There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4
Romans 8:1 is such a wonderful verse. It set me off thinking while I walked the dog today, about various things.
One thing is - when people have various illnesses, misfortunes in their life, even problems such as mental illness, poverty, betrayal by others, the comforting fact about knowing Christ is this: we know he has forgiven our sins - when misfortune strikes the one thing a Christian can know for certain is that it is not a sign of God's disapproval, condemnation, or his lack of forgiveness. I think this thought troubles people who are sick or people who suffer misfortune more than anything - the thought that 'God is punishing me - I deserve it - God is showing his condemnation of me.' But there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The subsequent verses set me to thinking about the Holy Spirit, and certain doubts that are sometimes put into my mind. How do I know I have the Holy Spirit? How do I know I really am a Christian? This verse came to mind:
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39
"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water." (I've used 'belly' as it's a slightly more literal translation) Living water, in Hebrew, simply means, running water.
It is a wonderful verse, and speaks of the Holy Spirit who works through us, to comfort others, when we believe in Jesus, and the truth is that it is when we are praying for others, serving them for Jesus' sake, serving Jesus for them, that in those moments the Holy Spirit is 'running water', moving through us, flowing outwardly to comfort, strengthen, save and help others. In a sense, our assurance that God is with us comes when we are comforting others.
The other thing I wondering about this verse was which scripture it was referring to - because I really couldn't think of anywhere in the Old Testament where that exact verse appeared, "out of his belly will flow rivers of living water".
I looked up a few commentaries and one of them pointed to descriptions of the temple in the Old Testament such as this one from Ezekiel:
The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). ... He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. 9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets.... Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47: 1-2, 8-12
Now I understood which scriptures Jesus was referring to! The scriptures about the waters that flow from the temple, which really are living waters, in that wherever they flow they bring life. I think Jesus' saying is a kind of puzzle, designed to make us think about who we are, who are Christians, how privileged we are.
You see, Jesus also said of himself:
Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again John 2:19
Jesus thought of his own body as God's temple.
And likewise, Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us our bodies are God's temple:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body
In this section, actually, Paul is telling the Corinthians to flee sexual immorality because it is a sin against your own body, which is God's temple. But the thought that my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit really is a staggering one, with so many implications.
In the Old Testament times, God had a temple made, so he could live on earth among his people. But this was a temporary solution for achieving his presence on earth. Today God lives in us. Our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit.
It's an awesome thought.