I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: A Longing for a Better Home
In the United Presbyterian Magazine there was given an illustration that should be enlightening to all who live in this world but are anticipating the one to come in Heaven. They write:
A consignment of sheep had been sent from Scotland to Australia. The ship contained not only the sheep but a supply of hay for their food. Just before reaching Australia, the sheep refused to eat. At the same time a dense fog covered the waters and for two days the ship was obliged to stop. The sheep paid no attention to their food and the owner feared that he was about to lose them. Then the fog lifted and before them were the green fields of Australia. The sheep had smelled the succulent pasture in the land not far distant, and it made them lose all appetite for the dried hay.
Sheep of God who read these lines, I wonder if it isn't that way with you? The pasturage of this earthly life eventually loses its appeal and in your heart is a great longing for the green fields on the farther Shore.
A Recap of Romans 7 and 8 So Far
In Romans 8:18-39 Paul begins to write of the future victory from sin and the glorification of the one who, by faith accepts the saving work of Jesus Christ for their sins on the cross of Calvary. In giving this glimpse he hopes to develop that longing for that farther shore of Heaven that all God's people should be cultivating.
This book is Paul's great treatise on the righteousness of God which comes by grace alone, through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. However, realizing that, because we are in our fleshly bodies, we still have a struggle with sin, he gives us Romans 7 that talks about the believer's inner war between flesh and Spirit.
The conflict, or inner struggle leads to Romans 7:24 where the Apostle cries:
"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?"
He begins to answer his own question at the end of the chapter and continues the discussion in Romans 8. The last verse in Romans 7 tells us:
"Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but, on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."
Last time we dealt with the first 17 verses of Romans 8 in which the Apostle tells us that a relationship with Jesus Christ brings us:
- Freedom from Condemnation (1-4)
- Freedom from Sin's Power (5-8)
- The Indwelling Spirit (9-17)
It is with this indwelling Holy Spirit that we can put away the sinful deeds of the body and can enjoy both present and future blessings in Christ Jesus as the children of the living God. The culmination of this journey and the problems that it brings is an eternity spent with the God who loves us so much that He didn't spare His only Son to redeem us.
Yes, we may struggle with sin now. It may cause us suffering and misery on this earth, both because of the battle with the old nature and its effects upon this sin-cursed planet. However, we can rely upon the promises of God to sustain us until He brings about the full redemption that He has told us will one day take place.
I. The Promise of Future Glory (8:18-25)
The first promise that Paul gives from the Lord is that of our future glory.
I found this story by an unknown writer from a sermon illustration website. It states:
A thoughtful young woman, seriously minded, wrote on a card the following lines:
`To think of summers yet to come
That I am not to see!
To think a weed is yet to bloom
From dust that I shall be!'
A Christian friend, finding the card, picked it up, read it, and wrote on the other side:
'To think, when Heaven and earth are fled,
And skies and seas are o'er,
When all that can die shall be dead,
That I shall die no more!
Oh, where shall then my portion be?
Where shall I spend eternity?'
The Apostle Paul tells us of God's promise of a glorious future in eternity for all those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And he says that the present sufferings that we have on this earth don't even compare with the future glory that is to be revealed in us!.
In another of his books, I Corinthians, he gives us the same thing in a different way when he tells us:
"As it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God." (I Corinthians 2:9,10).
Just think of the worst experience you have been through, or could go through on this earth. Whether it be something like the loss of a loved one or friend, a major illness or a dream that gets completely shattered.
Now think of the best day of your life. Maybe, your graduation from college, the marriage to your spouse, or the birth of your first child. You name it. It could be anything that has made you the happiest you've ever been in life.
As you think of these things just remember that the lowest low or the highest high can never compare with the utter joy and happiness that you will experience in your first moment in glory when you see your Savior face to face. The best is truly yet to come for the believer in Jesus Christ.
Not only will we no longer have to deal with sin in our lives and in our world, but this passage looks forward to the day when we will truly be what we were created to be. We will truly be like Christ.
Even the creation itself is said to be groaning and waiting for it's release from the curse of sin. All the evil things like birth defects, natural disasters and disease that we experience are a result of Adam's sin and the consequences have, at times, been quite devastating.
But, there is also beauty left from the original creation. And if you love the wonder and majesty of this world under sin, you can only imagine how wonderful it will be when sin will be removed from the physical earth and creation will again completely reflect the majesty of its Creator (19-22).
And, just as the first pieces of fruit on a tree indicate that the full harvest will one day take place, we see the first fruits of the Spirit who is living in us as well.
The Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22,23, is producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This makes the true Christian groan because they long for the full adoption as sons that God has promised.
That's the time when we will receive our complete inheritance which is ours. Paul equates our adoption with the redemption of our bodies (23). John MacArthur tells us here that the Apostle is not just talking about our physical body but is including all of man's remaining fallenness. No longer will we be plagued with the wrestling with the sin nature which so easily takes our attention off of God and all that is good. We will be truly like Christ.
Right now we hope for it. That is an anticipation of something that is sure to happen. As we've noted before in previous studies, this hope contains no uncertainties. It is as certain as the promises of God but just has not yet been realized. So we persevere and eagerly await what will soon happen at the Lord's return (24-25).
II. The Promise of the Spirit's Help (8:26-27)
Part of the first fruits of the Holy Spirit of God who lives in us is the fact that He helps us in our daily lives today. This is another promise of God. We are weak and don't always know what to pray about, or what God's will is for our lives. Just as creation is said to groan, "in the same way", the believer does this as well because we are at a loss to know what to ask for at times. The Scripture here tells us that the Spirit actually prays for us in wordless groans Himself, to the Father. He intercedes for believers so that God the Father can hear and answer the prayers that we actually need in our lives and not just what we think we want and need.
We can thank God that He didn't leave us on our own to figure out the Christian life alone. We have God the Holy Spirit who makes sure that what happens to us won't derail our life and ultimately destroy what the Lord has planned for us. But that isn't all. There is a further promise that helps bring the first two promises together.
III. The Promise of All Things Working Together for Good (28-30)
We have the promise of God that no matter what may happen to us, whether good, bad or ugly, will ultimately work together for good if we are those who belong to Him and love the Lord. We must not get the feeling, however, that everything which happens to us is good. In this sin-cursed world in which we live we are not immune to the horrible things that sometimes happen. We get into accidents, we contract deadly diseases, we are sometimes abused by those who hate God and His Word. However, none of these things mean that the Lord has abandoned us and none of them mean that God's plans for us, either in this life or in eternity, have failed. Remember that the man who wrote this Epistle was ultimately jailed and beheaded for his faith.
When bad things happen, we must realize that this life of 100 years or less is nothing compared to the whole of eternity to which we are destined and to which this life doesn't even begin to compare. The Apostle tells us that the God who foreknew us also predestined us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. And that is why he can say that "all things work together for good." They work together to make us like our Lord. Here are his words:
"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. And these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." (29-30).
It is interesting that Paul uses the past tense for "glorified" which is a future event. He is speaking this way to stress the certainty of it. It is so certain that we can say that it has already happened. It is a foregone conclusion. We will be glorified. And we will spend eternity in a glorified state, dwelling in a sinless and glorified universe, with our glorified Lord!
And on top of all of these amazing things, God has promised His security and love for us for all of eternity! That is the promise that Paul turns to for the rest of the chapter.
IV. The Promise of Eternal Security and Love (8:31-39)
After all that he has said in chapter 8, Paul brings this section of Romans to a beautiful conclusion. John MacArthur says this about this part of the chapter:
"Paul closes this teaching about the believer's security in Christ with a crescendo of questions and answers for the concerns his readers might still have. The result is an almost poetic expression of praise to God's grace in bringing salvation to completion for all who are chosen and believe- a hymn of security."
He begins by asking the obvious question: "If God is for us who is against us? The answer is: "No one". If God loved us enough to send His one and only Son to die for us, then He is certainly going to give us all things. And He won't let anything, or anyone get in His way (31-33).
But who can bring any charge to God's elect? It is God alone who justifies, or declares us righteous. And there is only one in Heaven and earth that is able to condemn us. That is Jesus and he chooses not to do so. In fact it is Jesus who died on our behalf. He arose from the grave and is at the Father's right hand of honor.
What is He doing while there? We see that, just as the Holy Spirit prays for us, Jesus also intercedes on our behalf before the Father in Heaven, pleading for those for whom He died (34).
This brings us to the final set of questions. They concern the love of Christ and what, if anything, will ever separate us from it. He lists things which people might say will bring about separation. They include tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine or nakedness, or peril or sword? The obvious answer regarding these is that none of them will cause Christ to abandon the believer who places their trust in Him (35).
Paul then goes on to use a quote from the Psalms and says:
"As it is written: For your sakes we are put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
What does he mean here? I think that the website BibleRef.com gives us the answer when it tells us:
"This verse is a quote from Psalm 44:22. Paul has movingly written that nothing which can happen to us could separate us from Christ's love for us. Struggles in this life are not a sign that God has abandoned us; they are hardships He works to see us through (Hebrews 12:3–11). By quoting this from the Psalms, Paul is showing that God's people have faced persecution and hardship for generations.
Paul wants the Christians in Rome to have the right perspective on the circumstances of their daily lives. Whether or not they experienced hard times or good times, it does not change whether God loves them or not. Paul has made it clear that God's love is absolute, and God will fulfill His purpose for them: He will succeed in bringing them to glory. Now he seems to want them to be ready for trouble on this side of eternity. They should not be surprised when it comes. In fact, they should be ready to be killed, slaughtered like sheep, for Christ's sake, if that's what it comes to (John 6:1–2; 16:33)."
The Apostle Paul, in verse 37 then summarizes all the things that he mentioned above which could possibly separate us from Christ and says:
"But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us."
The King James takes the compound Greek word here and translates it as "more than conquerors." The word simply means "over-conquer" or to "conquer completely" without any real threat to personal life or health.
Finally, the last two verses of Romans 8 should be memorized by every Christian. That is especially true of those who may be doubting their salvation. It concludes with these immortal words:
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (38-39).
The bottom line is that we are eternally secure in the love which our Lord demonstrated to us on the cross of Calvary. He will care for us forever, and will let nothing happen to his beloved ones that will keep them from being glorified with Him in eternity.
To summarize all of this, God has made many promises to us that both aid us in the here and now and for eternity. And one of the greatest of these is the promise of righteousness which comes by faith in Jesus Christ.
The problems caused by our own sinful nature, and by the sin-cursed world in which we live, don't have to get the best of us and our standing before God is not damaged by any of them. The struggles are indeed real but so is the Spirit who makes His residence within us.
When Christ returns, then all of these struggles will give way and our full sonship will be revealed to everyone. We will be glorified and even creation will share in the liberation as it is purified and every trace of sin is removed.
In the meantime, the Spirit helps us with our weaknesses and we are given the assurance that all that happens to us will only serve to work out for our good as we are being made more and more like Christ.
Because of our Lord's death, burial and resurrection, there is no condemnation and there will never be any separation from Him forever. It is He and He alone who has predestined us, called us , justified us, and will one day glorify us.
If you haven't accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are truly missing out on a glorious and grand future that is shared by only those who put their faith in Him. Please join us in bowing before the Savior and the Lord of the universe so that you too may know that your future is secure in the promises of God.
For those of us who know Jesus, may we never take His love for granted. But let us show our gratitude to Him by living for the One who gave up His life for us. And as we do this we will truly find that it is only in serving Christ that we will discover the true freedom and joy that comes from fulfilling our purpose for existence. That is, to bring Him praise and honor for all eternity. Thank God for granting us this magnificent privilege!
© 2019 Jeff Shirley
Jeff Shirley (author) from Kentwood, Michigan on July 28, 2019:
Thanks Bill and Lori for reading. I too long for Heaven. If for no other reason, my Lord will be there!! God bless!!
Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on July 28, 2019:
The hope of heaven, that longing for home keeps me going as life's trials assault me. My favorite verse is 2 Cor. 4:17 -
"For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!"
The other one is Rev. 1:4 where it talks about he will wipe every tear away and there will be no more pain etc.
Romans 8 is probably the richest and most hopeful of all chapters in the NT. Vs. 38 is another I hang onto.
A couple of years ago I read the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. He spent 25 years studying the Bible on heaven. It gave me so much hope and anticipation. I am saddened that many Christians I know do not anticipate it with any kind of fervency. In fact, they are indifferent. I did a book study on the heaven book which obviously took us through a lot of Scripture. The apathy during that study was heartbreaking to me. One woman, who is a wonderful Bible teacher and joyful Christian, said "I just don't care." I talked her to her about it privately and she said what she meant was I know it will be good so I don't give it any thought. Not one person in that bible study of about 8-10 women expressed any kind of anticipation or hope in heaven. I heard many times "What's more important is heaven on earth." I told them they are not mutually exclusive. After the class, I asked some close friends what they thought and they all felt the same way. Then we had a guest pastor a few weeks ago and he said he doesn't give heaven much thought. It was going to be good so he has other things to focus on.
I don't get it. We need to be about the Father's business but we should anticipate heaven as the great hope. Paul certainly was fervent about it. As you pointed out we will be free from sin, Christ has conquered. What hardships we face here and now are for our good and His glory.
Thanks for this wonderful bit of hope.
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on July 28, 2019:
The End of the Struggle With Sin - I wish it was today. As the songwriter, Jim Hill wrote, What a Day that Will Be!