THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE ROMANS
The Way to Experience Godís Righteousness (Part Two)
Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:
Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)
I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)
(12) So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh; (13) for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die, but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (14) For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (15) For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a Spirit of adoption as sons, by which we cry out: "Abba, Father." (16) The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (17) and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ if indeed with suffer with Him in order that we may be glorified with Him.
In Rom. 8:12-17 Paul addresses some of the ramifications, even benefits, for Christians who now have the Spirit of Christ living in them, that is for those who are "in Christ." According to 8:12 because Christians have the Spirit living in them, what are they obligated NOT to do?
Now Paul does not say what we are obligated to do although that was what he was about to say. Look closely at 8:12. Paul tells us what we are obligated not to do. Knowing what we are not obligated to do, what then are we obligated to do?
In other words, the Spirit did not come into us in order to sit in us like a lump of coal. He came to live His life in you and me so that we can experience the life of Christ Himself. If the Christian is going to live consistently with what Christ has done for us, then he is going to live by the Spirit, that is, be led by the Spirit and be filled with the Spirit.
What happens to the person who lives according to the flesh (Rom. 8:13)? Does this principle apply to people who claim to be Christians? If so, why? If not, why not?
According to v. 14 what is the one essential characteristic of the son of God?
One other thing must be stated: now that we are sons of God, we are as much God's sons as Jesus is. Why? Because Jesus shares HIS sonship, we are as much God's son as Jesus is. That is thoroughly mind-boggling. To be sure He will always be the favored Son (all creation will bow before Him one day confessing Him to be Lord), but we nevertheless as as much God's sons as Jesus is now because of what Jesus did for us. As the great church father Athansius declared: "For He became man that we might become divine" (On the Incarnation).
Moreover, it is the exact term which Jesus used to address His Father in the gospels. The early disciples were so impressed that Jesus would address God so intimately with this term because the Jews were taught from birth to treat and think of God as only a transcendent being. In fact, they ended up making Him so transcendent that they forget how to pronounce His name, YHWH, the very name He had given to them so that they could in a close relationship with Him. Because of this, the disciples were so impressed that Jesus addressed His way so intimately with this term that they preserved the term in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke while on earth, instead of only translating it into Greek as they did the rest of Jesus' words. This term should be that impressive to us.
In v. 17 Paul expands upon what it means to be a child of God. If we are God's children, according to v. 17 what also is true of us?
What must happen before a son can inherit something from his father (Heb. 9:16)?
Now apply this to God. In order for us to inherit all that God has for us, God has to die. The cross then is the place where God died and thereby triggered the will. We have not fully received everything God has willed to us at this point; however, because the Spirit now lives in us, we are beginning to taste that inheritance.
Below is a table with a list of verses which describe what we will inherit because we are God's sons. Match the proper inheritance listed below with the proper verse: bodies like Jesus', reign with Christ, made alive with Christ, inherit the earth.
|Phil. 3:21||bodies like Jesus'|
Everything sounds good up to this point. We are made sons of God because the Spirit of God's Son has come to live in us. We are going to inherit everything that Jesus inherited because now we are just as much God's sons as Jesus is. Now Paul has to go and spoil it all and say: "if indeed we ____________ with Him in order that we may be glorified with Him" (8:17).
How is suffering related to sonship? One of the key ingredients to a son's relationship to his father is trust. Children just simply trust their parents. If that is true on the earthly level, then how much more true should that be on the spiritual level. If we are going to be fully realized sons of God, then we are going to have trust our heavenly Father.
Well, suffering not only tests our faith; it also strengthens that trust. Sure it is easy to trust God when everything is fine, but what about when the bottom falls out. Can we really trust God that He is still going to see us through the suffering to victory? Do we really believe He still knows what He is doing whenever we suffer? God loved the 40 years the Israelites spent in the wilderness because they had to learn to trust God.
Moreover, we are "perfected" through suffering. My mom was one of the godliest, most Christ-like persons I have ever met in my life. Was she that way because she had it so easy in life being married to a vice president of the world's largest food retail operation? No. On Feb. 1, 1988 I received a phone call from my mom at 6:20 a.m. telling me that her oldest grandchild had committed suicide. Fourteen months later her husband was stricken down with lung cancer. Four months later her mother died from Alzheimer's. Thirteen months later her baby daughter committed suicide.
When her baby daughter committed suicide, she went to the Lord and told Him that although she had been able to handle the other deaths, she couldn't handle this one. If He didn't get her through this, then she wouldn't make it. So much loss, one of the deaths alone being almost too hard to bear, and yet through the Lord's help, she not only "handled" it, she truly developed into one of the most beautiful Christian women I've ever known or probably will know. That is what a proper response to suffering can do for a person.
Do you need proof that sonship and suffering are linked together in God's plan? Next time you enter the church, look straight ahead and you will see the crucifix: God the Son suffering on the cross.
Paul introduced the topic of suffering in v. 17. In v. 18 Paul puts our sufferings into perspective. It is numbing to hear about the kinds of sufferings people, even Christians, sometimes suffer. I shudder when I think about the woman who hit the homeless man, sent him into her windshield, and left him to bleed to death. Or about the missionary in SE Asia who was kidnapped by terrorists and killed during a rescue attempt. Or about the little 7-year old boy in Ethiopia our local dentist couldn't work on because he was riddled with AIDS and any type of dental surgery could lead to an infection and definite death. Our reaction to this many times is "How can a loving God allow anybody, but especially His children, to undergo such horrors?" The reason we ask that question is that we are looking at sufferings from this point in life. Christians who have died have a totally different perspective on their sufferings: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not _____________ to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom. 8:18).
I attended a funeral in which the pastor spoke of the reality of death. He called it a ďrelocation program.Ē Basically the death of a loved one is similar to us standing on the shore watching a loved one sail away in a boat into the distant horizon. As the person sails away, that person diminishes in our eyes, but only in OUR eyes. That person is not getting smaller by any means. In fact, as that person approaches the other distant shore, s/he is getting larger and larger in the eyes of the people on the other distant shore. Moreover, they are about to experience a homecoming unparalleled in their lifetimes.
When we suffer, we need to appreciate the intensity of our sufferings and then multiply that intensity a hundredfold to understand how intense our joy will be when we go to be with Jesus. The depth of the suffering points to the height of joy we will experience in heaven.
Normally when we think of suffering, we think only of humans and animal pets as suffering. Paul though claims that suffering has touched the entire universe. According to v. 19 what is creation waiting for? What does the revealing of the sons of God refer to? How and when will we be revealed as sons of God? (1 John 3:2 may help you understand what Paul is saying here?)
According to v. 20 what was the creation (the entire material universe) subjected to? When did this happen? Did creation want this to happen to itself?
But why does nature suffer? Paul claims that it was subjected to futility, not of its own will. How and when did that happen?
Romans 8:18-25 actually finishes what Rom. 5:12-21 started: the cosmic nature of the work of the Second Adam (not to speak of the cosmic destruction the First Adam inflicted upon the universe). The First Adam didn't simply affect mankind; he affected the entire universe.
When you read Gen. 3 closely, you will see that the punishment which fell upon Adam differed from the punishments inflicted upon the serpent and Eve. The serpent because of his rebellion had to crawl on his belly henceforth. The woman had to bear children with pain. The curse though fell upon Adam indirectly. God didn't curse him; rather He cursed the ground which made it more difficult for Adam to work.
But why the ground since it didn't do any wrong? Adam, Eve and the serpent to be sure, but why the ground? The reason is that man is integrally connected to the ground, to the universe. Man was not created out of some unique materials. There is nothing in man that you find in the rest of the world. The world of science didn't discover this until the 1800's with Darwin; whereas Paul discovered it 1800 years before Darwin and even Moses 3200 years before Darwin--we are integrally connected with all the universe. When man fell, the universe fell. The wonderful thing is that because the Second Adam has risen from the dead, the entire universe will rise from the dead. Not simply those who believe in Christ--all mankind, even the universe. God does not annihilate what He creates. Rather, he transforms it. In fact, He will transform it so that it might become a suitable dwelling place for the transformed sons and daughters of God AND ALSO a suitable dwelling place for God Himself to dwell in.
In v. 22 Paul discusses the nature of these sufferings. "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the __________ of _____________ together until now." What kinds of pains does creation suffer?
All these 3 elements apply to creation. Creation is suffering intense pain. The pain is temporary because it will cease when Jesus returns. It will be worth it for creation because of what will be produced when Christ returnsóa radically transformed creation which will be a suitable dwelling place not only for God's children but also for God Himself.