ROMANS 8:1-39 More Than Conquerors

 

The material in Romans 8 is a response to the condition described by Paul at the end of Romans 7 where he is inspired to testify:

 

  • Romans 7:22-25 – “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”  [1]

Jesus and our relationship with (i.e. “in”) Him is the only avenue of escape and deliverance from the war between the natures that rages within us. The path of sanctification in the Spirit and deliverance from this embattled condition is what follows in Romans 8.

There is therefore now . . .”

Romans 8:1a – “There is therefore now . . . [2]

Notice, the italicized words “There is,” were inserted by the translators for grammatical purposes, but in the original manuscript of the Greek this section starts off simply with the word, “therefore.”

Whenever you see the word, “therefore,” the student of the bible should ask, “What is ‘therefore,’ there for?” In this case it links what follows with what Paul has previously spoken about. In other words, those who are in Christ, in the Spirit, relying by faith in Christ’s completed work, and not trying to please God in their own fleshly strength, are not condemned.

What Paul speaks of here is the “now” of the believer. Paul has described the “wretched” state of trying to live the sanctified life by keeping a set of rules or “law” in one’s own strength. He “now” turns to the present possibility ready to be received by faith by every believer.

“No Condemnation”

Romans 8:1b  - “There is therefore now no condemnation . . . .” [3]

What is “condemnation”? Condemnation” (Greek KATAKRIMA- Strong’s # 2631 - katavkrima katakrima, kat-ak´-ree-mah) here means, “an adverse sentence or verdict;  condemnation, punishment.” [4]   Condemnation is the result of sin (Matthew 12:37; 27:3; Romans 5:18-19). Condemnation is an adverse sentence pronounced by a judge. It is the declaration and pronouncement of “guilty!” at a court proceeding that has reached its determination stage.  

Who is condemned?

Before we consider who is not condemned, we should consider who is condemned. The Bible says that those who are living in sin, who have yet to accept Jesus by faith as their Savior and Lord, are under condemnation. This is a truth spelled out clearly throughout the Bible. Read just a few of the scriptural support for such a statement:

  • Matthew 12:34-37 - “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.35 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.   [5]
  • John 3:18-19 -  “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.19 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”  [6] (See Matthew 25:41-46)
  • Romans 5:12,16,18 – “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— . . . 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. . . . 18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”  [7]

Humanity is therefore born under condemnation, (though I believe an infant or young child, should they die, are not condemned to eternal death but through the blood of Jesus are saved eternally due to their innocence or inability to reason, understand or grasp the gospel to receive it; this would be true of mentally challenged people as well) and should they persist in their sin rejecting Jesus they will die in their sins and be sentenced to eternal death, separation from God in hell at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 21).

Degrees of Condemnation

The Bible also tells us that there are degrees of condemnation. Those who have been given greater opportunity via greater time and revelation knowledge of the gospel, yet still persist to rebel and refuse Jesus and the gospel, those are under greater condemnation. Jesus said this in reference to the religious Pharisees who had the scriptures that spoke of Him yet persisted in rejecting Him, and He spoke it regarding those who had seen Him work and do miracles and remained hardened against Him:

  • Matthew 11:20-24 – “Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.22 “But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.23 “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.24 “But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”  [8]
  • Matthew 23:14 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.”  [9] (See Matthew 5:20)
  • Jude 4 – “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”  [10]

Indeed Paul was inspired to warn of this truth earlier in Romans when he was inspired to write:

  • Romans 2:1 – “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”  [11]

Hypocrites, or those who say one thing and live another, those who know the truth, do not follow it themselves but hold others to it, their condemnation is greater.

No Condemnation

Jesus said He didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but to save it, but those who reject Him are condemned already:

  • John 3:16-18a - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; . . .”  [12]

Hearing and heeding the word of the Lord, believing in Jesus, is the only way to everlasting life and escape from judgment.  Jesus said:

  • John 5:24 - “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  [13]

These verses tell us that through faith in Jesus the Son and His word we can pass out from under the condemnation that sin brings, out from under the specter of judgment that is rightly and justly due the sinner, in can pass into “life,” eternal life. That is a profound verse.

Condemnation versus Conviction

We need to recognize the distinction between condemnation and conviction. The Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of their sin and exposes to them their need for salvation and a Savior, Jesus Christ. Conviction is aimed at drawing a person to God in hope. While the sinner is under the condemnation of God’s righteous judgment, God does not wield that condemnation to punish the sinner but rather refers to it as a warning to bring them home to Him.

Satan on the other hand uses condemnation to isolate and push people away from God, to discourage, demolish, and if possible destroy people. Satan uses condemnation and guilt like a battering ram and bludgeon to make bloody the one who sins but seeks an answer to their sinful state. Therefore it can be said, GOD CONVICTS THE SINNER OF SIN SEEKING TO SAVE HIM; SATAN CONDEMNS THE SINNER ABOUT SIN AIMING TO DESTROY HIM.

 Those who ADMIT/ACKNOWLEDGE their sin before God and ACCEPT by faith that Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross in our place, are brought into a place where they are declared justified and have “no condemnation” as far as God is concerned.  We need to see Christ on the cross for us, obtaining salvation for us.

No Condemnation “In Christ Jesus”

Romans 8:1c – “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, . . .”   [14]

Notice that according to Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those who are “in Christ Jesus.” Paul does not make allowance or present the possibility that condemnation brought by sin can be escaped through any other means than to be “in Christ Jesus.” There is no mention of good intentions (works), Buddha, Hindu gods, self-realization, Mary, the “god” within (New Agers), Allah, Muhammad, or any other option. Being “in Christ Jesus” is the ONLY WAY to escape the condemnation of God on the sinner.

 

This may sound repugnant in our day and age when the cult of toleration is the religion of the masses, it may not be acceptable to those who are willing to throw truth to the wind in favor of “keeping the peace” via a false acceptance; but that Jesus is the only way is the God revealed truth that if ignored leads to more condemnation.

 

This is not just an opinion of the author, but is supported by numerous scriptural evidence. Verses that support the exclusive necessity of being “in Christ” to be saved from condemnation are Romans 8:1 and:

 

  • John 10:1,7,9 - “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. . . 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. . . 9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”  [15]
  • John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  [16]
  • Acts 4:10-12 - “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.11 “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  [17]
  • Acts 13:38-39 - “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man [i.e. Jesus Christ] is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;39 “and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”  [18]
  • Galatians 1:3-10 – “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”  [19]

There is simply no other way to find relief from the guilt of sin, forgiveness for our sin and the just condemnation due us because of it, than to come to Jesus by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. Jesus is the only way.

Why Is Jesus The Only Way?

First, Jesus is the only way because He alone was qualified to go to the cross and pay the just penalty for humanities’ sin. He alone did not sin, but was blameless and therefore he when He went to the cross and gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sin and died, God pronounced His sacrifice acceptable and sufficient to meet His just requirements for the penalty for sin. God pronounced Christ’s sacrifice as acceptable and sufficient by way of the resurrection. Peter was inspired to write:

  • 1 Peter 1:18-21 – “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”  [20]

This could not be said of Buddha, Muhammad or any other human in history. (In fact the Koran testifies to the sinlessness of Jesus.) Only Jesus could go to the cross for you and me.

Second, the Father provided no other way. The night before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed in Gethsemane to the Father that if there was or could be any other way to work the salvation of humanity let it be. But the Father offered no other way. The gospel record indicates this in the following words:

  • Matthew 26:36-39,42,44 – “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.”37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” . . 42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” . . . 44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.”  [21]

Not once, not twice, but three times Jesus made this petition to the Father and each time the silence of the Father asserted “there is no other way Son.”

To say there is another way is to deny the Father, deny His word, and to minimize and blaspheme the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Not only that, but to present an alternative to Jesus to reach a state of “no condemnation” is to present a false gospel and false hope to the lost that will ultimately lead to their eternal condemnation in hell. Jesus is the only way.

Third, God provides one way so there can be no doubt. If there are many ways or undefined ways to attain to “no condemnation” then there can be no certainty. God doesn’t want us to be in doubt or uncertain about how to remove our condemnation. God keeps it simple so that there can simply be no mistake or doubt in regards to freedom from condemnation in His Son. There is only one way out from under the press of condemnation and that gives us assurance. The Bible supports this when it states:

  • John 5:24 - Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  [22]
  • 1 John 5:13 – “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”  [23]

The single solitary way provided by God to “no condemnation in Christ Jesus” provides us with a clear and certain assurance of our salvation. There is no better way than Jesus; there is no other way, period.

In his book New Wine and the Babylonians Vine author Roger Oakland makes the following comment:

“. . . in 1986, at Assisi, Italy, the Vatican hosted may of the world’s religious leaders in a special day of prayer for peace. Buddhists, Hindus, animists and “Christians” of various denominations gathered together by invitation of the pontiff from Rome. All prayed to the gods or goddesses of their choice. The pope who had called for this gathering never presented the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe that would have been a hindrance to the unity for peace that he was endeavoring to attain. . . On of the ways that Satan deceives people is to convince fallen man that he gospel has no validity. However, another effective way is to confuse the message so that people think they understand the gospel, when really do not. . . . The way to eternal life is very narrow. The wide way is the path of deception and there are many who travel this road. Jesus clearly said that He alone was ‘the way,’ the ‘narrow way.” ” [24]

Jesus said:

  • Matthew 7:13-14 - “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. . .”  [25]

Jesus is the One who tells us that there is only one way to find relief from condemnation, Himself; we have to take Him at His word.

 

“In Christ Jesus”

 

The phrase, “in Christ Jesus” or “in Christ” is a very important phrase in Paul’s writings. In Christ Jesus” refers to the position and relationship we have with God through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

The phrase “in Christ” occurs 13 times in the epistle to the Romans (3:24; 6:11,23; 8:1,2,39; 9:1; 12:5; 15:17; 16:3,7,9,10). In Paul’s writings, “in Christ” occurs 84 times. “By Christ” occurs four times in Paul’s writings (1 Corinthians 1:4; Galatians 2:17; Ephesians 3:21; Philippians 4:19). The phrase “through Christ” occurs five times in Paul’s writings (2 Corinthians 1:5; 3:4; Galatians 4:7; Philippians 4:7,13). “In Him” occurs 24 times in Paul’s writings. “”Through Him” occurs 7 times in Paul’s writings (Romans 1:5; 5:9; 8:37; 11:36; Ephesians 2:18; Colossians 1:16; 3:17). These are all phrases which point to a relationship between Jesus and the believer.

 

“Every spiritual blessing . . . in Christ”

 

The importance of the phrase “in Christ” is seen in the way it is used in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians where it states:

 

  • Ephesians 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”  [26]

All our spiritual blessings come to us “in Christ,” that is, in our relationship with Jesus Christ. What are some of these blessings?

 

  1. A Christian’s faithfulness is determined in terms of faith “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:1).
  2. We are chosen “in Him” before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
  3. “In Him” we have redemption (Ephesians 1:7).
  4. God’s will and purpose are realized “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10).
  5. “In Him” we have an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:11).
  6. We receive the seal of the Spirit when we trust “in Him” (Ephesians 1:13).
  7. God’s glory is praised “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:12).
  8. God’s power is realized “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:19-20).
  9. Our position in heaven is “in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
  10. We see the exceeding riches of His grace “in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
  11. Christians are “created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10).
  12. We have access to God “in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:13).
  13. “Through Him” we have access by one spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:18).
  14. Gentiles partake of God’s salvation promise “in Christ” (Ephesians 3:6).
  15. God’s eternal purpose is accomplished “in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:11).
  16. “In Him” we have boldness and access to God (Ephesians 3:12).
  17. We receive forgiveness of sins “in Christ” (Ephesians 4:32).

 

Jesus said:

 

  • John 10:10b – “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” [27]

We come to realize and experience the abundant life Jesus promised through our abiding relationship with Him. Which leads us to another term we should consider that expresses our relationship with Jesus.

Abiding “in Christ”

Another word used to describe our relationship with Jesus is the word “abide.” Jesus said:

 

  • John 8:31-32 – “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [28]

 

·         John 15:1-11 – ““I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. 9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”  [29]

 

 

“Abide” is translated from the Greek term MENO (Strong’s # 3306 - μένω) which occurs 120 times in the New Testament and of those occurrences it is translated 61 times “abide,” 16 times “remain,” “dwell” 15 times, “continue” 11 times, “tarry” nine times, “endure” three times, and translated miscellaneously five times.” [30] The word "abide" therefore means we stick to Jesus and we stick to Jesus by faith or trust in Him. In the above verses we see that Jesus defined His disciples as those who stick to His word (John 8:31; 15:7), stick to Him (John 15:4,5,6,7), and stick or abide to His love (John 15:9,10). Jesus tells us that abiding in Him and His word makes Him full of joy and puts His joy fully in us (John 15:11).

 

“In Christ” and Jesus call to “abide” in Him are equivalent ways to refer to a saving personal relationship with Him. AS YOU ARE “IN CHRIST JESUS” YOU ARE UNDER “NO CONDEMNATION.”

Do Not Walk According to the Flesh

Romans 8:1d – “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, . . . .”  [31]

The one who is not condemned is the one who doesn’t walk in their flesh. We saw in our study on justification in Romans 3:19-5:21 that salvation is not based on a person’s works or personal effort, but the same is true of sanctification. The person who relies on their own understanding, their works, keeping the law and being religious will get no further in their walk with the Lord than to feel like a “wretched man” (Romans7). Those who walk according to their flesh are those who pursue God religiously and if you ever speak to one brought up in a religious environment they are always bound and burdened by guilt rooted in a fear of condemnation. They fear condemnation because they believe their righteousness is based on something they do. They walk around feeling condemned when in truth, in Christ Jesus, they are not. The one who walks in their flesh and trusts in a religious way of relating to God is motivated by guilt, fear and condemnation and that is very sad because such a person will never realize the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10). Don’t walk according to your flesh, it isn’t worth it. There is a far better way.

 

Life According to the Holy Spirit

 

Romans 8:1e – “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”   [32]

Now we come to the crux of this great chapter, it begins from the very first verse when it says, “according to the Spirit.” This great chapter is all about living the sanctified life by the Spirit.

It is only when you live your life according to the Holy Spirit that you will be set free from the condemnation of sin. Without the Spirit you always fall short, get frustrated and ultimately fail spiritually. Life in the Spirit is the only way to be more than a conqueror.

 

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would “abide” with us forever:

 

·         John 14:15-16 - “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever     [33]

What a tremendous promise and blessing. When Jesus said “another Helper,” the term He used for “another” is the Greek term ALLOS (Strong’s #243) which means another of the same kind. In other words, when Jesus promised that “another Helper” would come, He was saying another just like Him. The Holy Spirit is just like Jesus in divine nature and Godhood and Jesus promises the presence of the Holy Spirit to the believer. The Holy Spirit abiding with us forever! And as we continue in our study of Romans 8 we’ll see just how great a blessing this is, to have the Holy Spirit abiding with us forever.

 

But having received forgiveness and freedom from condemnation in Christ Jesus, and the promised abiding of the Holy Spirit, what about the ongoing war of the natures within the believer that we saw in Romans 7? Is there power to help there? How can we ADVANCE in our relationship with Jesus? 

Two Principles

Romans 8:2 – “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”  [34]

“Law” here is used as a principle, just as it is in Romans 7:21,23. There are two principles mentioned here, one brings life, the other death.

The law [principle] of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus

This principle is one that is guided by and led by the Holy Spirit. We need only look at the book of Acts to see such a principle lived out by disciples. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE ONE WHO ENABLES US TO RELATE TO AND INTERACT WITH JESUS IN THIS “IN CHRIST” RELATIONSHIP.

This Spiritual relationship is referred to in the following verses of Hebrews where reference is made to the promise of a New Covenant made by God through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31) is given: 

  • Hebrews 8:7-13 – “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—9 “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.11 “None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.12 “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”  [35]

The New Covenant in Christ is a covenant of the heart, it is INTERNAL not merely EXTERNAL; it is IN THE SPIRIT NOT MERELY IN OUR FLESH; it is a RELATIONSHIP, not merely a religion. John described it like this:

  • 1 John 1:1-4 – “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”  [36]

It is the Holy Spirit who personally puts God’s word in our minds and writes it on our hearts. That we are to relate to God ín the Spirit” was clearly stated by Jesus who said: 

  • John 4:23-24 - “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  [37]

We meet God in the realm of the spirit (human beings are created to function trichotomously spirit/soul/body). How does God communicate with our spirit?

Relating to God in the Realm of the Spirit – The Battle

The Spirit of God communes with us in the area of our spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who resides in the believer. He is a Helper sent to bring the presence and truth of Jesus into the believer’s heart. The Holy Spirit tells us about Jesus and brings the presence of Jesus to the believer (John 14-16).  We know Jesus by the Spirit’s revealing Him to us.

 The Holy Spirit bears witness and speaks to our spirit, which results in a thought-type voice or idea communicated from our spirit to our conscious soul/mind. Our flesh at the prodding of Satan may plant sinful thoughts in our mind but that is when we need to by faith yield ourselves to the Spirit. Paul refers to this when he is inspired to write:

  • 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” [38]

We know thoughts that contradict God’s word are not from God. In the Spirit we must discern between thoughts from our flesh or the devil and those from God. It can be difficult to discern between our thoughts and those from God.

Peter – An Example of the War Within

Remember Peter and his difficulty discerning what was from God and what was from the devil? In the space of a few moments Peter received God’s revelation and then was deluded by a Satanic thought:

  • Matthew 16:15-23 – “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.19 “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. 21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”23 But He turned and said to Peter, Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”  [39]

Now you might respond to the above by saying, “Wait a minute, that was before Pentecost and Peter’s baptism with the Spirit.” But if we look in Galatians we see Peter confronted by Paul after Pentecost because Peter had waffled on the issue of the relationship between Gentiles and Jewish believers (Galatians 2:11-21). The war within us between flesh and Spirit is something we need to be alert to and keep tabs on throughout our earthly lives.

God’s Promise to the Tempted

There is a verse in Scripture that gives one of the most practical and blessed promises of God in the entire bible. God is patient with us knowing this difficulty we have to discern His voice from our own or Satan’s. In Christ, there is no condemnation. God will seek to direct us and protect us from Satan and ourselves. Walking in the Spirit is being attentive to the Spirit’s warnings. Paul was inspired to write then a tremendous statement on God’s practical promise saying:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  [40]

In the Spirit we don’t fight God, we surrender to Him. God is working in us (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). Over time we learn to be sensitive to the Spirit’s voice and discern between the Spirit, our flesh and the devil. We will see more on this relationship as we continue in this chapter 8 of Romans.

Made Free

Paul says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” The three word phrase, “made me free” is translated from one Greek term ELEUTHREO (Strong’s #1659 ελευθερόω [eleutheroo /el·yoo·ther·o·o/]) which occurs 7 times in the New Testament and is translated, “make free” six times, and “deliver” once. 1 The idea of this term is to convey the thought of setting one at liberty; liberating; freeing a person from domination or the dominion of sin. [41] The verses using this term (besides its occurrence in Romans 8:2) are as follows:

 

·         John 8:32 – “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  [42]

 

·         John 8:36 – “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”  [43]

 

·         Romans 6:18 – “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”  [44]

 

·         Romans 6:22 – “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”  [45]

 

·         Romans 8:21 – “because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”  [46]

 

·         Galatians 5:1 – “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”  [47]

 

Life in the Spirit is lived in a close fellowship with God. Life in the Spirit is lived in God’s presence moment by moment. It is not a life lived with SELF as lord and master, but it is a life where the SPIRIT is Lord and Master. Life in the Spirit is not lived in one’s own strength; it is lived in the power of the Spirit. The law of sin and death is binding and causes bondage. Trying to keep laws as a means to justify or sanctify leads to bondage. There is no worse condition than to be seeking God in one’s own strength because the person who does is doomed to frustration and failure from the start. We saw the futility of this in Romans 7. When we contrast the two principles and receive God’s offer of life in the Spirit, we are “set free” from the deficiencies of the law that exposes sin and leads to death and are liberated to the glorious experiences of the Spirit.

The Law [principle] of Liberty

James called this the “law of liberty”:

  • James 1:25 – “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  [48]
  • James 2:12 – “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”  [49]

The “law of liberty” is a particular title coined by James to refer to God’s word. “Law” here is a principle for life. The law that liberates is a principle for life whereby the believer no longer lives in self-dependent rule or law keeping, but lives in the power and enabling of the Spirit.

Jesus pointed out the burden of trying to keep the law or rules as the outcome of the Pharisees legalistic teaching:

  • Matthew 23:4 - “For they [Pharisees who were religious and legalistic] bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”  [50]

On the other hand it was Jesus who said:

  • Matthew 11:28-30 - “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  [51]

When we come to Jesus in the Spirit we find rest for our souls. Life in the Spirit is liberating and that is why it is called a law of liberty.

A Pastor Who Found Rest in Jesus

This is one of the greatest truths I have come to learn as a pastor. I have not always lived or pastured according to the principle of life in the Spirit. When I first began to pastor I relied for the most part on human wisdom that showed it self for example in church growth strategies, demographic studies, statistical analysis, programs, and any other method to get my church to grow that was possible. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against church growth. Growth for the sake of growth (to have a “big” church) is more a definition of cancer than God’s will for His church. But a healthy church will grow as sheep are fed and get strong on the word of God. Healthy sheep reproduce! But when I relied on my smarts and strategies to operate a church that were rooted in the secular marketing world, all I found was a financial drain and frustration. God allowed me to exhaust my earthly fleshly resources and bottom out so that I would cry out to Him. And when I cried out to God, He showed me how He works. God works in and by the power of the Holy Spirit. The best diagram and outline for how a church should be run is found in the book of Acts and in Acts we find a church empowered and guided by the Spirit. Come to Jesus, be filled and empowered in the Spirit and you will realize your fulfillment in Him.

Let me say I am not the pastor of a mega church and don’t feel as though I have failed in any way as a result of this. It is God’s church and I believe He determines the size and composition of each church. God is the one who grows the church by adding the saved and multiplying disciples (Acts 2:42,47; 6:7; 7:17; 9:31; 12:24). Success for the pastor (or anyone else for that matter) is not based on factoring numbers; it is based on being faithful to God, trusting in Him, and doing things His way. I don’t know what the future holds for the church I pastor, (I’m open to the Spirit’s leading). I do know that the Spirit has hold of me and is using me and that is enough for me. I pray my church grows in the Spirit and numerically, but not to use numbers to build my ego or confirm my calling, or to be able to boast of success, but because numbers mean souls saved and disciples multiplied to bring more and more glory to the Name of Jesus. It is the love of Christ in the Spirit that compels me in my ministry (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). 

The church belongs to Jesus, it is not mine or yours or anyone else’s. He is the One who builds His church (Matthew 16:18). Realizing this brings rest to your soul. I have come to rest in Jesus. That doesn’t mean I vegetate like a pastoral coach potato. On the contrary, I do my best and trust Him for the rest and that attitude brings me rest for my soul. I once heard a pastor say that there is no reason for clergy burnout. Clergy burnout is a sign of doing ministry in one’s own strength. That will lead to burnout and exhaustion. But when the pastor is resting in Jesus, the burden of ministry is lifted and one can minister freely in the power and direction and production of the Holy Spirit. So if you’re a pastor or really whoever you are, if you’re struggling in life, come to Jesus and find rest for your souls. Let His grace overflow you and make you what He wants you to be (1 Corinthians 15:10). Let Jesus liberate you from your burden of carnal bondage.

In Christ we are set free from the condemnation that was due the sinner under the law. In Christ we are set free from the futility of trying to be righteous in our own strength by keeping the law. Remember what we noted from Jesus words earlier? Jesus said:

·         John 8:31-32 – “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”   [52]

 

Not only are we freed from condemnation regarding sin through our abiding in Jesus, but also when we are abiding in Jesus words the Spirit uses them to free us from the bondage of sin and flesh. How sad it is that some Christians live in a felling of condemnation and guilt due to trying to live by laws or rules. Such legalism and religion is counterproductive to the spiritual life God wants to work in the believer.

 

The law [principle] of sin and death

People are not sinners because they sin; they sin because they are sinners. Humanity is by nature children of wrath and under the influence of Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:1-4). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Those who reject the Spirit and try to be righteous in their own strength are doomed to frustration and failure and are not acceptable to God. Jesus referred to such as blaspheming the Holy Spirit:

  • Matthew 12:31 - “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.”  [53]

If this is true of the sinner who seeks God in their own strength, in their own way apart from the Spirit revealed way of God, how silly and sad it is when believers try to use ways other than in the Spirit to live the sanctified life (Galatians 3:1-3).

Legal Stoning or Spiritual Light?

 

These two principles (law of sin and death and law of life in the Spirit) or ways of looking at life are best illustrated in the following situation Jesus dealt with:

 

  • John 8:1-12 – “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.5 “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”   [54]

Here we see the stark contrast between those who coldly seek to condemn and destroy the one in sin based on law (John 8:5), and Jesus who seeks to forgive and deliver from sin in the Spirit. The law of sin and death is a law perpetrated and used by sinners against sinners (John 8:6-9). Jesus on the other hand, showed the woman forgiveness and instructed her to, “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). The way to have victory over sin is not by legalism, but by walking in the light of Jesus (John 8:12; 1 John 1:7).

Following the Spirit in Life

The way of the Spirit cannot always be put down in simple easy to follow steps. That is true because the way of the Spirit is a relationship. How many of you who are married have followed a step-by-step outline with your spouse as you have grown in your relationship together? You may have set down plans such as, “In five years we’ll have our first home; in six years we’ll have our first child; in eight years our second child.” You may have even set up your lives by a plan on into retirement. But you know what, life doesn’t work like that. There are unexpected forks and bumps in the road. That’s what makes life, life! That is why you need to let the Lord set your life in order and follow Him step by step moment by moment. In Proverbs it states:

  • Proverbs 16:9 – “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”  [55]

To live by the principle of life in the Spirit doesn’t mean we don’t make plans, but it does mean all our plans are tentative and open to the Spirit changing them. James wrote:

  • James 4:13-16 – “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”  [56]

Life in the Spirit is constantly surrendering to God with the words, “If the LORD wills.” The Spirit leads us from point “A” to point “B” but what I have learned is that the journey from point “A” to point “B” is just as valuable as getting to the destination because the Spirit uses the journey to conform us to Christ-likeness and make us ready to arrive at our destination and all God has for us.

Remember Why the Law Was Given

The Law was not given to make one righteous; it was given to reveal clearly to us our sinfulness and need of Christ. The Law is a “tutor” to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3). A person may have cancer and not know it. If they go and have a regular checkup and a spot or sing of cancer is found and identified, then they know to go to a doctor for help. The Law shows us we need spiritual help and the Doctor is Jesus. The law reveals our deadness, but the law of Christ sets us free, it heals our sin problem. The law of sin and death is a law of works based on what I do; the law of Christ is a law of grace and is based upon God’s work, what Christ has done for us. The law couldn’t and can’t make a person righteous, it can’t remove our guilt, it doesn’t motivate us to keep it and it has no power to help people keep it; only in Christ can these things be accomplished.

The Weakness of the Law

Romans 8:3-4 – “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  [57]

The phrase, “what the law could not do,” refers to the impotence of the law to make one righteous, remove guilt, and empower to keep it. The reason Jesus came was because the law could not save or make a person righteous.

The reason the law is impotent is that the law is “weak through the flesh,” the law is kept in one’s own strength and depends on us  (i.e. “the flesh”). God’s standard of righteousness is perfection (Matthew 5:48); therefore, if a person wants to try to be righteous by keeping the law, they must keep it perfectly without flaw or even mistake (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10). One slip up and one is guilty of the whole law and unrighteous. The Bible says:

  • James 2:10 – “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”  [58]

Through Jesus, who came in the flesh as representative Man, “sin in the flesh” was condemned on the cross, in that all our inadequacies that resulted in sin were judged on the cross by being placed on Jesus. On the cross, “the righteous requirement of the law, “was “fulfilled” in that what we could not do, Jesus did for us.  Those who do not rely on their own attempt to be righteous, (“who do not walk according to the flesh”) and heed and accept by faith this message brought by, “the Spirit” have found the answer to the problem of condemnation for sin. That answer is that Jesus did on the cross for us what we were too weak to do for ourselves by trying to keep the law. Paul was inspired to say it this way in another epistle:

  • Galatians 3:10-13 – “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),” [59]

Once having put faith in Jesus, we need to walk by faith in the Spirit. Paul now moves to a discussion on this.

“God did” –The Strength of God

Paul says that what the law couldn’t do, “God did.” Similarly, what the law could not do for us, God did for us. Here we see the primary difference between life under the law and life in the Spirit. THE PRIMARY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE ACCORDING TO THE LAW AND LIFE ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT IS THAT THE LAW STRESSES AND RELIES UPON WHAT I MUST DO, LIFE IN THE SPIRIT STRESSES AND RELIES UPON WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US IN CHRIST AND WHAT HE CONTINUES TO DO DAY BY DAY.

The Bible tells us that God is the one working in and through us and tells us this over and over. Below are a few verses that tell us this:

  • Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  [60]
  • Philippians 1:6 – “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”  [61]
  • Philippians 2:13 – “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  [62]
  • Romans 8:26a – “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.[63]
  • Jude 1 – “Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, 1 To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:”   [64]

The human being is inherently inclined to the religious, a “what must I do to be saved,” mentality. And even after one is saved the believer needs to grow out of this mentality and learn to walk by trust in the Holy Spirit and God’s promise to work in us.

A Decision on Your Mindset

Romans 8:5 – “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”  [65]

The Holy Spirit is “God,” He is the third Person of the Triune Godhead. When a person accepts Jesus as their Savior and is born again, the Holy Spirit comes to reside in them bringing the presence of Jesus home to them and He begins to work a change in them. This change is very drastic and apparent. Paul was inspired to describe it in the following way:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  [66]

The change worked by the Spirit is most clearly seen in the new believer who is changed from sinner to saint. This change is most apparent in the way it changes a persons’ thinking. The person who has been born again has a flip-flop in priorities and interests. The things they dwelt on before they were saved don’t hold the same value or interest after they are saved. That is what Paul discusses in Romans 8:5.

Minds Set on Things According to the Flesh

Those who live “according to the flesh” are preoccupied and “set their minds on” fleshly things; they are primarily focused upon things related to fulfilling the lusts and desires of their perverted bodily drives and desires. The one who lives in their flesh is focused upon such things as what they eat, how they can fulfill sexual desires, how they can serve “self.” The one who lives in the flesh is willing to sacrifice the sanctity of life and respectfulness for others in order to meet their own predominant obsessive needs.

The natural man living apart from the Spirit cannot relate to God. Paul says this when he is inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  [67]

This verse refers primarily to the unsaved Spirit-less person, but it can also refer to the saved in some respects. The mind of the flesh is what we see in our world today, and unfortunately that is also true for much of the church. More on this below. But worse still, are those who rely on their fleshly nature after they enter into a relationship in Christ. This is truly frustrating, tragic and the prime cause of the impotence of the church today. It is possible to live a carnal fleshly Christian life (see 1 Corinthians 3). Those who do live for their flesh will never come to realize and experience the fullness of what God desires for them for the most part because they just aren’t seeking God’s fullness. The carnal fleshly believer is seeking things having to do with “me, myself and I.” God wants us to deny our self, focus on and follow Him

Minds Set on Things According to the Spirit

Those who live, “according to the Spirit,” have a much different focus; they are concerned with the fulfillment of God’s will in their lives and the lives of others; they are focused upon and give preference to God and others. Those who live in the Spirit focus on those things that the Spirit is interested in, e.g. salvation of the lost; the lordship of Jesus; discipleship; Biblical truth and God’s revelation; et.al. IT IS GOD WHO PUTS THIS DESIRE IN THOSE WHO LIVE ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT. THE LAW COULDN’T DO THAT, ONLY GOD IN CHRIST THROUGH THE SPIRIT COULD.

Look again at Paul’s inspired words from God to the Philippians:

  • Philippians 2:13 – “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  [68]

This verse specifically tells us IT IS GOD WHO WORKS IN US, to do what? ‘TO WILL AND TO DO FOR HIS GOOD PLEASURE.” IT IS GOD WHO PUTS THE DESIRE TO FOLLOW THE SPIRIT AND HIS WILL AND WORD.

What is our part in this? Do we have a part?

A Matter of Faith - “Set their minds on” - Sowing to Flesh or Spirit

Our part is by faith set our minds on the things of the Spirit. To “set their minds on” is an act of faith in the Spirit done moment by moment. This is similar to Paul’s use of the words “reckon” (6:11) and “present” (6:13,16.19). What we set our minds on by faith does have consequences.  When a person “sets their mind on” or puts their faith in the things of this world, leads to consequences (problems). When a person sets their mind on things of the Spirit, there are also consequences (blessings).

Too often those who should be living according to the Spirit, spend their time and energy in seeking fleshly things. Paul said:

  • Galatians 6:7-10 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  [69]

If you feed your flesh, it will grow stronger in you; if you feed the spirit, it will grow stronger. You reap what you sow spiritually.

Remember what Paul was inspired to write to the Galatians; he said it was foolish to try to follow God in your flesh after you had failed to be saved by fleshly attempts to keep the law (Galatians 3:1-3). It is foolish to rely on your flesh once you’ve been born of the Spirit. Paul explains in what follows why such a decision is so foolish. The area of defeat in the believer’s life is the area that remains in the flesh.

The Nature of Carnality 

Romans 8:6-7 – “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, nor indeed can be.”  [70]

The word “carnally” here can be translated “fleshly,” or oriented and inclined to the flesh. To be living after one’s flesh leads to death. It was flesh reliant, flesh-seeking people who nailed Jesus to the cross. “Death” means spiritual death. If you are carnally minded you will be dead to the things of the Spirit. Whenever the believer lives for their fleshly desires, it kills off God’s plans for them. When you turn to feed your flesh, you also turn away from the Spirit of God. The two are diametrically opposed and at odds.

The carnally minded leads to  “enmity against God,” or hatred towards God. The person living according to their flesh is seeking to establish their own rule in their life and hate the thought of having God rule over them. In fact, Paul says the one relying on their flesh cannot subject itself to God and His law, because there is no strength or even desire to do so. The fleshly or carnally minded person is not concerned with the things of God; they are just not a priority or point of interest for them.

The Nature of Spirituality

Paul contrasts carnal living with “but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” The word  “life,” is translated from the Greek term ZOE  (Strong’s # 2222 - zwhv zoµeµ, dzo-ay´) meaning “life; lifetime[71]; “of life as a principle, life in the absolute sense, life as God has it, that which the Father has in Himself, and which He gave to the Incarnate Son to have in Himself.” [72] The one who follows the Spirit finds the true essence and purpose of life the way God intended it to be.

The one who lives in the Spirit has “peace,” which is translated from the Greek term EIRENE (Strong’s # 1515 - eijrhvnh eáireµneµ, i-ray´-nay) meaning, “to join; peace; prosperity; one, peace, quietness, rest, set at one again.” [73] This is a relational word that implies being at peace with those around you and in this case, that would especially refer to peace with God (Romans 5:1).

The nature of the one who lives in the Spirit is true life and true peace. THE CARNAL MIND IS AT WAR WITH GOD AND ON A DEAD END ROAD; THE SPIRITUAL MIND IS AT PEACE WITH GOD AND ON THE ROAD TO THE TRUE MEANING OF LIFE, ETERNAL LIFE WITH GOD.

The Fleshly Can’t Please God

Romans 8:8 – “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”  [74]

We have already seen that “the flesh” and to be “in the flesh” refers to that mindset, that state of being whereby a person lives and acts in their own best interests as perceived in their own mind and heart. To live in the flesh means to spend one’s life and live for “me, myself, and I,” it means to be self-centered, self-absorbed, self-reliant, self-promoting, and therefore self-deluded because as we have seen, are seeing and will continue to see, living in the flesh prevents a person from fulfill their reason for being. Let me explain.

What Does It Mean To “Please God”?

The term “please” is translated from the Greek term ARESKO (Strong’s 700 - αρέσκω [aresko /ar·es·ko/]) which occurs 17 times in the New Testament. All 17 times it is translated “please” and it means, “to please; to strive to please; to accommodate one’s self to the opinions, desires, and interests of others. “[75] The dictionary defines “accommodate” as, “to make fit, suitable, congruous; to bring into concord, agreement, reconcile; to provide something desired or needed; to make room for; to give consideration to; “to adapt oneself.”

 

Pleasing God and Pleasing People

 

In the New Testament we see this term illustrated when Herodias and her daughter are said to have pleased Herod and his guests in their dancing (Matthew 14:6; Mark 6:22). The disciples counsel is said to have “found approval” with the congregation of believers in the book of Acts (Acts 6:5). In Romans 8 we see that being “in the flesh” or living for one’s self prohibits a person and prevents them from being able to please God. What is the relationship between pleasing God and pleasing people?

Later in Romans Paul is inspired to write:

·         Romans 15:1-3 – “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”  [76]

 

In this verse we see that pleasing God is connected to pleasing others. If you want to please God, be willing to accommodate yourself to others. Now a person can go overboard in accommodating others, which is not pleasing to God. When Peter was ordered by the religious leaders of his day to stop preaching the gospel of Jesus, even though he was threatened and beaten his response was:

  • Acts 5:29 – “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”  [77]

Paul was inspired to write to the Galatians:

 

·         Galatians 1:10 – “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”  [78]

 

To please God we should be willing to accommodate our selves to others but not to the point where we disobey God or His word. WE DO NOT EXIST TO PLEASE OTHERS; WE EXIST TO PLEASE GODNow when we please God it may lead us to please others, but there are times when pleasing God will place the believer at odds with other people. In such cases the believer must choose to please God even if it means being at odds with others or not pleasing people. We are to please God even if it means not pleasing people. Paul points out the priority of pleasing God over pleasing people when he writes to the Thessalonians and to Pastor Timothy saying:

 

·         1 Thessalonians 2:4 – “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.”  [79]

 

·         1 Thessalonians 4:1 – “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;”  [80]

 

·         2 Timothy 2:4 – “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”  [81]

 

The person operating in their flesh may try to rationalize pleasing people at the expense of pleasing God because that is the easy way out. In the world of the flesh the motto is “don’t make waves, keep the peace at any cost.” But God calls us to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and to do that even if it disrupts or causes contention with others. Jesus said He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34). Jesus knew and He taught His disciples that sometimes He and His word would cause division with those who refused to accept Him or His word.

In one’s own strength (i.e. the flesh), in works generated and directed by one’s self, one can’t please God nor does one even make pleasing God a priority. When you are in your flesh, you are out to please yourself first no matter how you might try to veil or disguise that desire. If you live to please your fleshly desires, don’t think you can please God too! Just look at that described in Romans 7. But this really begs another more rudimentary question. The question of pleasing God really touches on the life question, “Why do we exist?” Why do we exist? Let’s see what the Bible says.

Why Do We Exist?

 

Why do we exist? That is a question every human being will ponder at some point in his or her lives. The Bible answers that question very clearly in one verse in particular. That verse is found in Revelation and is written below in various translations and paraphrases as:

 

  • Revelation 4:11 – (NKJV) “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”   [82]

·         Revelation 4:11 (NIV) - “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”   [83]

 

·         Revelation 4:11 (NLT) - “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.”  [84]

 

  • Revelation 4:11 – (KJV) “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”   [85]

Why do we exist? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? These are questions every person asks at some point in their existence. Revelation 4:11 gives us the answer to those questions. The answer to that question from this verse is best translated in the King James Version of the Bible, which states, “And for Thy pleasure they were created.” THE PURPOSE OF MAN’S EXISTENCE IS TO PLEASE GOD. We were all created by God for His pleasure.

 

What Pleases God?

What pleases God? What can we do to bring pleasure to Him? Paul writes to the Ephesians:

·         Ephesians 1:3-6 - “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”  (Emphasis added.) [86]

In this passage we see some awesome things that please God.

God Takes Pleasure in Blessing Others.

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Jesus. Why has He done that? He has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ . . .  according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Ephesians 1:3,5). The first thing we see in answer to our question is that, GOD TAKES PLEASURE IN BLESSING US! That is in perfect line with God’s holy loving nature. Love is an action, an act of giving in some way. That doesn’t come naturally to us, in fact, giving and doing for others, as a source of pleasure is quite foreign to your everyday human. Even when we do things for others, it is often tainted by some ulterior motive or guilt-ridden sense of obligation. In other words, even the good we do is often flesh infested. But God is different; His nature is pure and holy, distinct and different from our sinful nature. God loves to bless others and doing so brings Him great pleasure. Do you know that that is precisely the nature God created humanity with? But unfortunately, all of that was lost when humanity fell in sin. Now our inclination is just the opposite. Oh what pleasure it must bring God when He sees People taking pleasure in blessing others! When was the last time you just blessed someone for the fun of it? When was the last time you sent your spouse flowers for no other reason than to let them know you loved them? I’m not talking about holiday or birthday flowers, but out of the blue flowers. When was the last time you did an unexpected random loving act for someone, even a stranger? The more in the Spirit and spiritually mature we become, I believe, the more we will take pleasure in blessing others.

Five Pleasurable Blessings of God

 

The passage in Ephesians mentioned above gives us further insight into what brings pleasure to God. There are five things listed in this passage which bring pleasure to God. 

First, it pleases God to bless us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Now think about that, God pours out “every” spiritual blessing, He holds nothing back. He doesn’t dangle His blessings in front of us like a carrot used to entice a beast of burden. No, God lavishes every spiritual blessing on us and this gives Him great pleasure.

Second, it pleases God to choose people in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4b). God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” It gave God pleasure to set forth the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus Christ as a clear path to Himself (John 14:6). God had a redemptive plan to redeem humanity who He knew would fall into sin. It gave God pleasure to make a plan whereby He would reveal His love and holy nature to humanity through that plan. Choosing us in our relationship to Jesus in this way was part of God’s plan even before the foundation of the world was laid.

Third, it pleases God to provide a way for us to be holy and blameless before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4c). Paul writes that the purpose of God’s redemptive plan and salvation is, “that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love.”  To be holy and blameless is to be like Jesus and that is God’s purpose for us, to make us like Jesus (Romans 8:29). It gives God great pleasure when His children take on the nature of Jesus because that nature, as we have seen above, is one that takes pleasure in giving love.

Fourth, it pleases God to adopt us as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself (Ephesians 1:5). God’s predetermined plan has always been that we would be a part of His family. God is very family oriented and it brings Him great pleasure when people are adopted into His family. In the era in which the letter to the Ephesians was inspired, to be adopted meant that a person was taken into a family with all the rights of natural born children and heirs. Adoptees were by no means second-class family members. It gives God great pleasure to adopt impartially children into His family. The only requirement for this adoption is that it is “by Jesus Christ.” You cannot join God’s family apart from Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus there is no adoption into God’s family. Trying to join God’s family in any other way than exclusively through Jesus the Son, results in illegitimacy and bastard babies. You must go through the Son Jesus to be adopted into God’s family. Only being adopted through faith in the Son is acceptable to God and brings pleasure to Him (Galatians 4:30).

Fifth and last, it pleases God to make us acceptable by grace in the beloved Son Jesus (Ephesians 1:6). God brings praise and glory to His gracious work by offering redemption and salvation exclusively in Jesus. It brings God pleasure to exalt the Son Jesus. Jesus is the Beloved Son of God and it brings Him unmatched pleasure to exalt and glorify His Son Jesus. Jesus said:

  • John 3:35 - “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.”  [87]
  • John 5:20 - “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.”  [88]
  • John 15:9 - “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”  [89]
  • John 17:22-26 -  “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:23 “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.25 “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.26 “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”  [90]

These last verses from the gospel of John point us to the way in which we can bring pleasure to God. It brings pleasure to God when the Son He loves is exalted and loved by others. WE can please God by loving the Son. Let’s look at that a bit more closely.

Can We Please God?

 

That it is possible for human beings to bring pleasure to God is shown in Stephen’s sermon in Acts:

·         Acts 7:20 -  “At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing to God; and he was brought up in his father’s house for three months.”  [91]

Paul too speaks of how we can please God:

·         Philippians 4:18 - “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” [92]

It is possible to please God.

How Can We Please God?

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament  states, “αρέσκω [to please] implies the establishment of a positive relationship between two factors and therefore “to make peace” or “to reconcile.” From the original legal sphere the term passed into the aesthetic in the sense of “to please” someone. [93] Therefore, to “please God,” means to be at peace with and reconciled to God by accommodate your self (i.e. your flesh) to please God. To please God means to submit or accommodate your will to His will and that is something you just don’t want to do when you are in the flesh. In the flesh you say, “My will be done.” In the Spirit, you say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven Father.” What are some things we can do to please God?

 

There are a number of things the Bible states we do that please God:

1.) We can please God with right words and thoughts. 

·         Psalm 19:14 - “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”  [94]

Our words and thoughts can bring pleasure to the Lord. What kind of thoughts and words bring pleasure to the Lord? Thought and words that exalt His Son and take on the loving nature of the Son Jesus.

2.) We can please God with obedient lives. 

·         Colossians 3:20 - “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” [95]

Young people, do you want to please the Lord? The best way to bring pleasure to God is by obeying and respecting your parents. This does not only apply to our children but to all people. We are children of God and should obey Him! Jesus said:

·         John 14:21 -  “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”[96]

God loves obedient children and that is what we should seek to be to bring pleasure to Him.

3.) We can please God with spiritually fruitful lives. 

·         Colossians 1:9-12 - “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”       [97]

How blessed and please God is when He looks down and sees His children seeking to be conformed to the likeness of His Son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

4.) We can please God by allowing Him to work in our lives.

·         Hebrews 13:20-21 - “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” [98]

As we mentioned initially, God’s gets the greatest pleasure from acting in love to bless people. And therefore, when we acknowledge this and surrender to God for Him to do what His pleasure is in us, that brings great pleasure to God.

But maybe we need to ask another question. Why should we care to please God?

Why Is It Important to Want to Please God?

It is important to want to please God because a person will only find true contentment and fulfillment when they accept the role and purpose for which they were created, to be a pleasure to God. Then and only then will a person find meaning, fulfillment and enjoyment.

 

Do you live to please God? Does such a thought repel you? Do you think, “I want to please myself”? What does your life demonstrate? Who do you really live to please? Yourself? Others? God? It was a pleasing thing to God to create us. God is love. He created us and desires to have a loving relationship with us. That is what pleases Him. Love is only as real and lasting as it is willing to be hurt. God’s love went all the way for us. Even though we are like a harlot to Him at times (such as described in the book of Hosea). God risks heartbreak so that true love can be manifested. He calls us to have a servant’s heart not so He can have a kingdom of slaves but because a servant’s heart that desires to please others is the fullest attitude of love. Love “does not seek it’s own” (1 Corinthians 13:8). I have a license for my wife just as I have a license for my car but I do not see her as I do my car, to simply perform tasks for me. I did not select her as some do in the middle east, with an eye to how strong she is so that she can be put to work and enrich me materially, (e.g. “Ahhhh, good teeth, strong arms, I’ll take her!”). No, my wife is the apple of my eye. I love her and she loves me. Because she loves me and I love her, we do things for each other; we put each other first before ourselves because we love each other. We please each other. When we serve each other in an non-manipulative and unsolicited way, when we send a love note, or do something special for each other, that demonstrates our love for each other, that brings us pleasure. Do you serve the God of love? Do you love Him? Do you exist to bring Him pleasure? To live to please God is the only way to find fulfillment and it is the purpose for which you were created.

 

MAN’S FULFILLMENT, CONTENTMENT, SATISFACTION, AND SENSE OF MEANING ARE DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE EXTENT TO WHICH THEY LIVE TO PLEASE GOD.

 

Worship is The Means To Pleasing God

 

Let’s return a moment to that verse in Revelation. The context of Revelation is heavenly worship. Therefore, it is important for us to note that the context for pleasing God is worship. What is the link between worship and pleasing God?

 

When you love someone dearly, you find time to express that love and one of the most intimate ways to express deep heartfelt love is to kiss the one you love. How can we kiss God? We can kiss God, express our love for Him and bring pleasure to Him in worship. The essence of our love relationship to God is beautifully depicted in the term “WORSHIP.” “WORSHIP” is a translation of the Greek term PROSKENUO which literally means “TO TURN AND KISS.”

 

Do you want to bring pleasure to God? Then worship Him. Jesus expressed this when He spoke of the greatest commandment saying:

 

·         Matthew 22:36-40 -  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’38 “This is the first and great commandment.39 “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”   [99]

Worship is not something we only do before the teaching in a church service. Worship is far more than that. Worship is a way of life. Have you ever seen two newlyweds? If they are godly and in love they show their love. They hold hands, hug, spend time together, and they kiss a lot. They don’t just kiss once or twice a week, that would be absurd for newlyweds experiencing true intimacy for the first time. And hopefully, as the newlyweds grow in their relationship with each other their love and desire to bring pleasure to each other grows, deepens and matures into something more and more substantial. It’s great to see married people kiss a lot. It’s even neater to see older couples kiss a lot. And it’s really a blessing to see the aged couple still kissing after all those years. Now think about this, when love is present there is a desire to kiss. If worship means “to turn and kiss,” and we love God and want Him to know it, then what better way to show Him that love than to “turn and kiss” Him in worship? That is something we should do all the time. We need to lavish kisses on God by living a life of worship. Turn to God, kiss Him in worship and watch Him smile with pleasure.

 

Don’t Like to Worship?

If you don’t like to worship the Lord (bringing pleasure to Him) maybe you should reconsider and ask the Spirit to help you. If you rebel against this God ordained purpose for human existence that is your sinful nature at work. Someone has said, this one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last. And we might add, only what’s done to please God will bring peace.

Life in the flesh is life in a state of anti-faith, or apart from faith; it is a life spent on fulfilling one’s own self-centered desires in one’s own strength. That will never please God. The Bible says that faith is necessary to please God:

  • Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  [100]

This is reason enough to show that the carnal person cannot please God.

Jesus said:

  • Luke 9:23 – “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” [101]

To “deny himself,” is to deny our flesh. That’s what must be done to follow Jesus. IF YOU WON’T DENY YOUR FLESH YOU CAN’T PLEASE GOD AND IF YOU CAN’T PLEASE GOD YOU WILL NEVER REALIZE AND FULFILL THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH YOU WERE CREATED, TO PLEASE GOD (Revelation 4:11 KJV). THE FLESHLY PERSON LIVES AN EMPTY AIMLESS LIFE.

Indeed is the Spirit in You?

Romans 8:9 – “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”  [102]

To be “in the flesh” points to the human condition before conversion. To be “in the Spirit” points to one who has been converted by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul then comments on a condition (“if indeed”). Paul is going to use the contrast between the unsaved Spirit-less person and the saved Spirit-filled person to illustrate the pointlessness of trying to be sanctified by way of relying on your flesh (i.e. own strength, own knowledge, own resources, self-centered desires and perceptions). What does Paul mean when he writes, “if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you”? The phrase “dwells in” is translated from the Greek term OIKEO (Strong’s # 3611 - οικέωoikeo - oy-keh´-o) which means, to occupy a house, i.e. reside, inhabit, remain, inhere,” it implies, “to cohabit; dwell.” [103] Therefore when Paul refers to this condition he is speaking about the relationship a person who has been converted has with the Holy Spirit. Paul’s aside is somewhat rhetorical in that he is making the point that some Christians do not act like Christians; they act inappropriately in their flesh rather than following the Spirit.

 

How Do I Know If The Spirit of God Is In Me?

The Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life when they accept Jesus by grace through faith as their Lord and Savior. The New Testament has numerous references t o the indwelling of the believer by the Holy Spirit. Here are just a few of the references referring to this relationship:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 – “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”  [104]
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  [105]
  • Titus 3:4-7 – “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  [106]
  • 2 Timothy 1:14 – “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.   [107]
  • James 4:5-6 – “Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: 1 “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”  [108]
  • 1 John 3:24 – “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”  [109]
  • 1 John 4:12-13 – “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”  [110]

Paul says we are a holy temple in which the Spirit dwells. He says the Spirit coming into a person regenerates them or gives them eternal new life. This indwelling of the Spirit does not come about by works (“not by works”), which is a disclaimer to those who would try to attain to the indwelling presence of the Spirit by the works of their flesh. Instead, Paul points us to faith as the means. Once faith is put in Jesus for salvation the Holy Spirit comes within to begin the sanctifying process of conforming the believer to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). The Holy Spirit is jealous for the believer and opposes anything or anyone that would distract and hinder that sanctifying process. The indwelling presence of the Spirit is how we know we area saved and belong to God, (this is assurance of salvation). Therefore it seems clear that a person who lacks the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is missing out on what God desires to do in and through them, they miss out on the purpose for their existence, because they have not the capacity to please God in their own strength Spiritlessly (Romans 8:8).

This is a truth of utmost importance; if you cannot say that “the Spirit of God dwells in you,” then you are not God’s and you remain in your sin. Keeping the law does not bring the Spirit to reside in you, accepting Jesus as Savior by faith does. Jesus said:

  • John 3:3,5 – “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” . . .5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  [111]

Jesus said the ministry of the Spirit was convicting the world of sin and leading them to faith in the Son Jesus (John 16:8-11). Once a person has put their faith in Jesus and been indwelled by the Spirit, they live a life empowered by the Spirit for service (Acts 1:8), a life that is filled and refilled by the Spirit on a daily ongoing basis (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 5:18). But if you do not have the Holy Spirit within you, you do not belong to God; you are not saved from your sin.

But how do we know the Spirit is in us?

Worship is Evidence of the Spirit Dwelling Within

It’s interesting that Paul mentioned the presence of the Spirit on the heels of speaking about the ability to please God, which we have shown, is evidenced by a heart of worship (Romans 8:8; Revelation 4:11). Worship and the presence of the Spirit go hand in hand. If you don’t like to worship, that may indicate something about whether or not the Spirit is in you. Read what Jesus said to the woman at the well:

  • John 4:21-24 – “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.22 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”   [112]

God is Spirit and those who worship or follow Him “must worship in spirit and truth.” God’s word is truth (John 17:17) and we receive the Holy Spirit within dwelling in us at conversion (John 3). Can you say the Spirit is in you?

God’s Love in Us is Evidence of the Spirit Dwelling in Us

The presence of the Spirit in a person’s life is evidenced by the fruit of love that grows in a believer’s life. Love is from the Spirit as Paul says:

  • Romans 5:5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  [113]

Now what is the “love of God”? The “love of God,” is a LOVE FOR GOD, A LOVE FOR HIS WILL TO BE DONE AND A LOVE FOR THE THINGS OF GOD SUCH AS HIS WORD AND MINSITRY.

The fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22-24) and love is the greatest (1 Corinthians 13). This love is “of God,” it isn’t a worldly kind of love, it is a love that coincides with God’s word; God’s love does not contradict God’s word.

The Bible speaks of the love the believer has for God and the things of God. Such love is expressed in the following verses:

  • Psalm 116:1 – “I love the Lord, because He has heard 1 My voice and my supplications.”  [114]
  • Psalm 119:47,48,97,113,119,127,159,163,167 – “47 And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love.48 My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, And I will meditate on Your statutes. . . 97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. . . .113 I hate the double-minded, But I love Your law. . . 119 You put away all the wicked of the earth like dross; Therefore I love Your testimonies. . . . 127 Therefore I love Your commandments More than gold, yes, than fine gold! . . 159 Consider how I love Your precepts; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness. . . .163 I hate and abhor lying, But I love Your law. . . 167 My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly.”  [115]
  • 1 John 4:19-21 – “We love Him because He first loved us.20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”  [116]

These verses show us that the believer should have a deep abiding love for God, a deep abiding love for God’s word and a deep abiding love for God’s people. That is the substance and fruit evident in the one who has the Spirit in them.

Do You Love Me?

One last passage shows the importance of love in the believer’s life. The importance of love in the disciple’s life is made clear by an interaction between Jesus and Peter. After Jesus had been betrayed and deserted by His disciples, gone to the cross, and resurrected, He again met with the disciples. On one occasion Jesus met the disciples at the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (also known as the Sea of Galilee). Peter had deserted the Lord and even cursed when asked if he was one of His disciples. Jesus then teaches Peter, through questions that get to the heart of the matter, that Peter’s love for Jesus was the most important motivator for a disciple. The interaction is recorded as follows:

  • John 21:15-19 – “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.18 “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”   [117]

Do you want to know if the Spirit is in you? Then ask the question, “Do you or I love Jesus?” When you have the Spirit in you, you’ve fallen I love with Jesus. When The Spirit is in you, God will sanctify you and bring you to love Jesus supremely. If the Spirit is in you, you will be growing in your love for Jesus. If the Spirit is in you, you will more and more learn to love Jesus “more than these,” or more than anything else whether it is people, places or things. It’s as simple as that. When the Spirit is in you, God’s love is compelling in you (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Life From the Indwelling Spirit

Romans 8:10-11 – “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  [118]

The Spirit gives life, eternal life and apart from His indwelling presence, we remain spiritually dead (Romans 8:10). If the Spirit is in us, then He will raise us up to eternal life just as He did Jesus (Romans 8:11).

Our righteousness is through “Christ in you,” God sees us in the finished work of Jesus Christ; He sees us as righteous complete in Christ. Christ’s righteousness in us gives us spiritual life. Our physical body may be dying because of the fallen planetary effects of sin. But, with Christ in us, we don’t have to live any longer after the fleshly lusts. We can live in the life producing righteousness that Christ gives us. Paul wrote:

  • Colossians 2:8-10 – “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  [119]

We are complete before God, perfect, and have life, because Jesus is in us. In our flesh we may think we are righteous because of something we do, but in truth, we cannot add anything to the righteousness we have through Christ. As a spiritual believer we do not do good works to make ourselves more righteous before God, our acts of good works are motivated by our loving appreciation toward God who has blessed us in His Son (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The Spirit reveals these truths to us and they give us spiritual life and vitality in Christ.

The Spirit Helper Dwelling In Us Brings Jesus Dwelling in Us

Paul then refers to, “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” (Romans 8:10).  The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit who dwells in us (see also Romans 1:4).

Notice, the Spirit dwelling in you is paralleled with Jesus being in you. That is because the Spirit bears witness of Jesus in us. Jesus said:

  • John 14:26 -  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  [120]
  • John 15:26 - “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”  [121]

It is the Spirit in us that bears witness that we belong to Jesus and are saved. This assurance is explained later on in the chapter (Romans 8:15-16).

Notice also how Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “Helper.” What is a “Helper”? A Helper is one who helps someone. A Helper in this case implies that there is one who needs help. That’s us, we need help. When we fall the Holy Spirit is there to help us up. When we are confused, the Holy Spirit is there to help us find clarity in God’s word. When we are weak the Holy Spirit helps us by empowering us. The Holy Spirit brings the presence of Jesus and helps us in the sanctified life.

Spiritually Alive in a Dead Body

The saved live on in a state where the body is dead because of sin,” we live temporarily in these fallen bodies but still have eternal life now. Paul describes this further (as we saw in an earlier part of our Romans study) in his second letter to the Corinthians where he is inspired to say:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 – “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.8 We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak,14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  [122]

When Paul says, “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” he is referring to the future glorified bodies we will be given by God. But how do we live in these fleshpot bodies? The Spirit helps us according to Paul.

The Spirit’s Help in Killing the Old Man (Flesh)

Romans 8:12-13 – “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  [123]

We owe our flesh nothing in that it only hinders us in our spiritual pursuits. Living according to the flesh leads to death. Why live for and in something, the flesh, that leads to deadness? But how can we defeat the flesh? Paul says, “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,” that’s the key. We cannot put the flesh to death in our own strength, but the Spirit will help us. SANCTIFICATION OR CLEANSING FROM THE FLESH IS A WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN US AND IS RECIEVED BY FAITH. The Spirit does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

To be saved you must see with the eyes of faith Jesus dying on the cross for you and receive that to your account. Once saved, we continue in a sanctifying process as we see ourself, the old man, by faith, reckoning the fleshly old man crucified on the cross, hanging on the cross with Jesus. Paul was inspired to write:

  • Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  [124]

The Holy Spirit in us helps us deal with our flesh. We can’t do this in our own strength, but the Spirit in us can. “By the Spirit,” means when we find ourselves involved in a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), we, by the Spirit, honestly confess it and give it over to the Spirit. For example, if I’m jealous of someone, (a work of the flesh) I need to confess that jealousy as a fleshly work and ask God to forgive me, cleanse me from it and replace it with an attitude that flows from the loving fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit helps us do this; we can’t do that on our own. We simply need to cooperate with the Spirit by confessing our fleshly sinful way and surrender it to Him to deal with.

The Bible Exposition Commentary makes the following comment on these verses:

It is not enough for us to have the Spirit; the Spirit must have us! Only then can He share with us the abundant, victorious life that can be ours in Christ. We have no obligation to the flesh, because the flesh has only brought trouble into our lives. We do have an obligation to the Holy Spirit, for it is the Spirit who convicted us, revealed Christ to us, and imparted eternal life to us when we trusted Christ. Because He is “the Spirit of Life,” He can empower us to obey Christ, and He can enable us to be more like Christ.

 

But He is also the Spirit of death. He can enable us to “put to death” (mortify) the sinful deeds of the body. As we yield the members of our body to the Spirit (Rom. 6:12–17), He applies to us and in us the death and resurrection of Christ. He puts to death the things of the flesh, and He reproduces the things of the Spirit. [125]

 

You may have come to this point and been able to affirm that you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. That is good, but the next question, a more probing question is, does the Holy Spirit have you? Have you fully surrendered to the Spirit? Have you relinquished your rights to Him? Can He do what He desires with you when and how He desires to do it, no matter what? Are you holding anything back? Have you invited the Spirit into your spiritual house but have you restricted the rooms in which He is allowed to go? Have you told Him, “You may go into these areas only, stay away from these others.”? The Spirit knows what is best for us, what we need in life. In our flesh, we look at life through the lens of self and that always gives a warped perspective that leads to spiritual decay. We simply need to deny ourselves, pick up the cross of Christ and follow Jesus in the Spirit. You will not experience all God has for you until you have fully surrendered to the Spirit and all He wants to do in you.

 

God has provided the means of victory in life, the indwelling Holy Spirit who is able to help us live a life holy to God. The Spirit in us brings us spiritual life and victory over the influences of the flesh. All we need do is surrender and submit to Him.

But how practically does the Spirit help us, “put to death the deeds of the body”? Let me share an illustration from my life.

Victory Over Victoria’s Secret

My wife and I and our three children sometimes go to a local mall to shop or just walk around. In that mall is a big unavoidable Victoria’s Secret women’s lingerie store. The store has huge posters of scantily clad women in lustily tempting poses designed to allure women who are seeking what they have as well as catching the eye of men who want their women to have what the women in the Victoria’s Secret have. Now when we go to the mall we have to pass by this store. Passing by this store creates a tempting situation for me. My flesh is whispering,
”Go on, look at that, look at those women, wow!” Satan and my flesh want me to gawk and salivate over those lusty babes in scantily clad clothes. How is the Spirit going to put those kind of lusts to rest? How is the Spirit going to help me in that kind of formidable situation? In our day and age of sexual promiscuity such tempting situations are common. How can we put such desires to death? How can and does the Holy Spirit help us?

Let me share how I gain victory over Victoria’s Secret. We have mentioned how the Holy Spirit in us brings the outpoured love of God in us (Romans 5:5). The one with the Spirit in them is compelled or driven by God’s love (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). As we yield and present ourselves to the Spirit in such situations the power of God’s love comes to bear and bring us victoriously through. This is how it works. As I’m walking hand in hand with my wife, I think of the love I have for her (which is given to me by the Spirit). The Spirit helps me to know and reckon true by faith how much I love my wife and family. I think of how it would hurt her, (the one I love and have pledged my life to), to see me looking at another woman and that deters me and causes me to look the other way. Then I think of what my kids would think if they saw their dad holding hands with their mom and then gawking at some strange sexual object of a woman. They would think, “Why is daddy looking at those women who are half naked? Doesn’t he like mommy? Isn’t he satisfied with mommy? Does he really love her most? Would he leave her if he had the chance to go with one of those other women?”  The thought of bringing such thoughts into my children’s minds causes me to willfully turn away. But most importantly, the Spirit helps me to think of what people would think if they saw me, a pastor, wearing our church t-shirt, (complete with our church logo of a cross on a green hill and blue sky background, with an illuminated dove on it and the words emblazoned across the sky saying, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given us” - Romans 5:5), what would people think of that guy with the religious shirt whose looking lustily at the Victoria’s Secret babes? I’ll tell you what they would think, they’d think, “What a hypocrite! What a phony! Some Christian he is, walking with his wife and kids and gawking at those half dressed women.” The Spirit helps me by bringing to my mind the shame I would bring to the Lord because of a bad witness and it causes me to say, “No! I’m not going to give in and defame and shame my Jesus’ name. I am not going to stoop that low. I’m not going to give in and cast the name of Jesus in the mud. I’m going to kill that desire to look right now in the power of the Spirit.” And I do, I just walk on and look the other way. My wife knows I look the other way. My kids know I look the other way. And my Lord knows I look the other way. And it’s all because of the love of the Spirit He pours out in me. The love of God is a powerful force in putting to death the deeds of the flesh.

The Spirit confirms all of this to me by bringing to bear portions of Scripture that direct me. When I find myself in a tempting situation as that described above, the first verse that the Spirit brings to my mind and heart is Job 31:1, “I have made a covenant with my eyes: Why then should I look upon a young woman.” Other verses the Spirit has used with me in such situations and might use with others are:

  • Psalm 101:3a – “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; . . .”   [126]
  • Psalm 119:11 – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!”  [127]
  • Proverbs 4:25 – “Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.”  [128]
  • Proverbs 6:23-28 – “For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,24 To keep you from the evil woman, From the flattering tongue of a seductress.25 Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.26 For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned?28 Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared?”  [129]

Therefore, how can we define the manner in which the Spirit helps us put to death the deeds of the body, the deeds of the flesh?

The Threefold Death Knell to Deeds of the Flesh - The Spirit’s love; His love-letter; and His lovers

There is a threefold death knell that the Spirit sounds in putting to death the deeds of the flesh. When these three things ring true in our lives, the deeds of the flesh are put to death. What are these three things?

The first dong of death for the flesh.

First the Spirit pours out God’s love into our hearts (Romans 5:5,8; 1 Corinthians 13). This is a love for God, a love for the people around us (especially those closest to us like believers, our family and friends), and a love for His word. This love poured out in us by the Spirit is best described in the following verses:

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” [130]

“Love never fails,” it states. Notice that the love described in 1 Corinthians is a selfless love. Like God’s love in Christ, it seeks first to give, it seeks first the betterment of others, it turns it’s back on self. That’s the kind of love the Spirit gives us (Romans 5:5). And having that kind of love is a priority in the life of the believer especially given the latter days in which we now live.

The Priority of the Spirit’s Love

We have seen that love in the believer comes from the Spirit. We do well to reiterate this in quoting Paul in Romans where earlier he was inspired to write:

·         Romans 5:5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  [131]

 

This love of the Spirit is of utmost importance for the believer. Peter exhorted believers in his first epistle to have such a love when he was inspired by God to write:

·         1 Peter 4:7-8 – “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”   [132]

 

Notice Peter mentions this love in conjunction with the prayer life of the believer. The believer receives the love of the Spirit by requesting it prayerfully. Peter then says, “above all things,” implying that having the love of the God the Spirit in you and working through you is a top priority for the disciple (see John 13:35). We have already seen how Jesus made this point with Peter at the end of the gospel of John (John  21:15-17).

 

The love Peter refers to here is translated from the Greek term  AGAPE (Strong’s #26  - αγάπη [agape /ag·ah·pay/]” meaning, “love, charity, brotherly love, affection, good will, benevolence.”[133] Such love is a giving godly divine love that can only come from God. Peter further describes this love with the adjective “fervent.”

 

The word “fervent,” is translated from the Greek term EKTENES (Strong’s # 1618 - εκτενής [ektenes /ek·ten·ace/])which means, “without ceasing; fervent;  stretched out;  earnestly, assiduously.” [134] the idea here is that of an athlete who stretches him or herself out to the limit preparing for their sport. The believer receives the love of God in them when they receive the Holy Spirit at regeneration. The believer surrenders moment by moment to the Spirit who works them out in building their spiritual love muscles. Loving is not always easy, but it is the will of God in the life of the believer. And such love “covers a multitude of sin.”

 

The word “covers,” here comes form the Greek term KALUPTO (Strong’s # 2572 - καλύπτω [kalupto /kal·oop·to/]” meaning, “cover; hide; veil; to hinder the knowledge of a thing.” [135] Love is a kind of holy cover-up of the sin we inevitably see in other believers. An example of this is found in the book of Genesis (Genesis 9:20-29) when an account is given of a lapse in Noah’s walk with the Lord. Noah is drunk. Perhaps with the change in the environment the fermentation process of grapes was accelerated unbeknownst to Noah. Nevertheless, Noah is drunk and his son Ham comes upon Noah in Noah’s tent where Noah has evidently fallen asleep and unraveled his clothes revealing his nakedness. It was an embarrassing situation. Now Ham had a choice, he could discreetly and lovingly cover up his father and never mention the situation again so as to protect his integrity and honor, or he could seize the moment and take advantage of his father’s vulnerability to exalt himself. Ham chose the latter and went and told his brother Shem and Japheth. He may have even poked fun at the old man who had drank himself to sleep and become naked. When Noah awakes and recovers he severely rebukes Ham.

 

As believers we are not to be dishonest, but we are to be discreet. We are not to revel in the shortcomings of other believers. Uncovering the sin of other believers gives Satan and the world ammunition against the work of God. Sin, when discovered should be confronted in a loving and discreet way. Godly authority and spiritual counsel should be sought in such situations by going to church leadership. Sometimes a sinful situation can be worked out between the two parties. But sinful situations should never be used to attack or carnally expose another. Love confronts sin and seeks to help the sinner in a constructive way in the Spirit. Love covers a multitude of sin. Love looks out for the brethren (see 1 John 5:16-17).

 

When you’ve got the love of the Spirit in you and your tempted, just tap into that love (as the above examples illustrate) and walk on by that temptation, (run if you have to!) The Spirit working His love in and through our lives will make us all more than conquerors in Him who strengthens us.

The second dong of death for the flesh.

Second, the Spirit brings to mind God’s love-letter the Bible to us. The Spirit brings to mind portions of Scripture that meet the needs and give us powerful counsel in tempting situations. He might bring to mind a verse like that found in 1 Corinthians 10:13 which states:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  [136]

When tempted this above verse from the Spirit is a key that unlocks a door of hope to overcoming temptations or trials that we face. The Spirit has a verse to guide you in all situations. Seek His guidance, strength and help and He will get you through. When the Spirit brings s that verse to your mind and heart it’s like a deep death knell sounding for your flesh.

The third dong of death for the flesh.

Third, the Spirit brings the law of Christ to bear. What is the “law of Christ”? Paul is inspired to tell us in his letter to the Galatians when he writes:

  • Galatians 6:2 – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” [137]

The law of Christ is the loving mutual support of believers for each other. As believers we are God’s lovers. In the Spirit we are lovers sent by God as agents of His love who share God’s love with those around us. Jesus said:

  • John 13:35 - “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  [138]

The fellowship of believers is so very important to overcoming the deeds of the flesh. Together believers and encourage and exhort and support one another in Christ. The Spirit uses this fellowship to strengthen and uphold the believer (see Hebrews 10:24-25). The psalmist was inspired to write an entire psalm about the sweet strength and support of fellow believers toward each other (Psalm 133). When brothers and sisters in Christ unite to bear one another’s burdens in the love of the Spirit of Christ, it rings the third and final death knell for your flesh.

When the Spirit of God pours out the love of God and applies the word of God in our lives, the deeds of the flesh can be put to death. The love of the Spirit and the inspired word of God are a powerful, even unbeatable combination. Couple that with the law of Christ which is believer’s bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) and you are well on your way to being more than a conqueror through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). Remember that the next time you are tempted in a situation. When you face temptation, ask the Spirit to help you by pouring out His love into your heart, applying His word to your life and by bringing a brother or sister in Christ to help you bear the burden. The Spirit can and will help you to put to death the deeds of your flesh. He will help you through victoriously. Put your flesh in the coffin, close the lid, and sound the dongs of death to your flesh!

Sons of God Are Led By The Spirit

Romans 8:14 – “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” [139]

What does it mean to be “led by the Spirit of God”? The word “led” is translated from the Greek term  AGO (Strong’s # 71 - a[gw agoµ, ag´-o) meaning, “ lead; to bring, drive, go, induce; be, bring (forth), carry, (let) go, keep, lead away, be open.”   [140]The grammatical form of AGO (Present/Passive/Indicative) conveys the thought that a child of God is one who is the recipient or receiver of this continuous leading. Therefore, to be “led by the Spirit of God,” means the Spirit of God is the controlling and directing force in our lives. Prior to salvation, our flesh was the ruling and controlling directing influence in our lives.

The sons of God are beautifully led by the Holy Spirit and controlled by the love of God. Whatever happens, the Lord is in control of their lives and they will go with the flow of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love and the characteristics of that love are joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness goodness, and self-control. These are the characteristics of the “sons of God.”

How Can We Be Led By The Spirit? - SURRENDER IN FAITH

How can we be led by the Spirit? Earlier Paul wrote:

  • Romans 6:16-19 – “ Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” [141]

Remember our study of Romans 6? Remember the four steps of sanctification? Know; Reckon; Present; and Serve, these are the steps of sanctification and the rubber meets the road in the sanctified life when it comes to our presentation. To be led by the Spirit requires we moment by moment yield or present ourselves to the Spirit; it is an ongoing surrender by faith to the Spirit of God. It is a turning away from self-love and self-centeredness and self-service, self-obsessions; and turning to the Spirit in surrender.

Those who teach self-esteem as necessary to wellness are creating a monster called the SELF-ABSORBED. No, the Bible teaches denial of self and surrender to the Spirit of God to be led by Him. Paul saw his self in terms of “O, wretched man that I am!” (7:25). Paul cried out for help to the Spirit of God and Romans 8 is the answer of God to that cry.

The Spiritually Mature are “Sons of God”

The word “sons” here is translated from the Greek term HUIOS (Strong’s # 5207 -uiJov" huioás, hwee-os´) which refers to a grown child as opposed to a young child or baby (i.e. Greek TEKNON) [142] Therefore, maturity is implied here. Those led by the Spirit are mature sons of God; they have grown in their spiritual relationship with God so that they know that the key to fullness is toe surrender in faith to the Spirit to be led by Him.

Now can I still be a “son of God” and be controlled by my flesh? Can Jesus be my “Lord” if I do not submit to Him? Jesus said:

  • Matthew 7:21-23 - “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  [143]
  • Luke 6:46 - “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?”  [144]

There are many people who take the name of the Lord in vain because they say “Lord, Lord,” but never surrender to Him or obey Him. That is inconsistent because the title “Lord,” implies submission to the Lord’s will. Therefore, how can someone claim to be a “son of God” and not submit to the lordship of Jesus? If a person utters the words “Jesus is my Lord,” and then doesn’t show it in their life, we need to ask, “Can an empty recitation save a person?” We can say, “I’m a banana,” over and over but it doesn’t make you a banana. THOSE LED BY THE SPIRIT ARE THE SONS OF GOD.

Those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God and have a mature relationship with God that has progressed on from that of a new believer. Paul goes on to describe this mature spiritual relationship of the sons of God.

Like a Son to a Father – Not a Slave to Their Master

Romans 8:15- For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”[145]

If those led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (8:14), we should ask ourselves, “Am I being led by the Spirit; am I seeking to be led by the Spirit of God?” There are those who seek to enter heaven through alternatives to the Spirit directed life.

The spirit of bondage again to fear

How might I know if the Spirit of God is leading me? Simply put, by assessing your life according to the stated contrast set forth here by Paul. Paul contrasted being led by the Spirit with, “the spirit of bondage again to fear” (8:15). Bondage is the result of a legal orientation toward God (Matthew 23:4).   We did not receive the Spirit so that we could live in the fear of trying to follow God in our flesh. The one in bondage sees authority as a taskmaster and tyrant ready to whip and punish them if they get out of line. That isn’t the way God wants us to relate to Him.

The Spirit of Adoption

The opposite of bondage to fear of the flesh is, “the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (8:15). The two opposing entities are SLAVERY vs. ADOPTION; SLAVERY vs. SONSHIP; FEAR vs. LOVE. What best describes you? “Abba Father,” is a very intimate, warm, personal address, like saying, “Daddy.” BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS A LOVINGINGLY JOYFUL SURRENDER TO ONE YOU KNOW LOVES YOU SO MUCH. Is that how you approach or relate to God?

Jesus prayed to the “Father” and instructed His disciples to address God as “Father” (Matthew 6:1-18; John 17).

Son or Slave?

The maturing of the Christian brings the believer to a point where he or she relates to God as a son more than as a slave. Paul speaks of this in Galatians 4 where he is inspired to write:

  • Galatians 4:1-7 – “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all,2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”  [146]

The word “child” (4:1,3) here is translated from the Greek term  NEPHIOS (Strong’s # 3516 - nhvpio" neµpioás, nay´-pee-os) which refers to “an infant (minor), baby, child.” When it is used figuratively it refers to “a simple-minded person, an immature Christian.” [147]Sons” (4:5,6,7) is translated from the Greek term HUIOTHESIA (Strong’s # 5206 -    uiJoqesiva huioátheásia, hwee-oth-es-ee´-ah) which refers to an older more mature son. [148] Therefore, an immature newborn believer may relate to God in a way that is governed by rules legalistically (Romans 7), but the mature believer relates to God as a fully adopted son of a loving heavenly Father. The immature believer relates to the Father through intermediaries; they depend on second hand opinions to contact God (i.e. “under guardians and stewards.” But a mature believer goes directly to their heavenly Father for instruction and guidance.

This doesn’t mean the Christian ceases to be a servant or minister of the Lord, but that he or she sees themselves as serving their Father, not serving a stranger or tyrant; there is a love relationship their, a familial loving relationship.

The Spirit Bears Witness With Our spirit

Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”  [149]

If you have been born again and the Spirit is in you, He will “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (8:16). If you don’t have that witness in you, then you need to question where you are with the Lord. The phrase, “bears witness,” here is translated from the single Greek term SUMMARTUREO (Strong’s # 4828 - summarturevw summartureáoµ, soom-mar-too-reh´-o) which means, “to testify jointly, i.e. corroborate by (concurrent) evidence: testify unto, (also) bear witness (with).” [150] The grammatical form of this word (Present/Active/ Indicative) implies a continuous, ongoing, present condition. If the Spirit is in you, He continuously assures and confirms that you belong to God and have been adopted by Him through faith in Christ. Is that present in you? It is a beautiful recognition that, “I am God’s child, I belong to Him, I am part of His family.”

Other verses which convey this work of the Spirit in the believer are:

  • Galatians 4:6 – “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  [151]
  • 1 John 3:24 – “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”  [152]
  • 1 John 4:13 – “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”  [153]
  • 1 John 5:6 – “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.”  [154]

“We are children of God” Paul says. When we are born again, the Spirit communicates that fact to us. How does one become a child of God? By receiving Jesus as John was inspired to write:

  • John 1:12-13 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  [155]

Our previous study in Romans 3-5 definitively elaborated on this.

Now think of this, as a parent if you have more than one child, and someone asks you which child you love more, how do you respond? You love your children equally. In the same way God loves His children equally. There is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11). The Spirit bears witness with our spirit to the truth of that fact, that we are His and He loves us all equally.

Heirs of God

Romans 8:17 – “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”  [156]

“If children, then heirs,” refers to the accepted truth that children are naturally heirs of their parents. And as children of God, God is our parent and we His heirs. This is an incredible thing to comprehend, “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” The grace of God in Christ doesn’t stop at His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross and the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives, but it even continues on in eternity by bringing us into His family and making us “joint heirs with Christ.” God’s grace holds nothing back from us.

Paul wrote of this incredible blessing in a prayer to the Ephesians when he was inspired to write:

  • Ephesians 3:14-21 – “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  [157]

God’s grace goes beyond anything we could ever even comprehend.

Now there is also an incredible thing to understand here by looking at this heirship from God’s perspective. We see God as our rich inheritance, but what is even more incredible, God sees us, His children, as a rich inheritance! Paul was inspired to write of this when he wrote:

  • Ephesians 1:15-23 – “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” [158]

Our Inheritance - Abundant Blessings In Christ

In Jesus, as mentioned in the opening part of this study on Romans 8, we are blessed with countless spiritual blessings both present and future as Paul states in the epistle to the Ephesians:

  • Ephesians 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”  [159]

What might these blessings entail? Let’s look a little closer at the blessings we have in Jesus. The first two chapters of Ephesians reveal the greatness of our blessings in Jesus as summarized and explained below:

·         Election “in Him”  (1:4).  We were chosen “in Him before the foundation of the world” which implies this was God’s plan from the beginning. This is not something God changes His mind about. This is not a temporal plan but an eternal one. Therefore, we can rest assured that His plan is sure. Just as we assess the qualifications of a candidate politically and then go to the polls  to vote and elect politicians, so too God assesses the qualifications of people to see who He will elect to eternal life. What are the qualifications? Simply to be “in Him,” that is to have admitted and turned from your sin, and to have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. To be born again through faith in Jesus is the qualification that God looks for to elect people to His kingdom and this standard and qualification was established sovereignly by Him before the foundations of the world.

The purpose for which God has elected us is, “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Our behavioral response to God’s election is connected to being “in Him” by this purposeful relationship. The one truly elected bears fruit in accord with that election. When you are born again there is a measurable effect in your life. We are elected “in Him” and we live “in Him.” (Compare Acts 17:28).

·         Adoption by Jesus Christ (1:5).  This was God’s “good pleasure of His will.” God is a family oriented Being and He uses the metaphor of the family to describe how He takes the sinful alien and brings them close to Him in a family tie. Through Christ we are adopted into God’s family. In the Greek and Roman world an adopted child had all the privileges of a birth child.

·         Acceptance before God (1:6) “in the Beloved.” In sin we were far and estranged from God, indeed in a state of enmity. “In the Beloved” we are acceptable before God. We no longer have to feel like the outcast who is always outside the in crowd due to lack of contacts or lack of invitation. God has declared we are acceptable and invited us into the most intimate of meetings with Him. Let me illustrate.

My son Daniel loves to be close to his father. I have a spot at the end of the couch in our living room that is “my spot,” and whenever Daniel comes into the room he doesn’t sit at the end of the couch or on another chair in the room, but he sits right down next to his dad. In fact, he sits so close to his dad that they seem attached at the hip. This is true even in hot weather when no one wants to be close to anyone. So when Daniel comes into the room and sits next to me and slides up real close, I sometimes say, “C’mon Daniel, it’s too hot to sit so close.” My comfort level gets the best of me and I actually push away this boy desiring to be close to his dad. When I do this I feel like a jerk and regret it because I don’t want to ever push my son or one of my children away from me when they want to be close, but the physical conditions are just so uncomfortable that my flesh gets the better of me on occasion. You know what? God accepts us and He will never push us away when we desire to come close to Him (John 6:37). What a wonderful truth we inherit in Christ!

·         Redemption from sin “through His blood”  (1:7). We lost our inheritance through Adam’s sin (Genesis 3; Romans 5), but Jesus paid the price in His shed blood to redeem us from the power of sin and Satan. To be redeemed means we who were once slaves are freed from our bondage in sin. Praise Him! Jesus alone was and is worthy to redeem the fallen sinful world (See Revelation 5)

·         Forgiveness of sins “according to the riches of His grace”  (1:7).  Where we offended God by our sin, we can find forgiveness and reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus. The blood of Jesus washes away our sins when we accept Him as Savior (1 John 1:7,9). In Jesus we can have a fresh start, our slate recording all of our life’s sin is wiped clean in Him.

·         Riches of His grace (1:7-8). God pours out rich and varied blessings on us through Jesus.

·         Knowledge and wisdom of the mystery of His will (1:9,17). In Christ we come to know God and His revelation like never before. In Him the world and the circumstances of history come to make sense. All the pieces of eternity fit together in Him. Knowledge is knowing about something, wisdom is putting what you know to practical use; in Christ we have knowledge and wisdom. In Jesus by the witness of the Spirit we have an aware knowledge of Him. Our relationship with Him is an ongoing conversation that is real; it is not a delusional product of an overworked imagination.

·         Unity of all things (1:10; 2:15-18).  God purposes is to unite people in Christ, disunity is sin. In Christ petty prejudices of all kinds are broken down and people can come together in Jesus. Jesus is the only answer to race relations. We can accept each other only in Him.

·         An inheritance (1:11). We have something great to look forward to based on our relationship in Christ. Jesus said our focus on earth should be heaven and seeking God’s kingdom here and now and that when we do this, everything else we need will be added by God (Matthew 6:33).

·         We are to the praise of His glory (1:12). When Jesus gets hold of our lives, we become His instruments of righteousness used by the Spirit to bring glory to God. Every saved soul is to the praise of His glorious gospel plan. What a glorious privilege to be used to bring glory to God!

·         “The word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (1:13). Truth is revealed in the gospel. The answer to the problems of humanity are answered in the gospel message. God’s word is a part of our rich inheritance the blessing of which defies putting into words.

·         Seal and Guarantee of the Holy Spirit (1:13-14) “Having believed” then “you were sealed” (cause – effect). The presence of the Holy Spirit in us is God’s evidence and guarantee that He is real and that He has great and increasingly greater things for the believer. Read Romans 8 and see for yourself the blessedness of the Spirit in a believer’s life.

·         Faith in Christ, love for saints (1:15). Faith in Jesus and love for the saints is a beautiful gift in Christ. Faith in Jesus gets us through life. Love for the saints is Jesus’ means to encourage and exhort believers.

·         We become a reason to be thankful to other believers (1:16). What a blessing it is to be a blessing to other brothers and sisters in Christ. As agents of God we can be His hands, His feet, His words, His love to others. We are the body of Christ! (1 Corinthians 12:27). What a blessing it is to be used by God to bless others.

·         Hope, riches for those who were once excluded (1:18; 2:11-13). We are not on our own in life anymore, God is with us and God is for us in Christ. We now face the future and the prospect of the inevitable death, which is a part of every human’s life, with hope of eternal life. That is a rich blessing. Jesus is coming back soon to fix this broken world. Hallelujah!

·         Exceedingly great power (1:19-21). The power of the resurrection is available for us to apply to the inner and outer obstacles in life. God in Christ gives us power to change, power to overcome, power to minister, power to fulfill His plan in our lives.

·         The Church, a dwelling place of the Spirit (1:22; 2:19-22; 5:20-33). Some might minimize the value of the church, but Jesus died for the church. The church is a church when the Spirit dwells there. A church ceases to be a church when the presence of the Spirit is gone. God writes Ichabod; the glory has departed over the Spiritless church (1 Samuel 4:21; 14:3; Revelation 2:5). Jesus was and is into the church, which He refers to as His bride (Ephesians 5). We should not neglect the church of Jesus; rather we should work to keep it clean from sin and effective to minister in the name of Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-25).

·         Life where their had been death (2:1-10), “by grace you have been saved through faith.” Life without the Spirit is really an oxymoron. There is no real true life without the Spirit in you. Without the Spirit people are walking dead people. But with the Spirit we come to life, eternal life in us at the point of conversion. When the Spirit dwells in you, you experience true and complete life for the first time. Without the Spirit, a person is incomplete. Accepting Jesus as Savior by faith opens the door of our hearts for the Spirit to come in.

·         Peace (2:14). Without the Spirit, without Jesus, there is no peace. No Jesus; No peace. Know Jesus; Know peace. Those are simple and short words, but they pack a profound truth that is only realized in Christ.

 

Therefore we see that the inheritance we have in Christ is rich indeed and the more we meditate on it and study it the more we see that it is above and beyond anything we could ever ask or think.

But there is something more about the inheritance that we need to recognize. Peter was inspired to tell us that the inheritance is eternal and “kept in heaven” for us. Peter says:

  • 1 Peter 1:3-5 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  [160]

You see our inheritance in Christ is better than mere money in the bank. Money in the bank and material things are affected by the ebbs and flows of an unpredictable economy and depreciation, but our heavenly inheritance is “incorruptible and undefiled,” it’s safe and secure, reliable, we can count on it. Our inheritance is on reserve for us in heaven. Here on earth we worry about whether our accumulated wealth will be able to sustain us in our retirement years. It is becoming increasingly clear to many that their retirement plan, no mater how well thought out, will not be enough and they will have to continue to work on for the rest of their lives. But your heavenly inheritance is far greater and better than that. Our heavenly inheritance is the best retirement plan anyone could ever hope for because it will always be more than enough for our needs and that is true for a life that lasts eternally. That is a glorious truth. Hallelujah!

Life however, is not only blessing, it also involves hardship and pain. But God brings blessing even out of hardship and pain. How does our inheritance in Christ help us in the hard times? That is what Paul moves to discuss now.

The Supremacy of Future Glory

Romans 8:18 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  [161]

Any pain or suffering experienced in this life, if surrendered to God, can be used by God for His glory. Whatever suffering we experience now, whether physical illness, emotionally due to rejection, persecution, prejudice against our faith etc., when we give it all up to God for Him to use for His glory, God uses it and the future glory that awaits us just doesn’t compare, it is well worth any hardship we suffer now. The foundational truth here is that PRESENT SUFFERINGS IN THIS LIFE ARE TEMPORARY; FUTURE GLORY IS ETERNAL, AND THAT KNOWLEDGE GETS US THROUGH OUR TRIALS NOW. 

Paul spoke from experience about suffering and saw it as a badge of validating His faith, a testimony to the reality of Christ in Him. Paul was inspired to write:

  • 2 Corinthians 11:22-33 – “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.32 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me;33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.”  [162]

All that and much more Paul suffered for Jesus and still he was able to testify, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  That is the product of life in the Spirit. Life in the Spirit leads to victory over every obstacle in life. Paul always had an eternal perspective on life. Paul went on to way:

  • 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  [163]

That should be our perspective too. That is the perspective of those who live life in the Spirit.

Jesus Our Example In Suffering

When we look at suffering, we need to see it from Christ’s perspective. What was Jesus’ example in the face of suffering? In Hebrews it states:

  • Hebrews 12:1-3 – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”  [164]

Jesus endured the suffering of the cross because He had His eyes firmly placed on the joyful end that God would work as a result of His bearing sin on the cross. We often complain and gripe and draw attention to ourselves when we experience pain, discomfort, or disappointment; that is not the way of Christ. The way of Christ is to endure the pain for the sake of God’s purposes.

 In Hebrews it goes on to state:

  • Hebrews 12:4 – “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.”  [165]

Jesus resisted to death, we (for the most part) have not. And even if we are called upon to give our lives for the gospel, we can and should rejoice to be used in such a way to prove and glorify God. If we keep the cross of Christ in view, our own personal trials will be put in proper perspective. When we look to Jesus, we find strength, encouragement, meaning and hope; that will get us through anything.

The Sufferings of Creation

Romans 8:19-23 – “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”  [166]

Creation

Paul says, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” (8:19). Notice in this section how Paul speaks of “creation,” as opposed to evolution. We were created by God, not evolved. Our bodies are part of the creation of God.

The Emptiness of Humanity

Paul says, “For the creation was subjected to futility,” (8:20a).   The word “futility,” here is translated from the Greek term MATAIOTES (Strong’s # 3153 - mataiovth" mataioáteµs, mat-ah-yot´-ace) which means, “transientness; vanity” [167] “emptiness as to results.” [168] Sin has made the Creation, which God called “good” (Genesis 1:31) to be a Creation that now groans.

Since humanity is part of creation, inherent within sinful humanity is a sense of EMPTINESS. Humanity is constantly seeking to fill a void that God has placed in them.

God’s Hopeful Purpose

Paul says, “not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope” (8:20b). By God’s sovereign decision, our natural bodies, part of creation, were subjected to the effects of planetary sin. In every person is an inherent emptiness and a seeking for fulfillment that can only be found in a saving relationship with God in Christ. God has subjected humanity to this emptiness in the hope that the seeking will lead them to Him. In Ecclesiastes it states:

  • Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”  [169]

God has created humanity with an inherent need and desire for fellowship with the Eternal God. Nothing else can fill that need. When that desire and need are not fulfilled a person feels void, empty, lost. When other things are called upon to try and fill that need for God, like pieces to a different wrong puzzle they just don’t fit. God’s hope in all of this is that in humanities’ search for the missing piece to their life puzzle, they will come to God, the only true and right fit to complete their lives.

The word “hope” is translated from the Greek term ELPIS (Strong’s #1680 - ejlpiv" eálpis, el-pece´) meaning “to anticipate (usually with pleasure); expectation; confidence;  faith, hope.” [170] What hope is God directing us toward?

Solomon was the wisest man of all and he tried to fill his void with all the world had to offer. His response to it all was:

  • Ecclesiastes 12:8,11-14 - “Vanity [i.e. “emptiness; vapor”] of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.” . . . 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.”  [171]

Jesus told the woman at the well:

  • John 4:13-14 – “Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,14 “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  [172]

Any alternative to salvation in Jesus will leave you thirsting again. Goals, relationships, earthly purposes and any and all alternatives to Jesus will leave you still empty. Only through Jesus can your emptiness be filled.

The Bondage of  Corruption

Paul goes on to say, “because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (8:21). Humanity searches to fill the void in many areas.

 “Corruption” here refers to the decaying degenerating state of the world under the effects of planetary sin (“corruption” - Strong's # 5356 - fqorav phthoára, fthor-ah´; meaning decay, i.e. ruin; corruption, destroy, perish.[173] ) Creation (including our human bodies) will one day be liberated from the decaying effects of sin.

The bondage of corruption therefore refers to the limitations or hindrances our fallen physical bodies pose to our spirits. Jesus summed it up when He said of the disciples, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Therefore, we find ourselves sleeping when we ought to be awake and limited though our spirit wants to serve the Lord.

Addictions

The inherent emptiness inhumanity is at the root of the bondage of addictions. People inherently seek to fill the emptiness they feel but inevitably realize that what they are trying to fill their void with is inadequate and not right it leads to more emptiness in  failing to be filled. This emptiness creates a sense of failure that further creates the impression of not measuring up or not being right or missing something. Closely connected with this situation is a sense of guilt at not being right. There is something about humans that cannot stand the presence of guilt. People need to find relief for their sense of guilt. God has built that into humanity in the hope that humanity would seek fulfillment in Him. People try to deal with guilt in various ways, oftentimes by doing self-destructive things that bring pain in order to punish themselves for what they know is wrong in them. Like the child who is punished and then feels relieved because they have paid the price, the person does things to punish himself or herself in an attempt to find relief from guilt. Therefore, at times people will pursue self-destructive behavior in a twisted attempt to punish themselves to find relief from their guilt. People also try to deaden the pain by using drugs of one kind or another. They try all manner of things to fill their emptiness and nothing works. The problem is that there is no permanent relief from guilt with such pursuits and people become addicted and bound to the temporary relief they find in the things of this world.  The only way to escape the bondage of corruption and frustration inherent in us due to sin, is through experiencing the liberating relationship with God in Christ.

Personal and Planetary Sin

Paul continues, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (8:22). Not only our physical bodies groan, but all nature, all creation is groaning over the present planetary sinful state. The yearning within humanity is God’s way of drawing us to Himself. Someone has said, Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. As humanity tries to fill the void with the things of this world and fails time and time again, God uses this failure to cancel out the non-fitting pieces of the puzzle of life’s meaning. Only Jesus is the right-fitting piece to humanities life puzzle.

Sin has a twofold effect. Sin is viewed on a PERSONAL level in that it has direct consequence on the one sinning. But sin is also viewed on a PLANETARY level in terms of how it affects the entire world. Nature has been infected with sin and thrown off balance (8:19-20). This planetary sin effect is why there is disease, sickness, and natural upheaval in the weather in the world. This planetary sin condition includes our physical bodies. Furthermore, our flesh that produces this imbalanced warlike condition is the product of this sin. Therefore we groan along with the creation for the full redemption and renewal of our bodies and nature by God (8:21-23).

The Redemption of Our Body

Paul says, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (8:23). The Spirit in us gives a taste of eternity and once you’ve tasted eternity, nothing temporal will satisfy again. Once we taste eternity in the Spirit, we look for ward to the time when we can be completely His body, mind and spirit. Now He has our spirit; someday soon He will also take our temporal bodies and minds and renew them to eternal bodies and minds.

 In Christ we have a promise of the redemption of our bodies, that we will be given eternal bodies that are free from the limitations of our earthly bodies. The promise of this is testified to by the presence of the Spirit in us.

Paul wrote of this redeemed body in another epistle when he was inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:40-58 – “There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? 1 O Hades, where is your victory?”56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”   [174]

This is God’s promise for us! We groan in these earthly bodies because the down payment or seal of the Spirit in us causes us to yearn and desire to be with the Lord in our eternal heavenly bodies. This is harder sometimes for the young and healthy to relate to. When I was younger I could play all day, come home, go to sleep, and wake up the next day ready to start all over. Now that I am middle aged, I can perhaps play part of the day, come home sore and hurting, flop on the couch, pass out, and awake the next day only to find my body creaking and snapping as it tries to get out of bed. My body is deteriorating and the older I get, the more aware I am of this. The older I get and the less my body is able to do the things it once did, the more I yearn and hope for the heavenly body God has promised. The eternal heavenly body will not deteriorate, it is eternal. The eternal body will have a mind that doesn’t forget, no Alzheimer’s in heaven! And there are a lot of other things that make our eternal bodies far superior to the temporary earthly bodies we live in now. O how blessed it will be when Jesus transforms us! Some people cling to this life as though there were no other life. They want “life support” systems to prolong their life and the life of a loved one. But if the person is a believer, wouldn’t it be better, a greater blessing to just let go and pass on to the Lord and receive a heavenly eternal perfect body? The life to come for the believer is far better than the one they have now. The believer needs not fear death. Death for the believer is a blessed thing in many ways. But when will we get these new heavenly bodies?

When Will This Happen?

When do we get these new eternal heavenly bodies? The Bible teaches us that when believers die they go into the presence of Jesus.  Paul wrote:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 – “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”  [175]

When a believer in Christ dies, they are instantaneously brought to the presence of the Lord. The Bible makes no mention of limbo or Purgatory. People are given one life, one chance to choose the Lord and upon death an initial judgment is made by God of the person as to whether or not they are saved by having accepted Jesus as Savior by His grace through faith (Hebrews 9:27). Now is the day, the time for you to accept Jesus as your Savior, once you die it will be too late for such a decision to be made (2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Hebrews 2-3).

But when is our physical body changed to a heavenly one?

The Rapture – A Time of Transformation

The Bible tells us that this earth is not our home and we have a tremendously transforming experience to look forward to that will free us from the limits of our earthly state. Paul wrote:

  • Philippians 3:20-21 – “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”  [176]

It appears from this verse that the transformation of the physical earthly body to a heavenly eternal body is closely linked to the return of Jesus.

It is at the point of Jesus return to the clouds to receive His body of true believers in the Rapture (which precedes the seven year period of Tribulation – Revelation 6-19) that earthly bodies will be transformed. This is spelled out for us in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians which states:

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” [177]

The Rapture is going to be an incredible event in human history and it will require that believers who go with Jesus have their material bodies transformed to spiritual eternal bodies. This passage tells us that “the dead in Christ rise first.” They rise in the sense that when they die they go to the presence of the Lord immediately (2 Corinthians 5:8). But it would appear that those who die before the Rapture go to be with Jesus in a spiritual state and receive their heavenly bodies later at the point of the Rapture.

That material bodies cannot inherit or go one into heavenly places is clear by what Paul was inspired to write in 1 Corinthians. Let’s return to this passage a moment and again see what it says. Paul is inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:42-53 – “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet [i.e. the final trumpet for the church, not to be confused with the final trumpet of Revelation]. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” [178]

It would appear from this passage and those we have mentioned that when a believer dies they go instantaneously into the presence of the Lord in spirit, but their bodies remain here on earth buried. At the point of the rapture, our bodies are miraculously transformed from the dust and ash and decomposed particles to heavenly bodies. This isn’t hard for the Lord since He created humanity from the dust of the ground in the first place (Genesis 2:7).  Believers whether they have died before the Rapture or are alive at the Rapture, if you are a believer, you will have a spiritual eternal heavenly body when Jesus comes at the Rapture.

John too tells us that when we meet Jesus at the Rapture we will become like Him or be given spiritual bodies, He will transform us as we are taken to be with Him. John writes:

  • 1 John 3:1-3 – “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  [179]

If you want to know what these heavenly bodies will be like just look at the resurrection accounts of Jesus because we will be like Him (see Matthew 28; Mark Luke 24; John 20-21). When we look at the resurrected state of Jesus we see that Jesus was recognizable, He was not so different in His resurrected body that He was not identifiable to those who had known Him. Those who did not immediately recognize the risen Lord had their “eyes restrained” (Luke 24:16). Jesus in His risen state could communicate with people (Luke 24:13-35). It appears that in His risen state Jesus was able to materialize in the midst of people (Luke 24:36-37). Jesus was possibly able to pass through the material walls where the disciples were gathered. Jesus in His risen state was touchable and able to eat a meal with people (Luke 24:38-43). I can’t wait to here Jesus say, “Come and eat breakfast” (John 21:12).

From what we see in Jesus therefore, we can say that when we are given our incorruptible resurrection bodies they will be personal and similar enough that we will be identifiable to those who know us. We sill not be cloned and identical to each other but will be given bodies that are a perfect rendition of our earthly bodies. It’s not likely (although this is speculation) that our incorruptible glorified bodies will suffer from any of the limitations and sinful effects of our earthly bodies such as obesity, baldness, ugliness, or any other unfavorable trait. Our resurrection bodies will be well suited to living eternally with Jesus. We’ll have no regrets when we receive these glorious bodies for they will be the perfectly healthy and satisfying vessels to function and flourish in heavenly bliss with our Lord.

This is our hope, a hope that will not fail, and a hope that gets us through. This is our blessed hope (Titus 2:13). We look forward to the return of Jesus and this great change we will undergo. So great is this hopeful prospect, that Paul says any suffering we experience now just doesn’t compare to what lays ahead for us. With this hope in mind and heart, we can weather any storm of life experienced in this world. Mark Twain once cynically stated of Christians that they were so heavenly minded they were no earthly good. I think that a truer statement would be that unless you are heavenly minded with the hope we have in Jesus, you will be no earthly good. Fix your eyes on Jesus the Author and Finisher of your faith and he will get you through (Hebrews 12:1-4; 13:5).

Our Hope in God

Romans 8:24-25 – “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”  [180]

Our salvation is based on this “hope” or eager expectation of benefit from God. Hope is an expression of faith in God, that He is able to do what He has promised to do. Hope is what carries us from promise made to promise fulfilled. The wait actually is required for hope to be hope. Hope is not merely a dream; it is a CONFIDENT EXPECTATION of the fulfillment of promise and good.

HOPE IS THE BRIDGE BETWEEN EXPECTATION AND REALIZATION. We hope to experience what God has promised and this hope helps us persevere in our walk with Him until we actual receive what He has promised. Paul says, “we were saved in this hope,” meaning that such hope is essential to our salvation, to getting us from our present state to the finish line with God.

What do we hope for? The context would lead us to understand our hope being that God will someday redeem our earthly bodies replacing them with the heavenly bodies that are free from the limitations of the earthly bodies. But our hope is more than that; OUR HOPE IS TO DWELL FOREVER WITH OUR LORD. Our hope is in the word of God and what He has promised us. This is what the child of God looks forward to and what sustains them in this life. How can we get this hope?

Hope from the Spirit and the Word

Later in Romans Paul states:

  • Romans 15:4,13 – “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. . . 13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  [181]

Where can we get the hope that can get us through hard times? God gave us the Bible to give us hope. As we prayerfully read God’s word we see how throughout history He has faithfully been true to His word and sustained His children and therefore we can hope that He will do the same in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who brings this hope to bear in us, who communicate and creates this hope in the believer. It is the Spirit who helps the believer to rest assured and secure in the hope of God. HOPE IS A WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN US AND THE SPIRIT WORKS IT IN US BY THE WORD OF GOD.

The Need for the Right Perspective – THE CROSS AND THE CROWN

Let’s sum up a bit here. We have been talking of our fallen bodies and the hope that we have in Christ to sustain and redeem our bodies so that we will live eternally with Him. But we do live on now in these limited bodies and in this state we need the right perspective.

During the early stages of Jesus’ ministry masses of people followed Jesus as He healed the sick and confounded the religious elite. People thought as He approached Jerusalem that He would oust the Romans and usher in an earthly kingdom. But when He began to speak of the cross the Bible account says:

  • John 6:60 – “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”  [182]

When Jesus began to speak of the cross, His popularity waned. It’s easy to follow Jesus when all we speak of and depend upon is a present blessing, but what about when suffering comes our way? Will we follow Jesus through suffering?

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer He prayed that His followers would share in His glory (John 17:22-24), but we need to remember that Jesus was glorified because He went to the cross; NO CROSS, NO CROWN. We may be called upon or given opportunity to suffer as Jesus did (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12), but we need to keep in mind that we will also share in His glory. What that means defies comprehension by our puny brains. (See 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 4:12-13; 5:10).

Jesus said:

  • Matthew 5:11-12 - “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.12 “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  [183]

The disciples of Acts counted it a blessing to suffer for Jesus:

  • Acts 5:41 – “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”  [184]

When we have the proper perspective, even sufferings can be a source of joy as we see the superior greatness of our future glory. God’s promise of future glory, our hope, gets us through times of suffering in this life.

The Holy Spirit – The Holy Helper

Romans 8:26a – “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.”  [185]

Likewise,” points us back to verse 22 and the mention of “groaning,” and in verse 23 where it says we, “groan within ourselves” as we wait in the hope of God’s redemption and glorification of our weak bodies. As we look at the world around us in its fallenness and sin and as we experience ourselves the fallenness of our bodies, it cause us to groan. We groan for God to put a stop to it all. While we wait in weakness Paul says the Holy Spirit, “helps in our weaknesses” (8:26). How does the Spirit help us? What does such help entail?

The Continued Help of the Holy Spirit

The word “helps” here is translated from the Greek term SUNANTILAMBANOMAI (Strong’s # 4878 - sunantilambavnomai, soon-an-tee-lam-ban´-om-ahee) which is defined as, “to take hold of opposite together; to co-operate (assist); help.” [186] The idea here is that the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us and helps us stand and continue.

When the airborne paratroopers on D-Day set out to board their planes to invade Europe in World War II, they were loaded down with nearly their own bodyweight in equipment. In order to board the plane with this weight, someone had to actually help them up off of the ground and then push them up into the plane. They were in tiptop condition after months of training, but still weren’t strong enough to merely stand with all the weight they were carrying. Without help, they would be left on the pavement unable to enter the plane and fulfill the goal of their mission. In the same way we are weighted down with our fallen bodies and flesh and are too weak to walk under that weight. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us up and assists us in our life mission. Without Him, we couldn’t even board the plane so to speak.

Furthermore, the form of this word “helps” (SUNANTILAMBANOMAI - Present/Middle-Passive Deponent/Indicative) conveys the idea of an ongoing activity. It isn’t that the Holy Spirit helps us on the rare occasion that we are weak; we are always weak and ALWAYS need the ongoing help of the Holy Spirit! Believers are not on their own in their sufferings (8:18) and groaning (8:23). The Holy Spirit is always there to helps us through.

Weaknesses

The word translated, “weaknesses” is ASTHENEIA (Strong’s # 769 - ajsqevneia astheáneáia, as-then´-i-ah) which can be translated, “feebleness of body or mind; frailty; disease; infirmity; sickness; weakness.” [187] ASTHENEIA is constructed by adding the negative prefix “A” to STHENEIA, which means “strength.” Therefore the idea here is a “lack of strength; weakness, indicating inability to produce results.” [188] “The Greek word for weakness (astheneia) may include physical, emotional, and spiritual disability.” [189]

It should be clear to the unbeliever who has failed in trying to save themselves in their own strength as well as the believer who has tried to maintain or grow in their faith in their own strength, that we are weak, unable to produce the desired spiritual results in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us in our weaknesses.

There is an area that is of utmost import as we wait in our weakness. That area is the area of prayer which the Spirit helps us in.

The Spirit Helps Us To Pray

Romans 8:26b – “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”  [190]

What is given here that we do know is that we ought to pray. The phrase, “For we do not know,” captures the essence of our weakness. Not knowing how to pray is a mental limitation. We don’t always know what God’s will is in the situations of life. We ask God, “Lord, what are you trying to do here? What do You want me to do here? Is this an open door or a closed door? Is Satan closing the door and I should press on, or are You closing the door and I should let it go?” We do know we should pray, but we don’t know what to pray for at times.

Life can be perplexing as we live on in our weaknesses. A good rule of thumb when encountering the inevitable unknowns of life is when you come to something you don’t know, fall back on what you do know; don’t forsake what you do know because of something you don’t know. This is especially true as it relates to God. We cannot understand everything about God and His workings, (He is infinite, we are finite), but He has revealed enough of Himself to trust Him in the things we do not know.

Paul then gives an example of our human weakness as it relates to, “what we should pray for”? When a friend has strayed from the Lord and gets into trouble, do we pray for deliverance? God may have allowed the problem to arise to lead him back into fellowship with Him. There are situations in life when God’s will is not clear-cut. It is in these times when Paul states, “but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” When we pray in such uncertain times, we need only surrender ourselves to the Spirit in prayer and let Him lead us according to God’s will. We may not even be able to utter words in such prayer; we may only be able to groan. Such prayer is an act of faith and trust to God, an abandonment to the will of God.

Prayerful Groanings

The word “groanings” here is translated from the Greek term STENAGMOS ( Strong’s # 4726 - stenagmov" steánagmoás, sten-ag-mos´) which means, “a sigh;  groaning.” [191] This refers to an unutterable sound that ushers forth from our innermost being. There are times when we just can’t put into words what we are feeling or what we are praying for and it is in such times that by faith we can merely groan before the Lord trusting the Spirit to communicate the will of God in our prayers.

Savanarola once stated, “When prayer reaches its ultimate, words are impossible.” That is the work of the Spirit to bring us into that state of prayer.

The Purpose of Prayer

We need to have a basic understanding of the purpose of prayer, PRAYER IS NOT AIMED AT GETTING MY WILL DONE, BUT GETTING GOD’S WILL DONE. Jesus gave us the example here as we see Him pray for the Father’s not His to be done while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). The Holy Spirit helps us to pray according to the will of God.

The Holy Heart -Knower

Romans 8:27 – “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”  [192]

God knows and searches hearts. This is stated in numerous places in the Bible such as:

  • 1 Samuel 16:7 – “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  [193]
  • Acts 15:8-9 - “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us,9 “and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”  [194]
  • Hebrews 4:13 – “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  [195] (See also 1 Corinthians 2:6-16)

The Spirit is able to pray and intercede for us according to the will of God. We can rest assured that when we come before God in the Spirit in prayer, that we are praying according to God’s will. The Spirit is in us and bypasses my intellect (a humbling experience) and intercedes on our behalf according to God’s will. The members of the Trinity are communicating with us as a kind of line of communication. The Spirit helps us in our prayer experience. We may not understand God’s will when we pray in such a way, but as God reveals His will in life we will come to understand. In the meantime, we simply trust in God to work.

The Spirit’s Settling Truth of Full Surrender to God

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  [196]

We are limited and weak in our earthly bodies and we don’t understand everything that happens around us but we do know one thing which Paul turns to here. Paul states, “And we know,” whichtells us that here is one of the greatest truths revealed by the Spirit.

The word “know” here is translated from the Greek term EIDO (Strong’s # 1492 - ei[dw, i´-do) which refers to an intuitive knowledge, awareness,  full knowledge, or perception. Here the context would imply that this knowing comes from the indwelling of the Spirit. [197] Therefore, we know and perceive from the presence of the Spirit within us. This knowledge is a perception that comes from the presence of the Spirit in our lives.

The meaning of EIDO is better understood when contrasted to the other Greek term most commonly used to translate “know” which is GINOSKO (Strong’s #1097) which means, ““to be taking in knowledge, to come to know, recognize, understand.” [198]  GINOSKO is a knowledge that is learned by experience or attained by way of sensory perception. EIDO is a knowledge that is simply received; in this case knowledge received form the Spirit.

The statement, “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” is something the Spirit reveals to us and can know for sure. Without this truth, life can degenerate into nihilism or hopelessness. But the Spirit reveals here that “all things” no matter how dreadful or catastrophic or confusing, “work together for good . . .” We have a faith and confidence in God that everything and all circumstances will be used by Him to work our His will and good in and through me. As we fully surrender to God by faith and trust in Him, He will use it all for good. This is the settling truth of full surrender to God. We might express this in the following way, NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ME THAT GOD HAS NOT ALLOWED TO HAPPEN AND THAT HE WILL USE FOR GOOD IN HIS PERFECT PLAN. By faith we accept what happens to us, no matter how bad, as God’s allowing it to happen and that He can use it for good.

This is a position of faith that is constantly attacked by the enemy. The enemy is constantly echoing in your ear, “What possible good can come from that?” The bible is filled with examples of those who weathered such attacks by faith in God.

Joseph was persecuted and rejected by His brothers, separated from his family, sold into slavery, falsely accused of sexual abuse, thrown into prison, forgotten by those who promised to help him, lied to and misused and still in the end he was able to say to his brothers who abused him:

  • Genesis 50:20 - “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”  [199]

Paul experienced several trials and hardships in his life as we saw above. And yet he was able to proclaim:

  • Romans 8:18 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  [200]

These words of Paul are stated in the context of one of the greatest chapters in the Bible on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Therefore, we see from this that, THE ONLY WAY WE CAN UNDERSTAND AND LIVE THIS TRUTH IS BY THE REVELATION AND HELP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Many times events hit us in life and we’re not living Romans 8:28 and we fail to see how God might want to work. Life would be much more livable and exciting if we just understood in the Spirit that whatever happens, God is at work for good.

For Who Do All Things Work Together For Good?

Now notice that this is true, “to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If you don’t care or love God, if you haven’t answered His purposeful call, the benefit and good of the circumstances in life will go mostly unnoticed. If you don’t have the Spirit in you, you don’t have the knowledge that all things are working together for good for God’s purposes and you are looking to have them used to such an end. Otherwise, without the Spirit, the true good purpose of God in all things is missed and you may be well on your way to damnation.

The one who has come to relate to God in love and surrender to His purposes is the one the Spirit reveals such glorious truths to. But what is God’s purpose for us? This verse ends with the words, “to those who are the called according to His purpose.” What is God’s ultimate purpose and plan for humanity?

God’s Foreknown Plan and Purpose For Us

Romans 8:29- “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  [201]

This great verse tells us about God and His eternal plan for humanity. What can we learn about God from this verse and what is God’s plan for humanity? Let’s see.

The Foreknowledge of God

For whom He foreknew,” Paul states. The word “foreknew” is translated from the Greek term PROSGINOSKO (Strong’s # 4267 - προγινώσκω [proginosko /prog·in·oce·ko/]” which occurs 5 times in the New Testament and is translated, “foreknow” twice, “foreordain” once, “know” once, and “know before” once. The meaning is, “to have knowledge before hand,” or “to foreknow.”  [202] We get the English word “prognosis” from this term.

 

The concept of God’s foreknowledge is seen in the Old Testament in such verses as:

 

  • Isaiah 41:22-23 - “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come.23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.” [203] (See also Isaiah 43:9-13)
  • Isaiah 42:9 – “Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”  [204]
  • Isaiah 46:8-10 - “Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors.9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”  [205]

In these verses God ties His foreknowledge to His Divine nature. His foreknowledge of all things is one characteristic that makes Him God. Nothing surprises God. God cannot learn anything, He knows everything. God acts on the basis of His foreknowledge. Prophecy confirms God’s omniscience. What does God do with such foreknowledge? How does God use this Divine attribute?

“He also predestined” – The Predestination of God

The word “predestined” is translated from the Greek term PROORIZO (Strong’s # 4309 - proorivzw, pr-or-id´-zo  to limit in advance, predetermine; determine before, ordain, predestinate.”[206]). This term is compound and formed by combining the Greek prefix PRO, which means “before,” and HORIZO, (Strong’s # 3724) which means “to bound, to set a boundary” (English “horizon” – see Romans 1:1);“to mark out definitely, determine.”[207] The word therefore means, to determine beforehand, to set a boundary beforehand, to set a horizon or destination beforehand.

What does God predetermine? 

A Predestined Plan Based on God’s Foreknowledge

God has perfect foreknowledge. God is not limited in what He knows in any way. Indeed, God knows everything. He knows the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end. God moves and works on the basis of His foreknowledge. God’s foreknowledge and His actions based on that foreknowledge does not eliminate the free will of humanity. God simply knows what humanity will do before they do it and acts accordingly.

That God uses His foreknowledge to organize and set forth a plan for humanity is seen in both the Old and New Testaments. God had and has a plan for Israel and God has a plan for the people of His church. We will see that this is true when we study the section on the sovereignty of God in Romans 9-11. But in Jeremiah the Lord states through the prophet:

  • Jeremiah 29:11-14 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.”  [208]

God had and has a plan for Israel. While this verse is often used by believers to show that God has a plan for their lives, it is primarily referring to Israel.

But that God has a plan for New Testament believers is seen in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he is inspired to write:

  • Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  [209]

This verse tells us that God has set in place plans and “good works” for each believer to follow. But don’t jump past the opening phrase in this beautiful verse. For we are His workmanship,” Paul is inspired to write by the Lord. The word “workmanship,” is translated form the Greek term POEMA (Strong’s #4161 - poivhma - poáieµma, poy´-ay-mah;) which literally refers to, “a product, i.e. fabric; thing that is made, workmanship.” [210] The English word “poem” is derived from this Greek term. We are God’s poetry. Have you ever tried to write a poem. I don’t mean a simple ditty that rhymes, but a poem with meter and form? Writing a poem is time consuming and hard work. But we are God’s poetry. And what is the end of such poetry? What is God’s ultimate product, purpose and plan?

God’s Foreknown Ultimate Plan, Purpose and Poetic Product for Us?

What is God’s plan, purpose, and ultimate poetic product for humanity? Paul says, “to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.” GOD’S ULTIMATE PLAN AND PURPOSE FOR HUMANITY, THE FINISHED POETRY HE SEEKS TO MAKE US INTO,  IS “TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON” AND BRING US INTO A WONDERFUL ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. This plan and purpose of God for humanity should not be misinterpreted to mean that human beings would become gods. This is the heretical and false teaching of the New Age movement and Mormonism. Rather God’s plan and purpose for humanity is that we would take on Christ-like character.  The greatest poem is the Divine poem of God He writes with believers who He conforms to the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ.

Notice the context of this verse is that of considering suffering that we experience in life (Romans 8:18-31). God’s priority for us is to become Christ-like and if trials, hardships and losses are necessary to work that Christ-like image in us, God will allow that to occur. God’s priority for us is not a spouse, two point five children, a dog, two cars, a house, a job, financial security, safety, and an easy peaceful life. In fact, His priority of conforming you to the image of Jesus may necessarily mean that such “blessings” be removed from your life. God’s goals for you are eternal more than they are temporal. God is writing an eternal piece of poetry with you.

Who Conforms Us to Christ’s Likeness?

Conformity to the likeness of Jesus is the work of the Spirit in the believer. The Holy Spirit is the One who writes the beautiful poem of Christ-likeness in us.  Paul was inspired to inform us of this when he wrote:

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 – “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  [211]

The context of this verse is that Paul speaks of the prior “glory” Moses acquired through his contact with God on Mount Sinai when he was receiving the Ten Commandments. The word “glory” is translated from the Hebrew term KABOD (Strong’s # 3519)in the Old Testament and the Greek word DOXA  (Strong’s # 1391 - δόξα [doxa /dox·ah/] 168 occurrences in the New Testament[212]). KABOD carries the meaning of weightiness, substance, and splendor. DOXA has the meaning of the honor, opinion or nature of a person. Therefore, when we see the word glory we are talking about the substance, the essence of something. For example when Moses asked to see God’s glory, God arranged for Moses to see his back and as God passed by He pronounced “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6). God’s glory is the radiance of His nature and being.

 

In the passage in 2 Corinthians Paul relates how Moses face glowed with the glory of God when he descended the mount and it disturbed the people so much that they couldn’t look at it. Moses veiled his face for the sake of the people but the glory he had under the Old Covenant faded (2 Corinthians 3:7). Moses veiled himself in part so that the children of Israel would not seeing the fading nature of the glory he had (2 Corinthians 3:11-13).  The glory of the New Covenant “excels” and “exceeds” that of the Old according to Paul in that it “remains” (2 Corinthians 3:11). The New Covenant glory excels the Old because it is a glory worked in the b4eleiver by the constant presence of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:8,17-18).

 

In the verse we quote above Paul states that New Testament believers can look in a mirror and see the reflection of God’s glory, or for all intents and purposes “the image of His Son” being worked into them by the Holy Spirit. New Testament believers do not have to veil their faces because the transformation “from glory to glory” by the Spirit is an ongoing and lasting work that will not fade because it is an eternal work. “From glory to glory” is a beautiful and yes, poetic way of referring to being transformed more and more to the likeness of Jesus. That is the work of the Spirit in the believer.

 

Conformity to Christ-likeness – The Purpose of the Church

The purpose of the church is to be used by the Spirit to win the lost and save souls. But the purpose of the church doesn’t stop there. Indeed, that is only half of the purpose of the church. Just as important as winning the lost to salvation is the equipping, edification and making of Christ-like disciples of Jesus. This is the beautiful spiritually poetic work the church has a hand in. Paul spells this out when he is inspired to write:

  • Ephesians 4:11-13 – “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;”  [213]

Jesus gives ministry spiritual gifts to the believers of the church (4:11) in order to equip the members of the church to do the work of ministry and to build up or edify the body of Christ (4:12). The outcome or end product, the “perfect” or complete poem that is the aim of this ministry is that believers would come to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” or that they would come to the “likeness of His Son.”

As ministers we ought to be seeking to be used by the Spirit to mold people to the image of Jesus. And as Christians, we ought to surrender to God in all things so that He can use all things to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus

Human Free Will and God’s Predestination

There has been a great deal of controversy within the church over the topic of predestination. The controversy comes when people take teachings to extremes that go beyond what God intended. The person that thinks they know it all is usually the one who knows the least. The older a person gets, the more aware they usually become of how much they do not know. There is so much that we do not know in this universe, that we should be humble in our pursuit of understanding. It would be idiocy for finite beings to think they can fully comprehend the infinite God.  It is with that in mind that we proceed.

In Deuteronomy it states:

  • Deuteronomy 29:29 - “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  [214]

How does human free will and God’s pre-determinate plan coincide? If God predetermines things beforehand, how does He do that and still incorporate human free will in the process? Those are questions that our puny finite brains do not have the capacity to comprehend. What we do know is that both things exist.

Human Free Will

Human free will is seen in the capacity of “choice” that God incorporates in the human being. The Bible is filled with calls to make a decision or choice and a decision or choice would be mute and empty unless the one’s be called upon to make a decision actually had the capacity of free will to decide. Such choice is evidenced in the following verses:

  • Joshua 24:15 -  “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  [215]
  • John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  [216]
  • Matthew 27:17 – “Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”  [217]
  • Romans 10:8-11 – “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” [218]
  • Revelation 22:17 – “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”  [219]

Humans cease to be human without free will. God created humanity with free will, the capacity to make decisions and choices. This is part of the image of God created into humanity (Genesis 1:26).

Love and Free Will

Love is an action, a choice, and a decision to act upon. The reason God created the free will capacity into humanity was so that they would have the capacity to love. Think of it, a robot cannot love it can only do what it is programmed to do. If someone says I love you because you have a gun pointed at their temple, that is not love. Love becomes real and true when a person chooses to love of their own freewill. The capacity of humanity to exert free will is integral to their created makeup and is part of God’s image in them. God created human beings with the capacity to make choices, to choose Him in love, or to reject Him in sinful rebellion. That truth is seen throughout the Bible.

Predestined People or Predestined Plan?

The best way it seems to this author, to understand God’s predestination is to see it as God predestining a plan not predestining people. There are verses that seem to show God’s predestining people (as we will see below). If we are to be true to our statement on the capacity of free will in humanity, this can be no less true in regards to God. God reserves the right to choose who will enter heaven and spend eternity with Him. But I believe He does not do this so much by choosing particular people (e.g. Calvinism) as He does setting up a predetermined plan or criteria that must be accepted by a person in order for them to be granted salvation, eternal life and the living presence of the Spirit in them. This is what I believe is meant in Paul’s opening words to the Ephesians when he is inspired to write:

  • Ephesians 1:4 – “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,”  [220]

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,” Paul says. This is God’s plan set forth from the foundation of the world, that those who accept Jesus and enter into a saving relationship with Him by grace through faith, these are the ones “He chose.” God’s predetermination is that a sovereign plan or requirement be set in place that necessitates a person accept His Son Jesus by grace through faith in order for them to be counted amongst the chosen.

If God Predestines People, then . . . .

If God predestines the people who will enter eternity with Him irregardless of their decision or faith in Jesus, (which is the doctrinal stand of Calvinists who believe in unconditional election and irresistible grace which supports this), it follows that He also predestines some to eternal separation from Him in the hot fires of hell. This is what is called double predestination. When God’s predestination is emphasized to the detriment of the free will of humanity the result is to raise questions about the character and love of God. Why did God choose some and not others? This doesn’t seem to jive with the testimony of Scripture. Doesn’t God love the “world”? Doesn’t He offer salvation to “whosoever” believes on Jesus?  Does God’s grace not extend to the entire world? Was Jesus atonement limited? Time and space does not allow for an in depth study of these issues. The writer encourages readers to read Dave Hunt’s book What Love is This? (Loyal Pub. Co., Sisters Oregon, 2002).

There are portions of Scripture that seem to lend themselves to an interpretation that views God as predetermining the ways of people. For example, in Acts it seems to indicate the direct hand of God in choosing people for salvation when it states:  

  • Acts 13:48 – “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”  [221]

But what does the word “appointed” mean? “Appointed” is translated from the Greek term TASSO (Strong’s # 5021 -  τάσσω tasso, tas´-so;) which is translated variously, “ to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot);  addict, appoint, determine, ordain, set.” [222] The context of Acts 13:48 is the rejection of the gospel by the Jews in contrast to the Gentiles who disposed themselves to, or accepted the gospel by God’s grace through faith in Christ. This verse does not necessarily support A Calvinistic view of an absolute decree by God as people who are saved. [223]

Dave Hunt in his book What Love Is This?, explains that the rendering “ordained to eternal life,” “is at best a questionable rendering and many Greek scholars call it a wrong translation.” He goes on to say:

“Clearly there are differences of opinion concerning the technical considerations of the Greek which only the experts are competent to discuss. That being the case, we ought to come down on the side of a rendering which harmonizes with the rest of Scripture. There are dozens of passages which declare in the plainest language that the gospel is offered to whosoever will believe it and that God desires all mankind to be saved. Consequently, it would be improper to adopt here a questionable interpretation as the basis for rejecting the overwhelming weight of Scripture . . . . The best way to determine which meaning applies is to consider the context. When we do that the choice becomes clear. The Jews have just rejected the gospel and that is why Paul has turned to the Greeks.  . . . Verse 48 presents the contrast between Jews who had set themselves against the gospel and the Gentiles who disposed themselves to receive it. Thus it is saying that “as many [Greeks] as were disposed to eternal life believed.’”[224]

Interestingly the Living Bible paraphrase translates this verse with this idea stating:

 

  • Acts 13:48 – “When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and rejoiced in Paul’s message; and as many as wanted eternal life, believed.”   [225]

The problem created by those who see God’s predestination as overriding free will, is that if God predetermines things apart from human free will, then how can humans be held responsible for things they have no choice in? In Romans 9 Paul addresses this issue and we will discuss it in greater detail at that point.

The emphasis in Scripture appears to be on God’s predetermining a plan for people to accept by faith in order to be saved and experience eternal life with God. Jesus died so that the “world” would have opportunity to receive salvation. But what are the particulars of God’s predestined plan? 

The Particulars of God’s Predestined Plan

Keep in mind, all of the following statements are part of God’s predestined plan, His poetry in which the Holy Spirit works in the believer’s life to conform him or her to the likeness of Jesus. What are these particulars?

First, God’s predetermined plan of redemption involved the giving of His Son Jesus and glorifying Him in the resurrection. In Acts it states:

  • Acts 2:22-24 - “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—23 “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;24 “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”  [226]

The plan of redemption worked by Jesus was worked according to the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God. God knew what sinful humanity would do to His Son. God is never taken by surprise. One who knows all (i.e. omniscient; all-knowing) cannot be taken by surprise.

God was not taken by surprise when sinful people crucified His Son. That is the point of what is recorded in Acts when it states:

  • Acts 4:27-28 - “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together28 “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”  [227]

God is in control even when evil seems to be winning out. That was the case in His sovereign plan of redemption and that is always the case in life; no matter what.

Second, God’s predetermined plan is that those who receive or accept by faith His Son as Savior and Lord are adopted into His elect family. Scriptures that show the incorporation of human free will in the salvation plan are as follows:

  • John 1:12 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:”  [228]
  • John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  [229]
  • John 3:36 -  “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  [230]
  • John 5:24 - “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  [231]
  • Romans 10:8-10 – “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  [232]
  • 1 Timothy 1:15-17 – “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”  [233]

There are many more verses that could be quoted to show that the inescapable truth of scripture is that God has given human beings free will which they must use to choose to receive and accept His Son Jesus in order to be saved. This is God’s predetermined and sovereign plan of redemption.

Third, God’s predetermined plan for us is that we be spiritually fruitful as we rely on Him. Jesus said:

  • John 15:16 - “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”  [234]

Notice here that the choosing Jesus mentions has to do with the selection of the twelve for training from amongst the masses of other followers of Jesus. Jesus’ desire for believers is that they are spiritually fruitful. Lasting fruit that has eternal staying power consists of serving in the Spirit in a Christ-like way. Notice we call on God (“whatever you ask”) in the name of Jesus which implies we are moving onward in our relationship with the Lord through the Spirit in this endeavor.

How Do You Handle What You don’t Understand?

Are you confused about Gods’ foreknowledge and predestination? A good rule of thumb when encountering difficult passages in God’s word is, when you come to that which you do not know or understand, fall back on what you do know and understand. We may not understand how God’s predestinate plan and human free will are reconciled or dovetailed together in God’s plan, but we do know God is all-knowing and all–loving. If you knew everything, then you would never make a wrong decision. GOD KNOWS ALL THINGS AND MAKES NO WRONG DECISIONS. That is what we know and what we must trust in.

Humanity is limited, God is not. GOD NEVER SAYS “OPPS!” God knows who will be saved, right now, even before they are saved, and those He knows will be saved, He predetermines to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. God doesn’t choose losers.

The bottom line is, GOD DOESN’T ASK OR REQUIRE (THANK GOD) THAT WE UNDERSTAND THESE THINGS, ONLY THAT WE BELIEVE THEM AS THEY ARE REVEALED IN HIS WORD. IF YOU ONLY BELIEVE WHAT YOU UNDERSTAND, THEN THAT IS NOT FAITH. FAITH IS BELIEVING BEFORE YOU UNDERSTAND. “FAITH IS THE SUBSTANCE (or ASSURANCE) OF THINGS HOPED FOR THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN” (Hebrews 11:1).

We are chosen in Christ by God before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and we must repent and exercise the gift of faith God provides to be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:8-11). GOD CLOSES THE DOOR TO NO ONE AND INVITES ALL TO RECEIVE HIS SON AND ETERNAL LIFE.

Firstborn

Paul says, “that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (8:29b) in reference to Jesus. Cults have used this verse to claim that Jesus was born and is not eternal. To be “firstborn,” doesn’t mean Jesus was born or has an origin implying He is not eternal. “Firstborn,” here refers to a position of authority and it is to the supreme Jesus that we are to be conformed in image.  (See 1 Corinthians 15:42-49; Colossians 1:18).  Jesus leads the way and has authority over believers who will follow Him in the resurrection. When we see Him we will be like Him (1 John 3:3). Glory!

The Encouragement of God’s Predestined Plan

Romans 8:30 – “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”  [235]

Since God is not limited by time, He speaks of the future as already having occurred. God speaks of the future as a present reality, before it happens. Therefore, those He foreknows as accepting of His grace (8:29), He predestines to be conformed to the image of Jesus by calling them and those called He knows will be justified and ultimately glorified. When a person accepts Jesus as their Savior it does not surprise God. When you die and come to the gates of heaven God is not going to be shocked or surprised (although for some of us there would be good reason to be shocked!). Paul states these events, calling, justification and glorification (the calling to sinners to repent, the beginning of salvation and the end of salvation, the finished poem) as simply a reality because it is from God’s perspective unlimited and unrelated to time. God sees and knows who, when called, will answer His call, and those who answer His call by accepting His Son by faith will be justified and glorified.

This gives us great encouragement. We can be certain and secure that those God justifies He glorifies. In other words God knows that those He justifies will be glorified because He sees the end product the poem complete, and we can find security in that truth. If you are justified by grace through faith in Jesus, you will be glorified by God.

Such awareness of God’s work enabled Paul to speak confidently to the Philippians:

  • Philippians 1:6 – “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”  [236]

God makes no mistakes; that which He starts, He finishes. God completes that which He begins, and that includes what He begins in us. In Christ, we are complete:

  • Colossians 2:9-10 – “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  [237]

God sees the believer as a finished product. If you respond to God’s call and receive Jesus by grace through faith God tells us that He intends to finish the work He started in you. Those who do not persevere or fall away were not likely ever true believers as Jesus parable of the Sower teaches (Matthew 13; Mark 4). The foreknowledge and predestined plan of God is a great source of encouragement for believers.

Revealing Questions About the Incredible Love of the One Who Predestines

As soon as Paul speaks of God’s predestination, he launches off into a glorious description of God’s incredible everlasting love that ends this tremendous chapter. Paul conveys the security the believer has in the love of God by way of seven questions.

Questions #1 – What Should Our Response Be to All This?

Romans 8:31a – “What then shall we say to these things? . . .” [238]

What can we say to the glorious truth that God takes “all things” in our lives and works them together for good by using all things to conform us to the likeness of Jesus? The good God does through all things is that He uses the circumstances of life, both good and bad, to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus. And this He does according to His predestined plan of calling, justifying and glorifying believers by the Holy Spirit. What can we say about that incredible, mind-boggling truth? All we can say is “Praise God!”

Question #2 – What Opponent Should We Fear?

Romans 8:31b – “If God is for us, who can be against us?” [239]

Here Paul returns to his opening statement about there being no condemnation for those who are in Christ. The point is if God is for us, it doesn’t matter if anyone else is against us.

Martin Luther was used by God to confront an established but corrupt church that was misleading the people of God and relying on traditions and false teaching.  As the Reformation began he had to at times nearly stand alone against condemning and accusing church leaders. His opponents ridiculed him and asked why he thought he had the right to think he was right and worthy to stand against them. Martin took his stand on the Scripture and truth of God because he was well aware of what it said in Romans here. He put it another way by saying, “One with God is a majority.”

We need to accept that God is for us. We so often view God as being against us, or at least inattentive or disinterested in us or our predicament in life. But God is actively for us. Read what the Bible says:

  • Psalm 27:1-3 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?2 When the wicked came against me To eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell.3 Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war should rise against me, In this I will be confident.” [240]
  • Psalm 46:1-3,7 – “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah . . .7 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah”  [241]
  • Psalm 84:11-12 – “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.12 O Lord of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!”  [242]
  • Philippians 4:19 – “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  [243]

God is for us, He wants to bless us, don’t ever forget that!

 Furthermore, when we consider the contrast between God’s predestination and human free will, we need to consider the nature of God. We might wonder about the conflict between God’s predetermine plan and how allows for the free will of humanity. We might wonder if it is safe to have God in such sovereign control. Can we trust God? Will He treat us fairly? Will He treat us in love? How should we respond to such questions? Paul answers with the following verse. 

Question #3 – What Wouldn’t God Freely Give Us?

Romans 8:32 – “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” [244]

God has demonstrated His love and faithfulness to us by not sparing His Son Jesus. And if He was willing to go to that extent to save us, what wouldn’t He do for us?! The extreme love and extent of that love He has already demonstrated by not sparing His Son, is proof that He can be trusted to predetermine justly His plan of salvation. God, who in grace sent His Son to the cross for us, will also by His grace give us everything else we need. God can be trusted. God won’t give us what is wrong or bad for us; but everything and anything that is “good” we can expect Him to give us. If we ask for something and He does not give it to us, we can assume that God knows best and has not given it to us because it is not good for us.

Think a moment on this; it was difficult for God to find a way to show His love for us. When we want to express love toward someone we do it by acting in a loving way of giving someone something that costs us. David said that He wouldn’t give anything to God that didn’t cost him something (2 Samuel 24:24). That inspired word from David came from the heart of God (2 Samuel 23:2-4). In truth, the costliness or effort behind a gift demonstrates the level of love behind the gift. This poses a problem for God.

Since God owns everything and can freely create anything simply by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1), or do anything that doesn’t contradict His nature, and since nothing is impossible or too hard for God to do, it would be meaningless for Him to simply do some miracle or give us silver or gold or precious jewels as a symbol of His affection for us. Such a feat would cost Him nothing since His resources are limitless and nothing is too hard for Him. Those things may show us something, but not the height or depth or width or breath of God’s love for us (Ephesians 3:18-19). There was only one precious entity unique and costly to God and of the highest value, His only Son Jesus. God gave us His one and only Son Jesus to show His love for us (Romans 5:8) and in doing so, expressed the ultimate in love. Only God could give Himself in His Son in this way (2 Corinthians 5:14-15,19).

Now that expression of love in Christ would be enough for any human, but Paul goes on to say, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” If God went so far as to give us His Son Jesus, everything else we need is small in comparison and God will freely give it to us. “Freely,” means we don’t have to work for it or impress God so He’ll do it for us, it means God will give us “all things” freely, simply because He loves us so much. That is awesome! This is the God who foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies and glorifies and we should not fear Him, we should love Him. John wrote:

  • 1 John 4:17-18 – “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” [245]

Who could possibly contend with God’s loving election and grace? Who could bring a charge against those God saves? Paul turns to this now.

Question #4 – Who Can Bring A Charge Against Us?

Romans 8:33 – “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” [246]

There are those who love to bring condemnation on those around them. They think that by tearing down those around them they can lift themselves up over them. These are guilt mongers and legalists. These are the wet blankets that try to put out the fire of God in zealous believers. But Paul says there is no ground or basis for such attacks because “It is God who justifies.” Remember how this chapter began, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We don’t have to pay attention to our attackers and accusers; we need only be concerned with God and what He says.

Question #5 – Who condemns us?

Romans 8:34 – “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”  [247]

This chapter began with the statement that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” On the basis of Christ’s work on the cross, there is no ground for anyone to bring a condemnation against the person who is in Christ. We are forgiven and complete in Him (Colossians 2:10).

But there are some who do try to condemn believers. Who brings condemnations against believers?  The answer to Paul’s question, "Who is he who condemns?” can be answered as follows.

First, Satan condemns or tries to condemn believers. The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin (John 16:8-11), but Satan is the one who brings condemnatory remarks against God’s people. This is evidenced in the following verses:

  • Job 1:9 – “So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” [248]
  • Revelation 12:10 – “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” [249]

We need to remember and understand that WHEN SATAN BRINGS CONDEMNATION, HE DOES SO WITH A GOAL OF SEPARATING US FROM GOD. Therefore, whatever we encounter, if it is aimed at getting us to remove ourselves from God, it is not from God but from the devil. Accusations, thoughts, remarks, and anything else that threaten to put a wedge between us and God is not of God but of the enemy.

WHEN THE SPIRIT CONVICTS US OF SIN, IT IS ALWAYS AIMED AT BRINGING US TO GOD THROUGH CONFESSION OF SIN AND SURRENDER TO GOD IN CHRIST. Whenever the Spirit convicts us of sin, He does so in a way that aims at our heart to draw us to the One who can cleanse us of our sin and renew our relationship with God in Christ (1 John 1:7,9; 2:1-6).

Second, legalists try to bring condemnation upon believers. We see this throughout the gospels as the religious legalists opposed Jesus at every turn and brought constant accusation against Him. This is seen in the following verses:

  • Luke 6:7 – “So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him.”  [250]

Paul wrote to the Colossians:

  • Colossians 2:9-23 – “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”  [251]

We needn’t allow ourselves to be robbed of our peace and standing in Christ by those who rely on false humility and religious pursuits. We need to rely on Jesus, for in Him there is no condemnation.

Thirdly, we condemn ourselves. When we live in a legalistic way and don’t live up to our self-imposed expectations, we end up condemning ourselves. This is what John refers to in his first epistle where it states:

  • 1 John 3:20-22 – “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” [252]

These verses show us that “God is greater than our heart.” God is even greater than the condemnation we bring against ourselves.

Question #6 – Who Can Separate Us From the Love of Jesus?

Romans 8:35a- “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . .” [253]

The answer here is no one. No person can separate us from Christ.

Question #7 – What Can Separate Us From the Love of Jesus?

Romans 8:35b – “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”  [254]

The answer here is, no thing or experience can separate us from Christ.

The Final Answer – We Are More Than Conquerors Through Him Who Loved Us

Paul now brings to a climax the conclusion concerning the love of God who predestines.

 

Romans 8:36-37 – “As it is written:  “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  [255]

Paul refers to the extreme possibility of being, accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” In other words, even if those who oppose us see us as sheep good only to be slaughtered for their purpose, even in this extreme circumstance, we are “more than conquerors.”

More Than Conquerors

The phrase, “more than conquerors,” is translated from one Greek term HUPERNIKOMEN  from the root word HUPERNIKAO (Strong’s # 5245 – uJpernikavw hupeárnikaoµ, hoop-er-nik-ah´-o) which means literally, “to vanquish beyond; to gain a decisive victory; more than conquer.” [256] This word is formed by connecting the Greek prefix HUPER which means, ”over; above; more than; superior; exceeding” in front of the Greek term NIKAO which means, “superior; conquer; overcome; prevail; get the victory.”.[257]

A conqueror is one who goes into battle with the outcome undetermined and still at risk. But what is “more than a conqueror”? One who is “more than a conqueror,” is one who goes into battle KNOWING THE OUTCOME, CERTAIN AND SECURE IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF VICTORY PROMISED BY GOD. It should also be noted that the grammatical from of the word HUPERNIKAO (Present/Active/Indicative) implies and ongoing state of being or action. This is a constant state and action. How can the believer hold such a certainty?

The Persuasion of More Than Conquerors

Romans 8:38a – “For I am persuaded . . .”[258]

These are glorious words and they begin with the phrase, “For I am persuaded.” First we see that thee verses are linked with the preceding statement of being “more than conquerors” by the word “for,” which tips us off that what follows is the reason why or the substantiating reason why it can be said that we are more than conquerors.

The phrase, “I am persuaded,” is translated from the Greek term PEPEISMAI from the root Greek term PEITHO (Strong’s #3982 - peivqw peáithoµ, pi´-tho). PEITHO is a verb meaning, “to convince (by argument, true or false); . . . ; to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty): agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be confident, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.” [259] This is a word of faith. This is not a word that implies something that we have to work ourselves up into, quite the contrary this is something God works in us. The grammatical form of the word as a Perfect/Passive/Indicative indicates first that this is something which came to be by a past action with continued results following (Perfect tense) and it is an action received by the recipient (Passive voice – e.g. “The boy was hit by the ball.”). God is the one who persuades us, God is the one who assures us, convinces us, and gives a certain stable faith in this regard. Of what does God assure and persuade us?

Someone is more than a conqueror because they are convinced continually of something. Of what is more than a conqueror convinced continually?

Nothing Created Can Separate Us From God’s Love in Christ

Romans 8:38-39 – “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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  [260]

 

A person is more than a conqueror because they are continually convinced that no matter what, they will not be separated from God and His love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Someone who is more than a conqueror has a faith rooted in the Spirit that rests in the certain and sure presence of God and His love in Jesus Christ. The more than conqueror has Jesus as his or her Lord and totally trusts in Jesus no matter what.

These verses show us that God doesn’t promise us a rose garden of comfort and freedom from problem or trial. There will be attempts by our flesh, the world and the devil to separate us from God’s love. Jesus said we would encounter trials in the world but added that He had overcome the world. He said: 

 

  • John 16:33 - “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”   [261]

It is true that in this world we will face trials and hardships, but God’s promise is to be there with us and to sustain and uphold us. God persuades, assures, or convinces the believer that nothing, “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!”  This is the climax of this great and glorious chapter. NONE OF THESE THINGS CAN SEPARTE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD WHICH IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD. No matter what we encounter in this life, nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ. No thing related to death or thing related to life; not attacks by or things related to the hoards of Satan; not things happening now or things that will happen in the future; nothing high or low; nothing created; nothing at all can separate us from God’s love in Christ. If that doesn’t make you sing nothing will.

Conclusion

 

When Paul was at Ephesus and about to leave he gathered the elders around him and told them it was time to go to Jerusalem and that the Spirit had testified “in every city” that “chains and tribulation await me” (Acts 20:17-23). The words of Paul that follow show that he was more than a conqueror. Paul went on to say:

 

  • Acts 20:24 - “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  [262]

“But none of these things moves me,” are the words of someone who knew he would never be alone as he went through difficulties. Nothing could separate Paul from the love of God in Christ and that enabled him to boldly press on in God’s predestined plan for his life.

How about you, are you living a life of condemnation because you rely on your works instead of the finished work of Jesus, has your flesh gotten the best of you or have you been set free by the Spirit? (Romans 8:1-4). Are you sure you are a child of God; do you have the witness of the Spirit in you to that reality? Does the Spirit dwell in you; are you being led by the Spirit? (Romans 8:5-13). Have you come to realize the incredible inheritance a child of God has in Christ? (Romans 8:14-17). Are you going through sufferings and being beaten down or have you come to realize that any suffering you may experience in this life doesn’t even compare with the glory the Spirit is working in you? Are you looking forward to the redemption of your bodies at the coming of Jesus in the Rapture? Do you have the hope of the Lord? (Romans 8:18-25). Are you wallowing in weakness or allowing the Spirit to help you in your weaknesses? Are you praying in the Spirit? (Romans 8:26-27). Do you know that whatever happens to you God can take it and use it for the good of conforming and transforming you to the likeness of Jesus? (Romans 8:28). Do you realize that God is going to finish what He began in you by the Spirit? (Romans 8:29-30). Do you realize that you are the object of God’s love which He lavished on you by giving Jesus to redeem you? Do you realize that God is for you? (Romans 8:31-32). Do you realize, are you continually convinced and persuaded that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ? (Romans 8:33-39).  Someone who is more than a conqueror can answer “Yes” to all these questions. If you can’t answer “Yes” to any of these questions don’t be discouraged. Above all, don’t try to bring about a “Yes” answer in your own strength. It is the work of the Spirit in you that can bring you to answer these questions in the affirmative. On our own, in our own strength, in our flesh, we can’t come to a “Yes” response for any of these questions. But in the Spirit, by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in us, we can say, “Yes, I am more than a conqueror, I am persuaded and continually convinced that God will give me a “Yes” response to all of these questions.” May God bring this to pass in your lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 



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[128]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[129]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[130]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[131]The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[132]The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[133]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[134]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[135]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[136]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[137]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[138]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[139]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[140]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[141]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[142]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[143]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[144]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[145]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[146]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[147]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[148]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[149]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[150]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[151]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[152]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[153]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[154]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[155]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[156]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[157]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[158]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[159]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[160]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[161]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[162]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[163]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[164]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[165]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[166]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[167]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[168]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[169]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[170]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[171]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[172]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[173]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[174]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[175]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[176]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[177]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[178]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[179]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[180]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[181]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[182]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[183]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[184]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[185]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[186]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[187]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[188]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[189]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[190]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[191]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[192]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[193]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[194]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[195]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[196]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[197]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[198]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[199]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[200]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[201]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[202]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[203]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[204]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[205]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[206]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[207]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[208]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[209]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[210]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[211]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[212]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[213]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[214]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[215]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[216]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[217]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[218]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[219]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[220]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[221]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[222]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[223] Dave Hunt, What Love Is This? (Sisters, OR: Loyal Publishing , Inc., 2002) p.gs. 210-211.

[224] Ibid. p. 210

[225]The Living Bible, (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1997.

[226]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[227]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[228]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[229]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[230]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[231]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[232]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[233]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[234]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[235]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[236]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[237]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[238]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[239]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[240]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[241]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[242]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[243]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[244]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[245]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[246]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[247]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[248]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[249]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[250]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[251]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[252]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[253]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[254]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[255]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[256]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[257]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[258]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[259]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[260]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[261]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[262]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.