The final post in our series on Romans 8.
You’ve probably noticed by now that there was a lot of theology packed into the dozen verses we’ve looked at over the past week. And as good students of the Bible, we’ve spent some time dissecting them in the lab so we can learn about how the passage was put together. But just like biologists, although we’ve learned a lot from the dissection process, at the end of it we’re still left with a dead animal splattered all over the workbench. In some ways, the life can be taken out of the text.
Last week we saw Paul arguing for his thesis that God is working all for our good. We can be confident in the future hope Paul spoke of earlier in the chapter because:
Argument 1: God is in charge of the process from start to finish. It’s an unbreakable chain – those he foreknew will one day be glorified.
Argument 2: The cross demonstrated that God is on our side, and that he’s invested so much in us already that he’s hardly going to change his mind now. What’s more, we have the risen Jesus as our defence attorney.
Today, we come to his final argument, in the last five verses of the chapter:
We’re continuing in our series in Romans 8. Today follows directly on from yesterday’s post, which you’ll need to read to make sense of it.
Thus far, Paul has argued for his thesis that God is working all for our good by reminding us that God is in charge of the process from start to finish. As we saw yesterday, he’s the subject of all of the verbs in the sentence:
Romans 8:29-30 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
We’re continuing in our series in Romans 8…
Whenever a couple in my church is getting married, we do a marriage preparation course with them called Prepare. Part of that is a questionnaire that they both fill in separately, where they are asked to agree or disagree with a series of statements. One of the statements they have to agree or disagree with is this:
‘Nothing could cause me to question my love for my partner’
When the couple later compares responses, it usually provokes some interesting discussion.
Over the past two days we’ve seen Paul address the issue of suffering while we wait for the next (and final) installment of what God has in store for us, his children. The central message is that the glory that awaits us is so magnificent, our present suffering is not even worth comparing with it. This is because God is in the process of doing something universal in scope: the renewal of all creation. In fact, all creation groans (along with us) waiting to experience the finished product, where we – as God’s image-bearers – take our rightful place at the centre of it all. (BTW, if you’re joining us today, you really need to read the past two days for the next bit to make sense.)
Today, Paul sums up what he’s been saying thus far, in a very well-known and oft-quoted sentence:
Romans 8:28 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.
Yesterday, Paul (in verse 17) introduced the idea that, as good as life in the Spirit is, we will still experience suffering. Just like Jesus suffered before experiencing God’s glory, so will we. Yet Paul encouraged us by painting a picture of our future glory that is so… well, glorious… that our present sufferings aren’t worth comparing. God is preparing something big: a complete restoration of the whole of creation, in which we are the centrepiece. All of creation is waiting for us to take our place (again) as God’s image-bearers, when our glory is revealed. That’s how mind-blowingly big our future glory will be. So keep focused on that, says Paul, as you endure the sufferings of our in-between existence. It’s a bit like a woman in labour…
The pains of childbirth
Romans 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
So far, Romans 8 has been the “good news” chapter. It’s told us how God solved the problem of our sinful nature making it impossible to meet his standards: those standards have been met by Christ on our behalf, and we’ve been given the indwelling Spirit who conforms our desires to God’s – as we seek to live by the Spirit, not by the flesh. So far so good. But then Paul sent us for a spin in the final verse we read yesterday:
Romans 8:17 if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Continuing in our series in Romans 8…
Yesterday (Romans 8:1-11) we looked at the great truth that there’s no condemnation for us who are in Christ, because we’ve been set free from the law of sin and death. Those of us who are in Christ are led by the Spirit, and are therefore oriented towards obedience to God. Those who are not in Christ are still governed by the desires of the flesh, and are therefore not obedient to God. The Spirit, then, is the means by which “self-mastery” can be attained, rather than by the Jewish law or any other human means. It’s a gift, not an achievement.
Having spent a couple of days last week looking at what comes before it in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, we’re now (finally) ready to work through chapter 8. The initial question Paul answers is this one: how is our new life in Jesus going to be any different from the experience described in Romans chapter 7? Sure, we’re now justified/forgiven/at peace with God – but are we still condemned to a life of failure, knowing the good we ought to do but being unable to do it? Under the old covenant, the Law didn’t help us – all it did was condemn us; how will the new covenant be any different?
Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.