What Would Be God’s Response to Present Trials and Sufferings?

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Regarding our last blog, the apostle Paul now asks what should be said in response to the readers’ present sufferings, the glory to be revealed, and God’s perfect plan and purposes in salvation. Well, just this: If God is for us and on our side, who can truly and successfully be against us (Rom.8:31)?  *cf. Rom.8:33,35,37,39*

God, who had not spared His own Son but had delivered Him up unto death for us all–God is for us!,–how will He not also along with Him freely give us everything else that is needful for our welfare in all circumstances and situations (v.32)?   *cf. Jn.19:15-16;  Eph.5:2,25*

Who will bring a charge against the chosen ones [or, elect] of God since God doesn’t accuse them? In fact, if we think about it, God is the One who pronounces them righteous [or, justifies them] (v.33)!   *Acts 26:2,7//Lk.18:3,6-8*

So, who then, is the one passing sentence on, and condemning them/us? Is it Christ? No! In fact, He is the One who has died for them/us, yea, rather who has been raised from the dead, and who is also at the right hand of God, which is the place of highest honor and power. Jesus is also the One, who intercedes for us, pleading our case, and is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him. (v.34)  *I Cor.11:31-32//Heb.7:23-25*

Though we will unavoidably face suffering, who will ever separate us from Christ’s love for us? Will trouble, or difficulty, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword of our enemies (v.35)?   *Rom.8:36-39//Eph.3:16,18// Rev.1:4-6; Rev.2:9-10; 7:14; II Cor.12:10; 11:26-27; Heb.11:32-40*  Just as it is written in Psalm 44:22, FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE KILLED [or, WE FACE DEATH] ALL THE DAY LONG, WE HAD BEEN REGARDED AS SHEEP FOR SLAUGHTER (v.36).  *ct. II Cor.6:3-4,9// cf. Acts 8:32*

Nothing like that can separate us from Christ’s love. In fact, in all these afflictions we more than conquer with an overwhelming and surpassing victory over our trials and adversaries through the One who has loved us. (v.37).  *cf. Rom.12:21; I Jn.2:13-14; 5:4; Rev.12:11//cf. Gal.2:20*

The apostle Paul is absolutely convinced–and so should we be–that neither death, nor life here on earth with its trials and pleasures, neither angels, nor principalities, neither things present, nor things to come, nor powers (v.38),  *II Cor.1:9-10; I Cor.15:51-57; Eph.6:12; Gal.1:4* nor height above, nor depth below, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed and found in Christ Jesus our Lord (v.39)!!   *Rom.8:35-38//cf. Rom.5:5; ct. Lk.11:42//cf. Jude 21; ct. Isa.59:1-2; Heb.7:26//I Tim.1:13-14; II Tim.1:13* Amen and amen!!

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I Mean, To What Point Do We Know How to Pray, Anyway? (Rom.8:26-30)

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In our last blog the apostle Paul said that both we and creation groan and wait in hope for the coming glory. Now, in these verses he reminds us that in the same way, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts, also helps us in our weakness in prayer. How? By joining His activity with our frailty because we really don’t know what we should pray for in various situations and circumstances. It’s the indwelling Holy Spirit Himself who intercedes in our hearts for us with groans that can’t be expressed in words; He does this so that we come in line with God’s purposes. (8:26).   *Zech.12:10//II Cor.12:8-9; Lk.10:40//Eph.6:18; I Cor.14:15; Mt.6:5-13; Mk.11:23-26; Lk.18:1-8; Ja.5:13-18//cf. I Sam.1:13*
At the same time, the Father, who searches our hearts, knows from the Holy Spirit’s groanings what is on His mind or what His intentions are. The fact is, He is always interceding for the saints in harmony with God’s will, and so He helps us pray according to God’s will–no matter what the circumstances (v.27).   *cf. Rom.8:34; Heb.7:25*
So, even though we don’t know particularly what we should pray for, we still know that for those who love God, He works all things together for good, whether its sufferings inflicted on us or the things we hope for. What He works for good is also in connection with His perfect plan, as well as our becoming Christ-like. He does this for those who are called according to His purpose in salvation; (v.28)   *cf. Ja.1:12; I Cor.2:9; Ja.2:5//cf. I Cor.1:23-24//Eph.1:11; II Tim.1:9*
Notice this: In God’s purpose, those who love Him, and whom He foreknew [or, knew beforehand; cf. Rom.11:2], He also predestined [or, predetermined] them to be conformed to the image [or, inner likeness] of His Son, in order for Him to be the first-born (preeminent in position and rank) among a vast family of many brothers and sisters;  (v.29)   *Rom.8:30//II Cor.3:18; Col.3:10//cf. Ex.4:22*
and those whom He predestined to be conformed to Christ’s image, these also He called by His grace through the Gospel [Lk.14:16-24]; and those whom He called, these He also justified freely by His grace through faith in Christ [Rom.3:21-24,28,30; II Thes.2:13-14; II Tim.1:9];  and these whom He justified by faith apart from works of the law, these He also glorified to a heavenly dignity and condition, although it has not yet happened–even so it is still considered as good as done. (v.30)  Hallelujah!   *II Thes.2:14; ct. Lk.14:16-24//Rom.8:18; 3:24,28*

Suffering and Expected Hope (Rom.8:17-25)

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Think about this: If we are children evidenced by a transformed heart and life, then we also are heirs of the Kingdom with the confident expectation of eternal life–heirs, in fact, of God Himself, who is the heritage of His people. We also are co-heirs with Christ, if so be that we share in His sufferings in order that we also might be glorified with Him hereafter. (v.17)  *Heb.1:2; Gal.4:6-7; Titus 3:7; Ja.5:7//Phil.1:29; I Pe.2:21-23; 4:12-14; cf. Rev.2:10//Phil.3:8-11; I Jn.3:2; cf. Rom.8:9*

All this is because the apostle Paul considers the endured suffering that was experienced at that present time was not worth comparing with the coming glory that is to be revealed in us and to us (v.18).  *II Cor.1:3-7; cf. Col.1:24; Heb.10:32-37; I Pe.4:13; 5:8-10//I Pe.5:1*

And think about creation: The earnest expectation of the entire creation waits eagerly on tiptoe, so to speak,  for the time of the revelation of the sons of God, that is, our future glorification (v.19)!   *cf. Col.3:4*

It waits eagerly because the creation has been subjected to frustration/futility in not fulfilling the purpose for which it was created. It did not experience this by its own choice but because of God who subjected it—yet it was still done in hope (v.20)  *Gen.3:17-19; Rom.5:12; cf. Isa.24:5-6*  that the creation itself will also be set free from its bondage to decay, and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children (v.21);   *cf. Col.2:21-22; Rev.22:3-5* because we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain as in childbirth, right up until now in its decay and incompleteness, since it hasn’t fulfilled its purpose (v.22).   *cf. Jer.12:10-11*

Not only does creation groan and travail, but also we ourselves do. We, who have the foretaste of the Spirit, groan inwardly with anguish as we wait eagerly for the realization of the full adoption as sons and daughters–that is, the future redemption of our body (i.e., the resurrection) (v.23),   *cf. II Cor.5:1-5//Rom.8:19//cf. Rom.8:15*

It’s in this hope that have been saved. However, the object of hope that is seen is not hope at all. For what any one already sees, why would he still hope for it (v.24)? But if what we do not see we hope for, then, says Paul, with patience and perseverance we keep on waiting eagerly for it (v.25)!!  *Gal.5:5; Phil.3:20-21*

Debtors and the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:12-17)

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Since the Holy Spirit has freed the Christian disciple from the controlling influence of Sin and Death, we are debtors–under obligation to the Spirit, to live according to Him–but not to the flesh, to live according to the dictates of the flesh (Rom.8:12).  *Rom.8:3-5,13*

If you or I are living according to the flesh, Paul says that we are certainly going to die spiritually, but if by means of the enabling power of the Spirit (and not the Law), we continually put to death the outward actions of the body we will spiritually live now and eternally (v.13). Remember that the body used to be the instrument of Sin, used to satisfy fleshly or carnal desires. But we are not under law, so by the Spirit we can renounce and abstain from such actions of the body (which is now the temple of the Holy Spirit), ending our relation to them, and in these ways we can continue to be led by God’s Spirit. That’s why we do not have to present any part of our body to Sin to be used as a weapon for the purpose of unrighteousness, and we do not have to let Sin rule in our mortal body to obey its desires.   *Rom.8:4-5,12//cf. Rev.3:2//Gal.5:25; cf. Rom.8:14; 15:16; Gal.5:5//cf. Rom.7:4//cf. Col.3:9//II Cor.5:10//Mt.5:28-30; Rom.6:6,12; Ja.3:2-6; cf. I Pe.2:11; Col.2:23; I Cor.6:20//Gal.5:16-21*

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God (and so are not under the law), these alone are sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ (v.14);   *Gal.5:16-21//Gal.3:26-27* Why is this so? Because the fact is, is that we have not received the spirit of bondage, being enslaved to the law, which leads us back again into fear when convicted of sin, judgment and the wrath to come, but we believers have received the Spirit of adoption as sons and daughters, and we were redeemed from being under the law. It is by the Spirit who is in our hearts that we cry out to God, “Abba, Father!” (v.15)   *Gal.5:1//Heb.2:15//Gal.4:5-9; Eph.1:5; cf. Rom.8:23//Gal.4:6; cf. Mk.14:36*

The indwelling Spirit Himself testifies or bears witness together with our spirit (assuring us with a supernatural spiritual sense in His gracious, holy way of what is already revealed in the Word) that we are children of God (v.16);   *Jn.1:12-13; I Jn.3:1-2,10; Phil.2:14-15*  and if we are children (evidenced by a transformed heart and life), then we are also heirs of the kingdom with the confident expectation of eternal life—heirs, indeed, of God (God Himself being the heritage of His people), and co-heirs with Christ—if in fact we suffer with Him, sharing in His sufferings now in order that we might also share His glory hereafter (v.17).   *Heb.1:2; Gal.4:6-7; Titus 3:7; Ja.5:7//Phil.1:29; I Pe.2:21-23; 4:12-14; cf. Rev.2:10//Phil.3:8-11; I Jn.3:2; cf. Rom.8:9*

What the Law Couldn’t Do… (Rom.8:1-11)

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In light of our Deliverer who rescued us from the dominion of Sin and from being under the Law, there is now no condemnation at all in this life and especially at the Judgment to those of us who are in Christ Jesus–there is rather a verdict of justification which brings life (v.1)! And why is this so? Because the controlling influence  of the Spirit of life which is in Christ has freed us from the controlling influence of Sin and of Death (to become bond-servants of obedience to God which leads to righteousness) (v.2)   *Rom.5:16-18//Gal.4:31-5:1; cf. Jn.8:32,36; Rom.6:18,22*

The law could not free us from Sin, Death and final condemnation because it was weak through the flesh (the unregenerate nature of human beings). But God broke the power of Sin by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and to be the one sacrificial offering for sin. By this, God condemned the Sin that dwells in the flesh as Jesus bore it when He hung on the Cross (v.3). God passed a judicial sentence on this enslaving master, deposing it of its claims, dominion and power, and committing it to eventual destruction.  *Heb.10:6-12; 13:11//cf. Rom.7:5,17-18; Eph.2:15*

What was the purpose in God doing all of this?  In order that the real aim of the Law–the righteous requirement of the Law and what it demands of all people, (i.e., love)–might be fulfilled in us, who are not walking according to the flesh, but are rather living according to the Spirit who directs, rules and empowers us to love God and our neighbor, thus producing His fruit in our lives as we continue to surrender and rely on Him (v.4).   *Gal.5:14; Rom.13:8-10; Jn.15:14; cf. Mt.5:19-20; Rom.2:25-26//Rom.8:5,12-13; Gal.5:13-15*

Those who walk according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh (earthly things, including lusts and “self’s” desires and deeds), but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds and attention on the things of the Spirit (the things above, God’s interests and purposes, and what pleases and delights Him). (v.5)  *Rom.8:6-7; Rom.13:14; Gal.5:16-19; Phil.3:19;  Eph.2:3; II Pe.2:10,18; I Jn.2:16//Col.3:2; Mk.8:33; Rom.12:16*

For the mind set on the flesh brings death (here and hereafter), but the mind set on the Spirit brings life and peace (now and forever) (v.6);    *Rom.8:7//cf. Rom.8:27//Gal.6:8//cf. Eph.4:3*   Why? Because the mind of the flesh is hostile toward God, because it’s not subject to obey God’s law, neither can it be obedient to the law (v7)!   *cf. Gal.5:20; Ja.4:4//ct. I Pe.2:13//cf. I Jn.4:20*    Those who are in the flesh cannot, therefore, please God (v8).   *cf. Rom.7:5; ct. Rom.8:9//ct. I Thes.4:1*  “in the flesh”—Rom.7:5; 8:8-9; cf. Phil.3:3-4.
But as the apostle told the church in Rome, you are not in  the flesh with its fleshly mindset but you are in the Spirit, provided [or, if so be] the Spirit of God dwells in you; but if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ—he or she does not belong to Christ (v.9).   *Rom.8:8//Gal.5:16,25; 3:3; Col.1:8; Phil.3:3; Jude 20; cf. I Cor.6:11//I Cor.3:16; Rom.8:11*

But if for the sake of argument Christ  lives in you, even though your physical, mortal body is dead because of Adam’s sin, yet the Spirit is life-giving [or, your spirit is alive] because of saving righteousness due to Christ’s gracious act on Calvary (v.10);   *cf. Ja.2:26//Rom.8:6; cf. Jn.6:63*   and if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then this One who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who is dwelling in you.   *Rom.8:9; I Cor.3:16//Rom.4:17; Jn.5:21; I Cor.15:53-54//II Tim.1:14*    Praise the Lord!

 

“according to the flesh”—Rom.8:4-5,12-13;  “according to the Spirit”—Rom.8:4-5; “to mind”—Mt.16:23; Rom.12:3,16; Phil.2:5; 3:15,19; Col.3:2.  To “walk according to the flesh” (vss.4-5) appears to mean to live by rules and traditions handed down (cf. Mk.7:5) or by certain customs (cf. Acts 21:21); to walk according to a human standards (I Cor.3:3), or according to the ways of the world (Eph.2:2). To “walk or live according to the Spirit” means to walk according to love (cf. Rom.14:15) and God’s commandments (II Jn.6); it is expressed in the living examples of godly men and women (cf. Phil.3:17).  As believers love one another, God’s love is perfected in them (I Jn.4:12). It is also true that the Christian abides in Christ and He in her or him (I Jn.4:12-13), and the Holy Spirit dwells in them (Ja.4:5; cf. II Tim 1:14). It is the Spirit who provides and equips God’s people with all that is good to do His will by working in them what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ (Heb.13:20-21). This truth looks like a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer.31:33) and Ezekiel’s parallel promise (Ezek.11:19-20; 36:26-27).  The Christian life, therefore, is not walking by a new law or with a new freedom from the law but expressed by an inward desire and determination to obey the law given in the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Having a Law Mentality

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In our last blog we saw that the law is good and righteous. Now Paul says that the law also is spiritual (having its origin from the Spirit), but he is carnal, like an infant in Christ, having been sold under the rule and dominion of Sin (7:14). Why? I think it is  having put himself “under the Law,” Sin has become his master again (6:14).

What could be “signs” that he is under the Law? He carries out what he doesn’t fully comprehend because he practices what he does not resolve to carry out; in fact he does what he hates (v.15). Paul then reasons that if he carries out what he does not resolve to do, this shows that he agrees with the Law that it is good (v.16).

He is in such a state that it is as if it is no longer he who is carrying out what he resolves not to do, but rather the Sin as a power that dwells in Him, is ruling and dominating him like a master (v.17). Sound familiar to us? Paul further says that he knows that nothing good dwells in his flesh, because to resolve to do the good is present with him, but to carry out what is good is not there (v.18). How can he do the good since the sinful passions in his flesh are being aroused through the Law (vss.5,25)?

Paul admits that he does not do the good things that he resolves to do; in fact in does the very evil that he resolves not to do–this is what he is practicing (v.19). That’s why he came to the conclusion that if what he resolves not to do, he does, then it is no longer he who carries it out but the Sin dwelling in Him (v.20).

So, he finds this principle: When he resolves to do the good, the evil (principle or rule of Sin) is present with him (v.21), in his bodily members (v.23).  In reality, Paul delights in the Law of God according to his “inner man” (v.22) that is being renewed day-by-day, and that needs to be strengthened with power through His Spirit.  *II Cor.4:16; Eph.3:14,16*

Yet, the rule of Sin is waging a war against another principle: the controlling influence of his mind.  And the problem is that the principle of his mind is bringing him into captivity to the rule of Sin (v.23). What an agonizing situation that holds a person captive! No wonder Paul cries out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death (v.24)? (where Sin is arousing sinful passion through the law that will bring forth fruit unto death.)

So how does the apostle summarize these verses 14-24? Here is the best anyone can do–under the law. Paul, with his mind, where a war is being waged, serves the Law of God in the oldness of the letter;  but with his flesh, where nothing good dwells, he is enslaved to the rule of Sin that is exerting tyranny in his members. (v.25).  *Rom.7:23//cf. Rom.6:6; 7:6//Rom.7:5,18//Rom.7:23; 8:2*

Paul knows there is deliverance through Jesus Christ, who is his Lord (v.25)! But he is not there as long as he remains “under the law”. (Victory is found in chapter 8–our next blog)

The Law for the Christian: Is It Unholy, Unrighteous, and Bad? (Romans 7:1-12)

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Being set free from Sin, Paul tells the members of the Roman church that they are also no longer under law but under grace (6:14). Or are you not aware, brethren—for I am speaking to those who personally know the law, that the law has dominion and authority over a person only for the time he is alive (v.1)?   *Rom.5:20; 6:14-15; Gal.4:21*
Paul then gives an example of a married woman who has been bound by the marriage law to her living husband. If her husband should die, she has been released from the law concerning the marriage to her husband since the law no longer applies to her (v.2).   *I Cor.7:39//cf. Rom.7:6*
However, if she would be joined to another man while her husband is still alive, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband should die, she is free from the marriage law, and she isn’t considered to be an adulteress after having married another man (v.3).   *Rom.7:4*

4 It’s the same in your case, Paul says: Like the woman, you also have been put to death to the Law, having ended your relation to it–to its condemnation and as a means of righteousness–through by the crucified body of Christ, for you to belong to Another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God [i.e., the fruit of the Spirit or fruit of holiness] (v.4)    *ct. Rom.7:5//Lk.8:15; cf. Col.1:9-10*

[Just as believers died to the power of Sin, they also died to the power of the law. Being dead to the law is being dead to a system of motivation by law-striving. Being discharged from the law is not an end in itself, and it does not mean that the believer has nothing more to do with the law, cf. Mt.5:17-19. The law continues to teach us much that is indispensable about God’s holiness, and the holiness He expects of His people (Moo, 416). Christians, for example, are to carry the burdens of one another and in that way they will fulfill the law of Christ, Gal.6:2; cf. Ja.2:8; Rom.13:8-10; I Cor. 9:20-22.  But at the same time, we cannot become Christ-like through bringing back the law and obeying it. God wants internal transformation by the Holy Spirit, who will cause us to want to obey Him. The law is an external factor, and thus only brings external conformity.]

While we were still living in the flesh, its sinful passions that were aroused by the Law, were continually working in our bodily members to bringforth the fruit of evil works in rendering service to Death (v.4).   *Rom.8:5-9//Rom.7:18,25//cf. Gal.5:24//cf. I Cor.15:56; Rom.7:7-8//cf. Rom.7:23,25*  [“flesh”— σάρξ, sárks–here refers to unaided human effort, i.e. making decisions (actions) that originate from self or are empowered by self, independent of God’s in-working, and are done apart from faith. Flesh in this sense denotes fallen human nature which is the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence and even opposed to God and godliness.]

But now, it’s not that way.  We have been released from the Law and its stranglehold through Christ’s death, having died to that in which we were held under its authority and bondage, and condemnation, so that we now serve in a new way, under new spiritual conditions, obeying the promptings of the Spirit from the heart [i.e. , in newness that has its origin in the Spirit who gives life and righteousness, and no longer serving in oldness of the mere external letter of the law with its old code of written regulations and set of rules that only lead to condemnation and death, and is unable to produce righteousness] (v.7).   *Rom.7:2; cf. Eph.2:14-15//Gal.2:19-20; cf. Col.3:2-3//II Cor.3:5-9; Rom.8:2,5-6,11; cf. Rom.6:10//Gal.4:8-10; cf. Lk.5:36-38//Jer.31:31-34; Ezek.36:26-27* [The phrases “in spirit” and “in letter” are best explained by Rom.2:29 and II Cor.3:6-9.]

What shall we say then about the Law since sinful passions were exacerbated through it? Is the Law sin and thus not holy? Certainly not! Nevertheless Paul would not have known personally the existence and power of Sin if he had not come to know it through the Law; for instance, he would not have known coveting—what it really is, the desire or craving for what is forbidden, how wrong it is, and have a sense of guilt—if the Law had not said in Ex.20:17, “You shall not covet” (v.7).   *II Pe.1:4; cf. Eph.2:3; 4:22; Col.3:4-6; Rom.7:8//Rom.3:20; 7:5*
But Sin having found an opportunity to express itself through that commandment, took advantage, showed itself utterly sinful, and produced in Paul coveting of every kind (the desire for what is forbidden is exacerbated); for without consciousness of the law, Sin lies “dead,” showing no signs of life (v.8).   *cf. Rom.7:11//Rom.7:9,13//cf. Rom.7:20//Rom.7:9*
At one time Paul was “alive” when he wasn’t conscious of the law, but when the commandment to not covet was brought home to him, Sin “sprang to life” and he “died”(v.9); and he discovered that the very commandment which prescribes what is good, righteous and spiritual, and was meant to bring life and happiness, actually brought him death, guilt, and condemnation (v.10)   *Mt.19:16-17; Jn.12:49-50// Rom.7:11,13//Mt.19:16-17;29; Rom.2:7; cf. Ezek.20:11,13,21; 18:9,29; Ps.119:1-3,9,11,34,40,45,73,77,88, 104-105,115-116,128; Gal 3:21*
Why? Because Sin, having seized the opportunity through the commandment, had completely deceived him by producing coveting, and through it had “killed” him (v.11).   *Rom.7:8//II Cor.3:6*
12 Therefore, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good (v.12).   *Rom.7:7*