Archive for the ‘Romans’ Tag

Receive The Spirit Of The Father And Son! Part 4

Receive The Holy Spirit 2

Audio – Part 4A: 33min


Audio – Part 4B: 30min


Audio – Full Message:


Bible Verses: Romans 8 Romans 8: 26  Acts 13:2 John 15: 26  


This Good News Message is about Our Receiving the Holy Spirit of the Father and Son, Received by Jesus first, and then given as a Gracious Gift to Humanity. He Gives Himself and is given All of Grace and not of Works, Being Himself God!

Theological Theme:

We are called to a life of submission to God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in participation with Jesus, and that submission begins to work as He reveals Himself to us, and often in surprising and ordinary ways, described often as as “Suddenly” in the scriptures. The Holy Spirit is One Who speaks (intercedes, leads). He IS the dynamic and relational power of God, and we are to respond when He speaks even when it counteracts that which seems “normal” or “right” to us. True Godly Action means acting however the Holy Spirit wants to act in you – NOT what you have in your minds.

” The Holy Spirit works actively among us—both as a body and as individuals. Let me suggest that a primary aspect of this ministry of the Spirit among us is to enable us to make a full and proper response to the truth and reality of who God is and what he has done, is doing and will do in our church, our world and within us. Enabling us to make that response is the key.

..The Holy Spirit unbinds our wills and unscrambles our minds and refashions our affections so we can more fully respond with all that we are to all that God is. The Spirit frees us to be receptive at every level of who we are. ” – Guidelines to an Understanding of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, by Gary Deddo

Christ Connection:

The Holy Spirit brings conviction of the truth and that truth is that God wants to glorify Himself in you. God wants to give you the ACTUAL life of Jesus Christ and it is The Holy Spirit’s job to pull that off. As The Holy Spirit points us to Christ, we learn to trust only Christ. As James Torrance has spoken, “More important than our experience of Christ is the Christ of our experience.”

“Jesus lives his fully human life in and by the Spirit…….So, when the Spirit of Jesus comes upon us, he enables us to respond fully to the truth and reality of who God is and who we are in relationship to him with all we are and have. If there’s part of us not yet responding, whether the body, mind or heart, the Holy Spirit will work to bring us to the point that we do. The Holy Spirit doesn’t divide us, but heals and makes us whole, giving us human integrity before our Lord and God.

..The Holy Spirit correlates with [Jesus’] ministry to make us whole in body, soul and spirit. The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to make us more fully human, like Jesus, the one in whose image we were created and are being renewed or transformed (Colossians 3:102 Corinthians 3:18). The Holy Spirit shares with us the sanctified humanity of Jesus, which makes us fully human, more completely human, more personal, filling us up with the fruit of the Spirit. True spirituality is mature humanity in full and right relationship with God.

..So we can say the Holy Spirit humanizes us by making us share in the glorified humanity of Christ. In the process, he brings us to have humility before God.” – Guidelines to an Understanding of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, by Gary Deddo

Missional Application:

All humanity is called to submit to The Holy Spirit and, for the most part, what that looks like for us is going where we know not! It involves His laying out His strategy for your life (Jesus!) so that you can stop trying to guess where you are in God’s plan. It involves submitting in trust that the Holy Spirit does know where you are and therefore you can walk with Him day by day trusting Him.

“The Holy Spirit objects to our false, resistant, self-justifying subjective orientations. The Holy Spirit is not the subjective aspect of human beings that can be shaped and formed anyway we like, made to say what we want, made to reflect our own preferences, prejudices, biases and desires. The Holy Spirit has a particular character, mind, will, purpose, desire and heart, which is identical to that of Jesus Christ. We have no power over the Holy Spirit to recreate him in our own image. The Holy Spirit has his own objective reality, which works within our subjectivity to open our eyes, minds and hearts to God.

..The Holy Spirit, then, is a healer who brings the whole of human being together from the inside out. He does not split us up.

..The Holy Spirit does not divide up human being into compartments, but harmonizes the internal with the external, sharing with us the reestablished integrity of Jesus’ sanctified humanity.” – Guidelines to an Understanding of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, by Gary Deddo


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Receive The Spirit Of The Father And Son! Part 3

Receive The Holy Spirit 2

Audio – Part 3A: 30min


Audio – Part 2B: 26min


Audio – Full Message:


Bible Verse: Romans 8

This Good News Message is about Receiving the Holy Spirit of the Father and Son, given as a Gracious Gift to Humanity. He is given All of Grace and not of Works,  Being Himself God!

It is NOT about what you need to do to apply The Holy Spirit to your life but rather what The Holy Spirit is doing to apply JESUS CHRIST to your life.

Theological Theme:

From the Father, through the Son, we are sent the Holy Spirit that we may participate with the Son in His Relationship with the Father. The Holy Spirit is the Fellowship between The Father and The Son; The Spirit of communion between The Father and Son.

The Holy Spirit is: God of God – The Spirit’s work is to take what God the Father has done to us in Jesus (the Grace of God) and live it out in and through us. He doesn’t speak on his own but only what he hears from the Father and Son, meaning He must be God as the Father and Son are God.

“The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.” – A. W. Tozer

Christ Connection:

Jesus sends the Spirit from the Father! Not much is revealed about the Holy Spirit as we may think because He is invisible and more akin to being the “shyness of God” and “the hiddenness of God” whose central purpose is to point us to the Father-Son relationship. The Holy Spirit gives us limited understanding about himself in His Person. He has come rather to mediate Jesus Christ to us and conform us to His image, and where and how he does this is like trying to observe what the wind is up to!

The Holy Spirit is the confirmation of Christ’s victory over all of our faults and all of our issues. He is the guarantee that our sins have been overcome and there is complete and total victory for us to have in Christ. We were sent the Holy Spirit so we can share in the victory of Christ.

“Just as the right relationship with Christ generates a Christian, so the proper relationship with the Holy Spirit breeds a spiritual man.” – Watchman Nee

Missional Application:

The Holy Spirit is the Bond of Love. Love is a concrete relationship – the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit. If the Father cannot know The Son apart from the Holy Spirit, you can’t know the person next to you apart from the Holy Spirit and you can’t know God The Father apart from the Holy Spirit, nor can you receive the Son apart from The Holy Spirit. That is how crucial it is to know The Holy Spirit and to have Him. He is the unique one of a kind Spirit, the Pure Spirit who mediates and shares Christ with us that we might repent and believe the Good News of the Father’s Love for us!

We are called into mission with Jesus Christ. That mission is primarily the Father seeking to give humanity a share in His relationship with His Son – Jesus Christ – through the Person of The Holy Spirit!

 “The Spirit is one with the Father and one with the Son. Jesus is conceived by the Spirit, he has the Spirit for us and he ministers in and by the Spirit even in his atoning work on the cross. Jesus and the Father send the Spirit to us. The Spirit takes us to the Father through the Son. By the Spirit we are united to Christ so that we share in his life, life in fellowship and communion with the Father. And we share, by the Spirit, in Jesus’ ongoing ministry in the church and in the world.” –  Guidelines to an Understanding of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, by Gary Deddo


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“Jesus! : Humanity’s Participation In God’s Yes and No!”

called to belong

Part 1a: 27min


Part 1b: 27min


Full Message: 54min


Main Passages: Romans 1:1-6

Because God has said “YES, humanity, you will live!”, then he must necessarily say “NO!” to sin and everything which destroys life!

“God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is so for us that He has accomplished a HUGE NO on our behalf but it is only a NO that serves His YES!” “How will YOU respond to your resurrection in Jesus Christ?” – TJBrassell

“God is the ‘Yes’ in our ‘No’ and the ‘No’ in our ‘Yes’, the First and the Last…” – Karl Barth

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Can I Just Sin All I want?


Shortly after I was confronted with Trinitarian thought in 2006 (thanks to my good friend Timothy J. Brassell) I began to wrestle with many issues peripheral to the Gospel. One question that came up over and over was, “Well, If I am saved in Jesus and always will be, why can’t I just sin all I want? God will still love me right?”

Well yes of course, if you sin all you want God will still love you and (here’s the kicker) he will still like you too! But it doesn’t mean we should just sin all we want. In fact Paul’s answer to this question in Romans 6:1-2 is “certainly not!”

Let me explain by using one particular behavior that drives me nuts.pinocchio

It seems that in today’s heated political climate the practice of slandering and denigrating others has been taken to new lows. Every day we hear about some politician who said this about some other politician and then in turn that politician retorts with an equally derogatory statement.

Well what is “Bearing False Witness”? Simply put it is just that, telling a tale about another that is untrue. It isn’t just your basic lie or fairy tale; it is much more mean-spirited than that.

An example of telling a lie would be me telling you that I once caught a ten-pound Largemouth bass- no wait… that one is true. Let’s make it a 30-pound Largemouth bass… that would definitely be a lie.

An example of bearing false witness would be to intentionally, for some nefarious reason, make an accusation against another that is untrue. At its core, bearing false witness has the intention to do harm.

So what’s the big deal? Why not bear false witness and get ahead as a result? Why not spread rumors and make false claims against someone in the office in order to get that promotion instead of them?

Well here’s why.

The Father, Son, and Spirit have created us to share in their very life of love and community. Participating in the Triune Life of God is the specific and foremost reason you and I were created.

So when we read of some behavior that the Lord tells us to avoid, it is always because that behavior is eternally absent from the Godhead. There is never a time when Jesus bears false witness against the Father or the Spirit. The Spirit always bears truth about the Father/ Son relationship in the Life of the Trinity. Likewise there is never any betrayal, stealing, gossiping, cheating, etc…

Do you see? We are created for… and to share the very life of God!

So instead of asking “Why can’t I just sin all I want?” My question gradually became, “Why on earth do I want to sin at all?” And with this new question came a prayer: “Lord please help me remember who I am, whose I am, and teach me how to participate more fully in your divine Life of Love.”

~Bill Winn

I don’t believe in Adam, and I’m OK

Many of us are comfortable with a literal reading of Genesis, finding its account of human origins more plausible than anything else we’ve heard.  If that’s you, this post will either bore or offend you.  But if you’re like me—unable to swallow a literal reading of Genesis—this post’s for you.

I’ve believed in evolution for a couple decades now, and I spent much of that time in the closet, afraid to talk to anyone about it.  I spent a couple of those years not believing in God, because I’d grown convinced that my science and my religion were incompatible. It’s been a long and fruitful journey for me, and today I can’t imagine doing theology without evolutionary science by my side. My science provides my theology with fantastic depth, fruitfulness, and beauty that it couldn’t have any other way. I love where I’m at with it.

But a friend recently brought up a question about this, and it’s relevant to our theological project here in the Trinity and Humanity blog community, so I thought I’d post about it here.

Many Christian evolutionists believe in a historical pair of Homo Sapiens named Adam & Eve.  I do not, for a variety of reasons.  Does this fundamentally conflict with Saint Paul’s “Adam Theology” (expressed in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15), which is a really important piece of the Trinity-and-Humanity vision of God?

In these passages, Paul uses Adam to illustrate the universality of Jesus’ saving work.  The basic idea is expressed succinctly in Romans 5.18:

Just as [Adam’s] one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also [Jesus’s] one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

Here are two quick reasons why my belief in Paul’s theology doesn’t conflict with my non-belief in a historical Adam:

1.  Divinely-inspired ancient people don’t know quantum mechanics.
Or Newton’s laws of motion. Or that the Earth orbits the Sun.  Or that all life on Earth is related by birth.  As far as I can tell, Paul believes in an Earth-centered cosmos and a historical Adam & Eve, and that’s okay by me.  My trust in Paul as a divinely-inspired messenger of the Gospel does not compel me to agree with his notions about the natural world.

2.  Paul’s argument rests on Jesus, not Adam.
In these passages, Paul wants us to know that Jesus affects all of humankind, and he uses his understanding of human origins to illustrate how that can happen.  Similarly, Hosea says that God is as trustworthy as the sun’s movement around the earth (Hosea 6.3). The truth of his theology does not rest on the accuracy of his science.  New Testament scholar N.T. Wright backs me up on this:

If you’re interested in learning more about the interface between biblical Christian faith and evolutionary science, Peter Enn’s Biologos is a pretty good place to start.


I understand that some of my friends might not like what I have said here.  If that’s the case for you, please know:  I don’t need you to agree with me, but I do hope I can continue being welcome at your table.  I think our theological project here is big enough for us to continue working side-by-side.

Romans 8:9

A friend of mine recently asked me how I understand Romans 8:9 in light of the good news of humanity’s adoption into the Trinity through Jesus Christ. In case you don’t have a Bible handy, Romans 8:9 reads:

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

First of all, I believe we all have to stop trying to interpret Jesus in the light of the Bible and start interpreting the Bible in the light of Jesus. At the most practical level this means that clear, Christological passages such as Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, John 1, Hebrews 1, and Romans 5 take hermeneutical precedence over less clear or less directly Christological passages such as Romans 8:9.

Since Romans 5:18 says that all are forgiven in Jesus and Colossians 1:20 says that everything is reconciled in him, then it is not right to interpret Romans 8:9 in a way that contradicts these clear Christological passages. If we come up with an interpretation of Romans 8:9 that contradicts Romans 5:18 then we have the wrong interpretation of 8:9 and we have to go back to the drawing board.

All scripture is inspired and useful but not all scripture is equal. “Come, let us be going” (John 14:31) is not as important as “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16.) And in the context of our conversation, “those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to him” is not as important as “while we were utterly helpless Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6.)

Secondly, I think we need to listen to what we are saying – I know when I started listening to myself I was shocked at what I was saying! Many of us Christians will acknowledge that “God is the King over all of His creation and nothing, not even ‘hell’ is outside of His presence and authority.” But then we will quickly move on from this as though it were nothing, or only incidental to the discussion. I used to do this all the time and then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks “I don’t really believe that Jesus is Lord of All! I sing a song with those words but I don’t believe it!”

We have all been guilty of, in essence, saying:

Oh yeah, Jesus is Lord, everything is under his control – but forget all that mumbo-jumbo, let me tell you what really matters: WE really matter, it’s our work, it’s our decision that makes everything happen. We adopt ourselves into the Trinity. We make ourselves into children of the eternal Father. We summon the Holy Spirit from heaven by our words and compel him to pour himself out on us because we prayed the right prayer, got dunked in the right water, or tarried at the right all night meeting.

Or, let me put it this way: if unbelievers don’t belong to the Father then who do they belong to? Satan? Does Satan sustain them by his powerful word the same way Jesus does? (Heb. 1:3) Are Jesus and Satan co-equal gods and part of humanity lives and moves and has its being in Jesus and part of humanity lives and moves and has its being in Satan? (Acts 17:28)

What I’m getting so worked up about is this: it is highly significant and foundationally important that we begin all our thinking about everything in the universe from the reality that nothing is outside of Jesus’ presence and authority. This is not a fact to pay lip service to and then move on from. This is the fundamental nature of reality. This is the basis of existence in the universe. It’s so important that John’s gospel, and the epistles to Colosse, Ephesus, and the Hebrews all begin with this point before they talk about anything else.

So, Romans 8:9 has to be interpreted in light of two foundational truths on which we will never compromise: everything exists in Jesus and everything is reconciled in Jesus. Therefore, whatever else Paul means when he says “does not belong to Christ” he cannot mean “is not adopted, is not forgiven, or does not exist in Jesus.”

Paul says that whoever has the Spirit of Christ belongs to Christ. Therefore, it is not possible to have the Spirit and not belong to Christ nor is it possible to belong to Christ and not have the Spirit. Why? Because the Spirit comes from the Father, through the Son (John 14:16.)

There is no part of Jesus disconnected from the Spirit. There is no humanity disconnected from Jesus. Therefore, there is no humanity that does not have the Spirit of Jesus.

This reality is, in fact, reinforced in the Greek where Paul uses the word “eiper” in the first clause of the verse. “Eiper” means “since” or “if it is true that” and therefore that first half of the verse could – and, I think, should – be translated “since the Spirit of God lives in you.” Since all people live and move and have their being in Jesus, all people have the Spirit of God.

But, as Paul knows, and we can all see, there are billions of people who don’t walk in step with the Spirit.

That’s what he means when he says “don’t belong to Christ.” He means they are living as thought they don’t belong, even though – in fact – they do belong. They are adopted children of the Father in Jesus and don’t know it and don’t live like it. In fact, even those of us who know it forget it all the time and often indulge the sinful nature instead of walking with the Spirit. As Paul has already established in Romans 1-3, there is no one who lives a good enough life to earn his place in the Triune Life. If we think that belonging to Christ, and having his Spirit, is something that we do by our right belief and right behavior then we are all up the creek without a paddle because none of us are ever able to believe correctly or behave correctly 100% of the time.

So, Romans 8:9 cannot be saying “if you do the right thing then you can make yourself into someone who belongs to Christ and compel the Spirit to come down from heaven and make himself your personal property.” Romans 8:9 has to be saying “since you have the Spirit of Christ, because of who Christ is for humanity and what he has done for humanity, start believing and living this truth.”

In the light of who Jesus is, what Paul means in Romans 8 is that there are two ways human beings can live: we can live as the children of the Father that we really are in Christ by keeping in step with the Spirit or we can live a lie.

We can live out of step with the Spirit, living like we don’t belong to Christ (even though we really do) and living like we aren’t the Father’s children (even though we really are). Paul is saying “live the truth of your real identity as those who belong to Christ.” This message applies to us as much as it applied to the ancient Romans because we all belong to Jesus and it applies to the whole world – this is why we give Bibles to everyone, not just believers – because the whole world belongs to Jesus.

~ Jonathan Stepp

The Spirit of Adoption

A Trinitarian, Christ-centered paraphrase of Romans 8.14-27

(14) The Holy Spirit is leading you deeper into your true life as Papa’s child. (15) He is not a spirit of bondage and fear. He is the Spirit of Adoption, the Spirit who puts Jesus’ sonship inside of us.  When we cry out “Papa! Daddy! Father!” (16) it is the Holy Spirit who is speaking the truth from inside OUR spirit.  The truth that we ARE Papa’s children, (17) the truth that we are the inheritors of the super-abundant life Jesus shares with Papa.  And of course, sharing in his glorious life means sharing in his sufferings as well. (18) But be encouraged:  The pain we’re experiencing now—and indeed, all the suffering in the history of the world—is NOTHING compared to the boundless joy and strength for which we are destined.

(19) We aren’t the only ones in pain.  The whole universe groans as it waits for the full unveiling of the human race as Papa’s children, as it longs for us to step up the plate and play our assigned role in the cosmos. (20) For the universe itself is slowly winding down, running out of gas, moving slowly toward its own death.  Papa chose to restrict his creation in this way, (21) with the intent of eventually moving it beyond those limitations.  The day will come when the cosmos will be free from its chains of slow decay.  The very fabric of space-time will be transformed in the luminous freedom of Papa’s children in the world. (22) The old created order will give birth to New Creation, but in the meantime, the universe writhes and groans in the pain of childbirth. (23) We ourselves are experiencing that pain now, because through the Spirit we have already tasted the fruit of the new world.  We groan inwardly as we long for more, as we wait for the full effect of our adoption—the liberating transformation of our bodies.

(24) We were saved so that we would have a future! The Triune Life was given to us with an eye toward a glorious future in which that Life would fill the cosmos to overflowing.  This is our sure hope, and hope by definition involves stuff we don’t yet see. (25) We hope for what we can’t see yet, and because of this hope the Spirit has given us, we can be content while we wait.  (26) This is the way the Spirit’s strength makes up for our weakness.  When we don’t know how to talk to Papa, it is his Spirit in us who does the talking for us, expressing what’s inside us in ways too deep for words. (27) The Holy Spirit knows us deep in the guts of our soul, and he shares his knowing with Papa.

~ John Stonecypher

The Mind at War with the Body – OH GOOD!

A Trinitarian Christ-centered paraphrase of Romans 7.24 – 8.11)

(7.24) I am miserable!  I am stuck!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  (25) Who?  Jesus, that’s who.  Through him I shout Hallelujah!  It is true that my body still lives under the boot of darkness, because my body is still out-of-touch with the real world.  But my MIND has now made contact with REALITY.  Because my mind knows that Jesus is Lord, I have begun to come alive under his blessed rule.

(8.1) Do you realize what this means?!?  My out-of-touch bodily behaviors are no longer earning me the wage of death!  We have already earned that wage, and in Master Jesus, we have already been paid in full!  Our actions no longer condemn us to eternal death, because we have already died!  Our death sentence has already been carried out!  Jesus knows this, and to share in his knowledge is to experience his freedom from the burden of condemnation and shame. (2) For the living Spirit of Master Jesus has set us free from the oppression of darkness and death. (3) Papa has now done what Torah wanted to do (but couldn’t because of the weakness of our flesh).  By injecting his own Son into our diseased human-ness, he both destroyed the disease AND absorbed the death sentence that resulted from it.  (4) He did this to fulfill Torah’s desire — abundant human life.  This desire is fulfilled in US as our bodies learn to follow the Spirit in living according to reality.

(5) If we choose to preoccupy our minds with our bodily appetites and urges, then we will continue behaving in ways that seek to satisfy those appetites.  But if we choose instead to occupy our minds with the Holy Spirit’s desire for goodness/truth/ beauty, then we will begin to behave in ways that satisfy THOSE desires. (6) The path to death is the mind set on the satisfaction of bodily urges.  The path to life and peace is the mind set on the fulfillment of the Spirit’s desires. (7) The mind obsessed with bodily self-gratification is hostile to Papa.  It does not listen to him; indeed it cannot. (8) To manage your mind in this way is to fight against Papa’s dreams for you.

(9) But YOUR mind is NOT obsessed with self-gratification.  YOUR mind is set instead on the SPIRIT’S obsession with abundant life.  The Holy Spirit dwells in your spirit, and as you grow in belief, he is more and more expressing himself in your bodily behaviors as well.  The point is that the Holy Spirit HAS your mind, and your body will follow.  It is GOOD that your inner self is at war with your outer self.  It means you have begun to heal!  It is much worse for those whose mind and body are united in opposition to Jesus and his Spirit.  They have a long and painful road ahead of them.

(10) But YOU are already well on your way down that road.  Master Jesus has already conquered your mind, and your body is next!  Yes, your body still languishes in darkness and death, but your spirit is alive with the rightness of Jesus! (11) His Spirit is dwelling in you and expressing the Triune Life in you.  Remember, this is the Spirit of him who raised Jesus’ body from the dead.  You can trust him to raise YOUR body too!

~John Stonecypher

A Minority Party in My Body

(A Trinitarian, Christ-centered paraphrase of Romans 7.6-25a)


NOTE: For Romans 5.20 – 7.6 , see the October issue of THE ADOPTED LIFE.


(7.6) Now that Torah has fulfilled its function, we are free from it.  Now we are bound not to words on page but to new life in the Spirit.

(7) Does that mean Torah is bad?  Absolutely not!  Torah is what brought me face to face with MY OWN badness.  For example, Torah said “You will not salivate over other people’s stuff,” and that was the day I became aware of my own covetous drooling. (8) Not only that, but my sick soul responded by making me salivate even MORE.  Without rules, rule-breaking has no life. (9) I was alive without rules, once upon a time.  But when the rules came, the rule-breaker in me stirred to life (10) and destroyed me.  Because of the darkness inside me, the Torah code of life-enhancing boundaries only intensified my experience of deadness. (11) My darkness twisted the light of Torah into just more darkness and death.

(12) Torah is beautiful; its commands are true and just and good. (13) Am I saying that a good thing destroyed me?  Not at all!  It was the darkness within me that used good things to create more darkness.  All of this just exposes sin for what it really is.  Provoked by the commandment, the darkness intensifies, and all the shades of gray go straight to black.

(14) Torah addresses issues that spring from my innermost self, my mind, my spirit.  But the problem is that my outer self (my body) is firmly dominated by old sinful patterns. (15) I don’t understand my behavior sometimes.  I don’t do what I love to do; instead I do the things I hate. (16) When my behavior is out of control, it is true that external rules and restrictions can be a helpful part of the healing process. (17) But the fact is that when I sin, it is not my true self.  It is my false self, the fleshly echo of the person I used to be. (18) In my flesh is ingrained a lifetime of accumulated nasty habits.  I may want to behave in a healthier way, but I cannot simply wish my way out of the old ruts. I am stuck! (19) I want to behave in healthy ways but I don’t.  Instead, I behave in unhealthy ways, even though I don’t want to.

(20) My body (my outer self) does things my spirit (my inner self) does not want.  My behavior is being driven not by my true self, but by a kind of ‘muscle memory.’ My body is simply doing what I have spent a lifetime  conditioning it to do. (21) Whenever I want to do good, the evil inside me is always there to offer its ‘better ideas.’  (22) My mind votes for the Triune way of goodness, (23) my body votes for something else,  and my body seems to win every single election.  I’m stuck as a powerless minority party in my own body! (24) I am miserable!  I am stuck!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?!?

(25a) Who?  Jesus, that’s who.  Through him I shout Hallelujah!

~ John Stonecypher



In this passage we see a classic image that both Paul and Jesus use a lot — the war between the inner and outer self.  The Pharisees were so careful to clean the outside of the cup while ignoring the inside, so Jesus told them that if they washed the inside, the outside would take care of itself.  This is plain to anyone who has ever washed dishes.  Paul most often speaks of this in terms of his spirit versus his flesh.  His spirit is his inside self, which he often equates with his mind [See Rom 7.23,25], and his flesh refers to his body, his actual behaviors performed by his muscles or ‘members.’

Both Jesus and Paul are dealing with the difficulties that arise from the way our behaviors become automatic after a certain number of repetitions.  When I was one year old, I had to think hard about how to walk.  But soon, all of that became automatic.  My brain and muscles know how to walk, and I don’t have to think about it consciously any more.  It’s like riding in a cart pulled by a horse who knows the way home.

This subconscious knowledge is what philosopher Michael Polanyi called ‘tacit knowledge.’  It’s the thought/behavior patterns that are so ingrained that they allow us to do more and more complex things.  For example, I have come to know my car so well that I can say that I can “feel the road” beneath me.  I am not thinking about how the car seat feels on my butt.  I am feeling the road THROUGH the car.  In a way, the car itself has become part of my body.

Polanyi’s philosophy is important in the theology of Thomas F. Torrance (In fact, Polanyi chose Torrance to be the executor of his intellectual estate).  The challenge of repentance is that we must repent of thoughts that have become subconscious or ‘tacit.’  Our ‘tacit knowledge’ of the gospel becomes part of us; it becomes the eyes through which we read the Bible.  Through our ‘tacit gospel,’ we feel the scriptures, just like how I can feel the road through my car seat.

Torrance taught me that my tacit gospel was crap, and that was why I couldn’t see a good God in the Bible.  My warped eyes had distorted the Bible and its God.  Our task today is to uncover and repent of tacit gospels that are not gospels at all.  And then to return to the scriptures with eyes shaped by the real good news.

These paraphrases are my own attempt to do just that.

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