UPDATED 09/20/2023 Online Sunday School.
Online Sunday School
Romans, a Letter for Today –Kerygma materials Chapter 9
1. Summary. In Chapter 8 of Romans, Paul discusses how the Spirit sent by God through Jesus has allowed people to be free of the death that results from the sins of the flesh. However the process is incomplete. Like in childbirth, we groan inwardly while waiting and hoping for completion. Fortunately the spirit intercedes with God for us. We can wait patiently for redemption and glory2. Paul writes in the middle section of Romans 8.”18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God, 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its enslavement to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning together as it suffers together the pains of labor, 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what one already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”3. Paul insists that we have only begun the journey and we still have a long way to go. The creation is incomplete and we are incomplete. The creation groans and we groan for fulfillment. Salvation is incomplete; we are always underway. We experience salvation partially and hope for its completion (8:24). Hope then requires that we wait for our future salvation with patience (8:25). For those who think they are really spiritually complete, Paul emphasizes weakness and the fact that we do not even know how to pray as we ought; prayer is possible at all only because the Spirit intercedes with our spirit with “sighs too deep for words” (8:26).4. Already in chapter 6 Paul was careful to distinguish between the beginning and completion of salvation. Here also he insists that salvation in the Spirit is a process. Even in 8:24 where Paul said, “For in hope we were saved (or rescued)” (past tense), he immediately shifts the focus to the future hope of salvation for which believers wait with patience (8:25). Paul nowhere says, “I have been saved.” He most often uses the participle to refer to salvation as a process and to being saved in the future. Paul makes a similar point in 1 Corinthians 1 “18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Another translation is “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those in the process of being saved it is the power of God” (my translation, 1 Corinthians 1:18). According to Paul, we have begun the pilgrimage in the Spirit, but the completion is out there in the future. 5. Note that for Paul, humanity and the creation groan together for fulfillment (8:19–23). The destiny and plight of the creature and the creation are linked.. In almost human terms the creation groans for the full recovery of the image of its Maker. Paul heard a creation groaning in natural disasters, earthquakes, storms, disease, drought and famine. In those cataclysmic events Paul saw futility and pain, frustration and decay that invaded the world with the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The whole natural order was nothing more than an innocent bystander; nevertheless, it too was profoundly affected by Adam’s punishment. Now, it joins the human family in a desperate cry to be relieved of its burden. And that hope is not in vain for Paul because he looks forward to the time when the creation, almost like humanity’s sibling, will “obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (8:21). 6. This passage contains several challenges to today’s Christiansa. “28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This is a very familiar passage but we may have to struggle to understand it. Does this good happen to all who love God, or is it also required that they be “called according to his purpose?” Does this mean that some people are called according to God’s purpose but others are not, whether they love God or not? Or is everyone who loves God called according to God’s purpose? How would we know who is called according to God’s purpose, or what God’s purpose is? If we can not understand God’s will, then what do we do? Many things happen in life that are not good, for at least some people. Tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, fires. Some are caused by people but harm others, such as wars, enslavement, damaging the environment. Opportunities to do good may arise from such things but people are still harmed and killed. Are these God’s will, or does God weep for those harmed?b. Similarly “29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called.” The concept of “predestination” was part of Calvinist and Puritan movements in Europe and continues to challenge us. Are some of us “predestined” to go to heaven and others not? Does this mean that God knows the future and who will choose to do good, or that God in his omnipotence has chosen to save some and not others for unknowable reasons, or that God has predestined people for salvation through grace unless they lose it my sin? Or does it depend on actions or beliefs at the end of one’s life? All of this is tied up with issues of determinism versus free will, and whether people can achieve salvation through deeds, including beliefs. If God is all good, all knowing, all powerful and all loving, this leads to numerous difficulties for human understanding.c. The term “saved” became prominent in the evangelical movements of recent history, often similar to being “born again” or “born from above” or “converted” with an emotional experience of God, which is necessary for salvation, often with a significant change in life actions. Christians differ over whether such an experience actually gets you into heaven despite what you do afterwards, whether some experience of this sort is necessary to get to heaven, and whether there are present divisions between the people who are “saved” and ones who are “unsaved.” Historically religion that talks about being saved have been more effective in changing lives of those who have less, power and status in the society. What Paul is saying about being “saved” depends on into which tenses the Greek words he used are translated (“esothemen” from the root “sozo”). More often he says “you are being saved” and according to Kerygma, never “I have been saved” but instead is looking to being saved in the future, for which we wait with patience. Romans 8, 24 and 8, 25.7. However difficult these questions of predestination, saving and calling according to God’s purpose may be for us to decipher, Paul’s main messages are positive. Hope, redemption, intercession, adoption into a large family, freedom, glory. He tells the Romans and us that the sufferings of the present time should not distract us from the good God has in store.8. What are your thoughts about being saved, called unto God’s purpose, or predestined?
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