This morning, we did again that thing we’ve done thousands of times. It goes like this: I say, “The Lord be with you.” And you say back…[Congregation] “And also with you.” When was the last time you actually thought through your “and also with you”? It’s on p.6 this morning in the bulletin, a part of the service called the “salutation”. And from of old, the intent of that salutation was that God’s people greet one another with more than just “good morning”. God’s people greet each other with an astounding truth. As we move into anticipation of receiving God’s Word, I get to remind you that “The Lord [is] with you” – right here, right now. And then, as people, you speak that same reminder to me that “Also with [me]” is the Lord present – right here, right now. What a way to greet one another! What a profound thing to be able to say! The Lord himself is with us in this worship service – for our comfort and encouragement.
It’s a quick one, I’ll admit. One we’ve often easily motored through on mornings – that salutation. But that’s actually one of my favorite liturgy moments. It pulls me away from autopilot as I look at you and hear you speak to me. It reminds me that there’s a real, personal interchange in this thing that could be just words. It allows us to remind one another of the amazing truth – and me, personally, to hear you say that you know that the Lord is with me, your pastor, as I lead worship. You know why I like that? There are some times when I don’t feel like I ought to be leading worship. There are moments when my mind wandered when your baby cried and then it wandered again when I reprimanded myself in my head and then again when I realized that I’d been wandering and reprimanding all when I was supposed to have been concluding the Words of Institution. And there have been times when my week has not been fun because of you or me or something totally other and I’ve been discontent or disaffected. There have been instances when my sins have made me feel unworthy. And there have been moments when tired that I’ve autopiloted. And it’s good to hear – to correct me if I’m arrogant or angry, to comfort me if I’m worried or nervous, to encourage me as your pastor – it’s good to hear that you know and want me to know that the Lord is with me.
Isn’t it good to hear St. Paul similar salutation in Romans 8? Because you’re acutely aware that your life is absolutely like Romans 7. Just like that thing Paul said, “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” How many times this week – when you knew God’s good – his law, his Word – and you wish to do what’s good, would have done it but the wicked thing you know God calls such, that you wish not to do, that thing, that very thing, you did. And let’s be honest. Sometimes, you did it again, and again, and again for the fiftieth time. Some of those things enemies old, some of them familiar as friends. So that you agreed with Paul’s right conclusion, “What a wretched person I am!” Unworthy in myself – person and process, thought and deed – every single day this is killing me/you, promising only eternal death by way of repeated failure; this sin is with us.
Do you notice how Paul greets you this morning in Romans 8? He doesn’t greet you with another trip back to God’s law to remind you of all the things you didn’t do – to show them to you again as though you forgot and so that you can do them better. He knows who you are – crushed by sin! So Paul greets you in Romans 8 with a spiritual principle that is with you. That though we are ones who struggle with sin, in Jesus a new principle is at work, one that exchanges death for life in people like us. The way of this sinful flesh world even when we try to do what’s right is that we’re too weak to perfectly keep God’s law – and there’s only death as the judgment. But this is the way with God: “what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weak on account of the sinful flesh, God (did) by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. And as a sin offering, God judged the sin in his flesh…”
Paul’s giving you salutations from the Savior to say that the judgment of God’s holy court should have been “guilty” for you and me. But instead, we’re greeted with the Savior who walks into the courtroom. With the Sanhedrin in the early hours of that Friday. With Pilate after, washing his hands – totally inappropriate and yet totally fitting – as the guilt goes on Jesus. At Calvary, where the capital punishment is paid – his cross. It’s in these that God sat in his heavenly throne room and declared Jesus guilty – in his justice and free grace at the same time – he punished all sins of all time in this one man. He gave the verdict of suffering and separation from God and death to him. So that by faith in him we might greet each day with this powerful truth: Jesus completely paid for all sins.
And we might then know that with us there is no condemnation at all. There is no way judgment belongs with you. What a comfort when the guilt of my sins weighs on me! When it tells me they’re too heavy to be removed or that I’m too soiled with sin to get clean! God has made Jesus to be my substitute in punishment, and God has made Jesus my own by Spirit-worked faith. Therefore when God now looks at me, a believer, He always sees me surrounded by the Savior and his perfection – I am in Jesus Christ. God’s grace is with me (Romans 6:14). I can stop whipping myself over sin. I can stop waking up with nightmares. I can live in peace. Jesus has changed my eternity, and in the process Jesus has changed what’s with me “now.” “For the law of the spiritual life in Christ Jesus has freed me from the law of sin and death.”
In fact, that’s exactly what I have now because of Jesus. I have a spiritual life. I don’t know if you remember it, but the words of the salutation used to say, “The Lord be with you…And with your spirit.” That maybe would be like saying, “And also with you in the essence of your life – deep within you” the Lord is… Paul is greeting you with that sort of result in the spiritual life in Jesus Christ. Not only is there no condemnation with you… Not only is Christ’s powerful payment for sins and righteous life absolutely with you… But also with you is the Spirit’s power to live with spirit.
You know that what Paul says is true in vv.5-8. The sinful nature and its way of thinking and living is death. It doesn’t submit to God’s law and it doesn’t want to; in fact, it can’t please God in any way. Apart from God’s Spirit and the faith he gives, there’s only sinful nature and there’s only death. But that’s not the essence of you! That’s not your spirit day by day! Paul’s not preaching to the unregenerate unbeliever. He’s preaching to those who have been afflicted with sin in that Romans 7 way – where they want to do God’s will but they do not always do it, sin sticks with them, makes them struggle, often defeats them. They need encouragement. So the encouragement – no condemnation in Christ! And also the reminder: “You are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” And Paul’s not questioning it – for him it’s a given. You might say, “since the Spirit of God lives in you, [your spirit is godly].”
Literally Paul says the Spirit of God “dwells” in you – makes his house in you. Maybe like when you have houseguests and you tell your friend that your in-laws are “with you” for the week. For good or ill, they’re going to be all up in your experiences that week – they’re at home for dinner, they’re there when you awake, they’re awkwardly also trying to use the bathroom at 2:43am – they’re “with you”. Only for good is God’s Holy Spirit at home with you. As Paul said, with him there is life and peace. Because he reminds you of Jesus Christ in his Word he connects you to to the life of Jesus Christ more and more. So that Paul says in the verse right after our section: “if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” There will be resurrection from this body of death because there is peace from our sins in Jesus and Jesus has power even over death. And if God’s Spirit is “with you” then “your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Which is to say, Jesus is alive because of his righteousness and so will you be; Jesus is holy and righteous before God, which means by faith you are too. And that means you’re truly alive, right now – not dead in sin, but actually walking around in the sight of God as observably, pleasantly living. Think of Paul’s words to the Corinthians – where you are temples of the Holy Spirit – now everything of your life is like the stuff that goes on in here – only for the holy all the time. Everything you do like a prayer of the church. Everything you think like a hymn. Every place you go holy and pleasing to God. So that you are not “in the sinful nature” – you are “in the Spirit”, all the time, controlled by him and desiring and able to do what God loves. God’s powerful Spirit fills your lives with a spirit of faith in Jesus Christ and faithfulness to the righteousness that Jesus gives you.
This morning, Paul’s greeting us with what we actually, already have – incredible comfort and confidence is ours – no condemnation for sins and righteous before God! Paul’s reminding us what’s present with us – incredible blessing and good – true and living spiritual life that has and does what God loves. So that, these things, this life you lead, isn’t just filled with passing stuff – normal, mundane words that are forgettable – no! We can greet each day with what we have – that these things – the powerful salvation of Jesus Christ and his powerful Spirit for spiritual life – they are also with you.