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  • Brian O'Kelly

Romans 8 (Part 2) - Nothing Can Separate Us



3.1. Chapters 1 through five Paul explains the sin problem and how it is universally applied as well as how it is universally cured through grace. Chapter 6 and seven are an expansion on his theme in chapter 5. Now here in chapter 8 Paul begins to offer the solutions to the sin problem.

4. Today’s text

4.1. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 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 delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

5. Debtors to God

5.1. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

5.1.1. A debtor is one who owes something. If I borrow money from a bank, I’m in their debt. We also use this in the context of someone doing something for us that creates a sense of obligation on our part. Recently, I needed to help my mom move to a new place. This was something I could not of done on my own. So I asked a young guy at work if he would help me. Even though I had offered to pay him, and did in fact pay him, my sense of gratitude for his help was such that I still feel indebted to him. Not only because he made himself available on his days off (again I was paying him) but also because of his willingness in the cheerful attitude that made the whole project much easier. How much more so would this be true if I hadn’t even asked and he had shown up to help and refused the pay I offered. I know this is an imperfect example, but the truth is I couldn’t have done it on my own. My own flesh, especially at my age, would not have been able to accomplish this. I absolutely needed help. In my view, this is somewhat like what Paul is saying about our relationship to sin and the law and gaining freedom from both. It’s something we simply can’t do without some help. And receiving that help through the Holy Spirit makes us indebted to something other than our flesh.

5.1.2. Remember back in chapter 4, Paul says the following:

5.1.2.1. Romans 4:4 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

5.1.3. If we do it ourselves, we don’t owe anyone. If someone does it for us, or strengthens our ability to do it, we owe them.

5.1.4. As Paul has been making the case up till now, and made in the first half of the chapter, it is not the law or our ability in the flesh that can empower us to live godly lives. It is only through relationship with the risen Savior by the empowering of the Holy Spirit that can empower us to live in a way that’s pleasing to God.

5.1.5. While I believe the Weseleys were wrong in their doctrine of “entire sanctification”, I do think they were onto something. In the something I think they were onto is the idea that as we walk with Jesus and as we begin to live in such a way as to be aware of the Holy Spirit and to listen to him, our lives should move in a godly direction. Our sins should become less frequent and less serious. Most of us, as Christians, successfully avoid the more disgusting and most public sins. Drunkenness, adultery, violence, lust, theft, and more are not so difficult to avoid. But selfishness, self-importance, gossip, and covetousness are more difficult to avoid.

5.1.6. As we begin to gain some level of mastery over these things and see ourselves released from the bondage of sin, we cannot credit the flesh. We owe these changes to the indwelling and leading of the Holy Spirit.

6. Not a Spirit of Bondage to Fear

6.1. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

6.1.1. This bondage of fear that Paul speaks of is bondage to a master or as he said husband or an ungrateful boss. Any situation where not following the rules might lead to an unpleasant consequence.

6.1.2. The spirit of adoption of course is the idea of us being brought into the family of God. The important concept here is that in an adoption, there is no obligation on the part of the parent to bring the child into the family. Instead of an obligation, it is an affirmative choice. I know people who are adopted, and so do you. They share the same rights, benefits, and blessings as natural children. At least, in a healthy adoption situation. Obviously when God adopts us this is the healthiest of all adoptions.

6.1.3. This is the Spirit of adoption by which we cry out “Abba Father”. I’m sure many of you know heard that “Abba” is the Hebrew as well as the Aramaic word for “daddy”. It’s also commonly used today by Muslims. But this isn’t quite the whole story, while “abba” is a term of intimate connection like “daddy” it’s also something beyond that. It is intended to communicate more than just intimacy of connection but also an indication of a desire to be obedient. In English we might use the term “Sir” to connote the respect and subsequent obedience. The term Abba is as intimate as “daddy” and as obedient as “Sir” without really being either. It is kind of like saying “my father whom I love and will obey because of my love for you”.

6.1.4. In receiving the spirit of adoption by which we cry out “Abba father” we are communicating both our intimacy with God and our desire to be obedient to him.

7. The Spirit bears witness

7.1. 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

7.1.1. This idea of the Spirit himself bearing witness delivers two ideas in one.

7.1.2. The first of these is to point out that in Paul’s language here he uses the word “himself” to refer to the Holy Spirit. This is one of the verses that we can see the Holy Spirit as a separate personality or a separate actor from the father or from Jesus. It’s important to notice that the Holy Spirit does things apart from the actions of God the father or Jesus.

7.1.3. A second important idea here is that He is bearing witness with our spirit. Sometimes people ask how they can know if they are saved. This is one of the main ways. The Holy Spirit informs you in your spirit of your status of intimate relationship with the father.

7.1.4. 1 Corinthians 3:16 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

8. Joint Heirs

8.1. 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

8.1.1. If we are children of God, if we are “adopted” this makes us the adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus. This means that we will share in his inheritance. It doesn’t mean as some would indicate that we will share in his divinity. A natural child shares some of the same substance with its natural mother and father. This is the case with Jesus who shared some of the actual substance of both his mother Mary and his father. But an adopted child does not share in their actual substance, but in the inheritance and legacy of the adoptive parents.

8.1.2. What is the inheritance of Jesus?

8.1.2.1. Psalm 2-7-8 “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

8.1.2.2. Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things

8.1.2.3. Romans 4:13 13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

8.1.2.4. 2 Timothy 2:11-12 11 This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him

8.1.2.5. The inheritance of Jesus is the earth and all things in it and dominion over it. But I believe this represents the new Jerusalem, the new earth which will receive with him. In part my belief in this regard is based on:

8.1.2.5.1. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded

8.1.2.5.2. John 12:31 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.

9. Small Price – Big Rewards

9.1. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

9.1.1. This is a verse that is difficult to identify with for those of us who live in the modern Western world. We really do not suffer much. We are rich beyond the wildest dreams of most people who have ever lived and who currently live on the earth. It’s difficult to get our minds around the idea that what we spend on a single drive through meal at McDonald’s is more than many people earn in a week

9.1.1.1. the monthly average income in Afghanistan is $42.

9.1.1.2. More than 1/3 of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day, that’s less than $60 a month or put another way less than $15 a week

9.1.2. and this is only addressing the economics of the situation. In 2021 nearly 50 million people worldwide live under some kind of modern-day slavery. This includes 27.6 million people who work under forced labor and another 22 million (nearly exclusively women) who live in forced marriages.

9.1.3. Every day 13 Christians are killed for their faith, 12 churches are attacked or burned, every day in the 12 Christians are arrested or imprisoned for their faith and another five are abducted. A total of 309 million Christians are living in places with very high or extremely high levels of persecution. 1/6 of the believers in Africa and 2/5 in Asia. Covid 19 acted as a catalyst for religious persecution through either relief discrimination, forced conversion were as a justification for increasing surveillance and censorship. North Korea being the most repressive and hostile place to be a Christian.

9.1.4. Yet while these things seem far off and therefore in some ways irrelevant to those of us in the West, we too often face persecution of some kind for our faith. There are many believers, perhaps some of you who know that being open about their Christianity will be a liability in the workplace.

9.1.5. Many Christians in Western countries know that being vocal about the Christianity will result in criticism, ostracization or even legal action. We’ve all heard the stories of the people who won’t bake a cake or be a photographer or a florist for a gay wedding based on their Christianity. These people have risked, and some cases have lost their businesses as a result.

9.1.6. These Christians have understood this verse well, that our present suffering, however difficult it may be to bear our little compared with the glory we will receive in Christ Jesus.

9.1.7. 2 Corinthians 4:17 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,

10. Creation waits for deliverance

10.1. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

10.1.1. When it says the “earnest expectation of the creation” I believe it refers to all of creation as in all the earth, all of the plants and animals. Not in such a way as to anthropomorphize them, but rather in a way to indicate that there is a time coming through which all of the current created world will pass away and be replaced by a new heavens and the new earth.

10.1.1.1. 2 Peter 3:10 -10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

10.1.1.2. In this way the creation is subjected to futility. In the end it does not survive. If you remember in Genesis man was given dominion over all the earth. A dominion which because of sin subjected the creation to an unjust ruler.

10.1.1.3. 2 Peter 3:13 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells

10.1.1.4. the new earth will be ruled by Jesus and the righteous along with him. This is nearly as I can tell is what it means when Paul says “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God”

11. Groaning and Laboring

11.1. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

11.2. This groaning within ourselves that Paul speaks of is the sense of being at some level “out of place”. This is the reason that many refer to our life after death with Jesus as “going home”. All of mankind is quite literally not at home in this world. God has a different plan for mankind than following the course of Adam. We were built for relationship not only with one another but with God himself walked in the cool of the day with Adam in the garden. Our true home is with God and until we are truly with him will always feel a sense of disquiet. All the religious efforts of all of mankind throughout all of time are an effort to quell this constant disquiet. This is an effort that finds no success outside of Jesus. In Christ alone we begin to experience some peace. Ultimately, this is not a complete peace but rather, a peace that our future is secure.

11.3. Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.

11.4. This is not a rest as in ceasing from our work and being in leisure. It is a rest from our disquiet because we know what the future holds for us in Christ Jesus.

12. Hope is invisible

12.1. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

12.2. This verse is straightforward enough, when something is right in front of us or already possessed, we don’t hope for it. We have already seen or received it. When we are hoping for something, it is a waiting to see or receive.

12.3. Hebrews 1:11Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

13. A Spiritual Help – The Holy Spirit

13.1. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

13.2. The Holy Spirit is quite literally praying for you, interceding with the father for you. Let me offer yet another of my imperfect examples. I’ve experienced while spending time with someone close to me a sense of communication. Not a communication with words. Sometimes on a long car trip or sharing a meal with someone or on a hike. There is a sense of intimacy of heart. It is in intimacy or connection that would be difficult to put into words. Even if you tried, the words would fail to adequately describe what is really going on. If this example doesn’t help you just ignore it.

14. God knows the mind of the Spirit

14.1. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

14.2. He who searches the hearts is the father, and the father knows what the mind of the Spirit is. This is one more verse that demonstrates that the father and the Holy Spirit are not the same. As the spirit makes intercession for the saints, the mind of the spirit is revealed to the father. Don’t ask me how this works. Try as I might, while I believe in the Trinity, I can’t really get my head around how in one sense they are separate and in another sense they are inseparable.

15. All things work together for good

15.1. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

15.2. This is one of the most misused verses in the Bible. Way too many people abbreviate it as “all things work together for good” but that is only half the story. It is to those who love God and are the called according to his purpose that all things work together for good. It is not a verse that can be applied to all people in all circumstances. It is a verse that applies to those of us who love God. And notice that it says, “the called” not simply “called”, but “the called”. My own belief is that this refers to the ecclesia, the called-out ones. Ecclesia is a Greek word meaning “called out ones” referred to the principle of assembly of the Greeks in any of their city states like Athens or Sparta. In the evolution of the church, it was used as synonymous with the church. Ecclesia means in Christian parlance those of us who are called out of the world.

16. God’s Foreknowledge

16.1. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

16.2. This verse is often called the Golden chain of Calvinism. Most of you who have followed my teaching for any amount of time know that I disagree with reformed theology and with the Calvinist viewpoint. The foreknowing in this verse is not simply one of intellectual knowledge it is a one of intimate affection. In the way that the Bible says that Adam knew his wife. It is not saying this in a sense of knowing who would be saved, (although God didn’t know that) because this would imply that God didn’t foreknow those who would not be saved. Notice that in each of the sections it splits into two. God predestined everyone who was ever born to be conformed to the image of his son. Then he speaks of whom he predestined (those who receive it) he also called, that is everyone, and whom are called (those who respond to the call). The justification of the cross also extends to all men, but all men do not receive it. Those who receive it, he glorifies.

17. God is for us

17.1. 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 delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

17.2. Since God has given us his own son, is there any good thing that he will not give us?

18. Who can condemn you but God alone

18.1. 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

18.2. Is there a judge who is superior God? Is there an advocate superior to Jesus? Of course neither of these can be true

19. Separation is impossible

19.1. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

19.2. The result of all of this is that once we are in relationship with Jesus, no external force can take us out of the love of Jesus. The dozen Christians were martyred daily for their faith lose nothing and gain everything.

20. More than conquerors

20.1. 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

20.2. This verse as well is self-explanatory. There is simply no circumstance that can pull us apart from God. At least no external circumstance including death or the power of Satan who loses all his power over us once we accept Jesus.

21. Next week

21.1. In chapter 9 Paul

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