Skip to comments."If God Is for Us" (Sermon on Romans 8:28-39)
Posted on 07/23/2011 6:30:02 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
If God Is for Us (Romans 8:28-39)
If God is for us, who can be against us? Well, indeed, if God is for us, then it really wouldnt matter who is against us, would it? I mean, who could be greater and more powerful than God? No one. By definition, no one or no thing can be more powerful than God; otherwise, that person or thing would be God.
If God is for us, who can be against us? But that question then raises another question, one that could be a little ominous, depending on the answer: Is God for us? How can we know whether he is or not? Is God for us? How can we be sure that he is?
Yeah, well, Im sure that God must be for some people. But how can I be sure he is for me? Because, I tell you, there are times when I begin to wonder if he really is. Things dont look like God is for me a whole lot of the time. It sure would give me a lot more confidence, a lot more joy, if I could be certain that God is for me. Can you help me out on that, Pastor?
Yes, I think I can. In fact, I know I can, Im sure of it. And our Epistle today will do the job. Its the conclusion of Romans 8, that great chapter weve been looking at these last few weeks. This passage is one of the most famous, most reassuring, and best-loved passages in all of the Bible. And it conclusively and emphatically answers, in the positive, the question that may haunt us in the back of our mind--and sometimes in the front of our mind: Is God for us? Is God for me? And so our theme this morning: If God Is for Us.
Are there things that could cause us to wonder whether or not God really loves us? You bet there are. The circumstances of our life dont always look like an all-powerful God is taking good care of us. What are those circumstances that could cause us to feel like were being cut off from Gods love, that he doesnt really love us anymore? In other words, what can separate us from Gods love--or at least, what can lead us to think were being separated from Gods love?
Paul lists some of them: Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? These are hardships, afflictions, sufferings, that can beset us in this life. Tribulation and distress: All the various troubles and pressures that weigh heavily upon us. What are the troubles and pressures you face that may cause you to doubt Gods close and tender love? Famine and nakedness: This is talking about economic adversity in the extreme--not having enough to eat, not having clothes to wear. None of us, thankfully, is having to face famine or nakedness. But by covering extreme conditions, Paul is at the same time taking in everything less dire than that, including the kind of economic hardships that you and I face. Persecution, danger, and sword: Again, thankfully, these are not things that we as Christians living in America are having to face. But many Christians around the world do face, and have faced throughout the centuries, persecution and even death by the sword. When you are being burned at the stake in first-century Rome or being hacked to death in twenty-first century Sudan, you just might be tempted to think that God is not watching out for you. Is God for us? If he is, then why are we suffering so?
Its a perennial perplexity for Gods people. Why do the righteous suffer? Where is the good and loving God when his faithful people endure such affliction? And not only these hardships that we may be experiencing at the moment, but there are even bigger threats to our future and our eternal security that can weigh on our mind. Paul lists some of these also: death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, and so on. The whole unknown future looms out before us like a gray heavy fog. We cant see ahead, whats coming. What will happen to me as I get older? What will happen to my marriage, which is kind of shaky at the moment? What if I lose my job? Thing present, things to come. Death, theres a biggie. What will the hour of death be like, how painful and awful will it be? What will happen to me when I die? Will I keep my faith? What if this whole Christianity business was a giant hoax after all? Doubt and uncertainties prey upon our minds. Things present, things to come, things I dont know, things I dont understand. Is God for me? Will he be for me in the future?
If God is for us. . . . But then here is what may be the biggest thing of all that could cause us to wonder if God is really for us. And that is, our sins. My sins. How can God love me when I keep sinning against him? I mean, if I was God, I would have pretty much given up on me by now. Why cant I ever seem to get this living-for-God business right? I keep messing up, falling back into old sinful patterns of behavior. My thoughts are not pure, I know it. My words hurt and offend. Will my sins separate me from Gods love? When is God going to say, Ive had enough?
There are other Christians I see who are a lot better Christians than I am. Maybe God is for them, but how can he put up with me? With all the hardships and afflictions that Christians face, with all the sins that I at least keep doing, how in the world can we ever be sure that God still really does love us?
Is God for us? Paul gives us the answer, and it is an emphatic Yes!: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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? Who shall bring any charge against Gods elect? It is God who justifies. 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.
There is one, and only one, way you can be absolutely sure that God really is for us in any and every circumstance. And that is, by looking at what God has done for us in Christ. Christ Jesus himself is the most emphatic yes, the once-and-for-all yes, to that sometimes perplexing question, Is God for us?
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. . . . This is Pauls version of For God so loved the world that he gave his one-and-only Son. Friends, God did not spare his own Son but indeed gave him up for us all on the cross. Remember how the Father said, both at Jesus baptism and at his transfiguration, This is my beloved Son? And so Christ Jesus is. And yet Gods love for us is so great, so deep, that he would yield up his own beloved Son to death on the cross, in order to save us unworthy sinners. Amazing!
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? Yes, if God did the one, he will surely do the other. God will give us all things beneficial to our salvation--indeed, he will make us inheritors of all his riches in glory--because he has given Christ to be our Savior. Do you doubt Gods love? Look to the cross of Christ, and that will give you the answer.
But what about our sins? What about my sins? Are they not too great, too stubborn, for God to forgive? Will my sins accuse me and condemn me and lock me out of heaven? No. For that is precisely why Christ came, to win forgiveness for all of your sins. God has justified you, that is, pronounced you not guilty in his court of law. Your sins--what sins are you talking about? Christ took them off of you and took them on himself, and then took them to the cross and paid for them. And in exchange, Christ Jesus gives you his own righteousness to enable you to stand before God at the judgment seat. The penalty has been served--Christ paid it for you--and so God is being a perfectly just judge when he acquits you, justifies you, declares you not guilty.
And now when your sins weigh heavy on your mind, confess them, receive Gods forgiveness in the Absolution and in the Sacrament of Christs Body and Blood, and know that Christ your Savior is even now interceding for you, pleading your case before Gods throne in heaven. You see that sinner down there? Christ is saying. I shed my blood for her! I died on the cross for him! Satan, you accuser, you must depart!
In our text, Paul puts it like this: Who shall bring any charge against Gods elect? It is God who justifies. 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. Truly, as Paul said at the beginning of Romans 8, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
And so, dear friends, you can be sure--God wants you to be sure, to be absolutely certain--that no one or no thing will ever be able to separate you from his love. If God is for us. . . . Make that, Since God is for us! If God is for us--meaning, since God is for us--who can be against us? Answer: No one! Who shall bring any charge against you? Who is there to condemn? Again, same answer: No one!
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Hey, you know the answer: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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 among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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? Who shall bring any charge against Gods elect? It is God who justifies. 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. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Before God can be for us, we have to be for Him.
We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)
You may want to rethink or rephrase that, because that is the exact opposite of the gospel.
The Rev. Charles Henrickson
Charles Henrickson (Lutheran pastor, LCMS)
Is it your thinking that your words will be made stronger by the use of these titles?
Are your words alone weak and in need of false flash?
In what way are your words enhanced by suggesting they
come from a superior source by having appended a title?
Personally, I find that when reading something written by someone who waves a title
about I tend to be more critical, if I even deign to read the self-aggrandizing crap at all.
I use the title of my office when I am writing in my capacity as a pastor. I am not speaking as a private individual but in my public office. It’s actually the opposite of self-aggrandizement. It’s calling attention to the fact that it is the Word of God I am proclaiming. You may think otherwise, but that is why I do it.
“I note in your postings you favor the use of titles:”
Do you ever put your real name and your real life on the line when posting?
“You may want to rethink or rephrase that, because that is the exact opposite of the gospel.”
How about something like: Since we can know God is for us, we need to concern ourselves more with “us” being for Him”?
Seems to me your use of “humble” in your FR name is the heighth of “false flash”, as you say.
amen and amen!
Kris Kringle wrote: How about something like: Since we can know God is for us, we need to concern ourselves more with us being for Him?
Yes, I like that, and that’s what I was trying to say.
Yes, Romans 8:28-29 is a favorite, but I think we tend to forget the phrase “for those who LOVE him.............” That phrase has caught my attention this year. Each of us should examine what it means to love him. Jesus did had much to say about that: “If you love me, you will obey my teachings.”
Great read! I appreciate it! Thanks! Praise Jesus for he alone is worthy of our Praise!!! Amen!!!
Like Paul with the Bereans, I invite the reader to do so.
I know nothing about your personal faith, Humblegunner, and I don't want to make assumptions based on your postings. One of the big things that shocked me when I moved to the South is that I realized the spirit of the “fighting fundies” that I admired greatly while reading about the successful fights to take back the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod existed in the same secular culture as the anti-authoritarian “Dukes of Hazzard” mentality — and what appear to be two totally different personalities sometimes exist in the same person.
Southern fundamentalism is full of people who get mad and their pastor and start their own church down the street. That's not Lutheranism, which places a high level of importance on the role of ecclesiastical office and ordination (at least in its conservative versions). I'm not a Lutheran, but for very similar reasons, my own Calvinist theology also teaches me that I am required to respect the offices of pastor, elder and deacon. I am required by my Calvinist theology — and I would argue, by Scripture — to believe that not many should become teachers (i.e., pastors and elders) because those who teach will be judged with greater severity. Likewise, those who **ARE** ordained to those offices are worthy of respect, and if guilty of errors in doctrine or life, they must be removed from office out of respect for that office.
For me at least, it's important when reading a sermon to know who preached it and what ecclesiastical body holds his ordination. If I'm reading a sermon by a conservative Lutheran, I expect him to hold certain doctrinal convictions. Same goes for a conservative Calvinist, or a fundamental Baptist, or a traditional Roman Catholic, or any other doctrinal position.
When I read a sermon by an unordained layman, in most cases I can assume he's a person who cares deeply about the proclamation of the gospel but doesn't have a lot of formal training and therefore there are likely to be serious gaps in his biblical and doctrinal knowledge. There's definitely a place and a time for such sermons — inner-city gospel missions, foreign and domestic mission fields, etc., when enough well-trained men aren't available to do the work that needs to be done — but it isn't (or at least shouldn't) be the norm.
You don't need to agree with me, Humblegunner. If you're not a conservative Lutheran or a conservative Calvinist or a member of some other denominational tradition that values formal training for the ministry, I don't expect you to believe the same things about office and ordination that people in those denominational traditions do believe.
However, please don't blame Rev. Henrickson for being faithful to his own denomination's doctrinal positions, which he has sworn before God to uphold. His use of his formal ecclesiastical title is entirely consistent with being a conservative Lutheran.
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