In Romans 7 and 8 Paul’s been helping the believers in Rome think clearly about living as disciples. How they are set free from sin’s mastery and now live by the Spirit. And how suffering points them forward to, and prepares them for, the eternal glory God has in store for his people. And he reaches a crescendo in (29)“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.”
Are you a starter or a finisher? Do you buzz with ideas and enthusiasm at the start of a project only for the energy to fade part way through? Or do you struggle for ideas and the energy to start something new but once something’s going you just love to see it through to the end?
Do you see what Paul’s saying? What God starts he finishes. He’s Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, and everything in between. Those he predestined and called he brings through to glory. If God begins a work in someone by saving grace he brings it to completion in eternal life in glory.
So what does that mean for these hard-pressed believers in Rome? They live in the lion’s den in Rome facing persecution and suffering and struggling with and fighting sin but God will bring them to glory.
Paul addresses a couple of barriers to realising this assurance. A couple of ways they need to apply the gospel to their thinking and feeling so they’re assured not doubting.
Firstly they need to know that God is for them. (31-32)God is for his people and he proved that once for all at the cross. If we ever doubt that God is for his people we look at his giving his son for us. And that ought to assure us that God will graciously give us all things, he will bring us through to glory.
Imagine for a minute that I buy a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. It last sold at auction for £37.2 million. I take it for a drive but it gets a flat tyre. I get out look at the flat tyre and sigh, well that’s the end of that then, I throw my keys onto the seat and walk off. Abandoning my £37 million pound car at the side of the road to rust because of a flat tyre. That would be galatically stupid wouldn’t it? I’ve paid a fortune for it a flat tyre wouldn’t put me off it.
That’s Paul’s point here. God has spectacularly proven he’s for his people in giving the most precious thing he had to save us in Jesus. He isn’t going to abandon his saved children now because of their struggles with sin having paid such a price to redeem them.
It’s the lie Satan has always told God’s children, right back to the garden. God doesn’t really love you. But says Paul God has proven once for all that he’s for you and he will follow through.
But sometimes we find that hard to believe. So v33-34 Paul takes us into the courtroom. “Who will bring charges against those God has chosen? … Who then is the one who condemns?” God is the divine judge in the courtroom and Satan is the accuser, the prosecution lawyer. We know that feeling don’t we? When Satan takes us back to a certain event and says indignantly look at that! Or when we fail again in our battle with a persistent sin, he convicts us and wants to make us cringe back – you can’t confess that to God again, not for the hundredth time.
Look at Paul’s answer to those courtroom questions. Who will bring charges against those God has chosen? The answer “It is God who justifies” How can a just God declare us free of guilt, undeserving of wrath? Because 5v1 we are justified by faith in Jesus and 5v9 will be saved from judgement and wrath. And there is no higher appeal court, no doubt about the believers justification.
Who condemns? (34)“No-one.” Why? Because the risen Jesus is at God’s right hand interceding for his people. Satan’s accusations against us aren’t false, they’re true. As he runs through the charge sheet against us; idolatry, immorality, greed, anger, pride, slander, hatred, and so on we can’t deny a single one of them. Neither does Jesus, he doesn’t look for loopholes or enter a plea bargain. He intercedes for us as he shows his wounds that have paid the price for us. Justice has been served and there is now no condemnation left for those who are in Jesus.
We can be assured of our future glory even as we struggle with sin because Jesus has paid it all, we are justified by faith in him.
That’s the huge difference between the good news of the gospel and the burden of every other man made religion. Jesus does what we could not. He gives us his perfect record and pays for our sin and that is our security. God loved us so much he did that, he paid that price to make us his children. Perhaps you’re still stuck trying to be good enough, trying to justify yourself, thinking you have to please God. Please stop. You never can, and God longs for you to accept his gift and believe in Jesus.
But it’s not just sin that causes us to struggle with doubt. That drains away our assurance and our joy. Sometimes it’s our circumstance, our suffering. Because sometimes we think that the suffering we face whatever form it takes is a sign that we aren’t really saved. That somehow if I was really saved, if God really loved me, I wouldn’t face this. That something we’ve done has caused God to turn his back on us.
Look at v35-39. The big question Paul asks and answers is exactly that question. What can separate us from God’s love? Is there anything that can separate us from God’s love? The emphatic answer is no(37). In Christ we’re more than conquerors of all these things, one day we will reign over them with him. We’re more than conquerors through him who loved us. Notice the tense it’s the past tense, Paul is taking believers back to the cross. That supreme, once for all, demonstration of God’s love. If God, Father, Son and Spirit, loved you like that you can trust in that love to overcome anything. There’s nothing that can separate you from God’s love(38-39).
Stop and look at the circumstance that whispers to you, calling you to doubt God’s love. It might be a diagnosis of long-term chronic illness, or a recurring battle with the dark valley of depression, a broken relationship, or growing opposition to your faith from family or friends or colleagues. None of it, not even death, “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If our assurance is based on our record it will be flimsy and fragile. But our assurance is based on the love of God seen at the cross that speaks of no condemnation and no separation from the love of God.
So that’s one side of the coin. Our assurance is rock solid because it depends on God not us. But doesn’t that just mean I can live however I want? If Jesus has done it all then we can just sit back and coast? Turn to Hebrews 12.