THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE ROMANS
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)
(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 _______________."
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.
Second, don't compare your prayers to the prayers of others.
(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?
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.
(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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
The whole story of the Bible is the story of God's love for us:
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: