by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 5 April 27, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(028)Thesis:Life by the Spirit is directed heavily into the expression of faith along the lines of one's particular spiritual gift.
Introduction:We spent a couple of weeks looking into Paul's theology of prayer so that we could get some direction for our understanding about our conversations with God. He began the body of his letter to the Romans by explaining his spiritual life as it affected them. In this opening paragraph, he clearly wanted to give the Romans some understanding of their standing in his heart and mind. As we turn our attention this evening to what he had to say in verses 11-12, we see the reason he wanted the will of God to include a trip to Rome for him. But in that reason, we are going to also see at least a glimpse of what Paul considered "life by the Spirit".
I. The Value of a Glimpse of Paul's Perception of "Life by the Spirit".
A. Paul had a long history of the futility of "life by the rules".
1. Interestingly, an enormous amount of time in history was given over to the futility of "life by the rules".
2. Just as interesting is the fact that in spite of that vast focus upon the futility of "life by the rules", the vast majority of people, including most believers, still seek to succeed where all have failed: they still try to "live by the rules".
a. The easiest books to sell are those which promise "steps to success".
b. The problem is that "life by the rules" seems to work over an extended period of time: Paul's own experience was that of the appearance of success in that he was rapidly becoming one of the bright lights of his own generation by this means.
c. The reality, however, is that while the appearance is one thing, the reality is exactly the opposite: Paul's self-description as a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man is the reality that was hidden beneath the appearance of his "success".
B. Paul became the apostle of "life by the Spirit".
1. Paul's teaching of the spiritual life is almost exclusive: there is very little outside of Paul's writings which really explain life by the Spirit.
2. Paul came to the end of his life with a triumphant confidence that he was about to enter into the indescribable glory to receive the promised crown of life.
3. Paul adamantly opposed every variety of distortion of life by the Spirit as they inevitably turned back to life by the rules...even including demolishing the necessity of circumcision, which was the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham.
II. The Glimpse We Have in Romans 1:11-12.
A. Begins with the issue of "longing".
1. We saw a couple of weeks ago that "prayer" was supposed to be conversation with God about things that are important.
2. This return to the issue of "longings" simply reinforces this fact.
3. This focus upon "longings" is instructive in respect to "life by the Spirit".
a. Whether one is attempting to "live by the rules", or "live by the Spirit", no one escapes the bottom line: the desire to have longings fulfilled.
b. The difference between those who seek to have their longings fulfilled by living by the rules and those who seek to have their longings fulfilled by living by the Spirit is very basic.
1) Those who seek to live by the rules do not typically understand the issue of longings.
a) Generally, when life is by the rules, the longings are "set" and the rules are embraced as the way to realize them.
b) This is why there is such great anger in those whose longings are frustrated: I have kept all the rules so I deserve to have what I want.
c) And, when life is by the rules, there is little, to no, understanding of the reality of "servant longings".
2) Those who seek to live by the Spirit generally understand that there is only one thing that really needs to be "fulfilled": their desire for living harmony with God.
a) When life is by the Spirit, life is a process of revelation regarding the longings rather than a process of rules to get what I want.
b) For those who are spiritual, answered longings are an occasion for gratitude toward God and a deeper appreciation of His goodness and grace.
c) For those who are spiritual, denied longings are an occasion to embrace a deeper realization of a more significant truth. [Note Paul's reaction to denied prayer in 2 Corinthians 12:9.]
i. Note that Paul had two "longings".
ii. Note that once Paul understood how the denial of one would enhance the other, he was more than content.
B. Moves almost immediately to the issue of "spiritual gifts".
1. Paul's "longing" to go to Rome consisted of two parts.
a. He wanted to exercise his own spiritual gifts for the good of the Romans.
b. He wanted to experience the exercise of the Romans' spiritual gifts for his own good.
2. Paul's focus on the exercise of spiritual gifts centered upon believers' expression of their "faith".
a. The implication here is profound: the demonstration of "faith" is most highly visible when that "faith" is being expressed by a believer in the pursuit of his spiritual stewardship.
1) Peter called the exercise of spiritual gifts a "stewardship" [1 Peter 4].
2) Note Romans 12:6.
b. The opposite conclusion, then, is that when a believer is not exercising his/her spiritual gift for the building up of the body, there is very little "faith" to be seen.
C. Ties the mutual encouragement of the saints to the demonstration of "faith".
1. The implication is that believers will be encouraged when they are exposed to the faith of others.
2. The opposite implication is that a great deal of discouragement will result when there is a large failure of faith by a significant number of believers.