Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 25, 2002
Confidence in God
This morning we come to Romans 8:26-30. This is a text that contains verses
that are greatly debated in theological circles. The major reason for this, as
with the majority of theological debates, is that man wants God fit within his
own theological system. Passages of Scripture are then interpreted in light of
the logic of that theological system rather than in careful consideration of its
grammatical and historical context in order to know God as He reveals Himself
whether He fits our system or not.
The truth is that there are many things that we simply do not understand
about God. Not only is God not fully comprehensible to finite man by virtue of
God’s infinite nature, but additionally, God has only given us a limited
revelation of Himself. Moses recognized this in Deuteronomy 29:29 when he said,"The
secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us
and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." Paul
also recognized this and exclaimed in Romans 11:33,34, "Oh, the depth of
the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His
judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who became His counselor?" We also must keep this in mind as we
study this passage this morning. There are concepts within it that are hard, if
not impossible, for us to fully comprehend.. We are bound in the box of the
physical world of matter, space and time. God is not, so we must be very careful
not to place upon Him the same limits that apply to us. If what God reveals
about Himself does not seem logical to us, then the error lies in our logic.
Remember, the validity of logical conclusions can only be as good as the
validity of the observations and suppositions that lead to the conclusion. We
err when we demand that God ‘s nature and behavior must fit within the
dictates of our own observations, experiences and values. We must take God for
what He reveals Himself to be, not what we want Him to be.
In the chapters leading up to Romans 8, Paul has set forth clear displays of
God’s character and His response to mankind. In the first three chapters Paul
has proven that all men are guilty before God and justly deserving of His holy
wrath. In the last half of Chapter 3, Paul explains that the only way for a man
to be justified before God is through faith in the person and work of the Lord
Jesus Christ, who paid the redemption price for man by atoning for sin on the
cross of Calvary. The nature of such saving faith is demonstrated in Chapter 4
by the example of Abraham who "believed God, and it was reckoned to him
as righteousness." In chapters 5,6 & 7, Paul has explained some of
the ramifications and benefits of being justified by faith. The believer has
been radically changed having been "crucified with Christ" and
receiving a new nature. Sin is no longer the Christian’s master and the
bondage of the law has also been broken. However, the believer will struggle
with sin because he remains in an earthly body that has not yet experienced the
fullness of the redemption that is to come. We no longer have to sin, but we
will do so because of our present weaknesses until we receive our resurrection
In Chapter 8, Paul starts dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit in the
believer. Those who are in Christ Jesus are no longer under God’s
condemnation, and the Holy Spirit, who indwells them, has begun the process of
sanctification. The Christian is to no longer have his mind set on the flesh,
but rather in living according to the Spirit he is "putting to death the
deeds of the flesh." As joint heirs with Christ, true Christians will
inherit the kingdom of God with Him. Those are wonderful promises concerning our
future destiny. We suffer in the present because of the world’s hatred of
Christ as well as from the consequences of our own sin, the sin of others and
the curse of sin upon the world. All of creation is anxiously longing for "the
revealing of the sons of God" when the curse upon it will be lifted.
Believer’s eagerly await the same event when we will receive our full adoption
as God’s children by receiving our resurrection bodies and being with Christ
for eternity. That is the Christian’s great hope.
That is the context of Romans 8:26-30 where we find that Paul lays a solid
foundation for our hope, for it is in God Himself. God, through the ministry of
the Holy Spirit, is intimately involved with His people. He is sovereign, and
will always fulfill His promises. Follow along as I read through the passage.
"And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not
know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for [us] with
groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the
mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to [the
will of] God. 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for
good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image
of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He
predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified;
and whom He justified, these He also glorified" (Romans 8:26-30).
The Spirit’s Intercession (26,27),
The first basis of our hope comes from God’s intimate involvement with us.
He cares about us so much that He has given the Holy Spirit a special ministry
of intercession on our behalf. The Spirit’s intercession is always perfect
because there is perfect communication between God the Spirit and God the
Father, and He always intercedes according to the will of God.
His Help: The suffering that we endure in this life lets us know that we
are weak. It is difficult enough to face persecution, but even more so to do so
with a godly attitude that would include loving them and praying for them (Matt.
5:44). We need the Spirit’s help to do that. It gets frustrating living in a
sin fallen world. We long to be in a better place. We need the Spirit’s help
in being content in the present while looking forward to the future. God has
work for us to do while we are still on this earth. The Spirit helps us to
accomplish that. And then we all must also acknowledge, just as Paul did in
Romans 7, that we personally struggle against sin in our own lives. We need the
Spirit’s help in "putting to death the deeds of the flesh"
and walking in holiness. What a comfort to know that the Holy Spirit is present
to help in each of all these areas.
Verse 26 also tells us of a specific weakness related to the above.. "We
do not know how to pray as we should." In the midst of suffering in
this life and facing its many problems, we often find ourselves uncertain about
how to pay about the things we are facing. This could be from a lack of
knowledge about either the nature of God or how He would desire us to acts, or
it could occur when our emotions overwhelm us at times.
Let me give you a couple of examples. When the Twin Towers were destroyed
last year, I admit that I sat watching in disbelief. I could write you a
theological treatise on things to pray for in a disaster, but what was I to pray
specifically when there were thousands and thousands of individuals directly
involved in that disaster, not to mention all of its ramifications to the rest
of our nation and around the world. My emotions were shocked. It was a great
comfort to know that the Holy Spirit was interceding right then.
Or, to make this more personal, how do you pray when you face some personal
distress? Would you know the proper prayer to make in these situations? You are
told you have cancer. Your child has just been killed in a car accident. Your
unmarried daughter is pregnant. You come home and find that a lot of your
furniture is missing and there is a note pinned to the wall that reveals your
spouse has just left you for someone else. You have just retired, and your
spouse is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Each of these are real situations in
which we would find it difficult, if not impossible, to know how to pray. We are
weak, but the Spirit helps us.
His Intercession: It is a great comfort to know that God is so intimately
involved with us that not only is He aware of the situation we are facing, but
God the Holy Spirit is interceding with God the Father even as we face it. Our
text says that "the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too
deep for words."
Intercession is to "accost with entreaty" (Sanday &
Headlam). It is a word describing rescue by one who pleads on behalf of someone
who is in trouble. The Holy Spirit does this on our behalf to God the Father
with "groanings that cannot be uttered" (NKJV).
Amazingly, some Charismatics interpret this as "ecstatic utterances of
glossolaly" or "speaking in tongues," despite the fact that it is
the Holy Spirit that is doing the groaning, and not the person, and the fact
that these "groanings" are "too deep for words." They
"cannot be uttered." It should also be pointed out here as a footnote
that prayer always has a rational content. Paul states in 1 Cor. 14:15 that he
prayed with both with the Spirit and with the mind. This is not one or the
other, but both at the same time. When we cannot express ourselves rationally,
it is at that point the Spirit intercedes for us.
Since the Spirit’s groanings cannot be uttered, we cannot know what this
would sound like. What we do know is that it is communication of intercession on
our behalf by God the Spirit to God the Father. One member of the triune Godhead
is communicating to another member of the Godhead in a way that we do not
His Knowledge: Verse 27 tells that this is perfect communication and
perfect intercession. The one who "searches the hearts" is God the
Father. Jer. 11:20; 17:10 tells us that it is the Lord of hosts that searches
and tests the heart and mind, because, as Heb. 4:13 tells us, "all
things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."
In this verse, we find that God the Father knows the mind of the Spirit. 1 Cor.
2:11 tells us that the opposite is also true. "For who among men knows
the [thoughts] of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so
the [thoughts] of God no one knows except the Spirit of God." This
means there is perfect communication between the Father and the Spirit. There is
no interference in the transmission of their communication. There are no
misunderstandings. They understand each other perfectly.
An additional confidence we have in the Spirit’s intercession is that He
intercedes for us in perfect accord with the will of God. When we pray, we often
have our prayers mixed with our own desires that may be in conflict with God’s
will. In fact, remember that a major purpose of our praying is to align
ourselves with God’s will. He already knows our minds and hearts, so our
prayers are not giving Him information that He does not already know. We pray so
that we will know and understand God’s will, not to persuade Him to do our
will. We often do not know how to properly pray as we should, but the Spirit
intercedes for us in perfect harmony with God’s will.
The Spirit’s intercession gives us great comfort and confidence in God’s
care for us. If He is that intimately involved in knowing our needs through the
Holy Spirit’s communication, then we can be confident of the same level of
care to make sure that all of His promises to us will be fulfilled.
God’s Omnipotence (28)
Another source of confidence for us that God will fulfill all His promises is
His omnipotence in the affairs of our lives. The religions of the world;
including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, the various forms of Paganism,
etc., have no confidence in their god or gods. They do not know if he, she or
they are even paying attention to them, much less intervene on their behalf. The
same is true of many Christian cults and sects. They do not have a personal
relationship with God, and so do not have confidence in His care of them. But we
do have a personal relationship with our Creator through our redemption in
Christ Jesus. We have been given promises which assure us of His personal
involvement with us, and that He does intervene in our lives.
Paul expressed this in verse 28. "And we know that God causes all
things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called
according to [His] purpose."
How do we know this? First, because history records it. God has revealed
Himself through out the Scriptures as One who takes action to ensure that every
one of His promises will be kept. Second, we know it by our own experiences.
They began with God’s gracious actions that brought us to Himself. They
continue in the present with His gracious leading and intervention in our lives.
They continue throughout the future culminating in our final redemption and His
taking us to heaven to be with Him forever.
His Action: The God of the Bible is a God of action. The work He is doing
is detailed in this verse is His "causing all things to work together
for good." There has been a lot of spilt ink trying to explain exactly
what is meant by this phrase. Most of the interpretations are slight variations
on the same theme, but there are few out there that forget the context and
remove the personal nature of this promise to Christians. While we would agree
that God in His sovereign omnipotence controls all things, the context here is
the personal encouragement that comes to believers in knowing God’s personal
care for them in their present sufferings. There are many tough things the
believer must face in this present life. They cause us to long even more for our
final redemption, but until that comes, we take great comfort in the
intercession of the Holy Spirit and our heavenly Father’s response in working
all the things that happen to us togther for good. That is, for both our good
and His glory.
The foundation of the claim here is that God knows what is best for you
individually as well as what is best for everyone else both individually and
collectively. That in itself is a proclamation of God’s omniscience – knowing
all things. We are often clueless about what is best for ourselves, much less
what is best for others. It is easy to make a decision between good and bad, but
what about when it is between good, better and best? Which option is the best?
And just because I think it is best for me, that doesn’t mean that it is the
best choice, because it will affect others, and that must also be taken into
consideration. We face those decisions daily. What specific chore should I do
and in what order? What books should I read, and in what order should I read
them? I know I need to study the Bible, but should I be studying Genesis or
Revelation at the present time? You would drive yourself into a white jacket
with long sleeves that tie in the back if you thought about this too long.
Instead, we can rest in God’s guidance of us because He does know what is
God knows all things, so nothing ever catches Him by surprise. He is also all
powerful, so no matter what the circumstances, He can bring everything together
to produce good, even from bad things.
Now at this point you say, "Whoa!" For all of us are aware of evil
things that happen. This world is filled with sin. God can’t use the sinful
actions of people to produce good, can He? The answer is yes. God can produce
good even from the actions of evil people who hate and sin against Him.
Paul has already told us in this chapter that we Christians will face tough
things in our lives we do not like. None of us get excited about suffering from
sin, whether it is our own, someone else’s or the general curse the world is
under because of sin. We all properly seek to avoid it if possible, yet, God
knows just what needs to be brought into our lives in order to produce the
character of Jesus Christ within us. That is why Paul said earlier in Romans 5
that he would exult in tribulations. God used those tough things to produce in
him perseverance, proven character and a hope firmly based in the love of God
demonstrated for all time and eternity in Jesus Christ dying as the substitute
payment for our sins. James 1:2-4 says basically the same thing. "Consider
it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the
testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have [its] perfect
result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Even when we fail the testing of our faith, God can use that for our good.
How? Because it brings us back to confessing our sins to Him. He then forgives
us and cleanses us. We then learn to pass the test the next time, and we help
others avoid the same pitfalls. As Paul said back in 6:1, may it never be that
we would sin with the idea that it would cause God’s grace to increase, yet
God’s grace does abound to cover our sin (5:20). He is so powerful that He can
work even our sin together for good in the process of maturing us. This should
not surprise us, for we do it with our own children. When they err in the
behavior or attitudes, we correct and discipline them which results in their
developing a better character as they mature.
But let’s take this one step further. What about actions that can only be
described in terms of utter evil. What about WWII and the holocaust? What about
the destruction of the World Trade Center towers last year? Can God cause even
such acts of evil to work together for good? Again, the answer is yes.
The persecution against the Jews in Europe during WW II and the years
immediately following resulted in the formation of the nation of Israel. This
fulfilled ancient prophecies. Many Jews found that Jesus Christ was Messiah in
the midst of the persecution. Many missions efforts to the Jews began as a
result of that war. In addition, WW II also resulted in the largest missionary
effort that has every occurred. In particular, thousands of American soldiers
went back to places they had fought during the war in order to fight a different
battle. This one against the forces of darkness by bringing the light of the
gospel to millions that had never before heard it.
The attacks on America by Islamic terrorists last year brought about a
spiritual openness in the city that was not thought possible. It caused an
increased desire for God throughout our nation. How many thousands have been
saved or restored to active service for the Lord as a result of those attacks
will only be known in heaven. In addition, it tore off the mask of Islam, and
even though the media and many of our government leaders refuse to acknowledge
the utter evil of that religion, many Christians have been awakened to the need
of bringing the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those entrapped in the
worship of the false and evil god, Allah.
Yes, God can cause all things, included acts of pure evil, to work together
for good in accomplishing His purpose for those who belong to Him. That is an
important point to remember. This promise is not universal in nature. It is
specifically related "to those who love God, to those who are called
according to His purpose."
Who are the "those who love God"? Who are "those who
are called according to His purpose"? They are the elect that have come
to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul will explain more about this idea of
being called in verse 30. These are the same people that verse 26 says the
Spirit is helping in their weaknesses. These are those that verse 17 says are
joint heirs with Christ. They are living according to the Spirit (13). They are
in Christ Jesus and therefore without condemnation from God (1).
Paul has already pointed out that people do not seek God on their own (3:11).
No one loves God except as a response to the love He has already shown us in
Christ Jesus (1 John 4:19). When a person does love God, it is demonstrated in
their desire and effort to keep His commandments (John 14:21,23; 1 John 5:2,3),
which includes loving other people (1 John 4:20). The promise that all things
will work together for good only belongs to true believers. They will receive a
benefit even when bad things happen and they suffer. Believers have a reason for
hope. For the unbeliever, and those with false professions of faith, all things
do not work together for good. They will suffer from evil and sin without
benefit. They have no reason for hope, and for them to hope for something better
is ultimately foolish, for without Christ, their eternal destiny is the wrath of
Only a being that is omnipotent could make a claim such as this, for it
demands the ability to overcome any event that occurs. It demands a power that
can never be overwhelmed. Any power less than that is subject to something else
thwarting its effort and making the claim false. Only God Himself can cause all
things to work together for good for those that love Him and are called
according to His purpose.
God’s Sovereignty (29,30)
This power of God is part of what makes Him sovereign, and that sovereignty
is another source of comfort to the believer. Paul explains in verses 29,30.
"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to
the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and
whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also
justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."
I will devote a whole sermon to this passage next week, and we will be
dealing with the sovereignty of God for the next couple of months. That should
help us grasp at least a basic understanding of the deep theological concepts
here. But for this morning, I only want to bring out the general point of these
verses. Even when I face difficult circumstances in life, I can trust the
promises of my heavenly Father. He will complete the work He has begun in me.
There will be a day that every true Christian will stand before Him in a
glorified state as a joint heir with Christ. His sovereignty guarantees it.
Foreknowledge (proginwvskw / proginosko)
is the Greek word for experiential knowledge with the prefix for
"before" attached to it. In some way God has experiential knowledge of
us before we are born. I believe that God exists outside the time box that we
are in. He knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). He chooses those who
will be saved from before the foundations of the world (Eph. 1:4). Before I
existed in time and space, God knew me and choose me to be one of His adopted
sons. I do not understand exactly how God had foreknowledge of me, but I am
comfortable with simply accepting that in some way He did. Because I know that
God is beyond my full comprehension, I can accept His revelation of Himself
simply as it is given without it forcing Him to fit into my theology.
Predestined (proorivzw / prooridzo) means
to "foreordain" or "to appoint beforehand." This is God’s
gracious decision which appoints for the elect their goal. Included in that goal
is adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5) and obtaining the
inheritance (Eph. 1:11), as well the goal here of being conformed to the image
Purpose. A purpose of salvation is being "conformed into the
image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren."
This is, of course, the ultimate goal of the Christian that will take place in
fulness when we are in heaven and receive our resurrection bodies. We will then
be like Jesus, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). God’s sovereignty
gives us confidence in the present for it makes our future hope for this sure.
God will be glorified. What He has done in raising Jesus from the dead, He will
also do for those of us who are joint heirs with Christ.
But in the present, we are in the process of becoming more like Christ. As
time passes in this present life, we should become greater reflections of Jesus
Christ. In the present, we "lay aside the old self, which is being
corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit," and being "renewed
in the spirit of [our] mind," we "put on the new self, which in
[the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the
truth" (Eph. 4:22,23). As 2 Cor. 3:18, states it, "we are being
transformed into the same image from glory to glory."
The idea of being Called (kalevw /
kaleo) here is the effectual call of God that brings a person to Jesus Christ.
There is the general call of God to the world to repent and partake of the offer
of salvation, but the context here is specific to those who are Christians. This
is the drawing of the Father spoken about in John 6:44 when Jesus said, "No
one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise
him up on the last day."
Those God called, He also Justified (dikaiovw
/ dikaioo). We have spoken about justification many times already in our study
of Romans. This is God’s judicial declaration of "not guilty" on the
person who has placed their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ for
salvation from their sins.
Those God has justified, He has also Glorified (doxavzw
/ doxadzo). This refers to when we will be receive our inheritance and be
changed into the glorified state we will have in heaven, including having our
resurrected bodies. Paul uses the past tense here in demonstration of the
absolute confidence we have that God will fulfill His promises to us. We can
speak of a future event as having already taken place because God’s
sovereignty makes is certain.
Again, we will look at verses 29 and 30 in depth next week, but for today, if
you are a Christian, be at peace and rest in the confidence that comes because
God is sovereign. His promises are certain. That is a comfort to every believer.
You have the responsibility of telling others how they can also have peace with
God and hope for the future.
But God’s promises are not comforting to sinners, for they are still under
God’s condemnation and wrath. If you are here today and do not have confidence
that if you died today you would go to heaven, then please talk with myself or
one of our church leaders. You can have your sins forgiven in Jesus Christ and
then have that confidence. Don’t leave and risk a Christless eternity. Get
right with God today.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s
lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something
you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word
"God" is mentioned. 2) Discuss with your parents what God has done for
you and what He promises for your future.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Can you understand God? Why or why not? What is the context of Romans
8:26-30? What is our weakness? How does the Spirit help us in them? How does the
Spirit intercede? Why is this not "speaking in tongues?" What does the
Spirit know? How is all this a comfort to the Christian? How does it affect you
personally? How is Biblical Christianity different from other religions and the
cults in its relationship to God? What does it mean that God is
"omnipotent?" How does God’s omnipotence make you feel? Why? What is
God’s involvement in the Christian’s life? How have you seen Him involved in
your life? What is the "good" verse 28 is referring to? How does God
work bad things together for good? Give examples you have experienced. Does God
work all things together for good for everyone? Why or why not? What are God’s
promises for the future of a Christian? For a non-Christian? What does it mean
that God is sovereign? What is Paul’s purpose in Romans 8:29,30? How does that
affect you personally? What is the specific purpose of salvation given in vs.
29? Why does Paul speak of "glorified" (past tense) when it is still
in the future?
Sermon Study Sheets
Sermon Notes – 8/25/2002 am
Confidence in God – Romans 8:26-30
Our Incomprehensible God
The Spirit’s Intercession (26,27)
God’s Sovereignty (29,30)