1 So now there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 God has done what was impossible for the Law, since it was weak because of selfishness. God condemned sin in the body by sending his own Son to deal with sin in the same body as humans, who are controlled by sin. 4 He did this so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us. Now the way we live is based on the Spirit, not based on selfishness. 5 People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit. 6 The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace. 7 So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. 8 People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.
9 But you aren’t self-centered. Instead you are in the Spirit, if in fact God’s Spirit lives in you. If anyone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, they don’t belong to him. 10 If Christ is in you, the Spirit is your life because of God’s righteousness, but the body is dead because of sin. 11 If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your human bodies also, through his Spirit that lives in you.
For my last month, we are discussing Romans 8 in our midweek bible study. As I close my ministry here, I want to close it with an emphasis on the love and grace of Jesus, which has really been my focus wherever I have been in ministry from the start.
Last week we discussed section of this passage that says "there isn't any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." We visited a lot about the ways we seek to condemn ourselves and earn God's love instead of accepting it, and allowing it to work through us to transform us. It was a very helpful and fruitful Bible study. At least...I thought it was.
What is difficult about this passage is the discussion of what other versions translate "the flesh". The repeating of the word "flesh" over and over again, in contrast and relation to Spirit in Paul's midrashic logic is not always easy to explain. You have to untangle what the word "flesh" means and then begin to unpack the steps of Paul's reasoning.
So, as I reread this passage in the CEB, it stood out to me that this translation used the word "selfishness" for the "flesh". I think this is very helpful for many people in the pews. So often it is easy to confuse flesh with the body, and then body with materialism. This leads to a logic that says everything in the material world is bad, and we need to strive to be completely unembodied to be spiritual. This really is a form of gnosticism. And a lot of people have become Christian gnostics from a misinterpretation of this passage and others like it.
By the CEB using the term selfishness, I think we have a pretty good summary for "the flesh". It is not a perfect summary of the concept, but it makes the point of "the flesh" while steering us clear of a disembodied spirituality that labels our bodies as inherently bad. I like it.