Romans 9:1-5 – Paul’s Lament for Israel

Romans 9:1–5 (ESV) — 1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

 

 

Intro:

The most obvious thing about this text is its abrupt change in tone from Romans 8.

  • Speculations abound about how to account for this.

 

Many suggest that Romans 12 seems to make more sense as a follow up to Romans 8.

  • This is because it deals with how the awesomeness of Romans 8 impacts the Christian life.
  • Romans 12:1 (ESV) — 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

 

In contrast to Romans 12, Romans 9-11 gives us:

  • “Paul’s anguished wrestling with the problem of Israel’s unbelief” – Doug Moo.

 

But this is not a topic that is out of place for Romans.

  • Paul brought it up already.

 

In Romans 4, Paul went out of his way to include Abraham with those in Christ…

  • And to redefine what it meant to be the people of God.

 

During those lessons we dealt with the badges of inclusion – circumcision, Sabbath observance, etc.

  • Underneath all this was an explanation of, if Jesus was the Messiah, why did so many Jews reject him.

 

So it seems in Romans 9-11…

  • Paul has decided to come back to this…big whoop.

 

It also might help us make sense of Paul’s transition to Romans 9-11 with a question.

  • We can simply ask, why did Paul write it?

 

There are at least three reasons (certainly more).

  • (1) Defense of the Gospel – word of God has not failed (vs. 6).
  • (2) Definitively account for the “status of the people Israel” – Doug Moo.
  • (3) “Paul…wants to make clear that his focus on the Gentile mission has by no means meant the abandonment of his concern for, and, indeed, plans for, the salvation of their fellow Jews. But he also wants to dispel any notion that he might have joined with the Gentile Christians in Rome in their sinful disdain for the Jewish people” – Doug Moo.

 

Let’s dive in and see what Paul has to say.

 

 

Paul’s Lament – Verses 1-2:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.

 

It makes sense to me that after sharing all the blessings that accrue to those in Christ in Romans 8…

  • Paul’s heart was tugged towards those who were missing out on these blessings.

 

In light of this…

  • Paul declares that what he is about to say is the “truth in Christ”…
  • That he is “not lying”…

 

And more than that, Paul says his conscience is pricked, not by some feeling of worldly guilt…

  • But by a conscience saturated “in the Holy Spirit”.

 

Then in verse 2 he shares what the true thing is that the Spirit confirms.

  • He says, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” for his fellow Jews (vs. 2).
  • The BDAG says this phrase refers to a great “pain of mind or spirit”.

 

Most think it is best to understand this pain as expressing an intense, heartfelt lament.

  • A lament similar, many say, to the laments of the OT prophets over Israel.
  • Jeremiah 4:19 (ESV) — 19 My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

 

Why would Paul have such profound concern for the salvation of his fellow Jews?

  • Do Christ and the Holy Spirit aid in his heart felt lament?

 

How might we find such a concern for our fellow Gentiles?

  • We have Christ and the Spirit – what’s my/our excuse?

 

 

Accursed – Verse 3:

For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

 

Here Paul confirms our suspicions that he is definitely talking about his fellow Jews.

  • His “brothers” and “kinsmen”.
  • Who are such by virtue of being “according to the flesh”.

 

Paul’s commission by Christ was to the Gentiles.

  • Acts 22:21 (ESV) — 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
  • But never doubt that his heart is deeply inclined toward his fellow Jews.

 

And he also confirms for us his lament is over their status in Christ.

  • This is implied by his sacrificial plea.
  • It is actually they who are “accursed and cut off from Christ”.

 

We need to unpack Paul’s selfless gesture to sacrifice himself.

  • Paul says, he wishes he could be “accursed and cut off from Christ”…
  • If it meant his fellow Jews were not so.

 

Interestingly the word “accursed and cut off” here is the Greek “anathema”.

  • The idea relates to one’s standing before God.

 

One can either be “consecrated” to God.

  • Or, one can be separated from God.
  • Anathema” is obviously the latter.

 

Paul’s apparent willingness to go through this is startling.

  • But it clearly conveys just how deep his lament was for his fellow Jews.
  • Again, one wonders what would bring us to such lament for our fellow Gentiles.

 

BTW – a short history lesson is in order here.

  • Anathema” is a word that has been used throughout Church history.
  • It came to mean to be denounced and excommunicated – BDAG.

 

During the Church councils of the first millennia…

  • It was used as an epithet hurled at those who rejected…
  • Beliefs that were being established as “orthodox”.

 

Some examples can be found in Chalcedon in 553.

  • “If anyone does not confess that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one nature or essence, one power or authority, worshipped as a trinity of the same essence, one deity in three hypostases or persons, let him be anathema”.
  • “If anyone does not confess that God the Word was twice begotten, the first before all time from the Father, non- temporal and bodiless, the other in the last days when he came down from the heavens and was incarnate by the holy, glorious, God-bearer, ever-virgin Mary, and born of her, let him be anathema.”

 

 

Benefits of Inheritance – Verses 4-5:

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

 

So after expressing the depth of his lament for his fellow Jews…

  • He lists out the privileges they have been afforded as Israelites.

 

All of which, as we saw last week…

  • Flow from God’s election of them as His inheritance.

 

He says to them belong:

  • Adoption – “Paul’s way of summing up the OT teaching about Israel as ‘God’s son’” – Moo.
  • Glory – “God’s presence with the people of Israel” – Moo.
  • Covenants – Made with Abraham, Noah, David, etc.
  • “Giving of the law” – It is they, not Gentiles, to whom God gave the law.
  • Worship – This refers to worship and honor of god through the sacrificial system.
  • Promises – These are bound up in the covenants – like the promise of people, nation, land.
  • Patriarchs – This is one of the badges of membership into the Promises.

 

They even have, “according to the flesh…the Christ, who is God over all”.

  • This is the ultimate crowning achievement.
  • The Jesus the Messiah is Himself a Jew, descended from the Patriarchs.
  • The Jews birthed the Messiah!

 

But, as N.T. Wright reminds us, such a relationship to the Messiah is not enough.

“The Jews really are the people of the Messiah, but they are that ‘according to the flesh’. The Messiah really does belong to them, but only in the ‘fleshly’ sense…” – N.T. Wright.

 

By implication, the point is they don’t stand in relation to him through faith!

  • And here lies the problem.

 

Israel is the source of the Messiah…

  • But they know him not.
  • Thus…the reason for Paul’s lament.

 

 

Jesus as God?

We need to pay special attention to the end of verse 5.

  • “According to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”

 

Is Paul saying that Christ is God (ho on theos)?

 

Depends on your particular translation.

  • ESV – “according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”
  • NRSV – “according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”
  • HCSB – “by physical descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.”
  • NASB – “from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

 

These translations disagree with each other.

  • The ESV and HCSB have Paul saying Christ is God.
  • The NRSV and the NASB do not.

 

Why such vastly different takes?

“Exegetes and theologians since the inception of the church have been sharply divided over this question. The issue is one of punctuation and therefore of interpretation, for Greek manuscripts of the NT rarely contain punctuation marks and the marks that are found tend to be sporadic and irregular” – Doug Moo.

 

The differing translations can be understood broadly in two ways:

  • (1) Christology – Paul’s thought was that “God” was predicated to “Christ”, so that “Christ” is “God”.
  • (2) Doxology – Paul’s thought was that only “over all” was predicated to Christ – as in “Lord over all”.
    • Meaning that “God blessed forever, Amen” starts a new thought.
    • Specifically it would be a doxology offered to God for all the privileges had by Israel.

 

Which one is right?

 

Doug Moo, after going into great detail on both options, says this:

  • “Connecting ‘God’ to ‘Christ’ is therefore exegetically preferable, theologically unobjectionable, and contextually appropriate. Paul here calls the Messiah, Jesus, ‘God,’ attributing to him full divine status” – Doug Moo.

 

But Gordon Fee, after going into great detail on both options, says this:

“It seems incongruous both to the letter as a whole and to the present context in particular—not to mention Paul’s usage throughout the corpus—that Paul should suddenly call the Messiah theos when his coming in the flesh is the ultimate expression of what God is doing in the world”.

  • In other words, the importance for the context is the distinction between Jesus and God.

 

So…take your pick.

  • Just be flexible about it.

 

 

 

Romans 8:38-39 – Unseen Realm – Part 2

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Last week we did some foundation work.

  • We introduced the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.

 

This was necessary to give us the background behind Paul’s list in verses 38 and 39.

  • Specifically the personal forces that seek to separate us from God’s love in Christ.
  • nor angels nor rulers…nor powers”.

 

Today we continue our exploration of these personal forces.

  • Romans 8:38–39 (ESV) — 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Cosmic Geography and Angels, Rulers and Powers :

How do Paul’s angels, rulers and powers…

  • Connect to last week’s exploration of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview?

 

So the Deuteronomy 32 worldview…

  • Is a worldview pertaining to something called Cosmic Geography.

 

As we saw last week…

  • This is the idea that some members of God’s divine council…
  • Which the OT refers to interchangeably as elohim, sons of god, host of heaven, sun, moon, or stars
  • Were made ruler over certain parts of the known world.

 

But God kept for Himself, as “his own inheritance”, the descendants of Abraham.

  • Thus, the reason why He marked out the Promised Land from the other nations.
  • It was to be the geography of his inheritance.

 

The Bible captures these events in 3 texts:

  • Genesis 11:7–9 (ESV) — 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
  • Deuteronomy 32:8–9 (ESV) — 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind [dispersed them], he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
  • Deuteronomy 4:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.

 

And then at some point in history there was an elohim rebellion:

  • Psalm 82:1–8 (ESV) — 1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

 

As a result of this rebellion…

  • God prophesied through the Psalmist that he would bring judgment upon them.
  • And, importantly, that He would take for Himself as an inheritance “all the nations!

 

Importantly, this meant that until such judgment comes…

  • There exist a number of elohim battling against God…
  • There is a coming judgment…
  • And there is a plan for God to inherit all the nations.

 

Michael Heiser puts it this way:

“From the fateful decision at Babel onward, the story of the Old Testament is about Israel versus the disinherited nations, and Yahweh versus the corrupt, rebel elohim of those nations” – Michael Heiser.

 

The point:

  • This is the worldview that Paul inhabited.

 

So the connection between Paul and the Cosmic Geography of a Deut. 32 worldview…

  • Is quite simple.

 

When he spoke of angel, rulers, and powers (obviously not in all contexts)…

  • Paul was using NT language for the elohim, sons of god, host of heaven, sun, moon, or stars.

 

In other words, Paul was talking about the rebel elohim under judgment.

  • And he was doing so in the context of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview and its Cosmic Geography.

 

A quick look at a variety of scholars will make this point about our text:

  • Paul often, “uses [this language] to denote powers or authorities of the spirit world…those of an evil nature” – Moo.
  • “The pairing of ἀρχαί [rulers] with ἄγγελοι [angels] seals the issue since Paul never uses the latter term of governmental authorities but always of spiritual beings” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Paul is teaching that, “not even the most malevolent of metaphysical powers, can unfasten them from the divine love that is known and experienced in the Lord Jesus Christ” – Michael Bird.
  • Paul is “referring to the spiritual forces ruling the nations and bringing opposition against God’s people” – Craig Keener
  • “That preternatural [beyond what is normal] beings are in view need not be questioned” – John Murray.
  • We are dealing with “…powers which exercise their influence throughout the entire cosmos” – EDNT.
  • “These terms have something in common— they were used in both the New Testament and other Greek literature for geographical domain rulership [Cosmic Geography]. This is the divine dominion concept of Deuteronomy 32: 8-9 [Deuteronomy 32 worldview]” – Michael Heiser.

 

So I think we now see the connection.

  • But we need to tease out the implications of Paul’s teaching for us.
  • They are especially important to our understanding the Gospel itself!

 

To help us with this…

  • We need to fill out Paul’s thinking on these personal forces.

 

All of these compliment today’s text.

  • They all deal with the personal forces that seek to separate us from God’s love.
  • And the Cosmic Geography/Deuteronomy 32 worldview stuff helps us make sense of all of them.

 

 

Personal Forces Survey:

(1) Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) — 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 

This is a well known text – at least semantically.

  • By now, however, I hope we can appreciate this text for the depth of its content.

 

Paul says that we – saints/those in Christ – wrestle against:

  • rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

 

This idea of “wrestle against” is that we are involved in a struggle likened to…

  • Hand-to-hand combat.
  • This is WW1 trench warfare.

 

The context of this warfare is “this present darkness”.

  • What is this?

 

This includes the Cosmic Geography and the Deuteronomy 32 worldview ideas.

  • This is the rebel elohim.
  • And a nod to the fact that God has not yet fully inherited their nations and judged them.

 

And this warfare is clearly what Paul is referring to in our text today.

  • The rebel elohim are trying to sever us from the love of God in Christ.

 

This is why it is so important for us to realize that God’s love for us…

  • The accomplishing power we spoke of last week…
  • Is an all-powerful and unrelenting power that accomplishes God’s decrees without fail.

 

 

(2) 1 Corinthians 2:6–8 (ESV) — 6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

 

Paul reveals a tantalizing truth about the rebel elohim.

  • He talks of their pending judgment – something he knows about from the OT.
  • He says the “rulers of this age” are doomed to pass away.

 

And then he gives us insight into the Gospel itself.

 

So we know that God would judge the rebel elohim…

  • And make all the nations His inheritance.

 

But, what Paul tells us here gives us a clue about how that these things would begin.

  • He says that “rulers of this age” had no foreknowledge of the work of Christ on the cross.
  • A work “decreed” by God “before the ages”.

 

He says if the did…

  • they would not have crucified the Lord”

 

Why not?

  • Apparently, Christ’s work on the cross…
  • Was directly related to judgment and inheritance.
  • The cross was a mechanism for securing this outcome.

 

 

(3) 1 Corinthians 15:24–25 (ESV) — 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

 

This passage picks up on our “why not?” from above.

  • Paul confirms again that the “rule and every authority and power” will be destroyed at “the end”.

 

He also tells us some intriguing things.

  • He describes the rebel elohim as Christ’s “enemies”.

 

So Paul pits Christ against the rebel elohim.

  • We are not alone in our hand-to-hand combat.

 

Paul then tells us that between the now and not yet…

  • Christ is “destroying every rule and every authority and power”.
  • He is at war with the rebel elohim.
  • He is putting them “under his feet”.

 

Finally, Paul gives us this tidbit:

  • the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father”.

 

So apparently another mechanism by which God secures the nations for Himself…

  • Is what Paul calls “the end”.

 

When this “the end” comes…

  • God the Father will have his full inheritance – “the kingdom” (all the nations).

 

Michael Heiser puts it like this:

  • “The coming of the incarnate Yahweh was the beginning of reclaiming those nations as well” – Michael Heiser.
  • Although Heiser adds, they “were not going to surrender their domains without a fight”.

 

BTW – Is it any wonder why the following scene played out in the Unseen Realm.

  • Satan and the other rebel elohim may not have known about the Gospel.
  • But they knew something was up with Jesus and tried to take Him out early.
  • Revelation 12:4 (ESV) — 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

 

 

(4) 1 Corinthians 6:3 (ESV) — 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

First let me add to this text some related texts from Paul and Jesus.

  • 2 Timothy 2:12 (ESV) — 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;
  • Luke 19:17 (ESV) — 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’

 

So here we get an answer to a tantalizing question.

  • Why are the rebel elohim after us?

 

The first answer is obvious.

  • They are at war with Christ and we are in Christ.

 

A second answer is more intriguing.

  • Paul says, “we are to judge angels”.
  • Paul says, “we will also reign with” Christ.

 

And Jesus, in speaking of the “economics” of the Kingdom of God says:

  • The faithful, in various proportions, “shall have authority over…cities”.

 

So apparently, the rebel elohim now know that it is the image bearer in Christ…

  • That will participate with Christ in divine rule.
  • In a sense, we replace the rebel elohim and they don’t like it!

 

 

Huge Gospel Implications:

All this from Paul should reshape how we think of the Gospel.

  • It should reshape how we think about the significance of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, exaltation and intercession.

 

The Gospel is not only about us.

  • We certainly are its beneficiaries.
  • We certainly partake in its blessings.

 

But we are, in some ways, just the tip of the iceberg.

  • The Gospel is how God initiates his assault on the rebel elohim.
  • The Gospel is how God initiates His reclamation of the nations for Himself.

 

And he uses Christ and his work on the cross to do this.

 

To appreciate this, we need only look at a few more texts.

  • Colossians 2:14–15 (ESV) — 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
  • Ephesians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
  • Ephesians 3:9–11 (ESV) — 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,
  • Hebrews 2:14 (ESV) — 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
  • Hebrews 2:8 (ESV) — 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.

 

Having been buried, resurrected and exalted…

  • Jesus is now set up “over the hostile powers” – Craig Keener.

 

Now everything is subjected to Christ.

  • And through Christ everything is being and will be put right – including Cosmic Geography.

 

The cosmic rulers are “disarmed and put to shame by the cross” – Heiser.

  • This is the Gospel!

 

Isaiah sums up the final defeat of the rebel elohim well:

  • Isaiah 24:21–23 (ESV) — 21 On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth. 22 They will be gathered together as prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished. 23 Then the moon will be confounded and the sun ashamed, for the Lord of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders.

 

And concerning God’s inheritance of the nations:

  • Isaiah 66:20–22 (ESV) — 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. 22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain.

 

 

Romans 8:38-39 – Unseen Realm – Part 1

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Last week we opened up with Paul’s question:

  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (vs. 35).

 

We noted that with this question Paul was reframing his Romans 8 discussion around God’s love.

  • Our security in the Gospel, our future assurance of glorification, etc.
  • All of these are seen as an unassailable expression of God’s love through Christ to us.
  • He is their source.

 

We then saw how throughout his letters Paul associated God’s love with…

  • Action towards us.
  • As such, we characterized God’s love for us as His accomplishing power.

 

This love – this accomplishing power – was impervious to defeat by all comers…whether they be:

  • Impersonal Forces
  • Personal Forces

 

Neither one can sever our connection to God’s love – His accomplishing power.

  • Last week we dealt specifically with the impersonal forces or circumstances that seek to do so.

 

And if Paul’s listed ended with these, Paul’s audience would be troubled.

  • They might say that’s all well and good Paul.
  • But these forces aren’t personal.
  • What about the personal forces?

 

Only the personal forces possess a will that is actively seeking to destroy Christ’s:

  • Kingdom
  • Church
  • Saints

 

What about those forces?

 

This leads us into the stranger dimension of Paul’s list.

  • A dimension that first-world moderns usually gloss right over.
  • The personal forces of the unseen realm.

 

 

Personal Forces of The Unseen Realm:

Romans 8:38–39 (ESV) — 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Paul includes in his list the following personal forces.

  • nor angels nor rulers” – “nor powers

 

These, too, are unable to sever us from “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

  • They too are casualties of God’s accomplishing power!

 

But who are they?

 

To get at the significance of who they are…

  • We need to unpack them a bit.

 

Question.

  • If you asked anyone in church today…
  • Why the world is all jacked up…
  • What would they say?

 

Likely, the answer would contain things like:

  • The Fall
  • Adam
  • Sin/Rebellion
  • Satan

 

If you asked an ancient Jew, why the world is all jacked up…

  • What would they say?

 

They would certainly acknowledge the role of Genesis 3.

  • But they would go well beyond it.

 

Michael Heiser sets up the “well beyond”.

“After Eden, God still intended to dwell with humanity. But there would be opposition. Divine beings in service to Yahweh could defect. Enemies of Yahweh and his rule, from the human to the divine to something in between, lurked over the horizon. Heaven and earth were destined to be reunited, but it would be a titanic struggle” – Michael Heiser.

 

There are two specific events in Genesis that demonstrate Heiser’s observation.

  • (1) The “sons of god” and Nephilim of Genesis 6.
    • About which Peter and Jude talk.
  • (2) The Tower of Babel incident found in Genesis 11 and Deuteronomy 32.
    • About which Paul talks.

 

In an effort to understand Paul’s personal force list…

  • We are going to deal with the second.
  • This represents what Michael Heiser calls the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.
  • We can unpack this worldview by looking at a few OT texts.

 

 

Deuteronomy 32 Worldview (Michael Heiser):

Genesis 11:5–9 (ESV) — 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

 

Here we see God’s response to the peoples’ effort to build the Tower and make a name for themselves.

  • The tower was their attempt to reestablish what was lost at Eden.
  • Access to the divine.
  • We all know the story.

 

It is interesting that God’s response in Genesis 11 parallels that of Genesis 1’s creation.

  • let us make man in our imageANDlet us go down and there confuse their language
  • So God created man in his own imageANDSo the LORD dispersed them

 

This is interesting because of the identity of the “us”.

  • The “us” is God’s divine council.
  • So, in both instances, God lays out a plan to His divine council.
  • And then God alone provides the action for the plan.

 

To flesh this out more, there is one more Babel text – often overlooked.

  • Deuteronomy 32:8–9 (ESV) — 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

 

Here we get more details.

  • The scattering of the people was “according to the number of the sons of God”.

 

The scattering played out like this – according to the text.

  • YHWH would soon set apart a portion of the people for himself – “his allotted heritage”.
  • His people, Jacob” = Israel.

 

And, as for the rest of the folks:

  • They were divvied up “according to the number of the sons of God”.
  • In other words, each of the “sons of God” had his allotment – his inheritance – of the remaining folks.

 

So this text shows us how:

“Yahweh’s dispersal of the nations at Babel resulted in his disinheriting those nations as his people” – Michael Heiser.

 

So what does all this mean?

  • Two things.

 

(1) God’s later call to Abraham in Gen. 12 was how he established His allotment – His inheritance.

  • This was done at the exclusion of the other nations.
  • This exclusion is part of Paul’s “God gave them up” language of Rom. 1:18-26.

 

But this was also an act of grace.

  • God called Abraham out of the East – the place of exile.
  • He called him out of the disinherited and excluded.
  • Importantly, God didn’t make a new Adam.

 

(2) “The rest of the nations were placed under the authority of Yahweh’s divine council” – Michael Heiser.

  • These are the plural “us” of the “let us go down”.
  • The “sons of God”.

 

Moses speaks of this event here:

  • Deuteronomy 4:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.

 

Here Moses gives a warning that operates on top of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview.

  • God’s inheritance (Israel) is tempted to follow after the “host of heaven”…
  • The “sons of God” of the other nations.

 

In effect, they want to reject their inheritance with Yahweh and choose to be heirs of the “host of heaven”.

  • AKA –“the sun and the moon and the stars”.
  • Insane!

 

Moses reminds them:

  • God delivered you from this very thing – Egypt and her gods.
  • He did so that you might be His “own inheritance”.
  • So get a grip!

 

 

Rabbit Trail – Naaman and Dirt

  • 2 Kings 5:17 (ESV) — 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.

 

Naaman had finally submitted to the cure Elisha offered him in the sorry waters of the Jordan.

  • The result was his healing and a change in his believing loyalty – he switched it to YHWH.

 

So why would Naaman request “two mule loads of earth” from Israel to take back Damascus?

  • You guessed it!
  • Has to do with Deut. 32 worldview and Moses’ warning in Deut. 4.
  • Syrian dirt is (currently) under the inheritance of Rimmon.

 

 

All of this sets up the next scene in our Unseen Realm drama.

  • We know that the disinherited nations become the enemy and foil of Israel.
  • The modern reader easily notices this fact.

 

But what about the “sons of god” of those rebellious nations – what becomes of them?

 

The Psalmist gives us a glimpse:

  • Psalm 82:1–8 (ESV) — 1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

 

Here the Psalmist gives us a shocking glimpse into the unseen realm.

  • Some of the “gods” (“sons of Most High”) – the elohim over the other nations – have rebelled.
  • They, like Satan (himself an elohim), have aligned themselves against God and His purposes.
  • Their end is to die like men and lose their inheritance – “O God…you shall inherit the nations!” (vs. 8).

 

Michael Heiser puts it like this:

  • “Yahweh [is] judging other elohim, sons of the Most High, for their corruption in administering the nations” – Michael Heiser.

 

Next week we will flesh out exactly how this informs Paul’s:

  • nor angels nor rulers” – “nor powers

 

Heiser gives us a glimpse:

“From the fateful decision at Babel onward, the story of the Old Testament is about Israel versus the disinherited nations, and Yahweh versus the corrupt, rebel elohim of those nations. The division of the nations and their allotment under other elohim is behind the scenes in all sorts of places in biblical history” – Michael Heiser.

 

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Romans 8:35-37 – Sheep to Be Slaughtered

Before digging into our text today…

  • We need to back up a bit.

 

Romans 8:16 and following have been a beautiful passage on:

  • Our future hope of glory.
  • The content of that glory.
  • The assurance of that glory.
  • A glory guaranteed by the indicatives of God’s work in Christ and the Spirit.
    • Justification, Indwelling of the Spirit, etc.

 

We saw that Paul referred back to all this with a question.

  • What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (vs. 31)
  • The unstated answer – NOBODY.

 

Paul then restated why we can have assurance in “these things”.

  • The Father didn’t spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us (vs. 32).
  • The Father justifies us through the work of his Son (vs. 33).
  • Jesus died, was raised and exalted to God’s right hand (vs. 34).
  • And there He intercedes for us (vs. 34).

 

This brings us to today’s text.

  • Romans 8:35–37 (ESV) — 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 

 

Love of Christ:

The first thing Paul does is make a transition.

  • He reframes the discussion about our future hope and assurance with God’s love.

 

He does so by the use of yet another rhetorical question.

  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (vs. 35a)
  • The answer, again, is NOBODY.

 

Paul often describes the content of:

  • The indicatives – the work of Father, Son and Spirit.
    • The stuff that fills out and secures our future hope.
  • In terms of God’s love for us.

 

The reason is simple.

  • God’s love for us is his faithfulness towards those in Christ.
  • And it is always a love, a faithfulness, expressed with action.
  • Specifically, the sacrifice of Jesus.

 

Here are some examples.

  • Galatians 2:20 (ESV) — 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14 (ESV) — 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
  • Ephesians 5:2 (ESV) — 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 

Given the role of God’s love, it will help to paraphrase verse 35a.

  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
  • Can be read as…
  • Who shall separate us from what has been accomplished by Christ giving Himself up for us?

 

This forces us see Paul’s emphasis.

  • Everything we have is made possible because of God’s love for us in Christ.
  • This love is the accomplishing power – not us.
  • When we are in Christ, we are swept up in this accomplishing power.

 

 

Accomplishing Power of God’s Love:

In our text today, as he reframes everything with God’s love…

  • Paul asks, “who can separate us from the love of Christ?”.

 

For the rest of Romans 8 Paul gives two categories of the “whos” that try to separate us from God’s love.

  • Who as Impersonal Power
  • Who as Personal Power

 

With these, Paul wants us to know just how extensive the accomplishing power of God’s love is:

  • Today we deal with the first.

 

 

God’s Love vs. “Who” As Impersonal Power:

Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (vs. 35b)

  • Pretty extensive list.
  • Are these the powers that will separate us from God’s love?

 

If anybody knows the answer to this question its Paul.

  • He has had first hand experience with all of them.

 

In his 2nd letter to the Corinthians he says:

  • 2 Corinthians 11:26–27 (ESV) — 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
  • And of course, eventually the giving of his own life for the sake of the Gospel.

 

It is important for us to know Paul’s intimate acquaintance with these powers.

  • It not only gives credence to his coming answer.

 

But it also shows he isn’t blowing smoke here.

  • He knows what he’s telling us here is true.

“All these…Paul himself has experienced, and he has been able to prove for himself that they are quite incapable of disrupting his relationship with the love of Christ” – Doug Moo.

 

It goes without saying that this is some scary stuff.

  • Stuff we generally try to avoid.
  • But Paul is about to challenge this attitude!

 

 

Sheep to be Slaughtered:

After listing the powers at work against us, Paul makes a shocking statement in verse 37.

  • For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
  • A quote from Psalm 44:22.

 

Say what!?

  • What are we to do with?
  • Regarded as sheep to be slaughtered?

 

It will help us to see what is going on in Psalm 44.

  • Unfortunately, Paul’s shocking words won’t be tempered.
  • I think we’ll find they’re even more shocking.

 

 

Psalm 44:

Psalm 44 begins with God’s indicatives.

  • The work he has done for Israel.
  • the deeds you performed in their [fathers] days” (vs. 1).

 

The Psalmist gives us a pretty good list.

  • “drove out the nations” – vs. 2
  • “afflicted” the nations – vs. 2
  • “planted” and “set free” the fathers – vs. 2
  • “save us from foes” – vs. 7
  • “put to shame those who hate us” – vs. 7

 

And the Psalmist says all of this was:

  • “through you” (vs. 5)
  • “through your name” (vs. 5)

 

Then verse 9 brings a massive shift.

  • But [now] you have rejected us and disgraced us” (vs. 9)

 

How so?

  • have not gone out with our armies” (vs. 9)
  • made us turn back from the foe” (vs. 10)
  • made us like sheep for the slaughter” (vs. 11)
  • scattered us” (vs. 11)
  • And the list goes on…shame, derision, laughing stock, scorn, disgrace, etc.

 

But it gets worse!

  • The Psalmist says God has allowed all this to happen…even though:
  • we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant.” (vs. 17)
  • Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way” (vs. 18)

 

In spite of all this believing loyalty, the Psalmist says of God:

  • you have broken us
  • covered us with the shadow of death

 

And he drives all this home with verse 22.

  • Psalm 44:22 (ESV) — 22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

 

This truth the Psalmist teaches, a truth that Paul taps into…

  • Is one of the most troubling in the Bible.
  • And yet can also be one of the most comforting.

 

 

Troubling Truth:

The troubling truth taught here is brutal.

  • Whether one had believing loyalty in YHWH…
  • Or one is united to Christ by faith…
  • we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered”.

 

The truth that that we will not be separated from Christ’s love…

  • Does not deny the troubling truth that we are not exempt from the force of these powers.
  • We are to be a living or dying sacrifice to our God!

 

Paul teaches this repeatedly:

  • Romans 8:17 (ESV) — 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:5 (ESV) — 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
  • Philippians 1:29 (ESV) — 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
  • Philippians 3:10 (ESV) — 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
  • 2 Timothy 2:3 (ESV) — 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

 

Michael Bird observes about this troubling truth:

  • “Paul does not think of the Christian walk as ‘Your best life now!’ but as being granted to share in the sufferings of Christ” – Michael Bird.

 

Given this, is it any wonder the Psalmist calls on God for deliverance.

  • Psalm 44:23–25 (ESV) — 23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! 24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? 25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.

 

This is profound stuff here!

  • The Psalmist recognized this troubling truth.
  • And he said the righteous were living with:
  • soul bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground”. (vs. 24)

 

This is a symbolic reference to the life of the cursed “nacash” from Genesis 3:14.

  • …cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.

 

The righteous, like the “nacash”, seem to live on belly and dust.

  • Living in humiliation, defeat and death.
  • Not something one would expect.

 

What is the answer to the Psalmist’s cry for God to awake?

  • What is the solution to the suffering of the righteous?
  • A life that resembles that of the cursed “nacash”.

 

The answer the Psalmist gives is in verse 26.

  • Psalm 44:26 (ESV) — 26 Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

 

He cries out for the end of this troubling truth.

  • If the suffering is “for your sake” (vs. 22).
  • Why not deliver ‘us for the sake of your steadfast love!’? (vs. 26.)
  • Makes perfectly good sense.

 

And it leads us back to Paul’s solution to this troubling truth.

  • It leads us to Paul’s comforting truth.

 

 

Comforting Truth:

Paul says, in answer to the Psalmist’s question and presumably the church at Rome’s similar question:

  • “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (vs. 37).

 

When Paul says “more than conquerors” he is making a bold claim – hpernikao

  • He is saying that we prevail or vanquish completely “these things” – BDAG.

 

Say what?

  • How do we have victory “in” our sufferings?
  • How is this a comforting truth?

 

I kind of prefer the Psalmist’s answer.

  • Rise up” God, deliver the Christian from suffering – now!

 

But Paul doesn’t go this route.

  • His answer is quite the opposite.

 

The Christians’ victory over “these things” doesn’t appear to be the absence of “these things”.

  • Though God certainly can and has done so.

 

Rabbit Trail – this is a huge tension.

  • We, like the Psalmist, want to plant our flag in the now.
  • “God, do it now, defeat our enemies and suffering now”.

 

Yet Paul is comfortable interpreting the present with the future glorification we have in Christ.

  • All of which is grounded in Christ’s love and faithfulness to us.
  • From which nothing can separate us!

 

Back to Paul…

  • I have a ton of questions here!

 

How can this be?

  • How can it be that the Christian being tortured for their faith…
  • Or the Christian suffering from cancer…
  • Is vanquishing their suffering completely?

 

It sure doesn’t look or feel like a complete vanquishing.

  • And since I don’t feel it and it doesn’t look like a complete vanquishing…
  • How is it a comforting truth?

 

N.T. Wright tries to help us here.

“…the sufferings of God’s people are taken up into God’s purposes, not in order to add to the unique achievement of the Messiah (verse 34) but in order to live it out [God’s purposes] in the world so that his love might extend yet further” – N.T. Wright.

 

Paul explains in Colossians 1:24.

  • Colossians 1:24 (ESV) — 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

 

So let’s flesh out Paul’s answer based on these insights.

 

We are never separated from the accomplishing power of Christ’s love.

  • This is the foundation for Paul’s logic.
  • And in itself should be a comforting truth.

 

But this fact leads to two more realities for the Christian taught by Wright and Paul.

  • (1) It assures us that we will ultimately have victory over “these things” – suffering, etc.
  • (2) It actually does deliver us a victory now.

 

How does it deliver a victory now?

  • Because, in the now, we know that our suffering unfolds within God’s purposes.

 

For Paul, God’s purposes are bigger than our comfort!

  • And in spite of our “present sufferings”, we know God’s purposes are being accomplished.
  • Accomplished within the context of the body of Christ – the Church.
    • for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24)
  • As part of “the church”, we and our sufferings, are part of a God’s bigger story.

 

So these are the hard to swallow comforting truths that Paul is proclaiming.

  • (1) A future victory.
  • (2) A “now” victory in accomplishing God’s purposes in spite of our suffering.
  • All owed to the love Christ has for us!

 

 

Rabbit Trail:

Sometimes I think Paul has lost his mind here.

  • That he’s hatched some crazy justification for why those in Christ are still subject to the death of a fallen world on a daily basis.
  • If Christ has inaugurated a new Kingdom – where is it?

 

Fortunately, Michael Bird tries to answer this question.

“Paul is not engaging is some kind of cognitive dissonance, reconfiguring his beliefs to manufacture a metaphorical triumph in the ashes of misery. Far from it! He believes instead in the Easter message that God, on the cross of Christ, has dealt a decisive blow to the world, the flesh, and the devil, and one day the old foes will be made no more” – Michael Bird.

 

 

 

Romans 8:32-34 – Jesus Intercedes

Last time we dealt with verse 31’s reflection on the surety of “these things” – our future glory.

  • We saw that the surety of our future glory is found in God’s faithfulness – He is for us.

 

And though the “who” try to thwart God’s glorification plan of believers…

  • Nobody, no “who”, can successfully stand against our glorification.

 

Today we will unpack verses 32-34.

  • Romans 8:32–34 (ESV) — 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

 

 

Verse 32:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

  • In verse 32, Paul continues his glorification apologetic.

 

Paul’s logic here is simple enough – a greater-to-the-lesser argument:

  • God is a spare nothing “grace-giver” (unstated premise).
  • He “grace-gave” His Son “for us all”.
  • All things” are not nearly as valuable as “his own Son”.
  • So God will certainly “grace-give” us “all things”.

 

Given this, we can formulate a Romans 8:32 paraphrase:

  • God the Father is a spare nothing grace-giver! He gave his Son…He will certainly give us glorification!

 

Tom Schreiner sums up Paul’s point:

“Since he has done the greatest thing imaginable—sacrificing his Son to death for their sake—then it surely follows that the Father in his grace will grant them everything along with his Son”

 

Doug Moo points out that Paul is fond of assuring us with greater-to-the-lesser arguments.

  • Romans 5:8–9 (ESV) — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

 

So, Paul wants the church at Rome (and us) to think through the implications of what God has done.

  • Was the giving of the Son an historical event?
  • Was it something that actually took place?
  • YES!

 

So elect of Rome stop doubting your future!

  • It doesn’t matter that you groan and suffer now.
  • It doesn’t matter that the “who” are against you.

 

What matters is that God is a spare nothing “grace giver”.

  • Something clearly demonstrated on the cross.

 

So live in hope!

  • A hope full of historical content.

 

Though the effects of Garden Exile linger…

  • Groaning, suffering, doubt…
  • Rejoice!
  • There will never be a glorification exile.

 

 

Verses 33-34:

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

 

In these verses, Paul brings us into God’s law court.

  • “The presumed setting is a type of heavenly courtroom where the fate of Christians supposedly hangs in the balance” – Michael Bird.

 

We know this because the language is, “dominated by judicial imagery” – Doug Moo.

  • Charge”, “justifies”, “condemn”, “interceding”.

 

This is not just New Testament language:

  • Isaiah 50:8 (ESV) — 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me.

 

Paul’s point with this language is to further illustrate:

  • How God is for us and…
  • Why the “who” will fail (Schreiner).

 

Paul’s language bears this out.

  • Who will “bring any charge”?
  • God “justifies
  • Who is to “condemn”?
  • Jesus is “interceding

 

So once again, Paul brings up the nefarious “who”.

  • A “who” we encountered last week.
  • A “who” that we will unpack when we get to verse 38.

 

The “who” are trying to bring charges against us.

  • They are trying to condemn us.

 

But Paul reminds us that the “who” can bring no charge or condemnation.

  • It is God who justifies and it is Jesus who is interceding.
  • Romans 8:1 (ESV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

 

Justification and Condemnation:

We have already talked about justification and condemnation – because Paul has.

  • So I want to focus in on the idea of Jesus interceding.

 

Suffice it to say, N.T. Wright sums up Paul’s justification point.

  • “God has declared all those who believe in the gospel to be in the right, and no one will be able to overturn God’s verdict” – N.T. Wright.
  • Not even the “who”.

 

And what is the Gospel as described by Paul in our text?

  • The Gospel that makes us right?
  • It is succinctly found in verse 34.

 

Paul’s verse 34 Gospel:

  • Jesus “died”.
  • Jesus was “raised”.
  • Jesus was exalted – “at the right hand of God”.
  • Jesus “is interceding for us” – currently, right now!

 

So who is not the Gospel?

  • You and your testimony!

 

Let’s unpack this intercessor stuff.

 

 

Jesus as Intercessor (vs. 34):

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

 

Paul raises the specter of a “condemner” – the “who” that keep creeping up.

  • “To be sure, Satan, the ‘accuser,’ may seek to do so; so may our enemies and, perhaps most persuasively of all, our own sins” – Doug Moo.

 

But even though all this is going on…

  • Paul assures us that Jesus is “interceding for us” (vs. 34).

 

This idea of Jesus as intercessor is present throughout the New Testament.

  • Hebrews 7:25 (ESV) — 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
  • Hebrews 9:24 (ESV) — 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
  • 1 John 2:1 (ESV) — 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
  • Acts 7:55 (ESV) — 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
    • This shows that we even have human accusers/condemners.

 

 

Intercessor Questions:

I have two questions about Jesus as intercessor.

  • (1) What exactly is Jesus doing as He intercedes?
  • (2) And why, given the indicatives of the Gospel, does Jesus need to intercede – doesn’t this imply that the work on the cross isn’t done?

 

(1) To answer our first question, we look to the definition of the word in context – ἐντυγχάνω.

  • The BDAG puts it like this – to intercede here is to “appeal to someone against a third person”.
  • Similarly, Bill Mounce says it refers to Jesus pleading our cause.

 

So with these we have Jesus:

  • “Appealing” and “pleading” to the Father on our behalf.
  • And He is doing so in opposition to the one bringing charges against us.

 

And the EDNT confirms that this takes place in a judicial setting:

Intercession, “belongs primarily to the conceptual world of the ruler’s court… where accusations against another, and where requests on behalf of another are made with the hope of receiving a hearing”.

 

These give us an idea of what Jesus is doing.

  • But we have to flesh this out even more.
  • And it will help us to know in what capacity Jesus is interceding.

 

Given all the judicial language and the court setting…

  • It seems Jesus intercedes as a type of divine advocate – a lawyer.
    • we have an advocate with the Father” – 1 John 2:1.
  • But that is not the only, nor the most important capacity of His intercession.

 

Jesus also intercedes for us in His capacity as our High Priest – back to Hebrews 7.

  • Hebrews 7:22–26 (ESV) — 22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

 

So what is the role of the High Priest? (From LBD)

  • Covenant enforcer – temple duties and Sinai covenant
  • Heart circumciser
  • “Handling of sacrifices and offerings” – LBD
  • Entrance into holy of holies on Day of Atonement.

 

These functions of the High Priest…

  • Found their perfection and completion in Jesus Christ.

 

John Murray says of this priestly intercession:

“For nothing serves to verify the intimacy and constancy of the Redeemer’s preoccupation with the security of his people, nothing assures us of his unchanging love more than the tenderness which his heavenly priesthood bespeaks and particularly as it comes to expression in intercession for us” – John Murray.

  • Our God participates in our life – continually!

 

So these observations help us understand what Jesus is doing as He intercedes.

 

(2) So what of our second question:

  • If “it is finished” – Jesus’ cry on the cross:
  • Why does Jesus have to intercede?
  • There are a couple of good answers to this question.

 

The first answer is:

  • Jesus intercession is ongoing because the “who” and their charges are ongoing.
  • Jesus continually intercedes because the charges keep coming and will come.
  • Again, more on this when we get to verse 38.

 

The second answer comes from John Piper.

Jesus’ intercession is, “the ongoing presentation of the reality established at the cross, and through faith, by the Spirit. God the Father doesn’t just look back to the cross. He looks straight ahead into the face of the living, righteous Jesus Christ who is our righteousness…” – John Piper (Ask Pastor John).

 

In other words, looking at the Gospel described in verse 32:

  • Jesus “died”.
  • Jesus was “raised”.
  • Jesus was exalted – “at the right hand of God”.
  • Jesus “is interceding for us”.

 

We can see that the intercession is not a separate thing from the Gospel.

  • It is part of the Gospel – it is part of the foreknown and predestined plan of God.
  • It is part of how we are brought into God’s family.
  • How we are made into the image of Christ.

 

The continual intercession of Christ is His ongoing expression of His death, resurrection and exaltation.

  • It can be put this way – what does Christ plead on our behalf?
  • “Christ pleads His death!” – John Piper.

 

And, importantly, this continual intercession of Jesus the Righteous…

  • Glorifies Christ and the Father – continually!

 

BTW – Christ’s intercession compliments the Spirits’.

  • “The intercession of the Spirit for us in our hearts has its counterpart in the intercession of Christ for us at God’s right hand.” – CNUOT.

 

 

Conclusion:

N.T. Wright leaves us with this application.

“This thought [of Jesus’ intercession] is a great comfort, especially when the going is tough, as it often was for Paul and as it often will be for those who follow and live by his gospel” – N.T. Wright.