Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bethany Bullet - July 29, 2014

Romans Chapter 8 is one of the parts of scripture that is so dense and rich that one could mine it for wisdom for years and continue to find new and nuanced inspiration from the Word.  This is the third week in a row that we have taken a look at this chapter and as we finish it up this morning let’s remember where we have been.

(Earlier in Romans 8)
Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, reminded us that so significant are our sufferings to our God that:  
  • He invites us to bring them to Him in prayer
  • He roots us in a community that will care
  • He, in Christ, our sufferings He has come to share
  • So then our sufferings do not compare and are insignificant to the glory that awaits

So we groan.  We groan the prayer of the church, “Come Lord Jesus.”  And we know that we certainly do not groan alone! 
·         Creation groans with us. 
·         The Counselor groans for us. 
·         The Children of God groan together; desiring, longing, yearning for our Lord’s returning – “Come Lord Jesus.”
In light of our suffering and our groaning Paul continues. If you have your Bibles, we are in Romans chapter 8 starting at verse 28. 

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom he has called according to his plan.

It is God’s desire and it is in His nature that all things work out for the good.  I know that your sufferings are indeed real.  Pastor Kritzer talked about many of them a few weeks ago, they are not insignificant.  It is not God’s desire for suffering, but that all things, event the so called “accidents” of history are God working for our good. 

Back in the book of Genesis we see a great example of what Paul is talking about.  The story of Joseph sets the stage for the climactic grace event in the Old Testament, the Exodus, but in order for this to happen, the people of Israel, literally the sons of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel, would be relocated from the land of the promise, down to Egypt. 

God worked (in the story) for the good of His people, but at the time there was lots of suffering.

We pick up the story in the Promised Land, Joseph (the favored son) is betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery in a foreign land, accused of crimes he didn’t commit, sentenced to punishment, forgotten and left to rot in a prison cell.  He suffered greatly.  His family was also suffering, there was a severe famine in the land, food was scarce, empty bellies groaned with hunger, and salvation was far from sight. But God had a plan.

Joseph is eventually elevated to a high position at the right hand of the Pharaoh, put in charge of providing life giving food for the people and eventually has an encounter with his brothers and he says to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)

At the time, no suffering seems good, but God promises that all things will work out for our good. 
Paul goes on, 29 This is true because he already knew his people and had already appointed them to have the same form as the image of his Son. Therefore, his Son is the firstborn among many children.”

I like the way the God’s Word translation renders this section.  Many of you probably know this section, in many English Bibles contains the word “predestined”.  This has caused lots of controversy and theological disagreement throughout history.

When Paul states that God, “already knew his people,” it is not just a simple awareness of who is a child of God or what might happen during their lifetime.  It is not restricted to merely having information.  It implies much more.  It implies an intimate knowledge gained by personal experience, reflecting approval and acceptance of the thing or person known.

Paul is saying something much more significant than merely that God knows his own.  Rather, God “foreknew” us from eternity, before we ever had a chance to lift a finger or do anything to win his favor and approval.  That is grace!

Paul said it this way to the Ephesians, Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer. Before the creation of the world, he chose us through Christ to be holy and perfect in his presence. Because of his love he had already decided to adopt us through Jesus Christ. He freely chose to do this so that the kindness he had given us in his dear Son would be praised and given glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

God has predestined all of his children to live in the grace found in Christ.  It is against His nature to predestine some to destruction, that is not who God is.

What was God’s goal or objective in choosing us?  So that we might “have the same form as the image of his Son” (8:29); God’s goal is to unite us with Christ, something we talked about a few weeks back.  He wants us to share in those incomparable riches and boundless blessings of an eternity in heaven as the rightful possession of Christ.
Paul continues,30 He also called those whom he had already appointed. He approved of those whom he had called, and he gave glory to those whom he had approved of.”

Let’s look at this verse as the English Standard Version renders it,30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

 From eternity God predestined us to share in the blessings of His Son and calls us to faith through the Holy Spirit.  That call comes to us in word and wafer and wine and God declares us to be just and holy, acceptable as an heir.

Those who are justified already share in God’s glory.  We live in the now and not yet reality on this side of heaven.  For now we hold by faith that what God has promised is as good as done. Paul uses the past tense with all three verbs here, “called,” “justified, and “glorified.”

God has done absolutely everything necessary for our salvation.  In His mercy He foreknew us, predestined us, called us, justified us, and glorified us.  It has been accomplished in Christ.

How then do we respond to all of this?

Paul continues, 31 What can we say about all of this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 God didn’t spare his own Son but handed him over to death for all of us. So he will also give us everything along with him. 33 Who will accuse those whom God has chosen? God has approved of them. 34 Who will condemn them? Christ has died, and more importantly, he was brought back to life. Christ has the highest position in heaven. Christ also intercedes for us.”

Joseph’s story that we talked about earlier, foreshadows the story of another favored Son, betrayed by loved ones, accused of crimes he didn’t commit, sentenced to punishment and forgotten by his father.  He too suffered greatly, took out punishment and died a horrible death, but he heard the groans of his children, destroyed deaths power and was elevated to the right hand of his father and provides life giving food for us in his body and in his blood, and the living water of his word.  This grace is what God had planned in advance. 

Paul uses a string of rhetorical questions here and are not as “iffy” as they might seem on the surface.  We could rightly say, “Since God is for us…”

These rhetorical questions demand a powerful and even defiant challenge, No One is against us!
Moving on, 35 What will separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can trouble, distress, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or violent death separate us from his love? 36 As Scripture says:
“We are being killed all day long because of you.
    We are thought of as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Paul doesn’t give the Romans, or us, any assurance that things like trouble, distress, persecution or famine won’t happen to us.  Rather he operates with the assumption that they will happen.  He cites Scripture to support his point.  With his quotation he’s saying that our situation is exactly like the one the psalmist wrote about in Psalm 44:22: We’re like sheep being led to the slaughter.  Not should that surprise us.  Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

The situation looks desperate, but will it separate us from our Savior-God?  Paul answers, 37 The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties. 38 I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces 39 or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation.”

Far from being overcome, we are the ones who will overcome and be the conquerors.  In fact, Paul promises even more!  Literally, he says that we will be “hyper-victorious,” or “super-conquerors.” 

That, however is no credit to us, because it will not come about by anything we do.  It will not be accomplished by our love and devotion to the Lord.  It will not be granted to us because we have suffered.
Rather, it is entirely the other way around.  We’re conquerors “through him who loved us.”

It is because of the love of God in Jesus Christ that no evil forces and no dimension can offset or counterbalance the love God has for us.
Perhaps the words of the song “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” speak to this wonderful truth:
How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
The deep love of the Father has made us hyper victorious in Christ.  It is a message of grace beyond measure.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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