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More than Conquerors April 4, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Romans 8:28-39.

Summary: In this passage, Paul neatly summarizes all of his arguments in Romans in the following encouraging statement for Christians – since God is for us, nothing will ever separate us from His love. He begins by asserting that the sufferings of those who 1) genuinely love God, 2) have heard His Gospel and 3) hold to its promises are actually blessings that only they receive. Also, before the beginning of time, God selected believers as the objects of His special affection, and He appointed them to eventually be like Christ in terms of His moral character and His ultimate destiny; thus, the future exalted state of all believers highlights the awesomeness of Christ, and so He is glorified for all time. Paul then states that in God’s eyes, the selection, calling, justification and salvation of believers are inextricably linked. Therefore, those who are in Christ have nothing to fear regarding the future; since God has provided His only begotten Son as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, there is no question that He will also provide us with all of the gifts that His children receive, as these gifts pale in comparison with the depth of His love in the sacrifice of Christ. Indeed, no one will ever be able to accuse God’s children of wrongdoing or condemn them for their sins, since:

  • God has already declared them to be righteous in His eyes
  • Christ removes the basis of our condemnation by His death, resurrection, exaltation and constant intercession to God on our behalf.

From this, Paul concludes that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love – not even the sufferings that are inherent to the Christian life. Indeed, our sufferings are not unusual in that even those who were regarded as faithful in the Old Testament endured similar difficulties. Our sufferings actually highlight the magnitude of our ultimate victory in Christ’s grace and His power. Neither physical death, sufferings and difficulties, superhuman powers, angels, anything in the present or in the future, anything in heaven or on earth, nor any other potential stumbling block can hinder God’s love for us, as we are united with Christ.

Thoughts: This is definitely one of my favorite Bible passages, and I would put it on par with other stirring epics including Isaiah 40 and Philippians 3:7-14. Hodge weighs in appropriately with his commentary on verse 35:

This is the last step in the climax of the apostle’s argument, the very summit of the mount of confidence, from where he looks down on his enemies as powerless and looks forward and upward with full assurance of a final and abundant triumph. No one can accuse, no one can condemn, no one can separate us from the love of Christ. This last assurance gives permanency to the value of the other two.

Believers who read this passage will inevitably gain strength to face the trials and difficulties of this life. Clearly we are not promised a carefree life where we never have to struggle to follow Christ – yet Paul says that even though our sufferings are great, God’s love for those who are united with Christ is far greater. Moreover, this great love is manifested in the fact that He gave His only begotten Son for us, which secures our present and future blessings.

As expected, the church continues to debate the meaning of the words “foreknew” and “predestined” in verses 29 and 30. Hodge’s thoughts on this issue read as follows:

The words ‘to know’ and ‘foreknow’ are used with three different meanings, any of which could apply to the present passage, and there is considerable diversity of opinion about which should be preferred. The word may simply mean ‘to know beforehand’; or, since ‘to know’ is often ‘to approve’ and ‘love,’ it may express the idea of special affection in this case; or it may mean ‘to select.’

Hodge then presents several well-reasoned arguments in support of his position that the second and third meanings are to be preferred in this case, including an assertion that the second and third meanings place more of the burden of our salvation on Christ (and, by extension, the burden on us is decreased). In fact, Hodge argues that the second and third meanings are essentially identical. This would make Hodge more of a Calvinist than an Arminian. It should be stressed that Hodge does not have the final word on this matter, and I for one am eager to hear how God will resolve this debate in the next life.

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