Authentic Human Flourishing Aug 16-23, 2015
Romans 8: 6 (NRSV)
To set the mind on flesh is death,
but to set the mind on the Spirit
is life and peace.
Being the Church in Christ: Wisdom from Pastor Paul
(The Brentwood Sermon Series for 2015)
Throughout 2015, the Christian community at Brentwood Presbyterian Church will be considering how to be the church in Jesus Christ, guided by the wisdom of Pastor Paul. We invite you to listen for what the Spirit is saying in the text, then question how those insights might change the ways you see things and act in the world. Share your thoughts during the week on the meaning the Spirit creates for you in this text by posting a comment on our website – www.brentwoodpc.ca.
A Provocative Pondering
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us provoke one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together … (Hebrews 10:23-25a)
There is, in Paul’s thinking, especially in Romans, a clear and significant distinction between ‘the flesh’ and ‘the Spirit.’ To live in ‘the flesh’ is death. To live in ‘the Spirit’ is life. It is that stark a contrast.
But what does Paul really mean by those terms? Here’s how I’ve come to understand it so far.
All of this has to be understood in the broader context of what Paul believed God has done through Jesus Christ. The ‘old age’ or ‘old regime’ of the law had come to an end. A ‘new age’ or ‘new commonwealth’ had begun in which God is no longer distant or hidden, but dwells with us and reveals himself to us as a Father reveals himself to his children and makes them friends. This new community of mutual or covenant love is animated and activated by the Holy Spirit, the real and effective presence of God in Jesus Christ in the world.
Paul uses the language of ‘flesh’ (in Greek, sarx) to point to the ‘old age.’ He uses the language of ‘Spirit’ (in Greek, pneuma) to point to the reality and power of the ‘new age’ in which God is dwelling with and working among humanity in a new way defined by the cross and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.
This is the Spirit of faith, simultaneously gift and response as God forges a new relationship in a new community with his beloved humanity. In this relationship and community, we discover authentic human flourishing in loving God, loving others, and loving ourselves. By living in the Spirit, we learn ever more deeply what it means to follow Jesus as Lord and be the embodiment on earth of his understanding of all the law and the prophets.