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Summary: March 17, 2002 -- FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 130 With the LORD there is mercy and plenteous redemption. (Ps. 130:6-7) Romans 8:6-11 John 11:1-45 Color: Purple Title: “The difference Christ makes between “flesh,” and “spirit.” Rom

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March 17, 2002 -- FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 130

With the LORD there is mercy and plenteous redemption. (Ps. 130:6-7)

Romans 8:6-11

John 11:1-45

Color: Purple

Title: “The difference Christ makes between “flesh,” and “spirit.”

Romans 8:6-11

This text is in the middle of chapter eight, which is in the middle of the doctrinal section of this most doctrinal of Pauline letters. Paul is reflecting on the difference Christ makes between “flesh,” and “spirit.” These important words have an earthly meaning and a heavenly meaning, a literal and a metaphorical meaning. “Flesh,” means just that- body, meat, food, even sex. Paul, however, uses the term here in a metaphorical or extended sense. By “flesh” Paul means living life or, more correctly, futilely trying to, on one’s own powers, by one’s own lights, on one’s own terms, without God. The “without God,” part can be either conscious or unconscious. It matters not to Paul, since the results are the same: death. Now, “death,” surely can mean physical death, the cessation of physical life. Paul means it in a metaphorical sense, as the absence of life or deprivation of life or negation of life, life as empty of meaning, purpose, point, and certainly absent God. Thus, life lived according to the principles of “flesh,” not only leads to death, but is “death,” itself. The “principles,” of deadly flesh find expression in all societies. They are the operating ABC’s of a society and the individuals in that society. Jews are no exception. They have their operating principles, their do’s and do nots to live by, basic assumptions and prescriptions about life. However, their “laws,” of and for living are inspired by God, and so have a different character from those of other societies. They do reveal the divine mind. Unfortunately, even those “laws,” do not convey the power to keep them, power Paul calls “grace”. Thus, a Jew is frustrated in that he or she might know how to live but does not have the power, because of “flesh,” to do so, to overcome the hold “flesh,” has over humans. Some other force, power, “spirit,” is needed, a power outside of humans and the human condition. Some new ingredient must be added to the human recipe if humans are to become what they can become. Paul identifies that “ingredient,” as spirit. This is not the human spirit, the earthly meaning of the word, for that has been co-opted by flesh, law, sin, death or whatever other name one might prefer. This is the divine Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, and the Indwell Resident Holy Spirit, who enables Christ to live in the Christian and among Christians in the Church. The Spirit makes all the difference in the world - in a Christian’s life while still in the world, while still in the flesh, though no longer a prisoner of the flesh. This Spirit also impels the Christian into the wider world of God’s presence, right up to the last day, the day of general resurrection, the “end of the world.” The Spirit affects one’s attitude, which changes one’s behavior and connects the two, the internal, attitude, and the external, behavior, in a unity of life, Christ, which makes both attitude and behavior transcend law, principles, customs, presuppositions, prescriptions, death, sin, in a word, all that is included in Paul’s term “flesh.”


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