Daily Archives: December 2, 2017

December 2, 2017: Afternoon Verse Of The Day

God’s Everlasting Love

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:31–34). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Our Wonderful Mediator

Romans 8:34

Who is he that condemns? 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.

Up to this point our study of the last part of Romans 8 has taught the doctrine of eternal security by presenting what God the Father has done on our behalf. This was particularly clear in verses 28–30, where it was a case of God’s working, God’s choosing, God’s predestining, God’s calling, God’s justifying and God’s glorifying. It was also the case in the following three verses in which Paul began to ask his unanswerable questions: (1) “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (2) “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” and (3) “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?”

Even when the death of Jesus was mentioned, as it is in question two, it was mentioned from the viewpoint of God’s giving up his Son.

With the fourth of these five questions, Paul’s approach changes, as the work of Jesus Christ himself is suddenly brought forward. “Who is he that condemns?” Paul asks. Again there is no answer, because “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.”

In other words, having just said that God justified his people, Paul now speaks of the ground of that justification and offers four reasons why those who have been justified can be assured that they are forever free from condemnation. These reasons, all of which have to do with Jesus Christ’s work, both past and present, are: (1) Christ’s death, (2) Christ’s resurrection, (3) Christ enthronement at the right hand of God, and (4) Christ’s continuing intercession for us.

Christ’s Death for Sin

As soon as we reflect on the teaching in this verse we are immediately impressed with how much doctrine Paul has compressed into it. He has done this with an economy of words, and nowhere is this more evident than in the first of his four statements. “Christ Jesus, who died” is all he says.

Why did he not elaborate on this a little bit?

The answer surely is that he has already done so in the earlier parts of the letter. In those earlier chapters we learn that Jesus died for sin, making an atonement for it. By means of his atonement he propitiated or turned aside the wrath of God, which sin deserved. Moreover, since Jesus had no sin of his own for which to atone, we learn that he did this on our behalf, or vicariously. Some years ago the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth was asked what was the most important word in the Bible, the questioner no doubt thinking that Barth would say “love” or some such godly quality. But instead Barth answered, “Hyper.” In Greek, Hyper is a preposition, meaning “on behalf of” or “in place of” another. Barth called this the most important word because it signifies that the death of Jesus was in our place and for us. He died so that we might not have to die spiritually.

I suppose the most common response to this, particularly from a Christian congregation, is that we already know all about it. Indeed, we have known it for a long time. Why do we have to keep saying it again and again? Why repeatedly bring up the death of Jesus Christ?

Well, if you really do know this and really do live by faith in Christ and his atonement, there probably is no need to keep on repeating it, although those who know it best generally are those who love hearing it most often. Katherine Hankey’s hymn says rightly, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best/Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.”

But I suggest that we do need to hear it (and often), for the very reason Paul is repeating himself in Romans. Remember, he is writing about assurance. And the reason he is writing about assurance and at such length is that we tend to waver on this subject and doubt our salvation. This is particularly true when we fall into sin, whether outright sins of commission or those more subtle sins of the mind or spirit, perhaps even the sin of doubting God’s word about salvation. In such a frame of mind we find ourselves wondering whether we really are saved or are still saved, assuming that we were saved once but have perhaps fallen away.

If you find yourself thinking like this, you need to hear that “old, old story” again. You need to hear what Jesus did for your sin, bearing the punishment of God upon it in your place.

“But suppose I sin?” you ask. Don’t say “suppose.” You have sinned and will continue to sin. That is not the right question. The question is rather, “Did Jesus die for my sin or did he not?” If he did, then the punishment for that sin has been undertaken by Jesus in your place, and there is no one (not even God) who can condemn you for it. Jesus took your condemnation.

“But suppose I question this?”

This questioning of yours—is it a sin or isn’t it? If it is not a sin, if it is only a mere intellectual puzzling over the full meaning of what Jesus Christ has done and why, there is no problem. Christians are free to ask God questions and state what they do not understand. If it is a sin, that is, if it is outright disbelief of God’s Word, even then why should this sin more than any other separate you from God’s love and condemn you—if Jesus has, in fact, died for it?

I do not mean by this that your sin is covered by Christ’s blood if you are among those who reject his atonement and scorn it. That is an unbelief that has never known faith. If you do this, you are not regenerate. I am speaking to those who are born again and love Jesus but who have doubts concerning their salvation. To them I say, as Paul does, “Christ died.” He died for you.

When he hung on the cross, Jesus said of his atoning work, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And it was! It was finished forever. There is nothing that can ever be added to it or be taken away.

Christ’s Resurrection

The second reason why we can be assured of our salvation on the basis of Jesus work for us is his resurrection, which Paul introduces with the words “more than that, who was raised to life.”

That is a strange way of introducing the doctrine of the resurrection, because it is linked to Christ’s death as if it adds something to it. And how can that be, if the atonement is a finished work, as I just said? Once again, this is something Paul explained earlier in Romans when he was dealing with the work of Jesus more extensively. Think back to what the apostle said at the end of chapter four, as he brought the first great section of the book to a close and prepared to move on into the second great section, which we are now studying: “He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).

What does that mean, “raised to life for our justification”? As the Bible describes them, both the resurrection and justification are works of God. So the verse is saying that God raised Jesus from the dead in some way that relates to his work of justification. Since justification is based on Christ’s propitiation, the connection between resurrection and justification is not one of cause and effect. Rather, it must be one of demonstration. The point of the resurrection is to verify the justification, which is based upon the death. It is God’s way of showing that Jesus’ death was a true atonement and that all who believe on him are indeed justified from all sin.

Let me put it this way. When Jesus was alive on earth he said that he was going to die for sin, becoming a ransom for many. In time he did die and was placed in a tomb where he lay for three days.

Had he died for sin? He said that was what he was going to do, but the words alone do not prove his death was an atonement. Suppose Jesus was deluded? What if he only thought he was the Son of God and the Savior? Or again, suppose he was not sinless? He claimed to have been sinless. He seemed to be. But suppose he had sinned, even a little bit? In that case, he would have been a sinner himself, and his death could not have atoned even for his own sin, let alone for the sin of others. The matter would remain in doubt.

But then the morning of the resurrection comes. The body of Jesus is raised, and the stone is rolled back from the opening of the tomb so the women and later others can see and verify that he has indeed been raised. Now there is no doubt, for it is inconceivable that God the Father should thus verify the claims of Jesus if he was not his unique Son and was not therefore a true and effective Savior of his people.

As the great Bible teacher Reuben A. Torrey said in one of his writings, “I look at the cross of Christ, and I know that atonement has been made for my sins; I look at the open sepulcher and the risen and ascended Lord, and I know that the atonement has been accepted. There no longer remains a single sin on me, no matter how many or how great my sins may have been. My sins may have been as high as the mountains, but in the light of the resurrection the atonement that covers them is as high as heaven. My sins may have been as deep as the ocean, but in the light of the resurrection the atonement that swallows them up is as deep as eternity.”

“Who is he that condemns?”—who could possibly condemn us if Jesus has died for us and has been raised as proof of our justification?

Christ’s Enthronement at God’s Right Hand

We are climbing a grand staircase in studying these four phrases that speak of the saving work of Christ, both past and present. But we are likely to miss a step at this point if we are not very careful, because the third step deals with the ascension and enthronement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is not something heard a great deal about in most churches. (In the more liturgical churches there is a special day known as Ascension Day on which the doctrines associated with Jesus’ return to heaven are often noted.)

There are two chief teachings involved. The first is Jesus’ glorification. This was God’s answer to the prayer Jesus uttered just before his arrest and crucifixion, recorded in John 17. He said, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:4–5). Jesus laid this glory aside in order to become man to accomplish the work of redemption. But now, contemplating the end of his work, he asks for that glory to be restored.

And it has been! According to Acts, at the moment of his martyrdom Stephen saw the glorified Jesus “standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56), and Paul was stopped and redirected by Jesus’ voice while on the way to Damascus to persecute the early Christians (Acts 9:3–5). The apostle John later had similar visions of Jesus, according to the Book of Revelation.

The other teaching associated with Ascension Day is the one Paul seems chiefly to be concerned with here. It is Christ’s “session,” his being seated at God’s right hand. Since the “right hand” was considered the place of honor, for Jesus to be seated there involves his exultation. That alone is significant in regard to our eternal security, for it means that the One who has achieved it for us by his death has been honored for precisely that achievement.

But there is more to the doctrine than even this. The most important thing about Jesus’ being seated is that sitting implies a finished work. As long as a person is standing, there is still work to do. But once it is finished, the person rests from that work, as God rested from his “work of creating” (Gen. 2:2).

This point is developed carefully in the letter to the Hebrews, where a comparison is made between the work of Israel’s earthly priests, according to the pattern of temple worship that had been given by God, and the work of Jesus, who was the high priest to come. This theme dominates Hebrews, beginning as early as chapter 4 and continuing as far as chapter 10. The point is that Jesus’ priestly work is superior to and replaces the preparatory work done by earthly priests.

Then comes this important statement in chapter 10: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus Christ] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:11–14, emphasis added). The Jewish temple had no chairs in it, though there were other articles of furniture. This signified that the work of the priests was never done. Indeed, even the great sacrifice offered on the Day of Atonement had to be repeated year by year. But when Christ offered himself as a sacrifice, that sacrifice was the perfect fulfillment of the prior types and a true and utterly sufficient atonement for sin. It did not have to be repeated. Therefore, when Jesus had offered this sacrifice and it was accepted by God the Father, he showed that the work was completed by sitting down at God’s right hand.

Where is Jesus now? He is seated at God’s right hand. So whenever you doubt your salvation and are becoming disturbed by such thoughts, look to Jesus at the right hand of the Father, realize that he is there because his work of sacrifice is completed, that nothing can ever add to it or take away from it, and that you are therefore completely secure in him.

What would have to happen for you to lose your salvation, once you have been foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified by God? For that to happen, God would have to throw the entire plan of salvation into reverse. Jesus would have to rise from his throne, go backward through the ascension (now a descension), enter the tomb again, be placed upon the cross, and then come down from it. For you to perish, the atonement would have had never to have happened. Only then could you be lost. But it has happened, according to the plan of God. And the fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead, brought to heaven, and been seated on the right hand of God the Father is proof that it has been accomplished. Your security is now as certain as the Lord’s enthronement, which means that it is as unshakable as Jesus himself.

Christ’s Present Intercession

The final reason why the believer in Christ can be assured of his salvation based on the work of Christ is Jesus’ present intercession. Paul says that Jesus “is also interceding for us.”

In light of the ideas of accusation, judgment, and acquittal that have appeared throughout this section, it is natural to see this intercession as Jesus’ pleading the benefits of his death on our behalf in the face of Satan or any other individual’s accusations. Bible teachers have often spoken of the verse that way, and I have done so myself on occasion. But this is probably not quite the right idea. Why? Because Paul has introduced the verse with the question “Who is he that condemns?” and the answer to that is “no one,” as long as Jesus has died, been raised, and is now seated at the right hand of God and making intercession for us. There is no need for that kind of intercession, because in view of Christ’s finished work and God’s judgment no one is able to accuse us.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “There is no need … for our Lord to defend the believer. He has already done so, ‘once and for ever.’ But, in any case, it is God the Father himself who sent his Son to do the work. There can never be any query or question in God’s mind with regard to any of his children.”

In view of that, what does intercession mean here? In this context it must refer to Jesus’ prayers for his people, much like his great prayer of John 17, in which he prays for and receives all possible benefits of his death for them for the living of their Christian lives.

It means that there is no need you can possibly have to which the Lord Jesus Christ is indifferent.

It means that there is no problem to which he will turn a deaf ear or for which he will refuse to entreat his Father on your behalf.

Let me share a paragraph on this subject from the writing of Donald Grey Barnhouse, which has blessed me:

You do not have a problem too great for the power of Christ. You do not have a problem too complicated for the wisdom of Christ. You do not have a problem too small for the love of Christ. You do not have a sin too deep for the atoning blood of Christ. One of the most wonderful phrases ever spoken about Jesus is that which is found on several occasions in the gospels. It is that “Jesus was moved with compassion.” He loved men and women. He loves you. [Do] you have a problem? He can meet it, it does not matter what it is. The moment that the problem comes to you in your life, he knows all about it. … If there is a fear in your heart, it is immediately known to him. If there is a sorrow in your heart, it is immediately a sorrow to his heart. If there is a grief in your heart, it is immediately a grief to his heart. If there is a bereavement in your life or any other emotion that comes to any child of God, the same sorrow, grief or bereavement is immediately written on the heart of Christ. We find written in the Word of God, “In all their afflictions he was afflicted” (Is. 63:9).

Jesus intercedes for us in precisely those things. Moreover, he is heard in his intercession, and he ministers to you out of the inexhaustible treasure house of his glory. That is why Paul was able to write to the Philippians, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).

Bobby McFerrin, the popular singer and entertainer, has a little song called “Don’t worry; be happy.” It made him famous. I like the song, even though I know it is misleading for anyone whose sin is not atoned for by the blood of Christ. A person in his or her sin should worry. There is no happiness for one who stands under God’s dreadful condemnation. But “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! That first verse of Romans 8 tells us what the chapter is all about. There can be none because Jesus has died in our place, been raised for our justification, is seated at the right hand of God, and is even now carrying on a work of intercession for us.

Should people with such an intercessor worry? In their case, “don’t worry” is a proper thing to say. And so is “be happy,” though those words are undoubtedly too weak. We should rejoice with joy unspeakable.[1]

34 The second question, “Who is he that condemns?” suggests the futility of such condemnation. Because of Christ no one can condemn the Christian. Christ will never renounce the efficacy of his own work on our behalf. Paul packs four aspects of that work into one great sentence (v. 34b): (1) Christ “died” and thereby secured the removal of sin’s guilt; (2) he was “raised” to life and is able to bestow life on those who trust him for their salvation (cf. Jn 11:25; 14:19); (3) he was exalted to “the right hand of God,” with all power given to him both in heaven, so as to represent us there, and on earth, where he is more than a match for our adversaries; and (4) he “is also interceding for us” at the throne of grace, whatever our need may be (Heb 4:4–16; 7:25).[2]

Persons Who Might Seem to Threaten Our Security

If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (8:31b-34)

Paul begins with an all-encompassing rhetorical question, If God is for us, who is against us? The word if translates the Greek conditional particle ei, signifying a fulfilled condition, not a mere possibility The meaning of the first clause is therefore “Because God is for us.”

The obvious implication is that if anyone were able to rob us of salvation they would have to be greater than God Himself, because He is both the giver and the sustainer of salvation. To Christians Paul is asking, in effect, “Who could conceivably take away our no-condemnation status?” (see 8:1). Is there anyone stronger than God, the Creator of everything and everyone who exists?

David declared with unreserved confidence, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?” (Ps. 27:1). In another psalm we read, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold” (Ps. 46:1–3, 11).

Proclaiming the immeasurable greatness of God, Isaiah wrote,

It is He who sits above the vault of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. … Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing. … Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. (Isa. 40:22, 26, 28)

In Romans 8:31 Paul does not specify any particular persons who might be successful against us, but it would be helpful to consider some of the possibilities.

First of all, we might wonder, “Can other people rob us of salvation?” Many of Paul’s initial readers of this epistle were Jewish and would be familiar with the Judaizing heresy promulgated by highly legalistic Jews who claimed to be Christians. They insisted that no person, Jew or Gentile, could be saved or maintain his salvation without strict observance of the Mosaic law, and especially circumcision.

The Jerusalem Council was called to discuss that very issue, and its binding decision was that no Christian is under the ritual law of the Mosaic covenant (see Acts 15:1–29). The major thrust of Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia was against the Judaizing heresy and is summarized in the following passage:

If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (Gal. 5:2–6; cf. 2:11–16; 3:1–15)

The Roman Catholic church teaches that salvation can be lost by committing so-called mortal sins and also claims power for itself both to grant and to revoke grace. But such ideas have no foundation in Scripture and are thoroughly heretical. No person or group of persons, regardless of their ecclesiastical status, can bestow or withdraw the smallest part of God’s grace.

When Paul was bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders who had come to meet him at Miletus, he warned, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28–30). Paul was not suggesting that true believers can be robbed of salvation but was warning that they can be seriously misled, confused, and weakened in their faith and that the cause of the gospel can be greatly hindered. Although false teaching cannot prevent the completion of a believer’s salvation, it can easily confuse an unbeliever regarding salvation.

Second, we might wonder if Christians can put themselves out of God’s grace by committing some unusually heinous sin that nullifies the divine work of redemption that binds them to the Lord. Tragically, some evangelical churches teach that loss of salvation is possible. But if we were not able by our own power or effort to save ourselves-to free ourselves from sin, to bring ourselves to God, and to make ourselves His children-how could it be that by our own efforts we could nullify the work of grace that God Himself has accomplished in us?

Third, we might wonder if God the Father would take away our salvation. It was, after all, the Father who “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If anyone could take away salvation, it would have to the One who gave it. We might argue theoretically that, because God is sovereign and omnipotent, He could take away salvation if He wanted to. But the idea that He would do that flies in the face of Scripture, including the present text.

In answer to such a suggestion, Paul asks, He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? How could it possibly be that God would sacrifice His own Son for the sake of those who believe in Him and then cast some of those blood-bought believers out of His family and His kingdom? Would God do less for believers after they are saved than He did for them prior to salvation? Would He do less for His children than He did for His enemies? If God loved us so much while we were wretched sinners that He delivered up His own Son … for us, would He turn His back on us after we have been cleansed from sin and made righteous in His sight?

Isaac was an Old Testament picture of Christ. When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the only son of promise, both Abraham and Isaac willingly obeyed. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac is a beautiful foreshadow of God the Father’s willingness to offer up His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Isaac’s willingness to be sacrificed foreshadows Christ’s willingness to go to the cross. God intervened to spare Isaac and provided a ram in his place (Gen. 22:1–13). At that point, however, the analogy changes from comparison to contrast, because God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.

Isaiah extolled the wondrous love of both God the Father and God the Son when he wrote,

Surely our griefs He Himself [Christ, the Son] bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God [the Father], and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. … But the Lord [the Father] was pleased to crush Him [the Son], putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering. (Isa. 53:4–6, 10)

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross not only is the foundation of our salvation but also of our security. Because the Father loved us so much while we were still under condemnation, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Because the Son loved us so much while we were still under condemnation, He “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4; cf. 3:13).

Jesus promises all those who belong to Him: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2–3). The Lord makes no allowance for any of His people to be lost again, but promises each one of them an eternal home in His eternal presence. Jesus also assures us that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever (John 14:16), again making no allowance for exceptions. What power in heaven or earth could rob the God-head of those who have been divinely saved for eternity?

Beginning in verse 8 of chapter 12, Paul speaks almost entirely in the first and second persons, referring to himself and to fellow believers. It is the same spiritual brethren (us) he speaks of twice in verse 32. If the Father delivered up His Son for us all, he argues, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? In his letter to Ephesus the apostle is also speaking of fellow believers when he says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). If God blesses all of us, His children, with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” loss of salvation is clearly impossible. All believers receive that eternal inheritance.

Freely give translates charizomai, which means to bestow graciously or out of grace. In some of Paul’s other letters the same word carries the idea of forgiveness (see 2 Cor. 2:7, 10; 12:13; Col. 2:13; 3:13). It therefore seems reasonable to interpret Paul’s use of charizomai in Romans 8:32 as including the idea of God’s gracious forgiveness as well as His gracious giving. If so, the apostle is also saying that God freely forgives us all things (cf. 1 John 1:9). God’s unlimited forgiveness makes it impossible for a believer to sin himself out of God’s grace.

In order to assure His people of their security in Him, “in the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:17–18). The two unchangeable features of God’s unchangeable purpose are His promise and His oath to honor that promise. What greater proof of security could we have than the unchangeable purpose of God to save and keep His elect, the heirs of promise?

Fourth, we might wonder if Satan can take away our salvation. Because he is our most powerful supernatural enemy, if anyone other than God could rob us of salvation, it would surely be the devil. He is called “the accuser of [the] brethren” (Rev. 12:10), and the book of Job depicts him clearly in that role:

And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face.” (Job 1:8–11)

Satan accused Job of worshiping God out of selfishness rather than out of reverence and love. Although Job at one point questioned God’s wisdom and was divinely rebuked (chaps. 38–41), he repented and was forgiven. From the beginning to the end of Job’s testing, the Lord affectionately called him “My servant” (see 1:8; 42:7–8). Although Job’s faith was not perfect, it was genuine. The Lord therefore permitted Satan to test Job, but He knew Satan could never destroy Job’s persevering faith or rob His servant of salvation.

In one of his visions, the prophet Zechariah reports: “Then he fan angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’ ” (Zech. 3:1–2). Although “Joshua was clothed with filthy garments” (v. 3), that is, was still living with the sinful flesh, he was one of the Lord’s redeemed and was beyond Satan’s power to destroy or discredit.

Satan also tried to undermine Peter’s faith, and Jesus warned him of that danger, saying, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.” He then assured the apostle, “but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31–32).

Because every believer has that divine protection, Paul asks, Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? The world and Satan are continually bringing charges against God’s elect, but those charges amount to nothing before the Lord, because He is the one who justifies, the one who decides who is righteous before Him. They have been declared eternally guiltless and are no longer under the condemnation of God (8:1), the only one who condemns. God conceived the law, revealed the law, interprets the law, and applies the law. And through the sacrifice of His Son, all the demands of the law have been met for those who trust in Him.

That great truth inspired Count Zinzendorf to write the following lines in the glorious hymn “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness,” translated by John Wesley:

Bold I shall stand in that great day,

For who ought to my charge shall lay?

Fully absolved through Thee I am

From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

It is not that the accusations made against believers by Satan and the unbelieving world are always false. The fact that we are not yet sinless is obvious. But even when a charge against us is true, it is never sufficient grounds for our damnation, because all our sins-past, present, and future-have been covered by the blood of Christ and we are now clothed in His righteousness.

Fifth, we might wonder if our Savior Himself would take back our salvation. Anticipating that question, Paul declares, Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. It is because Jesus makes continuous intercession for all believers, God’s elect, that “they shall never perish” and that “no one shall snatch them out of [His] hand” (John 10:28). For Christ to take away our salvation would be for Him to work against Himself and to nullify His own promise. Christ offers no temporary spiritual life but only that which is eternal. He could not grant eternal life and then take it away, because that would demonstrate that the life He had granted was not eternal.

In verse 34 Paul reveals four realities that protect our salvation in Jesus Christ. First, he says that Christ Jesus … died. In His death He took upon Himself the full penalty for our sins. In His death He bore the condemnation that we deserved but from which we are forever freed (8:1). The death of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf is the only condemnation we will ever know.

Second, Christ was raised from the dead, proving His victory over sin and over its supreme penalty of death. The grave could not hold Jesus, because He had conquered death; and His conquest over death bequeaths eternal life to every person who trusts in Him. As Paul has declared earlier in this letter, Christ “was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). His death paid the price for our sins and His resurrection gave absolute proof that the price was paid. When God raised Jesus from the dead, He demonstrated that His Son had offered the full satisfaction for sin that the law demands.

Third, Christ is at the right hand of God, the place of divine exaltation and honor. Because “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, … God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:8–9). David foretold that glorious event when he wrote, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet’ ” (Ps. 110:1).

There were no seats in the Temple, because the sacrifices made there by the priests were never finished. They were but pictures of the one and only true sacrifice that the Son of God one day would make. The writer of Hebrews explains that “every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He [Christ], having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:11–12; cf. 1:3).

Fourth, Christ also intercedes for us. Although His work of atonement was finished, His continuing ministry of intercession for those saved through His sacrifice will continue without interruption until every redeemed soul is safe in heaven. Just as Isaiah had prophesied, “He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). Jesus Christ “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

If we understand what Christ did on the cross to save us from sin, we understand what it means to be secure in His salvation. If we believe that God loved us so much when we were wretched and ungodly that He sent His Son to die on the cross to bring us to Himself, how could we believe that, after we are saved, His love is not strong enough to keep us saved? If Christ had power to redeem us out of bondage to sin, how could He lack power to keep us redeemed?

Christ, the perfect Priest, offered a perfect sacrifice to make us perfect. To deny the security of the believer is therefore to deny the sufficiency of the work of Christ. To deny the security of the believer is to misunderstand the heart of God, to misunderstand the gift of Christ, to misunderstand the meaning of the cross, to misunderstand the biblical meaning of salvation.

Even when we sin after we are saved, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” because in Him “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 1:9; 2:1). When we sin, our Lord intercedes on our behalf and comes to our defense against Satan and any others who might bring charges against us (see Rom. 8:33). “God is able to make all grace abound to you,” Paul assured the believers at Corinth (2 Cor. 9:8). Through our remaining days on earth and throughout all eternity, our gracious Lord will hold us safe in His everlasting love by His everlasting power.[3]

[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 975–982). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 143). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 502–509). Chicago: Moody Press.

Accusation and Evaluation

Kevin T. Bauder

Sadly, accusation is part of life in a sinful world. Sinful people must sometimes be accused when they do wrong to others. Other sinful people, however, sometimes accuse those who have done no wrong at all. Accusation can be a necessary recourse for the injured, but it can also become a weapon for those who wish to do injury. How can we judge which is which?

The problem will not go away. If you are a boss, you will hear one employee accuse another. If you are a counselor, you will hear one family member accuse another. If you are a church member, you will hear other church members accuse your pastor.

As a young assistant pastor I once stopped a deacon in the middle of accusing my senior pastor. As a seminary president I have received accusations against people I was thinking about hiring. At various times I have heard accusations leveled against Christian leaders whom I had invited to speak. I have mediated situations in which church members were accusing pastors and other situations in which pastors were accusing members.

I do not recall ever being taught any method of evaluating accusations. Seminary gave me no specific criteria for determining either when an accusation ought to be entertained or when it ought to be acted upon. Consequently, I have had to develop my own principles for dealing with accusations. Here is a summary of the most important.

First, I do not have the right to listen to every accusation. Some matters are none of my business. They are not my responsibility, and I can do nothing about them. That is why, as a young assistant pastor, I refused to hear an accusation against my senior pastor. The church had a procedure for dealing with pastoral error, and I was not part of that procedure. For me, the accusation would have been nothing but gossip. If it is not within my purview to help the accused, the accuser, or the victim, then I will not listen to an accusation.

Second, accusers must identify themselves. Anonymous accusations carry less than no moral force. Furthermore, false accusers must be held accountable and must face consequences (Deut. 19:16). At the least, false accusers must stand personally shamed and discredited. Yet consequences of any sort are impossible in the case of anonymous accusations. Unless accusers are willing to put their names behind their words, their accusations must not even be entertained.

Third, the burden of proof rests upon the accuser, not upon the accused. Accusations are easy to make, and universal negatives are impossible to prove. If someone accuses me of having committed murder, I cannot prove that I never did (though I might be able to prove that I could not have murdered a particular person at a particular time in a particular place). This principle is why the Bible begins with a presumption of innocence in the face of accusation. No one could be judged on the basis of a single accusation (Deut. 19:15). Job could not be presumed to have sinned; he had to be shown to have sinned (Job 6). Any accuser must come with evidence to support the accusation.

Fourth, multiple witnesses are necessary to act upon an accusation (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19). This principle underlines the quality of evidence required to adjudicate an accusation. A witness is not necessarily a person; a photograph or a recording can function in the role of witness. A witness, however, must bear independent testimony. Simply repeating the accusation of the original accuser (“he told me that she did it”) does not make one a witness in one’s own right.

Fifth, the witnesses must corroborate one another. One of the worst aspects of the bogus trial of Jesus was that the witnesses did not agree (Mark 14:56-59). These words do not necessarily mean that the witnesses contradicted each other; the witnesses simply could not agree on an accusation of a single wrongdoing. On one occasion I was asked to help a church in which one member accused the pastor of displaying unholy anger, another accused him of financial misdealing, and another accused him of (probably) viewing pornography. To corroborate each other, accusers must testify that they have witnessed the same offense.

Sixth, no accusation can be sustained until the accused has been given the opportunity to respond. In his defense of Jesus, Nicodemus made it clear that no lawful condemnation can be delivered until the accused person has been heard (John 7:51). The reason is simple: when only one side of the case is presented, that side usually seems plausible. Only when the other side is presented can an impartial evaluation be made (Prov. 18:17). I have had people ask me to help mediate disputes, only to discover that what they really wanted was for me to take their side. I always refuse those invitations unless I have the opportunity to hear both sides first.

Making accusations is easier now than it has ever been. Social media can spread accusations rapidly, and electronic lynch mobs are easy to gather. People love to hate someone who can be made to seem evil. Nevertheless, real lives, jobs, and reputations are at stake. Christians of all people should pursue justice, both for accusers and accused.


This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

Source: Accusation and Evaluation

Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 12/02/2017


‘Play, Don’t Pray!’ Atheist Group Lodges Complaint After Coach Photographed Praying With Team   Nov 26, 2017 08:35 pm

Photo Credit: Evansville Courier & Press EVANSVILLE, Ind. – A national professing atheist organization is urging an Indiana school district to launch an investigation into their high school football program after a local newspaper published a picture of the head coach praying with team members after a recent game. In a letter to the superintendent of…

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Judge Strikes Down Ban on Dismemberment Abortions as ‘Undue Burden’ on ‘Right of a Woman’ to Kill Her Child   Nov 27, 2017 05:09 pm

Photo Credit: Credit Tomasz Kobosz AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge appointed to the bench by then-President George W. Bush has struck down a Texas ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions, also known as dismemberment abortions, finding the prohibition to be an “undue burden” on the “right of a woman” to her child. “An abortion always results in the…

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Maine School Reverses Course After Employee Reprimanded for Telling Churchgoing Coworker ‘I Will Pray for You’   Nov 25, 2017 12:16 pm

AUGUSTA, Maine — A school board in Maine has agreed to uphold the rights of a special education technician after she was initially reprimanded for telling a coworker, who is a member of her church, that she would pray for him. According to the First Liberty Institute, which represented Toni Richardson in an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) complaint in May,…

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Pennsylvania Woman Charged With Homicide After Newborn Baby Found in Plastic Bag Under Porch   Nov 28, 2017 08:47 pm

SHENANGO, Pa. — A Pennsylvania woman has been charged with homicide after her father found a dead baby under their porch on Sunday. According to reports, Brittany Robinson, 23, gave birth in the bathtub on Friday at full term. Robinson claims that she did not know she was pregnant, and none of her family members did either. She says that the child did not…

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‘Church of Sweden’ Aiming to Use ‘More Inclusive’ Language When Referring to God   Nov 26, 2017 10:14 am

(Western Journal) — The Church of Sweden acted Thursday to urge its clergy to stop using solely masculine references to God by adopting a new handbook governing all forms of worship. The handbook makes significant changes to how priests are encouraged to talk about God. “We talk about Jesus Christ, but in a few places we have changed it to say ‘God’ instead…

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Family in India Receives Notice to Stop Christian Gatherings in Their Home   Nov 30, 2017 01:53 pm

HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – For 12 years, Mahendra Nagdeve had met with friends and relatives in his house in Madhya Pradesh state, India to worship Christ until he received this notice from city officials this month: “With effect from the moment you receive this notice, you must not conduct any Christian congregational activity,” the notice…

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Kentucky Supreme Court to Decide Whether or Not Christian Screen Printer Has Right to Decline Order for ‘Gay Pride’ T-Shirts   Dec 01, 2017 05:07 pm

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Supreme Court of Kentucky has agreed to hear an appeal from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission after a state appeals court ruled earlier this year that an expressly Christian screen printing business did not violate the law in declining to print t-shirts for a homosexual pride festival. According to the Courier…

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Case of UK Bakers Punished for Declining ‘Support Gay Marriage’ Cake to Be Heard in Spring   Nov 28, 2017 10:39 pm

(Christian Institute) — The UK Supreme Court has confirmed that it will sit in Belfast to hear arguments in the Ashers Baking Company case. It will be the first time the court has ever sat in Northern Ireland. Supported by The Christian Institute’s Legal Defense Fund, Ashers is defending itself from a lawsuit brought by the taxpayer-funded Equality…

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South Korea to Review Whether or Not to Abolish Law Banning Abortion   Nov 26, 2017 09:56 pm

SEOUL (Reuters) – The South Korean president’s office said on Sunday that it will begin a review on the country’s 64-year-old law to ban abortion. The announcement came after more than 230,000 South Koreans filed a petition calling for the abolishment of the law. South Korea criminalized abortion in 1953 when its leaders wanted to boost the population and…

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Turkish Church Vandalised a Second Time in Malatya   Nov 28, 2017 02:44 pm

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Better He Who Humbles Himself

Unfathomable Grace


Arrogance surrounds me.

This week, I have heard fresh stories of men abusing women. They do so because they love themselves supremely. All about them are objects for their own promotion and pleasure.

Yesterday, I witnessed elected representatives, on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the ocean, moving, shaking, positioning, and posturing themselves. They are so grand in their own eyes. Their pride makes me nauseous.

Last night, when I watched the pontificating news pundits, they again proved to be full of themselves. They always know what is best regarding politics. And they are always more righteous than anyone whose sin has come to light.

And today, as I watch some ball games, I am sure the self-worshiping egos of athletes will be proudly displayed one more time.

And on and on it goes …

Arrogance identifies me.

Sadly, I love me more than I love my neighbors. At times I…

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Nothing Done By Us… (Hodge)

The Reformed Reader

Hodge ST Charles Hodge wrote that justification is…

…[A] declarative act in which God pronounces the sinner just or righteous, that is, declares that the claims of justice, so far as he is concerned, are satisfied, so that he cannot be justly condemned, but is in justice entitled to the reward promised or due to perfect righteousness.

The meritorious ground of justification is not faith; we are not justified on account of our faith, considered as a virtuous or holy act or state of mind. Nor are our works of any kind the ground of justification. Nothing done by us or wrought in us satisfies the demands of justice, or can be the ground or reason of the declaration that justice as far as it concerns us is satisfied. The ground of justification is the righteousness of Christ, active and passive, i.e., including his perfect obedience to the law as a…

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December 2, 2017: Morning Verse Of The Day

28  Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29  “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 31:28–29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

28 The wisdom of the noble woman inspires praise from her family—from those who know her the best. Unfortunately, praise often comes from outside the home, from those who do not know the person very well. This woman is of such worth that her children “rise up” (qāmû) to praise her, an expression that describes an activity in preparation for such an utterance (see Ge 37:35 [“came,” NIV]).[1]

Her glory is in the home (vv. 28–29)

She has devoted herself to her family. The greatest earthly blessing she seeks is her children’s respect and her husband’s praise. These she receives in full: her children bless her; her husband appreciates her worth, envying no man. This passage reminds children and husbands of their duty to offer the encouragement such a woman deserves. Because some husbands fall short, not every godly wife receives this kind of praise. Such a wife can take comfort that her praise is from God.[2]

31:28, 29 Her children realize that she is an outstanding mother, and they tell her so. Her husband also praises her as a God-given wife. He says, “There are many good wives in the world, but you excel them all.”[3]

31:28 rise up and bless her. She was greatly respected because she has earned the praise of her family. See note on 29:17. There can be no higher joy for a mother than for her children to grow up to praise her as the source of the wisdom that made them godly. See note on 1Ti 2:15.[4]

31:28–29 In a loving family, the members recognize the value of each other. Here the children and husband offer their praise. Verse 29 gives the words of the husband, or perhaps of both husband and children. Excellently recalls “excellent” in v. 10.[5]

31:28, 29 The result of her skill and wisdom is the cementing of family relationships. The praise of husband and children is her great reward.[6]

31:28, 29 The virtuous woman is blessed by her family—by her children as well as her husband. The words of v. 29 are the blessing of her husband.[7]

[1] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 251). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs (pp. 179–180). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 871). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 31:28). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1191). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 922). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 778). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

December 1, 2017: Evening Verse Of The Day

3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:3–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

God’s Purpose in Human Suffering

Romans 5:3–5

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

The fifth chapter of Romans lists the grounds on which a person who has been justified by God through faith in Jesus Christ can know that he is saved from sin and can be steadfast in that knowledge. Verses 1 and 2 have listed several ways a Christian can be sure of this. Verses 3–5 give one more reason. It is the way believers in Christ respond to the troubles, trials, and tribulations of this life.

Christians do have tribulations, just like anybody else.

How should they respond to these trials?

How does their response strengthen their confidence that they are truly converted persons?

Paul says that Christians respond to their trials by rejoicing in them, however strange, abnormal, or even irrational this may seem to unbelievers, and that this is itself another evidence of their salvation. His exact words are: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

A Matter of Knowledge

Each of the words in these verses is of great importance, and we are going to look at some of them in detail. But if someone should ask me, “What is the most important word?” I would say that it is the word know in verse 3. The phrase reads, “because we know. … ” “Know” is important because knowledge is the secret to everything else in the sentence. Christians rejoice in suffering because of what they know about it.

You have all heard the tired atheistic rebuttal to Christian doctrine based upon the presence of suffering in the world. It has been expressed in different forms, depending on which unbeliever has uttered it. But one common form goes like this: “If God were good, he would wish to make his creatures happy, and if God were almighty he would be able to do what he wished. But his creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness or power or both.” That objection is insulting in its simplicity, for it assumes that our lack of suffering is an ultimate good and that the only possible factors involved in our quandary are the alleged benevolence and alleged omniscience of God. The Christian knows that there is more to the problem than this.

Still, the problem of suffering is a big one, and it is not easy to answer it in a single essay or even in a single book.

A Number of Negatives

The place to begin is with some negatives, and the negatives we need to begin with are two non-Christian approaches to this problem.

  1. Epicureanism. The first non-Christian approach to suffering goes by the name Epicureanism, from the name of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (342–270 b.c.). Epicurus taught that life is an inevitable mixture of good and bad experiences, and since there are always some bad experiences, which cannot be avoided, the way to handle them is by loading life with more pleasure than pain so that the bottom line is positive. This outlook is called “qualified hedonism.” It is popular today. I suppose it is the basic “Yuppie” outlook or mentality. But, of course, this is not the Christian answer to unavoidable bad things.
  2. Stoicism. The second inadequate answer also has a Greek name since it was developed by a body of Greek philosophers called Stoics. Their answer was what our English friends call “the stiff upper lip” or, as we say: trying to “grin and bear it.”

Some years ago there was a war movie starring the quintessential Stoic actor, Jimmy Cagney. I forget the exact title of this film, but it involved a crew of air-force bomber pilots who were flying raids over Europe in support of the Allied invasion. Cagney was returning from one of these raids, but his plane had been fired upon and was damaged and it looked as if it would not be able to clear the cliffs of Dover and so be able to return to its base. The crew dropped everything they could to lighten the plane and give it height, but it was still too low. Finally the crew itself bailed out, leaving Cagney alone at the controls. The plane was close to the cliffs now, and they were looming larger and larger through the cockpit window. It was clear the plane was not going to make it. Finally, just as the plane got to the cliffs, Cagney leaned out the window and spit at the cliff—and a moment later the plane exploded in flame.

That is the Stoic temperament. It is the attitude of the man who takes whatever life brings to him and spits at fate. But, of course, this is not the approach of Christians any more than that of the Epicureans.

God’s Many Purposes

I have called this chapter “God’s Purpose in Human Suffering” because of the single purpose that Paul spells out in our text. But if the entire Word of God is to be taken into account, as I intend to do, it would be better to speak of “God’s purposes in human suffering,” since there are a number of them. Let me suggest a few as part of our general approach to this large topic.

  1. Corrective suffering. The most obvious category of suffering for a Christian is what we can call corrective suffering, that is, suffering that is meant to get us back onto the path of righteousness when we have strayed from it. We have an example from family life in the spankings given to young children when they disobey and do wrong. If a child needs a spanking, he should receive one, and if he has the right kind of father or mother, he does. Why? Is it because the parent likes to inflict pain? Are good parents all naturally sadists? Not at all! Rather, they understand that a child has to learn that he or she is not free to do whatever seems desirable irrespective of the needs or feelings of others, and that there are painful consequences whenever anyone persists in wrongdoing.

It is the same in the case of the divine Father and those who are his spiritual children. The author of Hebrews quotes Proverbs 3:11–12—“ ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son’ ”—concluding that we should: “Endure hardship as discipline. … For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Heb. 12:5–7).

I mention this form of suffering first, for the first thing we should do when suffering comes into our lives is ask God whether or not it is intended by him for our correction. If it is, we need to confess our wrongdoing and return to the path of righteousness.

  1. Suffering for the glory of God. A second important reason for suffering in the lives of some Christians is God’s glory. Therefore, although when we suffer we should always ask God whether or not the suffering is for our correction, we should never blithely assume that this is necessarily what God is doing in the life of someone else. On the contrary, another person’s suffering may be an evidence only of God’s special favor to him or her.

How can that be?

Well, in John 9 we are told of the healing of a man who had been blind from birth. The blind man was apparently sitting at one of the gates of the temple when Jesus and his disciples passed by. The disciples made the mistake I just referred to, supposing that the man’s sufferings were the result of a one-to-one relationship to some sin. They asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (v. 3). Clearly, Jesus was teaching that the sole cause of this man’s having spent the many long years of his life in blindness was so that, at this moment, Jesus might heal him and thus bring glory to God.

That idea is hard for many people to accept, particularly non-Christians. But it is not so difficult when we remember that life is short when measured by the scope of eternity and that our chief end is to glorify God—by whatever means he may choose to have us do it.

It was this knowledge that enabled Hugh Latimer to cry out to Nicolas Ridley as they were being led to the stake in Oxford, England, in 1555, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England as (I trust) shall never be put out.”

Only those who have their eyes on eternity can assume this perspective.

  1. Suffering as a part of cosmic warfare. A third kind of suffering is illustrated by the story of Job from the Old Testament. The story begins with Job as a happy and favored man, with a fine family and many possessions. But suddenly he suffered the loss of his many herds and the death of his ten children, and he did not know why. His friends came to try to help him sort it through. In fact, the Book of Job is a record of the limitations of human reasoning in wrestling through these tough problems. But we know why Job suffered, because the book tells us why at the very beginning. It was because of a conflict between Satan and God. Satan had made the accusation that Job loved and served God only because God had blessed Job physically. “But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face,” said Satan (Job 1:11).

God knew that this was not so. But he allowed Satan to have his way to show that Job loved God for himself and not for what he could get out of him. Job lost everything, but in a posture of abject mourning he nevertheless worshiped God, saying: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (v. 21). Then we are told: “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (v. 22).

This story explains a great deal (perhaps most) of the suffering some Christians endure. I imagine that for every believer who is suffering with a particular form of cancer there is also a nonbeliever in exactly the same condition and that the Christian praises and worships God in spite of his afflictions while the unbeliever curses God and bitterly resents his fate. God is showing that the purpose of life lies in a right relationship to him and not in pleasant circumstances. For every Christian who loses a son or daughter there is a non-Christian who experiences the same thing. For every Christian who loses a job there is a non-Christian in like circumstances. This is the explanation of life’s struggles, in my opinion. It is the ultimate reason for the drama of history.

  1. Constructive suffering. The fourth purpose of God in suffering is what Paul presents in Romans 5, namely, that God uses our troubles, trials, and tribulations to form Christian character.

Evangelist Billy Graham illustrated this by a story from the Great Depression. A friend of his had lost a job, a fortune, a wife, and a home. But he was a believer in Jesus Christ, and he hung to his faith tenaciously even though he could see no purpose in what was happening and was naturally oppressed by his circumstances. One day in the midst of his depression he was wandering through the city and stopped to watch masons doing stonework on a huge church. One was chiseling a triangular piece of stone. “What are you doing with that?” he asked.

The workman stopped and pointed to a tiny opening near the top of a nearly completed spire. “See that little opening up there near the top of the spire?” he said. “Well, I’m shaping this down here so that it will fit in up there.” Graham’s friend said that tears filled his eyes as he walked away, for it seemed to him that God had spoken to say that he was shaping him for heaven through his earthly ordeal.

The Benefits of Suffering

Having approached our subject from the perspective of God’s purposes, we are now ready to see what Paul says suffering will do in the lives of Christians, and why this is reassuring. What benefits does suffering bring?

First, it produces perseverance. You may notice another word used to translate this idea in your Bible—if you are using other than the New International Version—because the word seems to most translators to call for a richness of expression. Some versions say “patience,” others “endurance,” still others “patient endurance.”

The full meaning of this word emerges when we consider it together with the word for “suffering,” which occurs just before it in the Greek text and which is what Paul says produces “patience” (kjv). There are a number of words for suffering in the Greek language, but this one is thlipsis, which has the idea of pressing something down. It was used for the effect of a sledge as it threshed grain, for instance. The sledge pressed down the stalks and thus broke apart the heads to separate the chaff from the grain. Thlipsis was also used of crushing olives to extract their oil or of grapes to press out wine.

With that in mind, think now of “perseverance.” The word translated “perseverance” is hypomonē. The first part of this word is a prefix meaning “under” or “below.” The second part is a word meaning an “abode” or “living place.” So the word as a whole means to “live under something.” If we take this word together with the word for tribulation, we get the full idea, which is to live under difficult circumstances without trying, as we would say, to wriggle out from under them. We express the idea positively when we say, “Hang in there, brother.” It is hanging in when the going gets tough, as it always does sooner or later.

So here is one thing that separates the immature person from the mature one, the new Christian from one who has been in the Lord’s school longer. The new believer tries to avoid the difficulties and get out from under them. The experienced Christian is steady under fire and does not quit his post.

Second, just as suffering produces steady perseverance, so (according to Paul) does perseverance produce character. Other versions translate this word as “experience.” But again, it is richer even than these two very useful renderings.

The Greek word is dokimē, but dokimē is based on the similar word dokimos, which means something “tested” or “approved.” There is an illustration that Paul himself provides. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul is speaking of selfdiscipline and says, “… I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” The word disqualified is our word, but with a negative particle in front of it. This suggests an image from the ancient world. Silver and gold coins were made quite roughly in those days, not milled to exact sizes as our coins are, and people would often cheat with them by carefully trimming off some of the excess metal. We know they did this because hundreds of laws were passed against the practice. After people had trimmed away enough metal, they would sell it for new coins.

When coins had been trimmed for a long time, they eventually got so light that the merchants would not take them anymore; then a coin was said to be adokimos, “disqualified.” This is what Paul is referring to. He is saying that he does not want to be disqualified, but rather to be judged “fit” as a result of his sufferings and self-discipline.

It is the same in our Romans text, where Paul says that the sufferings of life or the pressures of merely trying to live for Christ in our godless environment produce endurance, which in turn proves that we are fit.

I think of it another way, too. A disapproved coin is a light coin, and I remember (from the previous study) that this is what happens to us when we draw away from God. We become increasingly weightless. But when we draw closer to God and he to us, working in us what is well pleasing to himself, we become “weighty,” as he is. We become approved persons of great value.

Ray Stedman, who discusses these benefits well in his Romans commentary, tells at this point of a time he once asked a nine-year-old-boy, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The boy said, “A returned missionary.”

He did not want to be just a missionary, but a returned one—one who had been through the fires, had them behind him, and was shown to have been of real value in God’s work.

Finally, Paul indicates that the steadfast, approved character created by perseverance in its turn produces hope. Here we have come full circle. We started with hope. We saw it as an assurance of what will one day be ours, though we do not possess it yet. Then we looked at our sufferings. We saw why we can rejoice in them. It is because they lead to endurance, endurance to an approved character, and character to an even more steadfast hope. And all this is further evidence of our security in Christ—when we share in Christ’s sufferings and embrace them in like fashion.

The Church in China

Some years ago I had an opportunity to publish an article on suffering by one of the missionaries of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Dr. Jonathan Chao, an acknowledged expert on the state of the church in China. It made a comparison between the growth of the Chinese church during the relatively peaceful years of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, and the years since 1950, when the Communists took over. By the end of the “missionary period,” there were approximately 840,000 Christians in China. Today, however, after forty years of the most intense persecutions and suffering, the Chinese church, according to Chao’s calculations, numbers fifty million. In Chao’s opinion, it was the suffering of the church that produced character, the ability not only to survive the persecutions, but also to win many others even in hard times.

I mention this background for the sake of the following story. In this same article Chao told of an American student who came to Hong Kong to study the Chinese church. Before he had left the States a friend had asked him, “If God loves the Chinese church so much, why did he allow so much suffering to come upon it?”

The student confessed that he had no answer at the time. But after he had traveled to China and had made extensive and meaningful contacts with a number of Chinese Christians, he discovered an answer that he put like this: “Mr. Chao, I am going back to America and ask my friend this question: If God loves the American church so much, why hasn’t he allowed us to suffer like the church in China?”

It is a good question, because, according to the Bible, suffering is not harmful; on the contrary, it is a beneficial experience. It is beneficial because it accomplishes the beneficent purposes of Almighty God. It is part of all those circumstances that work “for the good of those who love him…” (Rom. 8:28).[1]

3 The word “rejoice,” which was used to characterize the hope of the Christian for participating in the glory yet to be revealed (v. 2), now carries over to another area totally different in nature as well as in time, namely, that of “sufferings” (NASB, “tribulations”). Peace with God does not necessarily bring peace with others. The actual conditions of life, especially for believers in the midst of a hostile society, are not easy or pleasant, but the knowledge of acceptance with God, of grace constantly supplied, and the prospect of future glory enable believers to rejoice, even in the face of sufferings. The term thlipsis (GK 2568) refers often to external suffering such as persecution, but it is used occasionally for distress—a natural extension of the application of the word, since external events tend to affect the human spirit.

We should not expect to find a full treatment of the subject of suffering here, since sufferings are viewed simply as one link in a chain of events and interactions designed to show what profit they bring to Christian experience, not what they are in themselves. Elsewhere Paul stresses that they are an extension of the sufferings experienced by Christ in the days of his flesh, rightly to be experienced now by those who make up his body (Php 3:10). Believers rejoice when by their suffering they can show their love and loyalty to Christ (Ac 5:41; cf. 2 Th 1:4–5).

Suffering has this value, namely, that it produces “perseverance” or “steadfast endurance.” This is a suitable element to go along with tribulation because it denotes resistance to pressure; hypomonē (GK 5705) means literally “a bearing up under [it].” One does not take the pressure passively by abjectly giving in to it, as much Eastern philosophy counsels its devotees to do. Christ “endured” the cross (Heb 12:2) and thus triumphed over death. Just here lies one of the remarkable distinctives of the Christian faith: the believer is taught to glory and rejoice in the midst of suffering rather than to sigh and submit to it as a necessary or inevitable evil, or indeed as a punishment sent by the gods.

4 The value of perseverance is that it develops “character.” Job sensed the worth of perseverance, saying in the midst of his troubles, “When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). The word rendered “character” (dokimē, GK 1509) indicates tested value. The newborn child of God is precious in his sight, but the tested and proven saint means even more to him because such a one is a living demonstration of the character-developing power of the gospel. When we stand in the presence of God, all material possessions will have been left behind, but all that we have gained by way of spiritual advance will be retained. This progress is a testimony to God’s provision, so it rightly has a place in glory.

This helps to explain Paul’s statement that character produces “hope” (elpis, GK 1828). Looking back, we see that hope consummates a series of items beginning with tribulations. But just prior to this, Paul has considered hope from the standpoint of another series: faith, peace, access, grace, and then hope of the glory of God (vv. 1–2). So we are entitled to say that just as our present access gives hope of sharing the divine glory, so too do our sufferings. They help to produce character, and approved Christian character finds its ultimate resting place in the presence of God, not in the grave. By means of this school of suffering, the Lord is fitting us for his eternal fellowship. Hope for the Christian is not wishful thinking, as it so often is in the world, but rather confident expectation.

5 Next Paul makes it plain that this hope is not just a pious wish, for it does not put one to shame. It “does not disappoint” (cf. the quotation of Isa 28:16 in 9:33 and 10:11) because it depends on “his [God’s] love.” This is, of course, a subjective rather than an objective genitival construction. In view is not our love for God but his love for us. Ordinary human hope may bring disappointment and frustration, but not this hope. Totally unlike ordinary human hope, this hope will never disappoint, exactly because it rests not on human potentiality but on the faithfulness of God’s love (cf. Ps 22:5). For this reason, NT hope is a matter of confident expectation—confident because it is based on what God does, not on what we do. The objective basis of all that Paul speaks of here is supremely important. As Fitzmyer, 397, has observed, “Paul is not advocating some sort of Pelagianism when he says that tribulation produces endurance, endurance character, and character hope, for the basis of it all is divine grace.”

And it is the Holy Spirit who brings a foretaste of the future into our present experience and who thus brings the consciousness of unmovable love and strengthens us to run the course. Subjective desire is supported by an objective divine gift guaranteeing the realization of an eternal fellowship with God. This passage thus contains an intimation of the importance of the believers’ possession of the Holy Spirit as a certification concerning the future aspects of their salvation. In ch. 8 this will be developed more fully. But even in the limited treatment given the Spirit in the present passage we get a glimpse of something that specially characterizes the Spirit. By him God’s love is “poured out … into our hearts.” The initial outpouring at Pentecost (Ac 2:33; cf. Isa 32:15; Eze 39:29; Joel 2:28; Zec 12:10) is maintained in individuals who receive the Spirit at conversion. The verb “poured out” speaks of the inexhaustible abundance of the supply, being reminiscent of the copious provision for the thirsty children of Israel in the wilderness (Nu 20:8, 11; cf. 1 Co 10:4). The blessings found in Christ are mediated to the people of God by the Spirit: “St. Paul refers all his conscious experience of the privileges of Christianity to the operation of the Holy Spirit, dating from the time when he [the believer] definitively enrolled himself as a Christian, i.e. from his baptism” (Sanday and Headlam, 126). Looking back over the opening paragraph of ch. 5, we see that the thought has advanced from faith to hope and from hope to love (the same order as in 1 Co 13:13).[2]

5:3–5 / It is one thing to be a Christian with the wind at one’s back. How frequently the Christian life is depicted as a state of insulation and ease, where believers are supposedly endowed with some sort of “executive clemency” from the knocks of life. Increasingly in our day the Christian life is depicted in terms of triumphalism and success.

Paul, however, says that the believer must learn to rejoice not only in the future hope of glory, but also in our sufferings. This is a paradox, because sufferings and afflictions appear to deliver us up to death, not to glory. But for Paul faith enables sufferings and afflictions to aid God’s grace, not oppose it. Throughout salvation history human suffering plays an unavoidable and necessary role of identification with God’s way in the world. David confesses that God does not lead him around the valley of the shadow of death, but through it (Ps. 23:4). Suffering is the necessary prelude to the exaltation of the Servant of Yahweh (Isa. 52:13–53:12). The Lord of Glory himself suffered a violent and ignominious death on the cross. The apostle Paul’s witness to his faith led to such persecution that he could have written a guide to the jails of the Roman world. Suffering is an essential part of the Christian’s identification with the fate and work of Christ. Paul was not an exponent of a health and wealth gospel. He knew firsthand that the Christian life is one of “conflicts on the outside, fears within” (2 Cor. 7:5; see his list of hardships in 2 Cor. 11:32ff.). He knew that suffering, loathsome as it is, strips away false securities and drives believers to God, the source of all hope and compassion. He knew, bewildering as it may seem, that hardships and sufferings were necessary to prepare believers for the weight of glory prepared for them (2 Cor. 4:16–18).

In verses 3–4 he presents the consequences of suffering as a chain reaction: we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. The Greek word for perseverance is a compound of “under” and “remain,” meaning the ability to endure, or staying power. The word for character is found nowhere in Greek literature prior to Paul, and appears to be unique to him. It means the quality of being approved after testing, or character, and hence the distinguishing attribute of the mature individual. The Greek word is a contrastive word play with the “depraved mind” (Gk. adokimon) of 1:28 which leads to wrath and the mature character here (Gk. dokimē) which leads to salvation. Hope, which both begins (v. 2) and ends (vv. 4–5) the sequence, means to live by the promises of God. The stimulus to this chain reaction is faith. That is to say, Paul does not here provide us with a fail-safe formula for virtue. By itself tribulation does not necessarily produce perseverance; it often produces bitterness and resignation, and hardship may simply produce hardness instead of character. Perseverance, character, and hope are marks of grace, and they develop only where the believer stands justified before God and responds to them in faith.

Especially important is Paul’s statement that hope does not disappoint us (v. 5). The Greek word for disappoint, kataischynein, is a cognate of the same word in 1:16, “I am not ashamed (epaischynein) of the gospel.” It recalls, despite everything to the contrary, that the believer’s trust in the gospel is no empty fantasy. The Jewish Christian concept of hope dwarfs the ancient Greek idea of hope. For the Greek hope was little more than an eventuality, a possible outcome of current circumstances. But for Jews and Christians hope is anchored to the person and promises of God. Käsemann captures the distinction well, “[Hope] is no longer in Greek fashion the prospect of what might happen but the prospect of what is already guaranteed” (Romans, p. 134).

Hope is also tempered by the fires of adversity, but again only through faith. Apart from faith, hope is the opiate of a false and bitter illusion. But apart from love, hope has no basis. God has poured out his love into our hearts, says Paul (v. 5). The original Greek reads “in our hearts” (not into our hearts), implying that the Holy Spirit is already active in the hearts of believers. God is not a big brother dispensing miserly increments of goodwill to his minions. God is a compassionate Father who literally pours out his love within us. The Greek word for poured out, ekchein, suggests a lavishness on God’s part, reminiscent, perhaps, of the occasional torrential rains in arid eastern regions. The verb is in the perfect tense, indicating that the gushing forth began at a specific point in the past and continues into the present. The same verb recurs several times in the Acts 2 narrative (vv. 2:17, 18, 33), which may indicate that Paul locates its inception at Pentecost. At any rate, in prophetic literature the outpouring of God’s Spirit was anticipated as the inauguration of the new age, and Paul saw in Christ’s death and resurrection and in the subsequent bestowal of the Holy Spirit the dawning of the eschatological order.

For the first time in Romans Paul mentions the love of God (v. 5). In Christian usage the Greek word for love, agapē, means unconditional love originating solely from the giver and independent of any merit in the recipient. It is not conditional love, love “if”; not earned love, love “because of”; but unwarranted love, love “in spite of.” Verse 10 attests that God expressed his love in Christ “when we were God’s enemies.” Ordinarily, to bestow love on a worthless or treacherous person is madness. But God’s love does not justify itself, as Franz Leenhardt notes, by pointing to the value of the beloved object (Romans, pp. 136–37). Neither does it justify itself by reciprocity from the beloved. Rather, God’s love gives that which its object does not possess in itself; its transforming power is its own reason for existence. Jesus commanded his followers to love not because of expected returns, but “in spite of” the apparent worthlessness of the other (Luke 6:32–36). Love is the blueprint for the plan of salvation and the Christian life. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

God’s love is no abstraction. The supreme expression of God’s love is the death of Christ “on our behalf” (vv. 6–8). The love of God, therefore, must be understood objectively rather than subjectively, i.e., as God’s love for us rather than our love for God. Interestingly, Paul does not say “the love of Christ,” as verses 6–8 would suggest. This implies that the crucifixion promotes not the heroism of Jesus, but rather the saving purpose of God to redeem hostile humanity. God’s love is expressly mediated through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given us (v. 5). Paul is not yet prepared to introduce a discussion of the Holy Spirit, which must await chapter 8. He continues rather with the love of God as it was expressed in Christ’s atoning death. Mention of God’s pouring out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit does, however, establish the significant points that God’s love is personal love communicated through the Spirit and that the Spirit is the companion of believers. The verb given, an aorist (past) participle in Greek, indicates that the Holy Spirit has entered the lives of believers at a point in the past (at their justification by faith, v. 1; Gal. 3:2) and continues to abide with them.[3]

Paul continues, 3, 4. And not only this, but we even exult in our sufferings, because we know that suffering brings about perseverance; perseverance, proven character; proven character, hope.

Here “in our sufferings” means “in the midst of and because of” the tribulations we experience in carrying on the work of the Lord. Cf. Rom. 8:35–39; 1 Cor. 4:9–13; 2 Cor. 1:4–10; 11:23–30 (the long list); 12:7–10; Gal. 6:17; 2 Tim. 3:11, 12 (to the extent in which that passage reflects on earlier events).

But how was it possible for the apostle to exult in sufferings? How can suffering—here probably especially tribulation for the sake of Christ and the gospel—be regarded as a blessing? For a somewhat detailed answer see N.T.C. on Philippians, pp. 90, 91. Be sure also to examine Heb. 12:5–11, and in the Old Testament Ps. 119:67, 71; Jer. 31:18.

To all this add 2 Cor. 12:7–10. Note especially verse 9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In this connection two facts should be borne in mind:

  1. An afflicted believer’s own weakness, by way of contrast, serves to magnify God’s power.
  2. It is exactly when the sufferer recognizes that he is weak but God is strong and ready to help that he will seek help from above. Since this help is sufficient, his faith will be strengthened. Thus suffering brings about perseverance.

Although it is true that perseverance (strength to bear up under plus the persistent application of this strength) is basically the result of the operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of God’s children, it implies human action. It is by no means a passive quality. The person who has it perseveres. He holds on to what he has (Rev. 2:25), is faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).

Perseverance produces proven character, that is, character that has sustained the test to which it was subjected.

With respect to this “test” see Zech. 13:9, “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.” Just as the refining fire of the goldsmith frees gold and silver from the impurities which in the natural state cling to them (cf. Isa. 1:25; Mal. 3:3), so also the patient endurance or perseverance of God’s children purifies them, that is, by the operation of the Holy Spirit brings about “proven” character, a character that has successfully sustained the fiery test.

It is immediately clear that consciousness, on their part, of the fact that they have sustained the test, so that God’s approval rests on them, will strengthen their hope. Proven character brings about hope. So, in this example of chain reasoning we are back to the hope mentioned in verse 2.

5. And this hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Note the masterful transition from faith (verses 1, 2) to hope (verses 2, 4, 5), to love (verse 5). This is the sequence found also in 1 Cor. 13:13. (In 1 Thess. 1:3 the sequence is faith, love, hope.)

There are people without hope (Eph. 2:12; 1 Thess. 4:13). There are also those who cling to illusory or deceptive hope (Prov. 11:7; Acts 16:19). But those who have been justified by faith and have been reconciled with God cherish the kind of hope that does not disappoint (Ps. 22:5). Their hope is firmly anchored in God’s redeeming love. Another way of expressing the same thought is this: their hope is moored to the throne of grace, that is, to that which is “within the veil,” where Jesus is seated at God’s right hand (Heb. 6:19, 20). He is living forevermore to intercede for his people (Heb. 7:25).

Moreover, God’s love is not rationed out drop by drop. On the contrary, by the Holy Spirit it is “poured out” into the hearts of the redeemed; in other words, it is supplied freely, abundantly, copiously, lavishly, as is true with respect to God’s gifts in general (Num. 20:8, 11; 2 Kings 4:1–7; Ps. 91:16; Isa. 1:18; 55:1; Ezek. 39:29; Joel 2:28, 29; Zech. 12:10; Matt. 11:27–30; 14:20; 15:37; Luke 6:38; John 1:16; 3:16; Acts 2:16–18; 10:45; 14:17; 17:25; Rom. 5:20; 1 Cor. 2:9, 10; 2 Cor. 4:17; Eph. 1:8; 2:7; James 1:5; Rev. 22:17). “He giveth and giveth and giveth again.” See N.T.C. on John, Vol. I, pp. 88, 89 (“grace upon grace”).

In fact, the Holy Spirit, who is the Dispenser of God’s gifts, is also himself God’s gift to the church (John 14:16; 15:7).

Over against the opinion of some it should be emphasized that the expression “the love of God” cannot mean “our love for God.” How could such thoroughly inadequate love ever be the basis of hope that does not disappoint? The reference is clearly to God’s own love, as verse 8 proves. See also Rom. 8:35; 2 Cor. 13:13.

Now all this sheds light on the glorious character of justification by faith. This divine deed whereby the sinner who flees to God for refuge is declared righteous is often compared to that which happens in a courtroom. It has accordingly been called a forensic action. It is indeed that, but, considered in its most comprehensive sense, it is far more than that. Note contrast:

The earthly judge


God as Judge


a    finding the accused “not guilty” acquits him; or finding him guilty sentences him.

b    dismisses him from the courtroom and has no further dealings with him.


a    finding the accused guilty—as is always the case—blots out his guilt, on the basis of the work accomplished by God’s Son, the Guilt Bearer.

b    through his Spirit pours his love into his heart and adopts him as his own son or daughter.


But the comparison should be carried one step farther, for even human adoption is not an adequate illustration of divine adoption. In human adoption the parents would like to transmit something of their own character or spirit to that adopted child. Sometimes this succeeds to a degree; sometimes not at all. But when God adopts he also plants his own Spirit into the adoptee’s heart, transforming him or her into God’s own image (Rom. 8:15).[4]

[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 527–534). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 89–90). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Edwards, J. R. (2011). Romans (pp. 136–138). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 170–172). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.