Romans 8:26–39. Lesson 15. God Has Secured Our Future.
Key Notes: The Holy Spirit helps us. God's plan comes before predestination. Six words of God's sovereign action. A list of common fears. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
This passage climaxes the first half of Romans, chapters 1–8. Chapters 9–11 will take up the special problem of Israel in the economy of salvation. The end of Romans 8 is a cry of triumph. It is quoted so often and is so familiar, that misconceptions have crept in. We must keep Paul’s central teachings in mind:
8:26–30 ~ God’s plan is to conform us to the image of Christ.
8:31–39 ~ Nothing will thwart His plan or separate us from Him.
8:26 The Holy Spirit helps us because we do not know how to pray rightly. Up to this point, Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit indwells (8:11), and will one day resurrect us. (8:11). For now, we are being led by the Spirit so that we can be victorious over the carnal nature. (8:13). He resonates with our spirits so that we can call God "Abba, Father." (8:15) and rejoice as His heirs. (8:17)
8:27 The Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God. The communication is flawless because the Father knows the mind of the Spirit, and the Spirit knows the will of God. They understand each other perfectly. That must be true but it is odd that it is stated. It speaks for “three-ness” in the Trinity and subordination in contrast to the equality of the Godhead.
8:28 “All things work together for good” is a cliché often spoken in times of trouble. Although that is a literal translation of the Greek, the commentators point out that “things” cannot work together, and do not do anything. It is also grammatically correct to say “In all things, God works for the good of His people.”--and that makes better sense. Surely it is God who is working and not “things”.
A second point is that all things do not work together for good. Bad things happen to good people. That does not say that God does not do good things for His children and blesses their lives in countless ways.
“No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psa. 84:11.
The point is that God uses everything in our lives -- bad and good--to conform us to the image of Christ.
A Christian staff-member complained that one of his volunteers was constantly criticizing his work and decisions. Whatever he wanted to do was different from " the way we used to do it". I knew the volunteer well and could agree with his complaint. But instead of sympathizing with him, I replied that she was there for his sanctification. Although he choked, he was later able to say the same to others who face petty annoyances from their colleagues. In all things God works for the good of His people.
“…those whom He foreknew, He also predestined....” Some interpret this to say that predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge. It has been a common mistake to say that God foreknew who would be saved and then predestined them—put His stamp of approval on history as He saw it unfold. There are two errors involved in this view.
a. It makes God the prisoner of history instead of its Author.
b. It puts up our meritorious works, seen by God in advance, as the conditions for salvation.
The image is of God screening the movie of the future, observing people who look good and picking them out for salvation.
There are other incorrect views. “Openness theism” objects to predestination because God has limited His freedom in favor of ours. He does not know what will happen until we act--and then He reacts.
God’s plan comes first. Peter in his sermon at Pentecost said
“…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…” (Acts. 2:23).
The plan is seen as coming first.
God explained His foreknowledge of Jeremiah based on His plan for the nations:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:5)
Paul in II Timothy said God
”... saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of His own purpose and the grace which He gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago." (II Tim. 1:9)
There are six words of God’s sovereign action in salvation, and they are usually given in this order. The first three occur before we were involved. They are linked and are hard to separate in our minds.
2. Foreknown 8:29
3. Elected 8:33
4. Called 8:30
6. Justified 8:30
7. Glorified 8:30
All seven terms are given in the past tense. Commentators object to "glorified" being in the past tense, since being glorified will happen in Heaven. They suggest that future glory is so certain that it can be stated as if in the past. However, the intent of God’s sovereign action is to glorify us now by conforming us to the image of Christ now.
What is the image of Christ? We may list the attributes of God in Christ, such as justice, power, mercy, love, compassion, and truth. We can see other details demonstrated in Jesus’ life: care of the poor and the sick, respect for women, prayer, a profound knowledge of Scripture, patience and self-sacrifice.
Are these aspect of Christ’s image left for our future glorification? II Cor. 3:18 says
“and we all with unveiled face
beholding as in a mirror
the glory of the Lord
are being changed into His likeness
from one degree of glory to another;
for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
It appears that glorification of the soul begins with conversion and should continue throughout our lives.
8:29 “…that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” Jesus called the disciples “servants” and then “friends” (Jn. 15:15), but “brothers / sisters” is a qualitative leap upward. To be an heir, one must be a sibling to the firstborn, the primary heir.
“…He is not ashamed to them brothers saying….”Here am I and the children God has given me.” (Heb. 2: 11–13)
8:31–39 “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
We have to be careful about assuming that God is for our program, our church, our society or even our war. "Being for us" is being for our salvation, and our relationship with Him, not necessarily for our pet project.
Who can be against us? Practically everybody!! “For Thy sake we are slain the all day long and counted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Psa.44:22) The combined pressures of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, animism and secularism, if seen together, are overwhelming. Two-thirds of the world is non-Christian, and in some way opposed to Christians. Paul says God is greater than all the forces against us.
How is God for us? He gave us Christ. He will give us everything else.
If God justifies, who can condemn? Christ intercedes for us.
What can separate us from the Love of God? Nothing in all creation.
Not all “Christians” agree that the love of God for us is inseparable.
Roman Catholics say no one can be infallibly certain of securing salvation.
Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are sure that works are necessary for salvation.
Christian Scientists do not think there is such a thing as sin to separate us in the first place.
Arminians are in fear of losing salvation by lack of effort.
There are seven pairs of words, with single words at the beginning and end of the set. None of these threats can separate us from the love of God. He loves us even if our homes were destroyed by a tornado or our church burned by terrorists.
Distress or persecution
Famine or nakedness
Peril or sword
Death or life
Angels or principalities
Things present or things to come
Height or depth
Anything else in all creation-
But will my love for God fail? What if a whole pile of troubles fall on me? Would my faith fail? Suppose I stop loving Him?
We have a whole list of personal fears. The class was asked to name their fears and wrote these responses.
“I am not good enough.”
“I fear God.”
“I may not live up to my Christian commitment.”
“I may disappoint Him.”
“I fear my sinful impulses.”
“I am afraid of being alone.”
“My spouse may die.”
“I may get demented.”
“I may die or be killed.”
“I have unsaved relatives.” “I may not be a good enough witness to them.”
“I may be rejected.”
“I am afraid of heights and depth”---“dogs and every biting creature.”
What does God say to us? "Nothing can separate you from My love and care." Nothing.