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.

Who is Looking for Jesus?

 

the Sermon for the Sunday following Christmas this year was a reflection on Isaiah 9:6

star  I want us to do a little work together today.  I have laid out in this Advent Season the significance of the names of Jesus given in Isaiah 9:6.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In Matthew 2 we find the story of how the Magi, also known as the Wise Men or the Three Kings came to worship Jesus.  (Mt 2:1-2)

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 

I want to put these two short passages together and ask a question. Who is looking for Jesus?

  1. Isaiah’s Description of Jesus

There are five parts to this description of Jesus that we have talked about.

            Government:  On him will rest the leadership for Government.  The promise is that we will one day live under the leadership of the Lord, here on the earth.

That is a future promise as far as world governments go. At various times people in this age have tried to combine their faith with civil government that has led to disaster.  The Roman Empire declared everyone a Christian at one point.  Believers at the time thought this was a great improvement over being persecuted. But really it just created a half-baked loaf.  People were Christian in name and maybe in how they treated their holidays, but they were not born again. Even today we have Christmas and Easter Christians, who live how they wish the rest of the time.  Medieval Europe, the State Churches of Europe and even the Puritans of New England had this idea.

Yet the spiritual government of Jesus has begun, though he Gospel.  He becomes our LORD, does he not?  We are made CITIZENS of the kingdom of God. 

Wonderful Counselor:  We saw that this meant that Jesus possesses wisdom to know what we need to do to move from Darkness to Light.  He is not just a source of come good advice. He is not just quotable, like a Yogi Berra of the Bible.  He is the source of supernatural wisdom. Wisdom from God.

Mighty God.  We saw that this meant that Jesus was able to defeat our enemies.  I am not talking about political enemies but spiritual enemies of darkness. He has defeated Sin by becoming the sacrifice for sin. He defeated death by going from the cross to the grave and back to life. He defeated the Devil by resisting all temptation and by striking a blow to the evil empire.

Everlasting Father reminds us of the committed love of the Lord. He not only can do what is needed, but he wants to do it.  He is willing and able.

Prince of Peace reminds us that the result of Jesus’ leadership in our lives is that we have peace. We have peace with God through the gospel we have inner peace as the shame and guilt of our lives is washed clean in the blood of the Lamb of God.  We have peace with others as we receive and give forgiveness.

In the time of Jesus, how many people were looking for him?  When he did miracles such as healing and feeding the crowds with bread and fish, they followed in a great crowd. Yet when they wanted to make him King he slipped away from them and returned to teaching the 12.

When he was crucified there were only 3 or 4 of his followers there. The rest were mockers or executioners, but all the crowds and most of the 12 were gone.

There was no real number until the Day of Pentecost when the church began with thousands of new believers.

In our day, how many people are looking for Jesus?

Well, we just had Christmas didn’t we. Didn’t the whole country look for Jesus?  Or maybe Santa Claus, or maybe for boxes under the tree?

Here is what I think.  There are people looking for what jesus has to offer.  There have been and there will always be those who are looking for good leaders, for wise counsel, for power to overcome, for love and for peace.  But most people do not look for the One who gives those.  We look in the wrong places.

  1. Evidence

Leaders:  think about all the places people look for leaders.

In politics we look for someone who can be a president.  What does that take? Experience, vision, skills to communicate, money, and it often helps to be good looking.  We look for someone who can inspire, unite, make wise choices, and remain popular while making difficult decisions.  We want peace – not just no wars, but a just and fair society with good jobs and healthy places to live for young and old alike.

We also look to celebrities and sports figures.  There are debates all the time over who the best Quarterback in football is, or who was the best hitter in baseball.

But who among these people can achieve peace on earth?  The problem that every leader faces is that all people are flawed.  The leaders are flawed and the people they lead are flawed.  How can all these flaws achieve peace?

They can’t but we still hope. Sometimes we get good leaders – say the presidents who made it onto Mt. Rushmore. But by leader worship we have also gotten dictators and villains.

Wisdom – we look a lot of places to decide what is wise.  There is a constant growing body of knowledge on all things.   We know more about outer space and about subatomic particles that we did 10 or 40 years ago.  The same can be said for all fields of knowledge.  It is so vast that any one person can only know a small amount well.  We can not a little about a lot and a lot about a little.

We have the internet. I remember reading about how the internet will bring social equality and peace.  It was social media that contributed to the “Arab Spring” a few years ago, when dictators were removed.  However, they have been replaced by civil wars.

Where do we find the answer to human happiness?  In my lifetime the answer to the need for happiness was supposed to be solved by these: Progress, Affluence, Drugs, Medicine, Cars, Trains, Music, a return to Nature, a return to the City, drop out, drop acid, get involved, shop local, be a world citizen.  As these trends come and go, it does not matter much that they contradict, we have become very interested in the next thing that will fix all things.

Power – We are the most powerful nation on the earth, if you measure based on the economy or on military power.  Yet the position that is Second in Line to the President, the Speaker of the House, was almost no filled.  No one wanted the Job. No one could keep the job.  Now Paul Ryan has the job, and he admitted that it will most likely be his last job in politics.

Power is hard to gain in a democracy.  Power is oppressive in a dictatorship.  We want a strong leader but we don’t want him or her to have too much power.

Belonging – we are a very mobile and segmented country.  Years ago when we traveled by horse and spoke by word of mouth, and the printed word was advanced technology, people belonged to small towns or neighborhoods.  People belonged to churches where they knew other people for years at a time.

Today we belong to Facebook groups and we connect with people like ourselves who think and listen to and read what we do.  We belong less.

Families continue to fracture.  Business, education and even the church have gotten to be bigger and more impersonal.

One of the things that still binds us is sports – the Packers and the Badgers.  Go Pack Go!  But mostly we watch the game with only a few others.  Few of us go to any of the games.

Peace – clearly we do not have peace.  We are wealthy and we are powerful.  Yet we are troubled by ISIS – did you know about ISIS last year?  We are troubled by mass violence in our own cities – The Boston Marathon Bombing, School shootings, Santa Barbara, Fort Hood, etc.

What I want to show by this is that people are looking all the time for the things that Christ has to give.  The five things found in Isaiah 9:6 are desired by everyone.  You do not have to be religious or idealistic or young to want things like peace and belonging.

If you have a need you have to find where to meet that need.

Here is where the miss happens.  In the world people are searching for the things that Jesus has to offer, but they are not looking for Jesus.

This is human nature.  This is why Psalm 53 and Romans 3 says that No One Looks for God.

But God looks for us.  The question is not: Who is looking for Jesus? It is:

III. Jesus is looking for us.

Son: The most famous verse in the bible is John 3:16.  It does not say, “For the world was so eager to know god that they looked everywhere to find him.”

It says that God so loved the world that he sent his only son to us.

If there is to be any finding of what is lost, it is not us who find God. It is God the father who finds us by sending his son.

Jesus went from city to city and town to town to preach, teach and heal.  He was out in the open. He gave reasons to believe – both by being the fulfillment of God’s promises, and by performing signs and wonders. Finally, referring to the Cross, Jesus said:

“… when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Jn 12:32)

            Father: Paul speaking to philosophers in Athens spoke of how all humanity came from one source.  And that God arranges things so that people move here and there and nations rise and fall. All this is done, “so that we might seek him.”   Acts 17:26-27

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him

IF there is to be finding of what is lost, it is not us who think about finding God, but God the Father who arranges the world so that we get the idea to look for him.

You see immigrants and refugees in the news. Have you thought about how many immigrants and refugees of past ages also came to know God because of their wanderings?

The Day of Pentecost happened when a crowd from all over the Roman Empire was in Jerusalem.  For all sorts of reasons, Jewish people had been scattered all over the world. Then they met Jesus in the preaching of Peter. Then, they returned to where they had been.  There the seed of the Gospel grew.

Spirit:  In the upper room, on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus began to teach intensively about the Holy Spirit.  He said that the Spirit will get the attention of the world.

“And when he comes, he will convict the world about sin and righteousness and judgment….He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you…”

I heard a church planting couple speak a number of years ago. They were going to start a church outside of Chicago in a new community.  They began by meeting people in a variety of ways, including knocking on doors.  Their idea was not to persuade people to believe in Jesus. Their idea was to see who God had already prepared, who were ready for a message about Jesus or were looking for a church.

This is our job.  We cannot persuade. We can get people interested in a spectacle. We could have Santa Claus or a Living Nativity, or a Christmas Lottery or a great concert.  But those things at their best can only gather a crowd.

What we need to do is Pray and Look.  We need to pray for our seeking neighbors. That they will learn that what they seek can only really be found in the Gift of God.  We need to look. Who is really looking? In whom has God placed a fire of curiosity?  This is our mission field.

It is busy in the Closet!

“The whole Trinity is present in the Christian’s [prayer] closet. The father hears.  The Son advocates his case at the Father’s right hand; The Holy Spirit intercedes in the heart of the believer.”   A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, II p. 775

Matthew 5:6 “But when you pray, go into your room [closet], close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Romans 8:26  “In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Romans 8:34 “…Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

Hebrews 7: 25 “Therefor he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them”

It would seem the Holy Spirit is present to help us to pray.  Christ is before the Father as our advocate, praying for us in his role of High Priest.