Monday, March 15, 2010

So what does it mean to be dead?

Still, if anyone asked me what it meant for a Christian to be dead because of sin, while the Spirit is life because of righteousness, I'm not sure I'd know. It does sound like a very definite thing that happens to everyone (if Christ is in you, the body IS dead), and also passive (though, a couple verses down it clarifies...if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body....)My best guess is that it has to do with motivations again, and also perhaps that it is a slow process. That's the only way it makes sense to me.

That is, your body being dead because of sin means that when you have Christ, when you know what true righteousness is, you can no longer trust and follow your motivations apart from him, because you now know that every single one of them is tainted and corrupted. So maybe you were always dying, but Christ being in you made you realize it. And then dying to sin, dying to the law... I like the example Paul uses elsewhere about dying to the law like a husband's death frees a woman to marry again.

Here's another passage, also by Paul, from 2 Corinthians 4:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

In this case the death of the body clearly means joining the suffering of Jesus... in the verses before, he was talking about the sufferings that they were undergoing to tell people about Jesus. This is such a lovely picture of the kingdom, and I think a good parallel with Romans 8. There's the same idea of a continual death of the body (through continually denying it comfort, fellowship, etc, for the sake of doing what Jesus wants them to do), and because the death is for the sake of Jesus, the life that we live, even in our mortal bodies full of sin, is Jesus' life... that is, it is revealed in us. And so the life of Jesus overflows from our bodies full of death to other people. So, as Romans 8 says, if we do have Christ the body is dead because of sin (because we deny the body's demands, since we follow Christ now, so by the Spirit we put to death the body's demands). And so the life we do live is Christ's.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Life to our mortal bodies!

BUT! If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you

I love this verse. I picture Paul writing it in hushed awe, as around him he can hear echoes of angels singing, trying to take in and to express all at once the goodness, the kindness, the mercy, the cleverness, the complete power and absolute victory of God. That said, I'm not really sure what it means. The thing that immediately strikes me is that God gets everything and Satan gets nothing.

I love how this translation starts the verse with "but", which I shouldn't make too big a deal of since most others say "and". Anyhow, at the end of the last verse, our bodies were dead because of sin, but the Spirit was life because of righteousness. Though actually, in the last post I never went into what the life part meant. I'm inclined to think that it means what's said here... He is the Spirit of Life, we are under His law now, and so are free from sin and death. Why say it again, what he already said in the first verse and again, sort of, in the verse directly previous? I think because it is very important for us to know specifically that resurrection and regeneration extends even to our bodies.

I love what this says about God. In Him is Life, he is the Life; to be in contact with Him is to be made alive. The power that was able to conquer death and raise Jesus from the dead lives in us.. making us part of it...and so even our mortal bodies become so infused with Life as He lives in us that they are alive even though they are dead because of sin. I have more instinctual understanding of this than actual understanding. One thing that I don't know is, does this refer to the resurrection, after we die? Or is this something that is happening now? My instinct is that since the Spirit dwelling in us is a continuous thing, it means that every part that is in contact with him is being made alive, so that when we are completely filled with him our whole body will be resurrected.

I'm a little confused about whether mortal bodies is referring to our actual flesh..the Life is living in us and so even the processes of decay will reverse. If this is the case, then the "life to our mortal bodies" is certainly not a continuous thing, because Christians get sick and die like everyone else. I guess what I am thinking is that as the fleshly mind becomes renewed and brought to life by continuously dying to itself and being made alive by the Spirit, when at last our mortal bodies die and, seeing Christ and being made like him, we fully at last are filled with the Spirit of Life, we will find that there is nothing about us that death can get any hold on, that it has anything to do with. We'll have been completely made into inappropriate material for death.

One last thing that I love about this... WH Auden says, "He is the Life/ Love Him in World of the Flesh/ and at your marriage, all its occasions shall dance for joy." Even our flesh will be redeemed and restored, even our flesh, that we thought weighed us down, will become... one of the occasions of our marriage. Even our broken and ugly flesh, weighing us down and embarrassing us, will become uniquely precious, and so can be loved and taken joy in now, for the sake of Christ!!!!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

There are two translations of this; one capitalizes Spirit (as in, he is alive, in you) and one doesn’t (ie, your spirit itself is alive). This is a difficult and beautiful verse. It first assumes that Christ is in you. We know from the previous verse that that is because his Spirit is in us. Is the body dead because of sin because Christ is in us, (ie, Christ in us makes our bodies dead because of sin) or in spite of that fact (ie, even though the body is dead because of sin, because Christ is in you the spirit is life). I think it could go both ways. I guess the first thing to think about is, what is meant by death?

I feel like there are a lot of verses which talk about how we actually die because we are joined with Christ… say, Galations 2:19-20 (For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me) and Galations 5:24 (Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.) Is this the same kind of death that Romans talks about? And what does it mean?

Here are some things that I think it can’t mean. It doesn’t mean that we died to sin… that is, us and sin are no longer in the same world and breathe the same air. Death means no movement, no interaction, and is very final, but we get up and fight sin in ourselves every day. Also, it can’t mean literally that our bodies are dead because they aren’t, or at least not what we call dead. It doesn’t mean that if Christ is in us, sinful nature is completely dead in us. Maybe go back a bit and say what we mean by “the body”. If we’re taking these verses to be parallel, “I” and “the body” could both mean “the sinful nature with its passions and desires”. This sounds reasonable. But if we fight with our sinful nature every day, how can we say we have crucified it? And, my old question… is it something passive that just happens when we accept Jesus, or is it something active and ongoing?

My instinct is that it’s both. Let’s see if it makes sense in light of grafting. So a branch on its own does what is its nature to do… it slowly dies. Its cells keep performing their functions, but since it’s not connected to a plant, they can’t get water and nutrients. By the nature of what plants are (ie, the law) it is dying. If it’s an apricot branch, it’s a dying apricot branch. But, say it’s grafted onto a plum tree. In order to not be condemned to death by the law of nature, it needs to become part of the plum tree--it needs to die to its apricot self. This is a silly metaphor. But that death is actually accomplished by the sap, the life of the plum tree entering into it and interacting with it. It’s attachment to the living plum tree means that it is both going to have to die to what it was before, and that because of the living sap moving in it can now be alive in a way it never was. Jesus, the Spirit of Christ, enters into our current death and helps us to die every day to our old nature.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

We have Christ, Christ has us

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

So, when the Spirit of God dwells in us we are not "in" the flesh any more, because he is now "in" us. The next part of the relationship is with Christ. I wonder why they call the Spirit "of God" in the first sentence and then "of Christ" in the second, and why they talk about it negatively, as in the ones who don't have it, rather than positively. I think that it is necessary to talking about how our relationship with God is mediated by Christ, as is explained in the next verse.

I want to make the idea of "having" very complicated and contrasted with "being" in the flesh, but I don't think that it is. I think the reason why Paul used "have" instead is to make the point more strong that if you don't have Christ, he doesn't have you. But otherwise it's parallel...if you have Christ, Christ is in you, in the person of his Spirit. It's still interesting to me that we are portrayed as the larger entity. It never says that we are in Christ or in the Spirit, but that they are in us. My idea of this goes back to my plant metaphor; it is important that the sap is in the branch, but you couldn't really say that the branch is in the sap. And if it's very important that you define how the plant as a whole relates to the branch, you could say that the branch belongs to the plant (and vice versa) because the plant's sap is in the branch.

One reason that occurs to me, why it avoids saying here that we are in Christ or in the Spirit, is that like I talked about before Paul really wants to make clear here that our relationship with the Spirit and the change that results from it are internal, and we are changed from the inside out. If he said that we were in the Spirit (which for all I know he does say, elsewhere) we could think that it was something that we could immerse ourselves in and he would infuse into us from the outside, through osmosis. But in this context it's important that the Spirit is in us, and the change is generated from the inside.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Spirit of God dwelling in you

Back to this idea of relationship. This passage seems to call out the individual, and put each Christian into direct relationship with the Trinity. And how is that relationship described?

1. God has a Spirit. This Spirit dwells in you.
2. Christ has the same Spirit. If we “have” this Spirit, Christ “has” us.
3. By this Spirit, Christ is in us.
4. So, the love of the Father for the Son extends to us and his power is able to work in us.

First of all, the Spirit of God is dwelling in you. What does this mean? The word “dwell” suggests a long-term, intimate relationship. But he doesn’t just dwell with you, he dwells in you. The same word (I’m assuming it’s the same word) is used for our relationship with our flesh… we are “in the flesh”. Before, Paul talked about walking according to the spirit or flesh or Spirit, but this seems much more personal. I feel like the transition verse was where he says that “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, and those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit”. I can’t really tell the cause and effect, but how life is externally lived is a reflection (or a cause) of one’s interior life. Here it gets complicated, because to “set one’s mind on the things of the Spirit” has, as discussed before, the implication that it’s something that we do on purpose, while “the Spirit of God dwelling in you” has a much more passive, there’s nothing that I’m doing sound to it. I guess it could be both.. if I’m thinking that it’s parallel to walking according to the flesh, setting your mind on the things of the flesh and “being in the flesh”… you do what the flesh tells you to, because in your mind are fleshly things—they probably feed off of each other…you choose how you live based on how your mind works, and your mind is influenced by how you are living. And to be “in the flesh” is to inhabit this state… a mind at enmity with God, and actions that can’t please Him.

But we’re not in the flesh anymore… instead, the Spirit is in us. I keep thinking in terms of a country… to be in a country, we’re subject to its laws and organizational workings. Everywhere you move around and no matter what you do you’re still in that country. It’s interesting that it doesn’t say (here, at any rate) that we are “in the Spirit”… instead, the Spirit is “in us”. So He enters into our country, into the government and infrastructure of our bodies and minds that we had even before he came, and lives there. And by his living there, we are not part of The Flesh anymore… in us, He revolts and sets up an autonomous country, and we aren’t subject to The Flesh’s laws and we can tear up its roads and put in new schools or whatnot. And we can now live according to God’s law, because we’re not subject to the laws of the old country anymore. I realize I made a mistake when I said in the Spirit we’re an autonomous country. Of course we’re not. We’re now like a colony or outpost of God’s country.