Romans 7-9

The Plan Part 3

In the first verse of Chapter 7 Paul reminds us that he is still talking to Jews who have become Christians. They are struggling with understanding the full ramifications of the New Covenant. In the first verse of Chapter 5 Paul makes it clear that we are justified by faith and not justified by observing the Law. In Chapter 7 Paul builds on what he said in Chapter 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” NASB

It is the Law that makes this clear, Paul teaches in Chapter 7, and this is the purpose of the Law.

So now Paul, having brought them to this understanding, begins to teach on the New Covenant and the Holy Spirit in Chapter 8. When the Law was given to Israel, who had made a covenant with God to be His people, they were to bring the Law to the world by living it and proclaiming it. Their living and proclaiming the Law was their response to their having put their faith in God. The Law points to God’s plan for the world. Ultimately it points to Jesus. The Prophets proclaimed God’s plan and the coming of the Christ, which is Jesus, who fulfills the Law. At this point in time Jesus has come. He has died on the cross and paid for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

When a person, Jew or Gentile for this discussion, believes who the Bible says Jesus is and that He is the sacrifice for their sin, and asks Jesus to forgive their sin, they have put their faith in Jesus. From this point they are a new creature, as Paul described in 2 Corinthians 5. Now, as new creatures and children of God, we have a new purpose and we are to have a new “work” to do. From our faith in Jesus we are to set our mind on the Spirit as Paul describes in Chapter 8:1-17.

In this section Paul makes it clear that if our mind is set on the flesh we are hostile to God and separated (dead) from or to God. In the Old Covenant those who believed, because of their faith, followed the Law but the Law was powerless over sin because of the weakness of the flesh or the sin nature. God knows we are weak. He knows we have a sin nature. This is why we are justified by faith in God, not by works such as keeping the Law. If the purpose of the Law is to show us we are sinners in need of the divine help of a Savior, then the purpose of the Jews bringing Law to the world was to show the world that we are sinners in need of the divine help of a Savior. Because of the covenant Israel made with God at Mt Sinai, Israel was “chosen” to live the law and bring the Law to the world. God sees this covenant as a marriage covenant. Given this, those God foreknew in Chapter 8:29 are the covenant people of Israel. Paul tells us this in Chapter 11 verse 2. This is an important distinction and gives us a better understanding of this section of scripture.

Romans 8:29-30 reads, “For those He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might  be the first-born among the brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” NASB

Paul has already established that we are justified by faith, the same being true for Israel. We and Israel are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son by faith.  When Israel agreed to the covenant God presented to the nation in Exodus 19 their agreeing to the covenant was the declaration of their faith and they were then “called” for the task. Isaiah 55:1-5 speaks of them being glorified. Here we see them justified, called, and glorified.

Predestined means limited in advance. It is unfortunate when people think that God lines us up and chooses some but not all. This reminds me of the school yard where the kids lined up and two team captains alternately picked who they wanted on their team. As the teams were chosen it was clear who was favored and who was not.

Some believe foreknowledge means God knows who is going to choose Him so He chooses them. With these interpretations it is impossible to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. Indeed God is sovereign but He is also holy and just.  This means, because of His nature, He will not trample on the free will of man. Justification by faith should make it clear God is holy and just and man has freewill to choose what or in whom he puts his faith. Indeed God does know everything but that is not the context here in these verses.

So let’s look at the Biblical definition of predestination.  In John 14 Jesus told the disciples He was preparing a place for them and He would come for them so they might be with Him. He told them they knew the way but Thomas said they didn’t know the way. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by me.’” John 14:6 NASB

In this verse we can see the sovereignty of God limiting in advance the way by which man can be saved without trampling on the free will of man to choose. Now God did choose Israel to serve Him but not until they had exercised their free will and chose to serve Him. We, as the Church, can and must learn from this. When we exercise our free will and choose Jesus as our Savior, after hearing the Gospel, we also choose Jesus as our Lord. Ephesians 2:10 tells us God has work for us to do and in1 Corinthians 12-14 we see that God provides what we need to do His plan. This is the point of this letter and we will get into more detail when Paul addresses the gentile believers later in this letter. For now let’s keep our attention on what Paul is saying in this section to the covenant people of God, Israel, who have become believers.

When Israel made their covenant with God based on their faith in God, He gave them the Law as we have already talked about. Not everyone was happy about this. Satan opposed them from the beginning deceiving people into persecuting them and opposing them. Israel has and continues to pay a high price for being known as God’s people. The early Church faced dreadful opposition as well which continues today. Israel and the Church are going to face more and more opposition from the enemy in the future. This is what is in view as we read verse 28 of Chapter 8. The Greek word for “purpose” in this verse means an exposition. The first place this word is used in the New Testament is found in Matthew 12:4. In the NASB it is translated “consecrated bread.” This is the 12 loaves of bread that was to be on the table in the Holy Place in the Tabernacle where the priest ministered before God. The twelve loaves represent the Word of God given to the twelve tribes of Israel. The context of this was that the priest gave David, who was running from King Saul, the bread which is also symbolic of the Word of God. The disciples were picking and eating grain in the fields on the Sabbath and were accused of breaking the Sabbath. The reality was that they were feeding on the word of God they would have received in the synagogue as they were traveling with and listening to Jesus.

When I was raising cattle we would purchase newborn calves and bottle feed them. We also had cows that would give birth and take care of their own calves. I noticed that the bottle fed calves were always hungry for the bottle and would gulp down the formula and want more. As a result they would put on extra fat and were not as healthy. The calves that were raised by their mother cow were always healthy and good looking. It was because when they were hungry they nursed enough to satisfy their hunger and went off knowing that they could nurse any time they were hungry. The same was true for the disciples. Since they were with Jesus they could feed on the Word of God any time because He is the Word. John 1

In this passage the Word of God and how it is taken in, is God’s exposition or purpose. The good that comes from this is for our understanding but Jesus and the disciples had to go through the opposition for us to understand what God is displaying. The last verse where this word is used is in Hebrews 9:2 and again it is translated the “sacred bread” in the tabernacle.

The point of this is that, no matter what we are going through including opposition and trial, the Word of God is on display in our life.  

The Jewish believers were struggling trying to fit the New Covenant into the Old Covenant. The problem was they did not have a correct understanding of the Old Covenant. They had gone off course and Paul is trying to get them back on course.

Over the years regarding this subject I have met people who were off course to their detriment. They fall into two categories. One category is that they believe they cannot be saved because of the sin they committed. The other is that they believe that if God has chosen them they will be saved and if God has not chosen them then they can’t be saved. It is sad that their understanding of salvation is based on a false belief from a false teaching. But where one puts their faith is where one ends up. I have taken some time today to explain a section of scripture that can be misleading in hopes that I have brought some clarity.

God loves us and is for us. John 3:16 declares that God loves the world. That includes everyone in it. 1 John 2:2 declares that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. That includes everyone in it. We are saved when we put our faith in Jesus. Our nature is flawed by sin. We cannot attain the righteous requirements of God by our works. However, our faith operates just fine which is why the requirement for salvation is faith and not works. Be careful not to put your faith in some false teaching or belief system. Where we put our faith has eternal consequences.

Pastor Dave