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Author Archives: Gary Davenport

About Gary Davenport

Christian man, husband, father, father-in-law, and granddaddy

A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #21 The Meaning of History Romans 9:6-33


Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of ...

9:6 It is not as though God’s word had failed.NIV The Jewish nation as a whole did not respond to the gospel, even though God’s gifts had made them better prepared than any other nation to receive Christ. On the surface, the covenants and promises seem not to have accomplished their purpose, but this does not mean that God’s word had failed. Human beings failed.

Earlier in this letter, Paul clarified that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel—that is, not all Jews are part of spiritual Israel (see 2:28-29; 11:5-6; Galatians 3:7-9). Israel’s history demonstrates that God was fulfilling his promises, apart from human failures and misunderstandings.

Paul illustrates this from three Old Testament events: (1) verses 7-9, the lineage passing from Abraham to Isaac, rather than Ishmael (see Genesis 16-21); (2) verses 10-16, the lineage passing from Isaac to Jacob, rather than Esau (see Genesis 25-28); (3) verses 17-18, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (see Exodus 7-12)

  1. I. HISTORY HAS MEANING BECAUSE GOD HAS A PURPOSE

God has a purpose. God has always had a purpose. What is the purpose? To build from alienated humanity a group of people who would be His own. He chose in His purpose to make people His own people through Jesus Christ.

Man is a sinner. He can never be right with God on the basis of merit. He needs somebody else to take his place, to pay his sin-debt. God sent Jesus into the world for that purpose. Jesus lived perfectly. Never did He disappoint God. He was qualified to be the Savior of alienated men. Through His cross and, ultimately, His resurrection and glorification, He opened the way so that men could be reconciled to God.

9:7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.NIV Paul’s first illustration of God’s sovereign choice is Abraham and his children. Just being Abraham’s physical descendants did not guarantee an inheritance. The line of natural descent was not the same as the line of promise. Abraham had children by three different women (Isaac, by Sarah—see Genesis 21:1-7; Ishmael, by Hagar—see Genesis 16; and six sons by Keturah—see Genesis 25:1-4). But God made it clear that the line of promise would be through Isaac only: “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned” (Genesis 21:12 niv). God made a sovereign choice regarding who among Abraham’s physical descendants would carry the line of promise, the line that would result in the Messiah. God did not choose Isaac because he was better than his half brothers; the choice was made before Isaac was even born. Instead, it was simply God’s sovereign choice.

The Jews were chosen as special recipients and emissaries of God’s grace. Their opportunity to participate in that plan arrived with the coming of Christ. As John puts it, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:11-13 niv). That gracious opportunity to receive Christ and become a child of God is still producing offspring today!

9:8 Not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.NIV Paul repeats the statement of verse 7 in other words. The “children of promise” are the spiritual offspring of Abraham, including all true believers. It is not by being natural children, born in the line of Abraham and Isaac, that the Jews can be saved and considered God’s children and children of the promise (notice the distinction between “natural children” and “God’s children”). Instead, it is by believing in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

9:9 This is what the promise said.NRSV God made a promise to Abraham when he and Sarah were childless and very old. The promise said, “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son”NIV (see Genesis 18:10). Abraham believed this promise. As Paul has already explained in chapter 4, it was Abraham’s faith—his belief in God’s promise—that justified him before God. Abraham is a helpful model of faith in two ways: (1) he believed the specific promise that God gave to him and his descendants (Genesis 12:1-7); (2) more significant, he trusted in the God who keeps promises. Between Abraham and God there was an agreement, but there was also a personal relationship.

Trusting God will also push us beyond our comfort zone. Abraham trusted God when the covenant was made, but his trust grew when he packed his bags and traveled into the unknown. How often do you act simply out of trust that your action is what God wants you to do?

9:10 Rebekah’s children had one and the same father . . . Isaac.NIV Paul’s second illustration of God’s sovereign choice focuses on Isaac and Rebekah’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau. God chose to continue the line of blessing through the younger son, Jacob, rather than Esau (Genesis 25:23). This was quite unusual in the Hebrew culture, where the firstborn son was highly honored. In Abraham’s case, Isaac and Ishmael were sons of different women—each was a firstborn, so a choice had to be made. But Isaac and Rebekah were the parents of children over whom God had a sovereign purpose. Again, this had nothing to do with either son’s character, because the choice had already been made.

9:11 Before they had been born or had done anything good or bad.NRSV Jacob was not chosen because he was “better” than Esau; he was chosen not by works but by him [God] who callsNIV (see 9:12). Jacob’s future conduct does not even enter into the discussion because it was unrelated to God’s choice.

In order that God’s purpose in election might stand.NIV God’s sovereignty, not people’s works or character, is the basis for election. The Jews were proud of the fact that their lineage came from Isaac, whose mother was Sarah (Abraham’s legitimate wife), rather than from Ishmael, whose mother was Hagar (Sarah’s maidservant). Paul asserts that no one can claim to be chosen by God because of his or her heritage or good deeds. God freely chooses to save whomever he wills. The doctrine of election teaches that it is God’s sovereign choice to save us by his goodness and mercy, and not by our own merit.

The word election actually takes on a technical sense within the letter to the Romans. The fact of God’s choice was important to Paul, but the words he uses (eklektos, ekloge) are the natural expressions for “choice.” We find them in this letter in the following sequence: 8:33; 9:11; 11:5, 7, 28; 16:13. The doctrine of election emerges when we use the entire Bible as a source. But, assuming that the original readers did not have other Pauline letters to consult for corroboration, what would they have learned from this letter about the ways that God chooses?

  • Once God chooses, no charges against that person will hold (8:33).
  • God’s choices are not based on the character or actions of the one chosen, but on his own merciful purposes (9:11; 11:5).
  • God’s chosen ones will be faithful, while others, with the same evidence, will turn away (11:7).
  • God’s love for his original chosen ones (Israel) is based on his promises to the patriarchs (11:28).
  • God’s choosing is personal and specific, not general (16:13).

Election is like receiving an invitation for a banquet that we know will be wonderful. But the invitation comes unearned. No friendship or effort has created an expectation that we ought to be on the invitation list. The choice to invite is purely the host’s. After all, it is his banquet. The invitation comes with the traditional R.S.V.P. God’s gracious invitation does request our response and attendance.

9:12 By him who calls.NIV When Paul uses call, the context often indicates that he also has response in mind (see 8:28ff.), emphasizing the effectiveness of the call. The source of the call is God, and the vehicle of the call is the gospel that sets into motion a life of faith. Salvation and sanctification make the call effective. Jesus explained the other side of this concept when he differentiated between the “called” (“those who hear”) and the “chosen” (“those who respond”) (Matthew 22:14).

She was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.”NRSV God told Rebekah, while the twin boys were still in her womb, that Esau (the elder twin) would serve Jacob. Esau himself did not serve Jacob, but Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, (did serve Jacob’s descendants, the Israelites (see 1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Kings 11:15-16; 2 Kings 14:7).

Was it right for God to choose Jacob, the younger, to be over Esau? God chose Jacob to continue the family line of the faithful because he knew that Jacob was teachable. But he did not exclude Esau from knowing and loving him. We must remember what God is like: he is sovereign; he is not arbitrary; in all things he works for our good; he is trustworthy; he will save all who believe in him. When we understand these qualities of God, we will know that his choices are good even if we don’t understand all his reasons.

9:13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”NKJV These words refer to the nations of Israel and Edom rather than to the individual brothers (see Malachi 1:2-3). God chose Jacob to continue the family line of the faithful. Esau I have hated refers only to God choosing Jacob and rejecting Esau for continuing the line of promise. The choice of Jacob for such a great privilege made the rejection of Esau seem like hatred by comparison. God did not exclude Esau from knowing and loving him. God was not rejecting Esau’s eternal salvation; he was choosing Jacob to lead the nation. (Other such uses for hate and hatred are found in Luke 14:26 and John 12:25.)

Paul answers the concern voiced in verse 6 and shows that God’s Word has not failed. The Jews have simply misunderstood it. They missed the truth that God’s election never has anything to do with works of the law, rituals, even family or community ties. They misunderstood their own election as God’s people. They settled on enjoying the benefits of God’s promises, rather than fulfilling their role as emissaries for sharing God’s promises with the world. While we enjoy the gracious benefits of our salvation, we must not ignore the others whom God wants to reach through us.

  1. II. HISTORY HAS MEANING BECAUSE GOD IS MERCIFUL

God is merciful in the working of His purpose in the world. In 9:14 the apostle speaks of God’s mercy:

“What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!” God is just in choosing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Israel, and men who are in Christ. For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” God is merciful. He shows His mercy upon whomsoever He wills.

An illustration is given in Romans 9. It is a most interesting point that Paul makes. When Moses went into Pharaoh’s court and demanded that he let Israel go, Pharaoh would not agree. Even though he would say on occasions they could go, he would change his mind. Ten devas- tating plagues were brought upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. How was God merciful to Pha- raoh when He brought ten plagues upon him? The ten plagues were not the point. God was saying, “Pharaoh, I am working out a purpose in the world, and I want you to let My people go. I want your heart to be changed so that your heart will be in tune with My will.” Pharaoh said no. So God brought the first plague. Pharaoh changed his mind; he decided he would do God’s will. But when the plague was stayed, he said, “No, I will not.” God brought a second plague. The same thing happened. A third plague came. God was saying to Pharaoh after each of those plagues, “Pharaoh, why will you not repent? Why will you not change your mind? Why will you not bring your will into subjection to My will? Pha- raoh, you are not dealing with just another king. You are dealing with almighty God.” God was giving Pharaoh an opportunity to repent, but Pharaoh hardened his heart.

God did not make Pharaoh into a tyrant and then destroy him for being a tyrant. God had a will for Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said no to that will. The Bible says God hardened him. How did God harden Pharaoh? He hardened Pharaoh by making a demand of Pharaoh. The demand of God hardened Pharaoh. God did not make him rebel. Pharaoh chose to rebel. God had a will for Moses too. Moses said yes. The will of God softened one man and hardened another. It all depends on how a man responds to God’s will. The same thing is still happening. God has a will for you and me. We can exercise our freedom of choice. God is not going to force us to do His will. We choose. When we choose by saying yes or no to the will of God, we are either softened or hardened by His will. Paul is saying God declared His mercy through Pharaoh.

9:14 Is God unjust?NIV God chose Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau, not because of their character or their actions, but simply because that was his choice. “Doesn’t that seem a bit unfair?” we might ask. “Surely those Jews who are working so hard to follow all of God’s laws should be chosen. Isn’t it rather arbitrary of God to just choose some and reject others?”

Paul’s wording of the question in Greek expects a negative answer, which he emphatically supplies: Not at all!NIV If God gave anyone exactly what they deserved the results would be disastrous! Both Isaac and Jacob were scoundrels. God demonstrated unexpected grace when he chose these men in spite of their weaknesses and failures. That same grace is available to us in God’s offer of salvation. If we were to receive what we deserve, we would have no hope. We should come to God for mercy, not for justice.

9:15 He says to Moses. God is absolutely sovereign. He had explained to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion”NRSV (see Exodus 33:19). We might still be tempted to say, “Doesn’t that seem a bit unfair?” But by asking such a question we are claiming a higher understanding of fairness than God himself. We must remember that God has no obligation to show mercy or compassion to any of us—not one of us deserves his slightest concern. For God to even choose anyone is evidence of his great mercy. These words of God reveal that he does show mercy and compassion, but they are by his sovereign choice.

We tend to read God’s statement to Moses (which was a response to Moses’ request to see God’s glory) as if it were an expression of God’s withholding mercy rather than a statement of his merciful generosity. In the context of this statement in Exodus, God was not justifying himself, but saying in effect, “I will have mercy on people you would not expect, and I will have compassion in ways that will surprise you, especially when I am compassionate with you!” No one can know the heart of a person in the way that God knows. No individual, court of law, or group can perfectly assess the righteousness of a person. So we must leave the choosing and judging to God.

9:16 It does not . . . depend on man’s desire or effort.NIV God chose Israel out of mercy, and he will keep his promises to them regardless of their works. God chose them, but they still held on to the belief that their strict adherence to the law was a condition for them to maintain their “chosen” status. Paul makes it clear that God’s mercy and compassion have nothing to do with what people want or try to achieve.

In working out His purpose, God chose Abraham out of all the men who lived in the world of that day. God chose Abraham to be the head of a nation through whom the Savior would come. Did God have the right to choose Abraham? Of course He did.

Of Abraham’s two sons, God chose Isaac to do this special work in the development of a nation that would produce the Savior. Of Isaac’s two boys, God chose Jacob. Through Jacob came those boys who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.

You will remember in your studies of the Old Testament that God changed the name of Jacob to Israel. That nation that developed through Jacob—the nation of Israel—God chose from all other na- tions to be the nation to bring the Savior into the world. Did God have the right to choose Israel? Out of all the nations that existed, did He have the right to choose Israel? Of course He did.

What about all the other nations? All the other nations were responsible to God to respond to the light that He gave them. Did God have the right to choose Israel to do a special work for Him?

In Romans 1 Paul spoke of those other nations. They did not have a written law like Israel, but God had given them an inner consciousness that they were not mere beasts. There is a longing for God within every man. God gave them the created world as a testimony of His existence. God expected them to accept that testimony and respond to Him according to the light they had.

God today chooses to accept men who are in Christ. Does God have that right? There might have been those in ancient Israel who said, “No, God does not have the right to limit who He will accept.” If He had the right to choose Abraham instead of other men, if He had the right to choose Isaac rather than Ishmael, if He had the right to choose Jacob over Esau, if He had the right to choose Israel over the other nations, why does He not have the right in His purpose to say, “Those who accept Christ upon the condition of obedient faith I will accept as my own people”? He does have that right. That is Paul’s argument in 9:6-13. He concludes that section by saying, “‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” He does not mean that He despised Esau; he just loved Jacob more. He chose to do a work through Jacob and Israel. God has that right in His purpose.

Does history have a meaning? Yes, first of all, God in history has a purpose.

 

9:17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh.NKJV For a third illustration of God’s sovereign choices, Paul recalls Pharaoh. Through Moses, God told Pharaoh, “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth”NIV (see Exodus 9:16). God had purposely placed that particular Pharaoh in that particular position at that particular time in history so God’s great power would be displayed (through the miracles witnessed in Egypt and by the incredible release of the Hebrew slaves), and so his name would be known over all the world. God put up with Pharaoh’s fickleness and defiance for quite some time, but all for the same purposes. Pharaoh became mired in his own rebelliousness. In fact, part of God’s judgment on Egypt was the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Eventually, those nations who heard what God had done for his people in Egypt greatly feared the Israelites and their God (see Joshua 2:10-11; 9:9; 1 Samuel 4:8).

 

THE TRAGEDY OF A HARDENED HEART
God gave Pharaoh many opportunities to heed Moses’ warnings. But finally God seemed to say, “All right, Pharaoh, have it your way,” and Pharaoh’s heart became permanently hardened. Did God intentionally harden Pharaoh’s heart and overrule his free will? No, he simply confirmed that Pharaoh freely chose a life of resisting God. Similarly, after a lifetime of resisting God, we may find it impossible to turn to him. We can’t wait until just the right time before turning to God, because we won’t see it when it comes. The right time is now. If you continually ignore God’s voice, eventually you will be unable to hear it at all.

9:18 God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy.NIV Again someone might ask, “Doesn’t it seem a bit unfair that God would just use somebody to glorify himself?” But Paul answers the implicit question as before: God has mercy on whomever he chooses; and conversely, he hardens whom he wants to harden.NIV God’s judgment on Pharaoh’s great sinfulness was to “harden” his heart, to confirm his disobedience so that the consequences of his rebellion would be his own punishment. “Hardening” occurs when a person has a track record of disobedience and rebellion. From the human perspective, it is difficult to know exactly at what point God confirms our own resistance as hardness. Paul’s implicit warning is to avoid attitudes that lead to hardness of heart (see 1 Corinthians 10:6; Hebrews 3:8).

                                               STAGES IN THE HARDENING PROCESS

Stage 1 Example
Abandoning God’s guidance from his Word or believers “I don’t read the Bible or attend church.”

“Who are they to tell me what to do?”

Stage 2
Willfully disobeying God, based on desire for sin or unresolved conflict with God “I know it’s wrong, but I want it.”

“Where was God when I needed him?”

“How could he do this to me?”

Stage 3
Justifying sin as not really being sin, but as being essential for the person’s welfare “I’m not sure this is really wrong.”

“I’m not as bad as others.”

“I’ll feel better.”

Stage 4
Rejecting the Holy Spirit’s conviction “I know I’ll feel guilty, but I don’t care.”

“I’ll just ignore it.”

Stage 5
Becoming entrenched in the sinful behavior “I’m in too deep to get out.”

“I might as well finish what I started.”

9:19 Why then does he still find fault?NRSV Paul probably had countless discussions with fellow Jews about these issues. So he can anticipate their questions. If God simply chooses those on whom he will have mercy and those whom he will harden, why would he punish those whom he has hardened? They were acting in accordance with his will, right? How can God hold people responsible for his choices—for who has resisted His will?NKJV

Occasionally these questions are asked by those who are genuinely seeking to understand God and his ways with people. Usually, however, they are used to excuse certain behavior—”It’s not my fault, God; it’s your fault!” In either case, as Paul explains, the answer is the same. We ourselves are to blame because we are guilty of trying to reject or resist God. And even this questioning of God is an attempt to bring him down to our level. It is impossible for finite beings to totally understand an infinite God and how he works. We do know, however, that we have made choices to do what we know is wrong, to disobey God. Therefore, we are guilty. In fact, our consciousness of blame is practically an admission of blame. We ask why God blames us, while inside our consciences are blaming us. We may sincerely wonder just how much freedom we have to act within God’s sovereignty, but there is little doubt that we use the freedom we do have to sin.

9:20 Who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God?NRSV Paul has little patience for such questions, and he supposes that God doesn’t either. When it comes down to it, we cannot question God. He is absolutely sovereign. We are extremely privileged to have any relationship with him at all. His dealings with all the world are not to be judged by us. Quoting from Scripture, Paul illustrates the absurdity of such questions: “Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?'”NKJV This passage was taken from Isaiah 29:16 and/or Isaiah 45:9; in context it expresses God’s response to his rebellious people. Isaiah 64:8 conveys the correct attitude, “O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (niv).

While God welcomes our sincere questions and concerns (see for example, John the Baptist in Matthew 11:1-6, and Thomas in John 20:24-29) and patiently answers us, he will not allow sinners to question his sovereignty. The creature has no right to sit in judgment on the Creator.

9:21 The potter. To further illustrate God’s sovereignty, Paul compares God to a potter (a very common and necessary vocation in ancient times, since most cooking and storage was done in various types of clay pots). The potter has every right to take one large lump of clay and use part of it to make a delicate vase (one object for special use) and another part of it to make a pot for cooking (and another for ordinary use)NRSV. Neither vase nor pot has any fight to complain and ask why the potter did what he did. The potter has every right to do what he pleases with the clay; and God has every right to do what he pleases with people, who are his creation. The lesson of the potter points to equal worth among lumps of clay, while the artist’s purpose and design may differ. The proper attitude for clay is to be pliable rather than stiff, receptive rather than rebellious, and grateful for the potter’s touch rather than resentful of the potter’s purpose for us.

Jeremiah 18:1-10 also refers to a potter and clay. In this case, the potter began making a pot, but it “was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him” (Jeremiah 18:4 niv). Not only does the potter make Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

That in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation.

William Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice)

whatever he wants; he may also change and reform the clay as needed. Paul points out that all people must humbly submit to their Creator, performing the tasks for which they have been made. God wants all his creation to be flawless—for some that means being remade. We should look to God to discern his ultimate purpose for our life instead of comparing ourselves with others.

9:22 What if God . . . bore with great patience the objects of his wrath.NIV The two “what if” questions in verses 22 and 23 again focus on God’s sovereignty. What if God does these things? Who has the right to question him? The Creator can do as he chooses with his creation.

The objects of his wrath are unbelievers, and especially, in context, Jewish unbelievers (1:18). God has been patient with their antagonism, rebellion, blasphemy, and hatred because he is giving them time to repent (2 Peter 3:9). But those who refuse to repent are prepared for destruction.NKJV Their doom is coming. They had rebelled and refused to turn to God for salvation, and thus they took responsibility for their own destruction. So God has prepared the punishment for their sin. They will experience his wrath for their sins and his power that they had constantly refused to acknowledge.

Without God’s mercy and great patience, shown to us completely apart from our performance, we would have no hope at all. If God did not do this for his own purposes, we would be instantly destroyed.

9:23 What if he did this to make . . . his glory known to the objects of his mercy.NIV In contrast, the objects of his mercy are Gentile believers whom he prepared in advance for glory.NIV The objects of his mercy are true believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, so no one can claim God by right of birth. Three of God’s purposes are mentioned in verses 22-23: (1) to show his wrath; (2) to make his power known; and (3) to make . . . his glory known.NIV But what is the this to which Paul is referring? This is God’s sovereign choosing when he works with “pots” prepared for destruction (9:22) or with “pots” prepared for glory. The key point to remember is that all this has been in God’s plan from the beginning. When God’s dealings with his creation have been summed up, there will not be a shred of doubt about his wrath, power, and glory. God did not change his plans just because his people were disobedient. Instead, God knew all that would happen to both Jews and Gentiles, and God does everything to display his great mercy.

Believers still may wonder why they would be chosen while others were rejected. Paul’s point is that God is sovereign and that no one has any claim on his mercy. He prepared us in advance by his gift of salvation, and he will reveal his glory when we are finally with him for eternity. Instead of focusing on God choosing some and rejecting others, we should stand in awe at God’s offer of grace to any of us. Thus, no one can demand that God explain why he does what he does. He makes all the rules. But he loves to show mercy to us—what an amazing God he is!

 

MAKING GLORY KNOWN
To what lengths will our sovereign God go to make his glory known? We may assume that God will show his anger before his mercy. Consequently, when unexpected hardships come, we may think that God is punishing us for something. We find it difficult to believe that God would allow us to experience pain in order that we might grow in our understanding of his mercy and himself.
That was certainly the disciples’ problem in John 9. They assumed that the man born blind was suffering the consequences of some sin that he or his parents had committed. Jesus surprised them with the true explanation: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned . . . but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3 niv). Jesus used a healing touch to demonstrate the mercy of God. When you are experiencing difficulties, remember that your response to your problems and God’s work in your life can glorify God.

9:24 Including us whom he has called.NRSV Paul and the Roman Christians were a part of that group of objects of mercy whom God had called and was preparing for glory. This group obviously was made up not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.NIV God’s choices are always sovereign. He sovereignly chose a messianic line from Abraham, and he sovereignly chose many Gentiles to receive salvation. Only those who respond to God’s call receive the gift of salvation; it is “by invitation only.” It comes to us completely undeserved so that we might have no basis for pride. When we understand God’s mercy, we respond with humility and gratitude that God would be merciful to even us.

9:25-26 He says in Hosea.NRSV To back up the statement that God also calls the Gentiles, Paul quoted two verses from the prophet Hosea. Several hundred years before Jesus’ birth, Hosea told of God’s intention to bring Gentiles into his family after the Jews would reject his plan. God was not surprised by Israel’s rejection. Israel thought that they alone were God’s chosen because of their lineage and their laws. But God’s plan never was to save only the Jews. His call was for people from all nations. Verse 25 is a quotation from Hosea 2:23, and verse 26 is from Hosea 1:10.

Hosea had married Gomer. Hosea named their firstborn child Jezreel. But the next two children were not his, so he obeyed God and named them Lo-Ruhamah and Lo-Ammi, meaning, as the words of verse 25 indicate, not my people and not my loved one.NIV

Hosea’s situation and his children’s names pictured God’s attitude toward Israel—they had turned away from him and were no longer called his people or his loved ones. But God would not let this situation remain forever; one day he would call Israel back to himself God would also turn to the Gentiles, those who are outside his chosen nation. Some day, many Gentiles would be considered God’s people, his loved ones, his children. Paul saw that while God’s plan had always made room for the Gentiles, with the advent of Christ, the doors to the kingdom were opened wide. Those not known as God’s people were becoming his people by God’s mercy and grace, shown through Christ.

9:27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel.NKJV But the Jews, the people who were in number like the sand of the sea in number (niv; see Genesis 32:12; Isaiah 10:22), will not be forgotten. God’s sovereign choice always includes some Jews, but his promises were not a blanket guarantee for all Israel. Isaiah prophesied that only a small number—a remnant—of God’s original people, the Jews, will be saved. Paul saw this happening in every city where he preached. Even though he went first to the Jews, relatively few ever accepted the gospel message. Quoting from Isaiah 10:22-23 and 1:9, Paul explained that the majority of Israel had turned away from God. But God always preserves a remnant for himself, “a remnant chosen by grace” (11:5). The remnant are those people who remain faithful to God whenever the majority doesn’t (see Micah 5:7-8).

9:28-29 Carry out his sentence.NIV Continuing the quote from Isaiah (Isaiah 10:23), God will punish his people for turning away from him. In the captivity and the exile, much punishment had been meted out.

Had left us descendants.NIV If God had not spared a remnant of faithful believers, all of Israel would have been destroyed. But God always saved a remnant. Having chosen Israel, God remained faithful to her. If he had not Israel would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah, the ancient cities that were completely destroyed by God for their horrible wickedness (see Genesis 19:24-29; Isaiah 1:9). Nothing was left of Sodom and Gomorrah. But God never completely destroyed his people. Today the Gentiles are the, majority in the church, but one day, many Jews too will come to their Savior. There is a final judgment to come, and God will carry it out. There is no time to delay. A remnant will be saved—who of God’s people, the Jews, will become part of that remnant? Paul explores this further in chapter 11.

ISRAEL’S UNBELIEF OF THE GOSPEL / 9:30-10:21

This section provides a summary in the middle of Paul’s exposition on God’s sovereign plan and an expanded explanation of the present position of the Jews. He realized that his teaching was creating a paradox, especially for his Jewish audience. How could it be that the acknowledged experts in righteousness would find their way to God barred, while those who were ignorant of righteousness were welcomed by God as long-lost children? Paul here contrasts the way of faith with the way of the law. Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not attain it—while the Gentiles, not seeking righteousness by the law, found it by faith in Christ.

Whereas chapter 9 has focused primarily on God’s sovereignty, chapter 10 outlines the extent of human responsibility.

III. HISTORY HAS MEANING BECAUSE GOD IS SOVEREIGN

God is sovereign. In 9:30-33 Paul says, What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at the law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

Paul is saying God is sovereign. God reigns. He has the right to offer to all—Jew and Gentile— redemption through Christ by faith.

9:30 Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness [i.e., a law that produces righteousness], have attained to righteousness.NKJV The gospel was preached to both Jews and Gentiles, but it was being accepted by far more Gentiles than Jews. The Gentiles did not have God’s law, did not even know God, and were not even “trying to be righteous,” yet they were obtaining righteousness. Why? Because they were coming in faith to God.

9:31 Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness,NIV has not attained it. In contrast to the Gentiles, the Jews tried to obtain righteousness by obeying the law, only to never attain it. They had incorrectly understood righteousness in terms of works. They could not keep the law perfectly, therefore they could not keep it at all. Thus God could not accept them.

9:32 They pursued it not by faith.NIV Instead of admitting that they could not keep God’s law and pursuing righteousness by faith in God, the Jews kept trying to pursue righteousness by their works. They had a worthy goal to “obtain” God’s righteousness. But they tried to achieve it the wrong way—by rigid and painstaking obedience to the law. Thus some of them became more dedicated to the law than to God. They thought that if they kept the law, God would have to accept them as his people. But God cannot be obligated by us. The Jews did not see that their Scriptures, the Old Testament, taught salvation by faith and not by human effort—the point Paul made in the first part of this letter. As a result they stumbled over the stumbling stoneNRSV—the Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Peter 2:4-8). Jesus was not what they expected, so they missed him. In so doing they missed their only way of salvation. Jesus is a stumbling block to Jews and to all who by pride would rather have recognition for doing it on their own than for trusting Christ and his goodness.

Some people still stumble over Christ because salvation by faith doesn’t make sense to them. They would rather try to work their way to God, or else they expect him simply to overlook their sins. Others stumble over Christ because his values are the opposite of the world’s. Christ asks for humility, and many are unwilling to humble themselves before him. He requires obedience and many refuse to put their will at his disposal. The “stone” has caused them to stumble. They heard about Christ and misunderstood, so they tripped over the one thing that could have saved them.

 NEVER GOOD ENOUGH
Sometimes we are like those people who try to achieve God’s approval by keeping his laws. We may think that going to church, doing church work, giving offerings, and being nice will be enough. After all, we’ve played by the rules, haven’t we? But Paul’s words sting—this approach never succeeds. Paul explained that God’s plan is not for those who try to earn his favor by being good; it is for those who realize they can never be good enough and so must depend on Christ. Only by putting our faith in what Jesus Christ has done will we be saved. If we do that, we will never be “put to shame” or disappointed.

9:33 As it is written. Paul quotes from Isaiah 28:16. Isaiah declared God’s warning of destruction to Israel by Assyria. Then he said, “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”NIV This stone refers to the righteous remnant and to Christ.

“The one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”NIV When we put our trust in Christ, we need never fear that we have put it in the wrong place. When we have placed our feet on the Rock of Zion, the Lord Jesus Christ himself, we can be confident of our salvation.

THE STUMBLING OR HUMBLING STONE
Jesus is a stumbling block to Jews and to all who would rather have the satisfaction of gaining God’s acceptance on their own than admit their inability and then submit to God’s grace. When we are presented with Christ, we have only two possible responses, to reject or accept. Any form of rejection will result in our stumbling over him, resulting in judgment. But trusting submission to him will gain for us what we could never hope to gain by ourselves—a righteous standing with God. Isaiah showed the way by personally applying the phrase he used above, “I will put my trust in him” (Isaiah 8:17 niv). Are you stumbled or humbled by Jesus?

CONCLUSION. That is the meaning of history. God is working out a purpose. That purpose reflects His

mercy. He wants to save everybody. He will not force it on you. You have to decide. Remember God is sovereign. He rules in this world. He has the right to make the plan and reveal the plan. You and I have the privilege of responding to the plan.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2021 in Romans

 

A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #20 Wasted Opportunities – Romans 9:1-5


Romans 9:1-5 - The Privileges of Israel and Their Tragic Failure - Praise  Center Church - Denver, COChapter 9 of Romans has as its theme, “Wasted Opportunities,” which we will explore today.

Paul has developed the great doctrine of sanctification. justification and glorification in the first 8 chapters of Romans. This section reaches a climax in Romans 8 as he shows us the great blessings of being in Christ Jesus.

When we study carefully the first 8 chapters of Romans, we conclude that the only reasonable response to what God has done is to throw ourselves before God and give Him the best we have because He has given us the best He has.

But before Paul moves on to address practical concerns of local church life (in chapters 12-15), he feels compelled to speak about God’s plan for the Gentiles and the Jews, Paul’s very own people.

If the Jews were God’s chosen people, why did most of them oppose the gospel? If the gospel really is the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, why don’t the Jews recognize it as such? And how does one make sense of God’s choice of Israel and his promise to bless the world through them when the Jews had rejected the gospel?

Paul completely understood the feelings of the Jews who refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah—he had once been so opposed to Christ that he had hunted down and imprisoned Christians. But then Paul was confronted by Christ and became a changed man.

Paul knew that the church at Rome had a unique opportunity to use the diverse personal backgrounds of its members to strengthen the cause of Christ. Paul tackled many of the issues in this letter for the sake and unity of both Jewish and Gentile Christians.

Romans 9:1-3 (ESV) I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

9:1 My conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit.NRSV Paul uses conscience to refer to that inner prompting that confirms or disapproves of our conduct. Believers should have well-tuned consciences because they also have the Holy Spirit within. The words Paul would write bear the truth—he is not lying, as his conscience confirms. Paul reveals his depth of feeling here; as the apostle to the Gentiles, with his great zeal for preaching to the Gentiles, he was probably often accused of turning his back on his own people.

9:2 Great sorrow and unceasing anguish.NRSV Despite his great success as a missionary to the Gentiles, a church planter, and a writer of letters of teaching and assurance to those churches, Paul still feels great sorrow. Most of the Jews, his people, the chosen people of God, were rejecting the gospel. The Jews should have been the first to recognize the gospel as the promised fulfillment of their Scriptures, but somehow they missed it. They were missing out on salvation, and this hurt Paul deeply.

Though his commission to preach the gospel took him outside Jewish boundaries, Paul never lost his love for his Jewish brothers and sisters. In his travels for the gospel, Paul always kept the door of the gospel open to those from his own race.

9:3 I could wish that I myself were accursed.NKJV Anathema.

It is remarkable how Paul moved from the joy of Romans 8 into the sorrow and burden of Romans 9. When he looked at Christ, he rejoiced; but when he looked at the lost people of Israel, he wept. Like Moses (Ex. 32:30-35), he was willing to be cursed and separated from Christ if it would mean the salvation of Israel.

Paul has just written of the dependability of God’s love (8:35-39); here he expresses desire that his people could take his place in knowing God. Paul knew that it was only a short step of faith from all the past blessings the Jews already had to the infinitely greater gift that God wanted to give them.

  1. I. WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITIES

These address the privilege of the Jews. The privilege simply stated is this: For fifteen hundred years, the nation of Israel had been God’s chosen people. He had chosen them not because they  were  the  greatest  of  all  nations….He chose them when they were no nation at all.

He had brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage; He had nurtured them under Moses in a wilderness for 40 years. He had given them a written law by which to live, the heart of which was the Ten Commandments.

He had brought them to the promised land of Canaan. Upon the death of Moses Joshua led them to victory in the land of Canaan. They came into the land and dwelt in it.

All of the land promises were fulfilled to Israel. Before Joshua’s death he called the people of Israel together and said, “Not one good thing of all the things that God has promised to us has failed; all have been fulfilled.” They possessed the land, and they dwelt in it.

God nurtured them through ups and downs until finally, in cooperation with God, Jesus of Nazareth came into the world through his nation.

According to Galatians 4:4, in the fullness of time “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” Jesus was a part of Israel. That is one of the reasons God kept the nation intact. The Messiah was the God-man, the perfect combination of deity and humanity.

When He came He was born miraculously. Mary, His mother, was with child of the Holy Spirit. No man was His father. Jesus’ deity was demonstrated by His perfect life, the way He taught. His miracles, and the voice of God which spoke three times from heaven designating Him as God’s only begotten Son.

The supreme evidence of who He was came when He was crucified on a Roman cross between two thieves and on the third day arose. I believe Him to be all that He claimed to be. Faith is not a leap into the dark, for faith is based upon evidence. He came and demonstrated who He is.

When the church He promised to build came into existence on the first Pentecost following Jesus resurrection, three thousand of Israel were obedient to the faith. Soon that number grew to five thousand. Luke tells us that the disciples were multiplied. The good news of Jesus was first preached to Israel, and the first followers of Christ were Israelites.

When Paul develops his theme in Romans, he shows us that men who were of the Gentile people stood in the presence of God undone and lost because even though they did not have a written law from God, they rejected the light that God gave them.

  1. II. WASTED OPPORTUNITIES

After speaking of his heartbreak, he moves to the wasted opportunities. He speaks in verse 4 of the great privileges that the nation of Israel had. What were these privileges that belonged to the nation of Israel?

Adoption Number one is found at verse 4. He says,“Who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption.” Adoption. God had adopted the nation of Israel to be His own people. He said through His prophet Hosea, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” In Exodus 4:22 God affirmed that He was their God and they were His people.

Glory. The second blessing is “the glory.” They had experienced God’s own glory. First, the glory of God came to the Israelites from Mt. Sinai when He gave the law; but they saw the glory of the law as He led them by the pillar of fire at night and the cloud by day. They saw His glory as it settled upon the tabernacle, their tent of meeting.

The Covenant. There is a third blessing or privilege: “The covenants.” A covenant is an agreement between two parties involving promises. God made covenants with the fathers of Israel and then with

Israel herself.

The Law. Next is the giving of “the law.” The blessing of Israel included the law that governed them given at Mt. Sinai.

The Temple Service. Next he says, “And the temple service.” The Levitical service, the service of the priesthood around the tabernacle and later the temple, was theirs.

The Promises. The next word is “the promises.” All the promises pertaining to the coming Messiah were made to the nation of Israel.

The Fathers. A seventh blessing or privilege is “the fathers.” He says, “Whose are the fathers, . . .” He refers to the patriarchs, those who had led the way and blazed the trails.

The Messiah. The eighth blessing is that through Israel “is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever.” Jesus was born of the nation of Israel.

After  enumerating  these  wonderful  blessings, we must acknowledge and even be impressed with the wasted opportunities, for the nation rejected Messiah.

CONCLUSION. As long as there have been Scriptures, there have also been those unwilling to submit to the Scriptures’ authority.

Many treat the Bible as an old book, a leatherbound relic to display and keep dusted. Others turn to it only in times of crisis or in church.

But even studying the Bible and knowing it well doesn’t guarantee a right relationship with God. Obedience proves whether or not a person considers the Bible to be, in fact, God’s Word. So people who do not read, study, understand, and obey God’s Word may doubt its power.

But God’s Word never fails, even though some doubt it. If you want to see God’s Word succeed in your life, if you want to experience God’s power, treat the Bible as though it is what it claims to be, the infallible Word from almighty God—read it, study it, understand its principles for living, and apply those truths to your life. In short, do what the Bible says—LIVE it.

To what lengths will we go to offer the gospel to someone else? Paul consistently loved the Jews. They are one group that still needs to hear the gospel. But there are others, too. Sometimes the barriers to overcome are racial, linguistic, or cultural. Other times the distance is nothing more than social or geographical.

Our lack of compassion is directly addressed in Scripture: “if anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20 niv). One of our persistent prayers needs to be for more love.

By way of application I would ask, “What about  us?  What  about  our  privileges?  What about our opportunities?” Let me enumerate three blessings or opportunities that belong to us today.

First, there are family and friends. We are surrounded by people whom we love and by whom we are loved. It is so easy to squander opportunities to speak a word of encouragement, or a word of love. One time Jesus said, “Me you have not always.” That is true of our loved ones and friends. If we are ever going to say, “I love you,” if we are ever going to give a hand to help, we should do it now. We have the opportunity, but the opportunity may be wasted.

Second, there is the call of Christ, which says to all of us, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.” Many are still rejecting His call. Others are wanting to accept the call but on the basis of their own terms. Jesus shows that men who are born of the water and Spirit are in His family. We must give serious attention to His call.

Third, there is the opportunity for faithfulness. How many people began to follow Christ and then after a while gave up? In giving up, faithfulness is gone.

You and I are surrounded by opportunities and privileges. We must not waste them. May we give ourselves to the very best that is within us in fulfilling the opportunities we have.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2021 in Romans

 

More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #13 The Overwhelming Victory! – Romans 8:31-39


About the only time I play golf is when I play with Eric or Gregory. Eric and I try to play at least once each trip to Tennessee.

On one occasion, we were walking to the club house just before we were to tee off. Knowing I had not played for some time, Eric offered me a word of advice: “Dad, until you build up your confidence, why don’t you drive with an iron at first?” “Eric,” I responded, “I have all the confidence in the world. What I lack is ability.”

Confidence can be a very good thing. It can also be a mill stone around one’s neck. Being confident simply is not enough. The crucial issue is in whom, or in what, is our confidence. Ill-founded confidence is deadly. Well-founded confidence is proper and good.

Some Christians have no confidence at all, believing that with one slip, one sin, they are out of the faith. Agonizing their way through life, they hope no sin has gone unnoticed and unconfessed; if so, they fear they will not get to heaven. These Christians desperately need the confidence of which Paul speaks in Romans 8:31-39:

 

Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)
31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
33  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
36  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:31-39 NASB)  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? {32} He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? {33} Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; {34} who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. {35} Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? {36} Just as it is written, “FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” {37} But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. {38} For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, {39} nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

8:31 What then are we to say about these things?NRSV Paul’s questions fall into three categories:

  1. Will opposition from people or Satan be too great? (8:31-32)
  2. Will we fail because of our tendency to sin? (8:33-34)
  3. Will we be overcome by difficult times? (8:35-39)

In broad terms, Paul may be encouraging specific reflection on the evidences we have that God is for us. One way of doing this is to replace these things with some of the phrases Paul has used earlier in this chapter. For example, what then shall we say in response toNIV the fact that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1)? Or, what then shall we say in response to the fact that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (8:26)? What then shall we say in response to the fact that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (8:28)?

The other option for considering what to say in response is the choice Paul makes. He asks rhetorical questions, the answers to which require application of the pattern God has already established for our day-to-day experiences. So, for instance, since God has shown that he is for us, who of any real significance can be against us? Or, since God “did not spare his own Son . . . how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (8:32). Paul wants to let believers know, in no uncertain terms, that their salvation is sure and secure. When we fully realize that God has called, justified, and glorified us, we can do nothing but fall before him in humble gratitude.

If God is for us, who can be against us?NKJV Satan and those under his power are against us, but in the end, God promises the victory. No one will oppose God and his followers forever; their dreadful end is also sure.

8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.NIV How much is God “for” us? So much that he gave us his only Son to die for us. (The Greek word behind “for” is huper, a benefactive pronoun meaning “on behalf of.”) Only through Christ’s death are we been made acceptable to God. The word for spare is the same word for “withheld,” used in Genesis 22:12, when God said to Abraham, “You have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (niv).

Our major struggle with prayer is not that God doesn’t answer. What upsets us is that he seldom answers in line with our plans or schedule. At those times we may think that God is intentionally withholding something from us. But God has already given us the greatest gift of all. Remembering God’s gift will help us see that God is working for our good even when we can’t immediately see it. So when we are most tempted to doubt God’s love for us, we ought to express our love to him. This allows us to apply the lesson of verse 28, trusting that God is working in all things for our good.

How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?NIV God sacrificed his Son to save us; will he now invalidate that sacrifice by refusing to help and guide believers? No, instead, he promises to give us all things to bring us to the ultimate goal—our sanctification and glorification. These things come under the guideline as the things in verse 28; they are experiences God will give us as he “works for the good” that he has planned for us (see also Matthew 6:33). When the Bible promises that God will answer our prayers, it does not oblige God to give us anything we ask of him. Rather, these promises are reminders that we are presenting requests to someone who is infinitely free and powerful to act. The fact that his grace motivates his giving ensures that his gifts are best for us.

8:33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?NIV Paul’s next question is, Who can press charges or accuse us? At first we might think of Satan because he is our accuser (Revelation 20:10). And his charges will contain truth, because despite being saved, we still will sin. But the charges won’t stick—God will throw Satan’s accusations out of court because he has chosen us. The word chosen (eklekton) has been transliterated from Greek and Latin into English as the word elect. In the Bible, election refers to God’s choice of an individual or group for a specific purpose or destiny (see 9:10-13). God is the one who chooses us, and he is also the Judge who has already declared us “not guilty.” When Satan accuses us, Jesus, the advocate for our defense, stands at God’s right hand to present our case (8:34). Thus, the result is that no one can bring a charge against God’s chosen ones. (See also Isaiah 50:8-9. For more on the concept of Christ as our advocate, see the notes in Hebrews 4:14-16.)

8:34 Who is he who condemns?NKJV Like the last question, this one focuses on charges, but in Greek it carries a future tense: Who will condemn? Jesus Christ has been appointed by God to judge the world (John 5:22, 27; Acts 17:31), but Christ Jesus, who died . . . is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.NRSV This is a divine court. God has already declared us “not guilty.” Any further charges of guilt are thrown out of court. Jesus would not condemn those for whom he died. Because he was raised to life,NIV Christ Jesus is at God’s right hand interceding for us in heaven (see also Psalm 110:1; Mark 12:35-37; Hebrews 4:14-16). The Spirit intercedes for us (8:27) and Christ intercedes for us. How much more advocacy do we need?

 

A LETTER TO YOU
Do you ever think that because you aren’t good enough for God, he will not save you? Do you ever feel as if salvation is for everyone else but you? At those times, make verses 31-34 your constant companions. If God gave his Son for you, he isn’t going to hold back the gift of salvation! If Christ gave his life for you, he isn’t going to turn around and condemn you! Christ will not withhold anything you need in order to live for him. The book of Romans is more than a theological explanation of God’s redeeming grace—it is a letter of comfort and confidence addressed to you.

8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?NIV The next questions help seal our assurance in God. Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love for us. Then Paul lists several situations we might think could come between us and God. Paul knew from experience that these could not separate believers from God—he had already experienced them (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). This means that the love of Christ doesn’t separate us from these experiences, but that even in the most devastating of these, the love of Christ is with us.

Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?NIV These words are almost eerily prophetic. The Roman church would face severe persecution within just a few years. But no matter what happens, believers can never be lost to God’s love. When suffering comes, it should not drive us away from God, but rather help us to identify with him further and allow his love to reach us and heal us.

8:36 As it is written . . . Paul quotes from Psalm 44:22 to remind the believers that people who trust in God must expect to face persecution, even death. In that psalm, the poets made the specific point that difficulties and suffering were coming to people who had been faithful. The two verses preceding the one that Paul quotes say, “If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?” (Psalm 44:20-21 niv). Believers who suffer are the rule, not the exception.

8:37 We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.NRSV No, instead of being separated from Christ through all these things (the trials and hardships mentioned in 8:35), we are the conquerors. This does not mean that we will be superheroes, but that our victory will be intensified by virtue of our union with Christ.

 

WHAT MEANS MORE THAN VICTORY?
Paul tells us that through Christ we are more than conquerors. Paul is saying that we surpass Alexander the Great and Caesar because of our faith in Christ. For high achievers, this is good news indeed. There is something better than winning. Perhaps the best way to grasp what Paul means is to realize that the experience of victory can be extremely selfish. To be more than conquerors means that our moments of spiritual achievement coincide with moments of realization that we have succeeded through him who loved us. The glow of the greatest victory dims in the light of Christ’s love for us.

8:38 I am convinced.NIV Or, “I have been persuaded,” implies a deep and settled frame of mind. When we express our beliefs, we may say, “I think.” When speaking of the most important matters of time and eternity, we need to become not people who happen to think a certain way, but people who are convinced. ‘For Paul, conviction was a matter of faith confirmed by God’s Word, experience, and a transformed mind. In a similar context, when Paul is explaining to

Timothy the tension between being a servant of the gospel of Christ and yet experiencing suffering, he shares his conclusions: “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12 niv; see also 2 Corinthians 5:11-15; Galatians 5:7-9; 2 Timothy 3:14-17). It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced . . . but a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it.

G. K. Chesterton

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers.NIV Yes, we are secure in Christ—Paul was convinced, and so should we be. Nothing will separate us from God’s love for us (8:39). In both death and the trials of life in this evil world, we will be in God’s presence. No spiritual forces, such as angels or demons, are powerful enough to undo what God has done for us. Nothing in the sphere of time itself can threaten us; nothing that can happen in the present and nothing that can happen in the future, such as persecution and hardship, would cause God to leave us. No powers that exist (Satan, human governments, etc.) are more powerful than God; they can have no effect on our relationship with him.

8:39 Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.NIV Nothing in space, from height or depth, can take us away from God’s love; these words denoted astronomical terms that cover the entire heavens; thus, no supposed astrological powers that might have been thought to determine people’s fate have any power over God. Nothing in all creation can take us away from God’s love or thwart his purposes for us.

Here Paul defends the claim of Christ’s love against all that might seem to offer a threat. Elsewhere, he describes that love itself: “And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself’ (Ephesians 3:17-19, tlb). Paul’s point is simple and compelling: once in his care, it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death for us is proof of his unconquerable love. Nothing can stop his constant presence with us. God tells us how great his love is so that we will feel totally secure in him.

Other Christians have great confidence but in the wrong thing. The lyrics of a popular “Christian” song say something like: “I have determined … to be invincible …” This song writer has far too much confidence—in himself.

The writer should spend some time in Romans 7 and 8 where the fallibility of the Christian is in view. When the reality of Romans 7:24 settles in on the believer, self-confidence is seen to be both foolish and sinful.

In our text, Paul gives us every reason to be confident, not in ourselves but in our salvation and in the sovereign God who is accomplishing it. Heed well Paul’s words here. They offer hope and confidence in the midst of a fallen world. To everyone who is in Christ by faith, they are words of comfort and reassurance.

Paul makes two main points in our text which provide us with the key to the structure of his argument. In verses 31-34, the emphasis is on “no condemnation.” In verses 35-39, Paul stresses “no separation” from the love of Christ our Lord. The structure can be outlined in this way:

(1) No condemnation (verses 31-34)

(2) No separation (verses 35-39)

Beginning with some general observations of our passage as a whole will provide additional insight to our study.

(1) This passage is a conclusion. These verses are the final verses of Paul’s argument in Romans 5-8 dealing with the present and future outworkings of justification by faith. In Romans 9-11 Paul will deal with Israel and the Gentiles in God’s eternal plan of salvation. These final words of chapter 8 are thus the conclusion, not only to chapter 8 but to the first 8 chapters.

(2) The closing verses return to the theme with which Paul began chapter 8—“no condemnation.” Verse 1 began by assuring the Christian that there is “no condemnation.” Verses 31-39 close with that same assurance.

(3) The mood of the passage is that of confident praise.

(4) This passage is God-centered. Paul speaks of a confidence and assurance based in God.

(5) The confidence and assurance is for Christians, for those who are in Christ. “We” and “us” refer to Christians. Paul is writing to Christians concerning the confidence they have in Christ. No confidence or assurance is offered to the non-believer here or elsewhere in the Bible.

(6) Those things which are dreaded, and from which the Christian is delivered, are all the consequences of sin. Accusation, condemnation, and separation from God are all divine judgments for sin. Our text thus offers the Christian assurance that he is delivered from the consequences of sin.

(7) The cross of Jesus Christ is the basis for our deliverance and confidence. God’s love for us is evidenced at the cross. Our justification was achieved at the cross. Our confidence is in God and in the cross of Christ.

(8) Paul uses a question and answer format. Verses 31-35 all contain one or more questions. The questions are personal, “Who?” rather than impersonal, “What?” The confidence and comfort Paul wishes his Christian reader to experience results from the fact that there is no answer. The question, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” (verse 33), gives great comfort because there is no answer. No one will bring a charge against us. This is true also of his other questions.217

What Then Shall We Say to These Things? (8:31)

What things is Paul referring to by the expression, “these things”? Since verses 31-39 serve as the conclusion to all of chapters 1-8, we could rightly think of “these things” as Paul’s teaching on the sinfulness of man, the salvation of God, and the hope of the Christian. In the more immediate context of Romans 8, we could include the promise of no condemnation (8:1), the provision of the Holy Spirit (8:4-27), and the sovereignty of God in salvation (8:28-30). I personally believe Paul is referring primarily to the sovereignty of God in our salvation which he has just taught in Romans 8:28-30.

The question Paul asks here explores the implications of what he has been teaching to this point. It also conveys a very important inference: REVELATION REQUIRES MAN’S RESPONSE. Paul does not ask, “Shall we say something?” Instead, he asks, “What shall we say …?” In Paul’s mind, it is necessary for us to say something in response to what God has revealed through him. God’s Word is not information to be filed away. It is not given to us as an academic exercise. The Word of God is given to us to act upon and to obey. Romans 8:31-39 is the bottom line of the doctrines taught thus far.

God is for us (v. 31). The Father is for us and proved it by giving His Son (Rom. 8:32). The Son is for us (Rom. 8:34) and so is the Spirit (Rom. 8:26). God is making all things work for us (Rom. 8:28). In His person and His providence, God is for us. Sometimes, like Jacob, we lament, “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36), when actually everything is working for us. The conclusion is obvious: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

The believer needs to enter into each new day realizing that God is for him. There is no need to fear, for his loving Father desires only the best for His children, even if they must go through trials to receive His best. “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope'” (Jer. 29:11, nasb).

Christ died for us (v. 32). The argument here is from the lesser to the greater. If when we were sinners, God gave us His best, now that we are God’s children, will He not give us all that we need? Jesus used this same argument when He tried to convince people that it was foolish to worry and fear. God cares for the birds and sheep, and even for the lilies; surely He will care for you! God is dealing with His own on the basis of Calvary grace, not on the basis of Law. God freely gives all things to His own!

God has justified us (v. 33). This means that He has declared us righteous in Christ Satan would like to accuse us (Zech. 3:1-7; Rev. 12:10), but we stand righteous in Jesus Christ. We are God’s elect—chosen in Christ and accepted in Christ. God will certainly not accuse us since it is He who has justified us. For Him to accuse us would mean that His salvation was a failure and we are still in our sins.

Understanding the meaning of justification brings peace to our hearts. When God declares the believing sinner righteous in Christ, that declaration never changes. Our Christian experience changes from day to day, but justification never changes. We may accuse ourselves, and men may accuse us; but God will never take us to court and accuse us. Jesus has already paid the penalty and we are secure in Him.

Christ intercedes for us (v. 34). A dual intercession keeps the believer secure in Christ: the Spirit intercedes (Rom. 8:26-27) and the Son of God intercedes (Rom. 8:34). The same Saviour who died for us is now interceding for us in heaven. As our High Priest, He can give us the grace we need to overcome temptation and defeat the enemy (Heb. 4:14-16). As our Advocate, He can forgive our sins and restore our fellowship with God (1 John 1:9-2:2). Intercession means that Jesus Christ represents us before the throne of God and we do not have to represent ourselves.

Paul hinted at this ministry of intercession in Romans 5:9-10. We are not only saved by His death, but we are also saved by His life. “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25, NIV). Peter sinned against the Lord, but he was forgiven and restored to fellowship because of Jesus Christ. “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has asked permission to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed especially for you that your own faith may not utterly fail” (Luke 22:31-32, wms). He is interceding for each of us, a ministry that assures us that we are secure.

Christ loves us (vv. 35-39). In Romans 8:31-34 Paul proved that God cannot fail us, but is it possible that we can fail Him? Suppose some great trial or temptation comes, and we fail? Then what? Paul deals with that problem in this final section and explains that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ.

To begin with, God does not shelter us from the difficulties of life because we need them for our spiritual growth (Rom. 5:3-5). In Romans 8:28 God assures us that the difficulties of life are working for us and not against us. God permits trials to come that we might use them for our good and His glory. We endure trials for His sake (Rom. 8:36), and since we do, do you think that He will desert us? Of course not! Instead, He is closer to us when we go through the difficulties of life.

Furthermore, He gives us the power to conquer (Rom. 8:37). We are “more than conquerors,” literally, “we are superconquerors” through Jesus Christ! He gives us victory and more victory! We need not fear life or death, things present or things to come, because Jesus Christ loves us and gives us the victory. This is not a promise with conditions attached: “If you do this, God will do that.” This security in Christ is an established fact, and we claim it for ourselves because we are in Christ. Nothing can separate you from His love! Believe it—and rejoice in it!

A review of this wonderful chapter shows that the Christian is completely victorious. We are free from judgment because Christ died for us and we have His righteousness. We are free from defeat because Christ lives in us by His Spirit and we share His life. We are free from discouragement because Christ is coming for us and we shall share His glory. We are free from fear because Christ intercedes for us and we cannot be separated from His love.

No condemnation! No obligation! No frustration! No separation!

If God be for us, who can be against us!

This is one of the most lyrical passages Paul ever wrote. In Rom 8:32 there is a wonderful allusion which would stand out to any Jew who knew his Old Testament well. Paul says in effect: “God for us did not spare his own Son; surely that is the final guarantee that he loves us enough to supply all our needs.” The words Paul uses of God are the very words God used of Abraham when Abraham proved his utter loyalty by being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command. God said to Abraham: “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen 22:12). Paul seems to say: “Think of the greatest human example in the world of a man’s loyalty to God; God’s loyalty to you is like that.” Just as Abraham was so loyal to God that he was prepared to sacrifice his dearest possession, God is so loyal to men that he is prepared to sacrifice his only Son for them. Surely we can trust a loyalty like that for anything.

It is difficult to know just how to take Rom 8:33-35. There are two ways of taking them and both give excellent sense and precious truth.

(i) We can take them as two statements, followed by two questions which give the inferences to be made from these statements. (a) It is God who acquits men—that is the statement. If that be so who can possibly condemn men? If man is acquitted by God, then he is saved from every other condemnation. (b) Our belief is in a Christ who died and rose again and who is alive for evermore—that is the statement. If that be so, is there anything in this or any other world that can separate us from our Risen Lord?

If we take it that way two great truths are laid down. (a) God has acquitted us; therefore no one can condemn us. (b) Christ is risen; therefore nothing can ever separate us from him.

(ii) But there is another way to take it. God has acquitted us. Who then can condemn us) The answer is that the Judge of all men is Jesus Christ. He is the one who has the right to condemn—but so far from condemning, he is at God’s right hand interceding for us, and therefore we are safe.

It may be that in Rom 8:34 Paul is doing a very wonderful thing. He is saying four things about Jesus. (a) He died. (b) He rose again. (c) He is at the right hand of God. (d) He makes intercession for us there. Now the earliest creed of the Church, which is still the essence of all Christian creeds, ran like this: “He was crucified dead and buried; the third day he rose again from the dead; and sitteth at the right hand of God from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” Three items in Paul’s statement and in the early creed are the same, that Jesus died, rose again, and is at the right hand of God. But the fourth is different. In the creed the fourth is that Jesus will come to be the judge of the quick and the dead. In Paul the fourth is that Jesus is at God’s right hand to plead our case. It is as if Paul said: “You think of Jesus as the Judge who is there to condemn; and well he might for he has won the right. But you are wrong; he is not there to be our prosecuting counsel but to be the advocate to plead our cause.”

I think that the second way of taking this is right. With one tremendous leap of thought Paul has seen Christ, not as the Judge but as the lover of the souls of men.

Paul goes on with a poet’s fervour and a lover’s rapture to sing of how nothing can separate us from the love of God in our Risen Lord.

(i) No affliction, no hardship, no peril can separate us. (Rom 8:35.) The disasters of the world do not separate a man from Christ; they bring him closer yet.

(ii) In Rom 8:38-39 Paul makes a list of terrible things.

Neither life nor death can separate us from Christ. In life we live with Christ; in death we die with him; and because we die with him, we also rise with him. Death, so far from being a separation, is only a step into his nearer presence; not the end but “the gate on the skyline” leading to the presence of Jesus Christ.

The angelic powers cannot separate us from him. At this particular time the Jews had a highly developed belief in angels. Everything had its angel. There was an angel of the winds, of the clouds, of the snow and hail and hoarfrost. of the thunder and the lightning, of cold and heat, of the seasons. The Rabbis said that there was nothing in the world, not even a blade of grass, that had not got its angel. According to the Rabbis there were three ranks of angels. The first included thrones, cherubim and seraphim. The second included powers, lordships and mights. The third included angels and archangels and principalities. More than once Paul speaks of these angels (Eph 1:21; Eph 3:10; Eph 6:12; Col 2:10, 15; 1 Cor 15:24). Now the Rabbis—and Paul had once been a Rabbi—believed that they were grudgingly hostile to men. They believed that they had been angry when God created man. It was as if they did not want to share God with anyone and had grudged man his share in him. The Rabbis had a legend that when God appeared on Sinai to give Moses the law he was attended by his hosts of angels, and the angels grudged Israel the law, and assaulted Moses on his way up the mountain and would have stopped him had not God intervened. So Paul, thinking in terms of his own day, says, “Not even the grudging, jealous angels can separate us from the love of God, much as they would like to do so.”

No age in time can separate us from Christ. Paul speaks of things present and things to come. We know that the Jews divided all time into this present age and the age to come. Paul is saying: “In this present world nothing can separate us from God in Christ; the day will come when this world will be shattered and the new age will dawn. It does not matter; even then, when this world has passed and the new world come, the bond is still the same.”

No malign influences (powers) will separate us from Christ. Paul speaks about height and depth. These are astrological terms. The ancient world was haunted by the tyranny of the stars. They believed that a man was born under a certain star and thereby his destiny was settled. There are some who still believe that; but the ancient world was really haunted by this supposed domination of a man’s life by the influence of the stars. Height (hupsoma, <G5313>) was the time when a star was at its zenith and its influence was greatest; depth (bathos, <G899>) was the time when a star was at its lowest, waiting to rise and to put its influence on some man. Paul says to these haunted men of his age: “The stars cannot hurt you. In their rising and their setting they are powerless to separate you from God’s love.”

No other world can separate us from God. The word that Paul uses for other (heteros, <G2087>) has really the meaning of different. He is saying: “Suppose that by some wild flight of imagination there emerged another and a different world, you would still be safe; you would still be enwrapped in the love of God.”

Here is a vision to take away all loneliness and all fear. Paul is saying: “You can think of every terrifying thing that this or any other world can produce. Not one of them is able to separate the Christian from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, Lord of every terror and Master of every world.” Of what then shall we be afraid?

If God Is for Us, Who Is Against Us? (8:31)

The “if” here is not “iffy.”218 It could just as well be translated “since.” The New Jerusalem Bible renders Paul’s question this way: “With God on our side, who can be against us?

The first part of the question is therefore the premise. The second part of the question is the conclusion. Let us consider the premise first.

God is for us. In the context, the “us” must mean, “those of us who are in Christ.” God is “for” His children. He is “for us” in the sense that He has chosen us, predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, and He has called and justified us (Romans 8:28-30). He is at work, causing all things to work together for our good. Our “good” includes our present process of sanctification and our ultimate destiny in our adoption as sons of God. God is bringing about the good which He has purposed for us.

This statement, “God is for us,” cannot be interpreted or applied apart from His purpose (8:28). God is not “for us” in some nebulous, undefined way. We do not have the promise that God will deal with us in any way that we ask or desire. The prosperity gospelizers promise a God who is a kind of magic genie, as though we need but inform Him how He can serve us. God is “for us” in a way that produces the “good” He has purposed and prepared for us in eternity past. It is God’s prerogative to define “good,” not ours.

Based upon the premise that God is “for us,” Paul presses us to consider the implications. “If God is for us [as He most certainly is], who is against us?” Paul is not suggesting that we have no opposition. We all know that the Christian will have many adversaries. Paul’s question is designed to point out the puniness of any opponent in light of the fact that God is our proponent.

One of my favorite movies, “The Bear,” has in the final scenes a little grizzly cub being attacked by a mountain lion. The life of the little cub seems to be in great danger as the mountain lion moves in for the kill. Suddenly, the baby bear rears up on its hind legs letting out the fiercest growl it can muster. Amazingly, the mountain lion shrinks back! The camera then slowly draws back to reveal just behind the cub a massive grizzly, reared on his hind legs, delivering a fierce warning to the mountain lion. The cub’s enemy was great. But in the protective shadow of the great grizzly, that mountain lion was nothing. With the giant grizzly as its protection, who was this mere mountain lion? With God on our side, who could possibly be an opponent who would cause us to shrink back in fear? The sovereignty of a God who is “for us” provides a new perspective on anyone or anything which threatens to oppose or destroy us.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32).

The certainty of God’s faithful provision for all of our needs is in view in this question. It is an argument based on the greater and the lesser: if God did not hesitate to give us the greatest gift of all, certainly He can be counted on to freely give us lesser gifts. The New Jerusalem Bible renders Paul’s words this way:

Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give.

Mortal minds will never fathom the sacrifice which the Father made to bring about the redemption of His chosen ones. For the Son, it meant the rejection of the nation Israel, the physical agony of the cross, and the ultimate pain, the separation from His Father which was the penalty He paid for our sins. For the Father, it meant giving up His Son, allowing sinful men to nail Him to a cross, and having to pour out His wrath on His beloved One.

The Son willingly endured the agony of the cross in order to do the will of His Father and to bring glory to Him. The Father willingly gave up His Son so that by means of His sacrifice the Son might be glorified (see John 17:1-5; Philippians 2:5-11). Imagine the heart of the Father as He heard the plea of His Son in the Garden of Gethsemene. Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, My God, should die for me?

Contemporary theology, using the term loosely, tries to make the cross of Christ the measure of our worth to God: “We were worth so much to God that He sent His Son to die for us.” This misses the point altogether. It turns the spotlight, the focus, from God to man. The cross of Calvary is not the measure of our worth; it is the measure of God’s love. That is what Paul wants us to see here. The cross imputes worth to sinners who receive the gift of salvation. The cross is not the evidence of our worth but the source of our worth. We are worthy because Christ died for us. Christ did not die for us because we were worthy.

Having gone this far, allow me to question another popular, but erroneous, theme in contemporary Christian thinking. How many times have you heard someone say something like: “If I were the only one in the world to believe in Him, Christ would have died for me.” This is man-centered thinking. This is sentimental foolishness! It is not biblical truth.

We know from Romans 8:28-30 and other biblical texts that it was a sovereign God who purposed to save men. It was this God who chose some for salvation. Those whom He foreknew, these He called, justified, and glorified. Christ did not die to save an unknown group of people. Christ died to save those whom He chose. Thus, Paul writes here in verse 32 that God “delivered Him up for us all.” He died to save “all” those whom He purposed to save. For any Christian to think that God sent His Son to save only one is to give oneself far too much credit. God knew whom He would save, and when He gave up His Son, it was to procure the salvation of “all” those whom He chose. Let us realign our thinking with the Scriptures, and cease to rearrange the Scriptures to suit our self-centered preferences.

If God gave up His beloved Son, His precious Son, then it is not difficult to believe that He will “freely” give us “all things.” The “all things” must, however, be limited to all those things which are essential to bring about the “good” He has purposed for us. And these things are freely given “with Him.”

In a cafeteria, you may take any item of food you like and pay for each one. In a restaurant, various main dishes are listed, usually under a meat dish. Whether you order fish, pork chops, or a T-bone steak certain foods come with it. With your meat order, there is the choice of a salad or soup, some form of potato or rice, a vegetable, rolls or bread. You pay for the meat, as it were, and the rest is given freely.

That is the way it is with the blessings of God. The “meat” is justification by faith, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Along with Christ’s provision, God supplies every other need, “all things.” This He does freely. We dare not ask for the extras if we have not ordered the meat. We dare not expect God to bless us and provide for our needs unless we have received His gift of salvation in Christ. There are some who like their religion “cafeteria style.” They would like to pass up the meat, Jesus Christ, and take those blessings of God which fulfill their desires. It cannot be done. God will not allow it. We must, as our Lord said, seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, in Christ, and then all these things will be added (see Matthew 6:33).

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:33-39).

These verses have a distinctly judicial flavor. We are being taken into a court of law so that we may be shown that there is no condemnation for those who are “in Christ Jesus” (see 8:1). Imagine that we are in the courtroom as we attempt to grasp the message Paul conveys in these verses.

Most of us know what the courtroom is like from watching Perry Mason on television. At the front of the courtroom, the judge is seated. He will be the one who hears the testimony, views the evidence, and pronounces the verdict.219 To the left of the judge, the prosecution is seated. The task of the prosecutor is to make accusations against the accused and to prove that they are legitimate charges. To the right of the judge sits the defendant—the one who is to be accused. And at the side of the accused is seated the counsel for the defense, whose job it is to argue on behalf of the accused in his defense.

Before considering the courtroom scene Paul describes here, we must first be reminded of a fundamental truth without which Paul’s words fail to make their point. Just as God has ordained that there is no other Savior than Jesus Christ, so there is no other Judge than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has two roles. The first is that as Savior. The second is that of Judge. All who receive Him as Savior need never fear facing His sentence of condemnation as the Judge of all the earth. Those who reject Him as Savior most certainly will be condemned by Him as their Judge. These two roles of our Lord—Savior and Judge—are both claimed by our Lord:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

“And He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27).

And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11).

“And if anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:47-48).

At first it seems that our Lord’s words are contradictory. He did not come to judge, and yet He will judge. This difficulty is easily explained in the light of our Lord’s two comings. The purpose of our Lord’s first coming was not to come as the Judge to condemn sinners. The purpose of His first coming was to make an atonement for the sins of men. When He came the first time, He came to save. This is why He would not condemn the sinful woman caught in the act of adultery. But when He comes again, He comes to judge the earth and to condemn all who have rejected God’s salvation through His shed blood. The Lord is either one’s Savior or one’s Judge. If He is your Savior, He will not be your Judge, who will pronounce God’s condemnation upon you. If you reject Him as Savior, He will most certainly be your Judge. In fact, you are already condemned according to our Lord.

It is this truth—that God has made Jesus either one’s Savior or his Judge—that Paul builds upon in verses 33 and 34. Ponder this courtroom scene for a moment. Outside of faith in Jesus Christ, every man is a guilty sinner. When judgment day comes, he must sit in the defendant’s seat, the seat of the accused. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Judge, the One whom the sinner has scorned and rejected. The Lord Jesus is also the prosecutor. The accused sinner has no defense. He is, as Paul has said earlier in Romans, “without excuse” (1:20; 2:1).

But salvation changes all this. The courtroom scene becomes vastly different. The forgiven sinner need not sit in the defendant’s chair. This is because the prosecutor cannot press any charges. The Father, the Judge, has already pronounced us to be righteous, justified by faith. How could the Judge condemn us? Jesus Christ has already been condemned in our place. He was raised from the dead, and He now is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

The picture is something like this. The Father’s beloved Son, who would have been our prosecutor, has taken our place and has paid the penalty for our sin. More than this, having been raised from the dead, the prosecutor has left His seat and has seated Himself beside us, committed to our defense and pleading with the Father on our behalf.

The force of Paul’s argument now begins to emerge. The only One who could have accused us has resigned His post. The only One who could have condemned us as a righteous Judge has brought about our salvation. Our dreaded foe, viewed from the perspective of the unbeliever, has now become our beloved Defender. The only one who can mete out divine punishment has meted it out on His own Son so that we might be saved. Who, then, can accuse us? Who, then, can condemn us? No one can legitimately accuse us. No one can rightfully condemn us. The One who was our Judge has become our Justifier.

  1. K. Barrett, in his commentary on Romans, has caught the force of Paul’s argument. It is reflected in his translation of these verses:

Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? God—who justifies us? Who condemns us? Christ Jesus—who died, or rather was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who actually is interceding on our behalf?220

Paul’s theology and terminology are hardly new and not exclusively New Testament. Note the similarity in thought of these words, found in the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah:

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient, Nor did I turn back. I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. For the Lord God helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I shall not be ashamed. He who vindicates Me is near; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other; Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me. Behold, the Lord God helps Me; Who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them. Who is among you that fears the Lord, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God (Isaiah 50:4-10).

The important thing to notice in this passage is that the One who is the “disciple” is none other than Israel’s Messiah. His confidence in God is the basis for His boldness in enduring the rejection of men. Because God is on His side, he does not fear ill-treatment from men. He is willing to commit His life to the God who is His Defender. With God on His side, the Messiah was both willing and able to face a world that would reject and persecute Him. This confidence, which sustained our Lord, is that same confidence which is also able to sustain every saint.

In Deuteronomy 28, God tells Israel that the very things Paul has named are those which God has promised to bring upon His people, if they do not obey His Word:

“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord shall send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you (Deuteronomy 28:47-48).

Adversity in the life of the believer should stimulate him to some introspection, to give thought as to whether God might be disciplining him for some known sin. This, I believe, is implied in the New Testament as well:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him (James 5:14-15).

Even when God does bring adversity into our lives because of sin, it should not result in doubts concerning the love of God. Discipline is an evidence of God’s love as the writer to the Hebrews makes clear (see Hebrews 12:1-13).

But besides correction for specific sins, God has yet another purpose for affliction and calamity. It is a constructive purpose. It is a purpose designed to produce our good, just as Romans 8:28 says. God has not only purposed adversity for correction but also for the advancement of the gospel. Paul’s quotation from Psalm 44 in verse 36 emphasizes the role of the suffering of the righteous in the accomplishment of God’s purposes. Note the broader context of the verse which Paul has cited:

Psalm 44 (For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah.) O God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us, The work that Thou didst in their days, In the days of old. Thou with Thine own hand didst drive out the nations; Then Thou didst plant them; Thou didst afflict the peoples, Then Thou didst spread them abroad. For by their own sword they did not possess the land; And their own arm did not save them; But Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy presence, For Thou didst favor them. Thou art my King, O God; Command victories for Jacob. Through Thee we will push back our adversaries; Through Thy name we will trample down those who rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me. But Thou hast saved us from our adversaries, And Thou hast put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted all day long, And we will give thanks to Thy name forever. Selah.

Yet Thou hast rejected us and brought us to dishonor, And dost not go out with our armies. Thou dost cause us to turn back from the adversary; And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves. Thou dost give us as sheep to be eaten, And hast scattered us among the nations. Thou dost sell Thy people cheaply, And hast not profited by their sale. Thou dost make us a reproach to our neighbors, A scoffing and a derision to those around us. Thou dost make us a byword among the nations, A laughingstock among the peoples. All day long my dishonor is before me, And my humiliation has overwhelmed me, Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles, Because of the presence of the enemy and the avenger. All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten Thee, And we have not dealt falsely with Thy covenant. Our heart has not turned back, And our steps have not deviated from Thy way, Yet Thou hast crushed us in a place of jackals, And covered us with the shadow of death. If we had forgotten the name of our God, Or extended our hands to a strange god; Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart. But for Thy sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. Arouse Thyself, why dost Thou sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever. Why dost Thou hide Thy face, And forget our affliction and our oppression? For our soul has sunk down into the dust; Our body cleaves to the earth. Rise up, be our help, And redeem us for the sake of Thy lovingkindness.

In verses 1-3, the psalmist expresses confidence in God based upon His past deliverances. It was God who brought Israel into the land, drove out their enemies, and planted His people in their place. In verses 4-8, the psalmist expresses confidence in God to do the same in his own time. Verses 9-16 introduce the dilemma. The psalmist’s experience has not been that of his forefathers as described in verses 1-3. God has not delivered His people as expected (verses 4-8). Instead, Israel has been defeated and oppressed. Many of the calamities listed by Paul in Romans 8:35 have come upon Israel.

The psalmist’s great problem is now laid before God in verses 17-22. If Israel had sinned, then these calamities would be understandable. If Israel had rejected God and rebelled against His law, then the defeat of Israel at the hand of her enemies would be understandable. But Israel had not rebelled, for once. Israel was trusting in God and obeying His law. In spite of their trust in God, the psalmist described their condition:

But for Thy sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered (Psalm 44:22).

The solution to the psalmist’s agony is to be found in the words “for Thy sake.” Suffering is not always for sin’s sake (discipline). Suffering is also for God’s sake. Suffering is one of the means through which God achieves His purposes. It must be so if God causes “all things” to work together for good. It was true for the Messiah. He must suffer much at the hands of His people in order to make an atonement for sin. The experience of our Lord was not an exception, but rather a pattern, an example:

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, (1 Peter 2:18-21).

Paul’s words in verse 37 of our text spell out the principle which underlies Psalm 44: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

It is a paradox, but it is true. It is consistent with the way God works. We save our lives by giving them up. We lead by serving others. We conquer by being conquered. Our Lord’s death at Calvary seemed to be a defeat, but in God’s wisdom it was the defeat of Satan, sin, and death.

Christians want to think of victory in terms of winning. We like to think that Christ’s power and purposes are most evident when we win, when we overcome our opponents. Paul simply underscores a principle which has always governed God’s work: God uses apparent defeat to produce ultimate victory. God uses the suffering of His saints to make them conquerors—more than conquerors.

We overwhelmingly conquer “in all these things”; we conquer through these things. We are victorious when we suffer the calamities of life, in faith, trusting in God, knowing that He is accomplishing His purposes through our affliction. If suffering was God’s will for His sinless, beloved Son, is it not also His will for His sons, the sons of God? And the very One who is giving us the victory is the one “who loved us,” who loved us through the suffering and death of His Son. Our confidence must not end when the going gets tough. The testing of our faith really begins here.

The expression “overwhelmingly conquer” needs to be pondered. The Bible does not promise to make “copers” of us, but conquerors. It is not enough to muddle through life merely enduring our adversity. God does not promise to take us out of our afflictions, but He does promise that we will emerge from them victorious. We will be victorious in the sense that we will grow in our faith, hope and love. We will conquer in that we will become more like Christ due to our sufferings. We will conquer in that God’s purposes will be achieved through us and others will see the grace of God at work in our lives.

But we do not just conquer; Paul says that we will “overwhelmingly” conquer. How does one overwhelmingly conquer? I think I have a small grasp of what this means. I believe we overwhelmingly conquer as the sons of God. When God created man, Adam and Eve, and put him on the earth, he was created to reflect God’s image. The fall greatly marred this image of God in man. God has purposed our salvation to restore this image. Paul has written in verse 29 that we are predestined to become conformed to the image of Christ. Man was originally to reflect the image of God by subduing the earth and ruling over it, in God’s name. We, as the sons of God, with Christ, will have a part in the conquest and restoration of the earth. This is that for which all of creation eagerly awaits (8:20-23).

Paul now tells us that no created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ (8:30). Creation will not overcome us, Paul is saying; we shall overcome it. Not only will we safely endure and grow in the midst of any opposition or suffering which part of this fallen creation imposes on us, we will eventually overcome it and have a part in ruling over it, with Christ. That is what I believe Paul means when he says “we overwhelmingly conquer.”

Verses 38 and 39 list some of the dimensions of created things which will not overcome us. The list is intended to be all-inclusive, and so it is. Neither “death” nor “life” shall overcome us.221 For some, death is the dreaded enemy. Christ came to deliver us from the “fear of death” which holds men in bondage (Hebrews 2:15). For others, life is the dreaded enemy, and death seems to be a door of escape. Those who think this way are tempted by suicidal thoughts.

The next category of created things is that of “angels and principalities.” If Paul is following the pattern he established above with death and life, then he is attempting to encompass the entire spectrum of celestial beings. He would especially be referring to those angelic beings which are fallen and which seek to destroy us. Satan would be included in this category.222

The next category of created things is that of events, whether “present” or future (“things to come”).223 It is interesting to think of events as something created, but in a very real sense they are. If God is sovereign, as He surely is, and He has mapped out history from eternity past then we must say that God created history. Prophecy is based upon this fact. Thus, in light of Romans 8:28, we must say that the events we presently face, along with those we shall face in the future, have been created by God for our good. And so it is that these things cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ.

The list of created things ends with “powers, height, depth, nor any other created thing.” There is considerable question as to what Paul meant by the term “powers.” It may refer to mighty works of power, miraculous works, or it may refer to powers. I am presently inclined to understand Paul’s words as Barrett does when he renders Paul’s words here,

For I am confident that neither death nor life, neither angels nor their princes, neither things present nor things to come, nor spiritual powers, whether above or below the level of the earth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.224

God is the Creator. He is also the sovereign ruler over all creation. Nothing happens but that which He has ordained to bring about His purpose. Nothing in all creation falls outside of His control, and thus we can be assured that His purposes will be achieved. We can have absolute confidence that we will be more than conquerors regardless of what may come our way.

This confidence is the possession of every Christian, of every one who is the object of God’s love. And this love of God is manifested only in and through Jesus Christ. We cannot be assured of His love apart from faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the evidence of God’s love. He is the sole expression of God’s love with regard to salvation. To reject Jesus Christ is to spurn the love of God. To receive Jesus Christ as Savior is to be confident that nothing in all the world can separate us from His love in Christ.

Conclusion

Having studied our text of Romans 8:31-39, let me leave you with some avenues for future thought, study, prayer, and application.

First, the sovereignty of God is the basis for our security. We dare not be confident in ourselves. This would be folly. We dare not doubt that we shall be more than conquerors. This would be to deny His Word and to distrust God. We, like Paul, should be absolutely convinced concerning these things, based upon the Word of God. Our security is rooted in God, in His sovereignty, and in His unfailing love.

Today self-confidence is looked upon as a virtue and lack of self-assurance as a vice. Even in Christian circles we are being told how we can raise our children so that they feel good about themselves, are self-assured, and confident. The Bible calls for humility, not pride; for dependence on God, not self-sufficiency. Let us beware of seeking that which God’s Word condemns. Let us look to God, to God alone. He is our refuge and strength. In Him, and Him alone, is our confidence.

Second, our security and confidence in God is the basis for our service. It is not doubt, nor fear, nor guilt which should motivate our service, but a confidence in God mixed with deep and abiding gratitude. Because we are secure in Christ, we may serve. We need not focus on ourselves but on Him. Since He is the “author and finisher of our faith,” we must “fix our eyes on Him” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Third, our security is never an excuse for sloppiness. Some would abuse the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and the believer’s security. They would sinfully suggest that since God is in control, it matters not what we do. This is just the opposite of the truth. God’s sovereignty is the basis for our diligence and obedience. If we trust in ourselves, this would be folly, because we will fail. But when we trust in God, we know that we ultimately cannot fail and that our efforts are not in vain.

Fourth, the Scriptures never raise any doubt that God will finish what He started at salvation (see Philippians 1:6). The question raised in Scripture is not, “Will the saints endure to the end?” The question is rather, “Are we sure that we are in Christ?” The security of the believer is never brought into question in the Scriptures. Whether or not we are a believer is a question which is raised, and rightly so.

Fifth, the basis for our salvation and our security is found in the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. Did you notice that every fear, every dread, in this text is the result of sin? And did you notice as well that every cure goes back to the cross of Calvary? Here is God’s means of redemption. Here is the measure of His love. Here is the assurance and confidence that God’s purposes and promises will never fail. No wonder we must continually go back to the cross. We should never grow weary of going back to the cross. Here is where our salvation began. Here is where it was finished. That God sent Jesus to the cross is the measure of His love for us. That God would raise Jesus from the dead is the measure of His power. When such love and power meet, we, as sons of God, have every reason to be confident.

Finally, the security of the believer requires a response. Paul’s conclusion reminds us that biblical revelation requires a response. The security of the believer in the sovereign love of God should produce humility, gratitude, dependence, confidence, and praise. Let us ponder these closing words of Romans 8, especially in contrast to the agonizing cry at the end of chapter 7. Let us savor our security, and let us stand fast, knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.

(8:31-33) God, Work of—Assurance—Jesus Christ, Death: God has acted for the believer, not against him. This is the fourth assurance of deliverance. This is the greatest truth in all the world. God did not have to act for man, but He did. God loves every man, no matter his condition or sin and shame. Therefore, believers can rest assured that nothing, absolutely nothing shall ever separate them from the plan and purpose of God. God’s love is absolute. It is perfect. And God shall have His perfect love expressed by completing His perfect plan and purpose for each life. The believer can have absolute assurance that God will work all things out for his good, even things that fail and are painful to the heart. God shall deliver the believer from the struggling and suffering of this world. The true believer shall be conformed to the image of Christ and glorified with Him (Romans 8:29-30).

The point is this: God Himself is the believer’s assurance. God Himself has acted for the believer; He has done everything necessary and then more: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

  1. God is our Savior. It was God who “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). The words “spared not” (ouk epheisato) mean that God did not hold back or refrain from giving His Son; He did not refuse or even hesitate to give His Son. The picture is that of God weighing man’s eternal separation from Him against the sacrifice of His Son. He had a choice to make and He made it; He deliberately chose to sacrifice His Son for us. God knew exactly what He was doing. He wanted man delivered from this struggling and suffering world, and there was only one way for man to be saved:

Someone had to bear man’s penalty for transgression and sin, which was the judgment of death.

Therefore, God handed His own Son over to die for us—in our behalf, in our stead, in our place, as our substitute. God spared not His own Son; He delivered Christ Jesus up for us all. What a glorious, marvelous, wonderful love! And just how wonderful His love is can be clearly seen in this: it was while we were sinners, acting and rebelling against God, that He gave His Son to die for us.

  1. God is our Provider. Since God has done such a great and glorious thing, how shall He not also give us all things? Giving His own Son for us was the greatest gift in all the world; therefore, He is bound to give us everything else. Nothing could ever cost God anything close to the price He has paid in giving up His Son; therefore, God shall give us everything else. Note three points.
  2. God’s provision includes spiritual, eternal, and material gifts.

The spiritual provision is the fruit of the Spirit.

The eternal provision is deliverance from the struggling and suffering of this sinful world. It is the gift of eternal life, of living gloriously conformed to the image of His dear Son, Jesus Christ (see note, pt.2— Romans 8:29 for just what this means).

The material gifts are the necessities of life (see outline— Matthew 6:25-34, and notes— Matthew 6:25-34).

  1. The provision is freely given. God’s gift of His Son was freely given; therefore, all that God provides for man is freely given. No man can merit or earn God’s provision. God provides and meets the need of the believer because He loves the believer.
  2. The provision of God comes through Christ and through Him alone. Note the words “with Him.” It is with Christ that God gives us all things. If we are with Christ, then all things are given to us. We shall be delivered from struggling and suffering. Believers can rest assured of this. No matter how much we struggle and suffer through the sin and shame of this world, God will see us through it all. He is is going to conform us to the glorious image of His Son.
  3. God is our Justifier. This is the most glorious truth: God does not charge us with sin. In fact, He does not lay anything to our charge; He justifies us.

Note the question: Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God; only God can charge us with sin and shame. But note: if we have truly trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior, if we are one of God’s elect, he does not charge us with sin. He justifies us. He forgives our sin and counts us righteous in Christ Jesus. If we are God’s child, no one can charge us with anything. We are God’s; we belong to God. No one can charge, count, or doom us to be…

       a failure

a detriment

a shame

a sinner

lost

unusable

       an embarrassment

hopeless

helpless

defeated

unworthy

of no value

Man is not our judge; therefore, man cannot judge these things to be true of us—only God can. God is our Judge, and this is the glorious truth: God does not judge His elect. He does not lay sin and shame against His children; He justifies His children. No matter how much we have struggled and suffered through the sin and shame of this world, God delivers us. No matter how far we have fallen, no matter how discouraged we have become, if we are truly God’s child, He picks us up and justifies us in Christ Jesus and continues to conform us to the image of His dear Son. God does not leave us down and defeated, nor does He go around charging us with sin and shame. God justifies us and continues His work of forgiveness and grace in our lives.

 

(8:34) Jesus Christ, Work of—Salvation: Christ does not condemn the believer. This is the fifth assurance of deliverance. Note how direct and forceful the question is: “Who is he that condemneth?” It is Christ; only Christ can condemn us for our sin and shame. But the glorious news is that Christ does not condemn us. On the contrary, the very opposite is true. Christ does four wonderful things for us.

  1. Christ has died for us. Christ is our glorious Savior. When we honestly come to Him, He does not condemn us for our sin and shame; He forgives us. He is able to forgive us because He died for us.

Our sins are a shame, for sin is rebellion against God. Sin acts against God, fights and struggles against God. Sin goes against all that God stands for. Sin is insurrection against God; it is the crime of high treason against God. Sin is the most terrible act that can be done against God.

Therefore, we deserve to be condemned by God and put to death for sin. But we do not have to face condemnation. Christ has already paid the penalty for sin. Christ has already been condemned and executed for our transgression against God. This is the glorious love of Christ. He has already died for us: in our place, in our stead, as our substitute. Therefore when we sincerely come to Christ, He does not condemn us; He loves us and forgives our sin and shame. This is the very purpose of His death—to free us from sin, from its penalty and condemnation.

  1. Christ has risen from the dead for us. Christ is our risen Lord. His resurrection does two marvelous things for the believer.
  2. The resurrection of the Lord proves that God was perfectly satisfied with the death of Jesus Christ. What Christ did—His dying for our sins—was acceptable to God; therefore, God has accepted Jesus’ death for us. God has approved His dying for us. God’s divine justice was perfectly satisfied with Christ dying for us. This is clearly seen in the resurrection of Jesus Christ: if God had not been satisfied, He would have left Jesus in the grave. But thank God, God was satisfied, so He raised up Jesus to live forever as the Sovereign Savior of the world.
  3. The resurrection of the Lord gives the believer a new life, making the believer a new creature and a new man.
  4. Christ has been exalted for us. He is our exalted Lord. He sits face to face with God at His right hand. This gives two assurances to the believer.
  5. The believer shall also be exalted into the presence of God. Just as Christ lives face to face with God, the believer shall also live face to face with God throughout all eternity.
  6. The Lord Jesus Christ is exalted as the Sovereign and majestic Lord of the universe. He is the Ruler who reigns and rules over all, who possesses all might and power and is full of all wisdom and truth. He is the One who is going to destroy and utterly eliminate sin and evil in the world. He is the One who is going to establish a kingdom of righteousness and justice, love and truth in the new heavens and earth.

Note: it is Jesus Christ (and not another) who rules and reigns over the universe. This stirs enormous assurance in the hearts of genuine believers. Why? Because Jesus Christ has demonstrated His glorious love and care for the world. He not only can, but He will look after us and work all things out for good until He returns (Romans 8:28). The control of evil in the world and our lives are under His care. He is working all things out for good to those of us who truly love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

  1. Christ makes intercession for us before the throne of God. He is our great Intercessor, our Mediator and Advocate who stands between God and man. It is Christ Jesus who brings us to God and who makes redemption, even the forgiveness of our sins, possible (Ephes. 1:7).

It is His advocacy, the advocacy of His death and resurrection for us, that forgives our sins.

It is His intercession, the intercession of His death and resurrection for us, that saves us.

It is His presence in heaven and His plea, the plea of His death and resurrection for us, that opens the door of heaven to us.

The point is this. The believer has the greatest assurance imaginable: he shall be delivered from the struggling and suffering of this world. No matter the sin and shame of his life, if he truly comes to Christ, he is not condemned. He is not judged for sin, no matter how terrible or how far he has fallen. If he will only come to Christ, Christ will deliver him. Christ will not leave him down and discouraged and defeated. Christ will not even scold or reproach him. Christ will receive His dear child with open arms.

(8:35-37) Trials, Deliverance from—Salvation—God, Love of: Christ protects the believer from the severest circum-stances. This is the sixth assurance of deliverance, and it is the most wonderful assurance imaginable. “Who [or what] can separate us from the love of God?” Too many people, even believers, feel that God does not love them, that He just could not love them. They feel unworthy of His love, for they come too short, are too disobedient, and fail too often. How could God possibly love them when they go against His will so much? The results of such feelings are…

a sense of unworthiness

a downing of oneself

a sense of discouragement

An accusing of oneself

a low self-esteem

a defeated life

Note a crucial point: such feelings totally contradict Scripture. Look at the verse: “Who [or what] can separate us from the love of Christ?” There is no circumstance, no situation, no event that can cause Christ to turn away from us. No matter how terrible or severe the situation, it cannot separate the true believer from the love of Christ. Christ loves the believer regardless of the circumstance, and He longs to be reconciled to the believer. No more severe circumstance can be imagined than the ones given:

Tribulation: to undergo struggle, trials, temptation, suffering, or affliction.

Distress: to suffer anguish, trouble, strain, agony; not knowing which way to turn or what to do.

Persecution: to be abused, mocked, ridiculed, shamed, mistreated, ignored, neglected, harrassed, attacked, or injured.

Famine: to have no food, to be starving and have no way to secure food.

Nakedness: to be stripped of all clothes and earthly comforts; to be bare, having all earthly possessions taken away.

Peril: to be exposed to the most severe risks; to be confronted with the most terrible dangers to one’s body, mind, soul, property, family, and loved ones.

Sword: to be killed; to suffer martyrdom.

Just imagine a person experiencing all this. What would his thoughts be? Would he feel that he had been forsaken by God? In the midst of so much dark trouble, would he believe that God loved him?

Scripture declares loudly and clearly that God does love him. There is absolutely nothing—no matter how dark and depressing, no matter how severe—that can separate the believer from the love of Christ. Circumstances are not evidence that God does not love us. God loves us no matter what the circumstances may be.

But believers must always remember: they are going to suffer while they are in this world. In fact, the world is going to count them as sheep for the slaughter, rejecting and persecuting them (Psalm 44:22). The world is going to persecute believers as long as believers continue to live for Christ. Their lives of godliness convict the world, and the world rejects godliness. (See note, Persecution Matthew 5:10-12 for why believers are persecuted.)

However, note what is said. No matter the circumstances, we are more than conquerors through Christ who has loved us (Romans 8:37). No matter the circumstances and their severity, Christ will carry us through all, strengthening and encouraging us. We cannot lose, no matter the severity of the situation. Christ loves us and is going to look after and take care of us. The believer can rest assured, Christ protects him from the severest circumstances:

  • Christ meets all the material necessities of life.
  • Christ gives us rest.
  • Christ gives us peace.
  • Christ provides an escape from temptation.
  • Christ comforts us through all trials.
  • Christ supplies all our needs.
  • Christ delivers us through persecution.
  • Christ delivers us into His very presence, giving us eternal life if we are martyred.
  • Christ cares for us no matter the situation.
  • Christ enables us to overcome the world.
  • Christ shows Himself strong in our behalf.
  • Christ delivers us from fear.
  • Christ sustains and supports the aged believer.

(8:38-39) Trials, Deliverance from—Salvation—God, Love of: Christ protects believers from the most extreme experiences and forces. This is the seventh assurance of deliverance. There is nothing in the universe that can separate the believer from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The believer can be fully persuaded of this glorious fact. Just consider the experiences and forces mentioned by Scripture:

  • Not death: confronting death and leaving this world cannot separate us from Christ and His love (John 5:24).
  • Not life: no trial or pleasure or comfort of life, not any person nor any thing in this life can separate us from Christ and His love.
  • Not angels, principalities, or powers: no heavenly or spiritual creature, no being from any other dimension can separate us from Christ and His love.
  • Not any thing present or any thing to come: neither present events, beings or things, nor future events, beings, or things—absolutely nothing in existence or any thing in future existence—can cut us off from Christ and His love.
  • Not height or depth: nothing from outer space or from the depths of the earth can separate us from Christ and His love.

Note the grand finale: if there be any other creature than the ones named, that creature cannot separate us from “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

217 This is the basis for the title of this lesson, “Comforting Questions.” Usually we think of questions for which there are no answers as disturbing questions. That is not so here. The very lack of any answer is the basis for great comfort and confidence for every Christian.

218 The Greek language quite precisely indicates the degree of certainty or the “iffiness” of some occurrence by the uses of three different grammatical constructions. The “if” here is a first class condition indicating certainty.

219 I am assuming that this is not a trial by jury, since God’s judgment will not be such.

220 C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), p. 171.

Stifler expresses the more common view: “It is God that justifieth His own elect; can wicked men or lost spirits or Satan himself call again to account those whose case has been favorably decided in the highest place of judicature? Even to speak against God’s people impeaches the Judge and is contempt of court—Heaven’s court.” James M. Stifler, The Epistle to the Romans (Chicago: Moody Press, 1960), p. 150.

221 It is interesting, is it not, to think of life and death as created things? But they are. God created life as we see in the Book of Genesis. God also created death as the consequence of sin.

222 It is noteworthy that Satan is not mentioned by name. Satan, I believe, is a publicity-seeker. Paul is not willing to give him any press here. In the final analysis, this angel who wanted to take God’s place is left unnamed, lumped in with all other created beings. Satan, the glory-seeker, must not like this at all.

223 Paul does not mention events of the past. This is especially noteworthy in the light of the present psychological emphasis on past events as the source of our present problems. I believe Paul does not mention the past because the cross of Christ has dealt with our past. Old things have passed away, and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

224 Barrett, p. 174.

 

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2021 in Romans

 

More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #12 God is for us! Romans 8:31-39


Romans 8:31 If God is for Us - Free Bible Verse Art ...

Everybody loves to win. We hear, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but it’s how you play the game.” I suppose one needs to learn to lose gracefully, but everybody loves a winner. Do you know you can be a winner in life?

The latter verses of Romans 8 have as their theme “More Than Conquerors.” Romans 8:37 contains a key word regarding being in Jesus: conqueror. It says, “In all these things [in all of life] we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (KJV).

I recognize that in life there are circumstances and events that take place that almost defeat us. We may wonder how we can ever hope to be victors or conquerors. The answer is we must take our eyes off this earth of troubles, heartache, and disappointments. We must lift our eyes heavenward and see the One who is with those who are in Christ and who gives us His power to be victorious over the circumstances of life.

How is it possible for us to be the victors when defeat is all around us? The simple answer is given by Paul in 8:29.

8:31 What then are we to say about these things?NRSV Paul’s questions fall into three categories:

  1. Will opposition from people or Satan be too great? (8:31-32)
  2. Will we fail because of our tendency to sin? (8:33-34)
  3. Will we be overcome by difficult times? (8:35-39)

In broad terms, Paul may be encouraging specific reflection on the evidences we have that God is for us. One way of doing this is to replace these things with some of the phrases Paul has used earlier in this chapter. For example, what then shall we say in response toNIV the fact that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1)?

Or, what then shall we say in response to the fact that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (8:26)?

What then shall we say in response to the fact that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (8:28)?

The other option for considering what to say in response is the choice Paul makes. He asks rhetorical questions, the answers to which require application of the pattern God has already established for our day-to-day experiences.

So, for instance, since God has shown that he is for us, who of any real significance can be against us?

Or, since God “did not spare his own Son . . . how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (8:32).

Paul wants to let believers know, in no uncertain terms, that their salvation is sure and secure. When we fully realize that God has called, justified, and glorified us, we can do nothing but fall before him in humble gratitude.

In 8:31-39 Paul brings to our minds five phrases that declare that God is with us.

  1. I. BECAUSE HE FREELY GIVES US ALL THINGS

First of all, the apostle demonstrates the proof that God is with us when he says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (8:32). I know that God is with us because He freely gave us everything we need.

What we needed more than anything else was deliverance from our sin.

Paul says that God did not “spare His own Son.” A part of God came into the world and was born miraculously of a woman. He was God in the flesh, the human-divine man, the perfect combination of deity and humanity.

A part of God became man and after a ministry of 3.5 years went to a Roman cross and died for the sin of the world.

The question, “Does God care about me?” should never again enter our hearts. It was not because we deserved it; it was not because we loved Him.

It was because He loved us. When that tremendous truth grips our hearts we can never be the same.

  1. II. BECAUSE GOD JUSTIFIES US

There is a second reason based upon 8:33 that God is for us: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?

God is the one who justifies.”

God is not seeking our ruin. God does not want your downfall and destruction. How do I know? Because it is God who justifies. God wants to deal with every human being upon the basis of justification.

What does justification mean? It means we are declared to be innocent. It is just as if I had not sinned, even though I am guilty. God wants to justify.

III. BECAUSE CHRIST DIED FOR US

There is a third reason in 8:34 that I know that God is with us: “Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, . . .”

I know that God is for us because Christ in the planned purpose of God died for us. That is at the heart of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul’s summary of the gospel he preached, says, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day  according  to  the  Scriptures.”

This  is  the heart and core of the gospel—the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Paul is saying Christ has died for us. Who then is he who condemns? It is not Christ because Christ died that we might escape condemnation. I know that God is for us, because Christ has died.

  1. IV. BECAUSE JESUS AROSE AND INTERCEDES FOR US

A fourth important truth is pointed out by the apostle in Romans 8. I know God is for us because Jesus has been raised, exalted to God’s right hand, where He ever lives to make intercession for us.

Verse 34 says, “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”

Intercession is a beautiful word with a wonderful concept. Intercession speaks of three parties. It speaks of God, the God that we have offended with our outrageous sins.

The second party is the sinner—each of us. There is God— party one; there is man—party two. Standing between the holy God and sinful man is the perfect Christ. He reaches up to God and reaches down to man and brings about reconciliation.

He stands at our side pleading our case in the presence of God. Christ is a third party who stands by the side of another party to plead our cause in the presence of yet another.

Jesus Christ, the intercessor, stands by our side to plead our cause in the presence of God.

Because of His intercession we know that God is with us. God is the author of the plan; and it is God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.

It is God who wants to save the sinner. Lest we should ever misunderstand, lest we should ever doubt, He gives us Christ as our intercessor.

  1. V. BECAUSE NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST

There is a fifth reason that I know that God is for us. I know that God is for us because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (8:35-39).

The love of God for man is undefeatable. Nothing will cause God to stop loving us.

Sometimes when a child misbehaves a parent is heard to say, “Don’t do that anymore. God won’t love you.” The child should overcome his misbehavior; but it is poor motivation to tell him that God will not love him if he continues to misbehave.

God loved you, the parent, when you misbehaved. Nothing can ever cause God to stop loving us.

Nothing must ever allow us to stop loving God. It does not matter what comes to you in life; God is not out to get you. He is not getting even with you. He is not punishing you.

Yes, I know that sometimes people suffer as a consequence of their sins. A man may become drunk with alcohol. He may get in a car, speed down the highway, miss a curve, crash into a tree, and kill himself.

Now had he not been drinking the accident might not have happened. Yes, it is true that man sometimes must suffer the consequence of his own sin.

But when you suffer as God’s person, it is not God punishing you. You do not need to ask, “What have I done that God is doing this to me?”

God is not doing this to you. We live in a fallen world. Sometimes we suffer. But we can be assured that nothing, nothing in the whole world, will ever separate us from God’s love for us. I know that God is for us. How do I know? Because nothing can ever cause God to quit loving us.

CONCLUSION

Knowing that God is for us assures me of victory. That is why Paul said in the midst of this reading, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (8:37). We are the victors. We are not the defeated. We win one battle after another until the ultimate victory shall become ours.

We have conquered alienation because now we are the true children of God. We are conquerors over the circumstance of life because we live in hope. We have conquered our inability to approach God because the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us, even when we are so downcast and burdened that we can only groan and cannot utter in words our prayers. We conquer life because in the purpose of God we know that all things work together for good to them who love God. We are more than conquerors because God is with us. Everything God has done from eternity points to the body of Christ.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2021 in Romans

 

More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #11 The Overwhelming Victory! Romans 8:29-39


Romans 8:31-39 - Verse by Verse

Confidence can be a very good thing. It can also be a mill stone around one’s neck. Being confident simply is not enough. The crucial issue is in whom, or in what, is our confidence. Ill-founded confidence is deadly. Well-founded confidence is proper and good.

Some Christians have no confidence at all, believing that with one slip, one sin, they are out of the faith. Agonizing their way through life, they hope no sin has gone unnoticed and unconfessed; if so, they fear they will not get to heaven. These Christians desperately need the confidence of which Paul speaks in Romans 8:31-39:

(Romans 8:31-39 NASB)  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? {32} He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? {33} Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; {34} who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. {35} Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? {36} Just as it is written, “FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” {37} But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. {38} For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, {39} nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Other Christians have great confidence but in the wrong thing. The lyrics of a popular “Christian” song say something like: “I have determined … to be invincible …” This song writer has far too much confidence—in himself.

The writer should spend some time in Romans 7 and 8 where the fallibility of the Christian is in view. When the reality of Romans 7:24 settles in on the believer, self-confidence is seen to be both foolish and sinful.

In our text, Paul gives us every reason to be confident, not in ourselves but in our salvation and in the sovereign God who is accomplishing it. Heed well Paul’s words here. They offer hope and confidence in the midst of a fallen world. To everyone who is in Christ by faith, they are words of comfort and reassurance.

Paul makes two main points in our text which provide us with the key to the structure of his argument. In verses 31-34, the emphasis is on “no condemnation.” In verses 35-39, Paul stresses “no separation” from the love of Christ our Lord. The structure can be outlined in this way:

(1) No condemnation (verses 31-34)

(2) No separation (verses 35-39)

Beginning with some general observations of our passage as a whole will provide additional insight to our study.

(1) This passage is a conclusion. These verses are the final verses of Paul’s argument in Romans 5-8 dealing with the present and future outworkings of justification by faith. In Romans 9-11 Paul will deal with Israel and the Gentiles in God’s eternal plan of salvation. These final words of chapter 8 are thus the conclusion, not only to chapter 8 but to the first 8 chapters.

(2) The closing verses return to the theme with which Paul began chapter 8—“no condemnation.” Verse 1 began by assuring the Christian that there is “no condemnation.” Verses 31-39 close with that same assurance.

(3) The mood of the passage is that of confident praise.

(4) This passage is God-centered. Paul speaks of a confidence and assurance based in God.

(5) The confidence and assurance is for Christians, for those who are in Christ. “We” and “us” refer to Christians. Paul is writing to Christians concerning the confidence they have in Christ. No confidence or assurance is offered to the non-believer here or elsewhere in the Bible.

(6) Those things which are dreaded, and from which the Christian is delivered, are all the consequences of sin. Accusation, condemnation, and separation from God are all divine judgments for sin. Our text thus offers the Christian assurance that he is delivered from the consequences of sin.

(7) The cross of Jesus Christ is the basis for our deliverance and confidence. God’s love for us is evidenced at the cross. Our justification was achieved at the cross. Our confidence is in God and in the cross of Christ.

(8) Paul uses a question and answer format. Verses 31-35 all contain one or more questions. The questions are personal, “Who?” rather than impersonal, “What?” The confidence and comfort Paul wishes his Christian reader to experience results from the fact that there is no answer. The question, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” (verse 33), gives great comfort because there is no answer. No one will bring a charge against us. This is true also of his other questions.217

What Then Shall We Say to These Things? (8:31)

What things is Paul referring to by the expression, “these things”? Since verses 31-39 serve as the conclusion to all of chapters 1-8, we could rightly think of “these things” as Paul’s teaching on the sinfulness of man, the salvation of God, and the hope of the Christian. In the more immediate context of Romans 8, we could include the promise of no condemnation (8:1), the provision of the Holy Spirit (8:4-27), and the sovereignty of God in salvation (8:28-30). I personally believe Paul is referring primarily to the sovereignty of God in our salvation which he has just taught in Romans 8:28-30.

The question Paul asks here explores the implications of what he has been teaching to this point. It also conveys a very important inference: REVELATION REQUIRES MAN’S RESPONSE. Paul does not ask, “Shall we say something?” Instead, he asks, “What shall we say …?” In Paul’s mind, it is necessary for us to say something in response to what God has revealed through him. God’s Word is not information to be filed away. It is not given to us as an academic exercise. The Word of God is given to us to act upon and to obey. Romans 8:31-39 is the bottom line of the doctrines taught thus far.

If God Is for Us, Who Is Against Us? (8:31)

The “if” here is not “iffy.”218 It could just as well be translated “since.” The New Jerusalem Bible renders Paul’s question this way: “With God on our side, who can be against us?

The first part of the question is therefore the premise. The second part of the question is the conclusion. Let us consider the premise first.

God is for us. In the context, the “us” must mean, “those of us who are in Christ.” God is “for” His children. He is “for us” in the sense that He has chosen us, predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, and He has called and justified us (Romans 8:28-30). He is at work, causing all things to work together for our good. Our “good” includes our present process of sanctification and our ultimate destiny in our adoption as sons of God. God is bringing about the good which He has purposed for us.

This statement, “God is for us,” cannot be interpreted or applied apart from His purpose (8:28). God is not “for us” in some nebulous, undefined way. We do not have the promise that God will deal with us in any way that we ask or desire. The prosperity gospelizers promise a God who is a kind of magic genie, as though we need but inform Him how He can serve us. God is “for us” in a way that produces the “good” He has purposed and prepared for us in eternity past. It is God’s prerogative to define “good,” not ours.

Based upon the premise that God is “for us,” Paul presses us to consider the implications. “If God is for us [as He most certainly is], who is against us?” Paul is not suggesting that we have no opposition. We all know that the Christian will have many adversaries. Paul’s question is designed to point out the puniness of any opponent in light of the fact that God is our proponent.

One of my favorite movies, “The Bear,” has in the final scenes a little grizzly cub being attacked by a mountain lion. The life of the little cub seems to be in great danger as the mountain lion moves in for the kill. Suddenly, the baby bear rears up on its hind legs letting out the fiercest growl it can muster. Amazingly, the mountain lion shrinks back! The camera then slowly draws back to reveal just behind the cub a massive grizzly, reared on his hind legs, delivering a fierce warning to the mountain lion. The cub’s enemy was great. But in the protective shadow of the great grizzly, that mountain lion was nothing. With the giant grizzly as its protection, who was this mere mountain lion? With God on our side, who could possibly be an opponent who would cause us to shrink back in fear? The sovereignty of a God who is “for us” provides a new perspective on anyone or anything which threatens to oppose or destroy us.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32).

The certainty of God’s faithful provision for all of our needs is in view in this question. It is an argument based on the greater and the lesser: if God did not hesitate to give us the greatest gift of all, certainly He can be counted on to freely give us lesser gifts. The New Jerusalem Bible renders Paul’s words this way:

Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give.

Mortal minds will never fathom the sacrifice which the Father made to bring about the redemption of His chosen ones. For the Son, it meant the rejection of the nation Israel, the physical agony of the cross, and the ultimate pain, the separation from His Father which was the penalty He paid for our sins. For the Father, it meant giving up His Son, allowing sinful men to nail Him to a cross, and having to pour out His wrath on His beloved One.

The Son willingly endured the agony of the cross in order to do the will of His Father and to bring glory to Him. The Father willingly gave up His Son so that by means of His sacrifice the Son might be glorified (see John 17:1-5; Philippians 2:5-11). Imagine the heart of the Father as He heard the plea of His Son in the Garden of Gethsemene. Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, My God, should die for me?

Contemporary theology, using the term loosely, tries to make the cross of Christ the measure of our worth to God: “We were worth so much to God that He sent His Son to die for us.” This misses the point altogether. It turns the spotlight, the focus, from God to man. The cross of Calvary is not the measure of our worth; it is the measure of God’s love. That is what Paul wants us to see here. The cross imputes worth to sinners who receive the gift of salvation. The cross is not the evidence of our worth but the source of our worth. We are worthy because Christ died for us. Christ did not die for us because we were worthy.

Having gone this far, allow me to question another popular, but erroneous, theme in contemporary Christian thinking. How many times have you heard someone say something like: “If I were the only one in the world to believe in Him, Christ would have died for me.” This is man-centered thinking. This is sentimental foolishness! It is not biblical truth.

We know from Romans 8:28-30 and other biblical texts that it was a sovereign God who purposed to save men. It was this God who chose some for salvation. Those whom He foreknew, these He called, justified, and glorified. Christ did not die to save an unknown group of people. Christ died to save those whom He chose. Thus, Paul writes here in verse 32 that God “delivered Him up for us all.” He died to save “all” those whom He purposed to save. For any Christian to think that God sent His Son to save only one is to give oneself far too much credit. God knew whom He would save, and when He gave up His Son, it was to procure the salvation of “all” those whom He chose. Let us realign our thinking with the Scriptures, and cease to rearrange the Scriptures to suit our self-centered preferences.

If God gave up His beloved Son, His precious Son, then it is not difficult to believe that He will “freely” give us “all things.” The “all things” must, however, be limited to all those things which are essential to bring about the “good” He has purposed for us. And these things are freely given “with Him.”

In a cafeteria, you may take any item of food you like and pay for each one. In a restaurant, various main dishes are listed, usually under a meat dish. Whether you order fish, pork chops, or a T-bone steak certain foods come with it. With your meat order, there is the choice of a salad or soup, some form of potato or rice, a vegetable, rolls or bread. You pay for the meat, as it were, and the rest is given freely.

That is the way it is with the blessings of God. The “meat” is justification by faith, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Along with Christ’s provision, God supplies every other need, “all things.” This He does freely. We dare not ask for the extras if we have not ordered the meat. We dare not expect God to bless us and provide for our needs unless we have received His gift of salvation in Christ. There are some who like their religion “cafeteria style.” They would like to pass up the meat, Jesus Christ, and take those blessings of God which fulfill their desires. It cannot be done. God will not allow it. We must, as our Lord said, seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, in Christ, and then all these things will be added (see Matthew 6:33).

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:33-39).

These verses have a distinctly judicial flavor. We are being taken into a court of law so that we may be shown that there is no condemnation for those who are “in Christ Jesus” (see 8:1). Imagine that we are in the courtroom as we attempt to grasp the message Paul conveys in these verses.

Most of us know what the courtroom is like from watching Perry Mason on television. At the front of the courtroom, the judge is seated. He will be the one who hears the testimony, views the evidence, and pronounces the verdict.219 To the left of the judge, the prosecution is seated. The task of the prosecutor is to make accusations against the accused and to prove that they are legitimate charges. To the right of the judge sits the defendant—the one who is to be accused. And at the side of the accused is seated the counsel for the defense, whose job it is to argue on behalf of the accused in his defense.

Before considering the courtroom scene Paul describes here, we must first be reminded of a fundamental truth without which Paul’s words fail to make their point. Just as God has ordained that there is no other Savior than Jesus Christ, so there is no other Judge than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has two roles. The first is that as Savior. The second is that of Judge. All who receive Him as Savior need never fear facing His sentence of condemnation as the Judge of all the earth. Those who reject Him as Savior most certainly will be condemned by Him as their Judge. These two roles of our Lord—Savior and Judge—are both claimed by our Lord:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

“And He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27).

And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11).

“And if anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:47-48).

At first it seems that our Lord’s words are contradictory. He did not come to judge, and yet He will judge. This difficulty is easily explained in the light of our Lord’s two comings. The purpose of our Lord’s first coming was not to come as the Judge to condemn sinners. The purpose of His first coming was to make an atonement for the sins of men. When He came the first time, He came to save. This is why He would not condemn the sinful woman caught in the act of adultery. But when He comes again, He comes to judge the earth and to condemn all who have rejected God’s salvation through His shed blood. The Lord is either one’s Savior or one’s Judge. If He is your Savior, He will not be your Judge, who will pronounce God’s condemnation upon you. If you reject Him as Savior, He will most certainly be your Judge. In fact, you are already condemned according to our Lord.

It is this truth—that God has made Jesus either one’s Savior or his Judge—that Paul builds upon in verses 33 and 34. Ponder this courtroom scene for a moment. Outside of faith in Jesus Christ, every man is a guilty sinner. When judgment day comes, he must sit in the defendant’s seat, the seat of the accused. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Judge, the One whom the sinner has scorned and rejected. The Lord Jesus is also the prosecutor. The accused sinner has no defense. He is, as Paul has said earlier in Romans, “without excuse” (1:20; 2:1).

But salvation changes all this. The courtroom scene becomes vastly different. The forgiven sinner need not sit in the defendant’s chair. This is because the prosecutor cannot press any charges. The Father, the Judge, has already pronounced us to be righteous, justified by faith. How could the Judge condemn us? Jesus Christ has already been condemned in our place. He was raised from the dead, and He now is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

The picture is something like this. The Father’s beloved Son, who would have been our prosecutor, has taken our place and has paid the penalty for our sin. More than this, having been raised from the dead, the prosecutor has left His seat and has seated Himself beside us, committed to our defense and pleading with the Father on our behalf.

The force of Paul’s argument now begins to emerge. The only One who could have accused us has resigned His post. The only One who could have condemned us as a righteous Judge has brought about our salvation. Our dreaded foe, viewed from the perspective of the unbeliever, has now become our beloved Defender. The only one who can mete out divine punishment has meted it out on His own Son so that we might be saved. Who, then, can accuse us? Who, then, can condemn us? No one can legitimately accuse us. No one can rightfully condemn us. The One who was our Judge has become our Justifier.

  1. K. Barrett, in his commentary on Romans, has caught the force of Paul’s argument. It is reflected in his translation of these verses:

Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? God—who justifies us? Who condemns us? Christ Jesus—who died, or rather was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who actually is interceding on our behalf?220

Paul’s theology and terminology are hardly new and not exclusively New Testament. Note the similarity in thought of these words, found in the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah:

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient, Nor did I turn back. I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. For the Lord God helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I shall not be ashamed. He who vindicates Me is near; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other; Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me. Behold, the Lord God helps Me; Who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them. Who is among you that fears the Lord, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God (Isaiah 50:4-10).

The important thing to notice in this passage is that the One who is the “disciple” is none other than Israel’s Messiah. His confidence in God is the basis for His boldness in enduring the rejection of men. Because God is on His side, he does not fear ill-treatment from men. He is willing to commit His life to the God who is His Defender. With God on His side, the Messiah was both willing and able to face a world that would reject and persecute Him. This confidence, which sustained our Lord, is that same confidence which is also able to sustain every saint.

In Deuteronomy 28, God tells Israel that the very things Paul has named are those which God has promised to bring upon His people, if they do not obey His Word:

“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord shall send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you (Deuteronomy 28:47-48).

Adversity in the life of the believer should stimulate him to some introspection, to give thought as to whether God might be disciplining him for some known sin. This, I believe, is implied in the New Testament as well:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him (James 5:14-15).

Even when God does bring adversity into our lives because of sin, it should not result in doubts concerning the love of God. Discipline is an evidence of God’s love as the writer to the Hebrews makes clear (see Hebrews 12:1-13).

But besides correction for specific sins, God has yet another purpose for affliction and calamity. It is a constructive purpose. It is a purpose designed to produce our good, just as Romans 8:28 says. God has not only purposed adversity for correction but also for the advancement of the gospel. Paul’s quotation from Psalm 44 in verse 36 emphasizes the role of the suffering of the righteous in the accomplishment of God’s purposes. Note the broader context of the verse which Paul has cited:

Psalm 44 (For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah.) O God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us, The work that Thou didst in their days, In the days of old. Thou with Thine own hand didst drive out the nations; Then Thou didst plant them; Thou didst afflict the peoples, Then Thou didst spread them abroad. For by their own sword they did not possess the land; And their own arm did not save them; But Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy presence, For Thou didst favor them. Thou art my King, O God; Command victories for Jacob. Through Thee we will push back our adversaries; Through Thy name we will trample down those who rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me. But Thou hast saved us from our adversaries, And Thou hast put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted all day long, And we will give thanks to Thy name forever. Selah.

Yet Thou hast rejected us and brought us to dishonor, And dost not go out with our armies. Thou dost cause us to turn back from the adversary; And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves. Thou dost give us as sheep to be eaten, And hast scattered us among the nations. Thou dost sell Thy people cheaply, And hast not profited by their sale. Thou dost make us a reproach to our neighbors, A scoffing and a derision to those around us. Thou dost make us a byword among the nations, A laughingstock among the peoples. All day long my dishonor is before me, And my humiliation has overwhelmed me, Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles, Because of the presence of the enemy and the avenger. All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten Thee, And we have not dealt falsely with Thy covenant. Our heart has not turned back, And our steps have not deviated from Thy way, Yet Thou hast crushed us in a place of jackals, And covered us with the shadow of death. If we had forgotten the name of our God, Or extended our hands to a strange god; Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart. But for Thy sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. Arouse Thyself, why dost Thou sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever. Why dost Thou hide Thy face, And forget our affliction and our oppression? For our soul has sunk down into the dust; Our body cleaves to the earth. Rise up, be our help, And redeem us for the sake of Thy lovingkindness.

In verses 1-3, the psalmist expresses confidence in God based upon His past deliverances. It was God who brought Israel into the land, drove out their enemies, and planted His people in their place. In verses 4-8, the psalmist expresses confidence in God to do the same in his own time. Verses 9-16 introduce the dilemma. The psalmist’s experience has not been that of his forefathers as described in verses 1-3. God has not delivered His people as expected (verses 4-8). Instead, Israel has been defeated and oppressed. Many of the calamities listed by Paul in Romans 8:35 have come upon Israel.

The psalmist’s great problem is now laid before God in verses 17-22. If Israel had sinned, then these calamities would be understandable. If Israel had rejected God and rebelled against His law, then the defeat of Israel at the hand of her enemies would be understandable. But Israel had not rebelled, for once. Israel was trusting in God and obeying His law. In spite of their trust in God, the psalmist described their condition:

But for Thy sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered (Psalm 44:22).

The solution to the psalmist’s agony is to be found in the words “for Thy sake.” Suffering is not always for sin’s sake (discipline). Suffering is also for God’s sake. Suffering is one of the means through which God achieves His purposes. It must be so if God causes “all things” to work together for good. It was true for the Messiah. He must suffer much at the hands of His people in order to make an atonement for sin. The experience of our Lord was not an exception, but rather a pattern, an example:

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, (1 Peter 2:18-21).

Paul’s words in verse 37 of our text spell out the principle which underlies Psalm 44: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

It is a paradox, but it is true. It is consistent with the way God works. We save our lives by giving them up. We lead by serving others. We conquer by being conquered. Our Lord’s death at Calvary seemed to be a defeat, but in God’s wisdom it was the defeat of Satan, sin, and death.

Christians want to think of victory in terms of winning. We like to think that Christ’s power and purposes are most evident when we win, when we overcome our opponents. Paul simply underscores a principle which has always governed God’s work: God uses apparent defeat to produce ultimate victory. God uses the suffering of His saints to make them conquerors—more than conquerors.

We overwhelmingly conquer “in all these things”; we conquer through these things. We are victorious when we suffer the calamities of life, in faith, trusting in God, knowing that He is accomplishing His purposes through our affliction. If suffering was God’s will for His sinless, beloved Son, is it not also His will for His sons, the sons of God? And the very One who is giving us the victory is the one “who loved us,” who loved us through the suffering and death of His Son. Our confidence must not end when the going gets tough. The testing of our faith really begins here.

The expression “overwhelmingly conquer” needs to be pondered. The Bible does not promise to make “copers” of us, but conquerors. It is not enough to muddle through life merely enduring our adversity. God does not promise to take us out of our afflictions, but He does promise that we will emerge from them victorious. We will be victorious in the sense that we will grow in our faith, hope and love. We will conquer in that we will become more like Christ due to our sufferings. We will conquer in that God’s purposes will be achieved through us and others will see the grace of God at work in our lives.

But we do not just conquer; Paul says that we will “overwhelmingly” conquer. How does one overwhelmingly conquer? I think I have a small grasp of what this means. I believe we overwhelmingly conquer as the sons of God. When God created man, Adam and Eve, and put him on the earth, he was created to reflect God’s image. The fall greatly marred this image of God in man. God has purposed our salvation to restore this image. Paul has written in verse 29 that we are predestined to become conformed to the image of Christ. Man was originally to reflect the image of God by subduing the earth and ruling over it, in God’s name. We, as the sons of God, with Christ, will have a part in the conquest and restoration of the earth. This is that for which all of creation eagerly awaits (8:20-23).

Paul now tells us that no created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ (8:30). Creation will not overcome us, Paul is saying; we shall overcome it. Not only will we safely endure and grow in the midst of any opposition or suffering which part of this fallen creation imposes on us, we will eventually overcome it and have a part in ruling over it, with Christ. That is what I believe Paul means when he says “we overwhelmingly conquer.”

Verses 38 and 39 list some of the dimensions of created things which will not overcome us. The list is intended to be all-inclusive, and so it is. Neither “death” nor “life” shall overcome us.221 For some, death is the dreaded enemy. Christ came to deliver us from the “fear of death” which holds men in bondage (Hebrews 2:15). For others, life is the dreaded enemy, and death seems to be a door of escape. Those who think this way are tempted by suicidal thoughts.

The next category of created things is that of “angels and principalities.” If Paul is following the pattern he established above with death and life, then he is attempting to encompass the entire spectrum of celestial beings. He would especially be referring to those angelic beings which are fallen and which seek to destroy us. Satan would be included in this category.222

The next category of created things is that of events, whether “present” or future (“things to come”).223 It is interesting to think of events as something created, but in a very real sense they are. If God is sovereign, as He surely is, and He has mapped out history from eternity past then we must say that God created history. Prophecy is based upon this fact. Thus, in light of Romans 8:28, we must say that the events we presently face, along with those we shall face in the future, have been created by God for our good. And so it is that these things cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ.

The list of created things ends with “powers, height, depth, nor any other created thing.” There is considerable question as to what Paul meant by the term “powers.” It may refer to mighty works of power, miraculous works, or it may refer to powers. I am presently inclined to understand Paul’s words as Barrett does when he renders Paul’s words here,

For I am confident that neither death nor life, neither angels nor their princes, neither things present nor things to come, nor spiritual powers, whether above or below the level of the earth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.224

God is the Creator. He is also the sovereign ruler over all creation. Nothing happens but that which He has ordained to bring about His purpose. Nothing in all creation falls outside of His control, and thus we can be assured that His purposes will be achieved. We can have absolute confidence that we will be more than conquerors regardless of what may come our way.

This confidence is the possession of every Christian, of every one who is the object of God’s love. And this love of God is manifested only in and through Jesus Christ. We cannot be assured of His love apart from faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the evidence of God’s love. He is the sole expression of God’s love with regard to salvation. To reject Jesus Christ is to spurn the love of God. To receive Jesus Christ as Savior is to be confident that nothing in all the world can separate us from His love in Christ.

Conclusion

Having studied our text of Romans 8:31-39, let me leave you with some avenues for future thought, study, prayer, and application.

First, the sovereignty of God is the basis for our security. We dare not be confident in ourselves. This would be folly. We dare not doubt that we shall be more than conquerors. This would be to deny His Word and to distrust God. We, like Paul, should be absolutely convinced concerning these things, based upon the Word of God. Our security is rooted in God, in His sovereignty, and in His unfailing love.

Today self-confidence is looked upon as a virtue and lack of self-assurance as a vice. Even in Christian circles we are being told how we can raise our children so that they feel good about themselves, are self-assured, and confident. The Bible calls for humility, not pride; for dependence on God, not self-sufficiency. Let us beware of seeking that which God’s Word condemns. Let us look to God, to God alone. He is our refuge and strength. In Him, and Him alone, is our confidence.

Second, our security and confidence in God is the basis for our service. It is not doubt, nor fear, nor guilt which should motivate our service, but a confidence in God mixed with deep and abiding gratitude. Because we are secure in Christ, we may serve. We need not focus on ourselves but on Him. Since He is the “author and finisher of our faith,” we must “fix our eyes on Him” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Third, our security is never an excuse for sloppiness. Some would abuse the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and the believer’s security. They would sinfully suggest that since God is in control, it matters not what we do. This is just the opposite of the truth. God’s sovereignty is the basis for our diligence and obedience. If we trust in ourselves, this would be folly, because we will fail. But when we trust in God, we know that we ultimately cannot fail and that our efforts are not in vain.

Fourth, the Scriptures never raise any doubt that God will finish what He started at salvation (see Philippians 1:6). The question raised in Scripture is not, “Will the saints endure to the end?” The question is rather, “Are we sure that we are in Christ?” The security of the believer is never brought into question in the Scriptures. Whether or not we are a believer is a question which is raised, and rightly so.

Fifth, the basis for our salvation and our security is found in the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. Did you notice that every fear, every dread, in this text is the result of sin? And did you notice as well that every cure goes back to the cross of Calvary? Here is God’s means of redemption. Here is the measure of His love. Here is the assurance and confidence that God’s purposes and promises will never fail. No wonder we must continually go back to the cross. We should never grow weary of going back to the cross. Here is where our salvation began. Here is where it was finished. That God sent Jesus to the cross is the measure of His love for us. That God would raise Jesus from the dead is the measure of His power. When such love and power meet, we, as sons of God, have every reason to be confident.

Finally, the security of the believer requires a response. Paul’s conclusion reminds us that biblical revelation requires a response. The security of the believer in the sovereign love of God should produce humility, gratitude, dependence, confidence, and praise. Let us ponder these closing words of Romans 8, especially in contrast to the agonizing cry at the end of chapter 7. Let us savor our security, and let us stand fast, knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.

217 This is the basis for the title of this lesson, “Comforting Questions.” Usually we think of questions for which there are no answers as disturbing questions. That is not so here. The very lack of any answer is the basis for great comfort and confidence for every Christian.

218 The Greek language quite precisely indicates the degree of certainty or the “iffiness” of some occurrence by the uses of three different grammatical constructions. The “if” here is a first class condition indicating certainty.

219 I am assuming that this is not a trial by jury, since God’s judgment will not be such.

220 C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), p. 171.

Stifler expresses the more common view: “It is God that justifieth His own elect; can wicked men or lost spirits or Satan himself call again to account those whose case has been favorably decided in the highest place of judicature? Even to speak against God’s people impeaches the Judge and is contempt of court—Heaven’s court.” James M. Stifler, The Epistle to the Romans (Chicago: Moody Press, 1960), p. 150.

221 It is interesting, is it not, to think of life and death as created things? But they are. God created life as we see in the Book of Genesis. God also created death as the consequence of sin.

222 It is noteworthy that Satan is not mentioned by name. Satan, I believe, is a publicity-seeker. Paul is not willing to give him any press here. In the final analysis, this angel who wanted to take God’s place is left unnamed, lumped in with all other created beings. Satan, the glory-seeker, must not like this at all.

223 Paul does not mention events of the past. This is especially noteworthy in the light of the present psychological emphasis on past events as the source of our present problems. I believe Paul does not mention the past because the cross of Christ has dealt with our past. Old things have passed away, and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

224 Barrett, p. 174.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2021 in Romans

 

More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #10 God’s Eternal Decree  – Romans 8:29-30


(Romans 8:29-30 NIV)  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. {30} And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

(Romans 8:29-30 NKJV)  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. {30} Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

8:29 Those whom he foreknew.NRSV Believers are those people whom God foreknew. God’s foreknowledge refers to his intimate knowledge of us and our relationship with him based on his choosing us. God predestined believers to reach a particular goal: to be conformed to the image of his Son.NRSV “Now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 niv).

What does predestination mean? What keeps foreknowledge and predestination from being determinism? How can belief in predestination avoid leading someone to despair over the futility of any human choice? God’s foreknowledge does not imply determinism—the idea that all our choices are predetermined. Since God is not limited by time as we are, he “sees” past, present, and future at the same time.

Parents sometimes “know” how their children will behave before the fact. We don’t conclude from these parents’ foreknowledge that they made their children act that way. God’s foreknowledge, insofar as we can understand it, means that God knows who will accept the offer of salvation. The plan of predestination begins when we trust Christ and comes to its conclusion when we become fully like him. Receiving an airline ticket to Chicago means we have been predestined to arrive in Chicago.

To explain foreknowledge and predestination in any way that implies that every action and choice we make has been not only preknown, but even predetermined, seems to contradict those Scriptures that declare that our choices are real, that they matter, and that there are consequences to the choices we make.

That he might be the firstborn among many brothers.NIV Some families have such distinct characteristics (for example, Dad’s brown eyes or Mom’s blonde hair) that everyone immediately knows the children are all related. In the case of believers, the distinguishing family characteristic is that we all are becoming like our oldest brother. When all believers are conformed to Christ’s likeness, the resurrected Christ will be the firstborn of a new race of humans, who are purified from sin. Because we are God’s children, we are Christ’s brothers and sisters.

Some believe these verses mean that before the beginning of the world, God chose certain people to receive his gift of salvation. They point to verses like Ephesians 1:11, which says we are “predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (niv). Others believe that God foreknew those who would respond to him; upon those he set his mark (predestined).

What is clear is that God’s purpose for human beings was not an afterthought; it was settled before the foundation of the world. Humankind is to serve and honor God. If we have trusted Christ as Savior, we can rejoice that God has always known us. His love is eternal. His wisdom and power are supreme. He will guide and protect us until we one day stand in his presence.

8:30 Those whom he predestined he also called.NRSV God’s plan for the salvation of those who believe in Christ has three steps: called (see 1:6; 8:28), justified (3:24, 28; 4:2; 5:1, 9), and glorified (8:17; Colossians 1:27; 3:4). While being glorified is a future event, Paul writes it in the past tense to show that it is so certain to happen that it is as good as done. When we are finally conformed to the image of Christ, we will be glorified. Paul’s description of God’s meticulous plan for our future underscores the length God will go to work “for the good of those who love him” (8:28). In his original summary of the gospel, Paul described a constant component of salvation, “faith from first to last” (1:17). Faith is at work in each segment of the way of salvation: by faith we recognize we have been called (the message of the gospel is personalized); by faith we are justified (God reckons us righteous which we could never achieve by our efforts); by faith we are glorified (we arrive at the destination that God intended all along—we become “conformed to the image of his Son” (8:29). In each of these steps, God is the active agent, while we are the responsive subject.

 

WANTED
Predestination is God’s plan whereby his purpose is carried out. The emphasis is on God’s choosing, like the illustrations that Jesus used of the feast and banquet in Luke 14. We are chosen to participate so that we might say, “I was wanted,” not, “I deserve this.”

 

God isn’t content to have just one Son in his family; he wants a whole host of them. He wants a great crowd of sons, of whom Jesus Christ is the first and the chief.

In order to accomplish that, through the encircling centuries, he has been working out his plan by which he is producing (through the Spirit at work in men’s lives) the glories, and the grace, and the character of Jesus Christ — that we might “be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren.”

This is his goal with you: to make you like Christ — not to look like him, but to be like him. Yet, the amazing thing is that, though he makes all in the same character, there is an infinite variety in their expression; this is the glory and beauty of God’s work.

Have you noticed that this pattern is so prominent in nature? God makes everything out of the same simple elements, but they are always different. Every one of us has a nose, two ears, a mouth, a forehead, some hair (more or less), a chin — and, with these few simple elements, God made faces. But he never makes two alike; with these few simple elements to work with, there is infinite variety.

Now, this is the way God works: Though we all share the character of Jesus Christ, it is not a mold that stamps out the same being over and over and over again, but there is an infinite variety of expression of the beauty of the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. The plan began in eternity past and doesn’t end until eternity in the future, but it is such a vast process that we can’t comprehend it.

That is why we are puzzled and confused about the parts of the process along the way. We are like the weaver who weaves cloth, and, working from the wrong side of the garment, all we ever see is a tangle of threads that seems to make no sense at all. But, when the process is finished, you can look on the other side, and there is the pattern beautifully worked out. That is what life is like with us. That is what God is doing in your life and mine.

While the above statement is a main point of this verse, because of the teachings of Calvin (mentioned above) we often get sidetracked because we have to explain away the idea that people are saved/lost due to a prior choice of God and it is a choice over which they have no control!

Knowing who is in charge is important. In the home, the parents are to be in charge. In other contexts, someone else is designated to be in charge. We must learn who is in charge to respond appropriately.

In our text, Paul informs us that God is ultimately and totally in charge of all things. His authority is without limits. All of creation is under the control of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (Colossians 1:15-18):

(Colossians 1:15-18 NKJV)  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. {16} For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. {17} And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. {18} And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

There is no limit to His power, and nothing is beyond His ability to control. We refer to this unlimited control as the sovereignty of God. When we say that God is sovereign we are saying He is in complete control.

Only one who is sovereign can predict the future in specific terms and with complete accuracy. One who is sovereign is also able to reveal what He is committed to accomplish. Conversely, one who is not sovereign can neither predict nor determine the future specifically or with accuracy.

In Romans 8:28 Paul makes a general statement concerning God’s sovereignty and its goal with respect to the Christian. God’s sovereignty assures Christians He is working all things together for their ultimate good.

Romans 8:29 expands what Paul has said in verse 28, for in this verse, he sums up God’s eternal purpose for the saints established in eternity past. He also speaks of God’s goal of glorifying Himself, through His saints who become like Christ.

In verse 30, Paul describes the outworking of God’s program for individual saints, in time.

The focus of this lesson will be verse 29, and we will begin by defining the two key terms, “foreknew” and “predestined.”

To correctly interpret this text and articulate the doctrine Paul teaches here, we must first determine the meaning of the terms he uses so we can communicate his doctrinal beliefs. Verses 29 and 30 contain five crucial terms. The definitions of these terms shape the doctrine which results from our study. These terms are: foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.  Many Christians accept doctrinal distortions because they allow others to do their studying and their thinking for them.

The exact term rendered “foreknow” in our text is found only seven times in the New Testament. The verb form is found in Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:17. The noun form is found in Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2. The only two times Paul uses this term is in his Epistle to the Romans.

(Acts 2:22-23 NASB)  “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know– {23} this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

(Acts 26:4-5 NASB)  “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; {5} since they have known about me for a long time previously, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.

(Romans 8:29 NASB)  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;

(Romans 11:1-2 NASB)  I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. {2} God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?

(1 Peter 1:18-20 NASB)  knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, {19} but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. {20} For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

(2 Peter 3:17 NASB)  You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness,

The root meaning of the word is easily determined. To foreknow is to “know” (knowledge) “beforehand” (fore). The key to understanding this term as Paul uses it is to better understand the way in which God “knew” men in the Old Testament. The English word “know” can be the translation of several terms (both Hebrew and Greek). Its meaning can range from simple knowing to a much more intimate knowledge. For example, we are told that Adam “knew”208 his wife Eve, so that she conceived and gave birth to Cain (Genesis 4:1). This knowledge is much more than mere intellectual awareness.

Of special interest is the Old Testament’s use of “know” to refer to God’s choice of certain individuals:209

(Genesis 18:17-19 NASB)  And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, {18} since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? {19} “For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

(Jeremiah 1:4-5 NASB)  Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, {5} “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

God is in complete control. He gives men commands which they may obey or disobey. He also gives men choices to make and the freedom to make bad decisions. But in spite of all this freedom and certain failure, Paul has just stated that God causes all these things and more to bring about the ultimate good of the Christian. While men are not in control and surely do not live consistently in conformity to His Word, God’s purpose is still being achieved.

For any who would understand the foreknowledge of God as only His prior awareness of future events, but not His prior determination of these events, these two doctrines pose an insurmountable problem. Those who hold a weakened, minimal definition of “foreknowledge” believe that in eternity past God looked down through the corridors of time, taking note of all those who would come to Him in faith and then decided to choose them. The word “foreknew” in our text is synonymous with “chose.” It informs us that God first chose those who would believe.

In light of the teaching of Romans, if God had looked down the corridors of time to see all who would choose Him, He would not have seen one single soul. There is none who seeks after God, and none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10-11); thus no one would choose God who had not first been chosen and called by Him.

If God is both righteous and sovereign, and men are unrighteous and out of control, how could we suppose men would first choose God? How can God be sovereign in man’s salvation if He is subject to our will rather than our being subject to His? If God can only choose those whom He knows will choose Him, He is far from sovereign. He is dependent upon the will of men. But Romans teaches that our salvation and blessings depend on Him and on His will. It is by His sovereign grace that we are saved and not by anything we have done. He is the Initiator; we are those who respond.

The immediate context of Romans 8:28 demands that even though “foreknow” may sometimes refer to merely knowing in the past, before something else, it cannot be understood in this way in Romans 8:29. If God is the One who causes all things to work together for good to those who are His children, then it is God who is in control. It is God who “causes” the good which is His purpose. To foreknow is to determine or choose ahead of time. For God to “foreknow” us to be His children is for God to sovereignly choose to save us. Foreknowledge is therefore virtually synonymous with election. The intimate association of these two terms—God’s choice and God’s foreknowledge—is therefore pointed out in 1 Peter 1:1-2.

Predestined

The Greek term rendered “predestined” in our text occurs six times in the New Testament.210 In addition to appearing twice in Romans 8, verses 29 and 30, the term appears in the texts below:211

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:27-30).

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:6-9).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:3-12).

The root meaning of predestination can be determined by linking the prefix, meaning before, and the root word which is found five times in the New Testament.

“For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22).

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered up by the predetermined [definite] plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:22-23).

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’ Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:24-31).

Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:3-4).

This Greek term has a range of meanings including: “fix,” “determine,” “appoint,” “set,” “definite,” “designate,” “define,” “to set limits,” “explain.” We might paraphrase the term with the expressions, “to make official” or to “set in concrete.” There is the overall sense of careful definition, a clear and definite decision, and of being put into force. Collectively, the term describes the process by which a bill would be written and made into law by congress. A more personal illustration might be the prearrangement of one’s burial.

The Old Testament has prepared us for this concept. The God who is sovereign is the One who has “prearranged” history. God sometimes tells men of His plans, as He told Abraham of the blessing of mankind through his seed (Genesis 12:1-3) and of His destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-21). When the prophets foretold men of God’s predetermined plans, they often used the past tense212 to highlight the certainty of the event. The coming of Messiah is but one prophetic theme progressively unfolded in the Old Testament, with increasing detail, as God’s predetermined plan is unfolded.

Paul and Luke are the only two New Testament authors to use the term “predestined” and its root word as we have seen in the Scriptures above. Since these two men traveled and ministered together, they likely understood the term in the same way. Every use, in Luke, Acts, or in one of Paul’s epistles, refers to God’s prearrangement, His predetermined plan. Only God is sovereign—in complete control, and thus predestination can only originate from the will and purpose of God.

In Acts 4, God’s predestining of the death of Christ is shown to be consistent with Israel’s sin of rejecting Him and crucifying Him. The sinfulness of man does not and cannot hinder God from accomplishing what He has purposed and promised, because God is sovereign. He is in control of all things. He is able to cause all things to work together to achieve His purposes and to fulfill His promises.

The events of history testify, without exception, that those promises which have already been fulfilled were fulfilled precisely as God promised. This awesome fact assures us that His future promises will also be fulfilled to the very letter of biblical prophecy.

Predestination and foreknowledge are inter-related. We find the pair linked in Romans 8:29. We find them also linked, in reverse order, in Acts 2:23. God’s foreknowledge seems always to be directed toward the people God chooses, and His predestination seems to be directed to the plan or program He has prearranged for them. God’s sovereignty in both areas is required for Romans 8:28 to be true. God must be sovereign in the choice of who will be saved. He must also be sovereign in bringing about all of that for which saved men and women hope.

What does this mean? That has predetermined that all who would choose Christ (to be in Christ) would be saved. Those who will be saved have a choice..but it must be in conjunction with His gospel plan as revealed through His Son.

God has determined to fulfill His purpose for the believer. This is the second assurance of deliverance. Note three significant points.

  1. This passage is often abused and misused. It is not dealing so much with theology or philosophy, but more with the spiritual experience of the Christian believer. If the pure logic of philosophy and theology are applied, then the passage says that God chooses some for heaven and others for a terrible hell. But this is simply not the meaning God intends for the passage. What God wants believers to do is to take heart, for He has assured their salvation.

God knows the suffering that believers go through daily (cp. Romans 8:28-39). God “did foreknow” even before the foundation of the world (Romans 8:29). But no matter how great the suffering, no matter how great the opposition, no matter how great the struggle, God is going to complete His purpose for believers. God has “predestinated [believers] to be conformed to the image of His Son,” and absolutely nothing can change that. Why? “That Christ might be the first-born [have the preeminence] among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

God loves His Son in the most supreme way possible. God has ordained that His Son shall have many brothers (adopted brothers) who will love and serve Him as the first-born, that is, as the first Person or the most preeminent Person of the universe. God has ordained that Jesus Christ shall hold the highest rank and position: that He be the exalted Head of all creation and the One to whom all men look (cp. Col. 1:15, 18). Therefore, God is going to allow nothing to permanently defeat believers. God is going to allow no fallen child of His to ever remain down permanently. God is going to fulfill His purpose in every child of His, and nothing can stop His purpose. Jesus Christ, His Son, will have a multitude of brothers and sisters who worship and serve Him throughout eternity.

  1. Believers will be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son. The words “conformed to the image” (summorphous tes eikonos) mean both an inward and an outward likeness.
  2. “Conformed” (summorphous) means the very same form or likeness as Christ. Within our nature—our being, our person—we shall be made just like Christ. As He is perfect and eternal—without disease and pain, sin and death—so we shall be perfected just like Him. We shall be transformed into His very likeness.
  3. “Image” (eikonos) means a derived or a given likeness. The image of Christ is not something which believers merit or for which they work; it is not an image that comes from their own nature or character. No man can earn or produce the perfection and eternal life possessed by Christ. The image of Christ, His perfection and life, is a gift of God. To be conformed to the image of God’s Son means…
  • to become a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
  • to be adopted as a son of God (Ephes. 1:5).
  • to be holy and without blame before Him (Ephes. 1:4; Ephes. 4:24).
  • to bear the image of the heavenly: which is an incorruptible, immortal body (1 Cor. 15:49-54; cp. 1 Cor. 15:42-44).
  • to have one’s body fashioned (conformed) just like His glorious body (Phil. 3:21).
  • to be changed (transformed) into the same image of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).
  • to be recreated just like Him (1 John 3:2-3).

 

  1. Note what it is that assures the believer’s deliverance from the suffering and struggling of this world. It is two things.
  2. The foreknowledge of God. The word “foreknow” (proginosko) is used three different ways in Scripture. It means…
  • to know something beforehand, ahead of time.
  • to know something intimately by loving and accepting and approving it.
  • to elect, foreordain, and predetermine something.

The present passage is interpreted differently by scholars. Note that the second and third meanings are much the same. When a person is loved and approved, selection or election is involved. The person becomes a very special or select person.

Again, the point to see is not the pure logic of the theological or philosophical argument. This is not God’s purpose in this passage. God’s purpose is to assure the believer: the believer is going to be conformed to the image of Christ, and nothing can stop the glorious process. God foreknew the fact, saw it even before the world was ever founded. He has always loved and approved the believer, electing and ordaining him from the very beginning.

The predestination of God. The word predestination (proorisen) means to destine or appoint before, to foreordain, to predetermine. The basic Greek word (proorizo) means to mark off or to set off the boundaries of something. The idea is a glorious picture of what God is doing for the believer. The boundary is marked and set off for the believer: the boundary of being conformed to the image of God’s dear Son. The believer shall be made just like Christ, conformed to His very likeness and image.

Nothing can stop God’s purpose for the believer. It is predestinated, set, and marked off. The believer may struggle and suffer through the sin and shame of this world; he may even stumble and fall or become discouraged and downhearted. But if he is a genuine child of God, he will not be defeated, not totally. He will soon arise from his fall and begin to follow Christ again. He is predestinated to be a brother of Christ, to worship and serve Christ throughout all eternity. And Christ will not be disappointed.

God loves His Son too much to allow Him to be disappointed by losing a single brother. Jesus Christ will have His joy fulfilled; He will see every brother of His face to face, conformed perfectly to His image. He will have the worship and service of every brother chosen to be His by God the Father. The believer’s eternal destiny, that of being an adopted brother to the Lord Jesus Christ, is determined. The believer can rest assured of this glorious truth. God has predestinated him to be delivered from the suffering and struggling of this sinful world.

Romans 8:29 was written to help explain how Romans 8:28 can be true. The word “For” at the beginning of this verse shows its connection to verse 28. In this verse Paul offers an explanation of how Romans 8:28 can be true. God can claim to be working all things together for the good of His own because He is sovereign. His sovereignty is evident in His eternal decree, His eternal purpose which He determined before time began. His purpose included the choice of those whom He would save (“Those whom He foreknew”). In His sovereignty, God predetermined and prearranged the plan by which all whom He chose would be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. The God who chooses to save some has a plan and a program by which His purpose to sanctify His children will be accomplished.

The sovereignty of God enables Him to establish a plan in eternity past and to carry out that plan perfectly in time. The tense here is past. Both God’s “foreknowledge” and His “predestination” are already determined, and the program has been set into motion. At best, men can only plan and work for future events. God alone can plan them, promise them, and be certain that His plans will be accomplished. Only a God who is sovereign, a God who is in complete control, can plan the past, make promises in the present, and assure us that it will be achieved in the future.

God’s foreknowledge seems to be directed toward those people whom He has chosen; His predestination is directed toward the plan of salvation He has foreordained for His people. God does not choose to save some only to hope that all works out well for them. God has a specific goal in mind, a goal for which He has chosen them, and a goal to which He has made certain they will attain. Some people think of God as a warm, “people person” who loves men and delights in blessing them. They fail to appreciate that God’s blessings are only certain if He is sovereign and if His purposes are certain. Predestination provides the plan by which God’s people are to be blessed.

In Romans 8:28-29, God’s foreknowledge and His predestination are intertwined. In Acts 2:23 and here in Romans, God’s foreknowledge and His predestination are linked together. They are inter-dependent. God’s ultimate goal is not to save men but to glorify Himself. In order to do this, God purposed to save some. Those He purposed to save, He also determined to sanctify. He is glorified when those He saves are like Christ. God’s eternal decree, His all-inclusive plan established in eternity past, had to include not only the choice of those whom He would save but also the process through which He would bring them into conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.

Verse 29 indicates God’s immediate purpose for us. God’s purpose for choosing us and the goal of the program He has predestined is our conformity to the image of Jesus Christ: “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” This goal is also stated in Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of which belongs to the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

The final words of verse 29 call our attention to the ultimate purpose of God’s foreknowledge and predestination—His glory, through the exaltation of Jesus Christ. The word “that” in verse 29 brings us to God’s highest goal, His own glory: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.”

He has not only chosen them in eternity past, but He has predetermined a plan whereby all His sons will be conformed to the image of His “first-born,” Jesus Christ.

Our Lord’s likeness, His image, is majestic, holy, and awesome as revealed in John’s description of Him in Revelation 1. But it does not seem to be this likeness which Paul has in view. Rather, it is the character of our Lord which so beautified Him in the days of His appearance on the earth. His character, evident in His body, the church, brings glory to Him, and thus glory to God. By being like Christ, we honor Him and bring glory to God. God’s ultimate purpose for working all things together is not for our good, though it does accomplish this, but for His glory. Those who understand God’s grace gladly stand out of the spotlight so that God receives the glory He deserves, which He planned and purposed in eternity past and which He is presently working. To God be the glory!

The sovereignty of God is the basis for our security—and our assurance of the certainty of our hope. If our hope were based upon our own faithfulness, we would be, of all men, most miserable. Focusing on ourselves brings us to the despair of Romans 7, a chapter in which man is prominent. Focusing on God brings us to the certainty, hope, and rejoicing of Romans 8. In this chapter, God is prominent—not men. It is His sovereignty which assures us that His promises are certain.

207 “The term ‘sovereignty’ connotes a situation in which a person, from his innate dignity, exercises supreme power, with no areas of his province outside his jurisdiction. A ‘sovereign’ is one who enjoys full autonomy, allowing no rival immunities.

“As applied to God, the term ‘sovereignty’ indicates His complete power over all of creation, so that He exercises His will absolutely, without any necessary conditioning by a finite will or wills. The term does not occur in Scripture, although the idea is abundantly implied.” H. B. Kuhn, “Sovereignty of God,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975, 1976), Vol. 5, p. 498.

208 The NASB indicates the literal meaning, “knew,” in a marginal note but renders the term, “had relations with.”

209 God’s “foreknowledge” in this same sense also seems to apply to nations. Consider these texts as well: 2 Samuel 22:44; Psalm 18:43; Matthew 7:23.

210 Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5, 11. The root word, without the prefix, is found in Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 17:26, 31; Romans 1:4.

211 In the texts cited, the underscoring is my own emphasis indicating the specific term under consideration.

212 Bible scholars refer to this as the “prophetic perfect.”

 

One of the most influential religious figures of the last millennium was John Calvin of Switzerland. Calvin was born in 1509. At the age of fourteen, he went to Paris to study the classics. He was so austere that his fellow students nicknamed him “The Accusative Case.” In 1529, he commenced the study of civil law. Presently, though, Calvin became intrigued with the teachings of the German reformers and so gave himself to the study of religion.

In 1533, he broke with the Roman Catholic Church after a religious “experience” during which he believed he received a commission from God to restore the Church to its original purity. By the year 1536, at the age of only twenty-six, he had completed the first edition of his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion. The initial edition was a small volume of six chapters; the final version (1560) – revised over the years – had grown to eighty chapters.

To a significant degree, Calvin’s views, which were developed from the writings of Augustine – a “bishop” in northern Africa (A.D. 353-430), have formed the doctrinal basis of much of modern Protestantism.

In this article, we wish to briefly comment upon John Calvin’s influence upon the religious community on the subject of “grace.” His ideas are circulated in several denominations, and, tragically, have found their way into the thinking many people.

Limited Grace

One of the corner-stones of Calvin’s theology was the dogma of predestination. This is the notion that, consistent with his own sovereignty, God, before the foundation of the world, pre-determined who would be saved and who would be lost. In view of this, when Christ died, his death was efficacious only for the “elect.” This concept of “limited atonement,” hence, limited grace, is so foreign to the teaching of the Scriptures that it is difficult to see how anyone with an elementary knowledge of the New Testament could accept it.

Hear the testimony of Paul:

“For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men . . .” (Tit. 2:11).

Because God loved the entire world (Jn. 3:16), and so, wants all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and not a single one to perish (2 Pet. 3:9), Christ died to be the propitiation for sins – not just for the “elect,” but potentially for the entire world as well (1 Jn. 2:2).

Irresistible grace

Calvinism argues that by a secret and special operation of the Holy Spirit, God’s grace is poured forth upon the elect. Since the extension of this grace is an act of divine power, it cannot be resisted – any more than the original creation could have resisted the creative might of the Lord (Hodge, 688).

But the fact is, though God’s grace is generously offered, it must be received by the sinner. “. . . [W]e entreat also that you receive not the grace of God in vain . . .” (2 Cor. 6:1). It is certainly possible to “receive not” that which is offered (cf. Jn. 1:11).

Unconditional grace

Calvinists argue that grace is given to the elect unconditionally. If such is the case, then there is absolutely nothing that one must do in order to receive salvation – not even believe.

One writer states:

“[W]e believe that there is no warrant whatsoever for the view that John 3:16 lays down faith as a condition to be performed by the lost person in order to attain spiritual eternal life.”

Again:

“God, without the use of the gospel or any other human means, will save all of his redeemed loved ones in every land and in every age” (Sarrels, 443-444).

The foregoing affirmations are ludicrous.

 

Paul declares that we have “access by faith into this grace” (Rom. 5:2). In his discussion of grace in Titus 3, the inspired apostle states that God, “according to his mercy, saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit . . . being justified by his grace” (5-7).

Paul equates being saved by the washing of regeneration with being justified by grace. The “washing” is an allusion to man’s response to God by submitting to baptism. Grace is supplied by the Lord – independent of any merit on our part. Clearly, though, the “washing of regeneration” is a condition of our redemption. But is that expression an allusion to baptism? Even Calvin admitted that he had “no doubt’ that Paul was alluding to baptism – though he denied the connection between baptism and salvation (see Shepherd, 405).

Irrevocable grace

Calvin maintained that the elect could be certain that God would never allow them to fall away from the faith. They would thus persevere unto the end. A sizable segment of Protestantism has adopted the doctrine to some degree or another.

But the New Testament teaches otherwise. A child of God can fall from grace (Gal. 5:4), or fail, i.e., fall back from, the Lord’s favor (Heb. 12:15). It is possible to deny the Master who bought you and so be destroyed (2 Pet. 2:1). Thus, we must keep ourselves in God’s love (Jude 21), and give diligence to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10), lest our reception of divine grace be in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).

SOURCES

Hodge, Charles (1960), Systematic Theology (London: James Clarke & Co.), II.
Jackson, Wayne (1993), Eternal Security – Fact or Fiction? (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications).
Sarrels, R.V. (1978), Systematic Theology (Azle, TX: Harmony Hill).
Shepherd, J.W. (1950), Handbook on Baptism (Nashville: Gospel Advocate).

 

Story told of a young man’s disturbing experience while attending a college class recently.

One evening before going to class, he stopped at the restroom just outside the library stairs. As he was about to leave a few moments later, he heard the sound of two women’s voices growing louder and louder as they approached. Realizing that within seconds they would be entering the same restroom, my friend was horrified. Panic-stricken, he wondered if he had entered the wrong restroom, or were the two women about to make a serious mistake?

Making a quick decision, my friend raced back into the restroom, entered one of the stalls, closed, and locked the door. Quickly lifting his feet so his shoes could not be seen, a certain giveaway that one of them was the wrong gender, he waited until the two ladies left. When he felt they were out of sight, he made a dash for the door.

Unfortunately, two other ladies were about to enter. He repeated his same evasive tactics. He could not get out quickly enough when they left. Safely outside the restroom, he courageously peered over the doorway to see the sign. To his great relief and bewilderment, it read, “Men.”

The custodian was standing nearby, and my friend could not help but ask, “Is this the men’s restroom or the women’s?” Casually the custodian responded, “Oh, it’s the women’s. I change the sign every week, but I just didn’t get around to it tonight.” A matter of casual indifference to the custodian had become for my friend a matter of great distress.

Changing the labels can make a very significant difference. The terms of our text, “called,” “justified,” and “glorified,” are all theological labels. Their definitions are not a matter of unanimous agreement. Some differ over these labels out of conviction. Others, like the custodian, are simply too casual as though it hardly matters. But people’s lives are greatly affected by the way we understand the calling, justification, and glorification of the people of God.

The term “called” is used in the Bible in a variety of ways, with the usage in the New Testament closely following its use in the Old. Consider the following summary of some of the major categories of the use of the term “call” in both the Old and the New Testaments.

(1) To call into existence, to create (Isaiah 41:4). Certain events are said to be called into existence by God, such as weeping (Isaiah 22:12); drought (Haggai 1:11); famine (2 Kings 8:1; Psalm 105:16); rain (Amos 5:8); and the sword (Jeremiah 25:29).

(2) To give a name.213 In the first chapter of Genesis, God named day and night (1:5, 8). In the next chapter Adam, who was created in God’s image, named the animals (2:19) and his wife (2:23). The one who gives the name is greater than the person or thing named. God names that which He has created (see Isaiah 40:26).

(3) To give a new name. God not only names, He renames. God changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:5, 15). The Lord Jesus changed Simon’s name to Cephas or Peter (John 1:21). The new name given is indicative of a new destiny, brought about by God who controls men’s destiny (see Isaiah 56:5; 62:2, 4; 65:13-15; Jeremiah 19:6; Daniel 1:7; Revelation 2:17).

(4) To some, God gives His own name (see Deuteronomy 28:10; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Isaiah 43:7; Revelation 3:12; compare Isaiah 63:19).

(5) God calls by name (Isaiah 43:1; 45:3-4). The word “call” is specific. This call may be of an individual (like Abraham, Isaiah 51:2) or of a group (see Isaiah 45:4; 48:12; Jeremiah 1:15).

(6) There is a more general call which is a broad invitation. This “call” may be rejected by men (see Proverbs 8:1, 4; 9:3, 15; Isaiah 66:4; Jeremiah 7:13; 35:17; Matthew 22:14). The use of “call” as a general invitation is rare in the Bible, Old Testament and New.

(7) To sovereignly summon. Most often in the Bible, the “call” of God is one that is sovereign. When God calls, that which is called responds:

Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together (Isaiah 48:13).

This call is purposed from eternity (Isaiah 41:4). In time, the call may come while one is still in the womb (Isaiah 49:1).

(8) God’s sovereign call is for a purpose. It is not an aimless call but a call to a certain destiny (see Isaiah 42:6; 43:7). That purpose is related to God’s glory (Isaiah 49:1-3; 55:5).

(9) God sovereignly calls men individually to salvation (Romans 1:6-7; 8:28, 30; 9:11, 24-25) and to service (Exodus 31:2; 25:30; Acts 13:1; Romans 1:1). The sovereign call of God is rooted in His choice (Isaiah 41:9; 45:4).

(10) The sovereign call of God is irrevocable, and thus it is the basis for our confidence in what He has purposed and promised (Isaiah 54:6, in context; Romans 11:20).

(11) God’s call is always an expression and outworking of His righteousness (Isaiah 41:2; 42:6).

In the Book of Romans, not one instance of the term can be found which is inconsistent with the overwhelming sense of God’s sovereignty that prevails throughout the Bible. Note these references, for example:

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1).

Among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:6-7).

As it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you” in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist (Romans 4:17).

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

For though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls (Romans 9:11).

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).

It could not be any other way than for the sovereign God to summon sinners to faith in Jesus Christ through baptism for remission of sins. We were not righteous. We were not seeking Him. We did not understand (see Roman 3:10-18). God chose us in eternity past (“whom He foreknew,” Romans 8:29). For all those whom He chose, He predetermined a plan which would result in our good and His glory (“predestined,” Romans 8:29, 30).

How could a sovereign God leave our salvation to us when we would never choose Him? How could He leave our salvation to chance (if there was such a thing)? The salvation which God sovereignly purposed in eternity past for those He chose, He started in motion in time by calling men to faith in Himself. God’s call is not merely an invitation; it is an irresistible summons. When He speaks thus (“calls”), His creation responds—in such a way as to do His will.

Justification is the result of being called, and it is the basis for our glorification. Just as divine calling is necessary because we do not, cannot, and will not seek God, so our justification by God is necessary because we cannot justify ourselves.

Paul has already said much about justification in chapters 1-4 of Romans. Because of this, here we need do no more than review his teaching on the subject of justification. The doctrine of justification, as Paul has taught it to the Roman Christians in this Epistle, is set out below:

(1) Justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous. Man will be declared righteous if and when he lives according to the standard of righteousness which God has set down in the Law (see Romans 2:13, 23, 27).

(2) Righteousness is the basis for justification, and glory is its promised reward. To be declared righteous, one must be righteous. The hope of glory is promised to all who are righteous (see Romans 2:7, 10).

(3) God’s standard of righteousness is too high for men. Because we are sinners, there is no way that we can live in perfect obedience to the Law. The Law therefore justifies no one; it only serves to condemn us for our unrighteousness (Romans 3:10-20).

(4) Because all men are unrighteous, they have no hope of attaining to the glory of God by their own works (3:23).

(5) In His kindness, God provided a means for making men righteous and giving them eternal life. God made a way to forgive men, to give them eternal life, yet in a way consistent with His righteousness. God sent His own sinless Son to die for our sins. God’s wrath was poured out on Him, and His righteous anger was satisfied (propitiated). In Christ, God’s righteousness was made available to all who will receive it. Man receives God’s righteousness by faith, apart from works (Romans 3:21-26).

(6) The divine call of God opens men’s eyes to the truth of the gospel and their hearts toward Him. God’s call irresistibly draws men to Christ by faith, a faith which we are given by God (see Ephesians 2:1-10).

(7) Justification by faith eliminates all boasting in ourselves, and gives us ample basis for boasting in God, in His salvation, in the hope of glory, and even in present adversity (Romans 5, 8).

(8) This justification by faith is not an excuse for continuing to live in sin as we once did; rather it is the basis for living in obedience toward God, for living righteously (Romans 6).

Essentially there are but two kinds of glory in this world. There is the matchless, untarnished glory of God, and there is the tarnished, temporary glory of man. If we would understand our glorification, we must understand it in the context of the glory of God and against the backdrop of man’s glory.

The theme of the glory of God is best understood as it has been revealed. God has progressively revealed to us the doctrine of His glory, of its hope and promise for all who are the sons of God, and of its terror for all others. We will therefore endeavor to trace the theme of God’s glory from eternity past to eternity future. Only then can we understand the magnitude of that glorification which yet awaits those of us who know God in Christ.

We will consider the premises which should guide and govern our study, as well as the conclusions we will reach, before we begin to study the glory of God. These premises enumerated here are based upon the teaching of Paul in the Book of Romans.

(1) Glory and glorification must be understood in relationship to each other. Our glorification is to be understood in the light of Paul’s teaching about glory in Romans.

(2) Our glorification, while spoken of in the past tense, is yet future.

(3) Our glorification involves the redemption of our bodies and our adoption as sons (8:17-25; 9:4).

(4) Our glorification is certain (5:2), yet unseen (8:24-25).

(5) Our present suffering is preparatory and prerequisite to our future glorification (5:17).

(6) Our future glorification is God’s promised reward for the righteous, the “glory” of which Paul writes in Romans 2:7 and 10.

(7) Our future glorification is an extension or expression of God’s glory (5:2).

(8) The glory is that which God promised Israel and which Paul still speaks of as belonging to Israel (Romans 9:4).

Having set these premises before us, let us now trace the “glory of God” through the ages as described in the Bible. No more noble endeavor will ever come our way. Let us ask God to open our hearts and minds to His glory. It is indeed a transforming subject.

Satan was a magnificent being with a splendor second only to His Creator. But his reflected, secondary glory was not enough for him. He wanted more. He wanted God’s glory (Isaiah 14:12-14). Because of his greed for glory, Satan fell. All history is evidence of his continuing effort to tempt men to pursue a “God-like glory,” not by trusting in God but by striving to be like God.

When God made the heavens and the earth, He created Adam and Eve in His image. They were to reflect God’s image and His glory by ruling over creation. Satan tempted them to reach for a greater glory, the glory of being like God (see Genesis 3:5). When they followed Satan and disobeyed God, Adam and Eve fell, and all mankind fell with them (see Romans 5:12-21).

God created the universe as a showcase by which He could display His glory. Men were to see God’s glory in nature, and were obliged to glorify Him in worship. They refused, choosing rather to exchange the glory of God for a lesser glory, one which was like unto their own image. Because of this, men have shown themselves to be worthy of divine condemnation (Romans 1:18-23).

In the beginning, God’s glory was reflected in His creation and in man. Sin has tarnished the reflection of God’s glory. God chose a people to whom and through whom He could display His glory—the nation Israel. God’s glory was evident in His deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage (Numbers 14:22). It was evident in the wilderness, especially when the people sought to rebel against God (Exodus 16:7, 10; Numbers 14:10; 16:19, 42). God’s glory was revealed at Mt. Sinai, when He gave the Law to Moses (Exodus 24:16-17). It was also evident in the garments of the priest (Exodus 28:2, 40). It filled the tent of meeting (Exodus 29:42-43; 40:34-35; see also Leviticus 9:6, 23). Seeing God’s glory was the highest ambition and desire of Moses, a desire which God granted to him, in part (Exodus 33:18–34:8). When Israel went to war, God’s glory accompanied them in conjunction with the ark (see 1 Samuel 4:21-22).

Israel’s sin resulted in the manifestation of God’s glory in judgment (Exodus 16:7, 10; Numbers 14:10; 16:19, 42). Eventually God removed His glory from the midst of this people, as a judgment for their persistent sin (see 1 Samuel 4:21-22). When the tabernacle was replaced by the temple, the glory of God filled it (1 Chronicles 16:10; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

Israel’s glory was her God (1 Samuel 15:29). Glory belonged only to Him (1 Chronicles 29:11). Israel’s response to God’s glory was to glorify Him in worship (1 Chronicles 16:29). Even sinners were to give glory to God (see Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 6:5). Israel was not to worship idols because this would give glory to mere images, rather than to God. But beyond glorifying God in worship, Israel was to tell the nations of God’s glory (1 Chronicles 16:24). This is the heart of evangelism, then and now.

Israel did not glorify God. They turned from the God of glory to man-made idols. They did not obey His law. Justice and mercy were forgotten; worse yet, they were trampled under foot. Through His prophets, God admonished His people but they would not listen. God warned of a coming day of judgment at the hand of heathen nations. Beyond the day of God’s judgment was a day of redemption and restoration. There would come a time when Israel would be brought to repentance. God would then rule over them and even over the other nations.

All of this was described in various ways in the prophets. One of the prominent themes in the prophets was that of the glory of God. The theme of the glory of God as related to Israel’s sin, her judgment, and then her deliverance and future restoration are described by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Below are a sampling of the verses which play out the theme of God’s glory:

And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3).

For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, Because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, To rebel against His glorious presence (Isaiah 3:8).

“I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8).

“‘For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise, and for glory; but they did not listen’” (Jeremiah 13:11).

 “Now therefore, behold, the Lord is about to bring on them the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates, Even the king of Assyria and all his glory; And it will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks” (Isaiah 8:7).

Now it will come about in that day that the glory of Jacob will fade, And the fatness of his flesh will become lean (Isaiah 17:4).

How the Lord has covered the daughter of Zion With a cloud in His anger! He has cast from heaven to earth The glory of Israel, And has not remembered His footstool In the day of His anger (Lamentations 2:1).

And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 13:19).

But now the Lord speaks, saying, “Within three years, as a hired man would count them, the glory of Moab will be degraded along with all his great population, and his remnant will be very small and impotent” (Isaiah 16:14).

“The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, And sovereignty from Damascus And the remnant of Aram; They will be like the glory of the sons of Israel,” Declares the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 17:3).

In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel (Isaiah 4:2).

Then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy (Isaiah 4:5).

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1).

Then it will come about in that day That the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious (Isaiah 11:10).

Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, And His glory will be before His elders (Isaiah 24:23).

In that day the Lord of hosts will become a beautiful crown And a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people (Isaiah 28:5).

Therefore a strong people will glorify Thee; Cities of ruthless nations will revere Thee (Isaiah 25:3).

“And you will swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ In truth, in justice, and in righteousness; Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, And in Him they will glory” (Jeremiah 4:2).

 “The beasts of the field will glorify Me; The jackals and the ostriches; Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people” (Isaiah 43:20).

Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; For the Lord has redeemed Jacob And in Israel He shows forth His glory (Isaiah 44:23).

Before leaving the theme of the glory of God in the Old Testament, several important observations should be stressed:

First, Israel’s glory was to share in the glory of God. Israel did not have a glory of her own. Israel was, by divine design, established for the glory of God. God’s presence among His people was glory to Israel. The righteousness of God manifested in and through His people was the glory of God.

“In the Lord all the offspring of Israel will be justified, and will glory” (Isaiah 45:25).

“No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory” (Isaiah 60:19).

“I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; And My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel” (Isaiah 46:13).

Second, God’s glory is as evident in His judgment of sin as it is in the manifestation of His righteousness through His people. When Israel sinned, they were unrighteous. This did not glorify God. God’s glory was therefore manifested in His wrath toward sin. Whether in her obedience or in her disobedience, God would be glorified through His people, Israel.

Third, Israel’s glory was not to be hoarded but to be shared with and by the other nations. Israel quickly began to think of her glory as her glory. While God would not share His glory with any other “gods,” Israel was to share her glory with the nations. This she refused to do. When God spoke of the glory that was to come, Israel would be glorified, but the nations would also have a share in it.

Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you (Isaiah 55:5).

Surely the coastlands will wait for Me; And the ships of Tarshish will come first, To bring your sons from afar, Their silver and their gold with them, For the name of the Lord your God, And for the Holy One of Israel because He has glorified you (Isaiah 60:9).

For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations (Isaiah 66:18-19).

Fourth, Israel’s glory would ultimately be brought about by Messiah Who would first suffer and then enter into His glory. Israel, God’s servant, failed. She had proven that she was unable to be the servant God required. The Messiah was to take Israel’s place and to become the Suffering Servant. Only in Him could Israel be justified. Only in Him could Israel be glorified:

Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed, Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law (Isaiah 42:1-4; see also 52:13-15; 53:1-12).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is God’s revelation of His glory. If the creation manifests the glory of God, far more does the One who created it—God manifested in the flesh:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).

It is no wonder that glory accompanied the announcements of Christ’s coming:

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened (Luke 2:9).

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

“A light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

This “glory” of our Lord was often veiled during the days of our Lord upon the earth. It could be seen by His mighty deeds,215 and by His character, but most were unable to see it, even His disciples. And so, from time to time, God lifted the veil. Such was the case at our Lord’s transfiguration:

Who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him (Luke 9:31-32).

Throughout His earthly life, Jesus did not seek men’s glory but rather He sought to glorify His Father.216 In His high priestly prayer for His disciples in those last hours before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed:

“And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).

“And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one” (John 17:22).

“Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

Glory of Believer: God has set the glorification of the believer once-for-all. It must be remembered throughout this passage that Scripture is talking about the believer. A believer is a person who sincerely believes in Jesus Christ, responds by faith through baptism for remission of sins, and diligently seeks to please Him by living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-13).

It is the believer whose glorification is predestinated, set forever and ever by God. The true believer can rest in this glorious truth, for God has done three wonderful things for him. God has called, justified, and glorified him.

Note that all three steps are in the past tense; all three steps are something already accomplished. The believer’s glorification has already taken place in the plan and mind of God. God already sees believers glorified; He already sees believers in His presence. It is assured and predestinated—already written down in the annals of heaven, never to be erased.

Again, does this mean that some are destined to hell and some to heaven? No, a thousand times, no! This is not the purpose of this Scripture. God’s purpose is to give enormous assurance to the believer: he shall be delivered from the struggling and suffering of this sinful world. He is going to be freed—if he is a true believer—freed from all the sin and shame, failure and shortcoming, pain and death. He is going to be glorified right along with God’s dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. God has called the believer. Some time ago the Spirit called and stirred the heart of the believer to come to Christ through the gospel message and His Word. The believer responded to the call. Scripture definitely teaches that the believer had a choice. He could have chosen to respond or not to respond. (Cp. Rev. 22:17.) Thank God he responded and came to Christ. Therefore, the call was effective; the call worked. The believer did respond to Christ.
  2. God has justified the believer. Again, note the past tense. Justification has already taken place for the believer.
  3. God has glorified the believer. This, too, is past tense: the glorification of the believer is an accomplished fact, a fact that has already taken place in God’s mind and plan. God already sees and counts the believer as glorified in His presence for eternity.

From the Bible’s point of view, “calling” describes all of the responsibility of all believers to serve God with all of their lives:

Every believer is called to belong to God. Paul indicated to the Christians at Rome that both he and they had the same calling ( Rom. 1:1 , 6 ). Likewise, he wrote to the believers in Ephesus that just as there is one Spirit and one body (that is, the church), “you were called in one hope of your calling” ( Eph. 4:4 ).

Every believer is called a child of God. In His love, God brings us into His family ( 1 John 3:1 ), through faith in Christ Jesus.

Every believer is called to accept the work of Christ on our behalf. Though we are sinners deserving of judgment, Christ’s death on the cross has “justified” us, made us able to stand before a holy God and receive His salvation and grace ( Rom. 8:28–30 ; 2 Tim. 1:9 ). For this we have every reason to live lives of gratitude ( 1 Thess. 2:13 ).

Every believer is called to become like Christ. Living the life God calls us to involves change in which we take on the character of Christ. That means resisting the temptation to turn away from Him, even though others may encourage us to do so ( Gal. 1:6–9 ). It involves fleeing evil and pursuing good, fighting to maintain our faithfulness ( 1 Tim. 6:11–12 ). Just as Christ is holy, so we are to develop holiness in everything we do ( 1 Pet. 1:15 ; 3:9 ). As we pursue Christlikeness, we can do so with the certainty that the Lord is helping us, equipping us for every good work ( Phil. 2:12–13 ; 2 Pet. 1:3–10 ).

Every believer is called to serve God and other people. Christ has called us to Himself to live out our faith in a manner that is worthy of Him ( Eph. 4:1–4 ). We have the privilege of declaring God’s work through everything we do and say ( 1 Pet. 2:9–10 , 21 ).

Every believer is called to become a citizen of the new heaven and new earth. The Christian life leads ultimately to the end of being “glorified,” raised up to stand with Christ in eternal glory, pure and holy at last ( 1 Pet. 5:10 ; 2 Pet. 3:10–11 ). In that day, we will celebrate the final coming together of Christ and all His faithful ones ( Rev. 19:9–10 ). Our obedience to the Lord right now confirms this ultimate calling ( Matt. 5:19 ).

If you are a believer in Christ, you have the same, significant calling as any other believer in Christ, no matter what your workday occupation may be. Calling is not just a matter of what job one has. It means living as a child of God. Is that the calling that you are pursuing? [1]

god’s mission: adoption

When we come to Christ, God not only forgives us, he also adopts us. Through a dramatic series of events, we go from condemned orphans with no hope to adopted children with no fear. Here is how it happens. You come before the judgment seat of God full of rebellion and mistakes. Because of his justice he cannot dismiss your sin, but because of his love he cannot dismiss you. So, in an act which stunned the heavens, he punished himself on the cross for your sins. God’s justice and love are equally honored. And you, God’s creation, are forgiven. But the story doesn’t end with God’s forgiveness.

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God ( Rom. 8:15–16 nasb ).

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons ( Gal. 4:4–5 nasb ).

It would be enough if God just cleansed your name, but he does more. He gives you his name. It would be enough if God just set you free, but he does more. He takes you home. He takes you home to the Great House of God.

Adoptive parents understand this more than anyone. I certainly don’t mean to offend any biological parents—I’m one myself. We biological parents know well the earnest longing to have a child. But in many cases our cribs were filled easily. We decided to have a child and a child came. In fact, sometimes the child came with no decision. I’ve heard of unplanned pregnancies, but I’ve never heard of an unplanned adoption.

That’s why adoptive parents understand God’s passion to adopt us. They know what it means to feel an empty space inside. They know what it means to hunt, to set out on a mission, and take responsibility for a child with a spotted past and a dubious future. If anybody understands God’s ardor for his children, it’s someone who has rescued an orphan from despair, for that is what God has done for us.

God has adopted you. God sought you, found you, signed the papers and took you home.

god’s motive: devotion

As a minister I have had the privilege of witnessing—up close—the emotion of adoption. On one occasion a lady in another state who had heard me speak called and asked if I knew any prospective adoptive parents. Her pregnant daughter was seeking a home for her unborn child. I put her in touch with a family from our congregation and took a front row seat as the drama unfolded.

I saw the joy at the possibility and the heartbreak at the roadblocks. I watched the resolve in the eyes of the father and the determination in the eyes of the mother. They would travel as far as it took and spend every penny they had. They wanted to adopt that child. And they did. Only moments after his birth, the infant was placed in their arms. And this is no exaggeration: They smiled for a month after they brought their son home. I’d see them in the church hallway; they’d be smiling. I’d see them in the parking lot, smiling. From the pulpit I could see them in the congregation, cradling the baby and smiling. I think if I’d preached a sermon on the agony of hell, they would have smiled through every sentence. Why? Because the child they had longed for had come into their home.

Let me ask you, why did this couple adopt that child? They had a happy marriage. They were financially secure and gainfully employed. What did they hope to gain? Did they adopt the baby so they might have a little extra cash or sleep? You know better. Their supply of both diminished the minute they brought the child home. Then why? Why do people adopt children? As you are thinking, let me tell you why God does.

Delight in these words:

Long ago, before God made the world, God chose us to be his very own, through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault we who stand before him covered in his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us . And he did this because he wanted to ( Eph. 1:3–5 tlb , emphasis mine).

 

And you thought God adopted you because you were good-looking. You thought he needed your money or your wisdom. Sorry. God adopted you simply because he wanted to. You were in his good will and pleasure. Knowing full well the trouble you would be and the price he would pay, he signed his name next to yours and changed your name to his and took you home. Your Abba adopted you and became your Father.

May I pause here for just a second? Most of you are with me … but a couple of you are shaking your heads. I see those squinty eyes. You don’t believe me, do you? You’re waiting for the fine print. There’s got to be a gimmick. You know life has no free lunch, so you’re waiting for the check.

Your discomfort is obvious. Even here in God’s living room, you never unwind. Others put on slippers, you put on a front. Others relax, you stiffen. Always on your best behavior, ever anxious that you’ll slip up and God will notice and out you’ll go.

I understand your anxiety. Our experience with people has taught us that what is promised and what is presented aren’t always the same. And for some, the thought of trusting a  heavenly Father is doubly difficult because your earthly father disappointed or mistreated you.

If such is the case, I urge you: Don’t confuse your heavenly Father with the fathers you’ve seen on earth. Your Father in heaven isn’t prone to headaches and temper tantrums. He doesn’t hold you one day and hit you the next. The man who fathered you may play such games, but the God who loves you never will. May I prove my point?

god’s method: redemption

Let’s return to the verses that describe your adoption. Read them a second time and see if you can find the verb which precedes the word adoption in both verses.

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God ( Rom. 8:15–16 nasb ).

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons ( Gal. 4:4–5 nasb ).

Find it? Not too hard to see, is it? Before the word adoption is the word receive.

Could Paul have used another phrase? Could he have said, “You have earned the spirit of adoption”? Or “that we might earn our adoption as sons”? I suppose he could have, but we wouldn’t have bought it. You and I both know that an adoption is not something we earn; it’s something we receive. To be adopted into a family is not a feat one achieves, but rather a gift one accepts.

The parents are the active ones. Adoption agencies don’t train children to recruit parents; they seek parents to adopt children. The parents make the call and fill out the papers and endure the interviews and pay the fee and wait the wait. Can you imagine prospective parents saying, “We’d like to adopt Johnny, but first we want to know a few things. Does he have a house to live in? Does he have money for tuition? Does he have a ride to school every morning and clothes to wear every day? Can he prepare his own meals and mend his own clothes?”

No agency would stand for such talk. Its representative would lift her hand and say, “Wait a minute. You don’t understand. You don’t adopt Johnny because of what he has; you adopt him because of what he needs. He needs a home.”

The same is true with God. He doesn’t adopt us because of what we have. He doesn’t give us his name because of our wit or wallet or good attitude. Paul states it twice because he is doubly concerned that we understand that adoption is something we receive, not something we earn.

Which is so good to know. Why? Think carefully about this. If we can’t earn our adoption by our stellar performance, can we lose it through our poor performance?

When I was seven years old, I ran away from home. I’d had enough of my father’s rules and decided I could make it on my own, thank you very much. With my clothes in a paper bag, I stormed out the back gate and marched down the alley. Like the prodigal son, I decided I needed no father. Unlike the prodigal son, I didn’t go far. I got to the end of the alley and remembered I was hungry, so I went back home.

But though the rebellion was brief, it was rebellion nonetheless. And had you stopped me on that prodigal path between the fences and asked me who my father was, I just might have told you how I felt. I just might have said, “I don’t need a father. I’m too big for the rules of my family. It’s just me, myself and my paper bag.” I don’t remember saying that to anyone, but I remember thinking it. And I also remember rather sheepishly stepping in the back door and taking my seat at the supper table across from the very father I had, only moments before, disowned.

Did he know of my insurrection? I suspect he did. Did he know of my denial? Dads usually do. Was I still his son? Apparently so. (No one else was sitting in my place.) Had you gone to my father after you had spoken to me and asked, “Mr. Lucado, your son says he has no need of a father. Do you still consider him your son?” what would my dad have said?

 

I don’t have to guess at his answer. He called himself my father even when I didn’t call myself his son. His commitment to me was greater than my commitment to him.

I didn’t hear the rooster crow like Peter did. I didn’t feel the fish belch like Jonah did. I didn’t get a robe and a ring and sandals like the prodigal did. But I learned from my father on earth what those three learned from their Father in heaven. Our God is no fair-weather Father. He’s not into this love-’em-and-leave-’em-stuff. I can count on him to be in my corner no matter how I perform. You can, too.

May I show you something? Look at the bottom of the painting. See the words etched in gold? The Apostle Paul penned them, but your Father inspired them.

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord ( Rom. 8:38–39 ).

Your Father will never turn you away. The doors of this room are never closed. Learn to linger in the living room of God’s house. When the words of others hurt you or your own failures distress you, step in here. Gaze at this painting and be reminded of your God: It is right to call him Holy; we speak truth when we call him King. But if you want to touch his heart, use the name he loves to hear. Call him Father.[2]

[1]Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2001. What does the Bible say about– : The ultimate A to Z resource fully illustrated. Nelson’s A to Z series . Thomas Nelson: Nashville, Tenn.

tlb The Living Bible

[2]Lucado, M. 1997. The great house of God : A home for your heart . Word Pub.: Dallas

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2021 in Romans

 

More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #9 A Solace in Suffering: The Sovereignty of God – Romans 8:28


(Romans 8:28 NIV)  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

(Romans 8:28 NASB)  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

The story is told of an airliner which began to develop trouble in mid-air. One engine began to smoke. Over the speaker came the pilot’s reassuring voice informing the passengers of a small problem. One engine had caught fire, but it had been extinguished. With three remaining engines, the plane would easily reach its destination. Then a second engine failed. Once again, the pilot calmly assured the passengers there was no danger; two engines would suffice. A third engine failed. Now the pilot informed the passengers that it would be necessary to land short of their destination. Finally, the fourth engine failed, and from their windows the passengers saw the plane’s crew in parachutes descending to the earth.

The pilot’s calm and reassuring voice again came over the speaker: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are having a problem with the airplane. We will need to make an emergency landing. The pilot and crew have abandoned the plane and are parachuting to safety. There is no need to panic. The plane is operating on automatic pilot, and everything is under control … control … control …”

There are times in life when things seem to be out of control. At those times atheists and agnostics are quite convinced, following our analogy, that the plane has no pilot. If ever there was a pilot, he has bailed out, leaving them to themselves to face threatening dangers.

We who are Christians believe there is a God. When life goes smoothly for us and God’s blessings are evident, we are tempted to believe we are in control. We may even think we do not need God.

When the bottom falls out and the trials of life seem to be swallowing us up so that we seem to lose control, we may still believe that God is in the cockpit. But we may begin to question whether God is really in control. We may be tempted to think God’s control over creation might be limited and fallible.

Alongside the theme of glory in the Christian life is the theme of victory. We get to be on the winning side, though our contribution is almost insignificant. We are protected by a God whose love cannot be measured and from which, as Paul will eloquently explain, absolutely nothing can separate us.

This section begins with some concluding remarks on how God responds to our prayers and the trials that motivate them. Paul briefly outlines God’s plan, emphasizing God’s effective work in our behalf. Following this, Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:31). His answer includes a listing of problems and situations that might threaten us, but are unable to ever “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39). Even though we don’t know how to pray according to God’s will, the Spirit does. That is why it all works for the good. God gives us what we truly need, not what we want.

8:28 We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.NIV This verse develops the thought introduced at the end of verse 27. Paul emphasizes that the Spirit’s efforts on our behalf are carried out in full agreement with God’s will, to bring us to maturity. This is expressed elsewhere by Paul: “He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4 niv).

Everything that happens to us in this life is directed toward that goal. What happens may not itself be “good,” but God will make it work to our ultimate good, to meet his ultimate goal for our life. In the kjv this well-known verse reads, “All things work together for good to them that love God . . . “The wording is smooth and familiar but, unfortunately, can lead to a misunderstanding of Paul’s point. God works all things for good, not “all things work out.” Suffering will still bring pain, loss, and sorrow, and sin will bring shame. But under God’s control, the eventual outcome will be for our good.

God works behind the scenes, ensuring that even in the middle of mistakes and tragedies, good will result for those who love him. At times this will happen quickly, often enough to help us trust the principle. But there will also be events whose results for good we will not know until eternity. Paul knew this from his own experience: “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12 niv); I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 niv).

Who are called according to his purpose.NRSV God’s Spirit called us, convinced us of our sinfulness, showed us what Christ could do for us, and then helped us to accept Christ. Our ultimate destiny is to be like Christ. God’s design is more than just an invitation; God summons us with a purpose in mind: we are to be like Christ and share his glory.

 

IN ALL THINGS
God works in all things—not just isolated incidents—for our good. This does not mean that all that happens to us is good; evil is prevalent in our fallen world. But God is able to turn it around for our long-range good. Note that God is not working to make us happy, but to fulfill his purpose. Note also that this promise can be claimed only by those who love, God and are “called according to his purpose.” Those who are called are those the Holy Spirit convinces and enables to receive Christ. Such people have a new perspective on life. They trust in God, not life’s treasures; they look to their security in heaven, not on earth; they learn to accept, not resent, pain and persecution, because God is with them.

When Paul speaks of the spiritual life in Romans 8, he speaks much of suffering. We who are in Christ need not suffer from guilt or fear, for our sins have been forgiven. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1-4).

When we sin as Christians, and deal with it through confession of sins to God, we need never doubt that we are justified by faith because God’s Spirit dwells within us, bearing witness that we are God’s sons. Further, because the Spirit of God indwells us, He not only leads us to do the will of God, but He empowers our bodies to do so (8:5-17).

Justification by faith and the ministry indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit are not promises of present perfection. We are still fallen creatures with mortal bodies, awaiting our future adoption and bodily release. Not only are we imperfect beings, but we live in a fallen and imperfect world resulting in suffering and groaning in this life as we await that which is perfect.

This will only come when our Lord Jesus Christ appears. As sons of God, we will share in this reign, but we must be prepared and proven by suffering, just as Christ had to suffer. We are comforted by the certainty of the hope of glory, and we are sustained by the ministry of the Holy Spirit until that day.

Paul turns in verses 28-30 to yet another truth which should sustain the Christian in the midst of the suffering and groanings of this present life—the sovereignty of God.

Whatever the Christian sees happening, we may be assured that it is not only under God’s control, but its purpose is to produce what is for God’s glory and for our good.

When life’s trials cause some to wonder if God even exists, and others to wonder whether He is in control, the Christian may be assured that God is there. He is in charge of bringing about His purpose for His glory and our good. Let us savor the truth of God’s sovereignty. While His sovereignty brings terror to the hearts of unbelievers, it is music to the Christian’s ears.

Verses 28-30 provide the Christian with the key to understanding how life’s problems should lead to our praise of God. Our study will show us how and why.

The Structure of Our Text

While verses 28-30 constitute one paragraph and should be understood as a whole, we must focus our attention in this lesson on verse 28 and consider verses 29 and 30 in our next lesson. Verse 28 is a general statement concerning the implications of God’s sovereignty for every Christian: God’s sovereignty means that all of life’s experiences are orchestrated by Him to produce that which is for our good.

The particulars of the general statement in verse 28 are spelled out in more specific terms in verses 29 and 30. The entire process from the beginning to the end of the Christian’s life is described here. It begins with God’s sovereign election or choice and ends with God’s divinely purposed conclusion—our glorification. We may therefore summarize the structure of our text in this way:

God’s greatness assures us of our good — Romans 8:28

(1) In choosing to save us

(2) In guaranteeing our godliness — Romans 8:29

(3) In drawing us to Himself

(4) In declaring us righteous

(5) In securing our glorification — Romans 8:30

Our Approach in This Study

Even though our approach to the study of this verse may seem unusual, it is absolutely necessary. Every passage of Scripture should be studied in this way, although often we do not do so in the actual exposition of a text. We will study this one verse phrase by phrase, in some instances considering even a single word.

Every word is packed with meaning; we dare not overlook any detail. After studying the text in this way, we will seek to draw out the lessons of the text with several summary statements and then suggest some practical implications of what Paul has taught in this one verse.

And200

This word “And” hardly seems to be worthy of notice. What can it tell us? A great deal! If the first word of this verse was “therefore,” we would look for a conclusion. If it were, “but,” we would look for some kind of contrast to what had just been written. If it were “for,” we would expect an explanation or some supporting evidence.

And” tells us that Paul wants us to see the connection between what he has been saying and what he is about to say. The sovereignty of God, of which Paul is speaking in verses 28-30, must be understood in relationship to the spiritual life and specifically to suffering (verses 18-27). The sovereignty of God has many avenues of application, but here Paul applies it to suffering.

Before praising God, the last thing Paul talks about is God’s sovereignty and His love. When these two attributes merge, along with His other attributes, there is every reason for praise.

We Know

Paul does not say here, “I know.” He says instead, “We know.” The “we” speaks of both Paul and the entire Roman church. Paul is saying, “All Christians know this …”

The truth of which Paul speaks is a truth he believes is universally held by all Christians. It is also appropriate to infer that the truth taught here is not one understood or believed by non-Christians. That truth of which Paul is about to speak is known to all believers, but not to those outside the faith.

We Know

We know …” A definite note of certainty is here. Paul does not say, “we think,” or “we hope,” but rather, “We know.” Other matters were more inferential, less clear and certain, or matters of personal interpretation and conviction not to be argued about or imposed on others but kept to oneself (see chapter 14). Paul was convinced that all, including him, knew and believed God’s sovereignty.

Paul wanted to teach the Romans a number of truths, truths which, it would seem, he doubted they knew. Why else would he bother to write this very systematic, theological epistle? There were things the Romans either did not know or seem to have forgotten. Thus Paul sometimes writes, “Or do you not know?” (6:3, 16; 7:1). Here the sovereignty of God is something Paul presumes all his readers know.

The sovereignty of God must therefore be a very foundational and fundamental doctrine. It must be a doctrine clearly taught which every Christian should know.

It should not be obscure, hidden amid other truths. It is not a doctrine which only the mature can extract from the Scriptures. The sovereignty of God is a truth every Christian is assumed to believe and understand.

Somehow many Christians today fall far short of what Paul assumes to be the case in his own day. He does not assume that Christians knew all the truth, but he did assume that the Roman saints knew of the sovereignty of God.

How did these Roman Christians, and Paul, know of the sovereignty of God? On what basis could Paul assume this? I wonder if the sovereignty of God is not so self-evident in one’s salvation that no one can miss it.

How could Paul, for example, not have concluded that God was sovereign in His salvation as he considered the way in which God brought him to Himself (see Acts 9:1-30)? Had the Romans not found in their own salvation that it was God who sought and saved them and not they who sought Him?

Does Paul see the sovereignty of God as so evident in the truths he has taught in chapters 1-8 that one could not reasonably think otherwise? In the next major section of Romans, Paul illustrates, clarifies, and defends in very specific terms the sovereignty of God in the context of God’s dealings with the nation Israel (Romans 9-11). Surely the sovereignty of God is self-evident both in His dealings with us and with others as seen in the Scriptures.

God Works

God is in control. As Paul states in verses 29 and 30, God is the one who chooses us to be saved. God is the one who purposes our sanctification. He is the One who calls us to Himself and justifies us. He is the One who glorifies us. And, to be more precise, He is the One who has done all these things so that they are as good as done, even if their final consummation is yet future. This is why he uses the past and not the present or future tense.

God causes all things to work together

We must be careful to note that God is not the cause of all things. In particular, He is not the cause of sin. God is the Creator. As such, He created the universe, including this earth and all that is in it. God is the originator of many things.

But in this verse, Paul is not speaking of those things which God brings into existence; he is referring to God as the orchestrator and controller of all that takes place in this world. God has given certain tasks and responsibilities to men.

He has ordained governments to punish evil doers and to reward those who do what is right (see Romans 13:1-7). He has even given a certain degree of liberty to Satan (see Job 1 and 2).

While God permits things to happen which displease Him, He does not allow anything to happen which is contrary to His sovereign purpose.

Taken individually, the events and circumstances God allows may not, in and of themselves, appear to be of any value or good to the Christian. But Paul does not say that each event is good or even that each incident will produce that which is good.

He informs us that all of the events, working together, produce what is good.

To illustrate, the ingredients which go into a cake are not very tasty when eaten individually. Flour, sugar, shortening, eggs, salt, baking powder, and spices are not something we want to eat one ingredient at a time. But mix all of these together in just the right proportions, and then bake the combined mixture, and you have a delicious treat.

Each event in our life is like one ingredient in a cake. It may not seem good, by itself, but when mixed by God with other correct events, it will surely produce what is good.

Paul speaks here of God’s sovereignty in terms of His choosing and blending of all of our experiences, in such a way as to produce that which is good. God causes all things to “work together” for good. This means we cannot judge the goodness of God’s work until His program is finished.

Have you ever been too hasty in testing the cake batter? Almost always the result is unsatisfactory.

Until God’s recipe for our lives is complete, we dare not judge God’s cooking. We had best entrust ourselves to Him as the cook, knowing that He always blends the right ingredients, at the right time, in the right way, and in the right proportions.

When God causes all things to “work together” for the good of His children, His “working together” is such that one believer is not blessed at the expense of another. All that God brings to pass, or allows, in my life is for my ultimate good.

More than this, when God works in behalf of the good of His children, He does not “rob Peter to pay Paul.” He works in the lives of each believer in such a way that other believers are benefited as well.

In war, a commanding officer may be required to sacrifice some of his troops for the good of the cause. He may send one group to fight a losing battle to divert attention from another group by which he hopes to win the victory.

God’s sovereignty far surpasses this kind of control. God does not work in such a way as to bring about the casualty of one believer so that another believer will be blessed. God works so that the good of each and every Christian is accomplished.

Think of the incredible power of God suggested and required by the truth of His sovereignty. Since all things “work together” then the more things included in the category of “all things,” the greater God’s power and control must be. It is difficult for anyone to orchestrate several different events at one time. But God controls all of the events in the life of every believer.

More than this, God controls what He is doing in the life of one believer in such a way as to harmonize with what He is doing in the lives of all the rest. Such a task is beyond human comprehension. It is a task only a God with infinite power can accomplish.

God causes all things to work together

We have seen that “all” means that everything which affects the life of the Christian is under God’s control and thus is a part of God’s will for us. God causes “all things” to work together for our good. We are much more willing to attribute the pleasant events of our life to the hand of God than we are the painful experiences.

We find it difficult to believe that an act of deliberate cruelty intended by the offender to hurt us is really being used by God for our good.

If we are to take Paul’s words in Romans 8:28 literally and seriously, we must face the fact that “all things” includes those things which we find painfully unpleasant. We may even think they are unbearable.

  • All things” includes the sin of others and even our own sins.
  • All things” means there is nothing which falls outside of God’s control and which works contrary to our good.
  • Not one thing falls outside of God’s control.
  • All things” are caused to work together so that God’s will—our good—is accomplished.

God causes all things to work together for good

All things … includes all sufferings, sorrows, infirmities, and everything else of a discouraging and calamitous nature which might befall God’s child on earth. “For good … ” cannot mean earthly prosperity, success, bodily health, or any other purely mortal benefit, but is rather a reference to the eternal felicity of the soul. Whatever might happen to the Christian in this life, absolutely nothing can happen to HIM, that is, his saved inner self. This is true because God is able to overrule every earthly circumstance in such a manner as to compel its contribution to the eternal redemption that awaits the children of God. As Brunner warned,

No universal optimism is meant – (such as) everything will turn out all right for everybody in any case. There stands here the significant limitation, “to them that love God.”

Work together for good … speaks of a situation in which God is surely at work on the Christian’s behalf, but it also speaks’ of a situation in which the saved person’s reaction to life’s woes is a controlled response.

Some ships sail east, and some sail west, By the selfsame winds that blow.

It’s the set of the sails and not the gales That determines the way they go! – Anonymous

The reaction of the child of God, or his response, to the ills of mortal life must be one of patience, submission, humility, prayer, love, hope, and faith. Even adversity of the severest kind must be made to yield its precious fruit in the heart of the Christian. It has been proved again and again by Christians that “Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New.”

Them that love God … identifies the persons who shall receive the blessing of having all things work together for good on their behalf, this identification being further pinpointed by the last clause, “them that are called according to his purpose.” Who are the people who love God? Christ said:

If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments ….He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me (John 14:15,21).

Christ’s apostles stressed the same truth:

This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments (1 John 5:3).

This is love, that we should walk after his commandments (2 John 1:6).

Them that are called according to his purpose … At this point, the great Biblical doctrines of calling, foreknowledge, and foreordination (or predestination) begin to emerge, doctrines which have evoked entire libraries of discussions, theories, and explanations, and which, in the fullness of their total meaning, may not be fully comprehensible to finite intelligence. These great teachings point toward God, upward and heavenward, and are like massive mountain peaks reaching up into the clouds, the summits of which extend far beyond the boundaries of human vision. Despite this, the foothills reached by our understanding afford beautiful and breathtaking vistas of these “deep things of the Spirit of God.”

Moses E. Lard said that

“Those who are called” is simply another mode of designating the saved. It and the expression “those that love God’ are descriptive, not of different persons, but of the same. The two clauses also express important facts in their lives.

Of deep interest is the “calling” mentioned here. Who are the called, and how does the calling occur? Paul gave the answer thus:

Whereunto (unto which salvation) he called you through the gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:14).

In one sense, the totality of human kind are called by the gospel, as indicated by Christ’s express command that the divine call should be proclaimed to “the whole creation”; but the phrase “according to his purpose” delimits the persons here spoken of to them that fulfilled God’s purpose through their affirmative response to the call.

Called according to his purpose … means to be called “in one body (the church)” (Col. 3:15), and that “through the church” there might be made known “the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:10,11). This, properly understood, eliminates the widespread misunderstanding with regard to God’s calling of the redeemed. Paul here did not speak of individuals as such, but of the whole body of the saved. That body, composed of the whole number of the redeemed, is indeed called and foreordained to eternal glory; but of an individual person, it must be said that he is called from before all time and predestinated to everlasting life, only if his affirmative response to the divine call has brought him into union with Christ, and if he so continues. See under following verses.

“Purpose … ” here is translated from a Greek term prothesis, meaning God’s placing all future events before his mind so as distinctly to see them.

Thus, the germ of foreknowledge is found in the very first word of Paul’s revelation on this tremendous subject. God’s purposing was “kept in silence through times eternal” (Rom. 16:25), and was an event prior to the creation of the world, “which in other generations was not made known” (Eph. 3:5), “which hath been hid for ages and generations” (Col. 1:26), “which God who cannot lie, promised before times eternal” (Titus 1:2). God’s eternal purpose of gathering the saved of all ages into one body “in Christ” was a design “which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7), which must be identified with “the mystery of God.” A careful study of the passages here cited shows that in all of the “mystery” passages Paul was speaking of “the wisdom of God” and of his “eternal purpose” of uniting all people in Christ through the church which is his body.

A further word from Lard on this is:

We now have but little difficulty explaining the clause “called according to his purpose.” In the prothesis all things pertaining to man’s redemption were set before God, and among them his predetermination that man should be called by the gospel, “to which salvation he called you by our gospel.” Hence, to be called according to God’s purpose, prothesis, is to be called by the gospel. It is therefore not to be called by some secret impulse of the Holy Spirit; neither is it to be called “effectually,” or “ineffectually,” as the schoolmen phrase it. This call we are absolutely free to accept or reject; and, accordingly, as we do this or that, we shall be saved or lost.

The word “for” is significant. God does not necessarily bring into our lives those things which are, in and of themselves, good. He often brings into our lives those things which are painful which cause us to groan.

Often these unpleasant experiences are the result of our own folly or sin. Sometimes we may suffer through no fault or failure of our own. Our Lord’s suffering was not due to any sin on His part. The chastening of the Father is not necessarily that which we have experienced because of our sin or disobedience (see Hebrews 12:1-13).

It is vital that we understand the term “good,” or we will completely reverse the meaning of this verse. Asaph, the psalmist who penned Psalm 73, went through a period of great anguish and anger toward God because he failed to understand the meaning of “good.” A portion of this psalm is cited to illustrate the importance of correctly defining the term “good.”

A Psalm of Asaph. 1 Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart! 2 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling; My steps had almost slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant, As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death; And their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; Nor are they plagued like mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. 7 Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot. 8 They mock, and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth. … 12 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure, And washed my hands in innocence; 14 For I have been stricken all day long, And chastened every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I should have betrayed the generation of Thy children. 16 When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight 17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. 18 Surely Thou dost set them in slippery places; Thou dost cast them down to destruction. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, Thou wilt despise their form. 21 When my heart was embittered, And I was pierced within, 22 Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before Thee. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. 24 With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. 28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Thy works (Psalm 73:1-9, 12-28).

Asaph’s first words were “God is good to Israel.” He is also good to those who are pure in heart. But Asaph was wrong in his definition of “good,” for he thought good must be understood in terms of peace, prosperity, and a comfortable life. He thought of good in terms of pleasure and the absence of pain and more in terms of this present life than of eternity.

Asaph thought this way until he came to the sanctuary of God. There he began to view life from the divine perspective and from the vantage point of eternity rather than in terms of this present age. From the divine perspective, the good life of the wicked was uncertain and incredibly short. He now saw “good” in terms of intimacy with God. He could say, “the nearness of God is my good.” He recognized that while his sufferings drew him nearer to God, the prosperity of the wicked only drew them further from Him.

Asaph’s definition of “good” changed from a warm, fuzzy feeling now to enjoying God’s presence, now and for all eternity. He saw that if suffering draws one nearer to God, it is not evil but good. He recognized that if prosperity and the absence of pain turns one from God, that is evil. His definition of “good” made the difference. We must be very careful to define “good” as Asaph came to understand it, in terms of eternity and in terms of intimacy with God.

The “good” God brings to pass is the result of the “all things” which God has brought into our lives. The “good” may therefore be viewed presently in terms of our attitude toward God and in terms of the faith and perseverance which trials are intended to promote and produce. But most of all, “good” must be viewed in terms of our full adoption as sons when our Lord returns to the earth.

 

God is represented as the source of that which is good. Paul does not tell us that God causes everything. He surely does not tell us that God causes evil. He does tell us that God causes that which is “good.” This is consistent with the teaching of our Lord and of James:

“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:11-13).

Let not one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt any one. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then, when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow (James 1:16-17).

The “good” which God brings about is His “ultimate good” or “final good” for us. Since God causes all things to work together for good, we dare not assume that every individual event or circumstance will be perceived as good at the moment. It will only be recognized as good at the end of the process, when God is finished with His work in and for us.

In the light of verses 29 and 30, we can reasonably say that the “good” of which Paul speaks here is the “good” of His purposes and promises. The “good” of which we are assured is that good which God long ago planned, predestined, and presently is bringing to pass. We cannot see this good with our physical eyes, but God’s promises and His prophecies set it out for us to see through the eyes of faith. Such was the faith of the saints of days gone by:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).

  • The rejection of Jesus by His people, Israel, and His subsequent sham of a trial, conviction, crucifixion, and death can hardly be seen as good—apart from His resurrection and the salvation which His work at Calvary achieves and assures.
  • The persecution of the apostles, and of Christians down through the ages, is good only in the light of God’s approval, His eternal blessings, and His rewards for those who have been faithful.

The “good,” which God is presently bringing about for us through His control and arrangement of all our circumstances and experiences, is the good which He has purposed. It is the good which His Word has promised. It is not present pleasure or happiness. It cannot be found in one or a few experiences, divorced from the rest of life. It is the culmination, the climax, of all the experiences and events of our life. It is a good that is so good we cannot even fathom it. We would not even know what we should ask for because it is beyond our mental grasp:

But just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND WHICH HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

To those who love God

“To those who are called according to His purpose”

These two statements must be understood together and separately. Together, these two phrases inform us that those who are the recipients of the good God is bringing about are the sons of God, those who have been justified by faith. Those who are the enemies of God look forward to a very different end: “… wrath … in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS” (Romans 2:5-6).

The expression, “those who love God,” is a description of Christians with respect to their response toward God. Unbelievers are born sinners with an innate anger and hostility toward God:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature, children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

 

Of all the expressions which describe the relationship of the Christian to God, why this one? Why does Paul describe the believer as one who loves God? I think we will better understand when we consider the references to loving God in the Old and New Testaments:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12).

“You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments … And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul … For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you, to do it, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 11:1, 13, 22).

“You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3).

“If you carefully observe all this commandment, which I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in His ways always—then you shall add three more cities for yourself, besides these three” (Deuteronomy 19:9).

“Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live … In that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it” (Deuteronomy 30:6, 16).

“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).

“So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the Lord your God” (Joshua 23:11).

And I said, “I beseech Thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Nehemiah 1:5).

And I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Daniel 9:4).

And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42).

“But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves” (John 5:42).

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me” (John 8:42).

But just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are

in Him (1 John 2:5).

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins … If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also (1 John 4:10, 20-21).

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2-3).

He says that those who love God, and who are called according to his purpose, know well that God is intermingling all things for good to them. It is the experience of life for the Christian that all things do work together for good. We do not need to be very old to look back and see that things we thought were disasters worked out to our good; things that we thought were disappointments worked out to greater blessings.

But we have to note that that experience comes only to those who love God. The Stoics had a great idea which may well have been in Paul’s mind when he wrote this passage. One of their great conceptions was the logos (<G3056>) of God, which was God’s mind or the reason. The Stoic believed that this world was permeated with that logos (<G3056>). It was the logos (<G3056>) which put sense into the world. It was the logos (<G3056>) which kept the stars in their courses and the planets in their appointed tracks. It was the logos (<G3056>) which controlled the ordered succession of night and day, and summer and winter and spring and autumn. The logos (<G3056>) was the reason and the mind of God in the universe, making it an order and not a chaos.

The Stoic went further. He believed that the logos (<G3056>) not only had an order for the universe, but also a plan and a purpose for the life of every individual man. To put it in another way, the Stoic believed that nothing could happen to a man which did not come from God and which was not part of God’s plan for him. Epictetus writes: “Have courage to look up to God and to say, ‘Deal with me as thou wilt from now on. I am as one with thee; I am thine; I flinch from nothing so long as thou dost think that it is good. Lead me where thou wilt; put on me what raiment thou wilt. Wouldst thou have me hold office or eschew it, stay or flee, be rich or poor? For this I will defend thee before men.'” The Stoic taught that the duty of every man was acceptance. If he accepted the things that God sent him, he knew peace. If he struggled against them, he was uselessly battering his head against the ineluctable purpose of God.

Paul has the very same thought. He says that all things work together for good, but only to them that love God. If a man loves and trusts and accepts God, if he is convinced that God is the all-wise and all-loving Father, then he can humbly accept all that he sends to him. A man may go to a physician, and be prescribed a course of treatment which at the time is unpleasant or even painful; but if he trusts the wisdom of the man of skill, he accepts the thing that is laid upon him. It is so with us if we love God. But if a man does not love and trust God, he may well resent what happens to him and may well fight against God’s will. It is only to the man who loves and trusts that all things work together for good, for to him they come from a Father who in perfect wisdom, love and power is working ever for the best.

From these texts, we may draw the following conclusions:

(1) Loving God is the essence of what God desires of men, whether that be in Old Testament times or in the New. It is God’s principle and primary commandment to men (see Deuteronomy 6:5; 19:9; Joshua 22:5; 23:11).

(2) Loving God is inseparably linked with the keeping of God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9; 11:1).

(3) Loving God and loving men sums up the requirements of the Law (Matthew 22:37).

(4) God’s blessings are poured out on those who love Him (Nehemiah 1:5; Daniel 9:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9).

(5) Loving God is not the natural response of men toward God, but that response which God Himself makes possible through the work of His Spirit (Deuteronomy 30:6).

Loving God sums up the relationship which God desires for His children. His initiating love, shown to us, is reflected in our love for Him. And our love for Him is reflected in our obedience to His commandments. If we but love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then we will love others, and we will keep His commandments. In so doing, we will show ourselves to be His sons. And because we are His sons, He works all things together for our good.

The other side of the coin of our sonship is that we not only love Him but He has called us according to His purpose. It is very important to understand that God does not adapt or modify His purpose in order to bless us. God blesses us, He brings about our good, in accordance with His purpose. Our good is subordinate to the purpose of God.

This is not always the way God’s relationship to His people is represented. There are some who see God as a lonely God, desperately in need of our fellowship and love. God does desire our love, as this text informs us, but He does not need our love so that He caters to our wants and needs to obtain it. As we shall see in very dramatic terms in chapters 9-11, God is in charge. God saves some, to the praise of His glory. And God passes over others, to the praise of His glory. His grace is sovereign grace, determined by His own sovereign will and purposes, and not determined or directed by men. We do not use or manipulate God. God uses us, to His glory—some as vessels of mercy, others as vessels of wrath (see 9:21-23).

In our text, Paul does not speak of the purposes (plural) of God but of His purpose (singular). Why is this? I believe we must conclude there is only one all-encompassing purpose. That purpose is not to save men or to bless those who believe in Him, but to manifest His own glory, not only to men, but to the heavenly hosts as well. Paul makes much of this in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:3-14, emphasis mine).

God’s singular purpose is to display His glory. His subordinate purpose for those who are His children is to save us, which involves that process outlined in verses 29 and 30. It begins with our divine election and ends with our final glorification. God’s purpose is to save us, to the praise of His glory. In accordance with this purpose for us, He controls all those things which touch our lives, bringing about only that which is good for us in the final analysis.

Conclusion

God is sovereign. He is in complete control of every event and of every circumstance in His creation. He does not cause all things, such as evil, but He does control all things so that His will is accomplished. God’s sovereign control extends to the acts of unbelievers, of angels, fallen or unfallen, and even to Satan. The sovereignty of God is specifically applied in our text to those who are Christians—those who have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

God exercises His sovereignty toward the Christian in such a way that everything that touches our lives has been allowed or brought about by Him. Those things which would prove to be detrimental to our good have been kept from us. Those things which will work together for the “good” God has purposed for us, God arranges and controls in such a way as to produce that good. Everything which touches the life of the Christian is purposed and designed for accomplishing the “good” God has purposed for us.

The “good” which God purposes for the Christian is primarily that which is still future and which we cannot presently see. It is a good we can hope for based upon God’s Word and believed by faith. That “good” includes our salvation, sanctification, and our future full adoption as sons of God. This will take place after we have been prepared and proven by suffering, and at the time when our Lord returns to this earth to subdue His enemies and to reign over the whole creation as God’s king. The “good” which is spoken of here is not so much our present happiness as our holiness.

The “all things” which God causes to work together for our ultimate good includes everything which touches our lives. In the context of Romans 8, it includes suffering and groaning. Our faith and obedience are a part of that which God uses to bring about our ultimate good. The well-intentioned deeds of others is also a part of God’s program. But the “all things” of Romans 8:28 includes our failures and our sins. It includes not only our innocent suffering, for the cause of Christ, but that suffering which results from our sin and stupidity. “All things” includes the malicious things others do to us. It includes, at times, Satan’s attacks by which he hopes to destroy us, but which God allows for our own growth (see Job 1 and 2).

The “all things” includes events which took place before we were even born, such as our divine election which Paul is about to describe. “All things” includes those things which happened before we were saved. It surely includes the things which have come about after our conversion and also those events yet to come. The “all things” over which God has control and which He is causing to work together for our good includes the minute details of our lives and not just major decisions and actions.204 God is not a distant Creator who has distanced Himself from His creation and allowed it to run by itself. God is in control over His creation, assuring that all that happens works together to achieve His purpose.

The truth of God’s sovereignty which achieves our good sheds light on other biblical texts. For example, Romans 8:28 helps to explain this command from the pen of Paul written to the saints at Thessalonica: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Romans 8:28 gives us one very important reason why we can give thanks to God in all things: God causes all things to work together for our good. There are many things for which we will find it very difficult to give thanks apart from the truth of our text in Romans.

Another verse is closely related to our text as I understand it:

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (NIV).

The truth of Romans 8:28 is illustrated in the lives of many biblical characters. Let me suggest three illustrations for your future consideration and meditation. First, consider Joseph as a very positive illustration of Romans 8:28. Joseph was cruelly sold into slavery by his brothers. They acted sinfully out of jealousy. Joseph was treated badly by others. He was not kindly treated by his father (his favoritism was no favor to Joseph). He was not treated fairly by Potiphar, and especially by Mrs. Potiphar. He was not treated kindly by the king’s cup bearer. He could have wallowed in the suffering which he experienced. And yet Joseph seemed to understand the truth of Romans 8:28 better than we.

 

He could tell his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (see Genesis 45:5; 50:20).

Belief in the sovereignty of God, at work for his good in the midst of his suffering, encouraged Joseph to be faithful, to look to God and to the future for his final “good.” It enabled him to forgive his brothers, knowing that God’s gracious hand was behind their sinful actions.

We can see a more negative illustration of Romans 8:28 in the life of Jonah. Jonah was a man who came to expect and even demand “good” from God. The “good” which he demanded was his own pleasure and comfort and the destruction of those who were his enemies, even those who were innocent. He forgot that the “good” God is bringing about is the result of His grace and not human merit. God was good to Jonah, by working in his life through a great fish, through pagan seamen, through a plant, and even through a worm. God was gracious not to destroy the Ninevites but even more so not to destroy Jonah. He was gracious to allow Jonah to suffer so that his sin might become more evident and repentance might result (whether it came or not, we do not know).

These two men, Joseph and Jonah, provide us with contrasting illustrations of the truth of Romans 8:28. Joseph is a good example of acting in accordance with the truth of our text. Jonah is a good example of God’s acting in accordance with the truth of our text in spite of Jonah’s sin.

In both cases, however, let us remember that God’s will was accomplished, just as He had purposed and promised. God fulfilled His promise when Joseph was faithful. He also fulfilled His promise and purpose when Jonah rebelled. God’s purposes are always fulfilled.

Additional comments

(8:28-39) Introduction—Predestination—Man, Struggles—Suffering: the glorious message of Romans is that God assures deliverance (freedom) from struggling and suffering—through Christ. This is the whole point of all that has been written before. Man desperately struggles against the pressures and forces both within himself and alien to himself. He struggles against the weight and discouragement of trials; against the pollution and corruption of life; against the relentless accusations and bombardments of conscience and law; against the pain and decay of his body; against the striking fear and hopelessness of an eternal judgment hereafter. He struggles against the unknown and against pain, hurt, sorrow, loneliness, alienation, aging, death, and hell (cp. Galatians 5:17). And somehow, through his suffering and struggle throughout life, he feels that his suffering and struggling are due to a wrong relationship with God.

Therefore, man views his many problems as really being one supreme problem: how to get right with God. If he can establish the right relationship with God, he feels sure God will help him through his trials and take care of his future hereafter.

This is the very message of Romans. Man needs to get right with God, for he is under the condemnation and wrath of God (Romans 1:18-3:20). Man needs a right relationship with God; he needs to be justified, that is, declared righteous by God (Romans 3:21-5:21). Man needs to be freed from the struggle of sin, for sin corrupts and leads to death (Romans 6:1-23). Man needs to be freed from the bondage of law (spiritual legalism); for the law enslaves, accuses, condemns, and strikes hopelessness within the heart (Romans 7:1-25).

All the discussion in Romans 8 up to this point has now moved to the summit. Those who love God and are called by Him will definitely be freed from the bondages and corruptions of this life and ushered into glory. God assures this. Nothing, absolutely nothing, shall prevent God’s settled plan and purpose from coming about in the life of the believer. God’s settled plan and purpose for the universe shall be consummated. He has determined two supreme things (Romans 8:29).

Believers shall be conformed to the image of His dear Son (Romans 8:29).

His Son shall have many brothers, among whom He is to be honored as the first (the most preeminent) Person (Romans 8:29).

(8:28) Assurance—Call—Man, Struggles—Salvation: God works all things out for those who love Him. This is the first assurance of deliverance. What a comforting declaration! Scripture actually declares that “all things work together for good” to the believer. Think about it: nothing could assure the believer any more than God working all things out for his good. Note four things.

1.The words “all things” go well beyond the great events of the world. God does control the events of the world, but He controls much more. He rules over “all things”—all the events and happenings that occur in the life of the believer. He works “all things” out for good in behalf of His dear child.

2.The words “work together” (sunergei) mean to create and eliminate, place and replace, connect and group, interrelate and intermingle, shape and forge, press and stretch, move and operate, control and guide, arrange and influence. The words “work together” are also present action which means that all things are continually working together for good. God is in control of the believer’s life. Daily, moment by moment, God is arranging and re-arranging all things for the believer’s good.

3.The word “good” (agathon) means for the ultimate good. We cannot see the future; we cannot take a single event and see all the lines and ramifications that run from it. We cannot see all the things that result from one single event, much less see the results of every event. But God does; therefore, God takes all the events of our lives and works them out for our ultimate good.

4.There is, however, a limitation on this glorious promise, a limitation that desperately needs to be noted. God works all things out for good only to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

  1. This fact is graphically seen in the Greek. The clause “to those who love God” is placed first in the sentence: “But we know that to those who love God all things work together for good.” Scripture makes sure the point is not missed. God only looks after the affairs of the person who loves Him.
  2. Note the words, “called according to his purpose.” The believer’s deliverance is purposed by God. God calls him for the glorious purpose of being saved from the struggle and sufferings of this life.

Note a significant fact. The believer’s position and behavior are both involved in the call of God.

Positionally, God chooses the believer by setting him apart through the Holy Spirit and through belief of the truth.

In behavior, God calls the believer to a life of purity and holiness.

The point is this: God delivers the person who is positioned in Christ and who lives a pure and holy life. The person who truly loves God and is living a godly life is the person who experiences all things being worked out for his good. It is the godly person who loves God that will be delivered from the struggling and suffering of this corrupt world.

 

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2021 in Romans

 

More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #9 From Groaning to Glory – Romans 8:18-27


More Than Conquerors (Romans 8)

(Romans 8:18-27 NIV)  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. {19} The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. {20} For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope {21} that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. {22} We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. {23} Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. {24} For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? {25} But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. {26} In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. {27} And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

 Romans 8:18-27 (ESV)
18  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
21  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
23  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
25  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
27  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

(Romans 8:18-27 NASV)  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. {19} For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. {20} For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope {21} that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. {22} For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. {23} And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. {24} For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? {25} But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. {26} And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; {27} and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

What does it mean to be a Christian—to think like a Christian—to act like a Christian? What does it mean to “walk in the Spirit”?

Like high road, Paul’s words recorded in Romans 8:18-27 strip away the artificial and superficial views of the Christian life, leaving us with the core of what it means to live in this present world as a Christian.  His words will not conform to much, if not most, of Christian thinking and teaching. His words will not be those we would naturally be inclined to welcome as God’s truth. But they are God’s truth. If we are to live our lives as those who are and will be the “sons of God,” we must live in accordance with reality.

The reality of Christian living is exposed and explored in our text. Let us hold very loosely to our preconceived ideas and hold fast to the inspired and inerrant Word of God as we consider this text.

The Context of Our Text

Paul has written in chapters 1-4 of man’s great need for righteousness and justification and of God’s provision of it through Jesus Christ. What sinful men cannot do for themselves, God has done for them in Christ. We are forgiven of our sins and declared righteous, not by striving to please God by our good works, but by trusting in Jesus Christ, by faith.

In chapters 5-8 Paul speaks to those who have been justified by faith concerning their walk as believers in Jesus Christ. The general subject is sanctification—that process by which sinners who have been justified by faith are being transformed into saints so that their lives reflect the righteousness of God. That righteousness which all men lack, and which some have been granted by faith in Jesus Christ, is now to be lived out in the daily walk of the believer.

The first half of chapter 5 (verses 1-11) is a description of the benefits of justification by faith. The second half (verses 12-21) is an explanation of the basis of justification and sanctification. Chapter 6 is a compelling explanation of the need for a dramatic change in the lifestyle of the Christian, of death to sin and living out God’s righteousness before men. Chapter 7 reveals the weakness of the Law and ultimately of our own flesh, making it humanly impossible to live righteously in and of ourselves.

So far as the spiritual walk of the Christian is concerned, Romans 8 is the high water mark of Romans. For those who have been justified by faith, the condemnation for sin has been borne by our Lord Jesus in His death on the cross. The powerlessness of the flesh to obey God’s Law and to live righteously has been overcome by the Holy Spirit, who not only raised the dead body of our Lord to life but who will also raise our own dead bodies to life so that we may live in a way that pleases God.

The Holy Spirit is God’s provision for godly living. Not only does the Spirit empower the Christian, He also assures the Christian of his position in Christ as a son of God. While our sonship is the assurance of sharing in the glory of God in His coming kingdom, it also requires present suffering for Christ’s sake.

This suffering is not divorced from our sonship but a prerequisite to the glory which is to come. In Romans 8:14-17, Paul introduces the subjects of sonship and suffering. Romans 8:18-27 explains in greater detail the ministry of the Holy Spirit to suffering saints.

This present life inescapably involves suffering and groaning as we look forward to the glory of God and the full benefits of our sonship at the return of our Lord. During our days of groaning, the Holy Spirit ministers to us so that we may endure our present afflictions. The subject of our text is the certainty of suffering and of God’s sustaining ministry through His Spirit.

The Structure of the Text

While the focus of this lesson is on Romans 8:18-27, a broader portion of the text must be considered in analyzing the structure of our passage. We will consider the structure of verses 14-30, outlining our text in this way:

(1) Transition—The sons of God will suffer (verses 14-17)

(2) Truths which sustain the suffering sons of God (verses 18-27)

(3) The benefits of sonship outweigh its sufferings (verse 18)

(4) Suffering is the experience of all creation (verses 19-22)

(5) Suffering is a prerequisite to sonship (verses 23-25)

(6) The Holy Spirit ministers to us in our suffering (verses 26-27)

Transition (8:14-17)

14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

Paul explains in Romans 8 the provisions which God has made for the Christian to live righteously, as both the Law and our conversion require. The deadness of our bodies with regard to deeds of righteousness, vividly described in chapter 7, is solved by the Holy Spirit who indwells the Christian and who raises our dead bodies to life just as He raised the dead body of our Lord Jesus to life (8:11).

The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit “of adoption.” Through His ministry we become God’s sons. Furthermore, He bears witness to our spirit that we are the sons of God (8:15-16). He is also the Spirit who sustains and strengthens us in our sufferings.

While verses 14-17 teach many important truths, two truths in these verses lay the foundation for what Paul will teach in verses 18-27. Let me underscore these two foundational truths Paul emphasizes:

(1) The Spirit of God is the Spirit of sonship. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are joined with Christ so that we become the sons of God. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are also assured of our sonship as He witnesses to our spirit concerning this relationship. This relationship of sonship is the opposite of slavery. Rather than being subject to sin and to death, we will reign with Christ,190 in life.

(2) Suffering is a necessary prerequisite for entering into the full benefits of sonship. While we become the children of God the moment we believe in Jesus Christ (see John 1:12), our full and final sonship awaits us when the Lord returns and when our bodies are fully redeemed (Romans 8:23). Paul tells us in verse 17 that “we are fellow-heirs with Christ if we suffer with Him.” He says also that we must suffer “in order that we may also reign with Him.” Suffering is seen as the experience of every son of God.191 It is this suffering—and the sustaining ministry of the Holy Spirit during our suffering—of which Paul writes in Romans 8:18-27. The final words of verse 17 turn our attention to the suffering which our sonship requires and to the ministry which the Holy Spirit provides for every son of God.

The Superiority of Sonship  and Its Glory Over Present Suffering (8:18)

18 For I consider192 that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 8:18

 The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.NKJV In verse 17, Paul stated that believers will share in Christ’s sufferings. He completes that thought with this verse, concluding that the sufferings we now face are completely overshadowed by the glory that awaits those who trust in Christ. The present suffering is temporary, while the future glory is eternal. Paul had written to the Corinthians, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17 niv). Suffering is part of the process of sharing in Christ’s death; it will culminate in sharing his glory. If glory is the majesty of God, his character seen for all that it truly is, then his glory . . . revealed in us will occur when we suddenly become exactly what God has intended us to be. God will allow us to share in the glory that belonged to Christ alone. We will share with Christ in the glory of sonship. In that day we will fully reflect God’s image.

Verses 18-27 all deal with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the context of suffering and sonship. In verse 18, Paul supplies his reader with the first word of encouragement: our sufferings in preparation for our sonship do not compare with the glory we will share as sons. In simple terms, the benefits of sonship far outweigh the price we are called upon to pay as sons of God. Paul reflects his deep, personal conviction of this in his words to the Corinthians:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light afflict is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Paul’s words in verse 18 are consistent with this biblical principle: First suffering, then glory. It was true of our Lord Jesus. He was first to suffer and then to enter into His glory. This puzzled the prophets of old who did not know that this principle would require two “comings” of the Messiah:

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10-12).

One phrase in verse 18 is of particular interest. Paul speaks of the future glory we will enter into as God’s sons as that which “is to be revealed to us.” Surely this glory is still future while our sufferings are in the present. But the glory in verse 18 is that which God will reveal, meaning that this glory is not presently seen (see also verses 24-25).

The Groaning of Creation (8:19-22)

19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

8:19 The creation. Human beings and the rest of creation presently face suffering, and both will be glorified in the future. When Adam sinned, God sentenced all of creation: “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Genesis 3:17 nrsv). Since then, the world has suffered decay and pollution, largely because people have forgotten or ignored their responsibilities as stewards of the earth.

Waits with eager longing.NRSV This form of the Greek verb (apekdexetai) for this phrase is used seven times in the New Testament. Each time it is used in connection with the believers’ anticipation of Christ’s return (see Romans 8:19, 23, 25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 9:28). Here it is used in connection with creation awaiting that day. In the meantime, the created order functions in spite of its flaws. But diseases, deformities, and suffering constantly remind us that all is not right with us or with the world. When people treat nature with care, the environment displays a remarkable willingness to cooperate. All creation looks forward to its liberation from the effects of the Fall.

For the revealing of the sons of God.NKJV This will occur at the second coming of Christ when he returns for his people. We will share in his glory (8:18) and receive our complete redemption (8:23). The entire universe is looking forward to the conclusion of God’s plan. People are the largest group of holdouts in anticipating that time. It is humbling to realize that as creatures developing an eager expectation for Christ’s return, we humans are the last to respond.

8:20-21 The creation was subjected to frustration . . . by the will of the one who subjected it.NIV When Adam sinned, God decreed that all of creation would be subjected to frustration; that is, to futility, change, and decay. Creation is frustrated because it is unable to attain the purposes for which it was made. When Solomon was seeking for wisdom and meaning within the limits of the world, his conclusion was “Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 niv). The word translated “meaningless” in the Greek Old Testament is the same

word that Paul uses here for frustration. The original sense of perfect order in the world was marred by sin; therefore, fallen people had to live in a fallen world. This was not by its own choice because it was God’s doing and part of his plan of salvation. I beg of you for the love and reverence of God our Lord to remember the past, and reflect not lightly but seriously that the earth is only the earth.

Ignatius Loyola

Translating Paul’s complex thought here into English is not easy. Paraphrasing has been the most helpful. For example, Phillips has, “The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!”

In hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage.NIV The word for hope indicates anticipating a future event. Eventually this frustration will end and creation will be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of GodNIV—freedom from sin, evil, decay, and death. Revelation 22 describes the future removal of the curse from the earth.

Adam and Eve were the first polluters of the environment when they sinned. Their act of rebellion affected the entire world. It has taken many centuries to realize the inter-relatedness of this global village, but the Bible begins with that assumption. Having the same Creator links us with the rest of the created order. But as much as we do personally and corporately to clean up and care for the environment, we must realize that the creation will require the same kind of transformation that we require in order to be set straight again. The world is wearing down, and God has a recycling plan in mind. One of the psalmists contemplated creation’s future in this way: “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:25-27 niv). Making creation a god is only worshiping a power that is finite and destructible. We have been charged to care for the world, and to worship her Creator.

The ultimate answers about the meaning to life cannot be found among the wonders of earth, nor in the far reaches of the universe. For those, we must turn to God.

8:22 The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.NRSV Paul pictures the fallen earth in pain. Consider earthquakes, floods, fire, drought, famine—these are surely not what creation was meant to be, but sin and evil now rule. Just as the pains of childbirth end at the birth of the child, so the groaning and pain of the creation will end at the birth of the new earth. This groaning is not impatient, but “eager” (8:23). It is not the groaning of hopelessness, but the sound of total concentration on a painful, but hopeful conclusion. It is not the despairing cry of the hopeless, but the eager longing of the hopeful. Before the glory is revealed there is a time of groaning. Creation groans and longs for its release and transformation into the new heaven and new earth. We groan, longing for our own release from the cycle of sin and decay (8:23). We long for the full redemption of our bodies in the resurrection. In this process we are not alone, for the Holy Spirit groans with us, expressing our unutterable longing to God. But until the time of our release and redemption, we must groan, wait and hope.

THE REAL WORLD
Christians see the world as it is—physically decaying and spiritually infected with sin. But Christians do not need to be pessimistic, because they have hope for future glory. They look forward to the new heaven and new earth that God has promised, and they wait for God’s new order that will free the world of sin, sickness, and evil. In the meantime, Christians go with Christ into the world, where they heal people’s bodies and souls and fight the evil effects of sin.

Paul introduces in this paragraph the concept of “groaning” (verse 22). Here Paul refers to the “groaning” of the creation. In verse 23 he speaks of the “groaning” of the Christian. And finally in verse 26 he speaks of the intercessory “groanings” of the Holy Spirit. Groaning is the glue which gives unity to our entire section of verses 18-27.

What is groaning? Groaning is a deep, inward response to suffering. It is both personal and intense, an agony so deep it cannot be put into words. Groaning is a universal language. Groaning will be swallowed up by the glory of the sons of God which is yet to come. For the Christian, groaning directs our hope heavenward to that which is not yet seen.

In verse 17 Paul links groaning with sonship, for suffering is a part of God’s preparation for those who will reign as sons of God. But suffering and groaning are not just the experiences of Christians alone. Groaning is the universal experience of all of God’s creation. It cannot be avoided. In verses 19-22 Paul therefore informs us that our groaning is part a part of the bigger whole—the groaning of all of creation. Several important truths are taught here for us to consider:

(1) The groaning of creation is universal. All creation groans. It is a universal expression of agony (verse 22).

(2) The groaning of creation is the result of man’s sin. Adam did not consult with the animal world nor did he involve the rest of creation in his decision to disobey God. Innocent though it was, all creation suffers the backwash of Adam’s sin. Creation suffers not only due to the initial sin of Adam, but creation also sufferings from the on-going sin of mankind.

(3) The groaning of the creation is due to a divine sentence of corruption and futility. Creation has been in the process of deterioration193 since the fall of man. Our own bodies bear testimony to the process of corruption.

Corruption and deterioration results in a life characterized by futility. Futility is the opposite of hope. Futility means that no matter how hard we try to resist or reverse the process of corruption, it is inevitable. We may buy a new house, but soon termites find it and begin the process of decay. If not, mildew or dry rot begins to appear. Then there are earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. Our new car soon begins to leak oil. The transmission starts to slip. The seat covers become soiled. Rust begins to work away at the metal. Sooner or later, the car will find its way to the wrecking yard and then to the crusher. The work of our hands, in the long run, is futile.

The sentence of creation to the principles of corruption and futility is a divinely imposed condition. Creation did not bring suffering upon itself. Man’s sin is the immediate cause, and God’s sovereign subjection of creation to suffering and groaning is the ultimate cause. Just as creation’s splendor and majesty display the splendor and majesty of God (see Psalm 19), so creation’s corruption and futility bear witness to man’s sin. God decreed that it would be so. Creation did not get in this condition because things got out of hand—out of God’s hand. Creation is the way it is because God subjected it to futility and corruption. Even in its suffering, creation is subject to God and to His purposes.

(4) Creation, though now subjected to corruption and futility, has a sure and certain hope. Creation’s present subjection to corruption and futility is the result of a divine decree by God. But Paul pointedly writes that God subjected creation to corruption and futility “in hope” (verse 20). Just as the Christian’s present condition of suffering and groaning is temporary so is the suffering and groaning of creation. Creation awaits the day of its own redemption from the chaotic consequences of sin when its present condition will be set aside. Just as Adam’s sin subjected creation to corruption, death, and futility, so the righteousness of Jesus Christ will redeem it. There is hope for creation. God’s purpose for subjecting creation to corruption and futility was not to destroy it but to deliver it.

Groaning is not a response of despair but a response to pain and suffering. Paul writes not of a groaning over what will be but over what now is. If creation’s groaning is present, its hope of glory is focused on the future. Hope is a prominent theme in our text with six references—one in verse 20 and five references in verses 24-25. The pangs which creation presently suffers are like birth-pangs for they promise a glorious delivery. These pangs lead not to death but to deliverance, life, and liberty. There is hope for creation.

(5) Just as creation’s downfall came through man, so its deliverance will come through man. Creation, Paul tells us, “waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (verse 19). The Lord Jesus took on human flesh, not only to take man’s place on the cross of Calvary but to take man’s place as the Son of God ruling over God’s creation. All who are justified by faith in Christ become sons of God and look forward to a share in our Lord’s inheritance. When redeemed and perfected men rule with Christ, the earth will not suffer; it will prosper. The creation awaits its own day of redemption in hope, for God will bless the earth through the rule of men just as He presently causes the creation to share in the curse as the result of sin. Just as men, once enslaved by sin, are set free by the work of our Lord, so the earth, once enslaved due to sin, will be set free.

The Groaning of the Christian (8:23-25)

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

8:23 We also who have the first fruits, of the Spirit.NKJV This verse returns to the train of thought Paul began in verse 18, the present sufferings of believers. We know that God will fulfill his promises of future glory because of the witness of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit is like the first fruits of a farmer’s harvest—a guarantee of more to come. To the Ephesians, Paul described the Holy Spirit as “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” (Ephesians 1:14 niv).

Groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.NIV To creation’s groaning is now added ours. Like creation, we have the promises but lack the final realization of glory. Our sufferings cause us to groan inwardly; God’s promises cause us to wait eagerly. Although we have already received adoption into God’s family (8:15), we are still awaiting our completed adoption, identified here as redemption (see also 8:19, 21). Paul discusses this principle of adoption at length in Galatians 3:26-4:7. This will occur when Christ returns, when our bodies will be transformed, and we will live with him forever (see 1 Corinthians 15:42-54; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). In the meantime, our groans are not imaginary. We see, touch, hear, and smell the destruction of our environment; we watch our aging bodies decay and fail; we see the destructive elements in nature. They remind us of Jesus’ words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31 niv).

8:24 In this hope we were saved.NIV When we put our faith in Christ as Savior, we receive this hope: that we will be redeemed. Paul wrote of this assurance in other letters: “By faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope” (Galatians 5:5 niv); and “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We already have the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is unseen, but we must eagerly wait for our new bodies, that are also unseen.

The redemption of our bodies.NRSV Our bodies will be redeemed in the resurrection (see 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10). In Ephesians 4:30 Paul calls it the day of our redemption. When that day comes, we will fully realize all that our sonship guarantees.

Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?NIV Our full redemption has not yet happened; it will happen when Christ returns. That is why it is still a hope for believers.

 

CAN’T WAIT!
We keep looking in confidence for what we cannot see. Our eager anticipation is like that of the person who drives all night and eagerly looks forward to the sunrise, when the mist and darkness will be driven away. He knows it will happen and can’t wait. His assurance of it carries him on. We look forward to:
l Our new bodies.
l The new heaven and the new earth. Rest and the rewards of service.
l Our eternal family and home.
l The absence of sin and suffering.
l Being face to face with Jesus Christ.

8:25 If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.NIV Our salvation is both present and future. It is present because the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior we are saved (3:21-26; 5:1-11; 6:1-11, 22-23); our new life (eternal life) begins. But at the same time, we have not fully received all the benefits and blessings of salvation that will be ours when Christ’s new kingdom is completely established. While we can be confident of our salvation, we still look ahead with hope and trust toward that complete change of body and personality that lies beyond this life.

Waiting for things patiently is a quality that must be developed in us (see Romans 5:3-4; James 1:3-4; 5:11; Revelation 13:10; 14:12). Patience is one of the Spirit’s fruit borne in our lives. It includes fortitude, endurance, and the ability to bear up under pressure in order to attain a desired goal.

 

BE PATIENT
It is natural for children to trust their parents, even though parents sometimes fail to keep their promises. Our heavenly Father, however, never makes promises he won’t keep. Nevertheless, his plan may take more time than we expect. Rather than acting like impatient children as we wait for God’s will to unfold, we should place our confidence in God’s goodness and wisdom. Yet even the most patient children will groan in anticipation when what they are waiting for is wonderful.

The condition of the Christian in these verses is very similar to that of creation. Like the creation, we who have been justified by faith suffer and groan. Our groaning is due to the present corruption and futility we see both within us and without. Sin, dwelling in our flesh and in this fallen world, causes us to groan. The contrast between what we presently are and what we shall be someday as adopted sons intensifies our groaning. At this future time, our bodies will be redeemed. Our earthly bodies, subject to corruption and to sin, will be put away, and we will be given redeemed bodies free from sin, corruption, and death (verse 24, see also 1 Corinthians 15:35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4). At this time we will receive our full adoption as sons and reign with Christ over all creation.

Those who believe the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit brings only ecstasy, jubilance, and rejoicing194 need to consider more carefully Paul’s words in verse 23. The suffering and groaning the Christian is said to experience in verse 23 is linked to the believer’s possession of the Holy Spirit. This groaning is not the full manifestation of the fruit which the Spirit produces, but it is a part of the first fruits. Apart from God’s Spirit, the groaning of which Paul speaks would be impossible for any man.

This groaning is due to sin and its consequences. The Spirit within us bears witness that we are sons of God. The Spirit’s presence and power produce groaning in the Christian because we understand not only what we now are, but what we will someday be. Presently we are aware that something is very wrong with the way we are and the way our world is. The Spirit testifies to this, producing groaning from deep within us.

Does the creation presently groan in hope of its future deliverance? So does the Christian (verses 24-25). Here the veil is lifted slightly for the Christian to see one of the purposes for our present suffering and groaning. God causes us to groan over the present conditions under which we now live so that our hope will be directed toward God’s coming kingdom. Our present suffering and groaning is based upon our own experience, upon our own condition. Our future glory is based upon the work of Christ at Calvary and causes us to eagerly anticipate His return.

Because he is a Christian, one is not exempt from suffering and groaning. Indeed, the Christian’s suffering and groaning is intensified because he is a Christian and because the Spirit of God dwells within. The presence of the Holy Spirit in each believer is the source not just of groaning but the source also of great comfort. This ministry of the Spirit Paul explains in verses 26 and 27.

The Spirit’s Ministry in Our Groaning  (8:26-27)

26 And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

8:26 Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weakness.NKJV In the same way that our “hope” gives us fortitude, the Holy Spirit strengthens us and sustains us through times of trial. Our weakness (evidenced by our “groaning,” 8:23) may be physical, emotional, or spiritual. While we were yet sinners, Christ interceded for our sins; as believers, the Spirit intercedes for our weakness. At times, our weakness is so intense that we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.NIV At those times when we don’t know what to pray for or how to pray

because we don’t know what God’s will for us is, the Spirit voices our requests for us. He intercedes by appealing to the only one who can help us, God himself. We may not know the right words to say, but the Holy Spirit does. His groanings to God become effective intercession on our behalf. The Holy Spirit lays hold of our weaknesses along with us and carries his pail of the burden facing us as if we were carrying a log, one, at each end.

A. T. Robinson

The companionship of the Spirit in prayer is one of the themes of this chapter. It is the Spirit who urges us to call “Abba, Father” (8:15). Here, the Spirit literally “joins in to help” us, expressing for us what we can’t fully express for ourselves. How should we pray?

  • Utilize all the forms prayer takes: adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving, and meditation. As we pray, we should trust the Spirit to make perfect what is imperfect.
  • Listen during prayer. We should ask the Spirit to search our hearts and minds, and then we should be silent.
  • Practice prayer as a habit.
  • Combine prayer with other regular spiritual disciplines (see Philippians 4:4-8).
  • Confess sins that the Spirit points out.

8:27 He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit.NIV The One who searches our hearts is God, and he also knows what the Spirit is requesting (see 8:26). God can look deep, past our inarticulate groanings, to understand the need we face, our hidden feelings.

The Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.NIV This is a beautiful picture of the Trinity. The Father knows what is being requested because he knows the Holy Spirit; elsewhere we read that Jesus Christ also intercedes for us (8:34).

HELP IN PRAYING
As believers, we are not left to our own resources to cope with problems. Even when we don’t know the right words to pray, the Holy Spirit prays with and for us, and God answers. With God helping us pray, we don’t need to be afraid to come before him. We simply ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for us “in accordance with God’s will.” Then, when we bring our requests to God, we trust that he will always do what is best.

Some use verses 26 and 27 as a proof text for speaking in tongues. But this text can hardly be understood to refer to speaking in tongues whether as a prayer language or not. Consider the following observations:

(1) These verses are found in the context of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in the light of the glory of our future adoption as sons and of our present suffering and groaning.

(2) The ministry of the Spirit is to us in our weakness. Our weakness lies in our complete inability to verbalize our groanings—or to know what to ask in prayer. Our groanings are beyond the ability of words to communicate—any words. If the gift of tongues is the ability to speak in some language, then even speaking in tongues could not convey our groanings. With respect to tongues, it is not the Spirit who puts words in our mouths. The Spirit intercedes for us, communicating our groanings to God. He conveys to God what we cannot put into words, and He also intercedes with requests which are consistent with the will of God. When we cannot speak, the Spirit speaks for us, to God. The Holy Spirit is the communicative link between our own heart and the heart of God. He ministers to us in our present weakness.

Conclusion

As strange as it may sound, groaning characterizes the life of the Spirit-filled Christian. All creation presently groans. Every Christian should be groaning. Even the Spirit groans on our behalf. This is because our redemption, while certain, is not yet complete. We are living in a world subject to corruption and futility. We are living in bodies subject to corruption and futility. We should be struggling with our own sin and imperfection. We know that what we are presently falls far short of what God yet intends to make of us when He completes His redemptive work in us.

Do not misunderstand; it should not be said that our lives as Christians are characterized only by suffering and groaning. We have peace with God, presently. We have joy in the midst of sorrow. We have the benefit of many blessings which come from the hand of a gracious and loving God, now, as well as those yet to come in the future. But when all is said and done, God does not intend for us to be content with what we are. Our present imperfection and groanings are designed to prepare us for our future sonship. We must first be tested and proven character must be developed in us before He gives us the privilege of reigning with Christ.

Suffering is preparatory to sonship. Groaning is a prerequisite to glory. We must place our hope in things to come, those things which God has promised. Because this hope is not presently seen, we must fix our hope by means of faith and not by sight. God intends for those things we see as wrong within us and in the world in which we live to create in us a hunger for heaven.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light afflict is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge (2 Corinthians 4:16–5:5).

Some hold a view of the Christian life and walking in the Spirit which finds groaning inappropriate. Being Spirit-filled is synonymous with constant effervescence and an almost giddy happiness all of the time. Suffering and groaning are thought to be the experience only of the lost or of the unspiritual. Sad though it may be, only the lost can expect life to be lived without sadness and suffering and groaning.

When those who are successful and comfortable in this life see life as a bowl of cherries, they are not looking at life as it really is. They are looking through eyes which are blinded to the imperfection of this world due to man’s sin.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reversed the views of the unsaved world and of lost men. He did not say, as many of the scribes and Pharisees believed, that the rich, the successful, and the happy are those who are blessed. Instead, Jesus taught that those who suffered and groaned were blessed:

And opening His mouth He began to teach them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:2-6).

Why are those who suffer blessed? Why, by inference, are those whose life seems to be smooth sailing not blessed? It is because we tend to trust in ourselves when we are doing too well. Prosperity and ease does not tend to turn us to God but away from Him. This is why God warned Israel concerning the dangers of the prosperity into which they were about to enter (see Deuteronomy 8:11-20). Israel cried out to God in their sufferings. God heard their groanings (see Exodus 2:24; 6:5; Judges 2:18). When men prosper, they tend to trust in earthly things and not in God (see 1 Timothy 6:17). Suffering and groaning tests us and turns our heart toward God.195

Asaph, the ancient choir director, needed to learn to thank God for his groanings. In Psalm 73 we see Asaph agonizing over the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. He was bitter and angry toward God. He was acting like a beast, he tells us. It was only when he saw life from a broader perspective that he came to his senses and gave thanks to God for His goodness. He saw that earthly prosperity is temporary and that it tempts men to turn from God. He also saw that his own suffering turned him toward God and that the nearness of God in his affliction was good.

Has suffering and groaning found its way into your life? Are there deep inner agonies you cannot even verbalize? Your experience is not unique. It is that of all creation. It is that which should be happening to every Christian at various times and with various levels of intensity. You should not feel guilt-ridden or unspiritual over your groanings. If you have come to recognize your own fallenness and that of the world in which you live, you have come to see life as it really is. You are sharing in that same kind of suffering and groaning which our Lord experienced as the Son of God.

The question is not whether you are groaning, but what good this suffering and groaning is producing in you. Does your groaning give you a hunger for heaven? Does it make you discontent with this life and the way things are? Does it focus your hope on the things of God which are presently unseen? Good! That is the work of the Holy Spirit in you, producing in you a heart for God. That is the Spirit’s work in you preparing you for the glory of your full adoption as a son of God to reign with Christ when He returns to the earth in glory and power.

In the day of the revelation of the sons of God, all creation will cease its sighing and experience that to which it has been looking forward. All creation will enter into the praise and worship of God. I do not know precisely how creation will enter into the praise of God, but I do believe it will happen.196 What a day that will be!

In this life, we are not what we wish to be or what we ultimately will be nor is creation. This produces in creation and in the Christian suffering and groaning as well the hope of that future redemption which God has promised. This is what Paul is teaching in our text. Consider these very important implications of this truth:

(1) The suffering of God’s children is a dominant theme in the teaching of Scripture. Why then is it not more prominent in the teaching of many preachers and churches? Why are people invited to come to faith in Jesus Christ to escape suffering and to enter into peace and prosperity? Why do we seek to persuade men to trust in Christ by offering them the good life? Neither Jesus nor the apostles offered men peace and prosperity in this life. They warned men of the suffering and persecution which would result from turning to Christ in faith and following Him. They urged men to “count the cost” of following Christ (see Matthew 5:10-12; Luke 9:23-25, 57-62; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 2:20-25; 3:14-18; 4:12-19; 5:10-11). Our Lord graciously brings adversity to us in this life to turn our hearts toward Him. He graciously continues to bring adversity into our lives as Christians to prepare us for our adoption as the sons of God, to keep us looking to Him and to His promised kingdom (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Hebrews 12:1-13).

(2) How does one explain the current emphasis on positive thinking, on man’s great potential, and on victorious living? We need to be very careful not only about what we teach but about the teaching of those to whom we listen and believe. Many are those who offer victorious living but carefully avoid the subject of suffering and groaning so prominent in Paul’s teaching in Romans and elsewhere. Paul does not wish us to become cynical or skeptical about this life, but he does wish us to be realistic.

Christian living must be based upon reality. The reality is that we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world. As such, creation is subject, by divine decree, to corruption and futility. Those who would serve God by walking in the Spirit must come to grips with this matter of our corruption and the futility of life. This is precisely why the power of the Holy Spirit is necessary to live as God requires. But the Spirit does not magically remove all of our suffering and groaning; He undertakes in such a way as to communicate our groanings to God. Walking in the Spirit does not eliminate the fallenness of this world or even of our own flesh. This will be eliminated when Jesus comes again and the sons of God are revealed.

(3) If God graciously sends suffering and groaning into our lives, why in our prayers do we ask God to remove our suffering and pain? Why do we not pray for strength and endurance and for our hope to be set on heaven? Why do we not pray, “Thy kingdom come”? Our prayers are often inconsistent with the purposes of God. When our suffering is the greatest, we cannot even articulate the problem or a solution. In these times we must depend upon the Holy Spirit to intercede for us, to communicate to God on our behalf the things of our spirit which are consistent with God’s will.

(4) The so-called “mid-life crisis” is that time when men come to grips with the reality of the futility and corruption of fallen creation. In reflecting on this text it occurred to me that the “mid-life crisis” is simply men coming to a realization of what Paul is teaching here. It is possible for us to deceive ourselves about life for a number of years. In our youth, we are full of strength and optimism. We believe we can change the world. And then somewhere in mid-life or at a point of crisis we come face to face with stark reality. We see our bodies beginning to succumb to corruption. We see that our efforts are ultimately futile—unable to permanently change us or the world. Some cannot handle this reality and try to suppress it by having an affair, by turning to various sins, or by dulling their senses with alcohol or drugs. They live in a false world, denying the reality of sin and its devastating consequences. They do not turn to God in faith. They do not set their hope on those things which God has promised but which are not seen.

If we would live life to the full, we must come to grips with the reality of sin and its devastation on us and on our world. We must cease trusting in ourselves and turn to God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Moses learned this lesson:

For we have been consumed by Thine anger, and by Thy wrath we have been dismayed. Thou hast placed our iniquities before Thee, Our secret sins in the light of Thy presence. For all our days have declined in Thy fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away. Who understands the power of Thine anger, And Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee? So teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. Do return, O LORD; how long will it be? And be sorry for Thy servants. O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil, Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, And Thy majesty to their children. And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And do confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands (Psalm 90:7-17).

Asaph also learned this lesson:

When my heart was embittered, And I was pierced within, Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge That I may tell of all Thy works (Psalm 73:21-28).

King Solomon, the richest and most successful man who ever lived, concluded that life is futile and that only seeking and serving God makes sense:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them”; before the sun, the light, the moon, and the starts are darkened, and clouds return after the rain; in the day that the watchmen of the house tremble, and mighty men stoop, the grinding ones stand idle because they are few, and those who look through windows grow dim; and the doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low, and one will arise at the sound of the bird, and all the daughters of song will sing softly. Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street. Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “all is vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, 13-14).

May the reality of sin and its consequences cause you suffering and groaning. And may this turn your heart to God and your hope toward heaven. May you know as the psalmist that “the nearness of God is my good” and the sufferings of this life but a small thing in light of the blessings awaiting you in that day of the revelation of the Son of God and the sons of God.

190 As pointed out in our last lesson, sonship involves reigning over God’s creation. For the Christian, this means sharing in the reign of Christ over all creation when He returns in power and glory.

191 Let us not forget that suffering was also a necessary part of the preparation of the Son of God (see Hebrews 5:5-10).

192 The same term is employed here by Paul as is found in Romans 6:11, numerous times in chapter 4, and elsewhere in Romans.

193 The carbon dating process, for example, is one which measures time according to the rate of deterioration of the materials being dated.

194 The Holy Spirit does, of course, produce these happy and upbeat experiences. But this is not the only evidence of the Spirit’s presence and power. The Holy Spirit can also produce groaning, as Paul teaches us here.

195 Prosperity should turn our hearts to God as well, in grateful thanksgiving and praise.

196 There are a number of biblical texts which speak of creation’s role in praising God. See, for example, Psalm 96:11-13; 97:1; 98:8; Isaiah 44:23; 49:13; 55:12; 1 Chronicles 16:30-34. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem as the Son of God, Israel’s Messiah, the people praised Him. And when the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke His disciples and to stop them from their praise, He responded, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:4). I wonder if in the revelation of the sons of God, the rocks will actually cry out. Somehow, I believe, all creation will enter into the praise of God.

(8:18-27) Introduction: this is one of the most glorious promises in all of Scripture. God is going to free all creation from struggling and suffering.

  1. In this life (v.18).
  2. The believer suffers and struggles.
  3. The future glory will be worth the agony.
  4. The creation suffers and struggles for deliverance from corruption (v.19-22).
  5. The believer suffers and struggles for deliverance from corruption (v.23-27).

(8:18) Suffering—Spiritual Warfare, Struggle: in this life the believer suffers and struggles. The word “suffering” means all the forms of suffering which the believer experiences throughout life. It means…

  • the suffering that comes from persecution.
  • the suffering that comes from the struggle of his spirit to overcome the flesh and the world.

Very simply, suffering means the struggle waged by our spirits to overcome all that is experienced in this life, all that is involved in the flesh and the world.

The genuine believer struggles against everything that keeps him from living abundantly and eternally. His sole passion is to bring everything under the control of Christ and to be conformed to the image of Christ. Therefore, he struggles to overcome the flesh and the world with their aging and corruption, sin and death. No matter what suffering is required, the believer bears it in order to overcome and gain the victory of eternal life and its glory.

Note that the believer is to suffer with Christ “in order that” (ina—Greek) he may be glorified with Christ (Romans 8:17). Suffering prepares the believer to participate in the glory of Christ. It is the necessary condition for exaltation. Suffering and struggling are a refining process through which the believer must pass (1 Peter 1:6-7). It refines the believer by forcing him to expand his trust in God more and more. Suffering drives a believer to cast himself more and more upon the care of God; therefore, the believer moves closer and closer to that perfect trust and care in God. He will never achieve the perfect trust and care in God, but he will come to know it when God transports him into the very Kingdom of Heaven itself. Suffering enlarges, purifies, expands, and ennobles the believer. It makes him more and more like what he will be when he actually lives face to face with God. This future glory transcends immeasurably the suffering and struggling of this present world.

  1. The future glory shall be revealed “in” us; it shall become part of our very nature and being. Glory shall radiate and shine forth from our resurrected bodies.
  2. The future glory shall be an eternal weight of glory (just imagine such a weight, a weight beyond all measure, surpassing all measurements and calculations).
  3. The future glory shall far exceed anything we have seen or heard or longed for in our hearts.
  4. The future glory shall be so glorious it will reflect through us to others, making us ministers of glory.
  5. The future glory shall make us just like Jesus in all that He is.

 

(8:19-22) Creation: the creation suffers and struggles for deliverance from corruption. The word “creation” refers to everything under man: animal, plant, and mineral. All creation is pictured as living and waiting expectantly for the day when the sons of God shall be glorified. The words “earnest expectation” (apokaradokia) mean to watch with the neck outstretched and the head erect. It is a persistent, unswerving expectation, an expectation that does not give up but keeps looking until the event happens. Note three facts revealed about the universe in which man lives.

  1. Creation is subject to corruption. This is clearly seen by men; and what men see is constantly confirmed by such authorities as the botanist, zoologist, geologist, and astronomers of the world. All of creation, whether mineral, plant, or animal, suffers just as men do. All creation suffers hurt, damage, loss, deterioration, erosion, death, and decay—all creation struggles for life. It is full of “vanity” (mataios), that is, condemned to futility and frustration, unable to realize its purpose, subject to corruption. Note the two things said about creation in this verse (Romans 8:20).
  2. Creation was condemned to vanity—futility and frustration—by God. Creation did not willingly choose to be condemned to corruption. The world was made to be the home of man, the place where he lived. Therefore, when man sinned, his world was doomed to suffer the consequences of sin with him. Man’s world was cursed right along with him.

Think about the earthquakes, tornados, storms, diseases, starvation, attacks, and struggles for survival that take place. And these are only a few of the myriad happenings that show the corruption of the world.

 

  1. Creation has been subjected to corruption “in hope.” The news of Scripture is glorious: the situation of the world is neither hopeless nor final. Creation has the same hope of redemption and of renovation as man. The world was made for man, therefore all creation shall be ultimately delivered from corruption just as man shall be delivered from corruption.
  2. Creation shall be delivered from corruption. This is the wonderful news of the glorious gospel. Note a most significant point: whatever happens to man is bound to happen to his world. Man is the summit of God’s creation; therefore, all that is under man is intertwined, interwoven, and interrelated to him. Man and his world are one and the same; they are dependent upon each other. This is enormously significant: since man and his world are interrelated, it means that the world will experience whatever man experiences. When man fell, his world was bound to fall with him. But this is the glorious news as well. When man is liberated from corruption, his world shall be liberated as well. God had to subject man’s world to man’s fate, but God also had to subject man’s world “in” hope.
  3. Creation groans in labor for deliverance. Note that all creation suffers together: all creation is interrelated, intertwined, and interconnected. The whole universe is dependent upon its various parts for survival. The earth could not survive without the heavens, and the heavens would have no purpose apart from God’s creation of man and his earth. This does not mean that man is to be egocentric or egotistical. It simply means that man and his earth are the focal point of God’s unbelievable creation, of His eternal plan and purpose. Being the center of creation before God is not a truth to make man proud, but to make him humble—a truth to cause him to bow in worship and praise, appreciation and thankfulness. Being the summit of God’s creation is not a gift of privilege, not presently, but of enormous responsibility.

Note the word “groaneth and travaileth.” The picture is that of a woman giving birth. Creation experiences “birth pangs” under its struggle to survive. And note: it has been experiencing the “birth pangs” until now, that is, from the fall of man up until this present moment.

In conclusion, the whole scene of these four verses is that creation awaits a renovated world. Creation resents evil and struggles against decay and death. It fights for survival. It struggles against the bondage of being slaughtered or changed.

The idea expressed is that creation awaits the Day of Redemption: anxiously, expectantly, longingly, and eagerly awaits for its deliverance from corruption. Creation moans and groans and cries for the unveiling of the Son of God.

(8:23-27) Corruption, Deliverance from: the believer suffers and struggles for deliverance from corruption. Note four facts.

  1. It is the first-fruit of the Holy Spirit that delivers and saves man. The term first-fruit means either the presence of the Holy Spirit or the fruit of the Holy Spirit: life, love, joy, peace (Galatians 5:22-23). When a believer is truly saved, he possesses the Holy Spirit and bears the fruit of the Spirit. He actually begins to live abundantly and eternally, and he experiences the fulness of God’s Spirit: His love, joy, and peace. Experiencing these causes the believer to groan and ache…
  • for the perfection of the Spirit’s presence and fruit.
  • for the day of adoption, the day when he will actually move into the perfect presence of God.
  • for the redemption of his body.

The believer is stirred by the taste of the Spirit and of His first-fruits, stirred to groan for their perfection. He groans and aches to be delivered from the sufferings of this world and released into the glorious liberty of perfection with God.

  1. It is hope that delivers and saves man. Hope saves us, for it is hope that keeps us seeking after God and His redemption. We hope for redemption; therefore, “with patience we wait for it”
  2. It is prayer and the Holy Spirit that delivers and saves a man. As the believer faces the sufferings of this life he has the greatest resource imaginable: prayer. He has the right to approach God whenever needed, and to ask God for the strength to walk through and to conquer the suffering. That is what prayer is all about.

Two significant things are said about prayer.

  1. Believers do not know how to pray as they should. Note the word “we.” Paul includes himself in this, which is to say no believer knows how to pray.
  2. The Holy Spirit helps our infirmities. It is true that He helps us in all our infirmities, but the point of the present passage deals only with prayer. Note: it is assumed that we are praying in this verse. The Spirit is not going to force us to pray. It is our responsibility to pray: to take the time to get alone and pray. When we do this the Spirit begins to act both upon and for us.

Note this also: the Spirit “helpeth our infirmities.” Whatever our particular weakness is, it is that weakness which He helps. If we are truly sincere and are wrestling to pray, then the Spirit helps us to control concentration, distractions, wandering thoughts, emotional changes, and affections. How? As we struggle to pray by controlling our flesh and its weakness, the Holy Spirit takes our mind and emotions and…

  • quiets and silences them.
  • stirs and excites them.
  • draws and pulls them.
  • directs and guides them.

He leads us to pray as we should, controlling and subjecting the flesh and concentrating upon the prayer.

Note another fact: the Holy Spirit makes “intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Sometimes the struggles and sufferings of life become so heavy we just cannot bear them. At other times, matters of such importance grip our hearts to such an extent that words are impossible. Emotions become too much for words. We become lost in the presence of God. Every genuine believer knows what it is to be speechless before God and left groaning in the Spirit. Every believer has experienced…

  • God’s unspeakable gift.
  • joy unspeakable.
  • words which are unspeakable.

The point to note is that the Holy Spirit takes these great moments of prayer and helps us in our “groanings” before the Lord. We are not able to utter words; therefore, the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.

  1. It is God who delivers and saves a man. Note the three things said in this verse.
  2. God searches the heart of us all. There is no exception. He knows exactly what is within our hearts. He can read and understand what our groanings and needs are. Not a need will be missed.
  3. God knows the mind of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit prays for us according to the will of God; therefore, God knows exactly what the Spirit is requesting for us. There is perfect agreement between the Holy Spirit and God the Father.
  4. God will answer our prayer and meet our need. He will deliver and save us, causing the very best thing to happen.

 

The Intercession of the Spirit

“Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmity: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. “And he who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:26-27).

Much controversy surrounds this passage as to its particulars. In this essay, we will set forth the view that we feel best conforms to the overall context of Romans 8, together with the grammatical particulars that are employed in these two verses.

Romans 8 is a chapter that rings with Christian assurance. One can be confident of his salvation in Christ, provided he does not pursue the life of the “flesh;” rather, he walks after the leading of the Spirit (vv. 1-4), Whose guidance is effected through the Scriptures He inspired (Eph. 5:18; cf. Col. 3:16; Gal. 5:16; Eph. 6:17).

The leading of that holy revelation generates “life and peace” (vs. 6). Our confidence is grounded in the fact that the indwelling Spirit eventually will be instrumental in effecting life for our mortal bodies by means of the bodily resurrection from the dead (vv. 11, 23). By the leading of the Spirit we may be assured of our status as “sons of God” (vs. 14).

Moreover, the Spirit Himself bears witness with the Christian’s personal spirit, confirming our child-father relationship with God (vs. 16). Our knowledge of the indwelling Spirit, which relationship is a “first-fruits” of that yet promised, enables us to cope with “the sufferings of this present time,” and so to live in hope of the glory that is to come (vv. 18-25).

A cursory reading of the first twenty-five verses of this remarkable chapter clearly reveals the role of the Holy Spirit in this marvelous reliance the child of God may entertain relative to his future destiny. In this section alone, the third Person of the Godhead is alluded to no less than fourteen times. This emphasis, we believe, contributes to our understanding of verses 26-27. We now direct our attention to a consideration of the precise language of these two passages.

In like manner

The couplet begins with the phrase, “In like manner the Spirit also helps our infirmity . . . .” The phrase, “in like manner,” directs the student’s attention back into the previous context. The allusion most likely is to the “hope” just mentioned (vv. 24-25).

Just as our awareness of the Holy Spirit, as a presence in our lives (vv. 9, 11, 23), provides us with “hope” for the future, “in like manner,” we may take consolation in the fact that the Spirit is an abiding companion, assisting with our present infirmity.

J.B. Phillips paraphrases as follows: “The Spirit of God not only maintains this hope within us, but helps us in our present limitations.”

The Spirit

To what does the expression “the Spirit” refer in this passage? While a few sincere students have alleged that this is an allusion to the human spirit, the overwhelming majority of competent Bible scholars are confident that it refers to the third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. The following points, we believe, are worthy of serious thought.

  1. All of the major Bible translations reflect this persuasion (e.g., the King James Version, the English Revised Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the New King James Version, The Twentieth Century New Testament, the New International Version, etc.). All have the term pneuma set in type as “Spirit.”

While this procedure is a translating judgment, it does indicate the prevailing view of these renown scholars. In addition to these, there are numerous one-person versions that join the chorus (e.g., Phillips, Weymouth, Bruce, Goodspeed, Verkuyl (Berkeley), Williams, Wuest, Beck, McCord, etc.).

  1. Numerous other scholarly authorities of New Testament Greek identify “the Spirit” of Romans 8:26-27 as the Holy Spirit. Among these are: Arndt & Gingrich, Thayer, Robinson, Green, Chamberlain, Vine, Robertson, etc.

We mention these to emphasize the fact that the unusual view, which alleges that the term “Spirit” in Romans 8:26-27 is the human spirit, does not have the support of the respectable scholarship of the biblical world.

  1. As noted above, the expression “in like manner” ties this context to the apostle’s previous discussion of “the Spirit” (vs. 23), which, unquestionably, is the Holy Spirit.
  2. The term “helps” (see below) suggests an assistance from someone other than the person being helped, i.e., beyond the resources of the Christian himself. So, similarly, with reference to the term “intercession” (27); the Spirit makes intercession for the saints.

The “Spirit” here is not a component of the saint himself. One does not intercede for himself (see below).

  1. The grammar more readily lends itself to the concept that the Holy Spirit is in view. For example, the verb “helps” is a third person form, while the pronoun “our” (“our infirmity”) is a first person term.

Similarly, “we know not how to pray as we ought” reflects first person emphasis, yet the phrase “the Spirit itself [himself ASV] makes intercession” manifests a third person structure.

Moreover, if the human spirit were in view, one would think that pneuma would take a plural form (spirits) to conform to the plurals “our” and “we know not,” i.e., the sense would be “our spirits help our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but our spirits themselves make intercession for us . . . .”

Quite obviously this does not conform to what the original text actually says, and, frankly, doesn’t express a sensible thought.

  1. There is a contrast in the text between what the “Spirit” is able to do on our behalf, and what we are not able to do for ourselves, because we do not know how. “. . . [W]e know not how . . . but the Spirit . . . .”

The “but” (de) functions as an adversative particle here. Note the contrast in verses 22-23. “. . . [T]he whole world groans . . . . And not only so, but (de) ourselves also….” Clearly the “Spirit” is an entity separate from the “we.”

Let us say the same thing, but in a slightly different way. There is the affirmation that “we know not.” Since it is the “spirit” within man that is capable of either “knowing” or “not knowing” (1 Cor. 2:11), and, as this passage asserts that “we know not,” that is the equivalent of saying that our spirit does not know. But the implication of this passage is that the Spirit (under consideration here) does know. Thus the Spirit, here in view, is not the human spirit.

  1. The Spirit is said to “make intercession for us.” The Greek verb for “intercession” (vs. 27) is entunchano, meaning: “A pleading with one party on behalf of another, usually with a view to obtaining help for that other” (Bromiley, 2.858).

But in verse 26, there is a compound term, huperentunchano, which signifies “to make a petition or intercede on behalf of another” (Vine, 424). The word is multifaceted: the main stem is tugchano, “to happen,” together with en, “in,” and huper, “on behalf of.” The addition of huper onto the front of the word merely intensifies the force of the base word (cf. Chamberlain, 147); it does not imply another intecessor, in addition to the Holy Spirit.

Guy Woods observed that the word suggests “to happen just in the nick of time, for our assistance.” He adds:

“How comforting it is, when exhausted and weary from heavy burdens, to have a friend or brother come along, and lend a willing hand until the task is done. Such is the picture presented us in this verb of the Holy Spirit’s aid” (72).

Note how the term entunchano is elsewhere used. Christ, at the right hand of God, “makes intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34). Again, the Lord “ever lives to make intercession for us” (Heb. 7:25). In addition, a noun form of the word (in the plural) is used in 1 Timothy 2:1, to describe the petitions we make on behalf others (e.g., rulers).

Here is the point: one does not intercede on his own behalf. The fact that the Spirit intercedes for us is evidence that “the Spirit” is someone other than ourselves.

It is sometimes objected that the Holy Spirit cannot be the One interceding for us, because Christ is said to accomplish that task. What is the problem in having more than one intercessor on my behalf? If hundreds of Christians can intercede for me (1 Tim. 2:1), why cannot both Christ and the Spirit intercede on my behalf? The objection is not logical.

Roy Lanier, Sr. observed that all three Persons of the Godhead are said to “sanctify” us (1 Thes. 5:23; Heb. 2:11; Rom. 15:16) (60). No one, so far as we can determine, sees any conflict in this. Neither are two intercessors problematic in Romans 8.

For these reasons, at the very least, it is almost incomprehensible to this writer that anyone should take the position that the “Spirit” in this context is anything other than the Holy Spirit of God.

Also helps our infirmity

The verb “helps” is most fascinating. In the Greek Testament, it is a present tense form, suggesting sustained activity. The original word is sunantilambano, consisting of these elements – sun (with), anti (over against, facing), lambano (to take up).

The picture conveyed is that of two persons sharing a load. The term is used elsewhere in the New Testament only in Luke 10:40, where Martha implores Jesus to bid Mary, her sister, to “help” her. One can almost imagine a heavy piece of furniture that needs moving.

In his massive grammar of the Greek New Testament, A.T. Robertson provides the sense in our present context:

“The Holy Spirit lays hold of our weakness along with (sun) us and carries his part of the burden facing us (anti) as if two men were carrying a log, one at each end” (573).

Samuel Green noted that the expression signifies “to help by coming into association with” (152). It certainly suggests an assistance, other than one’s self, in dealing with our limitations in communicating adequately with God.

The Greek word for “infirmity” is astheneia, a compound term signifying “without strength.” The better textual evidence has it in the singular; it is a common infirmity shared by all Christians. It suggests an inability to produce a desired result (whatever may be indicated by the context).

While the immediate text focuses upon the Christian’s lack of knowledge in knowing “how to pray” with absolute precision, the Spirit’s function, in assisting with the entire panorama of human difficulties, with which we struggle, may be hinted of as well (cf. Murray, 311).

For example, it is entirely probable that the divine Spirit is active in the orchestration of providential benevolence on behalf of the children of God. Jesus once promised that the Father will “give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (Lk. 11:13). In a parallel reference, God is said to “give good things to them that ask him” (Mt. 7:11).

The use of “Holy Spirit” in Luke’s version appears to be an example of the figure known as metonymy, in this case, the cause being put for the effect (see Horne, I.359). The Spirit is named for the blessings he effects. This strongly hints of the providential activity of the Spirit of God in the lives of the saints.

It is not inappropriate that we briefly discuss what the Spirit of God does not do on our behalf. There is a common idea in the community of “Christendom” that the Scriptures are not sufficiently clear for human beings to understand, hence, the Spirit operates in a mysterious way so as to “help” us comprehend the meaning of the sacred text. This concept is called the “illumination” of the Spirit.

Professor Allan Killen argues as follows:

“Without an illumination of the Holy Scriptures [by the Spirit], no man can understand God’s divine, infallible revelation … illumination [is] the means by which the Scriptures are made clear to the reader” (Pfeiffer, et al., 831).

This notion is false for the following reasons:

  1. In terms of divine knowledge, the Scriptures furnish us completely unto every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This statement could not be true if the revelation, as given, is incomplete, and thus requires supplementation by the Spirit’s direct influence.
  2. We are commanded to “understand the will of the Lord” (Eph. 5:17). The command is superfluous if, in reality, we cannot understand the will of the Lord as made known in the Scriptures. If one must understand the Scriptures, but does not, whose fault would that then be?
  3. Many who claim to have the “illumination” of the Spirit teach ideas that clearly contradict the Spirit-given Bible.
  4. Many who profess to posses Spirit “illumination” disagree with one another in matters of doctrine. If a person offers an interpretation of the New Testament, which he claims is the result of “illumination,” how may others check this person’s views? Would it be by the Scriptures themselves? If so, how would he know his interpretation of the Scriptures, in evaluating that “illuminated” message, was correct? Unless he perhaps had an “illumination” by which to verify the previous “illumination.”
  5. The fact is, if the Spirit provides on-going, modern-day illumination, why is there even the need for a Book twenty centuries old?
  6. If the Spirit could not make the Scriptures plain when initially providing them, how can we have confidence that He would do any better on the second go-around?

For we know not how to pray as we ought

In this phrase, our pitiful, limited knowledge of the ideal will of God is dramatically underscored. We think we have the avenue of prayer perfected, but how woefully mistaken we are. We sometimes pray for things which, if supplied, would be most harmful to us. There is much truth in the saying that “one of life’s greatest blessings can be unanswered prayers” (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-9).

Too, there are deep needs that we have, but of which we are unaware. Accordingly, we do not think to pray for them. And so, we do not “know” how to pray as we ought.

The verb rendered “know” is oida, which Vine suggests has to do more with “fullness of knowledge” (444). Wuest thus renders the phrase: “we do not know with an absolute knowledge” (366).

Though the verb is a perfect tense form technically, it yields a present tense sense (Arndt, 558), which indicates that we never master the art of expressing our prayer needs adequately. The Christian will always need the Spirit’s assistance.

But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us

The expression “Spirit himself” is emphatic; it expresses an activity of the Holy Spirit personally, rather than what He may accomplish through a representative medium (cf. Jn. 4:2). While the pronoun auto (“itself” KJV; “himself” ASV) is a neuter form, it is more appropriate here to render it as a masculine, since the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a thing. This has the precedent of Scripture itself (cf. Jn. 14:26 where the masculine ekeinos is used of the “Spirit” – a neuter term).

With groanings which cannot be uttered

The term “groanings” (stenagmois) denotes a sigh or groan. It is used (in various forms) more than fifty times in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and it reflects a “human lament” which suffering people are powerless to remedy on their own (Balz, 3.272). For instance, it describes the anguish of the Israelite people under the burdens of Egypt (Ex. 2:23; cf. Acts 7:34).

The notion that the “groanings” refer to “speaking in tongues” is to be rejected totally. Stott comments:

“These groans can hardly be glossolalia, since those ‘tongues’ or languages were expressed in words which some could understand and interpret” (245).

But whose groanings are these? Though some would attribute them to the Holy Spirit, the better view appears to be that they are the Christian’s groanings, which are conveyed, on his behalf, by the Spirit unto God. Clearly the term refers to the Christian’s plight a few verses earlier in this chapter (vs.23), though a different point of focus is in view.

The context seems to suggest that the “groanings” originate because “we know not how to pray as we ought” in a knowledgeable and articulate way. It would seem, therefore, more in harmony with the general tenor of the Bible as a whole, then, to conclude that it is the Christian who gives rise to these “mute sighs, the expression of which is suppressed by grief” (Thayer, 25), rather than the “groanings” issuing from the omnipotent Spirit of God.

Hardeman Nichols observes:

“Surely the Holy Spirit who has the ability to completely reveal the mind of God to man would have no difficulty in pleading man’s cause to God” (350).

It is not impossible, though, that there may be a blending of two thoughts. Some think that the “groanings,” though originating with the Christian, actually are “shared by the Holy Spirit and the believer” (McComiskey, 2.424).

John Stott suggests that “the Holy Spirit identifies with our groans,” so that “[w]e and he groan together” (245). One thing is certain. When the “groanings” reach God, they are perfectly clear to him.

It is imperative, though, that we emphasize this point. It must not be concluded that the Father could not know of our plight apart from the Spirit’s intercession; no, rather, it is the role of the Spirit as a companion in the Christian’s life that is being emphasized. His work has been divinely orchestrated, consistent with the planning of the entire Godhead.

  1. Leo Boles wrote:

“Since [the Holy Spirit] dwells in Christians, he helps them in the act of prayer. Prayer is to God the Father in the name of Christ, and by the help of the Holy Spirit. Hence, each member of the Godhead is included in acceptable prayer” (256).

And he who searches the hearts

The heart-searcher of this passage is generally conceded to be God, the Father, mentioned subsequently in the verse. God is said to “search” the heart of man.

The word means to examine, to investigate. It is a form of the figure known as anthropomorphism (representing God with human traits), the design of which, in this text, is to emphasize the all-knowing aspect of deity (cf. 1 Chron. 28:9; Psa. 7:9; Prov. 17:3; 1 Thes. 2:4). Similar expressions are used both of Christ (Rev. 2:23) and of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10).

The present tense form argues for the concept of a God who is ever aware of our needs. The “heart,” of course, is the soul or spirit of man, the rational, feeling aspect of the human being – that part made in the very image of God Himself (Gen. 1:26-27; Dan. 7:15; 1 Cor. 2:11; Rom. 10:9-10).

Knows what is the mind of the Spirit

Again the verb (oida), employed as a present tense (see above), reveals the fact that the Father and the Spirit are constantly in close communication with One Another, if we may express ourselves in the same sort of accommodative language discussed just above. God is ever aware of the Spirit’s insights into our souls, hence can adequately respond to our needs.

Cottrell suggests that Paul’s argument here is one where the reasoning proceeds from the less likely to the more likely.

“If God knows what is in the minds of created beings who are qualitatively different from him and relatively independent of him, then surely he knows what is in the mind of the Spirit himself, who is qualitatively equal with God and one in nature with him” (1.498).

Because [that – ASVfn] he intercedes for the sainst

The present tense of the verb (intercedes) depicts the characteristic activity of the Spirit on behalf of the Christian. For the meaning of “intercede,” see above.

The term “saints” (hagion), as used in the New Testament, is a general term for those who are faithful to God. It is commonly used for the members of various congregations of the Lord’s people (cf. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1). It is linguistically related to the words “holy” (hagios), and “sanctified” (hagiazo). It refers to a person who, by virtue of his obedience to the gospel plan of salvation (cf. Eph. 5:26), and his consecration of life, has become “separated unto God” (cf. 1 Thes. 4:3-4, 7; Rom. 6:19, 22; Heb. 12:14).

The Holy Spirit is delighted to operate on behalf of a people dedicated to righteousness. The Roman Catholic concept of “sainthood” bears utterly no relationship to the New Testament Scriptures.

According to the will of God

The Greek text simply says: “. . . according to God.” The translators of both the KJV and the ASV have supplied the words “the will of” (as indicated by the italics) for clarification purposes. God the Father and the Holy Spirit operate in perfect unison in the interest of Christian people.

Perhaps it is not out of place at this point to remind ourselves that, unlike the so-called “gods” of the ancient pagan world, the members of the sacred Godhead are never at variance with One Another. They function in absolute harmony.

As we conclude this rather detailed discussion, perhaps we could sum up, with a commentary-paraphrase that brings everything together.

Just as we entertain a precious hope for the future as a result of the promised activity of the Spirit of God, in like manner, even now, the Spirit helps us by taking hold with us of our infirmity.

Especially is this true in the matter of our prayers; we just do not know how to fully address our needs in prayer. On this account, therefore, the Spirit personally pleads our case. He takes the sighs which reflect the true needs of our souls, which we are unable to put into words that form a proper request, and He conveys them on our behalf to God.

And God, Who is perfectly familiar with the inner workings of the human mind, and Who certainly knows the mind of the Spirit, responds to our needs. He honors the role of the Spirit Who is making intercession on behalf of those who have been set apart for divine service by virtue of their obedience to the truth.

Yes, God answers according to his will, rather than according to our superficial requests.

Most Bible students would agree that this marvelous pair of verses, dealing with the work of the Spirit of God on behalf of Christians, is one of the most thrilling one can contemplate. Surely there are things about these verses that as yet challenge our understanding.

In spite of the limited scope of our comprehension, there is enough here to almost take away one’s breath! Thanks be to the divine Godhead for Their precious interest in those who love Them and are submissive to Their will.

SOURCES

Balz, Horst & Schneider, Gerhard (1993), Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

Boles, H. Leo (1983), The Holy Spirit – His Personality, Nature, and Works (Nashville: Gospel Advocate).

Bromiley, G.W., Ed. (1982), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), Four Volumes.

Chamberlain, William D. (1979), An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker).

Cottrell, Jack (1996), Romans – The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press).

Green, Samuel (1907), Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament (London: Religious Tract Society).

Horne, Thomas (1841), A Critical Introduction to the Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia: J. Whetham & Son).

Lanier, Roy H., Sr. (n.d.), Class Notes on Romans (Denver, CO: Privately Published).

McComiskey, T. (1976), Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Colin Brown, Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).

Murray, John (1968), The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

Nichols, Hardeman (1980), What Do You Know About The Holy Spirit?, Wendell Winkler, Ed. (Hurst, TX: Winkler Publications).

Pfeiffer, C.F., Vos, Howard, Rea, John (1998), Wycliffe Bible Dictionary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).

Robertson, A.T. (1919), A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (London: Hodder & Stoughton).

Stott, John (1994), Romans: God’s Good News for the World (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity).

Thayer, J.H. (1958), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark).

Vine, W.E. (1991), Vine’s Amplified Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Iowa Falls: World).

Woods, Guy N. (1970), How To Read The Greek New Testament (Nashville: Gospel Advocate).

Wuest, Kenneth (1961), The New Testament – An Expanded Translation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

 

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2021 in Romans

 

More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #8 In Christ: Christian Hope Romans 8:18-25


Romans 8:25 - KJV - Bible verse of the day - DailyVerses.net

Think with me about one of the most important words in our language. It is one of the most significant terms in the Christian religion. It describes a characteristic that we must not live without.

In Romans 8:18-25, Paul brings us to another great blessing of being in Jesus Christ. He mentions one of the most important words in the religion of Jesus Christ. It is a life changing word when it is a part of life. In Christ we have hope. Paul says, “We are saved by hope.” Hope has something to do with our salvation.

Let us probe this term to see what it means to us, what its real significance is, and how it is attached to being in Christ.

I. THE POWER OF HOPE

Hope is a dynamic power that enables one to do almost unbelievable things. I am thinking of hope as a part of life, not just as religious hope. Many years ago the pilgrims came across the North Atlantic; they battled the storms of winter in those little ships. They made the journey and settled into this new land. Why did they brave those storms? Why did they risk their lives to come to the new land? It was because of hope for a better life in the new world.

In the early days of our country the pioneers moved westward. They crossed mountains, rivers, and plains. They suffered hardship. Many of them died. Many others reached their objective of arriving in the West. Why did they make those journeys? It was because of hope. They hoped that beyond those mountains, beyond the rivers, beyond the plains they would find a great meaning to their lives. The same is still true today. A person is sick. Perhaps he may be hospitalized. He may have to undergo surgery. One of the great healing elements in his life will be his hope of getting better. I believe it goes without contradiction that sometimes sick people do not get well when they are sick because they give up hope. When they give up, they cannot win the victory.

Hope is one of the greatest thoughts that has ever entered our minds.

The hopes and expectations of others inspire us to become more than we would have become otherwise. Hope is one of the greatest concepts that has ever entered our minds. It is a dynamic power that causes people to do almost unbelievable things.

In Romans 8, Paul speaks of hope in the context of the problems of human suffering. In verse 17 he said, “We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ if we suffer with Him.” Paul is focusing attention upon the world as it is, a fallen world, a world into which sin has come. As a result of the fall, as a result of sin, there is sickness, heartache, disappointment, and death in this world.

Basically, suffering is in the world because the world has fallen. How is the man in Christ to deal with the world as it is? His disappointments? His physical pain and mental anguish? Death? Paul’s word is “hope.”

Notice what Paul says in verse 18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

God has something better for His people than the suffering and heartache of this world. That something in the future is the object of the Christian’s hope. But no sooner does Paul refer to the sufferings of this present time than he begins to mention what he calls the “whole creation.” Notice what he says:

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For We know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pain of childbirth together until now (8:19-22).

What does Paul mean when he talks about the whole creation groaning under the suffering and pain of this present world? Some believe Paul is talking about the trees, grass, flowers, and animals. It is true that at some point in time all suffering in the world, even to lower forms of life, will come to a close.

But Paul does not have in mind those parts of nature which are separated from humanity. When he uses the word “creature” he uses the same term Jesus used when He said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Jesus certainly did not mean that the gospel should be preached to the animals and plants.

It is the same word Paul used in Colossians 1:23 when he said that every creature under heaven had heard the word of truth. He is not talking about animals and plants. He is talking about every creature that makes up the human family.

His point is that everyone, regardless of who he is, longs for a better life in another world. Everyone has some concept of life beyond this life. The Indians in the earlier days of our country had their happy hunting grounds in their thoughts. Man longs for a better tomorrow.

Paul says that every man is groaning under the sufferings that the world brings and wants to be released from that suffering. However, Paul’s major point has to do with the Christian and his hope. The man who is out of Christ does not live in hope. If he has a hope, it is a false hope because the hope of a better tomorrow belongs only to those who are in Christ.

2. THE OBJECT OF HOPE

Paul continues in 8:23: “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” The whole family of man longs for a better tomorrow, but those who are in Christ know best of all that a better tomorrow is coming. We know it because we have the assurance of God Himself. The object of what we are looking forward to is the “redemption of our body.” Paul is referring to the resurrection from the dead.

I believe in a bodily resurrection. Why? Because the Bible teaches the resurrection of the body;  because  Jesus  Christ  Himself  has  been raised. First Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” All are going to be raised from the dead.

The beautiful concept for the Christian is that those who are in Christ are to enjoy the final adoption, the redemption of the body. First Corinthians 15 is the great chapter on the bodily resurrection of the dead. In that chapter Paul shows that at some point this mortal will put on immortality, this corruptible shall put on incorruption. When this mortal shall put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Did you know that those who are in Christ will win the ultimate victory even over death? Death is not the end; it is only a stage in the Christian’s existence. He does not face death by himself. God will be with His children even in death and bring them safely through death to the other side.

What assurance do we have that we will be raised? We could say that our assurance is the promise of God; we could say our assurance is the fact that Christ has been raised. But in this context what is the assurance? Did you notice that in verse 23 Paul spoke of the first fruits of the Spirit? The Spirit of God is given to those who are obedient to God (Romans 5-8). Paul has previously emphasized the concept of God’s Spirit being spread abroad in the hearts of those who are in Christ. Acts 5:32 says, “. . . so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” The first fruit is the giving of the Spirit to the Christian. The first fruit is the promise of an additional harvest that will come later. The additional harvest is the resurrection of the body. Our assurance is the Spirit, “the first fruits of the Spirit.” God’s Spirit is a down payment on blessings to be received in the future.

3. THE NATURE OF HOPE

What is hope? There are two elements in hope. One is desire; the other is expectation. A person can desire something and never achieve it. He can expect something that he does not desire. When he has hope he has both desire and expectation. The desire and expectation of the Christian is that there will be a resurrection of the body in an eternal dwelling place with God. He desires it and expects it because God has promised it.

4. THE RECIPIENTS OF HOPE

Who has hope? Who has hope for the future; who  has  hope  for  being  raised,  exalted,  and glorified with God? The man out of Christ does not. Ephesians 2:12 speaks of those who live without Christ, as living without hope. That is one of the saddest thoughts that can ever enter our minds. No hope. Out of Christ. Christians who take their commitment to Christ lightly and never commit their lives to Jesus have no hope.

The church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 was about to be spewed out of the mouth of Christ. Simply being a church member does not mean a person has hope. Who has hope? In Colossians 1:27 Paul said, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The Christian is in Christ. Romans 6 says he was baptized and that act put him into Christ (6:3). He has entered into Christ. Not only is the Christian in Christ, but Christ is in him. Christ’s light is being reproduced in the life of a Christian. The Christian is seeking to think, talk, and act like Christ. As Christ is formed in the Christian, it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Some time ago, twelve hundred men were gathered together in a meeting, and a preacher said to them, “I want you to be very frank with me. Give me all the objections you have to Christianity.”

One man said, “Church members live inconsistent lives; they do not live up to their professions.” Another said, “Preachers are not what they ought to be. They are not true to their calling.” A third said, “There are too many hypocrites in the church.” In all, twenty-seven objections were given. The preacher said, “Fellows, everything you have said is true; but I noticed one thing. Not one of you could say a word against Jesus Christ.”

Nothing is wrong with Jesus! Pilate said, I have found no guilt in this man (Luke 23:14). The thief on the cross said, This man has done nothing wrong (Luke 23:41). Peter said, Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22).

Everything about Jesus is wonderful! His birth (Isaiah 7:14), His life (Acts 10:38), His miracles, His sermons, His death, and resurrection. Just suppose Jesus had never come; suppose the angels had never sung on the Judean hills; suppose there had been no star over Bethlehem; suppose the Sermon on the Mount had never been preached; suppose the transfiguration had never taken place; suppose there had been no resurrection morning and no ascension.

Without Him where would this world be? In darkness and despair! It would be hell-bound and without remedy! Those were great events when Adam was created, when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, and when David wrote the Twenty-third Psalm. Yet, the greatest event witnessed by man and directed by God was the coming of Jesus into the world. What did His coming mean to humanity?

JESUS CAME TO GIVE HOPE TO THE HOPELESS.

When Christ came into the world He found man living in one of the unhappiest conditions humanity had ever faced. Most people were subject to a favored few. A small number were rich, but many were poor and trodden underfoot. A child was worth nothing. Women were worth nothing; they were little more than slaves.

Did these human conditions touch Jesus? Notice His first recorded sermon in our text: “And Jesus answered and said to him, It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only. And he led Him to Jerusalem and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, cast Yourself down from here (Luke 4:8, 9).

John the Baptist, in prison, sent word to Jesus, Are You the Coming One, or shall we look for someone else? (Matthew 11:3). The report Jesus sent back reveals Jesus compassion: The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them (Matthew 11:5).

Jesus’ words and deeds showed that the needs of mankind were close to His heart. The poor were devoted to Him. Mark said, David himself calls Him Lord; and so in what sense is He his son? And the great crowd enjoyed listening to Him (Mark 12:37).

He was their best friend. Notice that He taught them not to be anxious about what they should eat or wear. God knows and cares! (Matthew 6:25ff.). He loved the rich people too. He was no respecter of persons. Nicodemus was His friend; Joseph loaned Him his new tomb; John used his influence at His trial; Matthew gave a feast in His honor; he went home with Zacchaeus!

Jesus was interested in everyone. The world has changed and Jesus is the One who changed it. Today children are loved and cared for. Few slaves exist in the world. Women are highly honored. Many hospitals and homes are available for children and the aged. All this has happened because Jesus placed a high value on people. But remember this, although Jesus was interested in the body, His chief interest was the soul! This is why He wanted to see men saved (Luke 19:10). All in all, He brought hope to the helpless (1 Timothy 1:15).

 JESUS CAME TO GIVE GUIDANCE TO THE LOST.

How can a man marred by sin get into a right relationship with God? Read these verses: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me (John 14:6).

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

For this is My blood of the covenant, which is to be shed on behalf of many for forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).

Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18, 19).

 JESUS CAME TO GIVE KNOWLEDGE TO THE IGNORANT.

How does God feel about us? Does He love us? Does He care when life hurts us? What kind of being is He? Jesus said, If ye have seen Me, ye have seen the Father. I and My Father are one. As we see Jesus loving, lifting, leading, we know the kind of God we have. He cares for the lilies of the field; He sees the sparrows fall from the air; He cares for you (Matthew 10:29ff.).

Jesus pictured God as a loving father in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Come, therefore, with your sorrow and burdens. Peter said, Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

The Hebrew writer wrote, Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you, so that we confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me? (Hebrews 13:5, 6).

JESUS CAME TO GIVE MEANING TO THE MEANINGLESS.

We want to know how to be useful and how to find happiness. Only in Jesus can we find lasting happiness. Jesus said, The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly (John 10:10).

He also said, Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions (Luke 12:15).

Many of us are not happy because we live only for ourselves. We see only our own needs. Jesus teaches us that if we want to find happiness we must look away from ourselves. He said, If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24).

JESUS CAME TO GIVE A FUTURE TO THE FUTURELESS.

 Job asked, If a man die, shall he live again? All of us are going to die. Paul wrote, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).

We are told, And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

At death, what then? Jesus said, I am the resurrection, and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies (John 11:25).

He also said, Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds, to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28, 29).

Before Jesus came, there was no light beyond the grave; it was all darkness and despair. Jesus taught us that there is a back door to the grave. If we follow Him, it opens into heaven.

Read these verses: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones (Psalm 116:15).

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!  Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them (Revelation 14:13).

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Death may conquer us; graves may hold our bodies for a while. But Jesus is coming back. Our bodies will be raised and made like His glorious body. Our souls will have new bodies. Then, we shall be carried to a mansion in the sky to live with Him forever.

CONCLUSION. Yes, Jesus is our hope in all things: our hope in life, our hope in death, our hope in the great beyond. How we ought to love Him!

“I saw One hanging on a tree In agony and blood, He fixed His languid eyes on me, As near His cross I stood. Sure, never till my latest breath, Can I forget that look;

It seemed to charge me with His death, Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt, And plunged me in despair;

I saw my sins His blood had split And helped to nail Him there.

Alas, I know not what I did, But now my tears are vain; Where can my trembling soul be hid?

For I the Lord have slain. A second look He gave, which said, I freely all forgive;

This blood is for thy ransom paid, I die that thou may’st live!

Oh, can it be, upon that tree, The Savior died for me? My soul is filled, my heart is thrilled

To think He died for me.

You can have that hope. But if you have hope it will be because you made the effort to enter into Christ and are daily developing into His image. It is a great concept. Those in Christ have hope for the future.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2021 in Romans

 

More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #7 The Child of God – Romans 8:14-17


In one sense every person is a child of God. The apostle Paul said in Acts 17, Acts 17:28 (ESV) … for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

In that sense we are all the children of God. But in another very special sense God has chosen out of humanity a group of people who are the true children of God. Who are the true children of God?

First, he began by showing us that when one is in Christ he is no longer under condemnation. He said, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Before one comes into Christ he is lost; he is under the condemnation of God. But the Christian has come out of the world and into Christ. He is no longer under the sentence of death.

  1. I. LED BY THE SPIRIT

Romans 8:14 (ESV) For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

The Jews already considered themselves to be “sons of God” because of their heritage; but Paul explains that sons of God has new meaning. True sons of God are those who are led by the Spirit of God as evidenced in their lifestyle. Believers not only have the Spirit (8:9); they are also led by the Spirit.

Paul uses adoption or “sonship” to illustrate the believer’s new relationship with God and his or her privileges as part of God’s family. In Roman culture, the adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate child in his new family. He became a full heir to his new family. Likewise, when a person becomes a Christian, he or she gains all the privileges and responsibilities of a child in God’s family.

He says that those who are the children of God are led by the Spirit. What does that mean? As always when we ask a biblical question, we must seek to find biblical answers.

During the ministry of Jesus, as recorded in John 6:44-46 (ESV) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46  not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Nobody comes unless God draws them. But everyone who is drawn has heard and learned of the Father.

Everyone who is drawn of God must come into contact with the message of God, the gospel. When one hears the gospel, when he responds in the right way to the gospel, he is drawn unto God. This is the way the Holy Spirit leads the alien sinner to the salvation in Christ.

The Holy Spirit does not announce by a vision, a dream, or an experience to an alien sinner that God has made that alien His son. That did not happen in the New Testament, and it does not happen today.

If we are to be led by the Spirit we must hear the message of the Spirit; the message of the Spirit is the gospel of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 2 the apostle Paul said, “Which things also we speak, not in the words that man’s wisdom teaches, but in the words that the Holy Spirit teaches.”

The apostle was affirming that what he preached and wrote for God he was given by the Holy Spirit. I believe this to be true. In the first century inspired preachers shared the message of God with alien sinners. In the first century that message was in inspired men.

Those men, selected by God, were guided by the Holy Spirit in writing down that message. Their message we now have in the New Testament. In the first century the message was in inspired men. Today the message is in an inspired volume.

This is the way the Holy Spirit leads a man from out of Christ into Christ. The method of the Spirit has not changed since the first century.

Let me demonstrate that truth. In the first century, those who went forth preaching were guided and directed by the Holy Spirit in presenting God’s message. Between the Holy Spirit and the alien sinner there was always a messenger.

When one looks at the growth of the early church as it unfolds in Acts, he will find about eight major cases of conversion; that is, eight stories of how people came out of the world into Christ.

In each of those stories there was always a human messenger who came to the alien. That human messenger came with the Word of God, the message of the Spirit. When people learned from those messengers what to do to be saved they were learning the Spirit’s message, and they were being led by the Spirit.

Today, there is the inspired volume. One must come to know the message that is in the New Testament. He either must be taught by somebody else, or he must learn it for himself through his personal study.

The point is this: Between the Holy Spirit and the alien sinner— the lost man—there is the inspired message. Therefore, the Holy Spirit does not come directly into the heart of the alien sinner. He does not come directly to the lost man to announce to him how to be saved or that he is saved. If you want to know how to be saved, then you need to know the gospel.

Romans 8:14 says the children of God are those who are led by the Spirit—the children of God are those who hear the message and respond to that message. It is the Spirit’s message.

When men accept it they will be led by the Spirit. Jesus said, “They shall all be taught of God, and every man therefore who has heard and learned of the Father comes unto Me.”

If there is no teaching, no hearing, no learning there is no coming. Paul says, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” If you would be a child of God, you must come to the Scripture and hear what the Spirit has to say and accept His message.

  1. II. FREED BY THE SPIRIT

The second blessing of being in Christ is that we are sons of God. When one is in Christ he is a child of God in a very significant way.

Romans 8:15 (ESV) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

A second point is made by Paul in verse 15. He shows that because we are the sons of God we have not received the spirit of slavery leading to fear again.” He says, “We are not under bondage and fear.” We are not like slaves anymore. We are not afraid anymore.

This slavery to fear most likely refers to life under the law, obedience that was concerned for scrupulous exactness with a constant fear of failure. Paul implies that the absence of fear is an important indicator of the Spirit’s presence: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7 niv).

Why? Now we are God’s children. The important point that Paul is making is this: Before one becomes a Christian he is in bondage to sin. Jesus said, “Every one who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:32-34).

The man out of Christ lives under bondage. Under bondage there is every reason to be afraid. We are under condemnation and alienated from God. But now in Christ we are no longer condemned.

Now in Christ we are the sons of God. Therefore, our response to God is not like bond slaves. It is not to be a response of fear.

What does all this mean to us? When we become Christians we are the servants of Jesus Christ. But we do not serve simply out of fear, as a slave would serve. We do not serve Christ because we have to. We serve Him because we get to.

By whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”NKJV We are not slaves who must cower in fear before their master. We are adopted sons who can call God our Father. Abba is from the Aramaic and is still a term used by Hebrew children to address their father.

Jesus used the expression when he prayed to his Father (see Mark 14:36). “Abba” is a term of informal intimacy and respect spoken by children to their fathers. The equivalent expression in our language is “Daddy” or “Papa.” Calling God “Daddy” indicates that we have an intimate relationship with him.

It is a privilege to be a child of God. The bondservant who serves out of fear is always asking the wrong questions. The person who serves God out of fear as a bond slave will ask, “Do I have to go to church?” or “Do I have to partake of the Lord’s Supper?” or “Do I have to give a certain per cent of my income back to God?”

Those are the wrong questions. It is not, “You have to”; it is, “You get to.” The child of God is the one who wants to meet with the other children of God in worship. He does not come to the place of worship as a slave, but as a true child of God.

He does not ask, “Do I have to partake of the Supper?”; he gets to. He does not ask, “Do I have to give a certain amount?”; he gets to. There is a difference in attitude.

I am fearful that many never get beyond the level of slavery and fear. They are asking, “How little can I do and still get by?” That is not the point. The point is that as a child of God you want to do everything you can to the glory of God.

Jesus used the motivation of fear to encourage people to respond to Him. As a matter of fact, Jesus taught more about hell than anybody else in the New Testament.

If one will not respond to Christ except out of fear, let him respond out of fear. I believe that he can make his initial response to Christ because he is afraid of the con- sequences of sin; but I do not believe that the growing Christian can serve Christ all of his life simply because of fear.

He needs to come to the place that he is serving Christ because of joy. “It is not a spirit of slavery leading to fear again,” Paul says, “but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Abba, Father!”

God is our Father. He has adopted us into His family. Now our attitude is this: “I want to do all that I can to His glory.”

Paul says we are led by the Spirit; we must hear the Spirit’s message in the New Testament. We are not under bondage and fear any longer, but we have received the spirit of adoption.

We can say with great meaning, “Our Father who art in heaven.” The adoption into the Father’s family changes our motivation for service. We serve because we want to do all that we can in the name of our Father.

III. ASSURED BY THE SPIRIT

Romans 8:16-17 (NASB) The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
17  and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.NKJV The Holy Spirit within makes all the difference for believers. The Holy Spirit not only adopts us as God’s children, but he also assures us of our family status.

Galatians 4:6 (ESV) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”|

The Spirit within changes our obedience to God from slavery to a relationship where God is both our Master and our loving Father. The Scriptures indicate that believers can expect inward confirmation of the faith by the Spirit. Our very capacity and desire to approach God as our Father is itself evidence of the Spirit’s witness with our spirit that we are children of God. We are motivated by the Spirit.

Paul did not say the Spirit bears witness to our spirit. Rather he said, “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit.”

What does that mean? The Holy Spirit has revealed in the New Testament how to be a child of God. When we do what the Spirit asks us to do, we become the children of God.

We have the Spirit’s message showing us how to be a child of God; we also have our own spirit saying we have obeyed the Spirit’s message.

For example, in every case of conversion in Acts, it is apparent that the people heard the gospel. The Spirit’s Word says, “Hear the gospel.” Have you heard the gospel? If you have, the Spirit bears witness with your spirit that you have heard.

In the cases of conversion in Acts it is evident that the people believed the message. How would we know to believe the message except that the message asks us to believe? The Spirit shows us we are to believe. Have you believed? If so, the Spirit bears witness with your spirit that you have believed.

In Acts people repented of their sins. How would we know to repent except that the Spirit revealed it? Have you repented? When you repent, the Spirit bears witness with your spirit that you have repented.

In every one of those stories of conversion in Acts, people were baptized in water. They were immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins. The Spirit says, “Be baptized.” Have you been baptized biblically? If you have, the Spirit bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God.

8:17 We are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.NIV The Jews were convinced that they were the Lord’s inheritance, and that as such they would inherit the Promised Land. Paul explains that God’s promise includes all who believe in Christ—both Jews and Gentiles. Because we are God’s children, we are his heirs. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:7 niv). And we are co-heirs with Christ, the Son of God. Heirs of what? The Jews thought it was to be the Promised Land—instead, it is another “land,” God’s kingdom.

We are heirs of God only because of Christ’s suffering on our behalf. As believers, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.NRSV We will enjoy our future inheritance if our relationship with Christ is genuine enough so that we will face suffering for his sake. History has demonstrated that hatred for Christ has often resulted in terrible persecution of his co-heirs. The early Christians who died in the arena shared in Christ’s suffering because of their connection with Christ. There was no personally redemptive value in their suffering, except that on occasion, the suffering of one believer was the seed that bloomed with faith in another person.

CONCLUSION

The witness of the Spirit is not something better felt than told. It is a clear, concise message. When you are in harmony with that message, the Spirit bears witness with your spirit.

The final word is this: If we are children of God then we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. God has a wonderful inheritance for everyone of His children. That is what it means to be in Christ.

We can know if we are a child of God by following the simple precepts of His holy Word.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2021 in Romans

 
 
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