Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 5 Study # 7
Thesis: Victory is only through Christ.
Introduction: We have been looking into the question of "Who can be against us if God is for us?" and we have seen that the issue that has surfaced the question is the unjust treatment of believers by this world and those who wield power in it. In our study last time we considered the reality that God permits those who trust in Him to be accounted as sheep for the slaughter. This flies in the face of almost everyone's concept of "love". Most folks think that if you treat a person as a sheep whose destiny is the slaughter house you do not "love" him/her. And, in this case, most folks are correct. It is not "love" to kill someone. But, most folks also run that line out a bit further and say that if you have the power to stop someone from killing someone, you are not "loving" if you do not use your power to do so. And, say they, since God is omnipotent and could stop any act of evil if He decided to, He must not be loving to permit it. By this "logic" the entire Gospel is destroyed and the answer to the major question of our context is another question, "What does it matter if God is for us if He lets us be treated like sheep headed to slaughter?"
There are three facts which confront this "logic" and make it "illogic". The first fact is this: Love becomes a complex issue as soon as there are multiple objects in view. The second fact is this: none of the higher qualities of "Love" can be developed in undeveloped "lovers" if the occasions for them are disallowed. The permission of sin is the only setting in which the host of the higher qualities of Love can even be brought to light, let alone "developed" in creatures (selflessness, forgiveness, sacrifice, extreme loyalty, etc.). Jesus said there is no greater love than the laying down of one's life for his friends [an act that would never be necessary in a sinless setting] (John 15:13) and Paul qualified that in Romans 5:8 where he let us know that God's "friendship" list includes His enemies/sinners. And the third fact is this: it is only the unloving who complain about the cost of love.
However, even in the love of God, the permission of evil has its boundaries. It is never allowed to move to the level of final destruction. It is never presented as a permanent feature in the plans of God for those who embrace the principles of Love. And it is never allowed to succeed in any real sense of that term. The wages of sin are always death and God has decreed the absolute subversion of its intentions.
This evening we come in our study to this "particular": Evil is never allowed to succeed in any real sense. Paul's way of saying that is this: "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conqueror through Him that loved us."
June 17, 2008
- I. The Actual Statements of the Text.
- A. The strong adversative deliberately sets the issue of being "accounted as sheep for the slaughter" in opposition to its "theoretical significance".
- 1. In theory...
- a. ...being accounted as a sheep for slaughter means being destroyed.
- b. ...being accounted as a sheep for slaughter means being the object of the hatred of God.
- c. ...being accounted as a sheep for slaughter means that everything of value and faith is being flushed down the toilet.
- 2. BUT, in reality...
- a. ...being accounted as a sheep for slaughter means being set up for phenomenal glory (8:17).
- b. ...being accounted as a sheep for slaughter means being absolutely set within the values and loyalty of God (8:35).
- c. ...being accounted as a sheep for slaughter means that everything of value and faith is being established forever (8:37).
- B. The inclusive "all things" of the text and context.
- 1. The "all things" is deliberately "all of these things".
- a. The "these things" are those named factors that are designed by their perpetrators to corrode our love for God so that His love for us will be corroded likewise.
- b. Though there is no denying the short-term corrosive effect of "these things" upon our love for Christ, Paul is adamant that there is no short, or long, term reciprocation by Him.
- 2. The key interpretive issue of our text is whether we can be separated from His love, not whether He can be separated from ours.
- C. The verb, "we overwhelmingly conquer", actually denies any defeat.
- 1. This does not signify that there is no defeat of any kind, or in any sense.
- a. Paul is not denying all that he has already said about how damaging Sin is; Death is real.
- b. Nor is Paul making light of Death.
- 2. This does signify that the core objective of the evil is absolutely frustrated.
- a. It may not be a "small" thing for certain "incidentals" to be accomplished [the death impact of Sin is real].
- b. But, if the main objective is "overwhelmingly defeated", what difference does it make that certain lesser objectives were accomplished?
- D. The operative phrase regarding the "victory".
- 1. The terminology actually compels a "grace" orientation: Christ is the "operative" in our "victory".
- 2. Grace being the orientation, we are brought face to face with Paul's most fundamental perspective ... that perspective that colors all of his theology: substitution, or vicarious interplay.
- a. The salient fact that must be considered for our understanding of Paul's declaration in Romans 8:37 is this: all of Paul's "triumph" theology is rooted in "grace" which, itself, is heavily rooted in "substitutionary/vicarious" theology (someone doing something in the place of, and for the benefit of, another).
- b. This is the ancient David/Goliath scenario where one man acts in the place of, and for the benefit of, the entire nation for whom he takes his action.
- 1) No one does anything except the surrogate, but all experience (i.e., "live out the results of") that one surrogate's victory/defeat.
- 2) In a modified sense, this is really the entire issue of "warfare". An army (seen as a single entity) represents the nation which fielded it so that the noncombatants do no fighting, but experience the results of the success/failure of the army.
- 3) The same thing is true even within the context of the "army". If a soldier is wounded immediately as the battle commences and can do nothing else for the entire battle, he still participates as a winner/loser according to the success/failure of the army.
- 4) So, within (wounded soldiers) and without (civilian non-combatants), the concept of "overcoming" is rooted in the concept of a "vicarious" participation that has, at its roots, the notion of one doing for all.
- c. The "confusion" enters the picture at the actual level of participation: David did the actions by which God gave him success over Goliath.
- 3. It is only because men refuse to be at-one with their Surrogate that we now have all manner of "works" ("Look at what I have accomplished") theologies that are rooted in "free (self) will" theology.