A short series on Romans 8 – 11. Part 6.
Doctors and researchers now believe that COVID-19 will be with us indefinitely. Mutations and variants make it certain. How do we react?
“The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” Romans 8:18 informs us. The recipients of this letter dwelt in Rome, members of a mostly Gentile church peopled also with Jewish believers of means.
Priscilla, most likely from a Roman family, and Aquila, a Jew from near the Black Sea, appeared to host house churches in Rome, Ephesus, and Corinth. Their marriage illustrates the church of the mid- to late-first century — Jews and Gentiles together in the church and in marriage, God’s heirs revealed, one salvation after another, the entire creation waiting eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
The passage: Romans 8:18-25.
One day, the entire creation will be set free from our bondage to sin, death, and futility, finally obtaining the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Both the earth and the church itself, the body of Christ all groan together awaiting Jesus Messiah’s return, the redemption of our bodies, our adoption complete, the earth remade. We will be like him, for we will see him as he is. All will be made new.
The Spirit helps us in our waiting weakness, for we often don’t even know how to pray as we ought. Thankfully, the Spirit intercedes for us, according to the will of God, with groanings too deep for words.The Spirit helps us in our waiting weakness, for we often don't even know how to pray as we ought. Thankfully, the Spirit intercedes for us, according to the will of God, with groanings too deep for words. Click To Tweet
When we sit on the edge of a mountain, or in a forest of windblown trees stirred by the swirling currents around mountaintops, among steep peaks and sighing winds, we feel the groaning of the earth, the ache of anticipation all around us, the longing for the redemption that arrives with the coming of the Creator, the return to the wholeness of God’s feet once more upon the earth. For this, we yearn. Eagerly we await Christ’s return.We feel the groaning of the earth, the longing for the redemption that arrives with the coming of the Creator, the return to the wholeness of God's feet once more upon the earth. For this, we yearn. Eagerly we await Christ's return. Click To Tweet
The Spirit of the living God upholds us in our waiting, for we often don’t even know how to pray as we groan and sigh in anticipation of all being made right. We yearn for pandemics to cease, rioting to halt, politicians to stop equivocating, and human relationships to be harmonious.
“When!” we cry. “When?”
The Spirit knows, and the God who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, for there is unity and harmony among the Godhead.
“27 He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 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. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:27-31 ESV)."And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:28,31b ESV). Click To Tweet
Let’s look at the blue highlighted words, words that require investigation.
Predestined. What does this Biblical word mean? In Koine Greek — the language the New Testament was written in — προορίζω / proorízō means “to determine by decree beforehand, to decide beforehand, to predetermine, foreordain to be conformed to the image of his Son,” v. 29.
Foreknew. προγινώσκω proginṓskō means “To perceive or recognize beforehand, take into account or specially consider beforehand. Used of persons, to foreknow with approbation, to foreapprove or make a previous choice of, as special people (Rom. 8:29; 11:2).”
Justified. δικαιόω dikaióō; from díkaios means “just, righteous. To justify. Verbs which end in -óō generally indicate bringing out that which a person is or that which is desired. (VI) We are justified before God by Christ’s grace through faith (Titus 3:5-7)…With our justification God simultaneously performs the miracle of regeneration and changes our character.“
The source of the three definitions: Zodhiates, Spiros, ThD. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
“..We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal.2:16 ESV).
God is sovereign and omniscient. He knows all things past, present, and future, and he reigns over all. He foreknew us before the earth was even formed. A God like this, of course, knows who will turn to him and when and how. In fact, though it feels as if we do the deciding and choosing, he first foreordained/predestined that we would.
How free is our will? It turns out that our souls are persuadable.
Often without our awareness, God calls us to himself, and we respond. But not all do. There’s tension here, tension between his predestining and our accepting or rejecting. For God so loved the world that he gently woos and lovingly pursues. Those he foreknew accept his offer of himself. Yet many others choose to reject him.
I cannot fathom why anyone would choose to spend eternity away from God’s presence, in the darkness of our darkest selves, never able to see Jesus. The mere idea fills me with overwhelming grief and horror. It’s the worst possible reality, and to have a loved one ultimately reject God is the worst of the absolutely devastating worst possibilities.
We’ve been invited into the family of God. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29 ESV). He is the firstborn. By faith in Christ, we are now his fellow heirs.
God is in the act of transforming those who believe. We grow to resemble Jesus as we know him better. Because we are in Christ, we are justified — declared righteous by a judicial act of God, conformed to Christ’s image.
We are more than conquerors through him who loves us. The transition is complete when we see him face to face, but it begins now. God is in the process of sanctifying, transforming, and saving — a lifelong process. It is God who justifies. Who would dare, therefore, to condemn those for whom Christ died, who are redeemed by Jesus Messiah’s blood?
We don’t understand the whys, nor do we comprehend the wonder of God choosing to redeem and to save any of us, for we are all seriously flawed, filled with sin in thought, word, and deed. And yet these promises are eternally true.
Nothing whatsoever can ever separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus our Lord, not even death in the Colosseum as many first-century believers suffered — perhaps even Priscilla and Aquila. Not by any difficult, destructive, devastating, or tragic circumstance in our modern world. We will conquer because of Christ and what he promises us here.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39 ESV).
Even in death, we are conquerors in Christ Jesus. Our Lord keeps all of his promises. When God says he will do something, he does it.
In this era of spreading the message of Jesus Christ, still “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:2a ESV). The omniscient God, possessed of universal and complete knowledge, of course he knows his own, Jew or Gentile, even before we exist.
We feel our way toward him in the darkness, hoping perhaps to find him (Acts 17:26-27), and the Lord woos us, gently tugging us toward him. Find him, we will. Someone will preach or teach, maybe sing the words that are the key to our understanding. Perhaps a quiet mountainside or the birth of a child will open our hearts to God and his message of salvation. In love the Lord draws us close, each on our own unique path.
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:13-17 ESV).
Grace be with you as you seek him on your journey.
Previous Posts in this Series:
We were blind, but now we see. We don’t know why God chooses sight for some and not others, and why some seem to understand the gospel but don’t accept it. But I’m thankful for His mercy and grace. He waits patiently for us and He works out our life paths for His glory, even though the path is winding and strained. Thank you for these comforting truths.
It’s a wonder and a blessing that the Lord chooses any of us, for we are seriously flawed, sinners to the core. And yet, he loves us so much and wants to make us members of his own family! The road is often winding and strained, as you said, and the journey difficult, but the comfort of the Lord alongside is indeed a comforting truth.
It totally blows my mind how you can pull so many things from scripture….like greek meanings, ect,ect,ect…like in the beginning of this post…I don’t understand fully the meaning or difference of * many are called, but few are chosen*…I have my concordance next to my Bible and am constantly looking over one then the other….my short term memory is shot so I constantly highlight and write things down…I know the Lord uses me right where I am….and thank Him for believers all the time for those with a deeper understanding…I always meet people right where they are at, alot of times just dropping little tidbits that I know in my heart stick with certain people…like knowing they can only handle the baby food and not yet the steak yet. But just Wow in reading the knowledge you have in him…
The Holy Spirit in us reveals the meaning of God’s Word. He quickens our hearts and gives us comprehension. This is why all believers can read and meditate and understand. We pray, and the Lord helps us to know. I just happen to have study tools purchased for me by my church when I was writing their Bible Study material. Therefore, I can easily look up the Greek words and definitions. I think it is vitally important that we know what these significant words mean. It’s easy for people to misunderstand what the Lord is saying if we don’t know what words like “foreknew” and “predestined” mean in the original language written by the Apostle Paul for the Romans. Like you, my memory is developing cracks, especially in my short-term memory. We are old ladies now, Terri! 🙂 But the Lord loves us exactly as we are, and he will carry us home to him!
Melinda – so grateful for the clarity of your teaching as you “rightly divide the word of truth.”
Ava, so incredibly kind of you to say! The benefits of being a Precept Bible Study leader carry over into life for all of our days!
Definitely a word for us during this pandemic. Perhaps it will be the very pandemic itself that will draw some to believe in this amazing God who has chosen them before the foundation of the earth!
I hope so! And I believe so! Sometimes in hardships, we turn away from God, angry at what he has allowed, but then he uses that hardship and the turning to bring us back to him. Other times, we turn immediately to the Lord for help and comfort. I’m sure that there have been both of these responses during this pandemic and everything else in between.
Melinda, I would love to hear you speak. Your writing touches my soul. Thank you.
Melissa, thank you! Your kindness just made my day! I haven’t done a speaking engagement in so long, because my autoimmune disease impaired my ability to concentrate and to stand for long periods. I am doing better now, though, since I’ve been on medications for four years that slowly turn around my illness. You make me want to give it another try.
Thank you for deep into scripture and truth both are so very important to understand. Thanks for sharing this encouragement.
Thanks for stopping by to comment, Yvonne.
Melinda, thank you for not shrinking back from the difficult texts. So many cannot accept God’s sovereignty as described in this passage. My husband has often reminded me that because God can see all of history at once, His knowledge is very different from ours. Though His desire is that none would perish, yet He gives us the choice to accept or reject Christ as Savior.
Because He already knows who will receive Him, He causes all things to work together in their lives to bring about our ultimate good, which is to be carved into the image of Christ. To look like Christ will not be easy. Of that we can be sure. But it will be beautiful. When we remember that these sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory of Christ we will one day see… makes me realize His glory will be so incredible. One thing is certain, none of us deserve His mercy. Our salvation in Christ is unequaled. Like you, I cannot imagine refusing such a gift.
At the same time, my heart aches as I read your words, for we have many loved ones who have openly refused Christ. I pray for them daily and wait for the Lord to open doors. We don’t know who is among the number which God already foreknew. So I endeavor to do what God asks of me, go into all the nations and make disciples of Jesus Christ, as He leads. Maybe we are the ones He is using to draw someone to Himself. The Lord is waiting until the very last one who will chose Him, will come. May we never give up. Jesus is worth it all.
Melissa, this letter to the Romans is such a blessing to the church, because it contains these rich and glorious truths. There’s so much we learn here in Romans about the Lord — who is he, what qualities he has, how he draws us to himself, how he already knew we would come, what his plans are for the church at the end of this age, and so, so, SO many things. Digging into the original languages reveals so much truth to us, for we have the definition of the actual word used by the Apostle Paul as he wrote the letter, rather than our own idea about what each of those words “might have” meant. Greek-speaking Doctors of Theology increase our certainty that we can understand the Word of God, for people like Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D., who compiled the Greek dictionary so many of us use for our study, make clear and plain the definitions of those difficult words like “foreknew” and “predestined,” etc. I want to know exactly what God the Holy Spirit inspired for us to know about God’s work and God’s words, and so I feel it is necessary to be familiar with these tools.
Your husband’s explanation of what it means to foreknow is a beautiful and 100% clear definition, for he stepped outside just our own lives, and brought into it a broader view of all of history at once. God sees it all. Every single bit of us, therefore, he knows what is best. He knows who will come. He knows how to woo us. He knows how to work all things together for our good. And, he definitely knows the outcome. Thank you, Melissa, for sharing all of this here!
Melinda, what an in-depth study of this passage in Romans. Romans 8:29 has been a verse I come back to time and again. God conforms those who believe into the image of His Son. There’s so much hope and encouragement in this truth.
“God is in the act of transforming those who believe. We grow to resemble Jesus as we know him better. Because we are in Christ, we are justified — declared righteous by a judicial act of God, conformed to Christ’s image.”—Yes and amen!
Jeanne, these passages in Romans are some of my favorite as well, especially the section in Romans 8:28 – 39. There are so, So, SO many glorious truth about God’s love and grace, his sovereignty, his goodness, and his promises of eternity and of carrying us through, so that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. These are words we need so desperately! Thank you for adding your thoughts here.
What wonderful encouragement you give us. He is with us. And we will soon be completely with Him. In the meantime, He advocates for us. Thanks, Melinda!
Thank you for adding your thoughts, Nancy! Won’t it be wonderful when we are soon completely with him! Having the advocacy of Christ Jesus is one of our greatest treasures!
Putting all my hopes in Jesus and in God’s holy Word. We know he is working all out for the good and we can trust Him to do it.
Yes, we can, Janice! His kindness in coming to live for us, to rise for us, and to ascend, so that we can come to him to have life everlasting when we repent of our sins and commit our lives entirely to him is an incredible blessing. He alone gives us the ability and the grace to be more than conquerors!
Melinda, I love this part of your article,
“The Lord woos us, gently tugging us toward him. Find him, we will. Someone will preach or teach, maybe sing the words that are the key to our understanding. Perhaps a quiet mountainside or the birth of a child will open our hearts to God and his message of salvation. In love the Lord draws us close, each on our own unique path.”
I know this to be ever so true. When we set our minds to be attentive to the Spirit, he will speak. He shows up in the most minute or large circumstance or word. When he does this, I feel so loved by him. 🙂 Great article! 🙂
Thank you for your kind words, Marcie! It’s such a blessing to be able to write about the Lord, and these chapters from Romans that are so rich with truth and filled with so many great and precious promises about our salvation, God’s grace, the Advocate we have in Christ, and the fulfillment of God’s promises. What blessed people are we to be members of Christ’s body, his family, born again, citizens of heaven!
Melinda, I always appreciate your wisdom and insight on these passages often debated, questioned or misunderstood. Especially “predestined and foreknew.” And love this powerful reflection:
How free is our will? It turns out that our souls are persuadable.” Yes, yes, they are! I want my soul persuaded only by the Holy Spirit and the holy Scriptures!
Isn’t it wonderful that our souls are persuadable, Karen! We may think we don’t need the Lord. We may think we’re fine, and yet our soul is in need of his healing, his renewal, and his salvation. I’m so glad that my soul could be persuaded, no matter what was required to bring me to my senses, so that I could recognize my need for a Savior.