When life gets tough, people often turns to Romans 8 especially the last 10 verses or so which are so incredibly encouraging
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For 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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:28–39 ESV)
I have been confronted with the realization that I may be hearing what I want to hear when reading these verses. I want to hear that God will keep us AWAY from tribulation, distress persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. He will protect us from those things because he loves us. I hear and process God’s good purposes are the world’s purposes, good job, enough money to live (don’t want to be too greedy), good health, good friends, good church, good spiritual growth and live happily ever after.
After listening to John Piper’s sermon to BCS The Solid Logic of Heaven Holds and the Future Grace seminar he gave a couple of days later, I have found that my theology, my understanding has been upside down and wrong.
The danger of the wrongness is that when you go to Roman 8 and you go looking at these extraordinary promises and define them through the lens of worldly entitlement that you think you deserve, you are going to be sorely disappointed. You are going to think that God is letting you down. You think that God is not keeping his promises, he is not loving you. The wrongness will destroy your only hope which is Christ.
If you are anything like me, when I read Romans 8:28 I read: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” and then stop. We define good by our worldly standards. But there is another piece of the verse “for those who are called according to his purpose.” Which begs the question what is his purpose?
Paul answers that question in the next verse:
“For 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.”
(Romans 8:29 ESV)
I know I am doing something really stupid in this post and that is playing theologian, just bear with me a little longer. There is one more question that needs to be asked is “how is He going to conform us to the image of His Son?” I think Paul answers that question in Romans 8 God is going to use tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, dangers, swords, death, life, angels, rules, powers to help shape us.
Here is what I am hearing from Piper and reading in other places in the bible, is that bad things are going to happen. I live in a third tier suburb of Minneapolis, persecution doesn’t happen not like what Paul talks about. But bad things do happen, death, health issues, job problems, marital problem etc etc. The enemy (the world, the flesh and the devil) has countless weapons at his disposal to destroy us. Paul is not promising, that God will protect and we will not ever experience these attacks or the war with the enemy.
I believe that Paul is saying that God will bring us through the war, the trials, the tests as conquerors. God will give us all that we need to do that. I think this parallels what Jesus said in his High Priestly prayer in John 17:11,15.
Paul is saying that as we starve to death God will give us all we need as we starve to death. Paul is saying that as we are being stabbed God will give us all we need. As we go to war against the enemy he will give us what we need and we will conquer
There is more to say about this…