Romans 8:17-39

Paul continues with his teaching that we are co-heirs with Christ sharing everything with Him; His suffering and His glory. Paul says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Paul’s point, our present troubles, heartaches, sufferings are “light and momentary” when compared to the eternal peace and glory that will be revealed in us. This reminds me most of being pregnant and enduring hours of labor resulting in the wonder of birth and the miracle of a newborn life. However we all know of those unfortunate women who literally suffer morning sickness their entire pregnancy, or days and days of labor before birth and tragically some who endure all this only to have their precious child die. It is hard to understand that we could call this “light and momentary”, that seems heartless. But Paul is not making light of our sufferings, instead He is amplifying the eternal and the glory. I soon forgot the hours of labor and discomfort when I saw the face of my newborn son and we have the assurance that the unimaginable glory we will see with Jesus will make all our suffering and troubles pale in significance.

Paul tells us that along with us “creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” We know from Genesis that the entire creation was subjected to the curse because of man’s sin, because Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan over what God told them, we have thorns and thistles, weeds and sweat and we toil all the days of our lives. An important principle is revealed here: when we sin, the consequences do not rest on us alone, everything in our life, our family and our environment is effected by our willful disobedience.

Creation waits; it groans and suffers along with mankind, waiting for the time when it will be set free from sin, death and weeds when Christ Jesus returns. At that time we, creation and believers, will be restored to the way God created us to be. Therefore, “we eagerly wait for it with endurance”.

We all know that this hopeful waiting is easier said than done, but we are confident that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness”, interceding for us with the Father, searching our hearts and minds, expressing things we cannot do on our own. We know God knows and judges our every thought and our true intentions revealing our sins, but here we learn and are assured that He also knows every good thought and pure intention and that the Holy Spirit continually intercedes for us.

“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose”, it is important to note that the “good” here is that which conforms us to Christ, this is not my list of good things I want, this is the good that God wants for me. God brings good things out of all things, even tragedies, persecution and sufferings. Here is how The Message explains this truth, “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good”.

This next verse is one that people get all worked up over debating what the words “foreknew” and “predestined” really mean. “Because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters”. Take careful notice of what we are predestined to be in this verse, “to be conformed to the image of his Son”, this is our life’s purpose; it is all about what God is doing and has done for those who are “His children”. This is how The Message explains it: “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him”.

Here is God’s plan for us: we are called, we are justified, we are conformed to be like Jesus and we are glorified (sanctified) – ultimately with God’s purpose and plan we will no longer “fall short of the glory of God”.

Paul concludes this chapter with a series of questions and answers. God who gave the supreme gift of His Son to save us will also graciously do whatever it takes to complete His work in me. No charges will be brought against believers, because God has already declared us “not guilty”, just as if I never sinned. Jesus Christ who is seated next to the Supreme Judge is interceding for us. Nothing can separate believers from the love of God; in fact in “all things” we have complete victory through him who loved us! Paul ends this section on sanctification with a very powerful statement, there is nothing in all creation (think of all those evils so powerfully at work in the world today) can ever drive a wedge between the loving God and His redeemed people – Absolutely Nothing!

Romans 8:1-17

Romans 8 begins and ends with powerful statements: “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” Believers, those who are “in Christ”, need no longer fear the punishment that comes from the Law because all of our sins, past, present and future have been dealt with on the cross of Calvary.

Up to this point in Romans we have been saturated with the vital truth about our world and ourselves. There is no one righteous, not even one; the whole world will be held accountable to God and no one will be declared righteous by the works of the law. Even though we continue to struggle with sin, that struggle does not have to defeat us, it can be resolved.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” We who believe are set free from the law of sin and death; we are free from the controlling power of sin which ultimately produces death. We are no longer condemned because we are justified by faith.

The Law is powerless against the pervasive effects of sin, the Law shows us what sin is, it condemns sin and even stimulates sin, but it could never completely remove sin and make us righteous before God. Our sinful human nature is hostile to God, “for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so.”

But God found a way to restore us to right relationship with Him, “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” God sent his only Son, Jesus, to be the perfect Lamb of God, as a sin offering to willingly take our place. “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) In this way Jesus fulfilled all the righteous requirement of the law for us.

This requirement has been met for all those who live according to the Spirit. Paul presents two mind sets, “those who live according to the flesh” as opposed to those who walk according to the Spirit. The sinful nature is hostile to God, their thinking is shaped by the flesh – earthly things, they will not submit to God which leads to death. In contrast those who are “in Christ” are shaped by the things of the Spirit have a future of life and peace as they please God, because the Spirit of God lives in them.

Our physical bodies are still subject to death; this is the consequence of sin in the world. But our spirit (soul), is indwelt by the life-giving Holy Spirit therefore we need not despair, because even though we are physically dying our inner spirit in being renewed day by day. “Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.”

We have this promise of the resurrection of our mortal bodies that has been guaranteed to believers by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Therefore our responsibility right now is to live a Spirit-controlled life; a Christian is to refuse to follow the inclinations and desires of the flesh, the things that are hostile to God.

Paul states another promise, “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” People become children of God through faith in God’s unique Son and being led by God’s Spirit is the assurance of this special relationship. The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship; we who believe are all adopted sons by grace, with full rights and privileges of inheritance, co-heirs with Christ. What amazing gift that Christ Jesus would share his inheritance, his glory with me!

Romans 7

Paul continues with his explanation and discussion about sanctification, this is the process we all go through in becoming more like Jesus and less like our sin-nature ancestor Adam. We are still circling around the age old question, Why can’t I just keep on sinning, remaining in my natural sin-filled life, because I am covered by God’s Grace?

Paul now applies the illustration of marriage to a believer and the Law. He explains, “The law is lord over a person as long as he lives” like “a woman is bound to her husband for as long as he lives”. When the first husband dies, she is free to marry again without committing adultery. The first husband represents our old sinful self, which has died when we accept Christ; we are now “in Christ” representing the “new husband”. Galatians 2:20 further explains this concept: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.

We died to the Law through the sacrifice and redemption of Jesus, so that we could be joined to another, to the very one who rescued us from sin and death, Christ Jesus. Believers are united with Christ, and only those who are in Christ can bear spiritual fruit. Like a widow can bear children with a new husband.

Therefore, we are no longer enslaved to our “first husband” (sin), “But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us”. Now we are free to serve Jesus fully in a “new life of the Spirit”.

Next Paul answers another natural question, “Is the law sin? Absolutely not!” The Law is not sinful simply because it makes us aware of what is sinful. The Law is similar to an X-ray machine that reveals a tumor. The machine itself is not bad because it reveals something bad.

Paul follows up with an example from his personal life, “For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” What a perfect example, everyone who is honest would have to admit that he or she has broken this commandment at some point in their life. Our culture has promoted coveting as a popular philosophy and lifestyle; daily we are bombarded with social media and advertisements that promote coveting. Paul’s point, God’s Law shows us what is right and what is wrong, when we truly work to understand God’s commands we soon realize how far we have fallen from His commands. “The outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so”.

“Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me. By hiding within God’s good commandment, sin did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own”. The Message

Here is the hard truth we all deal with, Paul says, “For we know that the law is spiritual—but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want—instead, I do what I hate”. Sadly, believers still have sinful desires, even though we have committed our life to Christ and the Spirit continually works in our hearts. Our inner Adam continues to seek to claim what it considers “his” property even after we have become a Christian; Paul says, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! … Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” The Message

Romans 6

In Romans chapters 6-8 Paul begins his discussion about sanctification. Sanctification refers to the process a believer goes through to become more like Christ; to sanctify is literally “set apart for particular use in a special purpose or work and to make holy or sacred”. Sanctification is the lifelong process of making us holy, in our actions, our thoughts and in our inner most feelings – a life time of WWJD (what would Jesus do?).

This next chapter begins with the age old question or rationalization, since I am saved by Grace, can I just keep on sinning being assured that I am covered by Grace. This question pops up quite naturally from Paul’s previous statement “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Their concern was that Paul’s teaching on “justification by faith alone” would lead to moral decay. However, justification was not intended as a license to sin, but as liberation from sin. It is God’s gracious provision not only to be declared righteous but to live righteously.

Paul explains his definitive answer, “Absolutely Not!” with a long discussion on death, baptism and Christ. Do you not know that you were buried with Christ through baptism into death? Baptism is a picture of what happens when we are united with Christ through faith, the old sinful self is buried in water; the new believer is raised with Christ – a new creation.

This concept can be very confusing for us in our current church culture, in New Testament times baptism closely followed conversion so much so that it was considered one event. Furthermore we have examples from scripture of believers receiving the Holy Spirit prior to receiving water baptism and believers who knew only water baptism needing to be taught about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Our current Christian culture seems to separate conversion into three events, belief, baptism and being filled by the Holy Spirit. As if it is a task that we do with human ceremonies accomplishes the work Christ has already completed once for all. We are reminded that Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “today you will be with me in paradise” without any of the usual human ceremonies implemented.

Baptism is visible symbol of our heart belief and confession of faith, much like circumcision was for Abraham. Remember Abraham was counted as righteous for his faith fourteen years before he was circumcised. Thus when we affirm our faith, we are dead to sin, because Christ conquered sin and we are united with Him – His victory is our victory – sin no longer has a claim on us! Note that Paul did not say that it is impossible for a Christian to sin or that sin no longer appeals to us. Paul means it is avoidable and detrimental to habitually practice it. God did not send his Son to the cross so that sinners could continue to sin and be forgiven; God sent his son so that sin would be defeated and removed from the earth. The gospel doesn’t just offer “covered up” for sin, it offers deliverance from sin’s grip on us and the world.

“Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.” We are a new creation; we are finished with sin and are now alive in Christ.

“Christian living depends on Christian learning; duty is always founded on doctrine. If Satan can keep a Christian ignorant, he can keep him impotent” Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Right: How to be Right with God, Yourself, and Others.

Continuing Paul writes, “For the death He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God. So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus”. We are to live continually in the understanding of this truth, if we believe that sin no longer has that power over us, we will be able to flee from sin and live full lives in Christ.

For me this verse from In Christ Alone says it all: “And as He stands in victory. Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me. For I am his and he is mine. Bought with the precious blood of Christ. No guilt in life, no fear in death. This is the power of Christ in me”.

Paul calls for the believer to become in practice what he has already gained in position – dead to sin and alive to Christ. We are to refuse to allow sin to reign in our life instead we are to offer our lives as a continual sacrifice to be used by God for righteousness. Instead of being slaves to sin we are to be slaves to righteousness. We have been redeemed by Christ and are now free to choose our Master; we now become a willing slave to righteousness. This is the sanctification process: know that sin has no power over the believer, choose to be dead to sin and alive to Christ, offer yourself as a willing slave to righteousness and follow God’s way not your own.