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Some notes from the 2022 Bible conference
Romans 8: The Victorious Christian Life
January 8, 2022
First study - Walking After and Surrendering to the Holy Spirit | Second study - Future Glory and Blessings to Stir Us Onward in the Spirit
Third study - God's Purposes for the Believer and His Unfailing Love

First Bible study: Walking After and Surrendering to the Holy Spirit | Study 2: Future Blessings | Study 3: God's Purposes      Top
Romans 8:1-17

The key verse in the book of Romans is in chapter 1, verse 16: "The gospel of Christ... is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes." This book of the Bible was sent to people who were already believers! It gives power to every Christian as we understand how the righteousness of God is to be displayed in our lives.

Chapters 1-5 establish the unrighteousness and the condemnation of mankind because of sin but then also show that believers have been justified. In chapter 6, the believer is freed not just from the penalty of sin but also the power of sin. However, chapter 7 shows our personal struggle; even though we delight in the law of God, we have the law of sin in ourselves and do not do the things we desire to do.

But chapter 7 ends with the realization that there is a Person who delivers us. As chapter 8 begins, we have "no condemnation"-- and this goes even beyond justification.

Imagine a court case where the evidence is not in dispute, and our guilt is established. Yet the judge says, "No condemnation!" This is a shocking declaration. It is the outcome of the teachings of chapters 1-7.

In some Bible translations, verse 1 has a second section about walking in the Spirit. But that phrase is not really part of the text in this verse. It is an absolute fact that we are not under condemnation, and it's not based on our behavior.

Here in verse 2, the "law" is like a controlling principle; it's how something operates. The principle of "life in the Spirit" sets us free from the principle of "sin and death." In verse 3, the word "law" really refers to the Law of Moses. It is a Law which cannot confer life; it can only condemn us and is therefore weak.

These opening verses of chapter 8 are very important. Verse 1 summarizes chapters 1-5. Verse 2 summarizes chapter 6, and verse 3 summarizes chapter 7-- the condemnation of sin in the flesh.

Once I am walking in Christ, I am walking in the new self. This chapter emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of life!

Every believer's position before God is "in Christ Jesus." Nothing and no one can pull us out of that position. In verse 2, the word "For" begins to give evidence that we are in this position. It introduces an explanation of how this is experienced in the Christian's life. Outside of the Spirit of God we can show no evidence of this life in Christ.

This chapter gives a wonderful confirmation of God's love to us through Christ. We can see the Son, the Spirit, and the Father at work in these first few verses. In verse 3, after Christ and the Spirit are presented, God sent His Son and condemned sin in the flesh. The law was weak; compare the kinsman in the book of Ruth who could not redeem her for himself.

The image of marriage in chapter 7 shows that the Law didn't die, but we died to it. And now we have a new relationship. Then our responsibility comes in verse 4 onward. We are to walk according to or in the Spirit.

We do not have to earn our salvation; but we do desire to please Christ and display His life in our actions now. If we receive the riches of a wonderful inheritance but then keep living in the streets the way we once did, something is wrong!

Unbelievers, those who are "in the flesh," cannot please God. It doesn't say "those who are not Christians," because Christians are not positionally "in the flesh" (verse 9). However, we should not live according to that old position. We have the Spirit of God in us, the life of Christ in the believer.

The "Spirit of Christ" is indeed a reference to the Holy Spirit. We see that the Spirit of God dwells within us (verse 9), and also Christ is in us (verse 10). God is one. Having believed, we are sealed with the Spirit of God, as taught in Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30.

And note that, if we do not have the Holy Spirit, we are not even Christians. At the moment of salvation we are sealed and empowered by the Spirit of God who comes to live within us. This is not a second experience after salvation but a truth for everyone.

The "if" in verse 9 is not questioning whether we are truly Christians. It's declaring what is true for us because we are. We have the Spirit of sonship already; it's not a question but a fact. The word "since" would also be an accurate translation of the original word, and perhaps that makes this point clearer in English.

Verses 5-8 shows us that there are only two types of people: we are either in Christ or not in Christ. Verse 5, gives two mindsets; verse 6 shows two destinies; verses 7-8 describe two dispositions or relationships. Therefore, although the flesh may still be in me, I am no longer in the flesh. This is an important distinction and realization.

Verse 11 says that the God of resurrection will give life to our mortal bodies through the Spirit. The body is dead (as in verse 9), yet we are empowered to walk in life; and we know also that we will be ultimately taken out of these mortal bodies (a subject developed later).

Verse 12 shows that we have a debt to pay-- a debt of putting to death the deeds of the body by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are brought into Spirit-liberty. We are not living under fear but under faith, living in a relationship. Crying out does not imply pressure or distress but a call of intimacy, "Abba, Father," describes the relationship in two languages. We could say that we enjoy this relationship with our hearts as well as our minds.

The grace of God gives character to this debt. Everything is already done for us in order that we can respond by making payments against that debt by living for Him. Thus, even if we are debtors, God Himself gives us the means to pay it!

In verse 14 we have a new title: the "sons of God"-- not just children, but sons. True, we are also God's children; but this relationship of sonship is one of dignity. It's a position for all believers, both men and women. Nothing can separate us from Him because we are declared to have this position.

We are also children who are receiving an inheritance, as shown in verses 16-17. New birth has put us in the family; and sonship allows us to enjoy all the blessings of the family already now. We have "adult standing" in God's presence.

The Spirit of God wants to lead every believer into this. We are led by the Spirit to live like Christ and enjoy the blessings of our relationship with Him and with the Father. An imperfect example is that a foster child, who has already enjoyed the love of the family, is now adopted and declared by the courts to be a son of that family. Thus that son now shares the inheritance of the family as well.

Yet there is also a promise of suffering. God is saying, "If you're a son like My Son, then you'll be treated like My Son was treated." Yet there will also be glorification. These points are further developed in the next section.

Second Bible study: Future Glory and Blessings to Stir Us Onward in the Spirit | Study 1: Surrendering to the Spirit | Study 3: God's Purposes      Top
Romans 8:18-27

In the first part of Romans 8, we enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God. But because we are the Lord's, we are now in direct opposition to the way the world is headed-- and with that comes suffering.

In addition, we realize that, when sin entered the world, it had an impact even on creation. It brought death, corruption, and decay. There is a sense of longing for a change, for things to be better and for death to be removed.

That's what comes out in this passage. God gives us a hope that something else is still to come. One day the Lord Jesus Christ will reign in His kingdom, and we will reign with Him over the earth. In that day, believers who are despised today will be recognized as royalty! And even the natural condition of things will be changed, so even creation is looking forward to this time period.

In our weakness now we often don't even know how to pray. But the Spirit of God helps us even in this.

Sometimes we go through difficulties and we think, "It can't get much worse!" But no matter how difficult things are, the suffering is only a short period of time: "this present time," verse 18 says. And the suffering is not worthy even to be weighed on the same scale alongside what is still to come. We don't even need to say, "I just want glory to come so my life won't be so hard." That's like putting those two things on the same scale. A similar thought is found in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: We will not lose heart when we consider the eternal weight of glory.

Is the suffering mentioned in this chapter related to suffering because of our faith as Christians? In 1 Peter we find several different reasons for suffering; but in this chapter it is more all-encompassing. We are suffering in a world that is opposed to Christ. We are led by the Spirit, so all the conditions in the world that are caused by sin will be against Christ and thus against the Christian.

One day Christ will come to be admired "in the saints." When the sons of God are revealed, it will mean that Christ is revealed! His glory will be revealed not only to us but in us. Even creation is looking forward to this change. In Christ's kingdom, there will even be peace in the animal world and between animals and mankind.

Verse 19 has the phrase "earnest expectation." It has the idea of turning the neck with great anticipation. Also, the creation "eagerly awaits"-- up on tiptoes! There's something coming that's worth that extra stretch. And what is that? It's the revelation of the sons of God.

Right now we are not any longer what we were; however, we aren't yet what we ought to be, either. But one day we will be what we ought to be! It's an amazing prospect to consider what we are going to be.

The "futility" in verse 20 is connected to Genesis 3. Both women and men were affected by sin, not only spiritually but also physically and relationally. Sorrows were multiplied. The curse has affected every aspect of human experience. The word "futility" means emptiness, and it's because of the curse of sin.

If we are the Lord's, why does verse 23 say we are still groaning? It's because the redemption of our bodies is still to come. We have lowly bodies (Philippians 3:21), but there will be a transformation (1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15). There will be no more groaning in the presence of the Lord.

If the whole creation groans, does that also include unbelievers? Yes; this world is not the way God made it, so every part of creation is suffering because of sin. Even unbelievers are groaning because of it. Unbelievers don't even know that the reason for their groaning is the anticipation of that coming kingdom.

All humanity is "groaning within ourselves." We are saying to ourselves, "This is not what I wanted to be. I want something new." Jeremiah 12:4 asks the question, "How long will the land mourn?" It's the sense that the earth is under the wrong master.

Even the Lord Jesus groaned at the grave of Lazarus although He knew what would take place. The Lord does not yet have all things under Him.

Romans 8:24 speaks about the redemption of our bodies but also brings in the word "hope." Hope sustains us and gives perseverance until that day of redemption. Such hope is far better than anything the world can offer in the meantime. It gives us strength to carry on.

The Lord has shared these secrets with us concerning the future. This bolsters our faith, like Noah who responded to what God revealed to him.

This hope is for our lives right now. We are saved in this hope, but by definition hope is waiting for something it doesn't see yet. Hope is a significant aspect of the Christian life, mentioned 12 times in Romans. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God, but we also rejoice in tribulation, which leads to more hope! (See Romans 5:2-4.)

It has been said that people can live for various time periods without food, water, or even air-- but cannot live for one second without hope. The belief that hope is gone is what leads people to take their own lives. Groaning will not give us endurance, but hope will.

As we live in this hope, we also find that the Holy Spirit is our Helper (Romans 8:26). He knows what our spirits want to express, and He is able to express those thoughts even if we cannot do so intelligently. In a sense, He is our Translator to bring our prayers to God.

Note that verse 26 is not referring to words spoken in some other language. These expressions are "groanings which cannot be uttered." These are not even words that are spoken. For example, Hannah was deeply distressed when she prayed (1 Samuel 1). But her prayer was heard.

These groanings are different from our groanings in suffering. The Spirit of God leads me so that my groanings are expressed according to the will of God. We might ask, "Will God answer all our groanings?" We have confidence that He hears and responds (1 John 5:14), though perhaps we will only get all the explanations in glory.

The Spirit is our Comforter; and we remember that He is "another" comforter (John 14:16)-- a word that means "another of the same type." He is just like Christ. The Spirit of God will never lead us into anything but Christlikeness. He is always in sync with heaven.

The Holy Spirit is a divine Person and has a mind. He knows the will of God. Even if we don't have words to express ourselves, He does, and it will be according to God's will.

God, the one who searches the hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit (v. 27). God hears what we express, and He can receive those words. God is not a dispassionate creator who doesn't care about us.

We were miserable in Romans 6-7. At this point in chapter 8, though, we are overcomers in suffering because of the Spirit who is in us.

This chapter emphasizes sanctification, the Spirit's work to set us apart for God's purposes. He intends to conform us, mold us, and sanctify us. He makes intercession for "the saints"-- the set-apart ones. Our sanctification is the will of God, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (one of five times we are specifically told the will of God), and therefore we are certain that the Spirit of God is involved in this work.

Third Bible study: God's Purposes for the Believer and His Unfailing Love |
Study 1: Surrendering to the Spirit | Study 2: Future Blessings      Top
Romans 8:28-39

If we talk to a genetic scientist, we learn that it's almost statistically impossible for any of us to exist. When we account for all our past generations, there is such a vast number of possible combinations of DNA before we were formed. Nevertheless, God knew us individually! Here in Romans 8, verses 28-30 take us to the top of this mountain, from which we see all God's purposes for us.

There are several times in Romans when Paul stops to express his amazement and his praise to God for what He has done. That is what we find in the remainder of the chapter. As verse 31 begins, "What then shall we say to these things?" As we think back upon everything that's been considered up to this point, we ponder the amazing love of God.

This section is a beautiful crescendo! We can sit in these verses and bask in the love of God for us, vast and unfailing.

Up to this point, Romans has emphasized God's work internally, in our hearts. Now in verse 28 we see God's protective hand, covering us externally as we go through "all things." God loves us! And now, in this verse, it's the first time it is said that we love God, too.

The "all things" of this verse would cover any experience the believer may go through. We often cannot understand how some of those things could possibly work together for good. God may put us through trials and storms, losses, and troubles. We ask, "Are those things good?" The reality is that those things might not be good; but God causes them to work together for good. Why? Because all things have the central purpose of conforming us to the image of God's Son, Jesus Christ.

We might think to ourselves, "I just want to go to heaven!" But we are strengthened and encouraged to stay on God's pathway through difficulties. God is in control of everything, and He allows things in our lives for His purposes.

Does this include times when we might suffer for our own wrongdoing? The answer is yes! Of course, we shouldn't do wrong-- but God is even able to use our failures so that they work together for good. That doesn't mean we should be unconcerned about our moral failures; but our failures will never thwart His purposes.

The "good" is being conformed to the image of His Son (v. 29). The outcome of this "working together for good" doesn't mean that we will be able to achieve some goal we had in mind. Instead, the goal God has always wanted to produce in us will indeed be good.

As noted in the previous study, the subject of sonship is really a primary focus of this chapter. It's connected here (vv. 29-30) with several other words: foreknown, marked out by God before time began; predestined, chosen for sonship and to be conformed to the image of His Son; called by name in time and place; justified, declared righteous and fit for a relationship with God's; glorified already now in Christ Jesus and awaiting His purpose to bring it to pass in fullness.

These words start before the beginning of time and stretch beyond the end! Foreknowledge all the way to glorification. We enter the door to a relationship with God, and then we look on the inside to realize that our name was written on the door all along.

If sin had not come into the world, God still intended to dispense the blessing of sonship. Now salvation is also required if sonship can be declared; yet God has done all the work in salvation as well.

God does all this because it will bring glory to His preeminent Son! Heaven is going to be filled with those who are Christlike; there will be many sons in glory who are like the Son. The Father will see to it that this will be done.

From verse 31 onward, our eternal security and assurance are declared. Satan is against us-- but who is he in comparison with God? He has power, but he is not omnipotent; he has knowledge, but he is not omniscient; and he cannot be everywhere, but God can.

God delivered Christ up for us all (v. 32); this links with the suffering of Psalm 22. With Him, shall He not also freely give us all things? This links with Psalm 23. God freely gave His Son; and He also freely gives us all things. This refers not to material prosperity but to spiritual blessings through Christ.

It no longer matters who is against us. Who can accuse us when God has justified? Who can condemn us when Christ has died? Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and the love of God which rests in Him (vv. 35, 39).

Is God really for us? Does He really give all we need? Is He really able to enable us to be more than conquerors in all these difficulties? Those questions are in the background, but in this passage from Romans 8 we find the answers. It doesn't depend upon us but on Him. If we know what God has already done through Christ and is now doing through the Spirit, we will have answers for all those questions. Think of Paul's experiences! He endured some tremendous trials. But none of them could separate him from the love of Christ.

No love is greater; nothing is better; nothing can surpass it, and nothing can interfere with it. His love reveals all that God has done, all that He is in Himself, and all that He is for us.

The phrase "all things" had appeared in verses 28 and 32, and now it is mentioned again in verse 37: In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Whatever may come will be caused to work together to accomplish His purpose.

Verse 36 speaks about persecution. The world has always wanted to eliminate those who speak for God. The phrase "As it is written" means, "Just as it is written in Psalm 44," which is the source of the quoted words about persecution. Why should we be surprised when difficulties come?

Then we have the expression "Yet," or "Even so." Despite persecution, in all these things we are more than conquerors-- "super-conquerors," the supreme victors-- through Christ who strengthens us. Although it's as if we are slaughtered all day, we have victory because through those trials we are being made like Christ. Even the sword, a symbol of martyrdom and death, the worst that can be done-- even that cannot separate us.

Notice that the text says "neither death, nor life" and not the other way around. We usually say "in life or death," but here death is first. And even that cannot separate us. No dimension, no power, no existent force, can separate us from the love of God.

Paul says here (and in some other passages), "I am persuaded." In his ministry he was a persuasive man because in his heart he was a persuaded man.

Christ's resurrection takes us beyond this life-- He died, and furthermore He is risen again. Thus we have double security in the love of God and the love of Christ (vv. 35, 39), similar to John 10:28-29, the security of Christ's hand and His Father's hand.

The name "Christ Jesus" (v. 39) emphasizes His glorified place now; the love of God rests upon the glorified Lord. God's grace was sufficient for Paul, and that grace is what empowered him in 2 Corinthians 12 to endure all the experiences he recounted in 2 Corinthians 11.

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This third Bible study was followed by a time for additional Bible teaching. Notes from that message are below.
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John 14:15-18; 20:19-24

In John 14, the Lord told His disciples that He was going to the Father but would not leave them as orphans. The power of the Holy Spirit would change everything for the believer, just as we have considered in Romans 8.

Then in John 20, He appeared to them alive after His death. But there's this interesting moment in verse 22 when He breathes on them and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit." And then He gave them authority and responsibility. He was giving a foretaste of what would soon occur on the day of Pentecost. Such foretastes were given on a few occasions, such as when His transfiguration provided a foretaste of His coming kingdom.

Note that one of the disciples missed that meeting. We aren't told that Christ repeated this little moment when Thomas was present a week later. He missed that extra blessing. Thomas was certainly part of Pentecost, and he certainly belonged to the Lord. But he did miss out on this a little foretaste of what was to come 50 days later.

May we be encouraged to recognize that what the Lord foreshadowed in John 20, He has fulfilled! But also, may we not be like Thomas by missing something that we can't make up for later.

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