- Christ, our Passover
- The Relationship of Simplicity and Purity
- The Fail-Proof Plan for Divine Guidance in Life
- The Critical Role of the Father in the Home and Nation
- Setting the Boundaries of the Gospel Message
- The Commission We Have Not Kept
- The Sower and the Botanist
- Peace in the Midst of the Storm
- Spiritual Rebellion and a Hate-Filled Generation
- The Question that Rattles the Gates of Hell
- The Foolishness and the Weakness of God
- The Hour of Trial or the Tribulation?
- The True Disciple – Part One
- The True Disciple – Part Two
- The Power of Hearing
- Are You Living in the Kingdom of God?
- Eating and Drinking in the Kingdom of God
- Complete in Christ?
- Sauntering Through the Land, Looking to Eternity
- Your Battles Belong to the Lord
- The Free Gift of God—An Insult to Man’s Pride
- The Shepherd-King
- You Shall Call His Name Immanuel
- Six Principles of Spiritual Power
- Building the House of the Soul
- Building for Eternity
- The Resurrection of Christ and the Vanity of Pascal’s Wager
- The Victorious Homecoming of the Saints
- Faithful Living in Perilous Times
- The Glorious Message of the Gospel
- What of Those Who Have Never Heard?
- The Father of Believers and the Focus of Faith
- This Grace in Which We Stand
- The Glory Road and the Path of Victory
- Living Thankfully
- The Gospel and Culture
- The Five Essential Elements of the Gospel in Romans
- The Elements and Ingredients of Culture and the Revolutionary Power of the Gospel
- Entering into His Rest
- The Sabbath Reveals the Glory of God
- Part 1: The Sabbath Reveals the Love and Grace of God
- Part 2: The Sabbath Reveals the Redemptive Plan of God
- Part 3: The Sabbath Reveals the Redemptive Plan of God
- Part 4: The Sabbath Reveals the Providential Care of God
Simplicity Series #34
The Glory Road and the Path of Victory
“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life … He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 5:10; 8:32
The Cry of Victory
Paul begins a thought in Romans 5 that flows on to its climatic conclusion in Romans 8. It expounds and articulates the profound meaning of the “much more” premise in Rom. 5:9–10, 15, 17, and 20. The four terms describing our condition in Adam (“without strength … ungodly … sinners … enemies,” verses 6, 8, and 10) are overcome, eradicated, and replaced by the five “much more” statements.
Our “justification by faith” (Rom. 5:1) places us into “this grace in which we stand” (verse 2), which is realized as we come into a greater and greater comprehension of “the love of God [which] has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (verse 5). The burden of the apostle in Romans 6–8 is to lead us, step by step, into the experiential life of peace, power, and purpose, which is our new spiritual birthright. Like a trickling stream which grows into a mighty river, he leads us from the cross to the crown as it were, so that we can enter—practically—into that which is true positionally, that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
The Way of Victory Expounded and Applied: Romans 6–8
This is such a rich and extended section, to deal with it fully would take many pages. Instead, I will attempt to highlight the main ideas to keep this post as brief as possible. I have adapted John Phillips’ outlines in the book, Exploring Romans, which I recommend.
The Victory of Identification with Christ—Romans 6
Because Jesus Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33), all who are united with Him share in His victory. This union took place corporately for the Church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Individually, we are united with Christ through the baptism of the Spirit at the moment of our faith in Him (1 Cor. 12:13).
The Power of Union with Christ, Rom. 6:1–10
If grace always abounds over sin (Rom. 5:20), then why not sin so that grace abounds all the more (see Rom. 3:8)? In this first section, Paul is dealing with the believer’s relation to the sin nature.
The primary argument is that, while the sin nature continues to exist in us, it has been robbed of its power. The sin nature has “been done away with” (Rom. 6:6), not in its presence, but in its power over us. The verb used is katargeo, which means “to render powerless.”
By means of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we share in the finished work of Jesus Christ. By His death, the penalty of our sins was paid in full. By His burial, we have been separated forever from the world. By His resurrection, we have been given new and everlasting life. Therefore, our union with Him makes it possible for us to “walk in newness of life” (verse 4). In the power of His resurrection life, we now live unto God (verse 10) with Christ.
The Practice of Union with Christ, Rom. 6:11–23
One of the great questions of the Christian life is, how do we make our “position” in Christ become our “practice.” In other words, how do we live out the reality of our union with Christ?
Paul gives us a three-step program for success.
- The first step is that we need to know the truth as it is revealed to us in the Bible. Note the words “know” and “knowing” in verses 3, 6, and 9. In these verses, Paul has given us the facts of our union. Once these truths are known, we are then able to apply them to life. We need to know the facts in order to fulfill the function.
- The second step is to “reckon” (verses 11–12) or count on the validity of these truths. If God says that my union with Christ has broken the power of the sin nature, then I must live according to that truth. My life should not reflect the dominion of sin (verse 14), but rather the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:17). To know the truth is one thing; to accept it as true for me, is another.
- Finally, I must “present [myself] to God as being alive from the dead” (Rom. 6:13), so that my members become “instruments of righteousness to God.” Paul will pick up on this idea in Rom. 12:1–2.
He goes on to show that we have a choice to present ourselves as “slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6), which leads to death, or to present ourselves in obedience to God resulting in righteousness. The very existence of this choice has a great bearing on the question of divine sovereignty and human freedom, which comes up in Romans 9: Remove free will and the exhortation is a farce.
We became slaves of God when we “obeyed from the heart” (verse 17) the Gospel message by faith (see Rom. 1:5; 16:26). We have lived in the realm of sin and death, but now we are to live in the realm of obedience and life. While Rom. 6:23 is often used for evangelism, Paul is speaking of the potential of Christian living.
The Victory of Deliverance from the Law—Romans 7
In Romans 6, Paul dealt with our relation to the sin nature. Now, he explains our new relation to the Law, which is also radically changed.
The Believer’s Relation to the Law, Rom. 7:1–6
Paul uses the Law as it relates to marriage as another illustration of our new position in Christ. A woman whose husband dies is free to remarry. We who died to the Law—through the death of Christ on the cross—are now married to Christ. He is our new authority so that “we should bear fruit to God” (verse 4).
Just as the breaking of the power of the sin nature makes it possible for us to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4), so the breaking of the power of the Law makes possible serving God “in the newness of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6). The role of the Law is to convict of sin, so as to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24; 1 Tim. 1:9–11). That role is no longer needed in the believer’s life.
The Unbeliever’s Relation to the Law, Rom. 7:7–12
In this section, Paul reviews the role of the Law in his life as an unbeliever. In his outward life as a Pharisee, Paul was found to be “blameless” (Phil. 3:4–6). Yet, in his inner life, he was convicted of the sin of covetousness. The problem, as he reveals it, is that sin takes advantage of the Law (Rom. 7:8).
Before his introduction to the Law—at his Bar Mitzvah—Paul was “alive,” that is, without conscious guilt. But since it is the nature of sin to revolt against every command of God, the very presence of the command brings sin into action. Although the Law is holy, sin uses the Law to bring death.
The Carnal Believer and the Law, Rom. 7:13–25
Paul now changes from the past tense, in verses 7–12, to the present tense. He shows the inevitable struggle of the new believer with the Law. His point is that just as the Law stimulates sin in the unbeliever, so it does in the immature believer.
It seems that the more the young believer wants to obey the Law, the more he or she sins. We agree that the Law is good (verses 12 and 16) but can’t seem to obey it. As Paul shows, the problem is the continued indwelling of the sin nature (verses 17 and 20). The external law of God is at war with the internal law of sin, which indwells us (verses 22–23).
How many of us, in our struggles with sin, have cried out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (verse 24). It is in coming to the end of our own assumed strength and embracing our personal helplessness, that we find Christ to be, not only the Savior of the lost, but also the Savior of the found. Just as He delivered us from sin through His cross (Rom. 6:6), even so now He delivers us from the enslavement to sin through His resurrection life (Rom. 5:10; 6:5, 11).
His resurrection life is available to us through the indwelling Spirit of God. This is the means of victory that we find in Romans 8.
The Victory of Spiritual Living—Romans 8
Within every believer there are two sources of power: the sin nature with leads to death, and the Spirit, which leads to life. Once again, the deciding factor is the volition of the believer. We must choose our master (Rom. 6:16, 19). These choices, of course, must be based on biblical knowledge. The untaught believer lacks the necessary doctrinal information to choose wisely.
The New Law of the Spirit, Rom. 8:1–13
Romans 8 begins with the declaration, “There is … no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (verse 1), and ends with the exultant cry that neither can there ever be any separation between the believer and the Lord (verse 39).
These two truths are critical to know before we can ever live a victorious life. The first confirms the finished work of Christ on our behalf; the second assures us of His continued and never-ending work as our Savior. In other words, just as He saved us from condemnation by His cross, so He saves us from failure by His continued life.
God’s will is accomplished in us by “the law of the Spirit of life” (verse 2), as we “walk … according to the Spirit” (verse 4). How is this victorious walk to be accomplished? Paul declares that it is a matter of “mind-set” (verses 5–6). Those who fill their mind with the things of the flesh will fulfill those things in their life. But the believer who commits to the “renewing of [the] mind” (Rom. 12:1–2) by a steady diet of God’s Word, will fulfill those precepts in practice. Again, “knowing … reckon[ing] … present[ing]” (Rom. 6:9–19).
As believers, we are no longer “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:9), but through our union with Christ we are “in the Spirit.” It is the Spirit of God who infuses us with the resurrection life of Christ. Though our bodies are dying (mortal), our spirit is being transformed into the image of Christ. This is a painful and often perplexing process, but as we walk by faith, God will complete in us what He has begun (Phil. 1:6).
The New Life in the Spirit, Rom. 8:14–27
Paul now introduces us to the privileges and responsibilities of son-ship. His emphasis, however, is not that we are children of God, but that we are to live as mature, adult sons.
The word for “sons” in verse 14 is from huios and means “adult sons.” The mature son of God is identified as one who is “led by the Spirit of God.” At spiritual birth, by faith in Christ, we “received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (verse 15). This repetition—both in Aramaic and in Greek—is the very cry our Lord made in Gethsemane (Mark 14:36).
“Adoption” is not used here in the normal sense. Here, it speaks of the “son-placement” where the child becomes a full-fledged son, with adult privilege. For the Jew, this took place at the Bar Mitzvah. With this privilege comes inheritance and responsibility (Gal. 4:6–7).
There appears to be a distinction in Rom. 8:17 between children who are heirs, and those mature sons who suffer and become “joint heirs with Christ” (see 2 Tim. 2:11–13; 3:12). Once again, it is evident that personal choices are involved. The whole story of history—from the Garden to the new creation—is one of volitional decisions and their consequences.
From Rom. 8:18–27, it is critical to Paul that we understand the role of suffering in our lives. Every suffering endured in faith will be turned into eternal gold at the Bema Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:11–15). This goes back to when he first introduced the idea in Rom. 5:3–5. There, he wants us to understand the role of suffering in bringing about our spiritual growth. Here, he links our sufferings to the final liberation of creation itself!
As “joint-heirs with Christ,” mature believers are playing a role, as they are Spirit-led, in bringing about a triumphant, cosmic transformation. Creation itself—which suffers the consequences of the fall of Adam—shall also share in the ultimate realization of the total impact of Christ’s redemption. John declares that Christ came into the world for the total destruction of the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
Just as creation groans with us in the effects of the fall, so she will also share with us the final liberation. And in ways we cannot fully understand now, those who grow to maturity and live lives that are Spirit-led are contributing to this end.
Whether we realize it or not, it is this that is our unrealized hope. It is the unspoken desire for all things to be “right,” for a world of beauty and justice and freedom and love. When we cry out against the injustices of this world, we do not even know how to articulate our grief and longing. However, we have the Spirit who does know, who intercedes with and for us. The Greek word translated “helps” is sunantilambano, and has the idea of working with us on the opposite end. God’s Spirit does the heavy lifting before the throne of God.
God’s Sovereignty and Our Security, Rom. 8:28–39
The late R.C. Sproul, a noted Calvinist, asked the question, “If God is sovereign, how can man have free will?” In his mind, God’s sovereignty means He makes everything happen that does happen. This ultimately makes God the author of sin and evil—a conundrum that has haunted Calvinists through the ages.
In reality, God chose to share His sovereignty—to a limited degree—with mankind, when he gave Adam “dominion” over the earth (Gen. 1:26, 28). The Hebrew word radah is translated in the Greek Septuagint with archon, a word used often of Jesus’ rulership (1 Peter 4;11; 5:11). Mankind, therefore, has a limited and subordinate freedom, which is tested first in the Garden, and then throughout history. Those decisions in accordance with God’s will are blessed, and those which disobey His will are cursed. God is not a micro-manager, nor is He a puppet-master.
It is not accurate to say that “all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). The verb sunergei is the third person singular. “He” who works is God, the referent going back to verse 27. In fact, many ancient manuscripts have ho Theos in the text, which would read “The God is working all things together for good.” It may be argued that “those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” could be a direct reference back to the mature sons—those being led by His Spirit. Believers who live contrary to His will cannot hope to see all things turn out good.
In verses 29–30, Paul gives us a most profound view of the workings of God. Our main problem when we read this is that we tend, as is typical in Western thought, to think in individual terms. The ancient world—above all the Jewish world—did not think in those terms, but rather thought collectively. Whereas we are self-centered, they were family-centered. In Adam, the whole human family was cursed. In Abraham, all the seed of Abraham were blessed, etc.
So, when we read “whom He foreknew,” we think it is talking about individual believers, when in fact the “whom” is plural, speaking of the Body of Christ. In other words, God knew us as a Body or “family”—in Christ—before the foundation of the world. For this family, He made a plan in advance that would lead to our conformity to Christ and ultimate glorification.
He “foreknew” us just as He did the “seed of Abraham” (Rom. 9:7; 11:1), both physical and spiritual, “your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17). In the same way, He foreknew the descendants of Levi, who “paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak” (Heb. 7:9). This vast company, who would be “in Christ” through personal faith, He predestined “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). Just as a father, before his son is born, would make a plan for his life, upbringing, and future, so did God for those who—by faith—would share in Christ’s Son-ship.
For those included in His spiritual “seed,” He then “called” (verse 28), not by force but by invitation. Remember that in the ancient concept of calling, the call involves an invitation, a response to the call, and a resultant identity. Those who answer the call are “justified,” and these will be ultimately “glorified” (Rom. 8:30). In fact, in the sense that we are already raised up and seated with Christ “in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:5–6; Col. 3:1–4), it could be said that we are already “glorified.”
When Jesus said, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Mat. 22:14), He is in essence saying, “many are called, but few are choice ones,” that is, who respond to the call. This is the way the ancients understood it. Remember that Judas was “called” but, by His own decisions, he was not “choice.”
The Security of the Believer, Rom. 8:31–39
Paul now carries the idea of our sufferings (Rom. 5:3–5; 8:18–27) to the final climax. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
This leads to a series of rhetorical questions with obvious answers:
- No one can stand against us, for God’s plan will not fail.
- No one can condemn us, for Christ has redeemed us.
- Who could possibly separate us from the love of Christ? No one!
Though we may suffer “as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom. 8:36; see also Psalm 44:22), yet all our sufferings are “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).
The more the world, the flesh, and the devil try to discourage and destroy us, the stronger we become. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). Even when we fail, He never fails, and brings out of our defeat something that glorifies Himself. Twice, he emphasizes that absolutely nothing can separate us from His love (verses 35 and 39). This passage is the greatest statement regarding our eternal security that has ever been made. It is amazing to me how many believers still struggle to find some loop-hole for the monstrous teaching of the loss of salvation.
Let me end this section with one final but vital thought. In verse 32, Paul makes a most astounding declaration. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Remember how he said that Christ died for us when we were “without strength … ungodly … sinners … enemies” (Rom. 5:6–10)? If God did the most for us in this deplorable condition, what would He do now for us “in Christ”? The verse implies that so vast and great is the Father’s love, that even in our failures and struggles, His desire is to pour out the “riches of His grace” on us throughout all eternity. And that is just what Paul says He will do (Eph. 2:7).
For the weary child of God, who struggles and fails again and again, who cries out in anguish and shame for God’s mercy and strength, let me give you some hope. When your failures drive you to confession (1 John 1:9), and intensify your desire to walk in the light (1 John 1:7), and drive you to the Word of God for comfort and hope (Rom. 10:17), do not despair! I have it on good authority, you are not a failure. There is One who spoke to just such a company of men long ago. And in the face of their repeated failures and lack of faith, He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me … Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone … These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 14:1; 16:32–33, emphasis mine)!
In this grace, in which I stand,