Our assurance of Salvation

by | Posted April 14th at 7:58pm

Romans chapter 8 presents the gifts of God that combined, promise every Christian the certainty that his or her relationship with God is secure and settled. Paul shows how the Spirit confers on the professing believer a new life (Rom. 8:1–13), adoption into God’s family (Rom. 8:14–17) and the confident hope for glory (Rom. 8:18–30).

The Spirit of life.  Paul teaches a contrast between the situation ‘under the law’ in Rom. 7:7–25 and the state ‘under the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:2–4, 7), expanding on the new way of the Spirit in Rom. 7:6b. The Christian’s deliverance from condemnation—the penalty of death because of sin under which all people live—takes place by virtue of our union with Christ (Rom. 8:12–21) — The OT Mosaic law could never justify anyone. Deliverance  is accomplished by God expressing his love for us by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins:

For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5: 6-8).

The Father sent the Son as a sin offering for us (Rom. 8:3) by which the Spirit liberates us from the power of sin and death (Rom. 8:1-2) and secures the complete fulfilment of the law on our behalf (Rom. 8:4).

Two laws to comprehend. The contrasting ‘laws’ in v 2: For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set you free from the law of sin and death presents two distinct operations of the Mosaic law: 1. which functions to imprison people when it is viewed narrowly as a demand for works, but 2. which operates to liberate people when they understand it correctly as a demand for ‘faithful obedience. Paul does not attribute the power to obey to the law. Rather the power to liberate from sin and death, is attributed solely to the law of the Spirit, the power and authority imparted to the believer in Christ, and exercised by the Spirit.

Correspondingly, then in the above relation to the condition of obedience to Christ, concomitant to belief in His resurrection power by the Spirit to obey and overcome the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2) will also denote not a new life of living by the dictates of the Mosaic law, which is meant to teach us that ‘the power (or judicial authority) of sin and death’ originates from our own sin which incites the wrath of God as per (Rom. 1:18; Eph. 2:2-3; 5:6). 2

The apostle Paul expresses what is true of everyone alive on this earth in need of the grace of God to mercifully free us from bondage to sin and death: But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. (Rom. 7:23)

On to Sanctification and Eternal Life. Through Christ Jesus the Spirit of God sets us free from the situation of bondage to sin and death alluded to in Rom. 5:12–21 and Rom. 6:1–23 and described in Rom. 7:7–25. The Spirit must so act because the great power of the ‘old regime’, the Mosaic law, was quite incapable, because of human weakness, of breaking sin’s bondage as per Paul’s note: holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. (Rom. 8:3a; cf. 7:14–25). What the law could not do, God did: he broke sin’s power—condemned sin—by sending his Son to identify with us and to give himself as a sin offering. The Mosaic law was instituted by God to act as a strategy to aim us towards a recognition of our incapability to obey by the power of our own will when operative without God’s Spirit.

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith, which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Gal. 3:23-25, 2:16)

This sending of the Son enables the true fulfilment of the law by those who live according to the Spirit. Paul does not mean that Christians are enabled to obey the law (however true this might be) but that Christians are considered by God to have fully met the law’s demand because of Christ’s imputed obedience on our behalf. As believers in Christ’, we are free from condemnation because Jesus Christ has completely fulfilled the law on our behalf. He became what we are—weak, human and subject to sin’s power—that we might become what he is—righteous and holy.

The contrast between ‘flesh’ (Rom. 8:5) and Spirit in (Rom. 8:4b) — contrasts between these two ‘powers’ in (Rom. 8:5–8). Through these contrasts Paul explains why it is that the Spirit, and not the flesh, brings life. People ‘in the flesh’—that is, those who live in the ‘old regime’ where sin and death reign—have mind-sets dominated by ungodly impulses (Rom. 8:5).; they cannot submit to God’s law (Rom. 8:7) or please God (Rom. 8:8), but are under sentence of death (Rom. 8:6). On the other hand, Christians, ‘in the Spirit’, who have been transferred into the new regime where grace and righteousness reign and who have therefore been given a new mindset focused on the Spirit, enjoy life and peace (Rom. 8:6).

Rom. 8:9 makes clear that every person who belongs to Christ has been transferred into this new domain in which the Spirit rather than the flesh, rules. Then, in Rom. 8;10–11, Paul shows how the present possession of ‘spiritual’ life will lead to the enjoyment of ‘physical’ life through the resurrection of the body. And this will also be accomplished through the power of the Spirit, who now indwells us. Rom. 8:12–13 teaches: The Spirit’s work in assuring us of life does not mean that we can be passive about our obligation to manifest the life of the Spirit in our daily lives. Only as we submit to the Spirit’s control and direction, turning away from the ‘fleshly’ lifestyle, will we be able to live (Rom 8:13). Paul is clearly referring to spiritual, eternal, life and thus makes the enjoyment of that life in some real sense dependent on Christian obedience as we live in responsible sanctification led and empowered by the power of God. (Ep. 6:17; 1 Co. 10:13; 2 Pet. 2:9; Zc. 4:6) To achieve Christian obedience we must abide in the Spirit of Christ allowing him t lead. (Rom. 8:14,16; Is. 30:21, 35:8; Prov. 3:6; John 15:7-9, 10-11)

The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of our Adoption Here we are called by faithfulness to the Scriptures to hold in tension two clear truths: that the indwelling of the Spirit as the result of faith in Christ infallibly secures eternal life, and that a lifestyle patterned after God’s Spirit is necessary to inherit eternal life. The tension can be softened somewhat by remembering that the Spirit given to us at conversion is himself active to produce obedience. But it does not remove the tension, for we are still called upon to submit ourselves to this indwelling work of the Spirit of Christ– the Spirit of adoption. (Rom. 8:14–17)

As ‘life’ is the ruling idea in Rom. 8:1–13, so is sonship in Rom. 8:14–17. This brief paragraph, in addition to making its own contribution to the theme of the chapter by recounting the wonderful and comforting truth that Christians have been adopted into God’s own family, provides a transition between Rom. 8:1–13 and Rom. 8:18–30. Being a child of God explains both why God’s Spirit confers life on us (Rom. 8:13–14) and why it can be said that we are heirs with a glorious prospect for the future (Rom. 8:17–18). To be led by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14) means not to be guided by the Spirit in decision-making, but to be under the dominating influence of the Spirit (Gal. 5:18).

The clause sums up the various descriptions of life in the Spirit in Rom 8:5–9. Paul can claim that those so led by the Spirit are sons of God and so are destined for life (Rom. 8:13). Sons of God is a biblical title for the people of God (see, e.g. Dt. 14:1; Is. 43:6; cf. Rom. 9:26). But we must also recognize in the title an allusion to the sonship of Jesus himself (see Rom. 8:3, 29); as Rom. 8:15 confirms, ‘Abba’ was Jesus’ own address to God (see Mk. 14:36), one that showed especial intimacy. This same address is now one that Christians spontaneously ‘cry out’ in their own approach to God. It is the Spirit, again, who implants in us that sense of intimacy (Rom. 8:16) and abolishes, thereby, all bondage (to ‘the law of sin and death’, (Rom. 8:2) and all reason to fear (Rom. 8:15a). The Spirit, thus, is the Spirit of sonship. Paul takes the word ‘sonship’ (which could also be translated ‘adoption’—hyiothesia) from the Greco-Roman world, where it denoted the legal institution whereby one could adopt a child and confer on that child all the rights and privileges that would accrue to a natural child. But the conception is rooted in the biblical picture of God as one who graciously chooses a people to be his very own (Rom. 8:23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5).

To abide in Christ is to have his Trinitarian Spirit dwell within, conferring unity with the Father as One, now as an adopted son united and thereby empowered and honoured in Christ’s radiant glory, as evidenced in John 17: 22-24: The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Our adoption into God’s family, however amazing and comforting, is not the end of the story. For to be children is also to be heirs: to be still waiting for the full bestowment of all the rights and privileges conferred on us as God’s children (Rom. 8:17); see especially Gal. 4:1–7, with an argument quite similar to that in (Rom. 8:1–17). As the Son of God had to suffer before entering into his glory (1 Pet. 1:11), so we sons of God by adoption must also suffer ‘with him’ before sharing in his glory (see also Phil. 1:29; 3:20; 2 Cor. 1:5). Because we are joined to Christ, the servant of the Lord ‘despised and rejected by men’ (Is. 53:3), we can expect the path to our glorious inheritance to be strewn with difficulties and dangers (Rom. 8:18–30).

Suffering in Christ Believers, facing the necessity of ‘suffering with Christ’ in this world can nevertheless be confident and secure, knowing that God has determined to bring us through to our inheritance (Rom. 18–22, 29–30), that he is providentially working on our behalf (Rom. 8:28) and that he has given us his Spirit as the guarantee of our final redemption (Rom. 8:23). Paul never minimizes the fact or severity of Christian suffering in this world. But it is still to be seen as insignificant in comparison with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom 8:18).

Our Hopeful Expectation  In the OT, ‘glory’ denotes the ‘weight’ and majesty of God’s presence. Paul applies the term to the final state of the believer when we have been transformed into the image of God’s son (Rom 8:29). For Christ has already entered into this state of glory (Phil. 3:21; Col. 3:4), and the transformation of our bodies will bring to light in the last day our share in that glory. Rom 8:19–25, whose keywords are wait eagerly (Rom 8:19, 23, 25) and hope (Rom 8:20, 24–25), show that Christians, along with the entire creation, have to wait for God’s work to be completed. Paul follows OT precedent (Ps. 65:12–13; Is. 24:4; Je. 4:28; 12:4) in personifying the entire sub-human creation: it groans in frustration (Rom. 8:20, 22) and anticipates eagerly the day when our status as God’s children will be finalized and made public (Rom. 8:19, 21). What makes it clear that Paul does not include angels and human beings in his purview is the fact that the frustration now experienced by the creation did not come about by its own choice (Rom. 8:20). It came, rather, by the will of the one who subjected it (Rom. 8:20). God, who decreed a curse on the earth as a result of Adam’s sin (Gn. 3:17–18; cf. 1 Cor. 15:27). But the decree of subjection was always accompanied by hope that God would one day make his creation what he originally intended it to be, a place where ‘the wolf will live with the lamb’ (Is. 11:6).

We Christians share creation’s groaning and hope (Rom. 8:23), for we possess the Spirit as the first fruits, the downpayment and pledge of our final redemption, and this causes us all the more to long for the finishing of God’s work in us. What is often called the  ‘already—not—yet’ tension between what God has already done for the believer and what he has yet to do is very evident when we compare (Rom. 8:23, 14–17). For the ‘sonship’ we are there said to possess is here tied to the redemption of our bodies and made the object of hope and expectation. Such hope is the very essence of our salvation. We must, therefore, wait patiently for what God has promised (Rom. 8:24–25). In Rom. 8:26–30 Paul gives three reasons why we can wait with patience and confidence for the culmination of our hope.

First, the Spirit assists our ignorance about what to pray for (Rom. 8:26–27). In this life we are necessarily uncertain about what we ought to pray for. But the Spirit himself intercedes for us with God, praying on our behalf that prayer which is always in perfect accordance with God’s will (Rom. 8:27). Paul is not here describing the gift of speaking in tongues; it is not even clear that he denotes an audible process at all, since the Spirit’s groans may be metaphorical — see (Rom. 8: 22). Rather, he is probably describing an intercessory ministry of the Spirit in the heart of the believer that occurs without even our knowledge. A second basis for the believer’s confident expectation of the future is God’s constant working in all things for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28).

Nothing that can touch us lies outside the scope of our Father’s providential care: here, indeed, is cause for joy and a rock-solid foundation for hope. We must, however, define the good that God is working to produce for us in his terms and not in ours. God knows that our greatest good is to know him and to enjoy his presence forever. He may, then, in pursuit of this final ‘good’, allow difficulties such as poverty, grief and ill health to afflict us. Our joy will come not from knowing that we will never face such difficulties—for we certainly will (Rom. 8:17)—but that whatever the difficulty, our loving Father is at work to make us stronger Christians. Paul describes those for whom God so works from the human point of view ‘those who love him’ and — the divine ‘who have been called according to his purpose’ (Rom. 8:28). God’s ‘call’ is not simply his invitation to people to embrace the gospel, but his effectual summoning of people into a relationship with himself. See for example: Rom. 4:17; 9:12, 24. This calling takes place in accordance with God’s purpose, that purpose being ultimately to conform us to the likeness of his Son (Rom. 8:29).

God brings each of us to that goal through a series of acts on our behalf. First, he ‘foreknows’ us. Some scholars think that proginōskō (‘foreknow’) here means what it often does in Greek literature—‘know something ahead of time’. But Paul says that it is we Christians whom God knows, and this suggests the more personal idea of ‘knowing’ that is sometimes found in the OT: election into a personal relationship as per example: Gn. 18:19; Je. 1:5; Am. 3:2. God’s ‘foreknowing’, his selection of us to be saved from ‘before the creation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4; Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:2, 20), leads to his ‘predestining us’, his appointing us to a specific destiny. This destiny is that we become like Christ, a final event that God accomplishes by ‘calling’ us (see Rom. 8:28b), ‘justifying’ us (see Rom. 3:21–4:25) and ‘glorifying’ us. Significantly, this last verb is, like the others in Rom. 8:30, in the past tense, suggesting that, though the attainment of glory may be future, God’s determination that we shall attain it is already accomplished. 3

1, 2, 3 Douglas J. Moo, Romans


Article posted by Glen R. Jackman, founder of GraceProclaimed.org

Glen has optimized his eldership role to teach the full scope of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ without boundaries.
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