Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Adults-Only Sanctification

We have seen that Romans 7 fleshes out what Paul means by "under the law" in 6:14 -- to be under the law is to be under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic legislation, with its curse sanctions for disobedience. This situation exacerbates the dominion of sin since the law only has the power to command, and not the power to renew the heart.

What does it mean, then, to be "under grace"?

As would be expected, Paul describes life under grace in Romans 8. If life "under the law" referred to existence under the Old Covenant, then life "under grace" refers to existence under the New Covenant of which Christ, not Moses, is the Mediator.

If the Old Covenant was characterized by Torah (law), the New Covenant is characterized by Pneuma (Spirit). The third Person of the Godhead is altogether absent from Romans 7:14-25, yet he appears 19 times in Romans 8. What accounts for this?

The so-called contrast between flesh and Spirit (big S) is not simply an anthropological one, as if these two categories denote the good and bad parts of the believer. Rather, the contrast between these two concepts (and between Romans 7 and 8 specifically) is redemptive-historical. The Holy Spirit, whose proper domain is the glory of heaven, has intruded into this present age and been shed forth upon the Church by the risen Christ. The new aeon has dawned in Jesus' resurrection, which constituted him a "life-giving Spirit" (I Cor. 15:45). The subsequent gift of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost signified the in-breaking into this age of the resurrection-power of the age to come. As Paul put it in Ephesians 1:19-20, God works in us powerfully "according to the working of his mighty power which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead."

The people of God, therefore, are no longer underage heirs who, differing little from slaves, must be under constant watch by the babysitter of the law. Rather, as full-grown adults we have been given the Spirit of the risen Christ, who functions as a foretaste of heaven and guarantee of our future and final Sabbath rest (Gal. 4:1-7).

In the light of these things, what manner of persons ought we to be?