In my fifty year pastoral ministry I have had occasion to be with folks who lacked certainty about their relationship to God. Some of them were troubled emotionally about this and yearned for inner peace and assurance. Others lived in blithe indifference, happily unconcerned about their need for Christ, and unaware of their spiritual peril. They seemed to believe that certainty of eternal life was not even possible.
For those who really care to know, the book of Romans, chapter eight promises eternal security. It affirms the unshakable promise of God that those who belong to him through faith in Christ are given the hope (assurance) of glory. In this chapter, Paul, “the apostle soars to sublime heights unequalled elsewhere in the New Testament,” wrote John Stott. He said, “Romans 8 is without doubt one of the best-known, best-loved chapters of the Bible.”
It is not hard to understand why this is true. The inspired words of Romans eight promise the certainty of deliverance from eternal condemnation, the certainty of the resurrection of the dead, the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, and the Spirit’s witness that they are God’s children.
Further, the eighth chapter of Romans describes how God works to achieve his good purposes in the lives of his children, even (especially) when they encounter hardship and suffering. It declares the certainty of God’s love and his eternal purpose in calling his own people to himself.
This chapter stands in shining contrast to the doubts, introspection, and discouragement that colored Paul’s mood in chapter seven. It provides a ringing answer to the plaintive, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24). Romans seven is about the work of the law in imposing death. Romans eight is about the power of the Holy Spirit in giving life through the gospel.
The chapter opens with the declaration that there is “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The word “condemnation” is derived from the courts of law. It is a metaphor Paul uses to teach about the believer’s judicial (legal) acceptance before a holy God. It is different from the tone of self-condemnation in chapter seven. The words “no condemnation” reiterate the doctrine of justification which has been Paul’s theme in the opening chapters of Romans. It means the believer is declared “not guilty” on the basis of faith in Christ.
Romans eight also tells about the Spirit’s role in helping believers live life as God intended. The Old Testament law was powerless to make us right with God or to give us the ability to live righteous lives. God did what the law could not do through his Son’s sacrifice on the cross and through the indwelling Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Right living is now possible through Spirit-enabled obedience to God’s will. The requirements of the moral law are thus fulfilled as we live under the guidance of the Spirit (Romans 8:4).
In this chapter the Holy Spirit is mentioned nineteen times. The Spirit supports the testimony of our human spirit that we believers are indeed God’s children (Romans 8:14-16). The Spirit helps us to pray as we ought to pray, even when we do not know how to frame our prayers (Romans 8:26-27). The Spirit enables us to call on God as a loving and compassionate Father (“Abba,” v. 15). The Holy Spirit is said to be the firstfruits of our future inheritance (Romans 8:23).
Paul does not sidestep the reality of suffering in this present life. There is no escapism in his description of living on earth. Yes, believers are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, but that does not mean that life will be free of trouble. In fact, Paul says that it is precisely because we are in Christ that we “share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17).
Suffering is common to all humanity. All of creation groans in anticipation of its renewal. Like Jesus (Matthew 19:28), Peter (Acts 3:19,21), and John (Revelation 21, 22), the apostle Paul foresaw the liberation and restoration of the whole of creation. This, he says, will happen in conjunction with the future glorification of all of God’s children. For now, we who believe are to live in anticipation of the resurrection and the completion of our redemption (Romans 8:18-25).
As we live in this in-between time, we are given the rich assurance that God is for us and no power in the universe can stand against us. In a beautiful and powerful series of rhetorical questions Paul answers uncertainty with certainty, doubt with assurance, and fear, with a bold statement of the believer’s eternal security in Christ (Romans 8:28-39). In the words of Zane Hodges, we are given here “a superbly elegant paean of praise to the permanence of God’s love in Christ.”
Read these verses aloud to yourself and let them feed your certainty of God’s good purpose for you.
Pastor Randy Faulkner