Romans 8, the Holy Spirit & Election

Romans logo ENG PART 2Romans 7 in my view is more or less the idea that we are not under the law and the struggle there would be that of someone attempting to keep the law by asserting our sinful human nature (flesh).  Take a pencil and mark all the uses of “I” and you’ll see what I mean.

Romans 8 turns the page to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Mark the uses of the word Spirit to see the difference.

Now then Romans 8:26 – 30 seems to start with the idea that “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” and then discusses three points.

  • Prayer v. 26-27 – “…the Spirit himself intercedes for us…”
  • Providence v. 28 – :… all things work together for good…”
  • Predestination v. 29-30 “…those whom he foreknew he predestined…”

The connection to the Holy spirit and Prayer is clear in the text and intuitively.  Prayer generally takes the shape of appealing to the Father in the name of the Son.  the Spirit enables, and so some extend prays for us.

Providence in verse 28 is God’s care over all the parts of our lives so that for the believer they come to a good purpose.  We generally think of this is a God the Father issue – Isn’t the Father the one who decrees and orders things? So then what role does the Spirit have in this?    This is a new perspective for me on this question. I have a few thoughts

  • The Spirit enables our response to hardship to be beneficial.  hardship can just as easily lead to anger or bitterness.  However, the internal work of the Spirit can be seen to work transformation in us, so we gain perseverance, empathy, hope and other virtues.  (See Romans 5; James 1 and 2 Corinthians 1).
  • The external ordering of things seems to be the Fatherly part. The internal transformation of us seems to be the Spirit’s part.

Election and Predestination again seem to be the work of the Father, who decrees all things.  Yet can see a role of the Holy Spirit in this.  I learned the difference between “eternal security” and “Perseverance of the saints” some time ago. I had tought of them as the same. However, the first idea seems to be that God says “what is saved will be saved.”  The second has the idea that God acts in us to cause us to persevere.  His care goes with his decree.  Now some thoughts of the Holy Spirit in this.

  • The Spirit walks us through foreknowledge, when we remember that to “know” in the Bible us usually a personal thing not just intellectual.  The Spirit knows us deeply (V. 27).
  • Predestination in the text is tied to “being conformed to the likeness of his Son”. This is a transformation, and are we not accustomed to see that the process of sanctification is spiritual?
  • Predestination is also linked to  Christ “being the firstborn among many brothers.”  This is the new birth (our part of it).  John 3 has Jesus telling Nicodemus that he must be born of the Spirit.
  • Calling of course reminds us of the decree of the Father, but how is the call accomplished?  Does not the Spirit of God draw, convince and convict us?
  • Justification is a legal status, where the work of Christ is applied to the believer.  How is that applied?  I think of the classic theology text, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” by John Murray.  Is it not the work of Christ to accomplish redemption. He said, “it is finished.”  Yet is it not the work of the Spirit to attach that work to us?
  • Glorification is the final transformation to perfection. Then the struggle of Romans 7 is forever gone, as are the struggles of Romans 8 (which meet with more success.)  when we are transformed.  I Corinthians 15 speaks of being raised to a Spiritual Body.

These are just rumination at this point.  The main insight ist hat we can look at these words from the standpoint of the Father and his decrees, the Son and his finished work and the Spirit who lives in us and attaches Christs work to us.

As the Church Fathers (and probably some Mothers) said, “All the works of God are undivided.”   This means that in creation and is redemption the Father, Son and Spirit work as one.

Abraham’s Theology

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In the Romans series we come to Abraham in Romans 4. I followed a note in the New Bible Dictionary that spoke of what Abraham had as a theology.  Here are noted for my class:

Abraham’s Theology

God’s Attributes

Most High – Genesis 14:2222 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth…”

Lord of Heaven and Earth – Genesis 14:22 (above) and Genesis 24: 1-4 – Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”

Almighty – Genesis  17:1,2 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

Eternal – Genesis 21:3 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.

Judge of All Nations – Genesis 15:13-14 –13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

     and People – Genesis 18:23-28 – 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 

Just and Righteous – Genesis 18:17-19 – 17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Merciful – Genesis 20:3-6

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

Wise and Merciful – Genesis 20:6 –

 His Name is “The Lord” – YHWH – Genesis 12:8 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.”

 Genesis 13:4 – Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord

 Genesis 13:8 – 18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

 

Abram/Abraham Chronology

Chapter 11 – Born of Terah, in the city of Ur.  After death of his brother Haran, Terah moved with Abram and Lot towards Canaan but stopped at Haran.

Chapter 12 – Aged 75, called to leave and follow, takes Lot, receives promise of the and (12:7), during drought is rescued from Egypt by plague.

Chapter 15 – Age 85? – covenant renewed, “count the stars…”, 15:6 his faith is counted as righteousness.

Chapter 16 – Age 86? – has child  by Hagar

Chapter 17- Age 99 – given names Abraham and Sarah, covenant of Circumcision, Isaac’s birth predicted.

Chapter 21 – Age 100 – Isaac Born, Sarah is 90

Chapter 22 – Age 110-115  –  Isaac offered to God

Chapter 23 – Sarah dies at age 127

Chapter 25 – Abraham dies at age 175.

Atonement

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I am reading “the Reconciling Wisdom of God: Reframing the Doctrine of the Atonement” by Adam J. Johnson.  He suggests that Wisdom is an orchestrating attribute that best draws together all the aspects of the Atonement: penal substitution, reconciliation, sacrifice, victory, justification, propitiation, liberation, new creation, etc.

“Here the wisdom of the atonement has a decisive role to play. Attending to the fact that Christ’s atoning work was a work of wisdom brings powerfully to mind the way in which God, through one simple means, brings about a massive range of purposes. The means in questions is clearly the death and resurrection of the incarnate Son of God by the will of the Father and in the power of the Spirit, and the abundant range of purposes we have already seen in the previous chapter…”  p. 97

That got me thinking…

If Justice is the governing theory, why didn’t God simply judge? In love he sent his Son.

If Love is the governing theory, why didn’t God just accept us in an act of kindness?  To satisfy justice he sent his son.

If Honor is God’s reason, why did Christ accept humiliation for us?

If God’s Glory was rejected, why did he bother to send his Son? The heavens declare the Glory of God.

If Christ came to win a Victory over death, why did he die?  Sin brings death, but Christ brought the resurrection.

If Alienation is the problem, why didn’t God invite us to return, with no questions asked?  He sent his son as a Shepherd to seek and save the lost.

If Error is the problem, why didn’t God stop at giving revelation of the truth?  He sent his Son to be a teacher and a sacrifice and the Spirit to bring his word to us.

If Corruption of our nature is the central problem, why prevents God from purifying us?

If Enslavement to sin is the problem, why can’t he just set us free.  Redemption takes a price.

I am not sure Johnson gets it right to say that in his Wisdom God found the best, most complete way to work out salvation.  But He is right that the Atonement is not one simple thing – all the attributes of God are in play.  The Trinity is united in the multi-faceted work of Atonement.

Reflection

(I carved a flat relief representation of the Tree of Life for an Advent art show for a local congregation. Their theme was Home: Away from Home and tied the incarnation to the idea of immigration.)

smallWe lived there

long generations ago

for a brief time

a garden with

pathways

flowing water and

trees in bloom

one forbidden and

one was life.

He came from before,

before generations

and time and

before imperfection.

We were blocked by

sword and fire

from a life sustaining

tree with healing leaves.

We hear the story of

what we lost and

we see in one tree and another

reminders of life and

we grasp on to it.

He sees our trees

and remembers one

by a stream, perfect,

living and abundant.

David E. Carlson

December 2018

Memories of Home: Advent Art

I was invited to participate in an Advent Art show at Christ Presbyterian Church, Madison, WI.  The theme was “Home: Away from Home” and the idea is of Christ as an immigrant.  I was planning a sermon series on the Tree of Life, and so the two came together.

Christ would have seen things here as a reminder of things there.

Genesis 2:8-10

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 

Proverbs 3:13-18

Happy are those who find wisdom,
    and those who get understanding,
14 for her income is better than silver,
    and her revenue better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
    those who hold her fast are called happy.

Revelation 22:1-2

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations