ROMANS -- ABUNDANT LIFE IN CHRIST
Victory in Jesus Follows in the Walk of Faith
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
To appreciate fully the blessings that follow in Romans 8:14 and onward, the believer must understand and live the scriptural context that guarantees the blessed results of victory in Jesus. We cannot walk after the flesh and expect to realize victory in Christ. The Holy Spirit grieved (Eph. 4:30), quenched (1Thess. 5: 19) and resisted (Acts 7:51) cannot grant the full blessings of Romans eight. After all, the Holy Spirit who is the person and the dynamic of the abundant life is most deeply known as the Holy Spirit. Only the ever deepening work of the Cross can free the Holy Spirit to do his liberating work of grace in us.
The Highlights of the Spirit’s Work Romans 8:1-4, 9-13
In view of the above truth, what are the conditions of obedience required to receive the inestimable blessings listed in Romans 8:14-39? All too often we claim the blessings out of hand because they are quoted as ours as stated in the chapter of “more than conquerors.” (Rom. 8:37) Let it be said that God gives in grace his blessings, not gauged by our track record but by his mercy. He is “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (encouragement).” (2 Cor. 1:3), but we cannot presume on his mercies when God has provided the grace to walk “according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.” The manifestations of the flesh are all too often the sad reality in many believers. But in no way is the believer a debtor to the flesh to live after the flesh. (Romans 8:4, 12, 13)
In brief, the basic conditions have been covered before: 1.) to know our old man was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6, 2.); our daily reckoning in faith that sin’s power has been annulled and we are now those who live unto God ( 6:11); 2.) we don’t let sin reign by default (6:12); 3.) nor do we continue to present our members to its former power but rather we present our will to the Holy Spirit ( 6:13). The innate desire to imitate Christ, to strive and struggle against the old life is cancelled out by our having died to the law and now our fully accepting our marriage, our union to Christ by the Spirit (7:4) who is free to operate in us with the new dynamic of “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) Given our walk of faith and obedience, not grounded in a search for a future experience but rather ours to take as a gift of grace, we will “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body(and) we will live.” (Rom. 8:13)
Blessings Flow from the Spirit’s Work: Guidance, Spirit of Adoption, Inheritance 8:14-17
In rapid succession Paul describes the inheritance of the believer, heir of God and joint heir with Christ. Our first and greatest need is for guidance and the Spirit guarantees to us his ability to communicate to the obedient heart what most we need. We cannot walk in the flesh and be led by the Spirit. But the Message of the Cross applied to the heart makes God himself responsible for decisions large and small to be known in a timely fashion. Along with that personal and intimate direction assured comes a Spirit of Adoption, the right to receive and take what is ours. We don’t plead and beg we receive with gratitude.
A major blessing known to too few of us is the access or witness of the Holy Spirit to our spirit. For so many of us, we are stone deaf to our own spirit, the very channel that gives us access to the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is our «other» advocate who always governs us through the Word of God.
I remember the light that dawned on my heart when I read Andrew Murray’s “The Spirit of Christ.” We must know Him as a person, venerate his solemn work in us and relate to him as we do to the other members of the Divine Trinity. Such sensitivity is a process but comes with obedience to the Word of God as illuminated to us by the Spirit Himself. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirsheirs of God and joint heirs with Christbut notice the condition-- if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (8:16, 17)
Victory Truly Seen in the Midst of Sufferings, the Triumph of the Cross Romans 8:18
The Spirit filled life is often presented as freedom from trials and suffering. This is not a biblical view of victory in Jesus. The common teaching in some mega-churches has been that God wants to free us from any kind of trial, make us rich and give us a full self realization of our hopes and dreams. The biblical view is a full realization of Christ in you and me as seen in the full range of human blessings and suffering. “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.” (8:18) God in Christ transforms our sufferings into a deeper appreciation for Christ’s sufferings in which he revealed to us as in no other way the very heart of God. That is no small glory to which we may aspire!
With good reason Paul toward the end of a most fruitful life gives us his deepest motivation: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship (koinonía) of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Phil. 3:10) Hebrews 11 give us the two sides of the equation of the life of faith. is slufferings, being comformed to to His death.”” (Phhil. 3:10)First, there is the long list of the triumphs of faith in the Old Testament saints (Heb. 11: 1-35). We rejoice in reviewing these. But more realistically “Still others had trial of mockings and scourging, yes, and of chains and imprisonments. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword . . . of whom the world was not worthy. . . . And all these, having obtained the testimony through faith did not receive the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” (Heb. 11: 36-40)
Suffering Now but Future Glory with a Cosmic Redemption Rom. 8: 19-25
What now follows in Romans 8: 19-25 is a future cosmic redemption that we cannot fully grasp. When Adam sinned, God’s creation was the victim of God’s viceroy who rebelled. In some grandiose future Paul declares that the very earth itself will be renewed“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no more sea.” (Rev. 21:1) Theologians may speculate on what that may mean, but we cannot envision its fullness until God does it. But sin’s vast extension to all of creation will somehow be broken and the Sovereign work of the Cross will remove every trace of sin‘s presence. What a blessed thought of the ultimate triumph of the Cross!
In the midst of this narrative Paul says: “And not only they, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body. For we are saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does on still hope for what he see? But if we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (8:23-25)
But in our next and last lesson in Romans 8:26-39, Paul has yet greater triumphs to introduce; we become the actual heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Paul will lay out the full scope of that victory, ours now by faith and tomorrow ours to enjoy eternally.
Yours in the Message of the Cross
Dr. G. E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Edinburg, TX 78539