We now continue in this section where Paul is making the point that grace gives victory over sin, and that victory is assured. As always, it seems to be one thing to say so, and another thing in daily life; how does this victory come about in the face of life’s challenges? We’ve already seen that this victory comes through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which we received at “birth” when we were born again. This new life makes us God’s children, His family, and it is our membership in His Family that assures our victory.
Paul continues proving this point as we turn to his next sub point, in verses 26-30 where we find that God will bring His children through their earthly trials.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (8:26-27)
When times are tough, we might not know what to do, we might be at our wit’s end, but the Holy Spirit that indwells us intercedes, even though we may not understand it at the time. There is a really interesting little element in play here, something that we like to talk about, but sometimes overlook in times of trial; the indwelling Holy Spirit is really quite active in our lives when we are weak. On the other hand, when we are strong, or when we think we are strong, the Spirit seems to be less active; you may have experienced this yourself. Yet the interesting component of this is that the Spirit is always there, always busy and always working, but we are often distracted going our own way, doing our own thing. In these times, I often find that I have blundered yet again into a “learning moment” wishing I had learned that lesson last time so I wouldn’t need to learn it yet again this time…
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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
In these verses, Paul continues making the point that God has promised to see us through our trials in life. Verse 28 is one of comfort for millions, for it assures those who love Him that no matter what our circumstances, God will see us through and work things out to a good end; good for His purpose.
“Wait! Hold on, what was that again?”
Yeah, there’s a condition: “…those who love him…” Who are the ones who love Him? Jesus told His disciples that if they love Him they should keep His commands (John 14:15), Thus I would suggest that those who love Him are those who keep His commends, the very first of which was “follow me” or to put it another way, those who love God are those who have responded in obedience to the Gospel− Christians.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (8:29)
This is a tricky verse, and by that, I mean a controversial one. Let’s be careful that we don’t read things into it that aren’t there. “For those God foreknew…” follows from verse 28, which is directed at those who have responded to the Gospel in obedience, so they are the ones He “foreknew”. This is because God knew well in advance that when the day came that the Gospel was proclaimed to all nations, many would respond to it in obedience, and thus they were foreknown. God ordained or “predestined” that they would be “conformed” to the image of His Son, so that His Son, who was first to be raised in glory from the tomb would be followed by His brothers and sisters. If you have been following our tour through Romans, you will recall that Paul has been teaching this quite a bit already.
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (8:30)
Those who responded in obedience to the Gospel (predestined) were called. This isn’t difficult when you ask yourself what is really going on when the Gospel is proclaimed, for when it is proclaimed, we are being called to follow Jesus. Those who respond in obedience have been justified, which happens to be the theme of the book we are studying, and they in due course will be glorified just as Jesus was when He rose from the grave. What this passage is there to teach Paul’s readers is that our victory over sin by God’s grace is assured because God has ordained that it will be so, which happily is the context in which the passage falls.
I realize that some may prefer to add some extra significance to what these are saying, and that’s fine by me; I won’t make a big deal out of it since I don’t debate any more. Actually, if you are a Total Depravity fan, you will need that extra bit of significance to make Total Depravity work, but if I may offer a suggestion before you go ahead… You may well be able to fix the doctrinal problem that Total Depravity brings about, but aren’t you going to have an even bigger problem with Selection and Predestination? If it was me, and I was still a debater, I would just leave these verses in context because it is easier to defend Total Depravity than it is to defend Selection and Predestination… I’m just sayin’