Romans Bible Guide – Day Twenty-two
March 7, 2016
Previously, in Romans: We are moving toward the climax of this remarkable section of Romans, which has said Jesus’ life with us leads to no condemnation and to intimate connection with God, even as we all still stuffer and wait and hope for full redemption.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Points of Interest:
- ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought’ – Truer words have never been spoken. We are so weak and overwhelmed sometimes that we don’t even know where to start. Or perhaps our inability to pray is yet another sign of our weakness. Regardless, God is there for us. This is not a sign that the Spirit has left us, but is the very moment in which the Spirit is eager to help. The Holy Spirit living within the child of God pulls our unspoken prayers out to our “Abba” even when all we can do is sigh. Prayer encompasses more than our words – it is broader and deeper than that.
- ‘God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes’ – We’re treading on mysterious ground here, but what a beautiful thought that while being too weak to even know how to pray, we can be at the center of the life of the Triune God – one God comprised of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. United with Jesus in our lives, the Spirit inside us and the Father hearing our prayers communicate with one another and advance God’s will, while we’re sighing or sleeping or fumbling in our prayers. Deep.
- ‘all things work together for good for those who love God’ – This doesn’t say that all things are good, but that God can take all things and find ways to use them for good. This is more of the meaning of redemption in Jesus, that Jesus has bought our life and freedom, and will continue to take every part of our experience and shape it toward our good.
- ‘foreknew… predestined… called… justified… glorified’ – This series of verbs has been used to develop some abstract systems of how it is that God works in the world. These systems, particularly in the tradition of Protestant reformer John Calvin, have made God look like a controlling micro-manager who leaves little room for human choice in the big story of how our lives play out. The context here, though, is God working all things for good in those people that love God. Those are the people God has clearly called and has a purpose for. These verbs further elucidate what that calling and purpose look like. If you love God, Paul’s saying, he knew you ahead of time and had good purposes for you (foreknew, predestined). Then God called your name, and gave you standing and importance with God. And now you’re on your way toward a future of unimaginable beauty and perfection (justified, glorified). The emphasis doesn’t seem to be on people who don’t seem to love God, but on a bigger picture of what’s happening with those who do.
- ‘conformed to the image of his Son’ – Conformity can be a dirty word in the modern West. But here we’re not talking about control, manipulation, or the loss of one’s individuality. Instead, it’s a reinforcement of all Romans 5 and 6 were about – that God’s life plan for you is for you to become like Jesus. Your version of Jesus might not be identical to anyone else’s, but it will have all the life and power and peace and truth that attracted you to Jesus, just in your mind and in your skin.
- ‘firstborn within a large family’ – I love this little note on God’s hopes for people connected to Jesus. Not unlike some other parents I know, God always wanted a big family. Jesus, remarkable as he is as a firstborn, isn’t enough. God wants lots of other kids, little siblings who bear our own resemblance to big brother Jesus.
Taking It Home:
For you – Little siblings in a large family can sometimes feel unseen. Is there any part of your past or present that doesn’t look like it fits into this hopeful future for you of God working all things for good? Ask God to share his promise that even that will become part of a happy family story. Ask God for hope that every good purpose God has for you will be accomplished.
For your six – Pray that God will hear the unspoken prayers of your six and connect them more with God, so they can have the deep sense of purpose that is part of that connection.