By: Shane James O’Neill
ProVen: Victorious in Living.
There is an intense, and often confusing, paradox at play in the New Testament: We are given the freedom to be weak and we are given the power to be strong.
In Romans chapter 8, St. Paul shares the intensity of this paradox in the richest articulation of identity that you may ever read.
Freedom to be Weak
There is a curse on creation called, “the law of sin and death”. This law has enslaved everyone and everything to live a life of despair and death, apart from God. But God has come to undo that law by breaking “the spirit of slavery” that came with the curse. Jesus took the entirety of the curse upon Himself and then took it to the grave. He killed “the law of sin and death” by allowing His own body to be killed. Jesus was condemned on our behalf.
The atonement of the Cross allows us to look at the worst parts of ourselves and not feel the shame or guilt of the curse. We were destined for failure and destined to be condemned for that failure. But God steps in and makes a way for us to know Him and for Him to know us.
We are no longer destined for condemnation, but are we still destined to live a life of failure?
Power to be Strong
By making us His children, God took the Spirit of Son-ship that raised Jesus from the dead and placed it inside of us. The “spirit of slavery” gave way to “the spirit of adoption” through Jesus’ resurrection.
By setting our affections on God (“setting our minds on the Spirit”) we are not only knowing God’s grace to go through life forgiven for our weakness, but grace teaches us how to overcome our failures. Grace is the instrument of Jesus’ discipleship — to forgive and make new.
“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
Paul illustrates the significance of our adoption and empowerment by discussing how creation is longing (“groaning”) for the children of God to be revealed. All the world was cursed with us and all the world will be made new with us.
The hope that Jesus is redeeming everything we most love is what saved us. The hope that Jesus is at work, even now, putting all things under His feet, is what currently saves us.
While creation fell when humanity fell, now God has called, justified, and glorified a people through whom creation will know Him, once again.
Paul ends Romans 8 by talking about the power we have. What is that power? God is for us. God believes in us. God has justified us before all of creation. God is fighting to make us pure, righteous, and holy. God is fighting for us to know His unshackled, shameless, immodest, barefaced love for us. And nothing in all the cosmos – in heaven, on earth, or under the earth – will keep God’s love from us.
That, my friends, is an identity I can commit the rest of life getting to know.
Yes, slavery is still at work, creation is still in bondage, our souls still groan with hurts we can’t express with words BUT Jesus has conquered the law of slavery and He is on the move.
In the church, we have been taught so much about a grace that forgives, and amen for it. But let us turn the diamond of grace and begin to marvel at a grace that can free our marriages, our imaginations, our loves and affections, our hopes, and our identities, from enslavement to corruption.
If God’s Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and now calls us His “home”, then let’s not sell the gospel short. Let’s not settle for slavery when freedom has already been purchased.
Let’s be known for pushing as far into grace as possible, not known for settling with a grace that’s merely comfortable.
It’s time to walk out of our graves.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
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Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for ProvenMen Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.