Romans 8:26 We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
We can imagine Paul groaning under the burden of his ministry, as he sought to proclaim Christ to a world that did not want him. He may have also groaned from bodily pains, and the burden of remaining sin (Romans 7:24). Nevertheless, in all his wordless groans, Paul discerned the pleading of the Holy Spirit on his behalf. The Spirit took his wordless groans and turned them into prayers that God could hear and understand.
This is like a young man who had a stroke that left him unable to speak. The only way he could express his needs was by groaning, and only his wife could understand him. Whenever he groaned in a certain way, she knew what he was asking for, and could lovingly meet his need. Likewise, the Spirit groans for our holiness, wisdom, strength and perseverance. He expresses our deepest needs to the Father, who meets them at just the right time.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.
What if Jesus appeared to you and promised that nothing bad would happen to you for the rest of your life? That is the point of this verse. God has promised that whatever happens to you will always be for your ultimate good.
Lord, you are perfect love, and only want the best for me. You are perfect wisdom, and know what is best for me. And you are perfect power, and able to make it happen. Therefore, Lord, I trust in you.
Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.
Imagine a person of perfect wisdom, beauty, strength, love and everything good. Then imagine God promising to make you like that person. This is what God is doing for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. It is the reason for all our circumstances, whether we just won the lottery, just got cancer, or both. Since everything that happens is to make us more like Jesus Christ, the best way to make the most of our lives is to use all our circumstances to become like him.
An artist created a magnificent horse out of a single piece of marble. The finished product was flawless, and someone asked how he was able to do it. I just chipped away everything that wasn’t a horse, he said. Every day God is chipping away whatever does not resemble his Son. The result will be amazing, and we will praise him forever.
Romans 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
From this we learn that nothing regarding our salvation is left to chance. What God decreed in eternity will surely come to pass. It is so certain that Paul speaks of our glorification as though it has already taken place.
If I had to choose a symbol for my life it would be a caterpillar. They are creepy little things with no indication they will ever be anything else. But after some time creeping around, the caterpillar forms a cocoon that resembles a coffin. And after some time in the coffin, it comes out a beautiful creature with wings. If God does that for caterpillars, what will he do for those who love him?
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing is more important to believers in Jesus Christ than being with him forever—and we will be. We might be attacked by mighty forces, but they will never separate us from our beloved. This chapter begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation. Likewise, my salvation will last forever (Isaiah 51:6), said God.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (John 10:28-30). Whoever is saved by Jesus Christ will be kept by him forever.
Romans 9:3-4 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.
When we consider how much Paul loved Jesus Christ, and looked forward to heaven, we can hardly believe these words. Paul’s concern for his fellow Israelites was so great that he was willing to go to hell on their behalf, if that would result in their salvation.
To go to hell for another person is more than God asks of us, but to care for lost souls is not. Once we understand the gospel, and all that is at stake, our first concern should be for the salvation of those who are lost.
David Brainard was a missionary to Native Americans in the eighteenth century. He died at the age of twenty-nine but left a remarkable legacy. I care not where I go, how I live, or what I endure—only that I may save souls. When I sleep, I dream of them; when I awake, they are my first thoughts.
A friend of mine was driving through a neighborhood where there was little gospel witness. He was so concerned that he pulled over on the side of the road and wept. He asked God to start a church in that area, so God used him to help start a church that is flourishing to this day. Until we care deeply for souls, God is unlikely to use us to bring others to Christ. We do not have to go to hell for them, but we should be concerned for their salvation.
Romans 9:18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
This is one of the least popular verses in the Bible because it clearly states that God is the one who determines who will be saved and who will be lost. It is difficult to understand how this relates to God’s love, or to human responsibility. It is a recurring theme, however, so it should not be disregarded.
Paul used Pharaoh as an example of one whose heart was hardened by God. He referred to the story of the Exodus in which, no fewer than nine times, God is said to have hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4: 14:8). But a few times Pharaoh is said to have hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15, 8:32, 9:34). Since Pharaoh hardened his own heart before God hardened his heart, God’s hardening can be understood as judicial hardening.
The punishment for hardening our heart is that God will harden our heart even more. Since we have all hardened our heart, the fact that any respond to God is due to his mercy and grace.
At the tender age of six I flew into a rage and said, Damn God to hell. There was no one around to hear me, and the words tasted so good, that I said them over and over, with all my heart, a hundred times or more. The memory is so vivid I could take you to the exact place I was standing when I uttered such terrible blasphemy.
By nature and by choice we are sinners from our youth, and unless we repent, there will be hell to pay. That anyone repents, however, is due to God’s mercy. God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
Reflection and Review
How does God make us like Christ?
Why should we care about lost people?
Why does God harden some people’s hearts?