Romans 8:28-39 / 11 Pentecost (Proper 10A) / 27 July 2014 / Holy Trinity – Hacienda Heights, CA
In Nomine Iesu
We know that everything works for good for those who love God, those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).
Nothing and everything. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that’s in Christ Jesus. Not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword. Nothing. Not even death. Especially not death. Nothing. Everything for good for God’s baptized believers. Everything: the good, the bad, even the ugly. Everything works for good for those who love God. And nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing and everything.
Believing this is easier said than done in the face of real tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword. Do we actually believe that as the baptized children of God our sufferings will be vindicated and have meaning, that the hardship of our lives won’t simply be erased but will all become a tapestry of good, that there is purpose and meaning in what we suffer now? Do you believe this?
The next sentence provides the foundation and keeps it from being nothing more than a Hallmark inspired sentiment: For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the first-born among many brothers.
This is how it works. The Father looks at His only-begotten Son and sees in His Son perfected and glorified humanity. Through His Son, He makes man in His image, to reflect the Son into the world. Adam blows it. He rebels. He listens to another word, a foreign, alien word that draws him away from God to sin, to rebellion, to death, and ultimately to a hell that was never intended for him. Adam ceased to reflect the Son into the creation; he now reflected himself. Sin provokes God’s wrath, and He’s plenty angry over it. Your sin deserved death and damnation, and don’t think for a moment you can weasel out of it with your little prayers and pious platitudes.
The Father has a plan. He sends His one and only Son, His only-begotten from all eternity Son, into our flesh. The fulness of the Deity dwelling in bodily form. This is the way God loves the world, and how He loves a fallen humanity turned against Him, and how He loves you sinner though you are: He gives His only-begotten Son in the flesh to die, so that whoever believes in Him, that is, whoever trusts in the promise of life in His Name through His death and resurrection, will not perish but will have eternal life with God. That’s your destiny in Christ, a destiny worked out from before the foundations of the world in Christ.
Christ is the new and second Adam, undoing what the first Adam did, rescuing fallen humanity and a cosmos captive to entropic chaotic corruption by embodying in His own flesh all of sinful humanity and all of creation, embracing it all in His once for all death, and raising it all up incorruptible in His resurrection. It’s all a done deal in Christ.
In Christ, you were foreknown by the Father. You are known to God only in Christ the Son; apart from Christ God does not know you or anyone.
In Christ, you were destined, even before you were conceived, even before you existed you were destined to be conformed to the image of Christ, who is the image of God. That is your destiny, a plan worked out long before you ever had any say in it, a plan devised by the Holy Trinity from all eternity to save the cosmos in the death of the eternal Son in the flesh.
You were predestined in Christ to be conformed to the image of Christ. You were called in Christ, baptized into His death and resurrection, having heard the good news of Jesus and having the good news work its way with you. You were justified in Christ, declared innocent before God’s judgment throne. Not innocent until proven guilty, but innocent. Not with your own innocence. You have none. And you have no case, so don’t bother arguing it. Instead, you are justified.
A judgment has been spoken over your head by the blood of the cross where the Son of God took away your sin. God declares you innocent, and all you dare say to that verdict is “Amen.” So be it. If God says it, that settles it. Right now, as we speak, you stand before the all-holy Judge, who is a consuming fire. You stand before Him spotless and blameless, clothed with the perfect life and death of Jesus. That’s what it means to be justified. It means to appear before God as Jacob in the OT appeared before his father disguised as his elder brother Esau to receive the elder brother’s blessing. We receive the blessing of the Son clothed in the Son, and the Father is delighted to bless us, for He loves His Son and He loves you in His Son. That’s what it means to be justified.
But wait, there’s more. Those whom He justified, He also glorified. Note this. Past tense. Spoken and done. Glorified. You are now, even as you sit here and listen to me, you are already seated at the right hand of the Father in glory. You are glorified in the glorified flesh of Jesus Christ. He embodied you in His death, He embodied you in His resurrection, and now He embodies you in His ascended glory. Your life is hidden in Christ, you are glorified in Christ. In your self, it is anything but glorious. You suffer, you sin, you die. But in Christ, you are glorified and pure and holy.
So there you have it. God has done all the verbs that count eternally. Foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified. He does them all. They are, as we speak here, past and done in Christ. That’s takes everything eternal out of your hands. Even before you were, you were known in Christ and destined in Him.
So then who or what on earth or in heaven can possibly mess you up? You are spiritually bullet-proof in Christ. You wear Him like a suit of spiritual Kevlar. If God is for you, (and He is in His Son), who can be against you? If God gave you His one and only Son, how will He not give you all things? If you are justified, forensically declared righteous with all the charges laid on Jesus and declared innocent in His blood, who can bring charges against you? If God is the one who justifies you, who is left to condemn you? The devil? He has nothing to say. The world? What does the world have to say before face of God? Ourselves? Only if we claim to be greater than God. You see? When you say, “I can’t forgive myself,” you’re overruling God. Repent. God has forgiven you. See yourself as God sees you in Christ, not as you see yourself.
Who can condemn us? Jesus was condemned on the cross in our place. Cursed for us. Damned for us. And the same Jesus appears before the Father bearing the wounds of His sacrifice, interceding for us as our Defender and Priest. He never lets the Father forget those wounds by which we have our salvation and life. And He never lets us forget either, for whenever we eat the bread that is His Body and drink the cup that is His Blood, we proclaim His death until He comes..
What can separate us from God’s love in Christ? Throw the works at us – tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword. Add anything you want. A bad childhood, a broken marriage, sickness, mental illness, anything. Death, devil, angels, powers, the past, the present, the future. High things, low things, anything. In all these things we more than conquer, we “hyper-conquer,” we conquer beyond conquering. Not in ourselves but in Christ, who loved us to death on a cross. He gives us His victory and in Him we more than conquer.
Now on this side of the grave, that victory looks to all the world like defeat. Life looks like death. The Christian life appears crucified not risen. In this world, the victory looks like a cross and a tomb. The victorious life of the Christian looks nothing like victory in this world. It is filled with tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword. The sheep under Good Shepherd Jesus look like sheep being led to the slaughter; hardly a victorious image.
It must be trusted, believed for Jesus’ sake. Christ has conquered. That’s a matter of fact. He died, He rose, He reigns. And in Him you conquer too. That’s a matter of faith. You must believe it.
It is all a done deed in Christ – your destiny, your justification, your glorification. You have been baptized into that destiny; God has put you into the safest place there is, into the death and life of His Son Jesus. And from that vantage point, you can be 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 you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the name of Jesus,