About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 8

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More Than Conquerors  (ch. 8:28-39)


Verse 28 reads, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him."  Some other translations, including the KJV reads, "And we know that all things work together for goodÖ"  Do you see the difference between the two translations?  The former says that ďGod works for our good in all thingsĒ.   The latter says that "all things work for our good."  It is hard for me to imagine that all things that happen to me are for my good as the KJV seems to suggest.  There are many tragedies in life.  What about a family breakup?  Is that good for me?  I am not a language scholar, and I know that some manuscripts translate this verse differently, but the NIV makes more sense to me.  God can work for our good in whatever comes our way.   God can work bad things for our good, but the bad things themselves can't work for our good.  The emphases should be on God, not the bad things.


The verb phrase "works together" in Greek is a present indicative verb.  Present means God is working right here in the present time for our good.  Indicative means that God's working for our good is a certainty.  It's not a possibility.   


Paul goes on to qualify the idea that God works for our good.   He says that God will work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  I often wonder if I really love God.  I am not sure that I do love Him, using Godís definition of love, not mine.  I do believe that I am called to be part of Godís purpose.  I believe that all Christians are first called to God Himself, and then to participate in His plans.  Concerning love, we could say that we love God as best we can at the moment.  For those of us who try to love God and are called by Him, He will work with us in whatever comes our way, whether it is good or bad.


To be specific, "who are called" in English is a verb phrase.  In the Greek it's to them who are "the called".  'The called" is a noun.  We as Christians are the called of God.   That is a designation placed on us by God Himself.


Note that we are more than just the called ones.  We are the called ones, but we are called according to God's purpose, that is, to do God's will.  We're just not called to sit around in a cozy meeting.  We are called to work for the Lord, and that may not be easy at times.    


At this point I would like to insert an article I wrote about the word "good" in verse 28. 



Christians often say that God is good, and He is good all of the time.  I wonder what people mean by this affirmation.  The word "good" is a relevant term.  Good may mean something different to you than it means to me.  The Apostle Paul used the word "good" in Romans 8:28.  He said this:       


"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."


I believe Paul was saying that in all things, whether good or bad, God works for the good or the benefit of those who love Him and participate in His plan and purpose.  Does this mean we should expect God to lavish us with what our western culture calls the good life?  Are we entitled to claim, almost demand, everything our hearts think is good?  Paul's life proves that is not the case.  Despite the sorrows, stonings, floggings, imprisonment, hunger, and more, Paul maintained that God was working for his benefit.  Knowing Paul's life, that makes no sense to our western-world mindset.  How does tragedy work for our good?     


The word "good" in Romans 8:28 is associated with love for God and our participation in the implementation of His purpose in and through our lives.  I suggest, then, that the word "good" as Paul used it here has everything to do with how God defines good and nothing to do with how we may define good.  In all things, even the bad things, God can work His ideals of goodness into our lives.  We are thus His divine instruments of that which is good to a world that knows little about goodness. 


Verse 29 and 30 are hard verses to understand.   They have been debated and argued over for centuries.  We have two new words here.  The word "foreknew" and the word "predestined".  The word foreknew is from the Greek word "proginosho", which simply means 'to know beforehand".   This is an easy concept for us to understand.  We have no problem with the idea that God knows all things, even before they happen.


God lives outside of our time and space.  He lives in the eternal now.  Therefore, He lives in our past, present, and future, all at the same time.  He obviously knows the future.  That's how I understand the word "foreknew" in this verse.


The word "predestined" is a much harder concept to deal with.  This is where the debate over the centuries has taken place. The Greek word translated here as "predestined" is "proorizo".  This word means, "To determine beforehand".   Some say that God predetermines who would be saved.  Those He predetermined have no choice in the matter.  That was John Calvin's position.


John Calvin's viewpoint is not my personal opinion. There are too many "whosoever believes will be saved" verses to contend with when you think this way.  If God makes the choice who will be saved and we can do nothing about it, why then does He ask us to come to faith?  Why does He ask everyone to believe when He only chooses some to be saved?


The reformers of the Reformation of the 1500's were split over this idea of predestination.  Many of us think that there are two ways to think about this.  That is, God does predetermine who will be saved or He doesn't predetermine who will be saved.  There is also a third way to view predestination that some reformers held to, and that is this.  God does predetermine who He will call to be saved, but those who he has predetermined have the choice to decline.  This is a compromise between the two views.    


Here in verse 29 Paul says that those God foreknew, He predetermined that they would be conformed into the likeness of His Son. The reason why we are being made into the likeness of His Son is so that Jesus can have brothers like Himself.


Paul says that Jesus is the first born among many brothers.  Here we learn that even though Jesus is our supreme Lord, He is also our brother.  When it is all said and done in the next life, we will look like Jesus.  We will have a humanly looking glorified body like Jesus.  The reason for this similarity is because we are His brothers.    


Verse 30 says that for those God predetermined, He calls, then justifies, and lastly glorifies.  This is the hard verse due to the chain of sequence.  If Paul would have said "those He calls, he predestines" that would be easier to understand, but he didn't.  He said that those who God predetermines He calls.  Is Paul saying that God chooses ahead of time those who will be saved?  Is he saying that God chooses people out of the world and then calls them to salvation after He chooses them?  Is Paul then saying that once the predestined one is called he has no ability to say no to the calling, as Calvin taught?  Once again, this train of thought neglects all of the "whosoever will" verses we read throughout the New Testament.  It takes away manís free will to deny Godís calling for salvation; free will that was given us at creation.   


I do not presume to end all the debate that has taken place over the years, so I will not dwell on the subject.  This is how I see it.  There is a progression here; to foreknow to predestine, to call, to justify, and then to glorify.  What we see here is God's side of the salvation equation.  What we don't see is man's side of the salvation equation, which is, repent and believe.  God foreknows all who will be saved.  He predetermines that all should be saved so one way or another, He calls, by His Spirit, all to salvation.  Between God calling and God justifying, is man's response.  If man repents and believes, then man is justified and eventually glorified.   


I think we can understand these two verses to mean that God predetermines all to be saved.  He then calls everyone to Himself.  Those who accept His call are justified (meaning to be declared righteous) and eventually glorified into their heavenly bodies at the end of this age.


Notice in verse 29 that the reason why God calls us is so that we can be "transformed into the likeness of His Son".  That's Jesus.  That is the goal God has in mind for all of us.  Our bodies will be redeemed and made new, just like Jesus' earthly body was made new.  Jesus is seen in the New Testament as the firstborn of many brothers.  We will be like Jesus in one real sense of the word some day.  That being said, He will be eternally distinct from us.  He is the Son of God; we are sons of God, with no capital "S".   


Verse 31 is a great verse.  It's a verse that all Christians like.  It reads; "What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God be for us, who can be against us?"  Paul is saying that if we respond in faith to Godís salvation, He has predetermined to call, to justify and glorify us.  It is a done deal.  Nothing will get in Godís way.  It is all wrapped up and finished.  There is nothing to worry about when it comes to our eternal destiny, and it's not only our eternal destiny.  God is with us throughout our life on earth.  He is with us every moment of our lives.  


The words "who can be against us" should ring clear in the ears of Paul's readers.  Many Christians were suffering great persecution by those who opposed them.  If God was on the side of the Christian, the Christian had no worries, even if they were killed.  God being on the side of Christians does not mean Christians won't suffer.  It means that God will be with us in the midst of their suffering.


In verse 32 Paul goes on to say that if God gave His only Son to bring salvation to us, which is the greatest thing He could give, will He not give us all other things to help us in this great salvation?  If someone gives you a million dollars, he wouldnít have any problem giving you ten dollars, would he?  The same is the case with God.  He already gave the greatest gift, so any lesser gift should not be a problem for Him.  That being said, I don't believe this verse can support the hyper faith teaching that states we should expect everything and anything we want from God.  Jesus said that when we ask the Father for anything in His name we will receive it.  The key here is the phrase "in Jesus' name".  We represent Jesus on earth.  That is what the words "in Jesus' name" means.  So, God will give us anything we need to do His work.  Beyond that, it is His choice to give us anything else that is not necessary or specifically needed to do His work.   


In verse 33 Paul asks, "Who will bring any charge against us?"   Whatever charge that is laid against a Christian, assuming that it is not a legitimate charge, should not bother us.  God is the one who will, and has, justified us, so what can a charge from man do? 


Verse 34 says that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf.  If this is the case who can possibly bring any false charge against us?  Who could possibly condemn us when Christ Himself doesnít bring condemnation our way?  Just to confirm, we're talking about false charges, not legitimate charges.  There are times when our brothers in the Lord need to come to us with words of correction and admonition.  We need to learn from these valid charges. 


So now in this one chapter we see that both the Holy Spirit and Jesus intercedes on our behalf to God.  What a great privilege.  We see Jesus interceding here and the Holy Spirit interceding in verse 27.    


Verse 35 is another one of the verses that Christians just love, and of course, we should love this verse.  That being said, there's more to this verse than nice warm feelings of knowing God loves us.  Paul asks the question, "Who or what could possibly separate us from the love of God?"  He lists a few things that he has experienced like, hardship, persecution and famine.  He goes on to say that he and his fellow workers are like sheep ready to be killed, yet not even death itself can separate us from Godís love.  In reality death brings us closer to God and thus His love.  God has predestined us to a glorious future with Him, and if God has decided on that, then nothing can change His plans.  Paul knew God's presence in the midst of all the trouble he went through. 


The very fact that Paul lists all these bad things that can happen to us, including death which is a certainty, means that we will go through many difficult times in life.  God's love does not save us from hardship.  Paul's life sure proves that.  The point Paul is making here is that through all of these hardships, God's love is present in our lives.  


In verse 36 Paul quotes from Psalm 44:22.  He links himself and those ministering with him, with sheep being sent to slaughter, as this Psalm speaks of.  Simply put, Paul viewed his life as being one of on the road to certain death.  He laid aside his life for the life of others, just as Jesus Himself did, to whom the Bible also states that He was a sheep heading to the slaughter.   The church today would be in much better shape if our present leaders had the same mentality, but many, if not most, don't have.  Paul's point is simple.  As Jesus was a sheep led to the slaughter, so was he and those with him.    


In verse 37 Paul states that in all these bad things that happened to him, he is more than a conqueror, but not only him, but all of us.  He says "we" are conquerors.   This is not mere positive thinking.  This is a conviction of Paul's heart based on the power of the Holy Spirit within him. Paul is not being humanistic here, saying he can conquer in his own strength.  He's not being humanistic because he is not depending on himself but the Lord.


From my vantage point, many Christians are defeatists.  We complain, worry, and struggle to get out or through our struggles in life.  As Christians, we do have the power to overcome and work through these tough times.  Paul went as far as being an over comer when the Roman sword sliced his head off.  Again, God doesn't deliver us out of the bad things; He gives us the courage to go through them without forsaking Him.           


Paul closes the chapter in verses 38 and 39 by saying that he is convinced that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from Godís love that has been demonstrated in Christ Jesus.  May we have this same conviction.  We often think, and actually allow, such bad things that come our way to separate us from God, but it's not the bad things that separate us from God's love.  It is us.  We, ourselves, choose to be separated from God's love. 


The word "convinced" is important here.  Paul was totally convinced.  He got to the place in life where he had no doubts.  We need to be totally convinced, but many of us aren't.  The Holy Spirit, along with the study of the Word of God should help us be convinced of all these things.  If we are not so convinced, we have a problem, and these bad things in life will drag us down.    


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