One of the most powerful letters of St. Paul is contained in Romans chapter 8. There we see the tension between the flesh and the spirit, slavery and adoption, present suffering and the hope for future glory. Romans chapter 8 is a great material for meditation and reflection.
Our Lord Jesus Christ completed His work of redemption through His suffering and death on the Cross, thereby destroying the power of sin over man. However, St. Paul observes that Christians still contend with concupiscence, which is the tendency to sin. Furthermore, he notes that holiness is impossible so long as a person lives in the “flesh”; he wrote: “For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God; it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8)
A Christian who lives in the flesh follows his own lust and desires, which are in opposition to the Christian life, which is life in the Spirit; the desires of the flesh are also in opposition to the heart and mind of a Christian, which is governed by the Spirit. A Christian strives daily for holiness, and through life in the Spirit, he can face the constant challenge to overcome the sinful deeds of the body.
Furthermore, because of the indwelling of the Spirit, Christians enjoy a new relationship with God as adopted children and heirs through Christ, whose sufferings and glory they share. St. Paul encourages Christians that the future glory they are destined to share with Christ far exceeds the sufferings of the present life. But in the meantime, while they are still on earth, they enjoy the “first fruits”, i.e., the Spirit dwelling within them.
According to St. Paul, Christians ultimately await the “redemption of the body”. There are two meanings here: first, it refers to the resurrection of the dead, in which those who have been judged righteous will rise from the dead with glorified bodies. Second, it refers to Christians in their daily struggle to overcome concupiscence. In daily life, the Christian must draw the inspiration and the strength to overcome evil in the form of the threefold concupiscence: (1) lust of the flesh – refers to food, drink, sensual pleasures and comforts, etc. (2) lust of the eyes – refers to greed, envy, materialism, etc. (3) pride of life – refers to egotism, pride, selfishness, arrogance, etc.
The source of that strength and inspiration comes only from the love of Christ. St. Paul issues this strong statement: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) In his earthly life, the Christian finds consolation in the hope of victory over sin, which is the hope of each and every day.