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Romans (Series 1)

If God Be For Us ...

Romans  8:26-38

A story -- alas, I can find no confirmation in writing -- is told about Winston Churchill. At the end of World War II, Great Britain held its first election in ten years (due to the war). Churchill was popular personally, but his party, the Conservatives, were held responsible for the lack of preparation for the war; they were defeated. As the returns came in and the result became obvious, Sir Winston’s wife said to him, “Winston, it is a blessing in disguise.”

Sir Winston’s reply: “Madame, at the moment it seems quite effectively disguised.”

The Providence of God

(Rom 8:26-28 NIV) 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. {28} 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.

Paul, in the Spirit, lays out the basic rules for the providence of God. To understand this passage, we need to break it down into its particulars.

Our Weakness

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “weak.” But indeed we are. The question is not whether or not we are weak but rather what God is going to do about it:

·         He may take our weakness and turn it into his strength, as he did for Paul:[1]

·         We need to remember that Jesus understands our weakness, for -- after all -- he is human too:[2]

·         His dealing with our weakness sets us an example in dealing with the weaknesses of others[3]:

What should we pray for?

This is a delicate question. I know many people who are very reluctant to pray in public. One reason is that they’re not sure just what they should pray for! Some observations on that point:

·         Maybe we don’t know what to pray for! Remember that the disciples had this problem too (James and John’s mother asking for position)[4]

·         It is also true that we cannot see the future; sometimes we might be praying for a disaster unknown.

·         Sometimes we need a model; that’s one reason we have the Lord’s Prayer.[5]

·         James tells us[6] that sometimes our prayers are not answered because our motives are not pure.

It is a curious point. We “reason” that (when we get what we ask for) that God is “listening.” We think also that if we don’t, he’s not. May I suggest that (especially in light of the Spirit’s intercession for us) that sometimes the reason we don’t get what ask for is that He is listening.

The Spirit Intercedes...

(Gal 4:6 NIV) Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

I hope you see the point; we are sons, therefore God sent the Spirit into our hearts. It is the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” May I draw you a parallel?

We have a friend, Don, who is in prison. His troubles and his crimes are severe; much of who he is comes from the abuse he got from his natural parents. One day he called my wife and I with an unusual request: could he please refer to us as “Mom and Dad?” We agreed; Don calls us that to this day.

Don, in effect, said, “the spirit my parents beat into me is wrong; my parentage is wrong; I will choose another.” (And a high honor it is, too).

In our case, we have chosen to have the Spirit of Christ in us. That Spirit directs our hearts to God; when we pray, the Spirit “translates” for us. For we pray with mere words; the Spirit groans for us -- a picture of the completeness of the Spirit in prayer. So it is that we are taught to pray “in the Spirit.”[7]

In accordance with God’s will...

What does it mean to intercede “according to God’s will?” I submit the following:

·         You must do so in the name of Christ. Not just using the words as a formula, but knowing that you are praying just as if you were Christ.[8] Only the Spirit can do this perfectly, but we must try.

·         You must do so without doubt.[9]

·         You must do so in obedience to God’s commands.[10]

in all things God works for the good of those who love him...

There is much debate of the correct translation of this passage; most of it for reasons of pet theology. There are a few simple points that might be brought forward with profit:

·         God’s will prevails, in all things.[11] That being so,

·         We should acknowledge that in all our prayers.[12]

The debate turns between those who see God as predestining events (they are already determined and laid out) and those who see God weaving events together, standing aside of time (my own view). In any event, it is worth noting that the Greek word translated “together” is the root word of our word “synergy.”

All is surveyed, and the power given

(Rom 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.

One of the great debates in Protestant Christianity is over predestination. Is it really true that free will is only an appearance, and we are each individually predestined to heaven or hell? Is the passage above to be applied to each individual, or the group? My own opinion is with Akiva: “All is surveyed, and the power is given.” With certain exceptions:

·         God often seems quite arbitrary in his selection of individuals for service.[13] This is most often so that we might see, through the weakness of the individual, the power of God. Current example: Joni Eareckson Tada.

·         God’s choice of us was made before creation![14]

·         As far as I can see, God’s choices came in these three categories:

·         Specific individuals (e.g., Jeremiah, David)

·         The nation of Israel (often spoken of as a person, Jacob, or the children of Abraham)

·         Generic groups -- those who love the Lord.

We must now examine the verbs of this passage. Verbs are the action words of the English language, and action is now come:

·         We are predestined to be like Christ. How are we to be like Christ?

·         We will be like Him in bodily form, at the resurrection.[15]

·         We are commanded to be like Him in our minds.[16]

·         And we are to imitate Him in His works.[17]

·         We are called -- called to what?

·         We are called into fellowship with God![18]

·         We are called to live in peace.[19]

·         And each and every one of us is called to a particular service.[20]

·         We are justified -- but how?

·         by faith![21]

·         upon confession and repentance.[22]

·         but not by faith alone.[23]

·         Finally, we will be glorified. What does that mean? I don’t know -- for the resurrection of the dead is yet to come. But it does mean that we shall be like Him, and see Him face to face.

If God be for us...

(Rom 8:31-39 NIV) What, then, shall we say in response to this? 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, along with him, graciously give us all things? {33} Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. {34} Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. {35} Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? {36} As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered 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 convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, {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.

This is poetry. It’s not written that way in the NIV or other translations, but it is poetry none the less. For in poetry we say what cannot be described in prose, and the love of God for us cannot be bounded by words.

Paul begins with a logical argument. It as if he said, “Look, God loved the world so much that He did not spare even His own Son. His character is the same forever; therefore we can count on Him to supply all our needs. Indeed, so much so, that Paul makes the obvious point that when God is with us, we need consider no opposition (the elephant takes little notice of the flea). How do we know He is with us? As ever and always, Jesus.

Like a man awakening from the nightmare of legalism, Paul tells us that we are free from fear of the judgment. And why should we not be?

·         Our justification comes from God Himself -- the one who is righteousness. Remember the scene in The Three Musketeers where Milady DeWinter is given an unconditional excuse by Cardinal Richelieu? And how that same piece of paper wound up in D’Artagnan’s hands, thus saving his life? That is just like God justifying us.

·         The Judge Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, is also our defense attorney.

·         If that were not enough, the penalty that would be asked of us has been paid by Him!

Twice in this passage Paul asks the rhetorical question, “what shall separate us?” We may take a lesson in this section from (of all things) battleship design. A battleship completely covered with armor won’t float. So the armor is placed so that “it doesn’t matter.” If you hit an unarmored spot, it doesn’t matter -- it wasn’t a vital location. If you hit an armored spot, it doesn’t matter -- it’s protected. See the things that we armored against:

·         Things people do to us (persecution, for example)

·         Things that “just happen” (famine, for example)

·         And most important, things that affect the spiritual life, such as

·         life (no matter how painful) and death.

·         angels and demons

·         the passage of time

·         astrology (powers, height and depth may refer to this)

·         and just in case he forgot something, “any other created thing.”

Let’s look back at where we’ve been. We started as sinners all; we are justified and made righteous through faith; we are being sanctified daily -- and through it all we are more than conquerors, because nothing can pry us away from the love of God, shown in Jesus Christ.

[1] 2 Corinthians 12:5-10

[2] Hebrews 4:15

[3] Romans 15:1-2

[4] Matthew 20:20-22

[5] Luke 11:1-4

[6] James 4:3

[7] Ephesians 6:18, Jude 1:20

[8] John 14:13

[9] James 1:5-6

[10] 1 John 3:21-22

[11] Proverbs 19:21

[12] James 4:13-16

[13] Jeremiah 1:4-5, for example.

[14] Ephesians 1:4

[15] 1 Corinthians 15:49

[16] Philippians 2:5ff

[17] Ephesians 2:10

[18] 1 Corinthians 1:9

[19] 1 Corinthians 7:15

[20] 1 Corinthians 7:24

[21] Romans 3:28, for example

[22] Luke 18:10-14, the story of the Pharisee and tax collector

[23] James 2:24

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