I need a week for this post. By the way, happy 4th of July. Paul somewhat addresses our patriotism by reminding us that we have been adopted not into a nationalistic approach to our faith, but rather our adoption provides us with a new family and a Father who is ruler of all nations and governments. Vs.15 reminds us that we have not received a spirit of slavery, that would be a spirit that is dictated by legalistic principles which gives us a list of dos and donts, and if we don’t pursue that list then we are condemned. Rather, we are adopted into Christ which allows the Spirit of God to dwell within us. So, let me tell you, over this past week I have been reminded of the incredible cultural differences between the North and the South. Where we live in Lancaster County you would be hard pressed to find someone with their hand over their heart during the national anthem. Here in the Deep South, you get glared at if you don’t have your hand over your heart. Here in the South it seems as if we have been adopted into a nationalistic culture that requires certain actions or else you are questioned as to your devotion and loyalty. The opposite seems true in Lancaster County. There is such an (unspoken) aversion to things nationalistic that prayers replace pledge of allegiances at sporting events and flags are replaced by barren walls. As in all things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. It is just striking to live in the two extremes and see what each person understands as being adopted to the culture in which you live. This is why it is much more appropriate to speak about being adopted into the family of Christ, that is where our devotion and our loyalty lies. All else is secondary, but we are allowed secondary pleasures.
I wasn’t planning on talking about the above issue because there are so many other topics that scream for attention in these verses. Predestination is touched upon here by Paul. I want you to look closely for the verses in this Scripture that say that some were predestined for damnation. Look again if you didn’t find any. Again, look, and if you still don’t find any then take my word that there aren’t any. There has been a misconception and a misconstruction of predestination that it signifies that God has chosen some for salvation and others for damnation. Paul states in vs.29: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” I think we established previously the truth of John 3:16 where we read that God so loved the world…, remember it is the world that he foreknew and that he predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Here is a little quiz…How were each of us created? Were we not all created in the image of God? Were we not chosen by God, all of us, to be His children? I didn’t say anything about those who received and accepted that invitation to be his children, I just asked whom did God choose? The answer to that question is all of humanity. While we were yet sinners, all of us, Jesus chose to die for us. So…this prevents us from creating a false sense of separation between those who are chosen and those who are not because here Paul tells us, reminds us really, that we have all been chosen. God has predestined all of us for His kingdom. That is the Providence of God that we tend to forget when we try to delineate between those who are in and those who are out. It is only God who separates the sheep from the goats.
Paul then wonderfully reminds us of a truth that has marked the way that I live my life and I pray that I will always live according to this principle found in vs.31: “If God is for us, then who can be against us…?” This principle allows us to pursue the greatest verse in Scripture, John 8:32 which tells us that we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free. Trust me, they are related. When we live our lives according to the principle that no one in our life can be against us when God is for us, then it frees us to do…, well…, anything. There is nothing that we are prevented from doing. There should never be a time in our life when we should say: I can’t do it. You may not want to go through the trouble to try to do certain things, but I tell you that yes you can do it. No one has the right to tell you that you can’t do anything. I love that freedom that comes with that concept. If we are in the Word and in prayer then it should become fairly self evident what the will of God is. Don’t misunderstand that last statement as arrogance. Rather, it is a concept that if we are in Christ, then our desire and our will would naturally be conformed to Christ’s desire. Our will should then become God’s will. Our desire will then become God’s desire. What we hate should be what God hates. That is true as well.
One of the greatest verses in Romans we passed right over. Look at vs.28. Do you believe it? All things work together for good for those who trust in the Lord. I’ll never forget when I was discussing the providence of God in seminary and one woman told me: “Explain to me how being raped 4 times before the age of 18 works for the good of God?” What would you say? Here is someone who had experienced life in such a way that could only be explained as a nightmare and a tragedy, while this young man (me) who had lived a Pollyannish life could blithely say that God is good, all the time…all the time, God is good. But don’t lose the context of Paul’s statement. He is talking about exactly what my classmate expressed. Paul is in the midst or at least is heading to talk about: “hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword”. None of that can separate from the love of God. Not even being raped 4 times before the age of 18. That tragedy cannot be blithely explained away, but it also does not, somehow, fall outside of the Providence of God.
Take comfort in vss. 37-39. Just basque in its glow.