This week, I’m preaching from Romans 7-8 in my church. And I hit on a phrase that really got me thinking.
But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law. (Romans 7:6)
When you think about it, the phrase “newness of the Spirit” is very clunky. So clunky that the Japanese Bible translators (I attend an international church in Japan) translated it, “New Holy Spirit.”
It almost sounds in the Japanese that there is a “New Holy Spirit” as compared to an “Old Holy Spirit.”
Perhaps a better way to translate it would be “the newness that comes from the Spirit,” just as when we talk about having the “righteousness of God,” we mean we have the righteousness that comes from God.”
In Romans 6:4 Paul uses the same word and grammar when talking about walking in the “newness of life.”
In this verse, I do think Paul is saying we have a new life, and we relish in it. (You can see why translating can be such a bear).
In short, what Paul seems to be saying in Romans 6:7 is that we no longer attempt to serve God in the old way of trying to keep the law in our own strength. Instead, we serve walking in the newness of life that comes from the Spirit.
We see this in Saul. Samuel anointed him as king and told him,
The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully on you, you will prophesy with [the other prophets], and you will be transformed. When these signs have happened to you, do whatever your circumstances require because God is with you. (6-7)
In the same way, when we become Christians, the Spirit comes down upon us and transforms us. God himself now is with us, and he enables us to do his will. Not only to overcome sin, but to do the good that he wishes us to do.
So as Paul says, let us walk and serve every day in the newness of life that comes from the Spirit.