I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the crown jewels at the Tower of London. It’s a long time since I went, but I still recall the sense of wonder at seeing the breathtaking, dazzling display for the first time as a child. One of the highlights is the Queen Mother’s Crown. Worn by the current Queen’s Mother at her coronation as Queen Consort in 1937, the crown is decorated with no less than 2,800 diamonds! And at its pinnacle (although it is now shown separately), is the greatest diamond of them all – the famous Koh-i-Noor, weighing in at over 100 carats and still the subject of controversy between Britain and India today.
If the bible is the story of the greatest ruler of them all – Jesus – then many consider the book of Romans to be its crown, describing the beauty of the gospel with great depth and clarity. And in this crown, chapter 8 is arguably the Koh-i-Noor – the greatest treasure of them all. If there is one chapter which summarises the heart of all the great truths we hold onto, it is Romans 8.
And what it tells us, put simply, is that God’s plan for us is life. True life, abundant life, life with God forever. It is a life conferred by the Spirit (v2) – since God is the author and sustainer of life, when His Spirit dwells in us then it cannot help but confer this life on us. We may still have to die a physical death, but our spiritual life is assured.
What does this life look like? In this first of three reflections on this diamond of all diamonds, St Paul gives us three glorious glimpses of what ‘the Spirit who gives life’ offers us. First, no condemnation (v1). Jesus took that on our behalf, that we might be free (v2). In a world currently affected by COVID restrictions, the reality that we live in the light of a greater and deeper, eternal freedom is a wonderful encouragement.
Second, a new government (v6). We’re not talking here about civil or national government. Rather our minds can now be governed by something other than our own inclinations and desires. This slow adoption of divine government in our lives takes time – a lifetime, for most of us! – but slowly the growing realisation that we live by a new ‘rulebook’ (the ‘law of the Spirit of life’), with a new power source, energises our faith and empowers us to lead lives that were more like the lives we were designed to lead.
And, thirdly, the outcome of this is peace (v6). We all face conflicts – with ourselves, mostly, but also with others, with temptations, occasionally within communities. The Spirit of Christ brings peace. Not with all people, all the time – at least, not this side of heaven. But slowly, steadily, our minds, governed by the Spirit, produce lives characterised by peace.
Deep down, we all think that real life ought to be about freedom and peace. The great news is that this is exactly what Jesus came to bring. The temptation for most of us is to look for this kind of life in things that can’t give it to us. But here, detailed in Romans 8, is the real deal. And may God’s Spirit increasingly govern our minds, that we might live today, and this week, in freedom and peace.