The Day of Pentecost – Epistle

by Crossings

Heirs Of God
The Day of Pentecost
Romans 8:14-17
Analysis by Carolyn Schneider

Romans 8: 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

DIAGNOSIS: Slaves of Sin

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – The Evidence of Sin
In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul lists a whole host of behaviors evident in his world: the suppression of the truth, an attitude of thanklessness toward God, and total commitment to various other things that are not God. In a long list in 1:29-30 Paul gets specific: “They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Lest we readers begin to think that maybe we in our world have evolved into a higher morality, Paul devotes the entire chapter 2 to the sin of being judgmental. So, there is no escape. Paul has captured us all, or, as he says in chapter 3, the Law has caught us all in the act of sin.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – The Underlying Slavery
The Law that calls these behaviors “sin” reveals our loyalty and our status. We are willing slaves of many masters who are not God. Any of us who have tried to fight envy in our own hearts know how enslaved we are. We can only imagine what it will take to end the strife in the Middle East. And how will we Americans, in our ruthless destruction of the natural world, be stopped? The fibers in the network of human sin run deep and wide, constantly and rapidly, and we are all entangled.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – The Fear of One’s God
Why can’t we disentangle ourselves? Because we are afraid of our gods. We fear that we may be left poor, hungry, lonely, without home, without dignity, without life, if we do not do what we’ve got to — our gods demand of us. But none of us, or our gods, can recreate the life we were born with, or the circumstances into which we were born. This creative activity Psalm 104 credits to the Holy Spirit. But the fear of our own gods, that has enslaved us to sin, leaves us without protection; for what the Psalmist says to the God who made our life: “When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” How do we deal with the God who can really do to us the things we fear most?

PROGNOSIS: Joint Heirs with Christ

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – The Cry of the Spirit
In John’s gospel for Pentecost, Jesus promises those who are with him an “Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth…” (John 14:16-17). Jesus kept this promise to his followers after his resurrection when he breathed on them and reminded them of what he had said earlier–that he was giving them a peace that would not be taken away. “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27). The word for breath and Spirit is the same in Greek: pneuma. Thus, the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ own breath, his own life. Paul says much the same thing in Romans 8:1-11, where God, having sent his Son, Jesus the Christ, proceeds to fill us with “the Spirit of Christ,” consequently making God our Father too, and making us “joint heirs with Christ” (8:17). When our spirit cries to God, God’s own Spirit cries with us, thus confirming our new status.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Adoption as God’s Children
To be an adopted child and heir of God means to inherit whatever God possesses. What does God have? Everything. This is why Paul goes on to say, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? …Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:31-32, 35, 37-39). We are not owned by anything in creation, but it is all ours, to be used for good.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Suffering and Being Glorified
But it may be that we will suffer, all the more so for not fearing anything in this world, all the more so for trying to turn everything to good. This is to be expected among those who breathe Christ’s life. Some of this suffering will be in the conscience with one’s personal struggle against sin, as Paul describes it in Romans 7:21-25. This suffering will only end with the suffering of the body until death. In this bodily suffering we join with the rest of the creation, waiting to be “set free from its bondage to decay” to “obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (8:21). Finally, glory is the end to which the Spirit is leading us, because if “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you” (8:11).


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