In Christ is not life in the Flesh, but it is the Flesh of life in Christ

An early morning view of the sky on the way to the airport. Pondering the greatness of God. 


Rom. 8:9   But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 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.


Paul often talked about the contrast of life in the Spirit vs. life in the flesh. For him, life in the flesh was the old life that was governed by the law; it was the place where the physical body and it’s desires won over on a daily basis. He knew that transformation came when someone was united with Christ. 

There is no separation of the Trinity, and therefore for one to be united with Christ is to be in fellowship with the Triune God. The Spirit becomes the guiding force of life. While the law brought condemnation, the Spirit brings new life. No longer do we have to be ruled by the desires of our fleshly bodies, but we can participate in the new kingdom. This hope means that our mortal bodies no longer have to be held in servitude to our fleshly desires. The transformation begins in the here and now, but ultimately leads us to the promise of the resurrection


Today’s title is a bit of a challenge. When we are “in Christ” we are no longer ruled by life in the flesh. This has to do with submitting to the authority of the Triune God in our lives. We don’t have to sin every day in word, thought and deed. We are invited into an intimate relationship with God in which the Spirit begins to lead us in our daily life. That’s why we live a life of the flesh — in our human bodies, but in Christ. 

The mistake often made with this passage is that there is some kind of dichotomy between the spirit of a person and their human bodies. This was a heresy in the early church called gnosticism. What Paul wants us to understand is that our physical bodies can participate here and now in God’s kingdom because of the presence of the Spirit. Chrysostom put it this way “‘You are not in the flesh’” not because you are not clad in flesh but because in spite of being clad in flesh you rise above the thinking of the flesh.” (Homilies on Genesis 22.10)  Wow! What a powerful thought for us as we participate daily in Christ. 

This gospel of Jesus Christ is deeply profound and transformational. This isn’t just head knowledge about a distant God, but it’s an invitation into an intimate relationship in which we already live in the kingdom of God. It means that we don’t make excuses about doing things because I can’t rise above my circumstances. Christ takes our fleshly life and empowers it with the Spirit. 

Kingdom life begins here, but leads us into the future and the promise of resurrection. Yes, that’s been on my mind as I’ve journeyed with my mother through this transition in her life. She began living life in the Spirit and her physical life was radically transformed. But that was just the beginning and in the resurrection her physical body will also be transformed. This is because of resurrection power, already made visible in Christ. That’s why our life in the flesh is already transformed by our life in Christ. Spirit powered living will always lead to transformation. 


Lord, may I participate in you, led by the Spirit today. Amen. 


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