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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme: Standing Strong On God’s Promises

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of this study from the Book of Romans can help us remember that God is always working for our good.


Sept. 06

God’s Promise of Faithfulness


Sept. 13

God’s Promise of Eternal Life


Sept. 20

God’s Promise of Provision


Sept. 27

God’s Promise of Answered Prayer


Oct. 04

God’s Promise of Victory


Oct. 11

God’s Promise of a New Home



God’s goodness and love overcome life’s difficulties.


Romans 8:28-39





God’s Plan For Our Good (Rom. 8:28-30)

God Has Given Us His Best: Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:31-34)

Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Love (Rom. 8:35-39)


In Romans 1—8 Paul explained that all humanity stands guilty of sin before God but that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ apart from works of the law.  Paul then detailed how the Holy Spirit assists believers.  Paul brought chapter 8 to a close by proclaiming the full assurance believers have that God will bring to completion His work of salvation in them and by describing the nature of God’s incomparable love for believers in Jesus Christ. 

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.


  All of us would love a life where everything turns out just as we desire. Reality paints a different picture. Sometimes what we encounter is a minor inconvenience, and sometimes it is a life-changing catastrophe. Regardless of our circumstances, we can still experience good things from God. In fact, God can use those very difficulties to work His goodness into our lives. In the Book of Romans, Paul showed us how God works His goodness and love on our behalf.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


God’s Plan For Our Good (Rom. 8:28-30)

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.








1.   When have you heard something that sounded too good to be true?

2.   What is the assurance Paul stated in verse 28?

3.   To whom is the promised assurance given?

4.   Is Paul’s statement about all things working together conditional (v. 28)?

5.   If so, what condition did he identify (v. 28)?

6.   What is the condition this implication places on the believer?

7.   How would you explain the meaning of verse 28b?

8.   For what did God predestine His children (v. 29)?  Why?

9.   Why do you think that would that be important to God?

10.   How does verses 29 impact your understanding of verse 28?

11.   What emotions do you experience when you read these verses?

12.   How would you explain the meaning of verse 30?

13.   What does this verse mean to you?

14.   How do you think God can see good out of a bad situation when you can see only bad?

15.   How can we know that this plan of God is best for us?

16.   How is a believer to reflect the image of Christ?

17.   What are some things that keep us from reflecting this image?


Lasting Lessons in Rom. 8:28-30:

1.  God will utilize even the worst of circumstances in the lives of those who love Him to bring about good.

2.  God’s purpose and determination for believes is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus.

3.  The more people who reflect Jesus’ image, and the more fully and accurately they do so, the more preeminence and honor comes to Jesus.



God Has Given Us His Best: Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:31-34)

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? 33 Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. 34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.

1.   To what things do you think verse 31 refers? 

2.   Why should we not worry about who is against us (v. 31)?

3.   What did Paul mean when he said that God did not spare His own Son (v. 32)? 

4.   What does that mean to you?

5.   Why will God grant us everything (v. 32?)

6.   What rhetorical questions does Paul ask in verse 33?

7.   How would you explain what Paul refers to as God’s elect (v. 33)?

8.   According to verse 33, how is a one justified?

9.   What does it mean  to be justified (v. 33)? 

10.   Based on this passage, on what grounds can we who believe be assured we are safe from those who would oppose us (v. 34)?

11.   At what cost have we been declared righteous (v. 34)?

12.   What did Christ do on our behalf?

13.   What does He continue to do for us (v. 34c)?

14.   Based on this passage, how has God taken away the power of those who would destroy us?

15.   What do these verses teach us about the opposition we face as followers of Jesus?

16.   When has it been obvious in your life that God is for you?


Lasting Lessons in Rom. 8:31-34:

1.  God already has given us His Son, His most precious treasure.  He will not, therefore, withhold from us any lesser thing we need.

2.  The sinless life of Jesus makes Him the only one qualified to accuse us before the Father, yet He intercedes for us with the Father instead.



Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Love (Rom. 8:35-39)

35 Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. 37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, 39 height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

1.   How certain was Paul that believers are secure in Christ’s love?

2.   What answer to the rhetorical question he asked that sheds light on his certainty (v. 35)?

3.   What threatening experiences did Paul mention that might have the potential to separate us from Christ’s love?

4.   According to verse 36, what is written?  (See Psalm 44:22.)

5.   To what do you think this reference to Psalm 44:22 refers?

6.   Based on verse 37, upon what outcome can we believers count?

7.   Of what was Paul convinced (vv. 38-39)?

8.   Was Paul’s convection conditional? 

9.   If so, wherein is the victory over all these things?

10.   Do you believe there is one thing that can separate a person from God’s love?  If so, what is it?

11.   Why does trusting God loves you help you overcome life’s difficulties?

12.   How can we support one another with the truths in these verses?

13.   How can a person experience this victory about which Paul speaks now?


Lasting Lessons in Rom. 8:35-39:

1.  No power exists that can separate believers from the love of God.

2.  Even in the face of the harsh realities of life and opposition, believers are more than survivors—they are “hyper-victors.”



  Romans 8 is a grand chapter filled with assurances critical to living the Christian life.  This section has only dealt with three.  First, we can be assured that God does not make mistakes but that He is at work in all the things of our lives to bring us into conformity with the image of Christ.  Second, we can know we are free from accusation and condemnation because Christ is ever making intercession on our behalf.  Finally, we have the assurance that no one or not one thing can ever separate us from God’s love fully expressed and accomplished in Christ Jesus.  With these assurances, based on God’s goodness and love, we can live victoriously, even in the efface of hardship and difficulty.

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:  Romans 8:28-39

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not 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 lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh 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 thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that 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 creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (KJV)

New International Version:  Romans 8:28-39

 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,£ neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

New Living Translation:  Romans 8:28-39

28And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.  31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (NLT)


Lesson Outline — “God’s Promise of Victory”Romans 8:28-39




God’s Plan For Our Good (Rom. 8:28-30)

God Has Given Us His Best: Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:31-34)

Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Love (Rom. 8:35-39)


(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The New American Commentary,Believer's Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The New American Commentary; Volume 27; Romans 8:28-39

8:28.  We come now to one of the favorite verses in Romans. How often in times of trial have believers turned to Paul’s reassuring words that God has not deserted us but is at work in every circumstance of life. While the AV and other English translations follow the textual tradition that makes “all things” the subject of the sentence, the NIV has chosen an alternate tradition that supplies the word “God” as subject. Since “things” are incapable of independent action, the two translations actually come to the same conclusion. In both cases it would be God who is at work in the circumstances of life. God directs the affairs of life in such a way that, for those who love him, the outcome is always beneficial. The “good” of which Paul spoke is not necessarily what we think is best, but as the following verse implies, the good is conformity to the likeness of Christ. With this in mind it is easier to see how our difficulties are part of God’s total plan for changing us from what we are by nature to what he intends us to be. Moral advance utilizes hardship more often than not.

The verb (“works”) and the participial phrase (“those who love him”) are in the present tense. Not only is God continually at work, but those for whom he works are steadfast in their love for him. The Christian faith is never presented in Scripture as a static relationship. A person’s salvation is not something that took place sometime in the past with little or no impact in the present. By definition, a relationship is a continuing affair. A vital ongoing love for God is the necessary prerequisite for his active intervention in the affairs of our life. From the human side we love God. From God’s side we are called in accordance with his purpose. By calling Paul meant an effectual calling—one in which our response is invariably positive. 

8:29–30 These verses contain a series of five verbs (all in the aorist tense) describing how God has carried out his saving purpose. The first two are foreknowledge and predestination. We know that God is at work for us in the circumstances of life (v. 28) because we have been predestined to “share the likeness of his Son” (Weymouth). As Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” (Heb 5:8), we too should expect our share of difficulties in the process of being conformed to his image. Verse 29 is sometimes interpreted to mean that God predestines on the basis of his prior knowledge about how each of us will in fact respond. But this would mean that in election God would not be sovereign; he would be dependent upon what he would see happening in the future. Theologians rightly point out that prior to knowledge must be the divine decree. Unless God determines in some sense that something will happen, he cannot “know” that it will. For God to foreknow requires an earlier decree. The etymology of the Greek verb translated “predestine” suggests marking out a boundary beforehand. In the present context predestination is not concerned with election to salvation. Rather, God has foreordained that believers be brought into “moral conformity to the likeness of his Son.” What is predestined is that we become like Christ (cf. 2 Cor 3:18). The purpose is that Christ might be the “eldest in a vast family of brothers” (Weymouth). If we were to bear no family resemblance to him, the intention of the Father would never be realized. The supremacy of Christ is reflected in the designation “firstborn” (cf. Col 1:15, 18; Heb 1:6; Rev 1:5). It speaks both of his priority in time and of his primacy of rank. It also implies that there are to be others who will share in his sonship.

Verse 30 continues the sequence of divine actions (in the aorist tense). Not only did God foreknow and predestine believers, he also called, justified, and glorified them. Only the final term raises a problem. Scripture teaches that glorification awaits our future resurrection (1 John 3:2). It usually is said that since future events are determined by God’s prior decree, Paul could speak of glorification in the past tense. It is as certain as if it already had taken place. Another interpretation is that God has in fact “given his splendour [glory]” (NEB) to those whom he has justified. Even now we enjoy a portion of the spiritual benefits of God’s redemptive work on our behalf (cf. 2 Cor 3:18).

8:31–32 What, then, are we to conclude from all of this? As children of God we have been adopted into his family (v. 15). We are co-heirs with Christ (v. 17). We have received the Spirit as the guarantee of final redemption (v. 23). Our prayers are taken up by the Spirit and laid before God (v. 26). Though sinners by nature, through faith we have been acquitted of all wrong (v. 30). Our future glorification is so certain that God speaks of it as already having taken place (v. 30). Certainly if God is for us, “what does it matter who may be against us” (Norlie). Since God did not spare his own Son but delivered him over to death for us all, will he not along with this gracious gift also lavish upon us everything else he has to give? The argument is from the greater to the lesser. A God who sacrificed his own Son on our behalf will certainly not withhold that which by comparison is merely trivial. The immeasurable greatness of God’s love is seen in the infinite nature of his sacrifice on our behalf. God is by nature a giving God.

8:33–34 Paul continued by asking rather incredulously, Who is there who dares to bring an accusation against those whom God has chosen (v. 33)? No one! It is God himself who pronounces his people righteous. There is no higher tribunal. Who is the one with the authority to condemn (v. 34)? Translations are divided on whether to take the response as a statement or a question. If a statement, the answer to “Who is he that condemns?” would be, “It is Christ Jesus [that condemns], the one who died and rose again.” But Jesus said, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it” (John 12:47). So it must be a question: “Will Christ? No! For he is the One who died for us” (TLB). If he is for us, he certainly will not condemn us. Far from condemning us, he is right now at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. Not only does the Spirit intercede for us (8:26) but the glorified Christ as well.

8:35–36 The tide of spiritual excitement rises sharply as the apostle marveled at the amazing love of Christ. Who or what could ever separate us from the love of Christ? Then follows a litany of disasters, none of which can effect a separation between Christ and the believer. Far from weakening the bonds of love, trouble and hardship strengthen them. Persecution drives the true believer to the arms of the one who knows from experience the full range of suffering. Famine and nakedness (perhaps a metaphor for destitution) are powerless to affect the love of Christ. Danger and the sword (possibly that of the executioner) lose their terror in view of the presence of the one in whom we find ultimate safety. 

8:37 Paul reflected upon the words of the psalmist (in Ps 44:22), which he found so appropriate to his situation. The troubles to be faced by the Christian are nothing new but have always been the experience of God’s people. At every moment of the day we face death. We are considered no better than sheep that are marked for slaughter. Nevertheless in all these difficult situations we are winning an overwhelming victory through the one who has proven his love for us (v. 37). It is the love of Christ that supports and enables the believer to face adversity and to conquer it. Christians are not grim stoics who manage to muddle through somehow. They are victors who have found from experience that God is ever present in their trials and that the love of Christ will empower them to overcome all the obstacles of life.

8:38–39 The final two verses of chap. 8 call for reflection rather than for interpretation. They supply the climax of Paul’s inspired and eloquent words of praise to the love of God. The apostle voiced his confidence that there is nothing that could separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. His list of ten terms moves from physical danger through the hierarchy of superhuman powers, those that now exist or ever will, powers from on high or from below, and culminates in the inclusive phrase “anything else in God’s whole world” (Phillips). There is absolutely nothing that can ever drive a wedge between the children of God and their Heavenly Father. It is true that life contains its full share of hardships (v. 18). But God is at work in all the circumstances of life to conform those whom he has chosen into the likeness of his dear Son. The process is God’s. We are his workmanship (Eph 2:10). The process of sanctification is intended to bring us into conformity with the nature of our Creator. Although it may at times involve some serious pruning (John 15:2; cf. Heb 12:5–11), we may be sure that love is at work on our behalf. We are forever united with the one who is perfect love.

SOURCE:  The New American Commentary; Volume 27; Romans; Robert H. Mounce; General Editor: David S. Dockery; © Copyright 1995; Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee.


Believer's Bible Commentary: Romans 8:28-39

8:28.  God is working all things together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose. It may not always seem so! Sometimes when we are suffering heartbreak, tragedy, disappointment, frustration, and bereavement, we wonder what good can come out of it. But the following verse gives the answer: whatever God permits to come into our lives is designed to conform us to the image of His Son. When we see this, it takes the question mark out of our prayers. Our lives are not controlled by impersonal forces such as chance, luck, or fate, but by our wonderful, personal Lord, who is "too loving to be unkind and too wise to err."

8:29.  Now Paul traces the majestic sweep of the divine program designed to bring many sons to glory.

First of all, God foreknew us in eternity past. This was not a mere intellectual knowledge. As far as knowledge is concerned, He knew everyone who would ever be born. But His foreknowledge embraced only those whom He foreordained or predestined to be co nformed... to the image of His Son. So it was knowledge with a purpose that could never be frustrated. It is not enough to say that God foreknew those whom He realized would one day repent and believe. Actually it is His foreknowledge that insures eventual repentance and belief.

That ungodly sinners should one day be transformed into the image of Christ by a miracle of grace is one of the most astounding truths of divine revelation. The point is not, of course, that we will ever have the attributes of deity, or even that we will have Christ's facial resemblance, but that we will be morally like Him, absolutely free from sin, and will have glorified bodies like His.

In that day of glory He will be the firstborn among many brethren. Firstborn here means first in rank or honor. He will not be One among equals, but the One who has the supreme place of honor among His brothers and sisters.

8:30.  Everyone who was predestined in eternity is also called in time. This means that he not only hears the gospel but that he responds to it as well. It is therefore an effectual call. All are called; that is the general (yet also valid) call of God. But only a few respond; that is the effectual (conversion-producing) call of God.

All who respond are also justified or given an absolutely righteous standing before God. They are clothed with the righteousness of God through the merits of Christ and are thereby fit for the presence of the Lord.

Those who are justified are also glorified. Actually we are not glorified as yet, but it is so sure that God can use the past tense in describing it. We are as certain of the glorified state as if we had already received it!

This is one of the strongest passages in the NT on the eternal security of the believer. For every million people who are foreknown and predestined by God, every one of that million will be called, justified, and glorified. Not one will be missing! (Compare the "all" in John 6:37.)

8:31.  When we consider these unbreakable links in the golden chain of redemption, the conclusion is inevitable! If God is for us, in the sense that He has marked us out for Himself, then no one can be successful against us. If Omnipotence is working on our behalf, no lesser power can defeat His program.

8:32. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all. What marvelous words! We must never allow our familiarity with them to dull their luster or lessen their power to inspire worship. When a world of lost mankind needed to be saved by a sinless Substitute, the great God of the universe did not hold back His heart's best Treasure, but gave Him over to a death of shame and loss on our behalf.

The logic that flows from this is irresistible. If God has already given us the greatest gift, is there any lesser gift that He will not give? If He has already paid the highest price, will He hesitate to pay any lower price? If He has gone to such lengths to procure our salvation, will He ever let us go? How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

"The language of unbelief," Mackintosh said, "is, 'How shall He?' The language of faith is 'How shall He not?'."

8:33.  We are still in a courtroom setting, but now a remarkable change has taken place. While the justified sinner stands before the bench, the call goes out for any accusers to step forward. But there is none! How could there be? If God has already justified His elect, who can bring a charge?

It greatly clarifies the argument of this verse and the following one if we supply the words "No one, because..." before each answer. Thus this verse would read, Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? No one, because it is God who justifies. If we do not supply these words, it might sound as if God is going to bring a charge against His elect, the very thing that Paul is denying!

8:34.  Another challenge rings out! Is there anyone here to condemn? No one, because Christ has died for the defendant, has been raised from the dead, is now at the right hand of God interceding for him. If the Lord Jesus, to whom all judgment has been committed, does not pass sentence on the defendant but rather prays for him, then there is no one else who could have a valid reason for condemning him.

8:35.  Now faith flings its final challenge: is there anyone here who can banish the justified from the love of Christ? A search is made for every adverse circumstance that has been effective in causing separations in other areas of human life. But none can be found. Not the threshing flail of tribulation with its steady pounding of distress and affliction, nor the monster of anguish, bringing extreme pain to mind and body, nor the brutality of persecution, inflicting suffering and death on those who dare to differ. Nor can the gaunt specter of famine—gnawing, racking, and wasting down to the skeleton. Nor can nakedness, with all it means in the way of privation, exposure, and defenselessness. Nor can peril—the threat of imminent and awful danger. Nor can the sword—cold, hard, and death-dealing.

8:36.  If any of these things could separate the believer from the love of Christ, then the fatal severance would have taken place long ago, because the career of the Christian is a living death. That is what the psalmist meant when he said that, because of our identification with the Lord, we are killed all day long, and are like sheep that are doomed to slaughter (Ps. 44:22).

8:37.  Instead of separating us from Christ's love, these things only succeed in drawing us closer to Him. We are not only conquerors, but more than conquerors. It is not simply that we triumph over these formidable forces, but that in doing so we bring glory to God, blessing to others, and good to ourselves. We make slaves out of our enemies and stepping stones out of our roadblocks.

But all of this is not through our own strength, but only through Him who loved us. Only the power of Christ can bring sweetness out of bitterness, strength out of weakness, triumph out of tragedy, and blessing out of heartbreak.

8:38.  The apostle has not finished his search. He ransacks the universe for something that might conceivably separate us from God's love, then dismisses the possibilities one by one—

death with all its terrors;

life with all its allurements;

angels nor principalities, supernatural in power and knowledge;

powers, whether human tyrants or angelic adversaries;

things present, crashing in upon us;

things to come, arousing fearful forebodings;

8:39.  height nor depth, those things that are in the realm of dimension or space, including occult forces. Then, to make sure that he is not missing anything, Paul adds:

nor any other created thing.

The outcome of Paul's search is that he can find nothing that can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

No wonder these words of triumph have been the song of those who have died martyr's deaths and the rhapsody of those who have lived martyr's lives!

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Romans 8:28-39

We have two intercessors: (1) the Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of God prays for us; (2) the Holy Spirit here on earth prays in and through us.

8:28.  Though we do not always know what we should pray for as we ought, we do know that God causes all things to continually work together for our good. This does not mean Paul is teaching fatalism, the resignation to the inevitable. The assurance is conditional. Subjectively, it is to all who "love God." Objectively, it is to those "who are the called according to his purpose."

Our interests are never absent from the heart of God; our destinies are never adrift from His loving and guiding hand.

8:29, 30.  A study of Scripture on the subject of foreknowledge and predestination shows us that the way is predestined, not the individual. If that were not so, we would be saved by decree, not by faith. In His omniscience God sees all things in advance. He predestined Christ as the way, and He predestined all who are "in Christ" to be conformed to the image of Christ. He predestined that we would not have to bring ourselves to glorification by practices of legalism and religious forms.

The Greek word here translated "foreknow" is used five times in the New Testament (Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:17). To "foreknow" does not imply prompting or the extraordinary working of God's selective will. He foreknows by the ordinary process of His prescience (knowledge of events before they take place). No future event or thing could hide itself from God. The knowledge of those who would accept Christ could not be eliminated from the omniscience (all-knowledge) and omnipresence (everywhere present) of God. To foreknow is a divine attribute of God. He sees the past and the future just as clearly as the present. Being infinite He is not in any way limited by time or space. That God knows what will take place does not mean He is responsible for all that happens. His foreknowledge declares that He is unmistakably certain about all that will take place, but He does not determine what takes place. He knows all wrongdoings of men as well as their good deeds.

The sequence which defines the purpose of God as given in verses 28-30 is as follows: The passage begins with a statement of certainty, "And we know," followed by a reason based on that certainty, "For." God's call is associated with His purpose.

The term predestination has often been misunderstood. John Calvin defined predestination by saying, "God has once for all determined, both whom he would admit to salvation, and whom he would condemn to destruction" (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:181). He went on to state that their perdition depends on the predestination of God (ibid.).

Scripturally, predestination is never related to any person outside Christ. It always refers to those whom God foreknew would be in Christ (Romans 8:29, 30; Ephesians 1:5, 11). And the predestination is not to heaven per se, but "to be conformed to the image of his Son." To those God gives their calling, justification, and glorification.

God's purpose will be complete in us when our glorification is complete. We shall be like Jesus, the firstborn of many. Already we are glorified spiritually—sanctification begun. We are being changed "from glory to glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18). At the first resurrection (verse 23) our bodies will be glorified—sanctification completed.

8:31, 32. Here is the first of six questions. From this point on through the balance of the chapter we are given the grand climax, the mountaintop of Christian position and experience. The apostle's heart was filled with absolute confidence. God who gave the best (His Son) will in no wise withhold the rest. He lavished mercy and grace, and He has more than sufficient to bestow upon His redeemed children, providing all that is needed for their good.

It was the Father who handed His Son over to suffering and death. Since God did this, and since the Son is seated at His right hand in heaven, what will He not do for His children on earth? If He was not reluctant to make such a major provision, will He not respond to any smaller favor?

8:33.  In triumphant tone Paul declares that no one dare lay a charge against the elect of God since God himself has justified them. There is no ground for bringing charges. Neither men nor Satan can resurrect the believer's past. No forgiven sin can ever be held against the forgiven since God has justified them. Satan, the "accuser of the brethren," may try to harass, but that which God has forgiven He will never remember against us anymore.

God alone is the Judge. When He justifies, no claim of past wrong will be held against us. Unconfessed sin is a different matter.

The word "justified" appears often in this epistle. It is used for the last time in this verse. And who shall accuse the man whom God declares righteous? No accusation will stand when God, the righteous Judge, has justified a person.

8:34. The next stroke of the hammer drives the nail with greater finality. There is no ground for condemnation. The Christ who died for us is at the Father's right hand interceding for us. Four great truths are our assurance and protection: (1) Christ died for our sins. He is our propitiation. (2) He is risen again for our justification (4:25). We are "saved by his life" (5:10). (3) "At the right hand of God," He is our representative. (4) Making intercession, He is our Advocate pleading our case (1 John 2:1).

Our future in glory is assured by the perfect defeat of our adversary, and the perfect intercession of our Advocate. Christ died, He arose, He ascended, He intercedes—all for us!

8:35, 36. With another masterful stroke of the hammer Paul drives home the truth of "no separation." No one can drive a wedge and create distance between Christ's love and us. No one can cause Him to cease loving us. No power outside us can cause us to cease loving Him.

The apostle was convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that no opposing force can bring about separation between Christ and the Christian. He lists several forces which work to separate us from His love.

"Distress" speaks of being surrounded by difficult circumstances until one is literally in a tight squeeze. "Persecution" is associated with tribulation and affliction. "Famine" is absence of food. Of this, we in this land know little, but millions in other countries suffer and die because of this. "Nakedness" does not refer to immodest, immoral dress, but to the fact of not having sufficient clothing and no means of securing any. Paul spoke of being "in fastings often, in cold and nakedness" (2 Corinthians 11:27). "Peril" refers to danger and risk. "Sword" refers to the threat of martyrdom. This threat was in Paul's mind. He knew what it was to be left for dead after being stoned. Hebrews 11 records other heroes of faith who were victorious over all types of external difficulties, including death.

The perils mentioned by Paul may not be common to us where we live, but we are faced with numberless spiritual perils which threaten our relationship. The one thing that can separate us is spiritual death, described in verse 13. The believer can choose to leave Christ out of his life; then he is separated from salvation by his own will.

8:37. Hupernikōmen is rendered "we are more than conquerors." The word comes from huper (Latin, "super") meaning "above," and nikaō, from nikē, meaning "victory." The literal meaning is "we are super victors." A whole phrase in English is needed to translate one strong, vivid Greek word.

Despite the seven enemies listed in verse 35, we are super victors. Through the centuries Christians have often been "accounted as sheep for the slaughter," but they lived triumphantly through it all.

The ability to be a super victor is not based on human ability or self-determination. The victory comes "through him that loved us." The Christ who conquered every foe because of His love for us imparts His grace and strength to make us "more than conquerors." Hupernikōmen is a very expressive term. Nike was the god of victory; in Christ we can be "hyper" victorious, superconquerors.

8:38, 39.  "I am persuaded" can be translated "absolutely convinced," "certain," "stand convinced." There was no uncertainty in Paul's mind. Nothing need "separate us from the love of Christ" (verse 35). The one thing required of us, made possible by grace, is that we be willing to let His victory be made real in us moment by moment. This means that all self-interest will be subordinated to His lordship.

In triumphant confidence Paul wrote of the enemies which must be contended with and defeated. For the most part they are in couplets.

"Death" and "life." There is nothing to fear from the aloneness of one and the trials of the other. Physical death cannot alter the believer's spiritual union with Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:17). It can only enhance the reality of His presence (2 Corinthians 5:6; Philippians 1:21).

"Angels" and "principalities." Invisible, mysterious forces aligned against God's people are conquered foes through Christ. "Powers" refers to hostility in the spirit world. In context these angels would be only evil angels who fell with Satan. God's angels are busy ministering to those who "shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). The principalities are high-ranking fallen angels. Gabriel needed help from Michael to overcome the "prince of the kingdom of Persia" (Daniel 10:13); evil spirits are no match for Jesus!

"Things present" and "things to come" sum up the unlimited dimensions of time, as "height" and "depth" sum up the endless proportions of space. Hupsōma was worshiped as the god of high places, and Bathos as the god of the deep. No "god" can be high enough to surpass the love of God; nor can any be deep enough to undermine His love.

The secret is to remain "in Christ." Eternal security is provided, but it is only available as long as we remain "in Christ." By the decision of our will we came into the relationship of being "in Christ." By a decision of our will we can choose to terminate that relationship. If we do that we have lost our security. In summary, there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of Christ outside of ourselves. The only thing that can effect that separation is human will.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.



Foreknew (v. 29)—To have foreknowledge is to have the ability to know what will occur before it happens. In His omniscience, God has known about and seen all the events of history before the beginning of time.

Predestined (v. 29)—The term predestined comes from a Greek word meaning “to determine or set apart beforehand.” In Scripture, God is the only One who predestines.

Justified (v. 30)—At the moment of salvation, through faith the believer is legally declared to be forever righteous before God, as Jesus’ perfect righteousness is imputed (credited) to the believer on the basis of Christ paying the penalty for the believer’s sins on the cross.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

FOREKNOWLEDGE:  Awareness and anticipation of events before they occur. The words “foreknowledge” and “foreknow” are rarely used in the Bible, but the concept of God’s foreknowledge is found throughout Scriptures. Other terms such as “election” and “predestination” are closely related to foreknowledge. In the New Testament, the verb “foreknow” comes from the Greek word proginosko; and the noun “foreknowledge,” from the Greek word prognosis.

In the Bible, God alone has foreknowledge. Nothing is outside of His knowledge—past, present, or future. Nothing is hidden from Him, and only fools think they can hide their deeds from God (Pss. 10:11; 11:4-5; Prov. 15:11; Isa. 29:15-16). God knows completely the thoughts and doings of human beings (Ps. 139). Jesus taught that God has complete knowledge of human beings (Matt. 10:29-31), and the author of Hebrews wrote that “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” (Heb. 4:13a NIV).

Foreknowledge of the Future:  God’s foreknowledge encompasses future events. The perspective of faith can say that all that happens has been previously planned by God. Events of history are perceived in faith as the unfolding of God’s eternal plans (Gen. 45:4-8; Isa. 14:24-27; 42:9; Jer. 50:45). The New Testament writers perceived in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the outworking of God’s eternal plans to save sinful humanity. Thus Paul proclaimed the gospel which God had promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures (Rom. 1:2). The gospels similarly declare that those things which the prophets had said were now fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus (Matt. 1:22-23; 2:5-6:15; John 19:24). Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:20 declare that the crucifixion of Christ was not a chance happening of history. It was according to the foreknowledge of God, according to His eternal plan.

Even the prophets’ knowledge of future events presupposed God’s revelation to the prophets. Amos 3:7 (NRSV) proclaims, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets,” indicating that the prophets acted and spoke on behalf of God and not at their own initiative. Concerning the false prophets in Israel, God says, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned from their evil way” (Jer. 23:21-22a)

Foreknowledge and God’s Will:  In the Bible, God’s foreknowledge of people is not primarily a reference to His intellect, but to His kind will by which He sets people apart to Himself. So Jeremiah heard God’s word to him saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5 NIV). Similarly, the apostle Paul perceived that God had “separated me from my mother’s womb that I might preach him among the heathen” (Gal. 1:15-16). God’s foreknowledge must be understood in terms of personal relationship of God to His creation. To affirm God’s foreknowledge is a statement of faith—that God’s purpose existed before mankind’s response to God (Ps. 139:16). The initiative lies with God. Thus Paul wrote, “But now that you know God—or rather are known by God” (Gal. 4:9 NIV).

In Romans Paul wrote that those whom God foreknows, He predestines to be conformed to the image of His Son; and those whom God predestines, He calls; and those whom He calls, He justifies; and those whom He justifies, He glorifies (8:29-30). In the same letter, Paul declared that God had not rejected the Jewish people whom He foreknew (Rom. 11:2).

Foreknowledge and Human Freedom:  Such statements raise the difficult theological question of human freedom. If God already knows in advance who will be saved or elected, does that not eliminate free human will? Does God predestine some people to salvation and others to damnation?

One major attempt to answer this question is associated with James Arminius (1560-1609) who argued, as did the pre-Augustinian church fathers, that God’s foreknowledge is a prescient knowledge, that is, God knows in advance what a person’s response will be, so He elects to salvation in advance those whom He knows will freely accept Christ. This Arminian view is called conditional predestination, since the predestination is conditioned on God’s foreknowledge of the individual’s acceptance or rejection of Christ.

Another major Christian tradition is the Augustine-Luther-Calvin tradition. This view claims that God’s foreknowledge is not simply God’s foreknowledge of faith. Rather, for God to foreknow means that His knowledge determines events. He predestines some to be saved, but not on the foreknowledge of how they will respond; rather in His foreknowledge He foreordains apart from any human response.

Both views are supported by texts from Scripture. While Romans 8:29-30 are key verses in any discussion of God’s foreknowledge, it is perhaps more correct to interpret these verses in terms of the doctrine of assurance rather than of predestination. Paul’s point in Romans 8:29-30 is not to discuss who is foreknown and predestined to be saved and who is not. This passage may naturally give rise to that question, but it does not lead to any one answer. The doctrine of predestination was developed in the reformed tradition in an attempt to solve problems raised by Paul’s writings and by other biblical texts. Paul’s concern in this passage was rather to assure the Christian readers that their security is based upon God’s eternal purpose and not upon the Christian’s initiative. Nothing, therefore, can separate them from God’s love!

First Peter 1:20 also declares that the Christian readers in Asia Minor were chosen by God according to His foreknowledge. Directed to Christians experiencing persecution because of their faith in Jesus, 1 Peter’s reference to the foreknowledge of God was intended to bring assurance that their existence is part of God’s will and plan and that they have a sure and certain hope that is not tied to changing circumstances or events. Other such affirmations in the New Testament (Eph. 1:4,11-12; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rev. 17:8) should be read from the same faith perspective. The writers were not attempting to answer the question of whom God saves and whom He rejects, nor were they intending to limit free human choice. They were rather expressing the conviction and assurance of faith that the individual’s salvation lies entirely and securely in God’s hand and in God’s eternal purpose.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

PREDESTINATION:  God’s work in ordaining salvation for people without their prior knowledge.

Biblical Materials:  The English noun, predestination, does not occur in the Bible. The Greek verb translated predestinate occurs only four times in two passages of the Bible (Rom. 8:29,30; Eph. 1:5,11). It is used in Acts 4:28 of human determination. The word means to determine before or ordain. On these minimal facts entire systems of doctrine have been built.

The word predestinate (proorizo) is closely related to three other more frequently used biblical words: 1. to determine; 2. to elect; 3. to foreknow. Each of these represents several Greek and Hebrew words. Study of these words shows that for a study of predestination the key passages are Romans 8; Ephesians 1; and 1 Peter 1. One of the appropriate things to notice in this biblical survey is that Acts refers to the purpose of God as determined (Acts 2:23; 11:29; 17:26); refers to Jesus as God’s previously chosen One (2:23; 10:41-42); to the early church as those previously taken in hand by God (Acts 22:14). A wise plan is to examine the major passages keeping the verses in Acts in mind.

Romans 8:  Although the word predestinate is used only in verses 29 and 30 of this chapter, we must explore the entire chapter to understand the use of the word. Romans 7-8 form Paul’s famous battle of the flesh and of the spirit. Romans 7 speaks of the place of law in shaping life. Law makes requirements, but it has no power to help people keep them. Sin is a constant struggle and an overwhelming experience (7:23-24). Romans 8 is life in the Spirit. God’s Spirit aids our spirit in the struggles of life and helps us to conquer all things through His Spirit. God purposes for His people a victorious, overcoming life. Such a life is not possible when we go it alone. God chooses and determines that it will be otherwise for His people.

The references to predestination in verses 29 and 30 come in the midst of a section of Scripture on salvation and spiritual struggle. Was Paul saying that all of his experience, before becoming a Christian and after, God decided in such a way that Paul had nothing to do with it and no decision in it? These passages could be seen that way, but they need not be. They also can be seen as the struggle of human willfulness and divine purpose and guidance. I see these passages, especially in the light of Paul’s other writings, as a real struggle in which Paul realized that God’s purpose for us is good and that God’s determination to help us is prior to all of our struggles. In Jesus Christ, God has set the pattern. Believers are to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. God’s determination is particularly and eternally expressed in what Christ is. He is like what we are supposed to be like. God’s Spirit will help us to be like Jesus.

In a discussion of election and predestination, questions about Jacob and Esau (Rom. 9:13) arise, as do questions about God “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” (Rom. 9:17-18). These verses could be interpreted to mean that God beforehand had planned things out without any regard for human response. The worst scenario would suggest that God had taken a nice young Egyptian prince and turned him into a monster. Romans 9:13 could mean that God really hated Esau and played favorites among His children. I do not believe this is the proper way to understand these passages. Paul, their human author, is looking back. Interpretations are easier after the fact. Whereas God is no respecter of persons whom He has created, He does not violate the free will He gave to humankind. God works with it. A better interpretation of these passages is to say that God used what Esau and Pharaoh had become. Esau, a compulsive man who sought instant gratification of his desires, would not be the kind of person who becomes a patriarch. Pharaoh, a ruthless man, God confirmed and judged as an oppressor; Pharaoh’s harsh and cruel acts were punished. In that punishment God received glory to Himself, even out of Pharaoh’s disobedience.

Ephesians 1:  The first chapter of Ephesians is first and foremost about Jesus Christ. Christ contains, expresses, and effects God’s purpose. When people hear the gospel message and believe that message (vv. 13,15), they live on earth under the leadership of Jesus Christ as Head of the body.

Such believers are sealed by the Spirit (v. 13); therefore, the power of God working in us can enlarge us, open our eyes, increase our faith, and enable us to believe. Does God do this without our own willing and cooperation, or are we free participants in what God is doing through the believing community under the headship of Christ and in the power of the Spirit? It seems to me that the believers addressed are welcomed to faith and encouraged to believe and enlarge their lives in Christ’s church. The specific references in verses 5 and 11 fit in this context if we do not draw them out of place and ask first what it means that we were predestined before the foundation of the world according to God’s will. Jesus Christ is first and foremost God’s chosen. He is the agent of God’s redemptive plan from eternity. Jesus Christ embodies the way, the will, and the good pleasure of God. By Jesus we know the Father; in Him God’s will is effected in history. We are included as we are included in Jesus. We are included, predestined, and elected as we believe in Him by the power of the Spirit. God, working His way through us, determines us. Apparently, part of God’s determination is that the Ephesians and ourselves should be participants in our limited human way with God in doing God’s will. God’s will is that people should have a will to exercise toward God. The painful personal experience reflected in Romans 7 and the sinful corporate experiences of human divisions spoken of in the remainder of Ephesians lead us to believe that we can also exercise our wills in refusing to believe in God and in disobeying God. Predestination never eliminates human will.

1 Peter:  First Peter 1:2 is a part of the greeting of the author to the readers. He greets them and us in the name of the foreknowing Father, the sanctifying Spirit, and the sacrifice of the Son. The greeting is a kind of prelude under which exhortations to Christian living are given. The entire epistle presupposes both the guidance of God and the ability of people to cooperate with God in living the Christian life.

Other Passages:  Luke 22:22 declares that Jesus died according to the plan of God in which He freely participated. So does Acts 2:23, which adds human wickedness also entered into the betrayal of Jesus. Acts 10:41 assures us that the eyewitness apostles were especially chosen of God. The disciples determined they would provide help to the needy (Acts 11:29). God determined the basic parameters of humanity (Acts 17:26). The gist of these references is that God works according to a plan and purpose and so should we, especially as we determine to do His will.

Two special problems that arise in relation to predestination are the place of Judaism (Rom. 9-11) and of Judas (John 6:70-71) in the determination of God. Paul said that Judaism is God’s preparation for the fulness of Christ, that they rejected God’s fullest revelation of God in Christ, and that God confronts them with Christ inevitably and ultimately. Meanwhile, the task of the church is to confront all persons with Christ. The purpose of predestination is to be conformed to goodness and to bear witness to God in Christ. Judas was chosen by Jesus as were all of the disciples. As all disciples of Jesus, Judas had the capacity for betrayal—so did Peter. Judas exercised his will to betray. The evil one found in Judas a willing instrument (John 13:27). Jesus had to be betrayed. Judas did not have to do it, but he did.

Later Questions:  The above basic biblical facts were used to construct later doctrinal systems. Human logic and the desire for systematic conclusions and neat, packaged answers lead to hard solutions about freedom and destiny. Questions which lead to this development were: If God is sovereign, how can humans be free? If God knows about everything in advance, does that mean that He forces things to be the way they are? Does not God give grace to those who are to be saved and withhold it from those who are not? If God decreed that some are to be saved, does this not mean He has predestined others to be damned?

The problem with these later questions is that they go beyond Scripture in their desire to figure everything out. They ignore large portions of Scripture and Christian experience which assume human choice and the integrity of human freedom. In the last analysis, the way in which God’s guidance of His creation interfaces with human freedom is unknown to us. I am convinced that God who made us with will and freedom woos us by His grace and condemns people only because of their own willfulness and unbelief. The only alternatives are to suppose that God is going to force all to be saved, whether they want to be or not; or that God, in a choosey way, is going to save some favorites but deliberately withhold salvation from others. I cannot find either of these views consistent with the full range of biblical teaching. Predestination is an assurance of God’s redemptive love. There has never been a time, not even before creation, when God has not shown redemptive love for His creation. Whatever else predestination means, it assures us that God takes the initiative in relation to creation and that God pursues us with redemptive love.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

JUSTIFICATION:  Process by which an individual is brought into an unmerited, right relationship with a person, whether that relationship is established between people or with God.

Old Testament:  In its simplest form, the cardinal theme of Scripture could be described as God’s relationship with His people. Justification is a term which explains how an individual enters into that relationship with God, contrasts the life of participants in that relationship with those outside, and outlines the obligations of that relationship. Justification is the remedy for the chief problem of sin which separates God and sinners.

God called Abraham and promised to make him into a great people (Gen. 12:1-3). Effectually, Abraham was called to counteract the sin of Adam. The only proper response to that call was faith. Although advanced in years, Abraham was promised a child Isaac, through whom innumerable descendants would emerge. Abraham’s response to this promise is the crux of the whole idea of justification in the Old as well as in the New Testament. Genesis 15:6 captures this response: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (NIV). Righteousness is not something Abraham possessed that prompted a reward from God. Quite to the contrary, a condition was fulfilled on the part of Abraham, and subsequently on the part of God. The Old Testament teaches that to be righteous is to fulfill the conditions of the covenant relationship. Therefore, to act righteously is to act in compliance with the covenant. The Hebrew word translated “credited” (or imputed or reckoned) originally described the important priestly task of endorsing the offerings presented to God (Lev. 7:18; 17:4; Num. 18:27). On the basis of this understanding, God accepted the response of Abraham’s faith. This covenant was no mere abstraction. It was a term of relationship encompassed by the concrete, dynamic action of God. Similarly, righteousness is a term of relationship. The covenant establishes the terms of the relationship. A person who fulfills the terms of the covenant relationship is called righteous.

The search for the abstract noun “justification” in the Old Testament is fruitless. However, the verb, “to justify,” is found occasionally, often in the passive “to be justified,” pointing to some kind of agency involved in the action (see Job 11:2; 13:18; 25:4; Pss. 51:4; 143:2; Isa. 43:9,26; 45:25). All of these references clearly reveal the nature of justification: it is something that God does. The elemental sense in which the Old Testament employs the idea of “justifying” is best expressed in the phrase “proclaiming to be within the covenant relationship.”

Ironically, God’s chosen people Israel continually displayed a bent toward rebellion which can best be rendered, in covenantal language, as infidelity more than immorality. This is why the Hebrew prophets strongly decried Israel’s proclivity to prostitute themselves with foreign gods. Hosea provides the best example of this infidelity because it was personified in his life. Hosea’s personal experience in marriage served also as a parable of God’s relationship with Israel. The names of his three children, Jezreel (God scatters), Lo-Ruhamah (not pitied), and Lo-Ammi (not my people) show the extent of the rebellion. God’s perennial problem with Israel caused Him to act “justly,” that is, He had to render a judgment or He would be characterized as a bad judge. This is how Hosea interpreted God’s judgment upon sin and unfaithfulness to the covenant. The actions taken by God were not arbitrary; rather, they are to be seen as actions resulting directly from a major disruption in the covenantal bond. Balancing this view, the Hebrew conception of justice also included an important redemptive element. Even in the midst of Israel’s rebellion, Hosea vividly portrayed God saying to them, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?” (Hos. 11:8a NIV). Justification always requires obedience on the part of God’s people, but justification also always requires judgment and restoration on the part of God. Anything less would greatly diminish the meaning of the term “justification.”

New Testament:  The New Testament’s posture, with respect to the idea of justification, is also dependent on the concrete activity of God. The major difference is that, in the New Testament, God dealt with the sin of humankind by the highest and most intimate form of revelation, His Son Jesus Christ. The earliest Christians believed that they were “made right” with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-26; 4:18-25; 1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 3:18). In his letter to the Romans, Paul conveyed the message that God did not consider sin lightly. Sin created a massive gulf between God and people. This gulf required a bridge to bring all of humanity into a right relationship with God. Theologians call God’s bridge building “reconciliation.” Reconciliation functions to bring humans “justification.” The main character who effected this divine plan was Jesus Christ. Uniquely, His death on the cross made it possible for God and people to be reconciled (Rom. 5:10) and thus for humans to be justified.

Not found in the Old Testament, justification is almost as scarce in the New Testament, occurring only three times (Rom. 4:25; 5:16,18). The necessity of justification, however, is sufficiently expressed by Paul in Romans 5:12-21. Paul advanced this theme of sin and its effects no doubt with the story of Genesis 3 in mind. Paul described sin almost as a personal power controlling people, preventing them from obeying God, and leading them to death. No one is excluded from sin’s domain. All people are in the deplorable state of being separated from God due to sin. All people desperately need deliverance. The redemptive activity of Christ provides the only avenue to a right relationship with God.

Justification does not encompass the whole salvation process; it does, however, mark that instantaneous point of entry or transformation which makes one “right with God.” Christians are justified in the same way Abraham was, by faith (Rom. 4:16; 5:1). Human works do not achieve or earn acceptance by God. The exercise of faith alone ushers us into a right, unmerited relationship with God (Gal. 2:16; Titus 3:7). Biblically, the spiritual journey begins at the point of justification. This immediate act has far-reaching consequences. It establishes the future. God in the present moment announces the verdict He will pronounce on the day of final judgment. He declares that trusting faith in Jesus Christ puts people in the right with God, bringing eternal life now and forever.

Paul taught that faith in Jesus Christ is an obedient response which results from hearing the Gospel (Rom. 10:17). He drew a connection between the Christian’s faith and the faith of Abraham. Abraham’s faith in God can be seen as an exemplary foreshadowing which would find ultimate expression in every Christians’ relationship to God through Jesus Christ.

Two related questions present themselves for consideration: (1) What is the relationship between faith and Old Testament law?, and (2) What is the relationship between faith and works? Paul found no room in his theology for an elitist righteousness. Special privileges were not administered by God in direct proportion to blood (nationality), brawn (strength), or brains (intellect). No justification within the law would allow anyone (Jew or not) to sidestep faith in Jesus Christ. Paul eliminated all doubt when he argued that being a Jew is neither a prerequisite (Rom. 4:1-25) nor a prerogative (9:1-33) for justification. The only stipulation, accessible to all, is faith.

Some confusion results when a comparison is made between faith and works. Paul is not the only adherent or spokesman for the doctrine of justification by faith. The apostle James, among others, taught this crucial doctrine also. However, premature appraisals of James 2:14-26 have caused some to see a contradiction in comparison with Paul’s instruction. Nothing is further from the truth. The two writers merely expressed different concerns. James’ idea of faith summarily eliminated all instances of imagined belief which had no observable or corresponding behavior. Paul’s concept of faith emphasized a shift of focus from the world to Jesus Christ on the part of the believer. It was a reorientation which resulted in good works (see Rom. 12). By God’s grace we are offered salvation, which we accept by faith. This faith results in a radical change of our natures (2 Cor. 5:17) in order that we might do good works.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.




Conformed  A Word Study

By William Warren

William Warren is director of the Center for New Testament Textual  Studies and professor of New Testament and Greek, occupying the Landrum P. Leavell II Chair of New Testament Studies, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.

PAUL STATED IN ROMANS 8:29 that God’s purpose is for Christians to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (HCSB).  The word “conformed” in this phrase is the translation of the Greek word summorphos and basically means “to share the same form” as something or someone else.  The Greek word is a compound of the preposition sun (often translated as “with”) and the noun morphe (often translated as “form”).  Since words have a range of meanings depending on the contexts in which they are used, we should first attempt to understand this larger range of meanings for the word “conformed” before discussing specifically the passage in Romans.

Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle noted a distinction between the external form or morphe that the material substances contained within or comprising the form.  Morphe referred to the outward appearance of a person, such as the specific physical form of the person.1  While the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, does not use the term summorphos, it does use the term morphe in this same sense of outward appearance.

In the religious contexts of Gnosticism and the mystery religions of the Roman period (when Christianity emerged), however, a shift in the meaning of morphe occurred.  During this time, people began to use the term morphe to refer not only to the outward form, but also the inward essence of the person or being, such as when a person sought to have his character or behavior become similar to that of his god.2  For example, in the Corpus Hermeticum 13, a Gnostic treatise, a son asked his father to explain to him how rebirth happens.  The father had experienced an inner change and sensed that he had reached a new spiritual plane.  Thus, referring to himself, the father replied that he was changed in such a way that now his true form was deep within (in his mind or innermost being).  The story illustrates the shift, with mystery religions accepting persons being changed, in both a literal and a symbolic sense—with the literal outward form sometimes being indicated, while at other times emphasizing the inward character.  Furthermore, people of this era increasingly attached a religious context to this inner essense or symbolic emphasis.3  

We likewise see this shift in meaning in the New Testament, where the writers use the word morphe in both the literal sense of the outward form and in the symbolic sense of the inner essence of the person.  For example, in the transfiguration scenes the Gospel writers used the related term metamorphoo to describe the change in Jesus’ outward appearance (Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10).  Jesus was “metamorphized” or changed in such a way that those with Him saw the difference in His outward appearance by way of the brilliance of His face and clothing.  Such was also the case of Mark 16:12, when Jesus came alongside the two disciples, but they did not recognize Him because He was in another “form.”  This difference meant they did not perceive this traveler was Jesus, the One they had known prior to the crucifixion.

Outside of these three instances in Matthew and Mark, all of the other New Testament examples of this word group come from the writings of Paul.  Besides the adjective summorphos, Paul used several forms of the word group derived from morphe, including the verbs metamorphoo (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18), morphoo (Gal. 4:19), and summorphizo (Phil. 3:10), and the noun morphe  (Rom. 2:20; Phil. 2:6,7; 2 Tim. 3:5).  What we notice in these verses is the difference ways Paul used the terms.  In Romans 2:20 and 2 Timothy 3:5, Paul used the noun morphe in a context of people claiming to have a superficial outward form of knowledge or godliness.  In Philippians 2:6-7, Paul wrote of Christ being “in the form of God” and of His taking on “the form of a bondservant” (Phil. 2:6—7, writers translation).  A person with a Jewish background would hardly speak of God’s “outward” form due to the strong belief in God not having a finite, physical form.  So in Philippians 2:6-7, the reference is to the essential being of God and the essential being of humanity.  On the other hand, when Paul used the verb forms, he referred to an inner transformation of being “formed into Christ” (Gal. 4:19, writer’s translation) or being “transformed” into a new reality in Christ versus being conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18).

What we gather from these usages is a tendency in Paul to use the word group from morphe in a spiritual, “inner essence,” or symbolic sense, especially when he used the word in a character-forming context.

So how does this help in understanding the adjective summorphos in Romans 8:29?  We can garner some help from the only other New Testament occurrence of this word, which comes from Paul in Philippians 3:21: “He will transform the body of our humble condidtion into the likeness (summorphon) of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself” (HCSB).  Here Paul was speaking of believers being totally changed into the likeness of the glorified Christ by the working of God.  Obviously Paul was not saying we will all physically look exactly like Jesus, but rather that we will all have glorified bodies and have a change in our character or inner essence to be like Christ.

Turning directly to Romans 8:29, the meaning of summorphos (“conformed”) in this passage likewise teaches that believers are to be hanged in their inner essence to be like Christ.  Paul used the word “image” to communicate that believers are to become representations of Christ, not in the sense of exact physical appearance, but in glorified bodies and in the sense of living like Christ in their character and traits, in their inner form or essence.  Building upon Romans 8:28, Paul taught that all things work together for good for believers because God will use all things to cause us to become conformed to Jesus in our inner being or character.              Bi

1.    G. Braumann, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Brown, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library, 1986), 705.

2.    Ibid., 705-06.

3.    Ibid.; Grese, Corpus Hermeticum XIII and Early Christian Literature (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1979), 1-33.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 41, No. 3; Spring 2015.



By Gene Mims

Gene Mims is president, LifeWay church Resources, Nashville, Tennessee.

THE WORD  predestination is one of the most important, controversial, and misunderstood words in all the New Testament.  In fact, no word can generate more discussion and passion than predestination.  Mention it and persons will immediately give any number of reactions ranging from avoiding it to discussing its theological merits in fine points of logic and doctrine.

Despite its importance, “predestination” occurs only six times in three books in the New Testament.  To understand it completely, a study should first consider the word’s root meaning, then its usage in the New Testament in general, and finally its specific meaning in Romans 8:29-30.

“Predestined” comes from the Greek verb proorizw, which means “to predetermine or decide something beforehand.”  It initially described someone who set boundaries or fences as a means of control.  In Scripture the word describes God’s activity before the world’s foundation and creation as He decreed certain things before they occurred.  “Predestine” is used in an entire family of words to describe God’s activity prior to creation including words such as choose, election, foreordain, and foreknow.  These words and others form a constellation of terms to show that God was purposeful in creation and controls all He has created.

The word proorizw  appears twice in the Book of Acts (2:23; 4:28), twice in Romans (8:29,30), and twice in Ephesians (1:5,11).  Peter used the word to describe the crucifixion of Christ as something the Jews were responsible for but that God had predetermined and known all along: “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men, and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23).1 This is an important verse because it shows the unique combination of man’s responsibility for sin coupled with God’s predetermined purposes.

In Acts 4, the disciples praised God for Peter and John’s release from jail.  The prayer revealed the disciples’ keen understanding of God’s control over all things—even ungodly rulers, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (vv. 27-28).

In Ephesians Paul used the term “predestined” to give assurances to his readers that God’s plan for them predetermined their salvation “to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ Himself” (1:5) and in salvation to give us “an inheritance” (v. 11) in Christ.  These tow verses show God’s predetermination to save us solely by His grace and mercy despite our sin and separation from Him.  Thus in Ephesians we have the assurance of salvation as well as the stated benefits of salvation in Christ.

In Romans 8:12-29, Paul wrote some of the most important words in the Bible.  In earlier chapters he carefully and systematically outlined the plight of humankind in sin concluding that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23).  He went on to describe how despite our sin we have complete salvation in Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection.  This salvation is through faith in Christ by whom we are justified before God.  He is the One who justifies us, who redeems us, who reconciles us, who is our propitiation with the result that we have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1).  So in the first five chapters of Romans we see Christ as the substitute for sin.

In chapters 6 through 8:25, Paul took great care to show how Christ is our representative.  Believers thus not only receive salvation by faith but also share His death, burial, and resurrection.  “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (6:5-6).

In 6:8-11, the apostle explained how Christ is our victory.  We have the benefits of His death as our substitute for sin.  We now have His life because He was our representative on the cross.  As a result, we have His victory over all things we face because of what Christ accomplished on the cross and the resurrection.  This was by no means a surprise or an accident but in fact was made possible by God’s predetermined plan for us in Christ.  We can confidently know that all things will work together for good because we have been called according to His purposes.  Our calling came long before creation, the cross, of our births.  He “foreknew” us and “predestined” us to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (8:29).

When the Romans read these words of Paul, they must have been excited to learn the scope and depth of salvation in Christ.  In the face of opposition, hardship, testing, and trials they would learn that God had known of these things beforehand and had a plan for His followers before the difficulties occurred.  He appointed the Romans and the hardships that believers endured beforehand for his purposes and His glory.  All their circumstances were appointed by God to be accomplished through Christ.

Our lives follow a divinely appointed process that transcends any one event or circumstance in life.  We are “predestined” by God and “called” to salvation.  We are “justified” by faith in Christ and finally “glorified” in Him as we are “transformed” into His very image.  Life is a process and this process includes having things work together for our good and God’s glory through His predetermined plan for us.

Predestination then is the act of God before creation in which He chooses to save individuals solely by His grace and mercy and not on the basis of anything they might ever have to offer Him. 

These things are wonderful but also very difficult to fully comprehend.  If God predetermines my salvation, what about those who are not saved?  Is everything in my life decided or do I have any responsibility or freedom to act?  Is anyone really free to decide anything?  Does God create sin or does He allow it?  Why?

These questions are indicative of the kinds of issues that arise around the concept of predestination.  We should not avoid asking them or seeking answers.  On the other hand, we need to be careful to understand that not every question can be answered.  Some things that seem contradictory are in fact too vast to be understood at present, God is sovereign and controls all things while giving us responsibility for our thoughts and actions.  This is a clear teaching in Scripture and we must accept it by faith.

The Bible teaches clearly that before the world was formed God predetermined certain things.  He determined that Christ would die on the cross for our sins.  He determined that we would be created in His likeness.  He determined the nature of the universe.  He determined our salvation in Christ.  Though many believers have attempted to soften the impact of this incredible truth, the truth of predestination remains.  One should understand, however, that in both Ephesians and Romans the subject of predestination is addressed to believers to explain salvation in Christ and to give assurance of it for eternity.  Predestination also offers assurance for living under life’s pressures and spiritual trials.  The knowledge of God’s predetermined plan to save us gives us strength and comfort no matter what we go through or face in life as believers.

God’s predetermination is not based on His foreknowledge of a person’s faith.  Foreknowledge in Romans 8:29 is based on God’s knowledge of persons and not their faith or any other works they might do.  In fact, Scripture never speaks of a person’s faith as a reason God chooses him/her.  Persons are chosen on the basis of God’s grace and nothing else; and if it were not so, then our faith would be a good work and salvation would be according to a person’s works and not Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Predestination is therefore unconditional—it is God’s sovereign choice.  As mysterious as this may be, it is a truth that the Scriptures present.

Some people object to predestination because they say it removes a person’s choice in salvation.  This is simply not the case, for every believer can and must choose willingly to trust Christ as Savior and Lord.  We know that God can work through and in our circumstances to bring His will to bear in our lives and make our choices conform to His will.

Some see the truth of predestination as a problem, concluding that if some are predestined to salvation then other are predestined to perdition.  This concept of “double predestination” may be logically tenable, but it is not biblically warranted.  Peter’s sermon at Pentecost combines perfectly God’s predetermined plan and the Jew’s sinful actions.  God does predetermine, but we are always responsible for our sinful actions.  In no instance does the Bible ever teach a fatalism in the universe whereby human choice and decisions make no difference.

Does predestination lessen the impact or the necessity of evangelism?  Not according to Scripture.  God’s plan to call sinners to repent of their sins, and to encourage individuals to trust Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the free gift of salvation.  Every believer can relate to the experience of doing this.  An image that might be useful is that of a door, a door that leads to salvation.  Above the door is written, Whosoever will may come.  We choose to put our trust in Christ and walk through the door of salvation.  Once through that door we look back and see written above the door on the other side, Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (based on Eph. 1:4).  We choose because we are chosen.

The Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in June 2000 states,

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners.  It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end.  It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable.2

Although no one can fully understand the full truth of predestination, we acknowledge that it is of God, scriptural, and a part of His plan for our salvation, assurance, perseverance, and final glorification.  We do not have to understand all of its meaning and merits to come humbly and thankfully to the God of our salvation.  We can live in love, faith, and obedience to Him as we respond to His eternal love, choice, and call to eternal life.  In love we can praise Him for His grace and mercy.  In faith we can follow Him and know that all His ways are perfect and His motives are pure.  In obedience we can live for Him and share His gospel to all who will hear, inviting all who will respond to repent and believe in Christ as the only way to salvation.

1.   All Scripture references in this article are taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update.

2.   “God’s Purpose of Grace” in The Baptist Faith and Message (Nashville: LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, 2000), 12.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 2003.



By George R. Beasley-Murray

Romans 8:26,34


onsidering the importance of prayer in the New Testament and the number of times that Christians are exhorted to pray, it is surprising that the word “intercession” occurs so infrequently in the New Testament.  Only once does it appear in the midst of a series of terms for prayer: 1 Timothy 2:1.  The word, in fact, is unusual in the language in which Paul wrote, and it seems almost to have had a technical meaning.

Oddly enough, its basic meaning simply is that of “meeting,” bumping into someone by chance on the street.  But it came to be used for an arranged meeting, an appointment as it were, for speaking to one about another, either to lay a complaint against him or to defend him against charges.  The former action is reflected in Romans 11:2 where we read of Elijah “interceding” against Israel.  If that sounds strange to our ears, it is nevertheless a perfect example of the meaning of the term, for Elijah went a long way to have a word with the Lord about the behavior of the nation that was going after Jezebel and worshiping her precious Baal.  So also in Acts 25:24 Festus tells Paul how crowds of Jews had “interceded” (“dealt” in KJV), laid complaints against him.

Fortunately there are occasions when people are prepared to come and speak up for another in trouble, and that’s the picture in Romans 8:26 and 34.  The spokesmen are none other than the Holy Spirit and the risen Lord Christ, and they are powerful advocates to have on one’s side!  Now it can hardly be accidental that the New Testament presents a complicated network of relationships in language over this matter.  On the one hand, both Paul and the writer to the Hebrews talk about Jesus as the Lord at God’s right hand, acting as a priest in his intercession for us (see Heb. 7:25)—a conscious echo of Psalm 110, the psalm about the King at God’s right hand who is also a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  Christ’s kingship and priesthood are alike eternal, and we have a wonderful assurance that our spokesman is none other than He.

On the other hand, both the Gospel and letters of John speak of the Holy Spirit as sent by the risen Lord to be our Comforter, or, as we should render the word, Advocate.  The first of these passages is John 14:16, which is particularly appropriate to our theme; the reference in it to “another Comforter” inevitably recalls 1 John 2:1: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  An advocate usually has to be called in to defend one in a lawsuit; here we have two advocates; as someone has put it, the Lord Jesus is the Friend at court, while the Holy Spirit is the Friend from court, and they offer their services freely!  But how we need them!  We are always getting into trouble!

The language in which Paul refers to our Advocate’s intercession is remarkable.  The Spirit, he says, intercedes for us “with groaning which cannot be uttered.”  That is not thought of as his normal mode of speech, but the Spirit is moved by our plight, as of a people whose sighs join those of the whole creation in yearning for redemption (see Rom. 8:22-23).  And the Lord at God’s right hand, King though He may be, is there for us, as truly as He was for us on the cross, with a love more powerful than anything in the universe (see vv. 35-39).

By the time Paul reaches that point in the discussion he no longer argues or even preaches.  He sings!  And no wonder: We have a marvelous Friend in the heart and a marvelous Friend in heaven.  You don’t have many worries when friends like these are around and speak up for you!

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 1976.




(925)  What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (08/23/15)  What was the name of the man who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years? Answer Next Week.

The answer to last week’s question:  (08/23/15)     Who does Paul thank God for because their “faith and love grew exceedingly”? Answer: The Thessalonians; 2 Thess. 1:3.