We are studying Romans 8:1-14 for Sunday, May 12. The text is the capstone of Paul’s long presentation of his gospel: the message that sinful humanity has been saved from its estrangement from God by the gracious and faithful sacrifice of Jesus Christ and through faith in the gracious and faithful person and work of Jesus Christ. [Study notes on the text are here.] Here are a few questions about the text that we might want to consider before class or to discuss in class:
In verse 1, Paul contrasts a “before” and “after” state of affairs: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What is the before? What is the after? How does this before and after apply to Paul’s Roman audience? To a later audience? [For instance, to us?]
In verse 2, Paul contrasts two different “laws,” the “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” and the “law of sin and death.” This contrast sums up the letter so far, which has discussed the relationship of sin, “the law,” righteousness, death, and their involvement in the relationship of God and humankind. How do we understand this contrast? Where does our understanding of this contrast come from? What else in Paul’s letter helps us understand the contrast Paul is pointing to?
In verse 3, Paul introduces a contrast between “the flesh” and “the spirit.” What do we think Paul means by “the flesh”? Does it include “the human body”? Is it more than or something different from that?
Does “the flesh” have anything to do with circumcision, do we think? (See Romans 3 & 4.) Does “the flesh” have anything to do with ancestry or ethnicity, do we think? What else can “flesh” signify? How do these different meanings of “the flesh” affect what Paul is saying here, do we think?
Is it easier for a diverse group of people to share “the flesh,” or to share “the spirit,” do we think? Why?
In verse 5, Paul develops the contrast between “flesh” and “spirit” by contrasting two mindsets and two corresponding ways of life: life according to the flesh, with a mind set on the things of the flesh; life according to the spirit, with a mind set on the things of the spirit. How would we describe those two ways of life and mindsets?
Again, thinking back to earlier chapters in Romans (Romans 1-4), does a mind set on the things of the flesh have anything to do with circumcision, religious ritual, religious practice, and so on? Why, or why not? What kinds of things are included in the things of the spirit?
Again, thinking back to earlier chapters in Romans, do the “things of the spirit” have anything to do with behavior? What kind of behavior? Whose behavior?
Does Paul’s earlier discussion help us understand what he is including in “the flesh” and “the spirit”? How?
When he talks about the spirit here, do we think he still means “the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” or do we think his meaning has shifted? How? Why do we think that? If we continue to read “the spirit” as short for “the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” does it affect how we understand what Paul is saying? How is it different from other ways of understanding “the spirit” in these verses?
In verse 7, Paul contrasts being hostile to God and pleasing God. How? What is associated with hostility to God? What is associated with pleasing God? What does “God’s law” mean in this verse? What is included in it, do we think? What is not included in it, do we think? How does this relate to Paul’s earlier discussion of “the law,” and “the flesh,” do we think?
In verse 9, Paul contrasts being “in the flesh” with being “in the Spirit.” How do we understand this contrast?
[More personal] Do we feel included in Paul’s audience here, or excluded from it? Why is that? How do we feel about that? Could we be included? How? How would we feel about that?
[Still more personal] When we think of our own lives, where do we see ourselves in the contrasts Paul is setting up? Do we see ourselves on the “flesh” side, the “spirit” side, more one side than the other, now one side now the other side …? Why do we think that? How do we feel about that? Why? What are the implications for us?