguing on logical grounds that those who “walk” κατὰ σὰρκα or κατὰ πνεῦμα do so because they are κατὰ σὰρκα or κατὰ πνεῦμα, and they set their minds on the things of the flesh/Spirit because they are of the flesh/Spirit.[10] This is not to say that those who are κατὰ πνεῦμα walk according to the Spirit of their own accord. On the contrary, it is only because those who are κατὰ πνεῦμα are empowered by the Spirit that they are able to set and do set their minds on the things of the Spirit (τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος).[11] The entire purpose of Paul’s message here is to make clear the new opportunities now available through Christ and his sending the Spirit.[12]
            Following up on what he has just said,[13] Paul describes the result of their being according to the flesh/Spirit and thus setting their minds (φρονοῦσιν) on the flesh/Spirit: “the mind set on the flesh is death (φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς θάνατος), but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (τὸ δὲ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη).” The mind set on the flesh is not something that merely leads to death, however. The mind set on the flesh is death itself, for to continue in this mindset of flesh is to cut oneself off from the only true source of life, namely, the Holy Spirit.[14] Just as participating in the mindset of the flesh is itself death, even so participating in the mindset of the Spirit is life itself. What participating in the mindset of the Spirit means is to have life and peace absolutely,[15] and to have them in their fullest eschatological senses.[16] Just as Ladd’s theology of the Kingdom of God posits the kingdom is both “already” and “not yet,” even so is the nature of the result of those who are κατὰ σὰρκος and κατὰ πνεῦμα: to be (NIV, ESV, HCSB: “live”) according to the flesh is death both now (already) and eschatological (not yet), and to be according to the Spirit is life and peace both now and eschatological. Those who are κατὰ σὰρκος are already participating in and creating a trajectory of death, but have yet to experience eschatological death, that is, Hell; and those who are κατὰ πνεῦμα are already participating in and creating a trajectory of life, but have yet, also, to experience eschatological life, that is, the resurrection of the dead.
            Moving forward, Paul now (verse 7) elaborates (διότι) on what it means for the mind set on the flesh to be dead already. How it is dead already is a matter of law (νόμῳ τοῦ θεοῦ) and Gospel. Though the law is in no way salvific for humankind, it remains the standard by which the conduct and actions of unbelievers are measured, judged, and condemned.[17] The mind set on the flesh, Paul says, is hostile (KJV, NKJV: “enmity”) to God (ἔχθρα εἰς θεόν) because (γὰρ) it does not submit to God’s law. At first glance, it seems like this verse might suggest that being according to the flesh/Spirit is actually not an ontological character which is the basis for understanding why people act the way they do, but the final clause forbids this reading. Instead, Paul argues that those whose minds are set on the flesh are hostile to God because they do not submit to God’s law (τῷ γὰρ νόμῳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐχ ὑποτάσσεται), and they do not submit to God’s law because they are unable to do so (οὐδε γὰρ δύναται).[18] Paul elaborates on this in verse 8 by telling readers that those in the flesh are unable to please God (οἱ δὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ὄντες θεῷ ἀρέσαι οὐ δύνανται). This is clearly a moral and spiritual inability and not a physical one, although it also has physical consequence.[19] This does not mean that those in the flesh, that is, unbelievers, cannot choose to do or recognize what is good. But their choosing good is not choosing good for God’s sake, which is why even if they do good they cannot please God.[20] Paul’s assessment of unbelievers may be understood in terms of “total depravity.”[21] The doctrine of “total depravity” is not to be understood in the sense that every person is as bad as s/he could be, but rather that every person is so utterly under the power of sin that that sin encompasses even that person’s power to choose good for God’s sake, and thus please God.[22]
            Having laid bear the negative, being in the flesh (ἐν σαρκὶ ὄντες), in verse 8 Paul indicates a change in direction by using the adversative δὲ.[23] He encourages believers that they are not bound by the same restrictions that are upon unbelievers, those in the flesh.[24] For the believers at Rome are not ἐν σαρκὶ but instead (ἀλλὰ) are ἐν πνεύματι. This statement is not left alone but is qualified by a condition: εἴπερ πνεῦμα θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν.[25] But this condition should not be understood to be saying that some at the church in Rome are known by Paul not to be in the Spirit,[26] rather that those in the church are assured they are indeed in the Spirit because of the dichotomy Paul has been setting up between those κατὰ/ἐν the flesh/Spirit, which is reinforced by the adversative δέ.[27] Paul, then, must have written this as a “factual description” of those in the church: they know Christ, therefore they have the Spirit within them.[28] But the condition is still a warning to the church to evaluate themselves and see for themselves whether they are truly ἐν πνεύματι.[29] To be sure, this condition is the criterion for being a true believer,[30] but there is no doubt in Paul concerning the eternal state or spiritual condition of those in Rome.[31] For Paul, those in Rome are in fact ἐν πνεὺματι because of the πνεῦμα θεοῦ οἰκεῖ in them.[32]
            Following this, Paul shows readers the other side of the coin, again, saying that if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ (πνεὺμα Χριστοῦ οὐκ ἔχει) then s/he also is not of Him (οὗτος οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ). To put this in context, to say that not having the Spirit of Christ is the same as being κατὰ σὰρκα is to say that being κατὰ σὰρκα is not merely an ontological character, but also a position of lacking the Spirit. Suffice it to say that this highlights the universal character of the Gospel. It displays the need of all those κατὰ σὰρκα to acquire the Gospel. For if being κατὰ σὰρκα is the condition of being without Christ, to bring them Christ would be to bring them also the Spirit (πνεὺμα Χριστοῦ), which results in (and is) life and peace (verse 5: ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη). Most commentators seem to miss this point, but considering Paul’s focus on his mission to the Gentiles, it seems difficult not to mention this aspect of verse 9.
            In verse 10, Paul contrasts the situation of verse 9b with the Roman believers’ present situation, namely, Christ being in them. εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμιν should not be construed as “if” Christ is in you (that is, those at Rome), but “since” Christ is in you, τὸ μὲν σῶμα νεκρὸν διὰ ἁμαρτίαν, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωὴ διὰ δικαιοσὺνην. The εἰ here signifies another (verse 9, εἴπερ) fulfilled condition, and can appropriately be translated “since.”[33] So, since Christ is in them, it follows that though the body is dead because of sin, even so the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But what it means for the body to be νεκρὸν διὰ ἁμαρτὶαν is disputed. For some this is interpreted as believers dying to the power of sin through baptism.[34] However, it is more likely a reference to the physical death believers must face as a consequence of their sins, because it is not death to sin (6:10, ἁμαρτίᾳ), but death because of sin (διὰ ἁμαρτὶαν).[35] On the other hand, τὸ πνεῦμα ζωὴ διὰ δικαιοσὺνην. Another interpretive problem that arises is whether this is a reference to the Holy Spirit or an individual’s spirit. Older scholarship tended to identify the πνεῦμα as an individual’s spirit, just as the σῶμα is to be identified as an individual’s flesh/body.[36] However, more recent scholarship has tended to reject this interpretation in lieu of the πνεῦμα interpreted to be the Holy Spirit.[37] This interpretation is more convincing for the following reasons. Throughout Romans 8 thus far, πνεῦμα has referred consistently to the Holy Spirit.[38] Moreover, ζωή never means “alive,” and instead means “life.”[39] But this also raises the question, To what does ζωή refer here? It seems most likely that this is Paul’s first reference to resurrection life in this passage. The following verse also confirms this interpretation. But again, this shows the “already” and “not yet” tension in Paul’s eschatology.[40] Believers still must die because of their sin, but they already have life in the Spirit. Nevertheless, despite humanity’s mortal existence, believers have already the hope of eternal life.
            Concluding this section (verse 11), Paul appropriately speaks more clearly of his eschatological hope. In his third consecutive conditional sentence, Paul writes that believers have confidence in death because the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead resides in them (τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἐγείραντος τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐκ νεκρῶν οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν) and will bring life to their mortal bodies (ζῳοποιήσει καὶ τὰ θνητὰ σώματα ὑμῶν) through his Spirit, who dwells in them (διὰ τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος αὐτοῦ πνεύματος ἐν ὑμῖν). Again, readers see a return to an indwelling Spirit, and it is this assurance of being indwelled by the Spirit that believers have hope for true life, life found only in the Spirit.[41] But believers are not only assured because they are indwelled by the life-giving Spirit, but also because, being united to Christ (Romans 7:4) believers may be assured that they will be raised just as he was raised.[42] Just as believers’ spirits have life in the present, the Spirit indwelling them is the assurance of physical life in the yet future.[43]
Conclusion
            Within Romans 8:5-11 readers see a constant tension between the “already” received life and the “not yet” consummated eternal life. Those κατὰ πνεῦμα set their minds to the things of the Spirit, and thus already have life. Yet while fully alive, having all the benefits of being indwelt by the life-giving Spirit, they still must die physically on account of their sins. Despite all this, Paul says believers still have hope. Believers may be assured that since the same Spirit by which Christ was raised is in them, they also may be certain that they too will be raised through the life given to their mortal bodies. But the Spirit of life is not merely the Spirit that raises life. It is the Spirit that gives life in the present. Believers may now also be assured that they can live life to the full because they set their minds to the things of the Spirit and, so, are now able to obey the Law and please God. Because of all this, Paul can say with assurance, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”[44]


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barrett, C.K. The Epistle to the Romans. 2nd edition. Black’s New Testament Commentary 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011.

Black, C Clifton. "Pauline Perspectives on Death in Romans 5-8." Journal Of Biblical Literature 103, no. 3 (September 1, 1984): 413-433.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Revised. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008.

Calvin, John. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Reprint. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Calvin’s Commentaries XIXb. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker House Books, 2005.

Cranfield, C.E.B. The Epistle to the Romans 1-8. International Critical Commentary Series 38a. New York, NY: T&T Clarke, 1981.

Dunn, James D.G. Romans 1-8. World Biblical Commentary 38a. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Fee, Gordon D. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990.

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Edited by Frederick William Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Jewett, Robert. Romans: A Commentary. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible 9. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Lowe, Chuck. "’There Is No Condemnation’" (Romans 8:1): But Why Not?." Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society 42, no. 2 (June 1, 1999): 231-250.

Matera, Frank J. Romans. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. New International Commentary on the New Testament 6. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996.

Morris, Leon. The Epistle to the Romans. Pillar New Testament Commentary Series 6. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988.

Osborne, Grant R. Romans. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 6. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Rabens, Volker. The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul: Transformation and Empowering for Religious-Ethical Life. 2nd edition. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014.

Schafroth, Verena. "Romans 8: The Chapter of the Spirit." Journal Of The European Pentecostal Theological Association 30, no. 1 (March 2010): 80-90.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament 7. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1998.

Stott, John R.W. Romans: God’s Good News to the World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

Kittel, Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 10th ed. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977.

Wright, N.T. Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993.



[1] Chuck Lowe, "’There Is No Condemnation’" (Romans 8:1): But Why Not?." Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society 42 (June 1, 1999): 231-232.

[2] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, (BECNT 7: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1998), 409.
[3] Grant R. Osborne, Romans (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 6: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 198 and Robert Jewett, Romans: A Commentary (Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible 9: Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 476.
[4] Schreiner, Romans, 410
[5] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans 1-8 (ICC 38a: New York, NY: T&T Clarke, 1981), 385.
[6] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT 6: Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 486.
[7] Contra James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8 (World Biblical Commentary 38a. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988), 425 and Cranfield, Romans, 385.
[8] Cranfield, Romans, 386.
[9] Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Hendrickson, 1990), 539-540.
[10] Schreiner, Romans, 410-411; Moo, Romans 486-487; and Fee, God’s Empowering Spirit, 539-540.
[11] Rabens, The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul, 203.
[12] Volker Rabens, The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul: Transformation and Empowering for Religious-Ethical Life, 2nd edition (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014), 83.
[13] The γὰρ here is most likely continuative, rather than causal or explanatory. See Moo 487 and Schreiner, Romans, 412, contra Cranfield, Romans, 386 and Morris 305
[14] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Pillar New Testament Commentary Series 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 306.
[15] Fee, God’s Empowering Spirit, 541.
[16] Schreiner, Romans, 412; Dunn, Romans, 486; and Moo, Romans, 488.
[17] Moo, Romans, 488
[18] Law (νόμῳ) here probably refers to the whole of the Mosaic law, viz., the Torah, rather than God’s demand more generally or the 10 Commandments more specifically. See also Schreiner, Romans, 412.
[19] Schreiner, Romans, 412 and C. Clifton Black, "Pauline Perspectives on Death in Romans 5-8," Journal Of Biblical Literature 103 (September 1, 1984): 427.
[20] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 6: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 199. ἀρέσκω assumes a sort of motivation behind the actor’s striving to please. In other words, the word also encompasses the emotions and motivations of the actor. Here it does not merely communicate that unbelievers cannot please God by their actions, but also by their motivations and emotions. For more, see BDAG and TDNT.
[21] Moo, Romans, 488 and Osborne 199-200
[22] Moo, Romans, 488. Calvin [John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Calvin’s Commentaries XIXb: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker House Books), 288] says with clarity, “Far, then, from a Christian heart be this heathen philosophy respecting the liberty of the will. Let everyone acknowledge himself to be the servant of sin, as he is in reality, that he may be made free, being set at liberty by the grace of Christ: to glory in any other liberty is the highest folly.” He elaborates [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.), 2.1.9], “How far sin has seized both on the mind and heart, we shall shortly see. Here I only wished briefly to observe, that the whole man, from the crown of the head to the soul of the foot, is so deluged, as it were, that no part remains exempt from sin, and therefore everything which proceeds from him is imputed [emphasis mine] as sin.” Man’s actions as such before being redeemed are considered (imputed) as sin, no matter good or bad.
[23] Moo, Romans, 489; Morris 307; and Schreiner, Romans, 413; contra Cranfield, Romans, 387.
[24] Frank J. Matera, Romans (Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 194-195.
[25] εἴπερ, “if indeed, after all, since” (BDAG). Moo [Romans, 490-491] and Cranfield [Romans, 388] suggest that this must be interpreted as “since,” emphasizing the reality of readers’ Christian experiences. And, Moo continues, since Paul frequently refers to his readers as believers throughout the book, this should reveal to readers today how Paul really felt about his original audience.
[26] So Dunn, Romans, 528
[27] Schreiner, Romans, 413; Moo, Romans, 489-490; and Osborne, Romans, 200.
[28] Osborne, Romans, 200.
[29] Moo, Romans, 489.
[30] Osborne, Romans, 200.
[31] Morris, Romans, 308.
[32] Fee, God’s Empowering Spirit, 547.
[33] Schreiner, Romans, 414.
[34] C.K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans 2nd edition (Black’s New Testament Commentary 3: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 149.
[35] So Schreiner, Romans, 414; Moo, Romans, 491; and Cranfield, Romans, 389.
[36] So John R.W. Stott, Romans: God’s Good News to the World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 226 and N.T. Wright, Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993), 200-204.
[37] So Schreiner, Romans, 415; Cranfield, Romans, 390; Fee, God’s Empowering Spirit, 550-551; Moo, Romans, 492; and Dunn, Romans, 431.
[38] Moo, Romans, 492.
[39] Schreiner, Romans, 415.
[40] Fee, God’s Empowering Spirit, 552.
[41] Ibid., 553
[42] Schreiner, Romans, 416.
[43] Morris, Romans, 310.
[44] Romans 8:1

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