The Gospel According To Paul…Part 6
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
In our last installment we completed Law School, and saw the impossible position we’ve been placed in. Because of the sin nature we’ve inherited, our own bodies will betray us no matter how hard we try to live up to God’s standard. In fact the harder we try, the more certain our failure becomes. As far as effecting our own salvation is concerned, we’re hopeless, helpless, worthless and useless. The Lord’s remedy for our situation was to offer us an unmerited pardon purchased with His own blood. Now we’re ready for a close look at the unbelievable blessing we call Grace.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:22-25)
Just as the creation groans through its earthquakes and storms in the hope of being restored to the perfection of its original state, so also do we desire to be divested of the curse that’s upon us, our sin nature. How we long for our physical bodies to finally be rid of the flaws and diseases that afflict us, to awaken each morning knowing for certain that never again will our thoughts and actions betray our desire to please our Lord. Never again will we disappoint, embarrass or offend the One who gave so much for us. Finally, we’ll be fit to dwell in His presence forever. This is our blessed hope.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27)
When the Lord fed the 5000 He had their attention. They followed Him all around the Sea of Galilee for another meal. But when He told them that He was the Bread of Life and His goal was to give them Eternal Life, not free food, many went away disappointed, even angry. Like them, our minds are so polluted by our sin nature that sometimes we don’t even know what to ask for. We present the Lord with a list of our wants … “make things easier, better, faster” … all based on our immediate self interest. But as we do, the Holy Spirit within us prays on our behalf for the things we really need. This is likely the greatest service He performs for us, asking for what we need, not for what we want.
More Than Conquerors
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
Almost every word in these three verses deserves a study of its own. We’ll just take a few. All things means everything, no exceptions, even the things we think are setbacks, failures, or outright disasters. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.
Love. The Greek language has four words for love. This one is their highest, most noble form. It means to be totally given over to the object of one’s affection, irrespective of response. Does that describe your love for God? If so, then the following applies to you.
Just what is His purpose in calling us? Ephesians 3:10-11 says, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” His purpose in calling the church is to demonstrate to all the heavenly powers the infinite variations of His wisdom. The angelic realms learn about the character of God by watching how He deals with you and me.
The phrase “those God foreknew” means that he knew before time began just who would come to be His. Knowing this He predestined, or appointed, us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Knowing how these two words interact eliminates any conflict between two other words: agency and election. In our own life, in our own time, in our own heart, we chose to be saved (agency). Before He laid the foundations of Earth, God looked down across time and saw us do it, and immediately made absolutely certain that no one could ever interfere with this. (election). Then, at the proper moment in our lives, He called us to do what He already knew we would do, and when we responded, He sealed His Holy Spirit within us so that no one could ever undo it.
This also explains all of prophecy. God didn’t write the script for mankind and then force us to act it out. He gave us the right to make our own decisions. Knowing ahead of time what decisions we’ll make, he can write it down before it happens. Prophecy is the history of our world, written in advance.
Another thing He did in advance was to justify us. To justify us means to regard us as though we’re completely innocent. But we’re not. We’re sinners. The only way He could do this was to take upon Himself the penalty due us for our sins, to die in our place. When we accept His death as payment in full for our sins, it allows Him to see us as if we’ve never sinned at all. (2 Cor. 5:17)
Having made us as righteous as He is (2 Cor. 5:21) He can now make us as glorious as He is as well. From His perspective, this has already been accomplished in eternity. We’re just waiting for time to catch up. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7) See what I mean? It’s past tense. He’s already done it. And the most remarkable thing about it is that He didn’t just forgive us, which would have been more than we deserve. No! He went way beyond anything we could ever hope for to give us an eternity that includes conforming us to the likeness of His Son (who is himself the image of the Father, Colossians 1:15) and seating us beside Him on His throne, co-heirs and co-regents with the Son of God.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.(Romans 8:31-34)
The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. The Son intercedes for us. How will our Father in Heaven, having already given the life of His Son for us, not also give us every good thing? Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) Who could possibly dissuade Him from this?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:22)
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
We’re not promised a life free of difficulty. Some of us already have or may yet endure hardship, persecution, or even death for our faith. But nothing that happens to us, nothing we’re doing now or will do in the future, whether prompted by natural or supernatural motives, can change the fact that we’re His.
I can imagine Paul thinking of Peter as he wrote this. Peter was the Lord’s closest confidant, undaunted in his courage, eyewitness to hundreds of miracles, the first confessor that Jesus is the Christ. In the same night that he drew his sword to stand alone between his Lord and a cohort of hardened soldiers, a lowly servant girl scared him into publicly denying that he even knew the Lord, cursing and swearing as he ran away. And yet the Lord knew Peter’s heart and restored him. Once saved always saved, Peter.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30) Selah 02-17-07