As a continuation of the previous 8 verses, Romans 8:9-11 has a special perspective on the life in the Spirit. This section in particular focuses not only the choice made by humanity, but the consequences that are a part of that choice that had been made. This section also has incredible points of theological merit regarding the Trinity, and Free Will.
Main Thrust of Text
In line with the two previous sections of chapter 8 of Romans, verses 9 to 11 also discuss the belonging or banishment of humanity. Those in the Spirit are given life, while those who do not participate in the will of God find only death as their reward. In this way, the passage is a perfect continuation of what was previously said in the passage written by Paul.
This section does have a few unique aspects, despite the great number of similarities in content with the previous two sections. One major difference in the focus on the work of God in the salvific and redeeming acts, rather than the response of man. While previously, there was a great focus on the culpability of man for which of the two choices that they would make, there now is a focus primarily on the response of God to the choice of the believer or unbeliever.
Thomas Westwood makes this idea of reaction clear by pointing out the similarity of Paul’s word choice to that of a legal document. “In legal parlance of our courts today the word that is used is ‘whereas.’” By this, he is referring to the great number of uses of the words “since” and “if” (Rom.8:9-11, NRSV). While the word may have been translated differently, he is of the mindset that it could easily be exchanged and have no new bearing on the meaning.
Douglas Moo would challenge this idea and offer two other possibilities to the usage of the word “if” (Rom. 8:9-11, NRSV). He claims that it could be the indication that it is a mixed group of readership: believers and unbelievers, or that it could mean that he is “assuming the reality of his readers’ Christian experience.” While both of these are also viable options, the context would seem to lend itself more so to the definition as explained by Westwood.
John Stott proposes and idea that is something of a combination of Moo’s second idea, and that of Westwood. He explains that the two uses in verses 10-11 in particular “do not express any doubt about the fact of the indwelling…, but they point to results.” If is thus both an indication of the party involved, and the consequences that befall their involvement.
Points of Interest within the Text
As a point of particular interest, this is the first point in which Paul makes the outright claim that those who are listening are “not in the flesh” (Rom. 8:9, NRSV). Prior to this verse, it is only a vague assumption that he is indeed speak to those who live in the Spirit. It is possible before this statement that he is either speaking to convince unbelievers, or possibly a mixed group of persons.
This opinion may be challenged as Paul does make the statement that “Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” in Romans 8:2 (NRSV). While this does seem to indicate the listeners to be the redeemed, in the context of what follows, this sentiment become muddled. However, utmost clarity is given in the later statement, so it can be seen either as the first outright indication or at least the clearer of two possible claims.
It is also a point of interest that the actions that take place in this passage focus on God dwelling, raising and giving life to those who “are in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9, NRSV). There are terms of possession and existence, but the express actions are all on the part of God. Theologically here, there is a caution that must be made: Scripture, if not taken holistically, might here lead us to believe that God is the sole participant in salvation.
Admittedly, it would appear that this section denies free-will theology, but even placing it in the greater context of verses one through eight amends this. This is amended through the term phronoma, in Romans 8:6-7, which means “way of thinking, mind (-set)…aim, aspiration, striving.” This term outside of Scripture is used to describe the personal aspirations for “control…freedom… [and] independence.” In each of these cases, it was the will of the person that instigated their desires. While this is in the greater Hellenistic use, and not specifically in other Scriptures that this is witnessed, it is unlikely that Paul would have used them in isolation to this context. Romans 8:6-7 are the only occurrences of this form of the word, but even the apocryphal uses are in agreement to those in Hellenistic literature. Thus, it would be inappropriate to distance the human element of free will in the redeeming efforts that are seen in this passage.
Another interesting feature of this section of the text is that it is the most Trinitarian portion of the first eleven verses of chapter eight. While it does not explicit say the terms ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,’ each part of the Trinity is included in the section. The Spirit is the most frequently mentioned, with six occurrences in verses 9-11. Christ Jesus is mentioned a total of four times, and the Father is indicated three times. The first time in verse 9 while explaining to whom Christians belong, and the other two time are both found in verse 11 while explaining who was responsible for the raising of Christ Jesus posthumously (Rom. 8:9-11).
Looking to the previous verses, it is clear that Paul is simply continuing a prior train of thought. However, this section cannot be reduced to the mere end of a thought, but also as a deep wealth of theological understanding. Paul addresses two major ideas that shape the modern church in a tasteful ad tactful way that is both unexpected and unparalleled.
. Tom Westwood, Romans: A Courtroom Drama, (New York, NY: Loizeaux Brothers Inc., 1949), 152.
. Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,1996), 490.
. John Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 225.
. Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 866.
Rev. Olivia Phillips