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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Eighty-Fifth (Romans Part 14)

We’re moving on to Romans 8 this week after being better able to understand what Paul wrote in the previous chapter.  Whenever we’re going through Paul’s writings, we have to keep in mind that he wrote these as letters, not as books.  So, while there are clear changes in subject as he wrote, those changes don’t necessarily line up with the chapter separations that someone put in much later to his writing.  Romans 8 is another example of this as we can see that it starts with a “therefore.”

Paul just got finished talking about his struggle with sin in the last chapter.  He went through the fact that sin was in his flesh, but his spirit delighted in and desired to do YHWH’s Law (Romans 7:22, 25).  Chapter 8 starts with him saying there is no condemnation for those in Yeshua our Messiah because, as we saw last week, we are set free from the Law in terms of it being our path to righteousness (Romans 8:1-2).  The word he uses for condemnation here is the same word he used in chapter 5 when talking about Adam’s transgression condemning all of mankind (Romans 5:16, 18).  

Remember, this Greek word is actually referring to the punishment following a judgment.  It is made up of two Greek words which, when combined, mean “according to the results of judgment.”  When you substitute this idea with the word condemnation in what Paul is saying here, we see that he’s not saying we can sin whenever we want without consequence because we’re in Yeshua, he’s saying that those in Yeshua are not subject to the resultant punishment that was required when they sin, which is the death of our spirit (the permanent death).  The other interesting part, is that in some manuscripts, and therefore in some English translations, the end of Romans 8:1 says “for those who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.”  

Why is that last part important, and why do you think at some point it was removed from the text?  Well, in my opinion, it’s a bit sinister, really.  Do you remember when Yeshua prophesied the seven scariest words He ever said?  He was in the middle of a sermon where He was talking about various things, one of which was entering through the narrow gate instead of the wide, broad gate to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).  

Once He finished talking about how only a few will find the narrow gate, He continued by talking about false prophets.  Wolves in sheep’s clothing, He called them, because they look like one of His lambs, but on the inside they are of evil and a worker of Satan.  In this part of the sermon, He says, “Depart from me, I never knew you…” (Matthew 7:15-23).  He said He is going to say this to some of those coming to Him trying to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  These were people using His name in prophecy, to drive out demons, and to perform miracles.  In other words, these were people in Yeshua, because they were able to use the power of His name to do all those things, and He will look at them and cast them away because they were actually workers of lawlessness.  The Hebrew version of Matthew says they are, “full of corruption of heart.”

This doesn’t seem to line up with Paul’s statement about condemnation, does it?  That’s why the last part of his sentence has to be included.  It’s not just about being in Yeshua, it’s about being in Yeshua and walking according to the spirit and not the flesh.

The other interesting part of the first few verses of this chapter (Romans 8:1-11), is that in the Berean Standard Bible they have cross-referenced a prophecy from Ezekiel to this section (Ezekiel 36:16-38).  In this prophecy, Ezekiel gives a word from YHWH that He will take the house of Israel, meaning all tribes, not just the tribe of Judah, from among the nations, gathering them out of all the countries, and bring them back to their land.  He also said He would restore that land such that it will “become like the garden of Eden,” and He will do all these things not because of Israel but because of His holy name.  

Now, keep in mind that this prophecy was given after most of the tribes of Israel were dispersed among the nations and countries and only the tribe of Judah was left intact in order to keep the knowledge of Yeshua’s lineage alive.  This prophecy was also given while this tribe was captive in Babylon, so its fulfillment could not have been when they were delivered from this captivity because that was one nation/country, not “all the countries.”  In other words, this prophecy by Ezekiel has yet to be fulfilled.

Why does this cross-reference make sense?  Because those who are from the tribes of Israel, for the most part, have no idea that is their ancestry today.  Those lineages were lost as those tribes were dispersed, so the only way they (and perhaps we, if we’re actually descendants of one of those tribes!) would know to go back to the promised land is by the leading of their spirit, which, if renewed (Ephesians 4:23, Colossians 3:10), is able to be led by the Holy Spirit.  The only other way someone would know is if Yeshua Himself, or a messenger of YHWH, came and told them.

So, how do we walk in the spirit rather than the flesh?  Well, Paul is kind enough to tell us!  As we just realized, it’s not enough to be in Yeshua, or to call yourself a Christian, a believer, or whatever terminology you want to use.  There has to be a fundamental change in how you live, and Paul tells the believers in Rome (and by extension, us), that in order to have this change we have to set our minds on the things of the spirit rather than the things of the flesh.  We know that previous to our acceptance of Yeshua as our Savior and belief in Him giving us the opportunity of receiving the gift of eternal life, our mind was set on the things of the flesh, no matter how good we think we were before (Romans 5:10, 7:5, Colossians 1:21, Ephesians 2:1-2).  Therefore, setting our mind on the things of the spirit must be different than what we did before.

That is still a slightly ambiguous statement though, isn’t it?  What are these things of the spirit, so that we can start setting our mind to them, right?  You’re not helping me here, Paul!  But maybe there’s a reason Paul was not specific.  We can look at another one of his letters to see that he lists acts of the flesh and fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:19-23), but even then, these are the results of setting our mind on things of the flesh and things of the spirit, respectively.  They don’t actually tell us what our mind is set on in order to produce these results, whether it be of the flesh or of the spirit.

The reason Paul isn’t specific here is because he can’t be.  People always want a list of things they’re allowed to do vs things they’re not allowed to do because not only do they want to be sure they’re doing the right thing, they want to know the limits of the right thing to do.  In other words, they want to know how far they have to go in order to achieve the desired result (in this case eternal life) so they can act accordingly and not have to go beyond that if they don’t want to.  They also want to know the limits on the bad stuff they can’t do, so they can go right up to that line.  This is what some people call legalism and is the reason the Pharisees developed all the extra requirements of the oral tradition that Yeshua spoke against (Matthew 23:13-36).  

The fruits of the spirit, which are the results of setting our mind on things of the spirit, are not produced by thinking about a bunch of different rules and regulations we have to follow or a list of good things we have to do while we live.  They are produced by being controlled by the Holy Spirit, which only happens if we have that Spirit within us (Romans 8:9).  But you’re probably thinking, ok, I believe that it’s not rules and regulations, but that still doesn’t tell me what I need to set my mind on!!!  Well, in order to figure that out, you have to ask yourself this: have you ever done something and looked back on that action not knowing why you did it?  I know I have.  A lot.

How many times has whatever you did resulted in one of the things Paul lists as acts of the flesh, whether directly or indirectly?  How many times has it resulted in one of the things Paul lists as the fruits of the spirit?  If you haven’t figured it out yet, our mind is a battleground, and with few exceptions the world is a place that has been designed, through sin caused by the influence of evil, for evil to win that battleground.  When we do things, whether it’s something where we know why we did it or not, those things either come from being led by the Holy Spirit or being led by evil.  If we fill our mind with things of the world, whether they look like they could be from YHWH or are clearly not, we produce acts of the flesh.  If we fill our mind with things from YHWH, not only do we produce fruits of the spirit, we gain the ability to discern if something is of the Holy Spirit, whether it be something we see in the world or some action we’re about to take.  

The only way to absolutely know for sure that what we are filling our mind with is something from YHWH is if that thing is His Word.  People get it wrong all the time, but His Word is Truth and the only way to get it is by opening the Bible and reading it.  Or, I guess you could listen to a recording of someone reading it word for word…but you get my point!  Sermons get it wrong sometimes, commentaries get it wrong sometimes, but both of those things put in a middle man, which is never what YHWH intended as far as His relationship with us goes (Genesis 3:8).  He is working a plan that restores what He intended (Revelation 21:3), but until then we physically have His Word and spiritually have His Spirit.  So, we need to use both of those things to live our life in obedience to Him!

Next week, we’ll continue in chapter 8 of Romans and see what Paul wrote about our spiritual family status and our future.  Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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