Martin Luther, the German church leader whose efforts led to the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s, was to have said, “Any Christian worth his or her salt should memorize the Book of Romans and be able to quote it on request.” I’d settle for chapter eight as a huge start and win. But Luther knew the depth and significance of Paul’s letter to the Romans and what it meant.
One of the keys to Bible study is learning to ask the right questions of the text so we can understand what the text meant to the original hearers. This is true of Romans 8, where the apostle Paul was answering a series of perplexing questions posed in chapter 7. What is fascinating is the questions being asked in the first century are some of the same ones we ask.
Read Romans 8 (and chapter 7 to be ready).
First question: If I keep breaking God’s laws, will He continue to forgive me? Answer: Yes, if you are right with God. Read 8:1-4. Paul argues that if we have trusted in Jesus Christ, we are free from condemnation in God’s sight (v 1). Jesus came to earth, took on our humanity, lived a sinless life to establish His credentials as a perfect substitute, and vanquished sin and Satan head-on. He became the sin offering for every human being. Because of that act, He set us free from the old routine we try of let’s-try-and-please-God-by-our good-works.
Second question: Am I doomed to live in perpetual defeat until I die? Answer: No. God provided His Spirit so we can learn and be empowered to live a holy life. We can win (i.e., live a God-honoring life) by relying on the Holy Spirit. Read 8:5-9. To walk in the Spirit is to be filled with the Spirit. It means to follow His example and lead (even prompting) and remain under His control. We are to regularly and consciously give Him control of every area of our lives. Do you need strength to pray about not robbing a bank to pay your tuition bill? How do you avoid the old tendency you had to use your words to ridicule someone? You ask the Spirit for His help.
In the world we live, we will never reach the place where we are satisfied with ourselves and no longer susceptible to our old way of life and the things that tempted us to live lives that dishonored God. God knows that. But we can continually improve on the choices we make, while strengthening and determining our actions in order to live in victory. The day is coming when we will be given new bodies that are completely under the Spirit’s control (v 10-11). But until then, we have been given the Spirit’s help to utilize. When we cooperate with God, it is possible to walk in the Spirit and not sin. Want more evidence? Read 2 Peter 1:3-11.
Third question: How can I be sure that God will keep on loving me? Answer: We can trust God because He has shown that He lives what He says. Read 8:35-39. Paul was pretty ecstatic when he reflected on all God has done for us. God’s supreme demonstration of His love for each of us in the past is actual evidence of what He will do for us in the future. If Jesus is at God’s right hand praying for us (i.e., standing in the gap…and He is), will God pay any less attention to the charges brought against us by the devil? Absolutely not!
Now do you see why Luther felt every follower of Christ should have Romans memorized? Paul closed the much-loved eighth chapter of Romans by listing the kinds of things, living or dead, that cannot separate us from God’s love (read 35-39 one more time). Think theologically. Nothing natural or supernatural can defeat us, because of whose we are. We are safe in Christ.
Love is a verb,
©2013 by Mike Olejarz