- Main Text: Romans 8:14-39: Acts 2:1-4
- Accompanying text: Matthew 28:16-20
What this passage means to us
In Romans 8 Paul discusses our new life in the risen Christ in relation to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. God is with us (Matthew 1:23) and dwelt among us (John 1:14). His unfailing love surrounds us (Psalm 32:10), he knows our ups and downs (Psalm 139:2), in him we have our being (Acts 17:28), and his desire for us and for all of humanity is that we should be saved (2 Peter 3:9). Why is this so? The answer seems obvious. He loves us, and he wants the best for us. Paul encapsulates this idea in an easy simple-to-remember phrase — “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Why were we born? Why did God send the prophets? Why was Jesus born? Why did he die? Why was he risen from the dead? The answer is that our gracious God is for us!
It is because God is for us that we can have a restorative, intimate relationship with God the Father, whereby we call him, “Abba, Father”, and that “the Spirit you (we) received brought about your (our) adoption” (Romans 8:15). This receiving of the Spirit links directly to Pentecost when all of the apostles “were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). It is the indwelling Spirit who imparts to us our identity in Christ, that we belong to Jesus (Romans 8:10), and thus we become “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17).
It is in Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, that God the Father and Jesus the Son send the Holy Spirit of Promise to dwell in the believer. This was another Comforter of whom Christ spoke (John 14:27). Primarily, Pentecost can be regarded as the consecration of the church for Christ’s work in evangelizing the world. “The church is above all a community of the Spirit…everything that he does coloured by the fact that before anything else he is the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7). He will act only in the way Jesus would and will work only in complete harmony with him” . This is work to which the Romans were called, as are all Christians. All believers are called by God to witness to this good news to others for the express purpose of their being “conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28). Therefore, Christians are chosen, called, justified and glorified (v29).
Also, “the Spirit echoes the intercession of Christ…that is the Spirit of Jesus Christ in which he was born, and baptized, in which he groaned in unspeakable fashion on his work of salvation, the Spirit in which he prayed with strong crying and tears in his flesh, the Spirit though whom he offered himself without spot to the Father. That Spirit of intercession and agony, who echoes the intercession of Christ, is poured out upon his church so that the church becoming one body with Christ is given to echo in its prayers the intercession of Christ himself” .
Paul’s reference to the groaning of creation brings to mind the Christian ecological mandate. It “gives us a foundation for ecological concerns. The shalom we seek extends to the earth itself…We have been given stewardship over the environment, and may God help us to exercise it wisely. We are still struggling to know what it means to have a just and sustainable world” .
Context and Story-line
In the lead up to Romans 8 Paul has been discussing how there is no more condemnation in Christ because the guilt of sin as well as the power of sin has been nullified on the cross, how we have been justified by God, how we are sanctified through our union with Christ, and how this union with the risen Christ is a changed condition which involves the death of our sinful nature and our resurrection to newness of life. Not even the law could break the power of sin – the power of sin is defeated in Christ alone. Now Paul expounds how the biblical truth about how the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which indwelling accompanies our union with Christ, helps the Christian conquer sin’s temptation and bears witness that the Christian is the (adopted) child and heir of God. Therefore, the Christian has such a hope of glory that he or she can cope with sufferings, in which the Spirit helps through intercession. Having understood these things, that thus all things work together for good, the Christian is triumphant.
What shall we say? In my view, the magnificent ending of Romans 8 cannot be improved: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36-39).
God is for us!
- John 17
- 2 Timothy 1:6-14
Other GCI resources
Footnotes and references
- Derek Tidball, Ministry by the Book: New Testament patterns for pastoral leadership (Nottingham, UK: Apollos, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2008). 87.
- Thomas Torrance edited by Robert T Walker, Incarnation: the Person and Life of Christ (UK: Paternoster, 2008). 136.
- Richard J Foster, Streams of Living Water (USA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). 178.