ROMANS CHAPTER 8: CHRISTIAN VICTORY'LIVING IN THE FREEDOM OF THE SPIRIT
You have defined through the Holy Spirit what true life is for the Christian. To live in the kingdom of darkness is to live a walking death but to live in the power of the Holy Spirit is to live with a soul that is infused with the life of the Most Holy Trinity. Through our rebirth into Your family we walk in the light of Christ, although we can only dimly see in this earthly exile the promise of the vibrant life that will be ours when we cross the threshold of physical death into eternal life. We know, however, that You are God of the living and we can have confidence that when we are finally united with You and achieve our final salvation, then we will be more alive that we ever were in this earthly existence. Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to guide us in our study of St. Paul's letter to the Romans and his teaching on living life in the Spirit. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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"Paul shows here that those who are under the law, because they live according to the flesh, are under sin and condemnation. But those who are in Christ are not under condemnation because they do not walk according to the flesh." Diodore of Tarsus [died 390], Commentary on Paul's letter to the Romans
"My dear friends, do not be taken aback at the testing by fire which is taking place among you, as though something strange were happening to you; but in so far as you share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, so that you may enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for bearing Christ's name, blessed are you, for on you rests the Spirit of God, the Spirit of glory." 1 Peter 4:12-14
In chapter 7 Paul began to present a contrast of the old order of living under the Law and the new order of living under the power of the Spirit by first presenting the negative affects of the Law before the coming of Christ. After Adam's sin animal sacrifice was established as a temporary measure to cover sins and prevent eternal death, but animal sacrifice could not offer salvation because no animal could be perfect enough to remove the ravages of sin and the judgment of death it imposed on mankind. The commands not to sin imposed under Mosaic Law were imposed externally and, therefore, could not provide the inward transformation that was needed for salvation [Romans 7:7]. Christ alone, by His atoning death became the perfect sacrifice, destroying our unspiritual nature [our nature of flesh] in His own person and destroying the power of sin which reigned over mortal flesh. Leaving the negative aspects of living under the old law, Paul now turns to the positive factor which is liberation from condemnation brought through the new order'a life internally transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through our baptism into Christ's death, burial, and resurrection we have been released from the condemnation of sin. We no longer live according to the law of the flesh but according to the law of the Spirit of God. We are not only forgiven our sins but we are also given the means to continue to overcome sin through the power of God the Holy Spirit filling and indwelling the new lives we received when we were "born from above" [John 3:3-5] into the family of God. Now Paul invites the Roman faith community to rejoice in this victory and the new age of freedom inaugurated by the Holy Spirit.
Please read Romans 8:1-13: Life in the Spirit
"1 Thus, condemnation will never come to those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because the law of the Spirit which gives life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 What the Law could not do because of the weakness of human nature, God did, sending his own Son in the same human nature as any sinner to be a sacrifice for sin, and condemning sin in that human nature. 4 That was so that the Law's requirements might be fully satisfied in us as we direct our lives not by our natural inclinations but by the spirit. 5 Those who are living by their natural inclinations have their minds on the things human nature desires; those who live in the spirit have their minds on spiritual things. 6 And human nature has nothing to look forward to but death, while the spirit looks forward to life and peace, 7 because the outlook of disordered human nature is opposed to God, since it does not submit to God's Law, and indeed it cannot, 8 and those who live by their natural inclinations can never be pleasing to God. 9 You, however, live not by your natural inclinations, but by the spirit, since the Spirit of God has made a home in you. Indeed, anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But when Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin but the spirit is alive because you have been justified; 11 and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead has made his home in you, then he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you. 12 So then, my brothers, we have no obligation to human nature to be dominated by it. 13 If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the habits originating in the body, you will have life."
In Romans chapter 7:24 St. Paul asked the rhetorical question "Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?" His simple answer in verse 25 was that Jesus Christ is our rescuer, but in chapter 8 Paul provides a more in depth response. The two opening verses introduce what main theme of this chapter: the Christian has been set free from the condemnation of sin and death by "the law of the Spirit of life" in Christ Jesus. Life is what the Holy Spirit guarantees!
Paul will present this theme in five parts:
· Romans 8:1-13: Christ has made it possible for us to live according to the Spirit
· Romans 8:14-17: The Christian as a child of God
· Romans 8:18-27: The glory of our destiny in Christ in 3 phases:
1. verses 18-23: Creation anticipating Christ
2. verses 24-25: The hope of faithful Christians
3. verses 26-27: The coming of the Spirit
After the fall of Adam and Eve which resulted in the inheritance of the dis-graced condition of all humanity, original sin, which became our inheritance, set two directions or two choices before those of us who were born into this dis-graced state:
In essence this is the choice between supernatural life through the Holy Spirit, or the animal life of the flesh.
Question: What is it that Paul assures us has set the Christian free?
Answer: The Holy Spirit
Question: In Romans 8:2 Paul assures us that "the law of the Spirit which gives life in Christ has set you free." What are the conditions from which the Christian is liberated? In verse 3 what does Paul identify as the source of this gift of the Spirit?
Answer: The freedom that comes from the New Law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus has liberated the Christian from sin and death.
Freedom comes to us from the New Law of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The New Law of the Gospel that we receive through Jesus Christ is a law of love, grace, and freedom. These 3 aspects that are present in the New Law were absent in the Old Law:
Answer: The source is sanctifying grace. It is the gift of grace the Christian receives in baptism when he becomes infused with the life of the Trinity through the power of the Holy Spirit to heal [of sin] and to sanctify our souls; it is a grace that permanently adheres to the soul of the Christian. However, the sanctifying grace that has liberated us from domination of the flesh and places us under the Law of the Spirit does not prevent sin from continuing to threaten our freedom. St. John Chrysostom warns the Christian: "We need to submit to the spirit, to wholeheartedly commit ourselves and strive to keep the flesh in its place. By so doing our flesh will become spiritual again. Otherwise, if we give in to the easy life, this will lower our soul to the level of the flesh and make it carnal again." St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, #13
Paul has mentioned God's Spirit only three other times in this letter; in Romans 1:4; 5:5; and 7:6. Now Paul will focus on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and will refer to His direct influence 19 times in chapter 8 alone [see verses 2, 5 (3x), 6, 9 (3x), 11 (3x), 13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 26 (2x), & 27].
Answer: Jesus took on our sinful human nature in order to break the fatal grip of sin on humanity by making the human race one with His obedience and saving justice. He assumed upon His own human self the condemnation that should have been ours, thus satisfying "the Law's requirements." Sinless He bore our sins. He felt in His human nature every temptation, every suffering, and every human weakness. In the person of His Son, God became vulnerable to the vengeful attack of sin in all its forms and furies and yet He lovingly bore the burden for us and conquered both sin and death upon the throne of the Cross: Philippians 2:6-8, "Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross."
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that in fulfilling God's plan for our salvation Jesus could have rejected our human nature and could have come in the glorious body of His Resurrection but, St. Thomas reasoned, "since man has 3 states'namely innocence, sin, and glory'Christ assumed from the state of glory the beatific vision; from the state of innocence, freedom from sin; and from the state of sin, the necessity of being subject to the penalties of this life." Summa Theologiae III, q.13, a.
The limits of our human flesh include hunger, physical fatigue, suffering, and death'all of which are the action of sin upon humanity. By permitting Himself to be subject to the fragility of our physical bodies, Christ experienced everything we experience living in a body of flesh. His human experience makes it impossible for us to claim that God in His exalted state cannot understand our physical limitations and struggles. He became like us to save us and we can have the confidence that He will never abandon us just because we are subject to those limitations.
Question: In 8:4-8 what contrast does Paul make and why it is these two forces are completely opposed to one another?
Answer: He is contrasting life ordered to the flesh as opposed to life in the spirit. The desires of the flesh and the ministry of the Holy Spirit are not compatible. Man must choose to be ruled by one or the other. Although we still retain our flesh it is now alien to those of us who have been "born of the spirit" because we have died to the flesh and in our new lives we live in the spirit of Christ'we live "not according to the flesh but according to the spirit [8:4, New American translation]."
Answer: The requirements of the law and condemnation for sin can only be satisfied through faith and union with Jesus Christ. When we are united to Christ our new life of faith is fulfilled in love'loving others as Jesus has loved us. There is no longer any external law dictating our outward behavior. Our inner life is now a life living through the power of the Spirit who has superseded and replaced the old order that condemned us. We live by Jesus command: You must love your neighbor as yourself." [Matthew 22:40]
Answer: In the Old Covenant one's neighbor was defined as a member of the covenant community. But with eternal blessings come greater love. We are commanded to share the love of Christ with all members of the human family.
Question: In Romans 8:6 Paul contrasts the human nature that has nothing to look forward to but death and the Christian living in the life of the Spirit who looks forward to life and peace. What are the "life" and the "peace" the Christian is promised?
Answer: Eternal life is the "life" and perfect communion with God is the promised "peace". The Christian looks forward to the beautific vision and to bodily resurrection.
In Romans 8:9 Paul makes the powerful statement: "You, however, live not by your natural inclinations, but by the spirit since the Spirit of God has made a home in you. Indeed, anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." Paul is making the strong statement that only those who are reborn in the spirit can belong to God and have the right to called children in His family. It is a concept he will expand in Romans 8:14-17.
In verses 10-11 Paul assures the Christian that with Christ living in us "the body is dead."
Question: How is it that our physical bodies are dead? See Ephesians 2:1-6
Answer: The reality is that every day we are alive in our physical bodies is another step toward death. No matter what we "invest" in our earthly bodies, it is a short term investment. The body, because of the effects of sin is doomed to physical death and is an instrument of spiritual death. Yet, through the regenerative waters of our baptism we are alive in the spirit of Christ. He has justified [made righteous in the site of God] the believer, and we look forward to a final resurrection at the end of time when we will receive new bodies which are imperishable. Living in the spirit of Christ, Christians look forward to being alive in a way that makes the present reality of life in the flesh a pale counterfeit kind of living. Investing in life in the Spirit is a long term investment that will reap enormous benefits because God stands behind that investment.
In verses 12-13 Paul draws a conclusion from what he has written so far in this chapter'that the Christian is no longer dominated by a fallen human nature, and if the Christian chooses to put the "flesh" to death by continuing to live in the Spirit he will have life. Paul then begins a discussion of the consequences on Christian life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Please read Romans 8:14-17: The Christian as a child of God
"14 All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God; for what you received was not the spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear; you received the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, 'Abba, Father!' 15 The Spirit himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God. And if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, provided that we share his suffering, so as to share his glory."
The reality of God the Holy Spirit's presence brings not only new life but a new relationship with God'a relationship of spiritual adoption. Through our adoption we become partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life and Jesus' prayer at Gethsemane in Mark 14:36 is placed on our lips because the Spirit makes us children of God: "'Abba, Father!" he said, 'For you everything is possible. Take this cup away from me. But let it be as you, not I, would have it.'" In this prayer we unite ourselves to Christ's sufferings as well as to His glory.
Answer: Galatians 4:3-7: "So too with us, as long as we were still under age, we were enslaved to the elemental principles of this world; but when the completion of the time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as sons. As you are sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son crying, 'Abba, Father'; and so you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir, by God's own act." In both the Romans and Galatians passages Paul is speaking of the two aspects of redemption: freedom from slavery to sin, and adoption as children of God. This adoption through the Spirit makes us the joint-heirs of what Christ has won for us and therefore guarantees our inheritance of eternal life. See CCC#2782; 2784
Question: Do adopted children choose their families? What is the implication for Christians being adopted into the family of God?
Answer: In Greek the word huiothesia, [hwee-oth-es-ee'-ah] "adoption", was a technical term expressing the legal assumption of a person into the status of son-ship in a natural family. Paul is taking this word, used in 1st century legal language in the Roman world, and is applying it to both Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians who through the Sacrament of Baptism have become members in God's covenant family. However, it is interesting to note that it is not the adoptee who "adopts" but the family and so Paul's term expresses the prerogative of election'of being chosen by the "family" of the Most Holy Trinity to become sons and daughters of the new and everlasting Covenant in Christ. The use of this word is also reminiscent of the election of the "children" of Israel as Yahweh's chosen people'God Himself chose the children of Israel out of all the peoples of the earth. The Christian who first comes to justification by faith is also elected but there is also a difference in this new covenant adoption because no where in the Old Testament were the old covenant people ever invited to call God by this intimate form of address: "Abba," an Aramaic word meaning "father" in the intimate sense in which an American child might use the word "daddy." The use of such an intimate address is unheard of in the Old Testament'not even in such passages as Deuteronomy 14:1; Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 3:22; and Wisdom 18:13.
Answer: Deuteronomy 14:1 expresses a corporate relationship with Israel as a covenant people who are children of Yahweh. However, Galatians 4:3-7 and Romans 8:15 express a personal relationship of child to father and in this sense the father is God and the child is each individual Christian believer who has been justified by faith through the Sacrament of Baptism. The only exception to this is found in Psalms 89:27 when David speaks prophetically of the Messiah: "He will cry to me, 'You are my father, my God, the rock of my salvation!' So I shall make him my first-born, the highest of earthly kings." This gift of divine son/daughter-ship is only an inheritance through Christ. See CCC# 257-60
The concept of individual son/daughter-ship through the ministry of the Holy Spirit is not a gift given to the children of Israel in the Old Testament but it is promised by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 43:1-7 in a prophecy of future salvation: "Bring back my sons from far away and my daughters from the remotest part of the earth, everyone who bears my name, whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, whom I have made [verses 6c-7]." St. Peter proclaimed, speaking of Jesus of Nazareth, "Only in him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved." It is through bearing the name of Jesus Christ that we become sons and daughters of the Most High God.
There is also another deeply theological link to be made to the Christian position as heirs in Christ Jesus.
Question: An heir has the promise of a future inheritance. What does this promise of a future inheritance call to mind from the promises of the Old Testament covenants that preceded and foreshadowed the New and everlasting Covenant in Christ? What is the theological and eschatological significance of the promise of this "inheritance"? Hint: see Exodus 32:13; Romans 4:13.
Answer: In Exodus 32:13 after the fall from grace of the children of Israel in the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses, as God's covenant mediator, "reminds" Yahweh of His promises when he says: "Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom you swore by your very self and made this promise: 'I shall make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and this whole country of which I have spoken, I shall give to your descendants, and it will be their heritage for ever." Through our baptism we have become the spiritual progeny of Abraham and as such inheritors of the 3 promises made to him in Genesis chapter 12:1-5 that became the foundation of the 3-fold covenant of Genesis chapters 15, 17, and 22. Abraham is the physical father of the children of Israel to whom Yahweh promised the inheritance of the covenant and the Promised Land that had been given to Abraham. This promise of "the land" become the inheritance of the universal Church of Jesus Christ in an inheritance that comes to embrace the whole body of eschatological blessings promised to Abraham and to Israel as a people. In Romans chapter 4 Paul reclaimed this promise for Christians through the Gospel of Jesus Christ by arguing that "For the promise to Abraham and his descendants that he should inherit the world..." This is indeed our inheritance: the universal Catholic Kingdom of Heaven on Earth and the promise of the inheritance of the true "Promise Land" of the heavenly Kingdom.
In Romans 8:17 Paul places this "inheritance" on a Christological standard. The Christian becomes an heir of the Father = God but also a co-heir of Christ who is the "Firstborn" or re'shiyt in the Hebrew, and is therefore the primary heir of the Father.
Question: In Romans 8:17 what condition is placed upon our inheritance in union with the Father's firstborn who is Jesus Christ?
Answer: Through our baptismal union with the Son we have inherited a dynamic insertion into the life of the Trinity and since the Trinity is a union that cannot be divided even though it is a union of 3, we are fully united to Christ in His mission as Savior. This union is not static but is active, efficacious, and complete. Paul makes it clear that as Christians we must share in Christ's suffering in order to share in His glory. This is a theme that formed the context for Paul affirmation of "hope" in chapter 5:3-4. He will revisit this same mysterious connection between suffering and the hope of glory in the end of this chapter. The point Paul makes is to form a surprising connection between Jesus' Passion and Resurrection and Christian inheritance in eternal blessings. In our earthly life it is necessary to take up the Cross of Christ and follow Him because the way to glorification is through the imitation of Christ by offering up our sufferings in this life as He did in His. Notice the progression of this promise connecting the Old Covenant promises, the election of divine son/daughter-ship, and suffering being united to glory in the following passages:
Question: While the gift of our divine son/daughter ship is individual, our sufferings are not meant to be only our own. How are our sufferings meant to be uniquely different from normal human suffering?
Answer: Our sufferings are offered up for Christ's sufferings when we unite our suffering to His. When we unite our human sufferings to His human sufferings we do not suffer alone but we suffer in union with the suffering He offered up for our salvation and the salvation of the entire world. Christians do not waste the value of your sufferings by suffering alone! Christ did not come to do away with human suffering. It is part of our fallen human condition which is why He assumed our suffering in order to bring about our redemption. He didn't come to do away with suffering but He did come to unite our suffering to His. Jesus has show the way in suffering for us'now Christian suffering united with His redemptive suffering also become redemptive! Our suffering is not only the overflow of His suffering but through suffering with Christ our participation in his glorification is assured. In Colossians 1:24 Paul understood the nature of our suffering jointed to the redemptive suffering of Christ when he writes, "It makes me happy to be suffering for you now and in my own body to make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his Body, the Church"'Paul is writing of his own redemptive suffering for the sake of the Church.
Unlike most human heirs who greedily horde their inheritance and are unwilling to share their earthly wealth with other children in the family of their earthly fathers, God the Son offers us a share in His full inheritance'but as co-heirs we must cooperate in that inheritance. Jesus of Nazareth suffered in order to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and anyone who is His co-heir and continues His work must share in His suffering while cooperating in faith and love to carry the Gospel message of salvation to the world [as we are commanded to do in Matthew 28:19-20]'the promised inheritance of eternal life is certainly a gift of grace far beyond any amount of temporal suffering. The short term suffering yields a long term investment of eternal love and peace'an observation which is expressed Paul's opening line in the next portion of this chapter.
In addressing the presence of human suffering in the lives of Christians notice how Paul proceeds in three stages using the word "groan":
Please read Romans 8:18-27: The Christian Destiny of Glory
"18 In my estimation, all that we suffer in the present time is nothing in comparison with the glory which is destined to be disclosed for us, 19 for the whole creation is waiting with eagerness for the children of God to be revealed. 20 It was not for its own purposes that creation had frustration imposed on it, but for the purposes of him who imposed it'21 with the intention that the whole creation itself might be freed from its slavery to corruption and brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God. 22 We are well aware that the whole creation, until this time, has been groaning in labor pains. 23 And not only that: we too, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we are groaning inside ourselves, waiting with eagerness for our bodies to be set free. 24 In hope, we already have salvation; in hope, not visibly present, or we should not be hoping'nobody goes on hoping for something which he can already see. 25 But having this hope for what we cannot yet see, we are able to wait for it with persevering confidence. 26 And as well as this, the Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words; 27 and he who can see into all hearts knows what the Spirit means because the prayers that the Spirit makes for God's holy people are always in accordance with the mind of God."
Answer: With the introduction of sin into the world and its by product of decay and death, the harmony which God had originally established with man and all of creation is broken. After the Fall both man and creation become enslaved; death and decay will rule the natural world'the natural world, created as a home for man, came to share in the fallen destiny of mankind but also in the promise of redemption.
Question: How did the redeeming work of Christ not only redeem mankind but provide the means for the renewal of all of Creation? Why is all of Creation anticipating the fulfillment of God's plan for salvation history? See CCC# 1042-1050; 2 Peter 3:13; & Revelation 21:1-5.
Answer: At the end of time as we know it, Christ will return and the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. God has promised that the earth, all living beings, and the entire cosmos will be renewed and transformed and the just will reign with Christ forever'glorified in body and soul just as the material world will be renewed and transformed [see 1 Corinthians 15:28]. In this new creation God will establish his dwelling among men [Revelation 21:5]. All humanity, the visible cosmos, and the earth are destined to be transformed and returned to the state in which God first created it. As St. Irenaeus wrote in the end of the second century, "so that the world itself, resorted to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just.." At that time all of creation will share in the glorification of Jesus Christ [see CCC # 1047].
In Romans 8:22 Paul reveals that all of creation is longing "groaning" for the return of Christ and the promised transformation and glorification which will return creation to its original state. Paul compares this "groaning" to the labor pains of a woman in childbirth.
Answer: Perhaps this is a new way to look at the "groaning" of the world in natural disasters like hurricanes which also bring the "groaning" of suffering to mankind. The natural world suffers from disorder and chaos'this is not the way God first set out the creation of the world when the Holy Spirit [Genesis 1:2] divided the waters of chaos and seven times pronounced all of creation "good" in Genesis 1: 4, 10, 13, 18, 21, 25, and 31. The natural world was intended to be the home for man in which he could live in perfect communion with his Creator.
Question: What are we waiting for with "persevering confidence" that is based on our "hope"?
Answer: Paul is touching on the past and future aspects of our redemption and salvation. Salvation is not a one time event but a process. Christ won our salvation for us on the Cross but we also look forward in "hope" to our final salvation when we will be received into the beautific vision of God.
Answer: All Christians long for union with the Most Holy Trinity in our final redemption and the hope of living the glory of the beautific vision. We also look forward to the promise of our second resurrection when we receive our glorified bodies [our first resurrection was in our baptism]. This great hope is almost too much to be able to comprehend in our limited natural state, but it is God the Holy Spirit who helps us, prays with us, and intercedes for us "with sighs too deep for words" to receive this final and eternal gift. Ever child who truly loves his family, longs to be at home with his family. Our "family" is the Most Holy Trinity and our spirits long to be at home with Him.
In this last verse Paul is impressing on his audience the necessity of constant prayer'as Jesus Himself taught in Matthew 6:5 in the Sermon on the Mount and in Matthew 14:23ff; just to name two important passages dealing with the power of prayer in the Gospels. Paul addresses the necessity of prayer in the life of the Christian in Romans 12:12; 1 Corinthians 7:5; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:8; and 5:5. Paul writes in his letters that he is constantly in prayer for the faith communities to whom he has written [see Romans 1:10; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:4; Colossians 1:3, 9; 1 Thessalonians 1:2,3; 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; Philemon verse 4], and he requests that they also pray for him [see Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:19; Philippians 1:19; Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Philemon verse 22; Hebrews 13:18].
Question: Who is it who inspires the prayers of the faithful? See CCC# 739-41.
· Ephesians 6:18: "In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion."
· Jude verse 20: "But you, my dear friends, must build yourselves up on the foundation of your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.."
Please read Romans 8:28-39: God has called the Christian to Share in His Glory
"28 We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good. 29 He decided beforehand who were the ones destined to be molded to the pattern of his Son, so that he should be the eldest of many brothers; 30 it was those so destined that he called; those that he called, he justified, and those that he has justified he has brought into glory."
In Romans 5:5 and 8 Paul spoke of God's love for the justified, poured into their hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit. Now Romans 8:28 Paul writes of those who love God, using the same Greek verb agapan, which by the Christian definition came to mean "self-sacrificial love"'the love Jesus commanded us to give to one another just as He has loved us [John 13:34]. Paul writes:"28 We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good." For Paul it is this "agape love" that defines what it means to be a Christian.
Answer: All who love God, believing in all He has taught and living according to that teaching'thereby seeking His will in their lives, have the promise that no matter what happens'for good or for ill, in success or in suffering'all that they experience in their journey of faith is part of God's plan of salvation for their lives and every experience will be turned to the benefit of their salvation if they preserver and trust in God. The reason good can come from everything experienced in the Christian's life is that this promise is not dependent on the Christian. Good comes because it is God Himself who takes the initiative and it is through His intervention that "turns everything to their good." St. James wrote in his letter to the universal Church, "Make no mistake about this, my dear brothers: all that is good, all that is perfect, is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alternation, no shadow caused by change." James 1:16-17. Paul's promise of God's love and faithfulness to the Christian is an assurance that would have been familiar to his Jewish audience from the writings of the Old Testament prophets concerning God's love and faithfulness to covenant believers:
This assurance of God's faithful love, however, does not keep us from trials and suffering'but there is the promise that good can come from these if not to us to others who are working out their salvation. The Saints who have suffered for Christ understand this promise:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects on the mystery of God's plan in the lives of believers and in the world in CCC# 314: "We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God 'face to face', will we fully know the ways by which'even through the dramas of evil and sin'God has guided his creation to that definitive Sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth."
Question: Paul tells us that Jesus is to be the eldest of "many brothers." Who are the "many" to which Paul refers?
Answer: Christians who have been reborn through the Sacrament of Baptism into the family of God, who acknowledge God as their "Father" and, therefore, Jesus as the eldest "brother."
In Romans 3:23 Paul had written that without the Gospel of Jesus Christ all human beings have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Now through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul assures us, God has not only communicated His righteousness and His saving power but also has revealed how His plan of salvation intends that all human beings are called to a destiny of salvation. The New Jerusalem Bible translates this verse as: "He decided beforehand who were the ones destined to be molded to the pattern of his Son..." but it can also be translated, "Those whom he foreknew, he also predestined...". Paul does not mean to suggest, as some Christians attracted to the Reformation doctrine of John Calvin have interpreted this passage, that God has decided before hand who is to be save and who is to be damned and that our free will has no effect in cooperating with our salvation. According to Calvin, the elect are predestined [Latin prae = before + destinare, to destine, ordain] to receive irresistible grace while others are predestined by God to receive the impulse of the will to sin and so are not given salvific grace. Every human being cooperates in God plan through his free will to accept or reject God's planned destiny of his individual soul. However, since God is all-knowing and is not bound by time or space, He does know which choice each of us will make. Paul is affirming this fore-knowledge of God in Romans 8:29-30. Paul does not mean, nor does Catholic teaching hold that predestination by God denies human free will.
Sacred Scripture clearly teaches that it is God's desire that everyone come to salvation. If this is indeed God's desire then He would not predestine anyone to damnation:
1 Timothy 2:1-4: "I urge then, first of all that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving should be offered for everyone, for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live peaceful and quiet lives with all devotion and propriety. To do this is right, and acceptable to God our Savior: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth."
It was God's plan from the time of the fall of Adam that the Christ's death would be for all humanity'not for a predestined group. Jesus was sent to be Savior of the world!
Jesus the New Adam died for the sins of humanity: just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all:
Jesus' death was the perfect sacrifice'for all humanity and for all time:
But because Jesus is God He knows the mind and heart of all people, therefore, He knows who will respond in faith to His universal call to salvation: "...but Jesus knew all people and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about anyone; he could tell what someone had in him."
In Ephesians 1:4-5 Paul writes, "Thus he chose us in Christ before the world was made to be holy and faultless before him in love, marking us out for himself beforehand, to be adopted sons, through Jesus Christ." Paul expresses this same teaching of God's plan of salvation for humanity in 2 Timothy 1:8-10a, "so you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to our Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but share in my hardships for the sake of the gospel, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy'not because of anything we ourselves had done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has been revealed only by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus."
The Catechism addresses the destiny of humanity for salvation in CCC# 257: "...Such is the 'plan of his loving kindness', conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: 'He destined us in love to be his sons' and 'to be conformed to the image of his Son,' through 'the spirit of son-ship.' It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church." And in CCC# 381, our destiny to be reborn in the image of God the Son [see Romans 8:29]: "Man is predestined to reproduce the image of God's Son made man, 'the image of the invisible God' (Colossians 1:15), so that Christ shall be the firstborn of a multitude of brothers and sisters (cf. Ephesians 1:3-6; Romans 8:29)." That it is this destiny of redeemed man to image Christ is what St. Cyril taught to the newly baptized in the 4th century of Jerusalem: "God, indeed, who has predestined us to adoption as his sons, has conformed us to the glorious Body of Christ. So then you who have become sharers in Christ are appropriately called 'Christs." Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechism mystogogia 3,1
Addressing this tension between the exercise of our free will and God's foreknowledge the Catechism teaches in CCC# 600: "To God all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of 'predestination,' he includes in it each person's free response to his grace...". It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that all humanity is called to cooperate in God's divine plan of salvation and all who respond to that call ["the elect"] are justified according to His plan, and are united to the image of God the Son, fulfilling their destiny as justified believers who receive a share in the glory of His presence. Catholic scholars down through the centuries have dedicated themselves to trying to reconcile the tension between our free will and God's foreknowledge but all agree in the end with St. Paul's assessment in Romans 11:33-34a that God's knowledge of human destiny is an unfathomable mystery: "How rich and deep are the wisdom and knowledge of God! We cannot reach to the root of his decisions or his ways. Who has ever known the mind of the Lord?"
At this point in the letter Paul's words burst forth in a hymn of God's love and faithfulness!
Please read Romans 8:31-39: A Hymn to the Love of God Made Manifest Through Jesus Christ
"31 After saying this, what can we add? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 Since he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for the sake of all of us, then can we not expect that with him he will freely give us all his gifts? 33 Who can bring any accusation against those that God has chosen? When God grants saving justice who can condemn? 34 Are we not sure that it is Christ Jesus, who died'yes and more, who was raised from the dead and is at God's right hand'and who is adding his plea for us? 35 Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ'can hardships or distress, or persecution, or lack of food and clothing, or threats or violence; 36 as scripture says: 'For your sake we are being massacred all day long, treated as sheep to be slaughtered? 37 No; we come through all these things triumphantly victorious, by the power of him who loved us. 38 For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, 39 nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Paul has written that it is through Jesus Christ that Christians have been freed from the dominion of sin and death; freed from love of self and slavery to the old law. He has assured Christians that through their rebirth into the family of God they have been given the freedom and power over the forces in life that drag humanity down into iniquities that lead to destruction of body and soul. Jesus Christ in assuming humanity's fragility has triumphed through His death and resurrection and has not only conquered all these forces, but He has communicated that victory to those who have accepted God's call to salvation and have been "molded to the pattern of his Son, ......those that he called, he justified, and those that he has justified he has brought into glory [Romans 8:29b-30]." These are the ones Paul first wrote of in Romans 1:17, "Anyone who is upright through faith will live!" Now in a jubilant hymn of praise Paul sums up all the gifts of divine love which had been given to humanity through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul begins his hymn with another set of rhetorical questions in verses 31-36 that are the basis of the Christian's confidence in God's plan of salvation realized in Jesus Christ:
"After saying this, what can we add? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
"Since he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for the sake of all of us, then can we not expect that with him he will freely give us all his gifts?"
"Who can bring any accusation against those that God has chosen? When God grants saving justice who can condemn?"
"Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ'can hardships or distress, or persecution, or lack of food and clothing, or threats or violence; 36 as scripture says: 'For your sake we are being massacred all day long, treated as sheep to be slaughtered?"
It is as though Paul is assuming the role of a prosecuting attorney in a law court examining the Christian who is called to testify to his faith. Old Testament parallels can be found in Job chapters 1-2 and in Zechariah chapter 3.
Question: In Romans 8:32 Paul writes: "Since he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for the sake of all of us..." Does this verse call to mind any Old Testament prefigurement of the Passion of the Christ? Hint: see Genesis 22:16
Answer: Since the late 2nd century the Fathers of the Church have seen in this passage an allusion to Abraham in obedience to God offering up in sacrifice his own son, "his only son". Father Fitzmyer points out in his commentary on Romans that the Greek of Paul's passage is the same Greek phrase used in the Old Testament Septuagint translation of Genesis 22:16. For Paul's Jewish Christians this allusion would serve to remind them of God's plan for salvation in Jesus Christ from the time God chose Isaac, as a "type" or prefigurer of Christ. God spared Abraham's son'from whom the Messiah would come through physical descent in His humanity. But God's Son would not be spared'He would be offered up in sacrifice for the sins of humanity. For the Jews this act of faith on Abraham's part in offering up for sacrifice his son Isaac is called the aqedah [literally, the "binding"] and was understood by the Old Covenant people to be a definitive moment in Abraham's covenant relationship with Yahweh and in their future as a covenant people.
In verse 33 Paul, using the language of the law court, asks his question in the role of the prosecuting attorney: "Who can bring any accusation against those that God has chosen?" The literal translation is: "Who is the one to condemn?" [see Fitzmyer page 533]. This is a question that will be asked in the Final Judgment before the throne of God when Satan will come forward in an attempt to accuse us of our sins [see Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10, 13-15]. This verse recalls another "courtroom" scene in Zechariah chapter 3. Please read that passage. Please note that the name "Joshua" is in Hebrew "Yeshua", which means "Yahweh saves"; it is the same name the angel Gabriel commanded that God's Son should be given in Luke 1:31-32. In Zechariah chapter 3 the priest Joshua/Yeshua represents God's covenant people.
Question: Who is it who accuses the high priest Joshua/Yeshua?
Question: In this passage Joshua/Yeshua represents the covenant people of God. How is he dressed and what does the condition of his clothes represent?
Answer: He is dressed in filthy rags, symbolic of sin.
Question: Who rebukes Satan and defends Yeshua?
Answer: The messenger of Yahweh'the word "angel" means "messenger".
This word in the Greek is, angelos, and in Hebrew is, 'mal'ak. The Greek word "angelos" will also be used for the disciples of Jesus who are His messengers of the Gospel message and for St. John's emissaries who deliver Jesus' messages to the seven churches in the book of Revelation [see Revelation 2-3 and the Revelation Bible Study]. The term "messenger" [angelos in the Greek translation; mal'ak in the Hebrew text] is used to describe Biblical prophets in the Old and New Testaments. For example in:
In other words, don't just assume an "angelos" is a heavenly being who serves God. Jesus is also an "angelos" in the sense that He is God's messenger to redeem the world.
Question: What happens to Joshua/Yeshua's dirty clothes? What does this signify?
Answer: They are removed and he is dressed in clean clothes; signifying that his sins have been cleansed.
Question: When Yeshua the priest is dressed in the clean clothes what does Yahweh's messenger tell him?
Answer: That He (the messenger) has removed the priest's sins.
Answer: The "messenger" or "angel" is the Pre-Incarnate Christ.
Question: In the verse which begins: "The angel of Yahweh then made this declaration to Joshua...", the priest is no longer addressed as a representative of the covenant people but this passage begins a promise that is give to Joshua personally and to a future priesthood. What prophecy does Yahweh make to the priest Joshua/Yeshua at the end of the chapter? Who is "the Branch"? Hint: see Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15
Answer: All that has transpired in the vision of the heavenly court is "an omen of things to come.." Yahweh promises to sent His servant the Branch, this is the messianic title for the son of David who will bring redemption to the people of God: "Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall raise an upright Branch for David; he will reign as king and be wise..."Jeremiah 23:5. In a single day the Branch will remove the sins of the people. This was accomplished by Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.
Note: Jesus will make an allusion to the final verse this passage when He speaks to Nathaniel in John 1:43-51 and inspired by the Holy Spirit Nathaniel will realize that Jesus is the promised "Branch" of this passage [see the study on the Gospel of John, chapter 1].
Question: Who is it who will come to the defense of the Christian when he/she stands before God's throne of Judgment in the heavenly court? Hint: see Romans 8:34
Answer: Jesus is our defender!
Now Paul asks his final question in his assumed role as God's prosecuting attorney: "Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ?"
Question: How does Paul answer his own question and what kind of initial list does he present?
Answer: The answer is a definitive "NO!" Paul offers a list of temporal hardships that cannot have power over us to remove us from the love of God.
Next Paul quotes Psalms 44:22: "For your sake we are being massacred all day long, treated as sheep to be slaughtered?" This psalm is a petition for God to save His people from temporal persecution and physical death. It begins by reminding Yahweh of His mighty acts in redeeming the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and ends with the plea in verse 26: "Arise! Come to our help! Ransom us, as your faithful love demands."
Question: Did Yahweh answer David's plea to redeem the people?
Answer: Yes, a thousand years later God sent His Son to redeem the people from eternal death by allowing His Son to be "treated as sheep to be slaughtered" and thereby redeeming all mankind.
In Romans 8:35-36 Paul continues in his examination of what can separate us from the love of Christ. In the answer to his own questions, spoken on behave of the Christian responding to this examination, Paul affirms God's dominion over the entire cosmos and all that it contains.
Question: In verses 38-39 what powers are listed that are subject to God's authority and what do these "powers" or "elements" represent?
"...nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord." Paul assures us that neither power from the natural world, nor any power from the supernatural realm can rupture the union of love between Christ and the Christian.
But, what about free will? Can the Christian of his own free will rupture that union?
Answer: Paul is listing trials not sins in 8:35-38 clear distinction from what he had to say about the list of sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. The misinterpretation of this passage led Martin Luther to believe that even sin couldn't separate us from Jesus Christ. Luther concluded that man suffered from a total depravity of nature but Christ's sacrificial death covered our sinful nature like snow covers a dunghill. This is a doctrine the Catholic Church rejects. Catholics believe that we are not simply covered, as in the coving of sins in the Old Testament but that we are reborn and transformed. Our new life in the Spirit provides the fertile soil in which the Holy Spirit continues to provide Christian growth as long as we seek to imitate Christ in our lives.
Some Protestant churches, confused in their understanding of faith and works, have come to understand through the teachings of Martin Luther that nothing, not even sin can separate us from our salvation. Some Protestant churches have understood this doctrine to mean once one is "saved" their salvation is eternally secure. This is often called the doctrine of "eternal security" or "security of the believer." Luther did not see sin as a hindrance to salvation as long as one prayed and confessed sins [quoting from the letters of Martin Luther]:
Luther was not advocating sinning so grace could abound all the more but that repentance eliminated all the stain of sin and offered complete restoration with no ill effects, and as long as one prayed and confessed the sin the sin could not cost one's salvation to be lost since the sin had already been forgiven by Jesus through His sacrifice on the Cross. Luther believed that so long as one was truly "saved" through a profession of faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord'salvation through "faith alone"'one was saved no matter what the sin. St. John the Apostle, however, taught that not all sins can be healed by prayer. Read 1 John 3:3-10; 5:16, and CCC# 1854-61. Mortal sin requires confession to a priest who hears the confession "in the person of Christ". Sin can be forgiven, even mortal sin, but the accountability for sin must also be addressed through an act of penance. Forgiveness is one thing but accountability is another. Confession, genuine contrition, forgiveness and an act of penance are all necessary for restoration of fellowship with God.
Some of our Protestant brothers and sisters point to Romans 8:38 as a proof text for the doctrine of "eternal security" or "security of the believer": "For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord." But this verse speaks of God's love not our salvation, and this verse lists demons [principalities], and angels, and things of creation but it does not list sin. To each of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, which represent in the "perfect" number 7, representing in essence all the churches that form the one true Church of Jesus Christ, Jesus warns that only those who persevere to the end and "prove victorious" will receive the gift of salvation. If salvation is already assured why is such a warning necessary and why is there a need for perseverance?
St. Paul certainly warned the faithful of the Christian churches in his letters that they must guard their salvation:
Paul writes of safeguarding his own salvation as one who is running a race with a clear goal'that goal being salvation. He concludes the passage by writing: "I punish my body and bring it under control, to avoid any risk that, having acted as herald for others, I myself may be disqualified." 1 Corinthians 9:27
And just prior to this passage in Romans 8:38-39 Paul wrote in Romans 8:24-25: "In hope we already have salvation; in hope, not visibly present, or we should not be hoping'nobody goes on hoping for something which he can already see. But having this hope for what we cannot yet see, we are able to wait for it with persevering confidence." Paul is writing that we "hope" for heaven because, no matter if we have been justified through out baptism and faithful in our journey to ultimate salvation, we know we still have a change to lose it through our own free will by entering into sin. We must therefore; cling to the promises of Christ, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God and only we can separate ourselves from the salvation Christ has won for us.
"Spiritual souls are not separated by torments, but carnal souls are sometimes separated by idle gossip. The cruel sword cannot separate the former, but carnal affections remove the latter. Nothing hard breaks down spiritual men, but even flattering words corrupt the carnal." Caesarius of Arles [470-542], Sermons 82.2
Questions for group discussion:
Answer: According to Revelation 3:5 the answer is "yes". Nothing can separate us from the love of God and our salvation through Jesus Christ but our own free will. We can willfully reject our salvation through choosing sin over faithful obedience. This is why Catholics reject the Protestant notion of "eternal security" or "once saved always saved." Catholics view salvation as a life-long journey and our salvation as a gift we must safe-guard at all cost. The Protestant doctrine of "eternal security" denies the doctrine of man's free will which includes man's right to choose or to reject obedience to God's authority and thereby to choose or reject salvation. Catholics view this doctrine as dangerous because it gives a false sense of security in that a person could sin and sin without repentance and could falsely believe their salvation was never in jeopardy.
Question: How would you answer a Protestant brother or sister who asked you if you had assurance of your salvation?
Answer: In his book Catholicism and Fundamentalism author Karl Keating had a good response to this inquiry. He advises the Catholic to respond: "'I am redeemed,' answers the Catholic, 'and like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling, with hopeful confidence'but not with a false assurance'and I do all this as the Church has taught, unchanged, from the time of Christ.'" Catholicism and Fundamentalism page 176
Catechism references for Romans chapter 8 [* indicated passage quoted in citation]
Resources used in Romans chapter 8:
The Interlinear Bible Greek-English, volume IV
The Teachings of the Church Fathers, Ignatius Press
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Dogmatic Canons and Decrees: The Council of Trent; Vatican Council I; etc.
The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II
Jerome's Commentary on Romans
Chrysostom's Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans
The Salvation Controversy
Romans, Joseph Fitzmyer
Romans, Brendan Byrne
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture'Romans
Modern Catholic Dictionary
Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians", Karl Keating
Martin Luther's Letters: Letter from Luther to Melancthon, August 1, 1521
Luther's Works, Erlangen, vol. 29, page 126
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.