The Way to Experience God’s Righteousness (Part Three)

(Rom. 8:26-39)
The Way to Experience God’s Righteousness (Part Three)

Today’s 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)

    General Statement Explaining Why Man Needs God’s Righteous Activity (1:18a)
    The Gentile Need for God’s Righteous Activity (1:18-32)
    The Jewish Need for God’s Righteous Activity (2:1-3:20)
II. God’s Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39)
    The Method of God Making Us Right with Himself (3:21-31)
    Abraham: OT Proof that God Makes Us Right With Him By Faith (4:1-25)
    Results of Being Made Right with God (5:1-6:23)
        (1) A Proper Relationship of Peace with God (5:1-2)
        (2) A Proper Understanding of Suffering (5:3-5)
        (3) Assurance in Judgment (5:6-11)
        (4) A New Race of Mankind (5:12-21)
        A Rejection of Lawlessness (6:1-23)
    Experiencing God’s Righteousness Daily (7:1-8:39)
        (1) The Way Not to Experience God’s Righteousness (7:1-25)
        (2) The Way to Experience God’s Righteousness (8:1-39)

(26) And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (27) And He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

It is by no means an accident that the topic of prayer comes right after a major passage on suffering. Not only does Paul draw the same connection in Rom. 12:12 ("rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer"), this connection makes sense. The only way that you and I are going to be able to endure sufferings in life is through prayer.

According to Paul what is one area we are weak in (8:26)? How are we weak in this area?

How does God help us in this area of weakness (8:26)?

Fill in the blanks to discover how deeply the Spirit intercedes for us: "The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with ______________ __________ ____________ for _______________."

    How does the Spirit intercede for us? Most likely in two ways. First, He Himself prays directly to God for us. By this I mean that He directly approaches the Father and prays specific requests regarding areas in our lives which are important and which we ourselves might have actually overlooked.

    Second, He Himself prays indirectly to God through us. How does this work? Most of the times we approach God in prayer with a list of requests which we've come up with on our own. They are not bad; it's just that these requests are not the requests that the Spirit Himself would make. What we need to do is search God in prayer to discover what it is He wishes we would pray in certain areas. When we do this, we are actually praying the prayer requests of God. Now this is not just something to strive for or to think of as being a worthy but impossible goal. This is what we are to do on a daily basis. When Jesus commands us to pray "in His Name," He means that we are to do this exact thing—pray the prayer that He Himself would pray. When we pray in Jesus' name then, we are praying to God on Jesus' behalf, on behalf of what Jesus Himself would pray.

According to v. 27 when the Spirit prays for us, how can we be sure that God will answer affirmatively His prayers?

    Just a few notes about prayer before leaving the topic:
      First, written prayers should never substitute for the informal prayers we utter. Protestants may the mistake of neglecting the formal written prayers which are so rich in meaning and insight. As a result, many times their prayers can be so shallow. On the other hand, Catholics will pray only the written, formal prayers. They are not used as helps to develop our prayer life; they become substitutes for our prayer life. No father wants to hear formal stylized prayers all the time. He wants to hear US!

      Second, don't compare your prayers to the prayers of others.

      1. If you do, you probably won't ever pray in public because you will be conscious of how pitiful your prayers compare to those of others. That is ridiculous because you need to understand that the best pray-er on earth can't even begin to compare with the pray-ers of heaven. Jesus hears His own mother, the saints, even angels. Even the prayers of the best pray-er on earth is pitiful compared to the prayers of heaven. So no one on earth has a leg up on you!
      2. God as the perfect Father wants to hear YOUR prayers, no matter how undeveloped they are. Some of my happiest memories of my children was when they were 6-7 (Nathan) and 3-4 years old (Molly). Each Christmas they would buy me the gift they thought was so cool and that I would therefore love to own: Sponge Bob Square Pants boxers or other theme-based boxers. Those early Christmas mornings they would look at me with anticipation just waiting to see my response to their cool gifts. I knew that something was up each Christmas, and each time I opened up the gift of boxers, I acted sooooooooo happy! Like these were the greatest gifts ever. Were they the greatest gifts ever--gifts bought with the money I had earned working 50-60 hours a week? Yes! Because they were from the joyful hearts of my children. Well, if I am who NOT perfect rejoice in the gifts and words of my children, no matter how undeveloped they are, then how much more so is our HEAVENLY, PERFECT Father! So PRAY!

(28) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the first-born among many brethren. (30) And whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Having stated that God has made us right with Himself through Jesus Christ and having placed the Spirit within us as evidence that we are now right with God, Paul can draw no other conclusion than the following: "We know that God causes _________ ________________ to work together for ___________ to those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose." No matter how hard things may be getting or where it looks like we are headed, all things work together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.

According to v. 28 why is this principle not true for ALL people?

    The conclusion of the fairy tales is true for the Christian: “And they all lived happily ever after” because “we know that God causes all things to work together for good.” Who lives happily ever after? those who love God. The reason all things work together for our good is that everything that comes into our lives is filtered through the perfect power, perfect love, and perfect wisdom of your heavenly Father. Everything, the good as well as the bad. Did He CAUSE the bad to happen? No, but He allows it for a specific reason.

Verse 29 tells us what that specific reason is, that is how all things work together for the good of God's people. God works all things so that we might be "conformed to the ___________ of His ____________." That is God's goal for all mankind. Unfortunately though this goal will be realized only in those who have submitted themselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Why is conformity to the image of Jesus necessary? It is necessary if heaven is going to be heaven and not just pretty scenery, a change of location. The most beautiful scenery in the world isn't heaven: ask the drug users who live in Zurich, Switzerland, one of the most beautiful places in the world, located high in the Swiss Alps. If that location can't make you happy, then no beautiful scenery can make you happy.

How does a negative situation conform a person into the image of Jesus? This past week I had 3 really negative situations comes my way. I found myself experiencing genuine anger. Real intense anger. I felt like I was being victimized, something I really detest. As I prayed to Jesus, I realized I was praying to Someone who has nail prints in His hands and in His feet, with a slash in His side. If He could forgive those who brutalized Him, then I could with His help forgive those who mistreated me. By forgiving those people, I was becoming like Christ because whatever else is true about Christ, He is a Forgive-er! In case you're not convinced, first look at the crucifix which you see when entering the sanctuary and second pay close attention to the Agnus Dei we sing weekly in Sunday mass.

According to v. 29 because God conforms us to the image of Jesus Christ, what kind of relationship do we now have with Jesus?

In verses 29 & 30 Paul describes the different stages in our relationship with God: He foreknew us; He predestined us; He called us; He justified us; and He glorified us. It is easy to understand why the verbs "foreknew," "predestined," "called," and "justified" are in the past tense. Why though would the verb "glorified" be in the past tense since it refers to what will happen to us in the future when Jesus returns?

Before leaving this section, we just need to focus on one more issue. Another bogus "issue" which separates many Christians is "Once saved, always saved." I think that phrase totally misunderstands the nature of salvation as being process. The issue is whether or not the process is going to be completed. Based upon Rom. 8:30, I believe it will be. Why? Because of me? No. Because of Him and His unrelenting love for His people. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “God has paid us the intolerable compliment [at least for many in this life] of loving us in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” He is just not going to give up. Ain't gonna happen. Ain't no way; ain't no how. It may take a purgatorial experience to make sure it happens, but because of Christ I thoroughly believe it is going to happen.

    Many Protestants (and even Catholics) misrepresent Purgatory. They view it as a place of suffering for thousands and thousands, even millions of year until our sins are thoroughly purged from us. Maybe so, BUT ... first after death, we are entering a place where space and time differ radically, if they exist at all. We are stepping into eternity. Second, encountering God who is a consuming fire (Heb. 10:29) face to face, all distractions removed, may be all that is necessary to purge us from our sins. I don't know the process. Ask me after we've gone through it and I will tell you what happened. Third, Purgatory is actually a place of rejoicing. Why? Because the only door exists into heaven! Purgatory is more like the experience of a young man about to go on a date with his beloved. The only problem is that he is greasy and grimy from working in the oil fields all day. So, he jumps into the shower . . . not for his sake, but for the sake of his beloved. He wants to be at his best for her. So we too should want to be at our best for the One who loved to the extent of sacrificing Himself for us on the cross.

(31) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (32) He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (33) Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. (34) Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died; yes, rather, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? (36) Just as it is written: “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (37) But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loves us. (38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers (39) nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In light of all that Paul has been describing throughout Romans 1:1-8:30 (freedom from the tyranny of the Law and from the tyranny of the sin nature; the freedom of the Holy Spirit; joint-heirs with Christ which involves being as much God’s sons as Jesus, a new divine nature, a new relationship with God, a radically transformed body like Jesus’, a radically transformed universe, etc.), he cannot help but break out into a paean, a song of praise! Are these blessings though tenuous or are they permanent? If any one statement in the Bible is true, it is definitely this one: “What God starts, God finishes.” Paul claims: “For I confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). These last 8 verses are Paul’s praise of the great assurance to you and me that our glorious future is guaranteed.

What does Paul ask in v. 31? What is his response?

Because God is for us, does that mean that nobody is against us, such as, Satan, his demonic hordes, anti-Christians, etc.? If that is not true, then what does Paul mean?

    It means that IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO IS AGAINST US!!!!! As long as God Himself is for us!

In v. 32 what has God done to prove that He is for us? (Paul is using an argument called from greater to lesser. In other words, if God will do the greatest thing for us, He will not withhold lesser things from us.)

Fill in the blanks to see where God gives us these things: “How will He not also __________ ___________ freely give us all things?”

In other words, because we are now with Christ, that is, identified with Christ, one with Him because His Spirit lives in us, God does not simply give all these things to Jesus; He gives them also to us: Jesus’ inheritance.

What does Paul ask in v. 33? What is his response?

    It is as if Satan is saying, "God, they are guilty of this one offense," and God says, "Acquitted!" Then Satan says, "They are guilty of this other offense," and God says, "Acquitted." They keep going back and forth with God always repeatedly saying, "Acquitted!" In response to Paul's question, the answer is: IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO BRINGS A CHARGE AGAINST US!!!! As long as God is acquitting us!

What does Paul ask in v. 34? What is his response?

By this does Paul mean that because Jesus does not condemn us that nobody condemns us? If it does mean that, how does it square with the truth that Satan condemns God’s people left and right?

    Notice that Paul links the right to condemn with Jesus. The reason is that it would be unfair for the Father and the Holy Spirit to condemn us since they have never walked in our shoes. Jesus though has walked in our shoes and has every right to condemn us. Yet that is the one thing He does not do! He never condemns us. He's always praying for us. In response to Paul's' question, then, the answer is: IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO CONDEMNS US BECAUSE THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD CONDEMN US DIED FOR US!!!!!!!!!

List the things that Jesus has done for us in v. 34 which demonstrates He is for us?

In v. 34 what is Jesus doing for us right now which demonstrates He is for us?

Now go back to Rom. 8:26, 27 and Rom. 8:34. What are 2 members of the God-head (God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) doing for you and me right now?

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter who accuses us or who condemns us because the only two who do matter (the Father and Jesus) are acquitting us and dying for us.

Unfortunately though many times we think that outward circumstances indicate what God’s attitude is towards us. In verses 35-36 Paul lists several negative circumstances which people believe indicate God is against us:
tribulation (affliction or external/internal oppression); distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword.

In v. 36 Paul uses the graphic image of a sheep being led to slaughter to help us understand the purpose of our sufferings. What situation does sheep being slaughtered refer to?

    This helps you put your sufferings into perspective. Your sufferings do not mean God is angry with you. Instead they show that you are being offered up as a sacrifice to God. That only makes sense since the One we followed is the ultimate Sacrifice. If we follow the Sacrifice, surely we too should expect to be sacrificed. Our sufferings are the way we experience sacrifice. Like the early disciples we should then rejoice when we suffer because these sufferings prove that we are followers of Jesus the Sacrificial Lamb of God. If we are sons and daughters of God because we shared Jesus' sonship--the Son who showed that sonship and suffering are integrally related, then we shouldn't ever think our sufferings indicate we are separated from God. Instead, we need to remember that they transform us into the image of Christ, into ultimate conquerors!

None of these tribulations and sorrows though indicate God’s attitude towards His people. Only Christ’s death on the cross and the inheritance God has extended to you and me indicate His attitude towards us. In fact according to v. 37 what is true of us because these negative things are in our lives? “We _______________ ________________ through Him who loved us.” When you enter the Church and see Christ on the cross, always view the crucifix as demonstrable, positive, compelling proof that God loves us.

    The Greek word used for “over” in “overwhelmingly” is literally hyper. We are hyper-conquerors, that is, super-conquerors because of Jesus in our lives. In other words, God’s people are not going down in defeat. How can they now that they have the Spirit of God‘s Son actually living in them to give them His victory? How can they when the Spirit and Jesus Themselves pray for us continually? We cannot win in our own strength; however, by relying upon the Lord, we can take hold of the victory He has come to give us.

    I like the story which Reccord, the President of the North American Mission Board, told at the Evangelism Conference of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He said there was a boxer who fought the fight of his life. The match lasted for 15 rounds. He took a real pummeling on the chin, in the gut, and even in the kidneys. At the end of the `15 rounds although He was battered, bruised, and bleeding, He was the only one still standing. The referee raised His fist in the air and declared Him to be the winner. When the conqueror arrived home, He went up the stairs to the front door where He was greeted by His wife. He took the championship belt and multi-million-dollar check and lovingly gave them both to His wife. Whereas He was the conqueror, she was the super-conqueror. We are victors because Christ is victor.

According to verses 38 & 39 what is Paul convinced of because of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus?

    These last 2 verses are a little puzzling since Paul has not been speaking very much about love in chapters 1-8. He's been speaking about righteousness, faith, the Spirit, Law, flesh, etc., but with few exceptions not about love. Although he has not been focusing on love, love has been there all along. Some things just escape our radar screen even though it is there all the time. For example, because Iraqi radar could not pick up American stealth bombers, did that mean there were no stealth bombers there? No. They were there all along as the bombs demonstrated. Well, our radars have not been picking up on God's love in Rom. 1-8 but as these last 2 verses show, it was there all the time driving God to make us right with Him through faith in His Son who died for us.

    The whole story of the Bible is the story of God's love for us:

    1. Creation of man: to enjoy the same kind of relationship with God that Jesus enjoys.
    2. Even when we mess everything up in the Garden of Eden, God out of His great love promises Eve that He will prepare a way to redeem us.
    3. Out of love God calls Abraham to begin the great process of salvation primarily by preparing a people to receive and transmit His Word to the world and to be the people of the saving Messiah.
    4. The whole story of Christ is God's love in action through His sacrifice.
    5. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost.
    6. The creation of the Church and its life-giving sacraments, so much of this experienced and presented through the Eucharist.
    7. Christ in love will return to finish the work He has already begun in our lives. It's not a matter of "if" but only of "when." All out of love.

Our being separated from the love of God in Christ is just not going to happen.

Charles Wesley, one of the greatest Christian hymnist of all times, said that he would give up all the hymns he ever wrote if he could have written just this one hymn: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. The last stanza reads thus:

    “Love so amazing,
    So divine.
    Demands my soul,
    My life, my all!”

That is the only appropriate response to all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus. (Isaac Watts)