In the first 17 verses of Romans 8, Paul proclaims our freedom from condemnation and the law of sin and death. He also describes the freedom we have as believers to make choices, setting our minds upon spiritual things that we might receive the peace and the life of God. He assures us that the Holy Spirit lives in us and continually bears witness that we truly are His children and that we are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.
When some believers ponder these truths, they look at all the sufferings of this life and wonder, How can I be sure these blessings will all take place in my life? From verse 18 to the end of this chapter Paul reveals why he can be so positive that all he has just said, will take place.
Freedom to hope (8:18-25)
Before we look at the specifics of these passages, I want you to consider the confidence and the firm hope that Paul had for the future. Look at these phrases: "I consider" (vs. 18); "we know" (vs. 22); "we know" (vs. 28); "I am persuaded" (vs. 38). Paul had a full assurance and a complete confidence that these concepts and promises were true! God had persuaded him of these facts. You also need this kind of confidence when you experience the sufferings of this life. The assurance of God’s promises for the future must be a reality in your life today if you are to have confidence during times of suffering. You must personally experience the reality of the Holy Spirit setting you free to know that God is with you and is at work in your life. This is where the assurance of "we know" and "I am persuaded" comes from. Then you can go through the sufferings you face with confidence knowing that He is also with you. Let’s look at Paul’s hope and assurance.
"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" (Rom. 8:18). Suddenly, Paul makes an abrupt turn from the lofty truths at the beginning of this chapter to discuss the reality of the suffering and trials of life. Paul was honest about the difficulties in his own life and the expectation he had that even in the midst of suffering, God would see him through. Paul opens his heart as he compares the sufferings of this present time with all that God would give him in glory. His hope was firmly fixed on what was ahead. We have a glimpse of the glories of heaven from the apostle John when he spoke of those who are martyred during the Tribulation period and are transported immediately into the presence of God: "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Rev. 7:15-17).
When you consider the glories of heaven and you compare your suffering today, you realize that the present struggles here have no comparison with what’s ahead. Paul concluded that his sufferings were but a light affliction that would only last a moment when he compared them to eternity (2 Cor. 4:17). Therefore, no matter what trials you are struggling with today, fix your eyes on heaven and rejoice knowing that you have an exceeding great reward (Matt. 5:11-12).
One of the things that encouraged Paul the most was the fact that he knew one day God would redeem his body. This expectation caused him to "eagerly" wait with hope that he would be ushered into the "glorious liberty of the children of God," which the context clearly indicates was "the redemption of our body" (vs. 19; 21; 23). He knew that one day Christians would be finally revealed as "the sons of God" (vs. 22). This earnest expectation and hope motivated and strengthened Paul in the midst of his sufferings. He was confident that there was something more, something better ahead. If you don’t have this hope, you will surely get depressed as you watch the daily news or as you look at your difficult circumstances.
Paul also acknowledged one of the reasons why God allows suffering in this world when he said, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope" (Romans 8:20). What did he mean by this statement? The word futility means uselessness, emptiness, or incompleteness. God ordained that life in this world apart from Him would always be an empty experience. The sense of incompleteness inside of every person is a result of the fall of man. God allows the human race to be subjected to this sense of emptiness as a means to draw people unto Himself. God is the only person who can give meaning, purpose, and completeness to life. He did this in the hope that men would understand that He, and only He, is the answer to their needs. This is why Paul had such hope, he knew the God of hope (Rom 15:13).
If you personally know Christ and believe this truth you will also have this hope. You will possess a hope that brings an expectation and assurance that the best is yet to come. This should be the heritage of every believer. Do you believe that the best is yet to come in your life? If you have received Jesus Christ and follow Him, if you are free from sin, you are a joint heir with Christ, and He will come for you one day to redeem you into the glorious liberty of the children of God. This fact certainly proves the best is yet to come.
This hope is what drew us to Christ in the first place. "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. 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? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance" (Rom. 8:23-25). When you groan inside for the Lord to come and take you out of this world and take you home, that just proves the Holy Spirit lives in you and that you are eagerly waiting for the redemption of your body. This cry of your heart is really just the hope that God is real and will come again one day. Hope always deals with things that you can’t see, but hope also gives you an ability to persevere and endure until you obtain the things that are still future.
Paul also discussed this endurance of hope with the Thessalonian church. He told them how he continually remembered their "work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope" (1 Thess. 1:3). This word patience in this passage is the same word in verse 25 for perseverance. This is what hope does in your life. It gives you endurance and perseverance in the midst of your trials. His enduring strength and determination are a natural result of the first fruits of His Spirit in your life. As you allow Him to control your life, hope becomes an anchor to your soul (Heb. 6:19). You become steadfast and immovable as you allow His hope to govern your heart (1 Cor. 15:58). This is the life God wants His people to have even in the midst of suffering and trials.
Freedom to pray (vs. 26-27)
But, where do you get this hope and how can you receive it? Paul now explains that the Spirit of God leads believers to prayer as the means to have personal contact with the God of Hope. "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. 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. 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" (Rom. 8:26-27).
Paul acknowledges that as Christians we have weaknesses that require God’s help. He also affirms that we don’t always know exactly what we need or know how to pray as we should concerning these weaknesses and sometimes we groan and struggle. However, the Father has given us hope and assurance that we are His children and, therefore, the assurance of an open door and freedom to come to Him for help. He also gives us the Holy Spirit to help us in prayer so that we might petition Him according to His will. "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:16-17). Be assured, the Spirit is your helper for all the struggles you face in life, but especially for help in prayer. He lives inside you right now and will help you if you will simply ask for His help right now.
If the Lord declares that the Spirit has come to help you, then that means you need help. I hope that you realize how much you need help. This world has more curve balls to throw at you than you could possibly handle by yourself. No matter how long a believer walks with Christ or how much he or she knows the Word, don’t ever forget that you need help! The Spirit is ready, willing, and able to help you in your weaknesses. The question is, will you seek the Spirit’s help in your life?
Think for a moment about how much you need His help in your prayer life. Have you ever prayed for something and then realized a couple months later that you really didn't need what you asked for? Then you pray, "Thank you, Lord, for not giving me that request." Or, have you ever thought, Lord, what does that person need? How should I pray? What do I need? What should I pray for myself? These examples should reveal to you just how much you need His help in your prayer life. Many times your prayers are totally ineffectual because you are praying contrary to the will of God. What’s the solution? You need the leading and inspiration of the Spirit of God to help you pray. Here are two ways God helps you pray.
(1) Utterance that I can understand. There are times when a person has asked me to pray for them and I won’t know exactly what to pray for. I ask the Lord to open my heart and to inspire me and many times a thought will instantly come to mind and I will begin to petition. At the end of my prayer this person will tell me, "That’s exactly what I needed and precisely what is going on in my life. How did you know?" If you will ask the Lord, He will inspire your prayer life so that you might know how to pray as you ought. In addition, the more you study His Word and you understand His will and purposes, the easier it is to pray according to His will. God wants you to "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Col. 1:9). Then, "if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15). Prayer in this manner will obviously be effective.
(2) Utterance that I can’t understand. Paul also described in this passage "groanings which cannot be uttered." A groaning is an utterance, but an utterance which is not uttered intelligently or with your understanding. Think of the times when people have broken down and cried or expressed a deep need in a prayer meeting. Haven’t you ever found yourself sighing or even uttering a groan as you agree with that person in prayer? This word groaning means to sigh. The Holy Spirit who lives inside you inspired that groan. This is what prayer is all about. Does God understand your groan? Does He know what you’re asking for? Consider this:
The language that you speak is simply sounds and noises that form words that you intellectually understand. When you groan, God hears you and understands the intent of your heart. He alone knows your heart. Solomon acknowledged this truth concerning God. He said, "You alone know the hearts of the sons of men" (2 Chron. 6:30). His Spirit searches your heart and then inspires your spirit to pray according to His will. What an aid that is in your prayer life!
Prayer that is generated by unintelligent groanings is also very similar to what the Scripture teaches about the gift of tongues. Paul said that when he prayed with this gift he said "my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful…I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding" (1 Cor. 14:14-16). This is the reason why I've listed these two categories of prayer (utterance you don’t understand and that you do). Paul prayed and worshipped both ways. Note that Paul makes it clear in this passage that the real person (my spirit) is attempting to communicate with God through prayer. Your spirit can do this silently, verbally with your understanding, and verbally with groanings that can’t be intelligently uttered. All forms of prayer are edifying. "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 20). Therefore, pray! Pray without ceasing! Commune with your Father. Allow the Spirit to lead you in prayer and the God of hope will fill your heart and mind with His hope in the midst of your suffering.
The freedom of knowing and believing His sovereignty (vs. 28-30)
To know and believe the sovereignty of God is essential when you are in the midst of suffering. Paul believed that these truths concerning God’s overruling authority were critical for all believers to help us enjoy the confidence and victory over the trials and tribulations in life. Paul had experienced an incredible amount of suffering in his own life and, therefore, had seen God’s sovereignty working all things out for his benefit. If you are in one of those dark times of suffering in your life at this moment, may these words bring you comfort and strength. "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. 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. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified" (Rom. 8:28-30).
There are three great truths revealed in these verses. When you are in the midst of suffering and trials you must rest your faith on these facts. As you do, you will find strength and stability in your time of need. These three truths reveal God’s ultimate goals for your life. These goals will be accomplished if you will simply trust and obey Him.
(1) God is working all things together for good. How can you believe this? Think of the worst thing that could happen to you. What if someone walked up and killed you today? God would take this incredibly evil act and would bring about good. You would get to go directly to heaven (2 Cor. 5:1)! However, if you suffered persecution, God declares that He will also take this evil and turn it around for good by purifying you as gold (1 Peter 1:6-7). Your inward man would be renewed every day as you went to God for strength to endure (2 Cor. 4:16).
Note the overruling principle implied in the context of Romans chapter 8. It’s the way you handle the evil that occurs to you that is the important thing. Will you turn and pray with hope in your heart? Do you believe God is in sovereign control of all things in your life? Do you trust that God is working all these things out for good? Note that Paul doesn't say that all things are good that enter your life, but that He works all things (even the evil things) for good. When evil comes your way, will you trust God or blame Him? Will you go to Him and be renewed or try and handle it all yourself?
Joseph is one of the best human examples of a man who trusted God even in the midst of incredible evil and hardship. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. The wife of Potiphar lied and charged Joseph with rape when he was innocent, sending him to prison. He spent a total of thirteen years in slavery and prison because of the evil done to him. But, God turned all these things around for good in the end. God delivered Joseph from prison and used him to save an entire nation from famine and starvation. When he stood with his brothers after 20 years of estrangement he said, "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" (Gen. 50:20). If Joseph would have blamed God and turned away from Him in the midst of his suffering none of this would have happened. He would have ended his life as a hardened and bitter man in an Egyptian jail. You may not be able to see the plan that God is working at this moment in your life, but He is doing the same thing for you. Don’t blame Him, trust Him and let Him work out His plan in your life.
In Philippians Paul also declared that even his going to prison worked for the furtherance of the Gospel. He simply looked at the result -- all the people that got saved in Caesar’s court (Phil. 1:12-13). Sometimes you can see the benefits of your trials and sufferings and other times you can’t. Sometimes it takes years for you to be able to look back and see the good that God has brought to pass. But you will never see the beneficial outcome if you become bitter, angry, or resentful towards God. Many Christians allow this sour hard-heartedness to abide inside, which makes it impossible for them to see through the problems to the good result that God intends to give them. Scripture declares, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). David also reminds us, "Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things" (Psalm 72:18)! God is in the business of doing wondrous things. That’s His work! He will do it if you believe Him.
The greatest example of God turning evil around for good is the cross of Jesus. The crucifixion of the holy and sinless Son of God was the most incredible evil ever done. However, God took that evil and turned it around for the greatest good that could ever happen to man – the salvation of the world! This understanding is what assured Peter and the rest of the disciples that God in His foreknowledge had a predetermined counsel and plan that He was fulfilling (Acts 2:23). God wasn't caught off guard by the evil actions of men against His Son. He knew what they would do and worked it out for His purposes so that He might save you and me. Praise God for His wondrous works!
(2) God is working all things together in order to conform you into His image. If you will surrender in the midst of these difficult times when you don’t understand why you are suffering, one of the good things God does is to transform you into His image! How does this occur? Paul explains how this transformation happens a little later in this epistle. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:1-2).
Surrendering to the Father of mercies is the only way your life gets transformed. As you yield to God and His Holy Spirit you find the power to refuse your worldly and fleshly desires. God renews your mind and He leads you directly into His perfect will for your life. I stress the fact of your surrender to the Spirit because He is the primary Person that God uses to work inside of you. "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" (2 Cor. 3:18). Let Him do it! Ask the Holy Spirit to begin right now in that area where you have been resisting Him.
(3) God is working all things together because He has predestined you for glory. Knowing that God is in sovereign control of all things in your life brings great comfort because it assures you that He has a plan and He is working His plan to benefit your life. The benefit is this: His plan is based on His love for you so that you might one day experience the fullness of His love in the glory of heaven. "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" (Eph. 1:4). God always has the long range view in mind when He allows anything into our lives. You must rest on this fact.
His predestined plan is also directly connected to His foreknowledge of all things and all people. Peter declared that we are the "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:2). The word elect means one who is chosen. Therefore, God has chosen you because of His foreknowledge of you, your decisions, and all that you will become. God makes perfect decisions for your life based on His complete foreknowledge of all things. Our decision making must be based upon the fact that if God knows all, then He also knows best. Notice that God’s foreknowledge was the basis of James’ argument when he settled a conflict in the early church. He asserted, "Known to God from eternity are all His works" (Acts 15:18). When the apostle John related to us how he reconciled all the confusing events of Christ’s betrayal and death, he rested in the fact that "Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him" (John 6:64).
If you are a Christian, you can be assured that God knows everything about you and knows what He is doing in your life. God’s plan will succeed in your life. In His eyes it’s already done. When you trust in His sovereign and absolute power you can rest and surrender knowing that He will work His work in your life. Your only alternative is to resist and fight what God desires to do. This would not be wise (Prov. 21:30). Remember, there is an easy way and the hard way to follow the Lord. Which do you want? The Children of Israel chose the hard way. God delivered them from Egypt by His sovereign power and sought to lead them into the Promised Land. This journey should have taken only eleven days. However, because they resisted God through their unbelief and disobedience, it took forty years. Which path will you take, the long way to the Promised Land or the short one? It’s your choice!
The freedom and assurance of His love (vs. 31-39)
Paul concludes his thoughts by looking back over all of the truths he has taught in this epistle. He asks some of the most heart-searching questions and then declares his answer. "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 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. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 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" (Rom. 8:31-39).
How should you respond to all the truths taught in this epistle? This is an excellent question that you should attempt to answer. Paul believed that it was obvious that God is for us. If He gave us all these blessings and did not spare His most precious possession, His Son, how could anyone ever think God was against them? However, that is exactly what some people believe. Even some of the great men of the Bible have questioned God’s sovereign plan. When Joseph asked to have Benjamin his younger brother brought to Egypt, Jacob said, "All these things are against me" (Gen. 42:36). Jacob unwisely spoke these words not knowing that God was in the process of bringing the greatest blessing into his life that he could ever imagine. God was actually going to reunite the entire family and save them from starvation.
David was sustained for years in the desert as he ran from King Saul by holding on to the truth that God was for him. David wrote in the Psalms about his confidence during this time of adversity. He declared, "When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me." How did David know that God was for Him? Because he states that God had given him His word through the prophet Samuel. "In God (I will praise His word), in the LORD (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me" (Psalm 56:9-11)?
How can you be assured that God is for you? God spared not His own Son but delivered Him up to the cross. He has justified you by His shed blood. He continually intercedes for you right now at the right hand of the Father by this blood that He shed. He is working all things together for your good. He doesn't condemn you when you fail, but counsels you to surrender and yield so that your sinful nature will not continue to dominate you. What additional proof do you need?
Why is the assurance that God is for you so important? Because this confidence encourages you to come and receive the things that are freely yours (Rom. 8:32). God’s desire to freely give to you is revealed throughout the Bible. Scripture opens with, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat" (Gen. 2:16). God declares that He will love us freely (Hos. 14:4). If we will receive His love we can be forgiven and justified freely in His sight (Luke 7:42; Rom. 3:24). Then the Bible closes with an open invitation to all. "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" (Rev. 22:17).
If you are struggling today, obey this command. Come and drink of the water of life freely. This is why Jesus died, to give you free access into His grace and power. Come and receive it.
However, you must also realize who is against you and who does bring a continual charge against you. He’s the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). Satan is definitely trying to separate you from God’s grace and power. His principal means to do this is to use lies to deceive and condemn (John 8:44). Don’t be fooled! These lies, the deception, and condemnation don’t come from your heavenly Father. Be confident of His love for you.
What this passage does and does not promise.
There is some misunderstanding concerning exactly what God’s Word promises in these last few verses. Therefore, let’s consider precisely what this passage does and does not promise. This will allow you to fully partake of God’s assurances and not read into His Word something that isn't there.
What this passage does promise.
This passage clearly promises that there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God. His love is the strongest force in all of creation, stronger than any trial or peril in life. Do you have this confidence that nothing can separate you from God’s love? Are you absolutely sure that there is nothing that could ever change His love for you? This word separate is the same word used for a divorce between a husband and wife. In other words, God is saying that there is nothing in this world that can divorce you from His love. There is no external force that can snatch you from God’s hand (John 10:29). Do you believe this? You should; it’s a promise signed in the blood of His Son. Paul gives every possible scenario in verses 38-39 of circumstances that cause people to question God’s love. However, if He is a God who changes not, then His love cannot change towards you either. That is the most incredible and reassuring fact of God’s nature and character. No matter what you have done or how far you have fallen or what sin you have committed, His love for you will never change. You may change, but He remains the same (Mal 3:6).
Remember, if there was anything that could have changed the love of God to hate, it would have been when man crucified His Son. As parents, we get very protective and defensive if someone manhandles our children, even if our child has deserved some correction. However, God continued to love mankind even when His sinless Son was mocked, mistreated, and killed by evil men. Even your sin and your rebellion against Him won’t change His love toward you. You may not personally experience His love, but that doesn't mean that He has changed His love towards you.
The knowledge of His steadfast love is what enables you to become more than a conqueror and a victor over all the circumstances of life. Everything that life throws at you must be understood in the light of His unwavering and persistent love. This message is the climax to Paul’s entire message in this chapter. You are not only free from God’s condemnation, empowered by His Spirit, inspired by hope for the future, can pray according to the will of God, have all things working together for your good, but He also loves you and will never change in His love towards you. This is God’s promise forever, no matter how far you fall or what you do. That is the heart of the God we serve!
Consider some of the greatest promises in all of Scripture concerning God’s love for His people. These promises will reinforce the truths revealed here in Romans. "For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed, says the LORD, who has mercy on you" (Is. 54:10). "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" (Jer. 31:3). "The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children" (Ps. 103:17). "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand" (John 10:27-29).
When you read these passages you must realize that God is obviously for you and has loved you from time everlasting. There is nothing present nor future that can ever snatch you from His loving hand. What a glorious truth!
What this passage does not promise.
There are several things that are not promised within this passage. God does not promise that because He loves you that you will be spared suffering and persecution. On the contrary, right in this text you are told, "we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." The reason suffering and persecution is a certainty is because Scripture also promises that all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). However, the assurance of His love is what enables you to be more than conquerors in the midst of these difficulties. Therefore, it is foolish to charge God with not loving you when trials and suffering enter your life.
Second, Paul is not promising that you can’t be separated from the blessings of God or a relationship with God. It is quite clear from Scripture that sin can and does separate God’s people from the Lord and His blessings. Isaiah declared, "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Is. 59:1-2). However, this in no way means that God’s people are separated from His love. God’s love hasn’t changed; men have changed in their behavior and thus have removed themselves from His grace and blessing.
Note that Scripture does teach that God can and will reject even His own people when they reject Him. "Jeshurun (Means the upright one - a symbolic name for Israel describing her ideal character), grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior. They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God -- gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear. You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. The LORD saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters. ‘I will hide my face from them,’ he said, ‘and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful’ " (Deut. 32:15-20 – NIV).
In this passage in Romans, Paul is speaking from God’s point of view. From God’s side of the equation, His love doesn't change nor should you ever question His love because of any circumstance in life. Even though God may in anger take the just action of resisting or rejecting a person, His love doesn't change. However, be clear on this point: This passage is not discussing the possibility of my rebellion or my refusal to accept His love.
It is also important to contemplate the context of these promises. Context is always the first rule you should consider if you desire to correctly interpret the Bible. Look at the context of Romans 9-11. Paul proceeds to teach that God’s people were very definitely separated from God’s blessings, God’s righteousness, and a relationship with Him. Notice Paul’s conclusion: "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’" (Rom. 9:30-33).
In this passage Paul clearly teaches that the Jews sought by their own effort to obtain a right relationship with God and His righteousness. However, they failed to attain it. Why? Was it because God didn't love them or want to bestow His blessings upon them? Not at all! The Jews didn't obtain His righteousness because they failed to come to God on the basis of faith. They didn't believe in the reality that God’s love would truly give them the gift of righteousness. They believed they had to achieve it by their own effort. Therefore, God refused to grant His grace on the basis of works and turned away the very people He had chosen and redeemed. They were separated from His blessings and righteousness, not because of His lack of love, but because of their unwillingness to come to Him by faith through His grace.
Paul continues to explain in Romans 10:3, that because the Jews refused to submit themselves unto the righteousness of God they failed to benefit from His incredible blessings. Paul again makes the point that this missed opportunity was not because of God’s lack of care because he quotes another Old Testament passage that reveals the heart of God. "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people" (Rom. 10:21). Here, Paul reaffirms the basic truth that God’s love causes His arm to be outstretched all the day long to His disobedient and rebellious people. In other words, God’s love for them was not what was missing, it was the people’s willful separation from Him. From God’s side of the equation, there was an outstretched hand. However, the people were separated from what was in His hand because of their pride and rebellious heart.
Finally, you must always consider the balance of Scripture on such a sensitive and important topic such as God’s sovereignty and unfailing love and your human responsibility. Jude declared, "keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 1:21). Keeping yourself in the love of God is every Christian’s responsibility. However, Jude turns right around and directs your attention to the One who enables you to do this. "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 1:24). What a balanced presentation of this truth! Why does he tell us to keep ourselves in the love of God? Because His love never changes towards us, but we must keep ourselves in a place where we can receive it. How do you do that? Note also how Jesus balances this truth. He said, "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" (John 15:10). Jesus couldn't have made it simpler than that. In other words, just trust and obey Me and we will stay in a love relationship with one another.
Your obedience to His commands is what keeps you unspotted and separated from the world and its corruption (James 1:27). Paul also explained that this separation was essential if we wanted a relationship with the Father. "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:17-18). Therefore, if you never want to be separated from God’s unfailing love then be separate from all that would draw you away from abiding in His love.
This study was written by Pastor Steve Carr, Calvary Chapel, Arroyo Grande, CA. If we can be of any further assistance please contact us at www.calvaryag.org or firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 481-2320.