Romans 8 v 18 – 39
Please take up your Bibles and turn with me to the eighth chapter of the book of Romans. We’re going to skip ahead a little bit in the book of Romans this morning.
I have thought much and prayed much about what to you say to the Lord’s people in a time like this. I’ve said to our Elders we are wartime leaders. The Lord will hold us to account for the words that we speak in a season such as this and you can imagine the pressure on a simple old Pastor when he considers: what do I say to wide-eyed and torn apart people in a time like this – what do I say?
The first thing I must do is be very careful that I don’t speak a word of my own, but that I let the Lord use me to speak only what He wants to say. And the Lord speaks to us in this 8th chapter of Romans in a most wonderful way, and I want to read together for us from verse 18. We find ourselves in a very, very trying present. The present is hard. Life in the best of circumstances is hard. We live in a time that is extraordinarily hard. We live in the midst of a pandemic – in a world that could erupt into nuclear war any day, if we are not careful, but we look forward to Future Glory!
18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
29For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. (ESV)
These are uncertain times. Nobody knows how this is going to go. Nobody even knows for sure why it is going as it’s going. What makes things more difficult as we live in the information age. I often wonder why we call it that, because there is so much information that it all is almost disinformation. People don’t know where to turn the ear, where to turn the eye, where to turn the heart in times like this. There is very little that we can be certain of. And so I want to just look at this passage together with you this morning and begin where it ends, because the Apostle says something most wonderful there – something he doesn’t often say.
The Apostle Paul and even the other Apostles very seldom in Scripture tell us ‘for I am sure‘. They will tell us that they trust and that they believe and that they hope. They very seldom tell us that they are sure. But that’s precisely what the Apostle Paul tells us. I want to start with what we can be sure of this morning. Each one in my congregation must grab a hold of what we can be sure of this morning.
- What we can be sure of
Let’s begin with the certainty in this time of uncertainty. Here is what you can be certain of. Verse 38, let’s begin there:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,” – that’s nothing Brothers and Sisters – “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This is our starting point – this point of certainty – this point of being sure. “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In other words, whatever this pandemic is, however it’s going to go – whatever is happening in this world or in all of the universe – nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. You can be sure of this. If you are not sure of that there is nothing you can be sure of. This is our starting point. This is the solid ground beneath our feet: We are sure that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is where the Apostle ends, but it’s actually where he began because he arrived at that conclusion and he takes certain steps in thought to come to that conclusion. When we read the passage, we see certain things in the mind of the Apostle, in the midst of a world in which he was persecuted. In verse 18 we see in his mind are certain considerations. He says ‘I consider’. I know that each one of you is also considering certain things. In verse 22 he says he knows: ‘For we know.’ He knows certain things. The Apostle is just like us in other ways in his mind as well. He says he groans: ‘We groan inwardly.’ But not only do we consider and we know and groan – we wait: ‘We wait eagerly for the adoption as sons.’ Not only that – he hopes. He says ‘I hope.’ In verse 28 again he says ‘I know’ – I know certain things that: ‘for those who love God all things work together for their good.’ He knows certain things. And then he ends with something to say.
It’s only when the Apostle – just like you and I – has considered the sufferings of this present time – it’s only when we have known that the whole of creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth – not only the creation, but we ourselves – it’s only when we know that – it’s only when we hope – it’s only when we acknowledge our weakness and we say we don’t even know what to pray. And when we know that [for] those who love God all things will work together for their good. It’s only when all these things are in place that we will know what to say.
And this is what the Lord taught me this week. You want to know what to say? A great Apostle had that question once: “What then shall we say to these things?”, and the very next line that he says is what we are to say to one another throughout this pandemic. When your loved ones are dying or have gone to be with the Lord – when they are sick – when they lose their work – when the groanings of this world and the sorrows that it stirs in your heart – when you have considered that – when you have known that this world has fallen and it’s depraved – when you have known that it groans and you groan with it, while you wait and hope that things will get better – seeing your weakness, not even knowing what to pray and knowing that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose – when you know all those things, you know what to say and this is what we say. This is what Constantia Park Baptist Church says in the midst of a pandemic: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” That is what we say to all these things.
People send me WhatsApps, and they say: ‘Willem, what do you say about all this?’ I send them back: ‘If God is for us who can be against us?’ That is where we stand – that is the solid ground underneath our feet. That is what we are sure of: “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Say that to yourself in your sorrow and your fear, in your despair and in your groans, and not knowing what to pray even. Say: “If God is for us who can be against us?“
Now this is the Christian World and Life View, because we believe that we were created. The Apostle says in verse 22: “We know that the whole creation…” This world is the creation of God. It is not the fruit of coincidence. God created it. We know that this world has fallen. It has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth (verse 22). Verse 23: “not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit.” And because of this fallenness, we groan inwardly. But we don’t only groan inwardly. We wait eagerly – for what? “The adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” That is our hope and in the meantime in our weakness, we don’t even know what to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us.
Now why do we have this solid ground under our feet, we are sure that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord and because of that we say if God is for us, who can be against us? How can we know that God is for us? How can we have that hope? And this is the heart of this passage that I want to spend the remainder of our time on. It is from verses 31 through to the end of verse 37. How can we know? How can we be so sure of this that God is for us?
Listen to what the Apostle says in verse 32. We’re going to look at the Lord’s gift and His grace, and the two are the same. Verse 32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Do you see the Apostle’s argument? He takes hold of the most formidable fact of all of history: The Incarnation, life, crucifixion, death, resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. He did that. This is a fact of history. God became a Man – became a Servant and died the death of a criminal, so that the depraved like us may live like the sons and daughters of the almighty God. He gave Him up for us all.
Now listen to the Apostle’s argument. He says: ‘If God did all that how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?’ He will give us all that our souls need – every single thing! God is for you – He will not hold anything back from you that is good for you. God will never hold a good thing back from you. If God is keeping something away from you or holding something back from you, it’s not because it’s a good thing – it’s because it is not a good thing. If it is a good thing it’s because it’s not the time for it. God does not only give us good things, He gives them in His own good time and for His own Divine reasons. His bona fides are in place.
God has held nothing back. He gave His own Son – that is Himself – for us all. That’s His Gift and because of that Gift, He has given us His Grace in that Gift. Verse 33: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” I love how the Apostle Paul does that, because the first thing that comes to mind for me when I read that: That ‘God gave His Son and He will graciously give me all things’ – as my own filthiness and unworthiness, my own rottenness and my own wretchedness just dawns before me – that’s why I love verse 33: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It’s God who justifies.” In other words, He placed the penalty of our sins on His Son. Who is to condemn?
He begins this chapter and says: “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” “Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised…” (v34). So that’s the biggest problem solved. Do you know that the biggest problem in this world that needs to be solved is not what you lack – it’s what you are? That’s our biggest problem!
My biggest problem in life is not what I lack – it’s not the good things I lack it’s not even the bad things I have – it’s who I am. That’s the worst problem that needs to be solved. And here we see no charge can be brought against us because of Jesus – there is no condemnation! Now, it’s not just anybody who did this for us. I want to hold up to you the One who brought this to us now, as Paul does in the text.
- The One who brought Salvation to us
The Lord Jesus Christ stands in His glory in this text, and He stands in His glory in three ways: In His position, in His prayers and in His power. Note it with me in the text how He stands.
a. In His Position
Note His position in verse 34 at the end: “Who is at the right hand of God.” We have men fighting for the presidency of the United States. We have men fighting for the presidency of South Africa and other countries. We have men and women fighting for positions of power. Little men and women who want to be big men and women in this world, and they don’t even notice that there is One who is above all others. He is at the right hand of God. That’s His position. There is no higher position than that. Christ Jesus who was raised is at the right hand of God. You have a Friend in high places.
You have a Friend in the highest place! It makes me wonder why we so often seek to find help on this earth. We go from this counsellor to that – from this person to that to find help – while we’ve already been given all the help we need by the One who is in the highest place of all – Christ Jesus who is at the right hand of God – that is His position.
b. In His Prayers
Remember the Apostle said earlier we groan. He says we wait. He says we have a weakness – there’s a great weakness. I’ve had it expressed to me by many people who have come to me for counselling – a weakness. “We do not know what to pray for as we ought…” (verse 26). And Paul tells us there that the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He reminds us of the Holy Spirit who is mentioned at least five times in this chapter. We are in the Spirit. The Spirit Himself intercedes. There’s the mind of the Spirit, and God who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
So you see you have the Holy Spirit praying for you, but not only that you have the Lord Jesus and His prayers – the One who is at the right hand of God who indeed is interceding for us. He is acting as us our Great High Priest who stands between us and God and speaks on our behalf to God. That’s His position. Those are His prayers.
c. In His Power
Verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation,” – do we know tribulation at present? “…or distress,” – is anybody distressed? “…or persecution,” – it’s known the world over, “…or famine,” – many people are hungry, you see them on our street corners, “…nakedness, danger” – the lurking Covid-19, the unseen enemy, “…or sword?” – Arsenals of nuclear weapons all over the world.
Paul knew the hardship of life. He says in verse 36: “As it is written, ‘For your sake, we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.'” That means we know our own mortality. He says nothing can separate us in all these things. We are more than conquerors through Him. There is His power. His power is that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. In other words through Him who loved us. Even little people like us can be those who conquer tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and even sword.
That’s why we end where we began of what we are sure. What shall we say in a world who doesn’t know what to even think? We say: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And we live not in the uncertainty of the world – we live in this certainty (verse 38): “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation…” Listen to me again beloved – that is absolutely nothing – “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.“