ROMANS -- ABUNDANT LIFE IN CHRIST
God’s Final Word on Victory in Christ
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
We now come to the climax of the Message of the Cross as lived out in the life of the believer who walks here and now by faith. The sinner’s life began with separation, rebellion and final condemnation (Rom. 1:18-3:20), but all was not lost because of the sheer mercy and love of God who found a righteous way to declare the sinner justthrough the vicarious death of his own son who took the sinner’s place and paid the price of his redemption. (Rom. 3: 21-4:25) But after dealing effectively with the sins of believer, God dealt with the sin principle in the believer by uniting him to Christ who “died once for all to sin.” (Rom. 5:1-8:13) In that judicial death we died and now are united to Christ we share his risen life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Holiness or sanctification then becomes ours as a sheer gift of grace equally as was our justification. Both come to us through his death for us and our death in him.
The believer now shares the risen life of Christ by the presence and enablement of the Holy Spirit. It is ours by faith, not by struggle or effort. It is not imitation of Christ but by participation in his life, made ours on a moment by moment basis of trust and commitment. Paul unveils the reality of life in union with Christ. (Rom. 8:14-25)
The Triune God as the Believer’s Source of Strength through Intercession Romans 8:26-27
After our eternal hope is assured, Paul returns to a much greater need, the need for prayer support. Nothing less than the Triune God becomes the believer’s available support. These two verses are the most profound statements regarding the place of prayer in the walk of faith. We have the judicial basis of our death to the sin principle, the walk of faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit. But withal we still don’t know what our immediate future may be with all its variables. Paul begins by saying truthfully: Likewise the Spirit also helps our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.” (8: 26) Within this vacuum of human frailty we cannot know what God’s purposes are for us. They will be for our good but may come to us in any form of trial, suffering or need.
Knowing this severe limitation of the saint, God has provided a divine agent, our advocate. We saw in 8:16: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” This is now expanded to involve a much deeper working relationship. In our not knowing the future and God’s purposes Paul affirms: “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.” (8:27) What a profound advantage God provides! In our ignorance and severe limitation God Himself provides one who intercedes in our behalf. His prayers are always efficacious and reach the throne of grace.
As first reading the statement: “He who searches the heart” must refer to God himself. The rest of Scripture sustains that interpretation. But the Father and the Son share the judging and searching. Jesus affirmed this: “As the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself and has given Him authority to execute judgment also because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:26, 27) With this in mind I choose to see the intercessory ministry of the exalted Christ as the one who knows the mind of the Spirit. The Epistle to the Hebrews develops fully that ministry in our behalf. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us . . .” (Heb. 7:25, 26) “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.” What spiritual support is ours in the gracious intercession of Christ!
Paul’s Final View of the Divine Landscape -- Called, Predestined, Justified and Glorified Rom 8:28-30
The statements that follow are almost too profound on which to comment. Listen to them: “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; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (8: 28-30)
Paul sets the believer in Christ squarely in God’s great scheme of eternity, the believer who lives in vital union with him, walking by faith in heart obedience. There is divine purpose, direction, enablement and fulfillment. Everything that touches the believer is a part of God’s master plan to make us conformed to the image of his Son, he being the firstborn of many brothers. This eliminates the why or what and gives to us the rest of faith. All of God’s purposes are fulfilled and we are the beneficiaries. We see God’s commitment to holiness in heart and life. Nothing more or less.
It is highly significant that election is only now introduced in Romans not beforebut now the past tense of the major verbs: his calling, predestinating, justifying and glorifying, all in God’s mind as completed in the past in his mind but in his eternal present. This may boggle our mind, but this is God final word. Paul states but does not speculate endlessly as do theologians over the biblical doctrine of election.
How Does God’s Grand Design Relate to our Present Christian Walk? Rom. 8:31-34
Paul asks a rhetorical question that can leave no doubt: “What then shall we say to these things? If (since) God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:31) It is worthy of note that Paul asks the question, who? inferred may be Satan and his hosts of evil. But they were fully vanquished at the Cross. (Col. 2:15) God’s answer in Christ is overwhelming and the logic irresistible: “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? (8:32) A further rhetorical question: “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.” (8:33, 34) These four rhetorical questions raise the bar above any possible doubt. God is irrevocably for us in Christthe Message of the Cross in essence.
Paul’s Final Rhetorical Question and Inviolate Conclusion Rom. 8:35-39
With the fifth rhetorical question, Paul will examine in the flight of his imagination what might be considered the worst of the worst. But none qualifes to question God’s triumph in his Son at the cross: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Of course, not. These the early believers had already endured. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (8:37) Do notice the repetition of the love of God in the midst of the worst that the world may bring (8:28,35,37, 39) Anything but victory is foreign to the believer who lives out his life in union with the Son.
Paul can only exult:“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 in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:38, 39) Nothing more can be added to the sublime presentation of the Message of the Cross.
Yours in the Message of the Cross,
Dr. G. E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Edinburg, TX 78539