Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 4 Study # 6
Thesis: The required "love for God" inevitably raises a serious question of "source" and "credit".
Introduction: The text of Romans 8:28-30 invariably raises serious questions and hot debate. And, as is always the case, if any part of the text is ignored in any way, the questions will not be resolved and the debate will only be a case of much heat and no substance. For this cause, it is necessary for us to consider the details in the text from as many sides of the issue as we can.
In our studies thus far, we have seen that the first major issue is what I call Paul's "qualifier" clause. It consists of the first major section of his declaration. That section is the clause that says "for those who love God...". It ought to go without saying that Paul did not "qualify" his hyper-victorious claim regarding all things pooling their resources to yield "good" for no good reason. Nor should we allow ourselves the luxury of ignoring the most fundamental characteristic of what is called "loving someone". It is never true that someone "loves" God while being disobedient to Him. Jesus pointedly said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15 -- the form is the same for the future indicative and the present imperative so there is a difference of opinion about translation of it), and God twice linked "love" and "obedience" in Exodus 20:6 and Deuteronomy 5:10. Thus it is a false interpretation of Romans 8:28 to argue that "disobedience" is one of the factors that work together for good. In other words, "all" does not mean "all without exception" but, rather, "all within a defined boundary".
And, in our study last week we attempted to show how things "work together for good" without any violation of Paul's adamant claim that "God is not mocked" when it comes to understanding that every sowing to the flesh leads to the experience of corruption and every sowing to the Spirit leads to the experience of eternal life.
This evening we are going to address a question that Paul's insertion of the qualifier raises. If it is true that "all things work together for good" for those who "love God" and it is true that "love for God" is an essential aspect of the promise, what is the reason for Paul's immediate re-description of those for whom "all things work together for good"? Why does he immediately call those "who love God" the "according to purpose called"? How does "love for God" automatically lead to one of the most profound texts in the Bible regarding the actions God has taken to make sure that His "purpose" is fulfilled?
February 19, 2008
- I. Our First Consideration: the Profound Tendency of Man to "Boast".
- A. According to Romans 2:17 and 2:23 one of the most destructive behaviors of human beings is "boasting".
- 1. The force of this "problem" shows up in Romans 3:27 where Paul seems intent upon eliminating "boasting" from man's activities.
- 2. When we look at Romans 4:2 we see that this intention continues into his explanation of the kind of "faith" that saves.
- 3. When we go a little further afield, we note in Ephesians 2:8-9 that it is Paul's rationale that God made salvation "by grace" so that no one could "boast".
- 4. In his first letter to the Corinthians, who were eaten up with "boasting", Paul said that it is God's intention to totally eliminate a certain kind of "boasting" from expression in His presence.
- B. It is an automatic assumption from all of these texts that there is a profound linkage at the most essential level between "Sin" and "Boasting".
- 1. "Boasting" is a fundamental expression of "unbelief".
- a. Its goal is self-exaltation.
- b. Its denial is of the significance of the death of Jesus (one cannot become more important than having one's "God" die for him as an expression of the "God's" value upon him, so any attempt to expand one's "importance" is simply a denial of what has already been demonstrated).
- 2. As an act of "unbelief", it will show up in every place that "unbelief" exists.
- II. Our Second Consideration: the Willingness of Man to Seek For An Occasion to Boast In Every Possible Setting.
- A. In his conflict with the Corinthians over their pride, he wrote 1 Corinthians 4:7 to raise this question: "For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? but if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? (ASV).
- 1. This text shows that men will "boast" even when they have no basis for it.
- 2. Paul's question shows that the "problem" is profound.
- B. In their pursuit of a "basis for boasting", men will often "find" one in the texts of Scripture that appear to link the blessing of God to human responses.
- III. Our Third Consideration: Paul's Textual "Limitation" in Romans 8:28.
- A. Because Paul wrote of "those who love God" and because he tied the harmonious working of "all things" for the good of "those who love God", he opened the door to the possibility of human "boasting".
- B. Because Paul also had an abiding antagonism toward human boasting, in the places where the promises were the most valuable, he was the most vigilant that they not be turned into "Law" and, consequently, a basis for foolish boasting.
- IV. Our Fourth Consideration: Paul's Re-Description of "Those Who Love God".
- A. He deliberately recharacterized them as "those who are called".
- 1. This is the second time since his introduction to his letter (1:1-7) where he used the term three times that he refers to the issue of "calling".
- a. In his introduction, he referred to himself as a "called apostle" as a deliberate way to characterized how he came to be such.
- b. In his introduction, he referred to the Romans as "called" twice: once as those "called" by Jesus Christ; and again as those who are "called saints".
- c. Its pretty difficult to not get an overwhelming impression that the word means "to subject to a summons that involves a particular result".
- 2. The only other time he refers to "calling" before we get to our text in chapter eight is in his clarification of the Abrahamic Object of Faith -- 4:17; the God Who "calls" that which is not as is.
- a. There is a strong implication here that the reason God can say that a thing is when it is not is that God has a "purpose" which He will fulfill so that He can declare it as "done" when it is historically only in one of the stages that will ultimately result in a finished result.
- b. Thus, "calling" is identified as one of the methods by which God pursues His ineluctable goal.
- 3. Our conclusion is that Paul called those who love God "the called" because he is making his readers aware of the connection between the two identities.
- B. He deliberately recharacterized them as "those who are called" in order to identify the nature of the connection between "loving God" and "being summoned by Him".
- 1. Since human "love" for God is a "response" to God's love for the human (1 John 4:19) and is a significant oddity (Romans 3:9-17), we have to conclude that "something" happens between God and man before man "loves God".
- 2. Paul seems to identify that "something" as an element in "calling".
- a. This certainly seemed to be the case with Matthew in Luke 5:27 and following.
- b. Paul would have put himself in that same scenario as a "called apostle".
- C. His deliberate reference to "calling" is intricately tied to the issue of "purpose".
- 1. Grammatically, Paul said "those who, according to purpose, are called".
- 2. The idea of a "summons to a result" (IV.A.1.c. above) unavoidably involves the issue of "purpose".
- D. Thus, he eliminates "loving God" as a basis for "boasting" by making it a result of divine activity and, thus, not a "credit" to those involved in it as he said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:7.