We now come to the conclusion of the whole matter. In the eighth chapter of Romans the epistle reaches its highest point. The seventh has presented to us the deplorable condition of the man who has been awakened by the law to a sense of his condition, bound to sin by cords that can be loosened only by death. It closes with a glimpse of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who alone can set us free from the body of death.
Freedom from Condemnation Romans 8:1-9
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; 4 that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh can not please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
"No Condemnation." There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ. Why? Because he received the curse of the law, that the blessing might come on us. Nothing can come to us while we are in him, without first passing through him; but in him all curses are turned to blessings, and sin is displaced by righteousness. His endless life triumphs over everything that comes against it. We are made "complete in him."
"Looking unto Jesus." Some say, "I do not find this scripture fulfilled in my case, because I find something to condemn me every time I look at myself." To be sure; for the freedom from condemnation is not in ourselves, but in Christ Jesus. We are to look at him, instead of at ourselves. If we obey his orders, and trust him, he takes the responsibility of making us clear before the law. There will never be a time when one will not find condemnation in looking at himself.
The fall of Satan was due to his looking at himself. The restoration for those whom he has made to fall, is only through looking to Jesus. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." John 3:14. The serpent was lifted up to be looked at. Those who looked were healed. Even so with Christ. In the world to come the servants of the Lord "shall see his face," and they will not be drawn away to themselves. The light of his countenance will be their glory and it is in that same light that they will be brought to that glorious state.
Conviction, Not Condemnation. The text does not say that those who are in Christ Jesus will never be reproved.
Getting into Christ is only the beginning, not the end, of Christian life. It is the entrance to the school where we are to learn of him. He takes the ungodly man with all his evil habits and forgives all his sins, so that he is counted as though he never had sinned. Then he continues to him his own life, by which he may overcome his evil habits.
Association with Christ will more and more reveal to us our failings, just as association with a learned man will make us conscious of our ignorance. As a faithful witness, he tells us of our failings. But it is not to condemn us. We receive sympathy, not condemnation, from him. It is this sympathy that gives us courage, and enables us to overcome.
When the Lord points our a defect in our characters, it is the same as saying to us, "There is something that you are in need of, and I have it for you." When we learn to look at reproof in this way, we shall rejoice in it, instead of being discouraged.
Law of Life in Christ. The law without Christ is death. The law in Christ is life. His life is the law of God; for out of the heart are the issues of life, and the law was in his heart. The law of sin and death works in our members. But the law of the Spirit of life in Christ gives us freedom from this. Mark that it is the life in Christ that does this. It does not give us freedom from obedience to the law, for we had that before, and that was bondage, and not freedom. What he gives us freedom from is the transgression of the law.
Christ's Work. This is made very plain in verses 3 and 4. God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." There is no fault to be found with it but with us, because we have transgressed it. Christ's work is not to change the law in any particular, but to change us in every particular. It is to put the law into our hearts in perfection, in place of the marred and broken copy.
The Weakness of the Law. The law is strong enough to condemn, but it is weak, even powerless, with respect to what man needs namely, salvation. It was and is "weak through the flesh." The law is good, and holy, and just, but man has no strength to perform it. Just as an ax may be of good steel, and very sharp, yet unable to cut down a tree because the arm that has hold of it has no strength, so the law of God could not perform itself. It set forth man's duty; it remained for him to do it. But he could not, and therefore Christ came to do it in him. What the law could not do, God did by his Son.
Likeness of Sinful Flesh. There is a common idea that this means that Christ simulated sinful flesh; that he did not take upon himself actual sinful flesh, but only what appeared to be such. But the Scriptures do not teach such a thing. "In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Heb. 2:17. He was "born of a woman, born under the law," that he might redeem them that were under the law. Gal. 4:4, 5.
He took the same flesh that all have who are born of woman. A parallel text to Romans 8:3, 4 is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21. The former says that Christ was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." The latter says that God "made him to be sin for us," although he knew no sin, "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
"Compassed with Infirmity." All the comfort that we can get from Christ lies in the knowledge that he was made in all things as we are. Otherwise we should hesitate to tell him of our weaknesses and failures. The priest who makes sacrifices for sins must be one "who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity." Heb. 5:2.
This applies perfectly to Christ; "for we have not an High Priest which can not be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Heb. 4:15. This is why we may come boldly to the throne of grace for mercy. So perfectly has Christ identified himself with us, that he even now feels our sufferings.
The Flesh and the Spirit. "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." Note that this depends on the preceding statement, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The things of the Spirit are the commandments of God, because the law is spiritual. The flesh serves the law of sin (see the preceding chapter, and Galatians 5:19-21, where the works of the flesh are described). But Christ came in the same flesh, to show the power of the Spirit over the flesh. "They that are in the flesh can not please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of Christ dwell in you."
Now no one will claim that the flesh of a man is any different after his conversion from what it was before. Least of all will the converted man himself say so; for he has continual evidence of its perversity. But if he is really converted, and the Spirit of Christ dwells in him, he is no more in the power of the flesh. Even so Christ came in the same sinful flesh, yet he was without sin, because he was always led by the Spirit.
The Enmity. "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." The flesh never becomes converted. It is enmity against God; and that enmity consists in opposition to his law. Therefore, whoever opposes the law of God is fighting against him. But Christ is our Peace, and he came preaching peace. "You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight." Col. 1:21, 22. In his own flesh he abolishes the enmity, so that all who are crucified with him are at peace with God; that is, they are subject to his law, which is in their hearts.
"Life and Peace." "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." To be spiritually minded is to have a mind controlled by the law of God, "for we know that the law is spiritual." "Great peace have they which love thy law." Ps. 119:165. "Being justified [made righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The carnal mind is enmity against God. Therefore, to be carnally minded is death. But Christ "hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." 2 Tim. 1:10. He has abolished death by destroying the power of sin in all who believe in him; for death has no power except through sin. "The sting of death is sin." 1 Cor. 15:56. So that even now we may joyfully say, "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
The eighth chapter of Romans is full of the glorious things that God has promised to them that love him. Freedom, the Spirit of life in Christ, sons of God, heirs of God and with Christ, glory and victory, are the words that outline the chapter.
Sons of God Romans 8:9-17
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God; 17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Opposing Forces. The flesh and the Spirit are in opposition. These are always contrary the one to the other. The Spirit never yields to the flesh, and the flesh never gets converted. The flesh will be of the nature of sin until our bodies are changed at the coming of the Lord. The Spirit strives with the sinful man, but he yields to the flesh, and so is the servant of sin.
Such a man is not led by the Spirit, although the Spirit has by no means forsaken him. The flesh is just the same in a converted man that it is in a sinner, but the difference is that now it has no power, since the man yields to the Spirit, which controls the flesh. Although the man's flesh is precisely the same that it was before he was converted, he is said to be not "in the flesh," but "in the Spirit," since he through the Spirit mortifies the deeds of the body.
Life in Death. "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Here we have the two individuals of which the apostle speaks in 2 Corinthians 4:7-16. "For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." Then he says that "though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." Though our body should fail and be worn out, yet the inward man, Christ Jesus, is ever new. And he is our real life. "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Col. 3:3.
This is why we are not to fear them that can kill only the body, and after that have no more that they can do. Though the body be burned at the stake, wicked men can not touch the eternal life which we have in Christ, who can not be destroyed. No man can take his life from him.
The Surety of the Resurrection. "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." Jesus said of the water that he gave, which was the Holy Spirit, that it should be in us a well of water springing up unto eternal life. John 4:14; compare John 7:37-39. That is, the spiritual life which we now live in the flesh by the Spirit is the surety of the spiritual body to be bestowed at the resurrection when we will have the life of Christ made manifested in immortal bodies.
Not Debtors to the Flesh. "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh." We are indeed debtors, but we do not owe anything to the flesh. It has done nothing for us, and can do nothing. All the work that the flesh can do avails nothing, for its works are sin and therefore death. But we are debtors to the Lord Jesus Christ, "who gave himself for us." Consequently, everything must be yielded to his life. "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."
Sons of God. Those who yield to the strivings of the Spirit, and continue so to yield, are led by the Spirit; and they are the sons of God. They are taken into the same relation to the Father that the only-begotten Son occupies. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." If we are led by the Spirit of God, we are now just as much the sons of God as we can ever be.
We Are Sons Now. There is a notion held by some people that no man is born of God until the resurrection. But this is settled by the fact that we are now sons of God. "But," says one, "we are not yet manifested as sons." True, and neither was Christ when he was on earth. There were but very few that knew him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. And they knew it only by revelation from God. The world knows us not, because it knew him not. To say that believers are not sons of God now because there is nothing in their appearance to indicate it, is to bring the same charge against Jesus Christ. But Jesus was just as truly the Son of God when he lay in the manger in Bethlehem, as he is now when sitting at the right hand of God.
The Spirit's Witness. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God." How does the Spirit witness? This is answered in Hebrews10:14-17. The apostle says that by one offering he hath perfected them that are sanctified, and then says that the Holy Spirit is a witness to this fact when he says, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." That is to say, the Spirit's witness is the word. We know that we are children of God, because the Spirit assures us of that fact in the Bible. The witness of the Spirit is not a certain ecstatic feeling, but a tangible statement. We are not children of God because we feel that we are, neither do we know that we are sons because of any feeling, but because the Lord tells us so. He who believes has the word abiding in him, and that is how "he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." 1 John 5:10.
No Fear. "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;
but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love,
and of a sound mind." 2 Tim. 1:7. "God is love; and he that dwelleth in
love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect,
that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so
are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth
out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect
in love." 1 John 4:16-18.
Christ gave himself to deliver them who through fear of death were all their life subject to bondage. Heb. 2:15. He who knows and loves the Lord can not be afraid of him; and he who is not afraid of the Lord has no need to be afraid of any other person or thing. One of the greatest blessings of the gospel is the deliverance from fear, whether real or imaginary. "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Ps. 34:4.
Heirs of God. What a wonderful inheritance that is! It does not merely say that we are heirs of what God has, but that we are heirs of God himself. Having him we have everything, as a matter of course; but the blessedness consists in having him. "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup." Ps. 16:5. This is the fact; it is a thing to be meditated upon rather than talked about.
Joint-heirs with Christ. If we are sons of God, we stand on the same footing that Jesus Christ does. He himself said that the Father loves us even as he loves him. John 17:23. This is proved by the fact that his life was given for ours. Therefore the Father has nothing for his only-begotten Son that he has not for us. Not only so, but since we are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, it follows that he can not enter upon his inheritance before we do. To be sure, he is sitting at the right hand of God. But God in his great love for us "hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places." Eph. 2:4-6. The glory which Christ has he shares with us. John 17:22. It means something to be a joint-heir with Jesus Christ! No wonder the apostle exclaims, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God."
Suffering with Him. "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." Heb. 2:18. Suffering with Christ means, therefore, enduring temptation with him. The suffering is that which comes in the struggle against sin. Self-inflicted suffering amounts to nothing. It is not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh. Col. 2:23. Christ did not torture himself in order to gain the approval of the Father. But when we suffer with Christ, then we are made perfect in him. The strength by which he resisted the temptations of the enemy is the strength by which we are to overcome. His life in us gains the victory.
In the preceding verses of the eighth chapter of Romans we have seen how we are adopted into the family of God as sons, and made joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit establishes the bond of relationship. It is the "Spirit of adoption," the Spirit proceeding from the Father as the representative of the Son, that proves that we are accepted as brethren of Jesus Christ. Those who are led by the Spirit must be even as Christ was in the world, and are therefore assured of an equal share in the inheritance with Christ. For "the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
Glorified Together Romans 8:17-25
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24 For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Why Suffering? Christ's life on earth was one of suffering. He was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." He "suffered, being tempted," but his sufferings were not all in the mind alone. He knew physical pain; "himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases." Matt. 8:17. He suffered hunger in the wilderness; and his works of love were done at the expense of much bodily pain and weariness. The sufferings which he endured at the hands of the rough soldiers in connection with his mock trial, and his crucifixion, were simply a continuation in another form of what he had endured throughout his whole life on earth.
Glory Following Suffering. In all the prophets, the Spirit of Christ was witnessing and testifying of "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." 1 Pet. 1:11. When Christ, after his resurrection, talked with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, he said. "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Luke 24:26, 27. We know that the first part of those prophecies was fulfilled, and therefore must know that the rest are as sure. As surely as Christ suffered, so surely will the glory follow.
Suffering Together. Our suffering is to be "with him." We are not to suffer alone. But we could not suffer eighteen hundred years ago, before we were born. Therefore it follows that Christ still suffers. Otherwise we could not suffer with him. Read what is said of his connection with ancient Israel: "In all their affliction he was afflicted." Isa. 63:9. So in Matthew 25:35-40 we learn that Christ suffers or experiences relief whenever his disciples suffer or are relieved. He is the head of the body.
Now if when one member suffers all the members suffer with it (1 Cor. 12:26), how much more must that be true of the Head! So we read of Christ that even now, as high priest, he is "touched with the feeling our infirmities." Heb. 4:15. A high priest must be one "who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity." Heb. 5:1, 2. So we learn that Christ has never divested himself of the human nature which he took upon himself, but that he is still identified with suffering, sinful men. It is a glorious truth, to be recognized and confessed, that "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." 1 John 4:2.
Glorified Together. "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Christ does not have anything that is not for us equally with him. His prayer was, "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am." John 17:24. And he says, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne." Rev. 3:21. Whatever he has, we have, and we have it when he has it, since we are joint-heirs with him.
There is Glory Now. The above statement may at first sight seem to be untrue. It is the common idea that Christ is glorified long before those who are fellow-heirs with him. One text is sufficient to settle this matter: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed." 1 Pet. 5:1. Peter declared himself to be a partaker of the glory. This was because he believed the saying of Christ, in his prayer for his disciples, "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them." John 17:22. If Christ has glory now, his disciples share it also. Again we have the words of the apostle Peter. Speaking of Christ, he says, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." 1 Pet. 1:8.
Grace and Glory Where Unexpected. The apostle John tells us that although we are now the sons of God the world knows us not, because it knew not Christ. There was nothing in the appearance of Christ on earth to indicate that he was the Son of God. Flesh and blood did not reveal that fact to anybody. To all appearance he was but an ordinary man. Yet all the time he had glory.
We read that when he turned the water into wine he "manifested forth his glory." John 2:11. His glory was manifested in the form of grace. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth." John 1:14. The grace with which God strengthens his people is "according to the riches of his glory." Eph. 3:16. Whoever is in Christ is chosen "to the praise of the glory of his grace." Eph. 1:6. Grace is glory, but glory veiled so that mortal eyes may not be dazzled by it.
Glory Yet to be Revealed. "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." The glory is for us to possess now, but it will be revealed only at the coming of Christ. It is then that his glory will be revealed (1 Pet. 4:13), and then our trials will "be found unto praise and honor and glory."
Christ's glory has not yet been revealed, except to the chosen three on the mount of transfiguration. At that time the glory that Christ already possessed was allowed to shine forth. He appeared then as he will appear when he comes. But to the mass of mankind there is no more evidence now that Jesus is the Son of God than there was when he was before Pilate's judgment seat.
Those however who see it by faith and who are not ashamed to share his sufferings, also share his hidden glory; and when he shall appear in his glory, "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Matt. 13:43. That will be "the manifestation of the sons of God." Then for the first time Christ will be manifested to the world as the Son of God, and those who are his will be manifested with him.
The Hope of Creation. The word "creature" in verses 19-21 means the creation; this may be seen from verse 22 where we read of the whole creation as groaning, waiting to be delivered from that to which it has been made subject. When man sinned, the earth was cursed on his account. See Genesis 3:17. The earth had done no sin, but it was made to share the fall of man, to whom it had been given. A perfect earth was not the dwelling-place for sinful man. But it was made subject to vanity in hope. God made the earth perfect. "He created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited." Isa. 45:18. And he "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Eph. 1:11. Therefore the earth is sure to be glorified as it was in the beginning. "The creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God."
Adoption and Redemption. Both the earth and we are "waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." The earth waits for it, because it can not be relieved of its curse until we are set forth as sons of God, and therefore lawful heirs. The Holy Spirit is the pledge of this heirship. The Spirit seals us as heirs, "unto the day of redemption." Eph. 4:30.
It is to us a witness that we are children of God, but the witness is not accepted by the world. They know not the children of God. But when that glory which he has given us is revealed, and our bodies are redeemed from destruction and made to shine like his glorious body, then there will be no doubt in the minds of any. Then even Satan himself will be obliged to acknowledge that we are God's children, and therefore rightful heirs of the glorified earth.
Hope and Patience. Hope, in the Bible sense, means something more than mere desire. It is certainty, because the ground of the Christian's hope is the promise of God, which is backed by his oath. There is nothing that our eyes can see to indicate that we are the sons of God. We can not see our own glory, and that is why we are charged not to seek it here. We can not see Christ, yet we know that he is the Son of God. That is the assurance that we are also sons of God. If there were any uncertainty, then we could not wait with patience. We should be uneasy, and should worry. But, although the natural eye can not see any indication that we are owned as God's children, faith and hope assure us of it, and so we with patience wait for that which is unseen.
Something Worth Knowing Romans 8:26-28
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which can not be uttered. 27 And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.
"Praying in the Spirit." The heart is deceitful above all things, and none can know it except God. Jer. 17:9, 10. That in itself is sufficient reason why we do not know what we should pray for.
Moreover, we do not know the things that God has to give us; and even if we did, our lips could not describe them, for "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." 1 Cor. 2:9-12.
God desires to give to us "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Eph. 3:20. Of course a petition for such things can not be put into words. The next clause however says that it is "according to the power that worketh in us;" and the sixteenth verse tells us that the power that works in us is the Spirit. Thus we find the same thing that we read in the eighth of Romans and the second of 1 Corinthians.
"The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." Therefore the Spirit knows just what the Lord has for us. The deepest thoughts are too great for language, and so the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that can not be uttered. But, although there is no articulate speech "he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." The Lord knows that the Spirit asks for just the things that he has to bestow. He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that whatever is asked according to God's will is granted. 1 John 5:14, 15.
Now note how this statement in regard to prayer fits in with what goes before in the eighth of Romans. God has given us his Spirit to be in us, to lead us, and to direct our lives. The possession of the Spirit of God proves that we are the sons of God. Being sons, we can come to him to ask for things to supply our need, with all the confidence of a child to a parent. But while we have all confidence, our thoughts are as the earth is below the heaven. Isa. 55:8, 9.
Not only are our thoughts feeble, but our language is still more so. We can not give proper expression even to the little that we do realize. But if we are the sons of God, we have in us his own representative, who helps our infirmity and who is able to take of the things of God to give to us. What wonderful confidence this should give us in praying to God; and especially should it give confidence to those who are particularly infirm in regard to language! It makes no difference if one has a very limited vocabulary, if he stammers, or even if he is dumb; if he prays in the Spirit, he is sure to receive all that he needs, and more than he can ask or think.
With these facts before us, how much more forcible becomes the exhortation of the apostle, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Eph. 6:18.
All Things Work for Good. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God." Without this knowledge we could not have that confidence in prayer that we ought to have and that is indicated in the preceding verses. Whoever knows the Lord must love him, for he is love. And the Spirit reveals him to us. Whoever knows that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," can not fail to love him. And then all things work together for good to him.
Take notice that the text does not say that all things shall work together for good to them that love God, but that they do so work now in this present time. Everything as it comes is good to those who love and trust the Lord. Many people lose the blessing of this assurance by reading it as though it were for the future. They try to be resigned to troubles that come by thinking that by and by some good will come from them; but in that case they do not get the good that God gives them.
Note further that the text does not say that we know how all things work together for good to them that love God. People in trouble often sigh piously and say, "Well, I suppose that it is all for good, but I can't see how." Of course not; and they have no business to see how. It is God that makes them work good, because he alone has the power.
Therefore it is not necessary for us to know anything about how it is done. The fact is knowledge enough for us. God can overrule all the plans of the devil, and can make the wrath of man to praise him. Our part is to believe. There is no trust in the Lord if we must see how he does everything. Those who must be able to see how the Lord works, show that they can not trust him out of sight, and thus they give him a bad name to the world.
Called of God. God has called everybody to come to him. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Rev. 22:17. God is no respecter of persons; he desires that all men shall be saved, and so he calls them all.
Not only does he call us, but he draws us. No man can come to him without being drawn, and so Christ is lifted up to draw all to God. He tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9), and through him all men have access to God. He has destroyed in his own body the enmity, the wall that separates men from God, so that nothing can keep any man from God unless that man builds up again the barrier.
The Lord draws us, but does not employ force. He calls, but does not drive. It remains therefore for us to make our "calling and election sure" by yielding to the influence that God throws round us. He says, "Follow me," and we must make the calling effectual by following him.
Purpose of the Calling. God calls us "in the grace of Christ." Gal.1:6. "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Eph. 1:4. Still further, we read that he hath "called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Tim. 1:9. In our text in Romans we learned that those who love God are the "called according to his purpose." His purpose is that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. If we yield to his purpose, he will see that it is carried out.
God designed man for a companion for himself. But there is no true companionship where there is restraint. Therefore, in order that man might associate with him on terms of intimacy, he made the will of man as free as his own. God can not work against his own purpose; and therefore he not only will not, but he can not, force the will of man. All men are as absolutely free to choose as is God himself; and when they choose to yield to the call of God, his purpose of grace is wrought out in them by the power by which he is able to make all things work together for good.
We have learned about our relation to God through the Spirit, and of the help which the Spirit gives us in prayer, as well as of the assurance that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose." The grounds for that assurance are infinitely strengthened in the verses that follow.
The Unspeakable Gift Romans 8:29-32
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born 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. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 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?
Foreknowledge vs. Foreordination. The word "predestinate" is the same as "foreordain." Volumes of speculation have been written about these terms, but a few words are sufficient to set forth the facts. With respect to these, as well as the other attributes of God, it is sufficient for us to know the fact. With the explanation we have nothing to do.
It is plainly set forth in the Scriptures that God knows all things. Not only does he know the things that are past, but he sees the future as well. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." Acts 15:18. "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising; thou understandest my thought afar off." Ps. 139:1, 2. Thus God can tell what people even yet unborn will do and say.
This does not make God responsible for the evil that they do. Some have foolishly thought it necessary to apologize for the Lord and to relieve him of the charge that if he is omniscient he is responsible for the evil if he does not prevent it, by saying that he could know if he wished, but that he chooses not to know many things. Such a "defense" of God is both foolish and wicked. It assumes that God would be responsible for the evil if he knew it beforehand and did not prevent it, and that in order not to be in a position to prevent it, he deliberately shuts his eyes from it. Thus their "defense" really puts the responsibility for all evil upon God. Not only so, but it limits him. It makes him like a man.
God knows all things, not by study and research as man learns the little he knows, but because he is God. He inhabits eternity. Isa. 57:15. We can not understand how this can be any more than we can understand eternity. We must accept the fact and be not only content, but glad, that God is greater than we. All time, past, present, and future, is the same to him. It is always "now" with God.
The fact that God knew the evil that men would do, even before the foundation of the world, does not make him responsible for it, any more than the fact that a man can see by means of a telescope what a man is doing ten miles distant makes him responsible for that other one's actions. God has from the beginning set before people warnings against sin, and has provided them with all the necessary means for avoiding it; but he can not interfere with man's right and freedom of choice without depriving him of his manhood and making him the same as a stick.
Freedom to do right implies freedom to do wrong. If a man were made
so that he could not do wrong, he would have no freedom at all, not even
to do right. He would be less than the brutes. There is no virtue in forced
obedience, nor would there be any virtue in doing that which is right if
it were impossible to do wrong. Moreover, there could be no pleasure
or satisfaction in the professed friendship of two persons if one associated
with the other just because he could not avoid it. The joy of the Lord
in the companionship of his people is that they of their own free-will
choose him above all others. And that which is the joy of the Lord is the
joy of his people.
The very ones who rail against God for not preventing the ills that he forsees since he is all-powerful, would be the very first to charge him with cruelty if he did arbitrarily interfere with their freedom and make them do that which they do not choose. Such a course would make everybody unhappy and discontented. The wisest thing for us to do is to stop trying to fathom the ways of the Almighty, and accept the fact that whatever he does is right. "As for God, his way is perfect." Ps. 18:30.
What About Predestination? The text shows that "whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren." God's thoughts toward men are thoughts of peace, and not of evil. Jer. 29:11. He ordains peace for us. Isa. 26:12. We read nothing about men being foreordained to destruction; the only thing that God has predestinated is that men should be conformed to the image of his Son.
But it is only in Christ that we become conformed to his image. It is in Him that we come "unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Eph. 4:13. Therefore it is that men are foreordained or predestinated only in Christ. The whole story is told in the following passage of Scripture:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good-pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."
Everything is in Christ. We receive all spiritual blessings in him; we are chosen in him unto holiness; in him we are predestinated unto the adoption of children; in him we are accepted; and in him we have redemption through his blood. "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thess. 5:9.
That is God's purpose and foreordination concerning man. Still further, "whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." Whom did he foreknow? There can be no limit; he must have foreknown all. If there were any exception, then God would not be infinite in knowledge. If he foreknows one person, then he foreknows every person. There has not been a person born into the world whose birth God did not foreknow. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
Therefore, since every person has been known to God even before the foundation of the world, and those whom he foreknew he predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, it follows that God has purposed salvation for every soul that has ever come into the world. His love embraces all, without respect of persons.
"Then everybody will be saved, no matter what he does," some one will say. Not by any means. Remember that the purpose of God is in Christ. It is only in him that we are predestinated. And we are free to choose for ourselves whether we will accept him or not. Man's will has been forever set free, and God himself will not presume to interfere with it. He holds sacred the choice and will of each individual. He will not carry out his own purpose contrary to man's will. His will is to give man whatever man decides will best please him.
So he sets before man life and death, good and evil, and tells him to choose which he will have. God knows what is best, and has chosen and prepared that for man. He has gone so far as to fix it beyond all possibility of failure, that man shall have that good thing if he chooses it. But the wonderful kindness and courteousness of the great God is seen in this, that he defers in everything to man's wishes. If man, in his turn, will but defer to God's wishes, there will be the most delightful and loving companionship between them.
Called, Justified, Glorified. "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them be also glorified." This is completed action. We need not stumble over it, if we will but remember that everything is in Christ. In Christ we have already been blessed with all spiritual blessings. All men are called to that which God has prepared for them, but none are "the called according to his purpose" unless they have made their calling and election sure by submitting to his will. Such ones are predestinated to be saved. Nothing in the universe can hinder the salvation of any soul that accepts and trusts the Lord Jesus Christ.
And all such are justified. The death of Christ reconciles us to God. "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2. His death has secured pardon and life for all. Nothing can keep them from salvation except their own perverse will. Men must take themselves out of the hand of God, in order to be lost.
Much more, then, those who accept the sacrifice, are justified. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
"And whom he justified, them he also glorified." Have we not read in the prayer of Christ for his disciples, not only for those who were with him in the garden, but also for all them that should believe on him through their word and therefore for us, "The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them"? Peter said that he was a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. God has left nothing undone. Everything that Christ has we have if we accept him. All that remains is that it should be revealed. "The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." When God asks concerning his people, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?" who shall presume to say that there is something that he has overlooked?
All Things Are Ours. But we have anticipated the apostle. Hear him: "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?"
How shall he not?" That is, How can he avoid giving us all things? In giving Christ for and to us, God could not do otherwise than give us all things, "for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist." Col. 1:16, 17.
"Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." 1 Cor. 3:21-23. This, then, answers the question, "Who can be against us?" Everything is for us. "All things are for your sakes." 2 Cor. 4:15.
A general once telegraphed to the seat of government, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours." This is what every child of God is privileged to say. "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. 15:57.
"This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4. This is what makes us know that all things work together for good to them that love God. No matter how dark and forbidding the things may seem, if we are in Christ, they are for us, and not against us.
We come now to the close of the eighth chapter of Romans. It is the Pisgah of the epistle, for from it the eye of faith sees the promised land a certainty. Perhaps at this point a very brief summary of the ground already passed over may be profitable. The following is perhaps about as briefly as it can be put.
In the first chapter we have the theme of the epistle put in a few words, the gospel of Christ, the power of God unto salvation. It is to both Jew and Gentile, and has been made known to all through the works of God. The condition of men who have refused to learn of God is then described.
Chapter 2 shows us that at heart all are the same; that all are to be judged by one and the same standard; and that knowledge and high profession do not in themselves recommend any one to God. Obedience to God's law is the only mark of an Israelite indeed and an heir of God.
Chapter 3 emphasizes the preceding points, and especially that there are no obedient ones. "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin." But there is nevertheless hope for all, because the righteousness of the law is put within and upon all who believe in Christ, so that a man is made a doer of the law by faith. One God justifies both Jews and Gentiles alike through faith. Faith is not a substitute for obedience to the law, but insures the doing of it.
In chapter 4 we have Abraham set forth as an illustration of righteousness gained by faith. We learn also that faith in Christ's death and resurrection is the only way by which to inherit the promise to the fathers, which promise embraced nothing less than the possession of the earth made new. The blessing of Abraham is the blessing that comes by the cross of Christ. And since the promise to Israel was only the repetition of the promise to Abraham, we learn that Israel consists of those in every nation who gain the victory over sin through the cross of Christ.
Abounding love and grace, and salvation through the life of Christ, may serve as the barest outline of chapter 5.
New creatures in Christ may serve to bring to the mind of the faithful reader the main thought of chapter 6. It sets forth death, burial, resurrection, and life with Christ.
In chapter 7 we learn how close is the union between Christ and believers. They are married to him, so that they are "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." The struggles by which freedom is secured from the first husband the body of sin, are vividly portrayed.
The eighth chapter, the crown of the book, describes the blessings of the free-born son of God. The hope of future immortality is the actual possession, through the Spirit, of the present life and glory of Christ. Those who are in Christ are predestined to eternal glory. And thus we are brought to:
The Shout of Triumph; a Glorious Persuasion
Romans 8:31-39 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 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? 33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 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. 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 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. 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.
Everything for Us. The apostle has asked, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" The answer must be, "No one." God is greater than all, and none can pluck anything out of his hand. If he who has power to make all things work together for good is for us, then it is certain that everything must be for us.
But the question often arises in the minds of people, "Is God really for us?" People often wickedly charge Him with being against them; and even professed Christians sometimes think that God is working against them. When troubles come, they imagine that God is fighting against them. Now that question is forever settled by one fact, and that is, that God is he who gives himself for us, and who justifies.
Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's own chosen? Shall God, who justifies them? Impossible. Well, God is the only one in the universe who has the right to lay anything to the charge of any; and since he justifies instead of condemning, we must be free. We are free if we believe it. Whom does he justify? "The ungodly." That leaves no doubt but that he justifies us.
And what about Christ? Will he condemn us? How can he, when he gave himself for us? But he gave himself for us, according to the will of God. Gal. 1:4. "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:17. He is risen again for our justification, and he is at the right hand of God for us. He interposes himself between us and the death that we have deserved. Then there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.
"But," says one, "Satan comes to me and makes me feel that I am such a sinner that God is angry with me, and that there is no hope for me." Well, why do you listen to him? You know his character. "He is a liar and the father of it." What have you to do with him? Let him accuse all he will; he is not the judge. God is the judge, and he justifies. Satan's sole object is to deceive men, and allure them into sin, making them believe that it is right. Be sure, then, that he never tells an unforgiven man that he is a sinner. God does that by his Spirit, in order that the guilty man may accept the pardon that he freely offers.
The case then stands thus: When God tells a man that he is a sinner, it is in order that the man may receive his pardon. If God says that a man is a sinner, then he is a sinner, and ought to acknowledge it, but "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." And this is true, no matter who tells us that we are sinners. Suppose that Satan tells us that we are sinners; we do not need to parley with him, or to stop a moment to discuss the question; we can let the accusation go, and comfort ourselves with the assurance that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin.
God doesn't condemn even when he convicts of sin; and nobody else has any business to condemn. If they do condemn, their condemnation does not amount to anything. Therefore there is no condemnation to those who trust the Lord. Even Satan's accusations may serve as encouragements to us; for we may be sure that he will never tell a man that he is a sinner, so long as that man is in his power. Since God is for us, everything is for us.
Everlasting Love. "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." Jer. 31:3. Since this is so, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" His love is everlasting, and knows no change. And his love is for us; therefore nothing can separate us from it. Our own deliberate choice can reject it, but even then his love continues the same; only we have in that case removed ourselves from it. "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he can not deny himself." 2 Tim. 2:13.
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword, separate us from the love of Christ? Impossible, since it was in those very things that his love for us was manifested. Death itself can not separate us from his love, since he so loved us that he gave himself to die for us. Death is the pledge of his love. Sin, that separates us from God, does not separate us from his love, for "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "Him who knew no sin be made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him." 2 Cor. 5:21.
"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." It must be so, since everything is for us. Since Christ suffered hunger, and distress, and peril, and even death itself, in order that he might deliver us, all those things are for us. It was through death that he gained the victory for us; therefore even in death we gain an overwhelming victory. Those whom Satan persecutes even to death, gain the greatest victory over him. That which seems to be a victory for Satan, is his most crushing defeat.
Behold what a wonderful provision God has made for our salvation! It is easy enough to see that if Satan did not trouble us at all, we should be saved. If our enemy would leave us entirely alone, we should have no trouble. So on that side we are safe. But he will not leave us alone. He goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Very well, God has so ordered it that even his attempts to destroy us help us along. Death is the sum of all the ills that Satan can bring upon us, and even in that we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
A Good Persuasion. "For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." Isa. 30:15. "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." Heb. 3:14. Our faith is the victory. God alone is our strength and salvation. Therefore our strength consists in confidence in him. "Trust ye in the Lord forever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." Isa. 27:5.
The apostle Paul had been "in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft." He says: "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." 2 Cor. 11:24-27. Surely he is one who can speak with the authority of great experience. Hear, then, what he says:
"Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 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."
No Fear for the Future. Only to those who wilfully reject the love of God is there "a fearful looking for of judgment." Christ says to us, "Be not therefore anxious for the morrow." He does not desire that we should have our minds filled with fear and anxious forebodings. Some people can never be at rest, even under the most delightful circumstances, because they are afraid that something terrible will happen by and by. Now it makes no difference what may come, since neither things present nor things to come can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are assured that things to come, as well as things present, are ours. 1 Cor. 3:22. Therefore in Christ we may sing: