Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Working Together for Our Good - July 27, 2014 - Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12) - Text: Romans 8:28-30
Last week we were reminded by Paul that God never promised us that life would be easy. I might suggest that the phrase, “God never promised us a rose garden,” is quite true, because the fact is that even roses have thorns. So, even with the beauty of the rose comes the pain of the thorns. There may be times in our lives when everything is beautiful and there may be times when things are thorny. Yet, Paul’s ultimate reminder was that our present suffering is nothing, really nothing, compared to the glory which will be ours forever in heaven. This morning Paul again reminds us of the fact that our God is a God of love who never leaves us nor forsakes us and as He is always with us through good times and bad times. Paul even reminds us that it is God who works all things together for good.
This morning, in order to better understand our text, we will begin in the middle, at verse thirty, and work our way back to verse twenty-eight. First, which is the middle in our text, Paul talks about predestination. We read verse thirty, “30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”(v. 30). Very often people have questions concerning this thing called predestination. Who did God predestine? Did God predestine only some to go to heaven and others to go to hell. The logic is that if He predestined some to go to heaven and we know others are going to hell, then, logically speaking, He must have predestined the others to go to hell. However, that argument is not substantiated by God’s Word. As a matter of fact, God’s Word tells us the opposite. According to Paul, writing young pastor Timothy, God’s will is that all people are saved. Paul says, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). God’s desire is not that some are saved and others are not saved. His desire is that all people are saved. So this negates the human logic that God has predestine some to be condemned.
How does God work out His desire? He has called all people to be saved. How has He called all people to be saved? The way in which we have been talking about over the past few weeks, through means, namely, through the means of grace. Through the Word of God all people are called to believe in Jesus as their Savior. The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to give faith and forgiveness and with faith and forgiveness is also given life and salvation. This is God’s usual way of working with us in His world today. This is God’s usual way of calling people to faith. Certainly He can call directly as He did the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, but that is not His usual way of dealing with us in our world today. God’s desire is that all people are saved and He calls all people to faith through His Word.
Then, the question is asked, “How come some are not saved?” Some are not saved because some refuse the call. This should not be a surprise to us. Even as God has called us and given us faith and all His good gifts and blessings, we constantly refuse the gifts He has to give as well. Whenever we fail to remember our Baptism, we are refusing the gifts God gives through our Baptism. Whenever we fail to read our Bible, we are refusing the gifts God gives through His Word. Whenever we fail to confess our sins, we are refusing the gift of God’s forgiveness. Whenever we fail to come to the Lord’s Supper, we are refusing the gifts of God’s forgiveness and strengthening of faith. Whenever we fail to be in worship and Bible class, we are refusing the gifts and blessings God gives through His Word and the hearing and study of His Word. Yes, we daily, and weekly refuse the gifts God has to give. Fortunately for us, the only condemning refusal, that is the only unforgivable sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit. What that means is, refusing the Holy Spirit is refusing faith in Jesus. In other words, the only unforgivable sin is dying in unbelief. So, although we may at times refuse the gifts God has to give, we still cling to our faith in Jesus. Whereas, those who refuse faith in Jesus are refusing all God’s gifts. Thus, to complete Paul’s words in this verse, one who dies in unbelief has no glory because he or she desires to stand before God of their own justification meaning they are refusing Jesus’ justification, meaning they are standing before God as sinners, condemned sinners. Thus, they have refused God’s call to faith and His desire for their salvation.
This predestination does not negate nor contradict the fact of God’s foreknowledge. Backing up to verse twenty-nine, Paul says, “29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (v. 29). Although God’s desire and will is that all people are to be saved, being God, He knew before He even began creation who would refuse. Again, just because God knew who would refuse and reject does not mean this is what He has determined would happen. He does not make this refusal and rejecting happen. It is like when a teacher has a certain student in her class. She knows when that student is sitting next to another certain student what will happen, they will get into trouble. It is not that she has predetermined this, but she just knows it will happen. The only difference between this and God is that what God knows will happen.
A part of God’s foreknowledge is that He knew He would send Jesus to take care of our sins. Even before He created the world. Even before Adam and Eve were created, God knew they would sin. Even before you and I were conceived, God knew us and He knew our name. He knew when we would be conceived. He knew when we would sin. He knows when we will continue to sin. Before sin entered the world, God knew what He would do. It was no surprise to Him that Adam and Eve disobeyed and brought sin into the world.
God created a perfect world, which He knew His creatures would mess up, but God knew He could and would make everything right. He knew He would send His Son, even Himself to take on human flesh and blood, to became as one of His creatures, except without sin, in order to do for us, in our place, what we are unable to do. Jesus came to bring us back into a right relationship with Himself. And God knew this beforehand as well. God knew us, before we were created. His will is that we will be as His Son, that we will believe in His Son so that we might have eternal life with Him in heaven.
Because God knows all things, it is not difficult for Him to work out the good for us, His children. We back up to verse twenty-eight. Paul says, “28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (v. 28). Last week we mentioned again the question which is actually the title of a book, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People, and we mentioned that the premise of the book is wrong. A better title would be, Why Do Good Things Happen to Sinful People? And the answer is, of course, because God loves us.
Now, Paul says that it is for those who love God that the good is worked. We understand from other parts of Scripture that this is not the first and prime thing. We understand that we cannot love God unless He first loves us. And time and again we are reminded by His Word of His love for us. Greater love can no one have than this, that one would die for another. Jesus shows His love for us in that He gave His life for ours. We are called by God, who knew us from before creation, to believe in Him, to be given His gifts, to be justified and glorified by Him. And as Paul lays out in the last half of our text, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Indeed, God is the prime mover.
Again, we love because He first loved us. We love as we reflect His love back to Him and others. You have heard me use this illustration before, it is like the Sun and the moon. The moon has no light of its own. Whenever we see the moon shining in the sky, it is because the moon is reflecting the light of the Sun. We have no love of our own. When we love God and when we love others it is because we are merely reflecting the light of the Son of God.
So, what does this mean? As the phrase, sort of goes, “life happens” and God knows what will happen, but He does not predestine or predetermine life to happen or what will happen in life. God gives each of us a mind to think and to make decisions. Many times it does not matter to God what decision we make, if we choose this or that, He will bless us either way. Please understand, this does not mean that God does not care, sometimes He simply gives us more than one option and He will bless us no matter what we choose. Certainly when it comes to temptation and sin His desire is that we make the right decision, which we can only make with His help. God’s desire is that we do what is good and right. He does not predetermine our doing what is good and right, just as He does not predetermine when we do what is wrong and sinful.
God is the prime mover. He has created us to love us and He has given everything to us. He gives us life at conception. He gives us new life, eternal life through the waters of Holy Baptism. He gives us faith and strengthening of faith through His Holy Word. He gives us forgiveness of sins through confession and absolution and through His Holy Supper. He gives and He gives and He gives and we are given too.
God loves us so very much and He has so many gifts and blessings that He desires to give to us. He shows the ultimate love in the giving of His life, in the giving of Jesus’ life on the cross for us and for our sins. And God continues to watch over us and work out the best for us, according to His good and gracious will. We may not understand what His good and gracious will is at the time we are going through the struggles of life. We may not even see it later. But, by faith in Jesus we can be confident that God is working out the best for us.
By faith in Jesus, given through the means of grace, we have been predestined to eternal life. We have been justified and Jesus works to conform us to His image. Because of His love for us, all who love Him, as a response of His first love for us, know that all things work together for our good according to His good and gracious will. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.