© C. O. Bishop 1/26/16 THCF 2/7/16
We have been studying through the epistle to the Romans, and have spent the last several weeks in chapter eight, where the overall theme is that “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ.” That is a key “positional truth”, and it dovetails perfectly with the rest of the positional teaching in scripture: “things that are true of the believer, simply on the basis of his or her position, in Christ.” We have come to the last section of chapter eight, where Paul concludes his teaching on our position in Christ, and how we should live as a result of our position.
This passage includes several verses that we commonly use to encourage ourselves: We say that “All things work together for good.” We remind ourselves that “If God be for us, who can be against us?”, and, sometimes, we confirm that “Nothing can separate us from the Love of God.”
But all of these are part of a larger context, in which we are told of our perfect, eternal standing with God, and the results of that standing, both general and specific.
Let’s look at some of those verses, as we finish up the eighth chapter of Romans:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
God’s Eternal Purpose
What is the purpose and plan of God? Why did he even create this world? We have all sorts of “pat” answers that various religious leaders give us. But what does God’s Word actually say? We are not left to “guess” at the answer to this question, though we may not understand all of it.
If God’s eternal plan were only to “produce worshippers”, he has them in the angelic host. The angels worship him in spirit and in truth, just as Jesus said He wanted. It may shock us to hear it, but His purpose actually may not center on us! God may have even bigger things in mind. For instance, in Ephesians 3:9-11 Paul states that from the beginning of the world, the “hidden mystery” was that His purpose and plan is to demonstrate to the Angelic hosts through the Church the manifold wisdom of God. Now: do I understand that? Absolutely not! I have some theories about it, but, ultimately, while I can read those verses and tell you what it says, I do not have authority to speak outside the confines of God’s revelation, so I can’t tell you much more than the fact that it was from the beginning of the World, not the fall of Man.
How does that purpose work out through us, and in what way can we be “the called, according to His purpose?” Well, here are some other ideas: God responded to the fall of Man in one specific way—He moved to offer saving Grace to the fallen race of Man, and He has continued to do so throughout Human history. From that point on, in scripture, we see His purpose working out to provide a substitutionary sacrifice, who, being believed in, is the means of salvation from God to Man. (Remember Romans 1:16?)
Adam believed the promise of God, regarding the coming savior, the Seed of Woman. Abel understood (at least in a minimal sense) the blood sacrifice that God used to cover the sins of Adam and Eve, and he, too, believed. He brought that sacrifice…a blood sacrifice… by faith.
The Children of Israel believed the message of warning that Moses brought, and they huddled under the blood of the Passover Lamb, which is demonstrably the blood of the Cross, in picture-form. Jesus stated that He came to give his life a ransom for many. He also stated that God sent Him to be the Savior of the whole World: “for God so loved the World…” Do you suppose those are “statements of purpose?” A “mission-statement”, if you want to call it that?
How does all this work to teach the angelic host about the wisdom of God? I don’t know for sure, though I have some ideas. He does specify that it is to the angelic beings in heavenly places that he intends to demonstrate His wisdom…not just the fallen ones, perhaps. I can’t say for sure. But in this age, at least, it seems that, in keeping with His actions from the fall of Man, the purpose of God is to extend His saving Grace to sinners, through the preaching of the Gospel. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work.” And then he preached to the people of Samaria. He has consistently demonstrated in the scripture what His purpose is, in this age. I’m not sure we can really understand anything beyond this age, though I know that His purpose is eternal.
But the question remains: Are you “the called, according to His purpose?” Maybe we need to re-examine our motives and priorities, before we claim that all things work together for our good. It says they “work together for good to those who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” This is where positional truth becomes vitally important:
Our Eternal Position
But, if you are in Christ, because you have trusted Him as your Savior, then, according to this passage, you are called!
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
In fact, he says you were foreknown, and that, since you believed, you are now predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. (Notice it doesn’t say, it will happen if you behave yourself and obey God. No: you will be conformed to his image at the rapture or the resurrection, just because, as a believer, you are “in Christ”. That is positional truth!)
Further, it says that all who share that destiny are called, and justified (that means “declared righteous”), and that we are (already) glorified in Christ. We are already seated with Him in the heavenlies, according to Ephesians 2:6, though we are not consciously experiencing it at the moment. What is the result?
Our Eternal Confidence in Christ
The result in our lives, because of our position in Christ, should be a fearless loyalty to Him, and an unshakeable confidence in Him. Read on!
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
It really doesn’t matter who our enemies are: It matters who our friend and defender is.
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
There may be a temptation to misuse this verse and to attempt to teach a “health and wealth” Gospel by it. Before you think that, remember what Paul said to the Philippian Church (Philippians 4:18). He said, on the basis of their gift to him, “I have everything, and abound!” What was the gift? I can’t tell you but, whatever it was, it couldn’t have been very much: they were very poor people, and under persecution as well.
The real key here is to remember where Paul was when he made that statement. He was in a prison cell, with virtually nothing in the way of belongings, and with very little in the way of human comforts. If that is what Paul called “having everything” and “abounding”, then I seriously doubt that the passage here in Romans can be taken to mean “we should be healthy and wealthy as a result of our position in Christ.” In fact, I suspect that the next verse, Philippians 4:19, may tell us how to use the promise here in Romans.
He says, “But my God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” We have a problem discerning the difference between “need” and “desire”, I think. The people in Hebrews 11 who were most highly praised by God, of whom He says that “the World was not worthy” of them, were the ones who lived in abject poverty, having lost everything they owned because of their position in Christ, and who died in faith, seeking His eternal reward, rather than Earthly satisfaction and gratification. Now, that is a tough act to follow, but I would really rather follow that one than the one of the church at Laodicea, where the believers were physically healthy and wealthy, but spiritually sick and impoverished.
And what about accusations? We are maligned by the public and the press: they love to find someone who claims to be a believer, but who is caught in some sort of foolishness or sin, and plaster his or her shame all over the news. But what does God say?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth (declares us righteous.)
34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Ultimately, though we are warned to not feed that fire, so as to not give them ammunition against us, we are still to rest in Christ. The believers in Hebrews 11 also endured trials of cruel mocking, and were even imprisoned for their faith, had all their property confiscated by the state, and many were executed. Our position in Christ is what matters, and our faith is to be demonstrated in our proper behavior…not public sin and shameful acts. Don’t give them legitimate cause to attack you; but if you suffer for your right acts, because of your right beliefs, then bear up joyfully. Jesus says there is a great reward coming! That gives us Security!
Our Eternal Security in Christ
We are frequently called upon to defend our position in Christ: the accusation is that our condition as fallen sinners, still subject to the “sin that so easily besets us,” (Hebrews 12:1) somehow renders us “unfit for God’s Grace.” Please remember that the very definition of Grace is such that it can only be received by those who do not deserve it. Grace specifically means “un-earned” favor… unmerited favor. If you feel you deserve it, then it isn’t Grace at all! You must be thinking that God owes you something, because you are so good. You cannot earn God’s Grace—so quit trying to do so. Serve Him because He is worthy! Not to make yourself worthy!
But; in case you are worried about your security in Christ, look what He says about it:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Notice that the first word is “who”, not “what.” This becomes important in verse 39.)
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Give that line some thought: He does not say, we “will be” more than conquerors. He says we “are” more than conquerors…it’s a “done deal!” How? Through Him that loved us!
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We can read through all these things and be properly impressed, and all, but still wonder, “But what if I just give up and quit? Won’t that separate me from Him? If I just completely rebel against His Grace and Love, and throw a spiritual “hissy-fit,” and blaspheme Him in my self-centered tantrums and anger… won’t that disqualify me?” (Do you remember Peter doing some stuff like that while he was in the process of denying he ever knew Jesus? Hmmm….)
Look at that last verse again: It says, “neither height nor depth, nor any other creature” (literally it says “any other created thing”)….
You just have to answer one question: “Am I a created thing?” (This is not a silly question: it is absolutely serious.) If you can admit to yourself that you are indeed a created thing…one of the “creatures” within God’s Creation, (beside the fact that you have been re-born; re-created in the image of God), then you must admit that you are also completely incapable of separating yourself from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus your Lord…your Master…your Savior.
You know what happens if you say “I quit!”? He doesn’t! How do I know? Philippians 1:6 says, “He who has begun a good work in you will continue to perform it, (perfect it…carry it on to completion…) until the day of Jesus Christ.” He has begun a work in you, and He is not about to let you ruin it. Can you make it less profitable than it might have been? Sure…but do you really want to? He will not abandon you under any circumstances; but wouldn’t you like it to be a profitable relationship, with eternal results? That’s God’s desire for you, too!
Now…what are you going to do about it? Are you willing to be conformed to His image? Are you willing to allow your life to be changed, to fulfill His purpose? Do you recognize that you truly have been called to serve Him: to lay aside your own selfish life and dreams for the sake of carrying out His desire?
Then open up your Bible and read it! Learn what He has for you to do. Learn how He wants you to respond to Him. Allow His Holy Spirit to teach you and Guide you. Fellowship with other believers around the person of Christ and around His written Word. Learn to share your faith with others, and begin to joyfully look for and anticipate opportunities to do so. Pray for God’s guidance, and expect Him to provide it.
Allow the realities of Romans chapters six through eight to transform your life, and make it a joyful experience. I pray that all of us can step into the realities of this passage. It isn’t easy: but it’s worth it!
We do not claim to “have a handle on the Christian life.” Too frequently we allow the fears and griefs and desires of this world to saturate us and bring us down, so that we do not feel the Joy of your Salvation, though it has not left us. We want to experience that Joy, by Faith, and live in such a way as to be an encouragement to others. We want to serve you with our lives, and not drag our feet, resisting You. Please fill us with your Peace and Joy, and teach us to walk in the light of your Word. Let us be the ambassadors you have called us to be.