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.
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