Romans 8: Vistas of Love

Introduction: God is Love

if you were asked to describe God, sum up his character in one word, what would that word be?
God is …?
as a kid, maybe my first answer would have been:
God is love.
remember the old Sunday school song:
Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong
they are weak, but he is strong[1]
 
one of my first memory verses was:
for God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son (John 3:16).
 
 
God is love, so I am loved, and I am safe in his arms.
If you were blessed with loving parents and a secure childhood,  
it was fairly easy to believe
A simple childlike faith.
 
 
One of the most chilling things I’ve seen is a kid who thinks they been deserted.
one time, I saw a little girl, ice cream in her hand.
She looked around, and Mummy was gone.
The ice cream was forgotten,
Her eyes were full of sheer terror, deep primal fear.
bewildered, alone, abandoned
of course, she was fine.
Mum stepped out of the shop and got her
 
But as we grow older, sometimes we feel abandoned like that
 
in our teens, the love of our parents may seem to fail – they just doesn’t understand
but we discover that other great source of love: the opposite sex.
And the promises flow freely.
Promises of eternal fidelity
Surely this true love will last for ever, nothing will separate us.
But, of all forms of human love, romantic love is often the shortest lived.[2]
 
 
Once upon a time, we were safe and secure
the love of our parents was perfect, the love of our guy or girl would last forever.
“What a beautiful world it was once”
 
But cracks appear,
friends fail us, lovers desert us,
dreams turn to dust.
splinters of broken promises lodge in our hearts.
We are homesick for a home that is no more
it seems like love doesn’t last.
 
If you had a religious upbringing, you may repress the question for a while – that’s heresy, blasphemy!
But sooner or later, lying awake at night,
the fundamental question wiggles its way up from our subconscious:
if human love is so fickle and fleeting, is God’s love any different?[3]
 
 
It’s worse if we’ve absorbed some Santa Claus theology.
If you’re a good little boy or a nice little girl, Santa will give you lots of presents.
 
Here’s two big problems with Santa Claus theology:
firstly, sometimes Santa drops his bag of presents down the chimneys of spoiled little brats,
while good kids go to bed hungry.
Santa is incompetent, or he just doesn’t care.
when bad things happen to good people – especially to me – we often doubt God’s love.
Maybe all those lovely Sunday school songs were just a little bit naive?
 
 
Here is the second problem with Santa Claus theology:
Santa’s love depends on me being a good boy.
But all of us have said and done stupid selfish things that hurt those we love.
We carry a load of guilt
the day comes when we look in the mirror, and don’t like what we see.
We are ashamed
we don’t deserve nice presents, we don’t deserve God’s love.
 
what’s more, many of us struggle with rejection or low self-esteem,
accusing voices, condemning voices:
You’re worthless, you’re ugly, you’re a failure, you’re a loser.
No one wants you, no one will ever love you
Least of all God, who sees what you’re really like.[4]
 
 
In short, bad stuff happens to me, and I feel bad about myself – how can God love me?
did you ever sing as a kid,
“nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I’m going to the garden to eat worms”?
Jesus loves me, this I know? – I’m not so sure…
 
Have you ever asked those questions about God’s love?
Do those thoughts, in that long sleepless night, sometimes creep in?
Hang on to them for a moment while we get up to speed with our text for today.
 

Pilgrim’s Progress ­– The Romans Road

Since April, we’ve been in the book of Romans chapters 3-8 of 16
Romans is Paul’s biggest letter
 
biblical scholar Tom Wright wrote:
It is by common consent his masterpiece. It dwarfs most of his other writings, an Alpine peak towering over hills and villages…  Not all climbers have taken the same route up its sheer sides, and there is frequent disagreement on the best approach. What nobody doubts is that we are here dealing with a work of massive substance, presenting a formidable intellectual challenge while offering a breathtaking theological and spiritual vision.[5]
 
Formidable, yes – I’ve felt a little intimidated by it – I hadn’t really studied it till this year.
but I hope we’ve caught a little glimpse of its alpine splendor, the breathtaking vision, over the last months
I encourage you to read right through the first eight chapters in one sitting, to see the big picture.
That’s one of our goals for today.
 
One way of making sense of it all, is to view Romans as the story of every man or every woman.
A sort of Pilgrim’s Progress, charting the journey of the individual Christian.
So let’s briefly hike the Romans Road.
It starts pretty low, but climbs up to the summit, so get your tramping boots on. 
Along the way, we may find some answers to our questions about God’s love – look out for them.
 
In Romans chapter 1, our Pilgrim turns away from God,
he falls into ever deeper sin.
if he tries to live up to God’s standard, he only sees how far short he falls (chapter 2).
 
The day comes, when he realises he deserves God’s wrath, God’s hatred of evil.
In the courtroom of heaven on judgement day,
he will be accused, found guilty of breaking God’s law, and condemned to death (6:23)
it’s a dark, dark valley.  He’s doomed!
 
but then, he discovers that his penalty was paid on the cross of Christ.  (Chapter 3)
if he simply puts his trust in Christ, God will declare him righteous, not guilty
This is one of Romans’ biggest themes: justification by faith – saved by the grace of God.
 
The start of Chapter 5 is like the honeymoon of the new born Christian.
He looks down into the dark valley he’s come out of.
Back then, down there, he was God’s enemy, under God’s wrath.
Now he has peace with God, reconciled. (5:1)[6]
God pours out love into his heart and fills him with hope – it’s wonderful.
 
A peak experience, he’s on top of the world, but then he sees it’s just a foothill.
The onward path goes down into another valley
although our Pilgrim is free from the penalty of sin, he finds the power of sin is still very active.
he really wants to please God, but he can’t, and is full of grief when he fails (chapter 7)
 
Then in chapter 8, he starts learning to walk by the Spirit,
the track climbs again, as he experiences the power of the Holy Spirit overcoming sin in his life
he climbs higher, heading up to the true summit of chapter 8, the great hope,
the glorious day when he will be like Christ.  (8:29).
 
 
There you go, the first half of Romans in a nutshell.
for some of us here, that may quite accurately describe the progress of our life.[7]
who identifies with this journey?
 
On the way, did you spot an answer to the problem of Santa Claus theology?
to the worry that I’m not good enough, I’m not lovable enough, for God to love me.
 
 
It’s the message of salvation by God’s grace alone.
God is very different from Santa – he doesn’t only love good boys and girls.
Maybe someone could die for a good person (5:7), but
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (5:8)
while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to God (5:10)[8]
Long before we loved him, while we were frankly rather unlovable, he actively set his heart on us.
 
 
We are put right with God, he loves us,
Not by any human effort, but simply by faith in Jesus Christ
“faith in Christ” is one of Paul’s favourite phrases,
All you and I have to do is have faith in Christ.
 
The problem is, some of us are pretty paranoid – I’m one of them!
As a teenager, I sometimes worried: did I have enough faith in Christ for God to accept me?
You might well say, “David – you’re thick.  You’re an idiot.  You’ve missed Paul’s whole point.”
And you’d be right, but
I’ve met others who said the same – I’m not the only fool in town!
 
One of my exciting aha moments in theology study was this:
“faith in Christ” can often be translated, the “faithfulness of Christ”.
For thickos like me, that drives home the key point:
I am saved not by my own weak wavering faith in Christ,
but Christ’s unshakable faithfulness – first to God, then to me.
I like that – a much more secure foundation.
 
 
So the good news is that God loves and accepts us just as we are.
But God loves us too much to leave as we are.[9]
 
He is in the business of making ugly people beautiful, unlovable people lovely and lovable.
ultimately making us as good and true and beautiful as Jesus Christ himself. (8:29)
 
 
What a contrast to my human love:
first I see someone who seems attractive, who can fulfill my needs.
And then I love them.
but what if they change: stop being so attractive, so lovable, so fulfilling.
My love might change too.[10]
 
 
God’s love for us is very different.
He doesn’t need anything from me,
But God is love, it is his nature to love, he loves loving,
he couldn’t stop loving, if he tried, so to speak.[11]
So first, God loves me.
And then, second, his love makes me good and beautiful, lovely and lovable.
The opposite way around.[12]
 
That’s what we learn from the Romans Road of salvation – God first loves me.
It’s one good way to scale the summit,
to make sense of this big book.
 

Salvation History – Children of Abraham

Romans, however, is a painting on a vast canvas.[13]
the individual Pilgrim’s Progress highlights some things, and hides others.
And I think some of the stuff that it misses can help answer our doubts about God’s love.
 
One of the discoveries I’ve made as I studied Romans this year, is that
Romans is all about the character of God. [14]
the love of God
the faithfulness of God.
In particular, God’s faithfulness in keeping his promises throughout the ages.
 
The Romans Road approach shows God’s timeless love and faithfulness in saving the individual person.
But Romans is also about God’s historical love and faithfulness to his people Israel. [15]
 
You see, Romans is a book about history.
Not political or social or military history like you learn in school,
but salvation history – the history of God’s saving love.
 
So put your boots on again,
We’re going to climb a different face of the Romans mountain, and see what the view looks like from this side.
Get your ropes and helmets too – it’s a less familiar, steeper face.
this route starts with Israel’s story from the Old Testament.
Once again, keep your eyes open for clues about God’s love.
 
 
In the beginning, Adam and Eve knew God intimately.
But they turned away from the knowledge of God.[16]
humanity was faithless and betrayed its creator.
The story could have ended there,
But the romance wasn’t over:
God stayed faithful despite our infidelity
 – he had a rescue plan.
 
 
God called a man named Abraham, and made him a curious promise:
You will become the father of many nations, and all peoples will be blessed through you
(Genesis 12:3; Romans 4: 13, 18)
the promise seemed impossible.
How could Abraham be a Dad – he and his wife had no kids, and were far too old.
But Abraham was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (4:21).
 
And he was right.
God kept his promise and Isaac was born, and from Isaac, Jacob,
and from Jacob, in time, the whole people of Israel.
the chosen people.
So why did God choose them?  Why did he love them?
Not because they were more numerous or worthy or righteous than anyone else.
Just because God is God and God is faithful, and he kept his promise to Abraham:
 
It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you … it was not because of your uprightness … it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors … he is the faithful God….
Deuteronomy 7:7-10, 9:5
 
It’s the national historical version of the individual good news from our first hike through Romans:
God first loves us, God first chooses us, and God stays faithful to us, whether or not we deserve it.
Bye bye Santa!
 
 
The Old Testament compares God’s love of Israel to the same two human relationships we saw at the start.
God and his people are like parent and child:
“Israel is my firstborn son.”  (Exodus 4:22)
 
And they are like lovers, like husband and wife:
For your maker is your husband (Isaiah 54:5).
As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you (Isaiah 62:5)
 
What a privilege.  What an intimate relationship of love.
But the Old Testament is a sad story of Israel’s rebellion.[17]
Committing spiritual adultery, deserting her God, rejecting her divine husband.
In the prophets, God lamented their faithlessness:
Your love is like the morning mist,
    like the early dew that disappears (Hosea 6:4)[18]
 
It’s as if God felt the same way we do when someone close betrays us, when love doesn’t last.
When I know I’ve failed God, I can ask, will God still love me? 
 
and in Romans, Paul asks exactly that question on a bigger scale:
Will Israel’s faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?  (Romans 3:3)
 
It’s maybe the central question of the book:
will human lovelessness nullify the love of God?
when people are false, when our promises fail,
will God’s promises fail too, will God also be untrue?
 
 
what is Paul’s answer?
By no means!  Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true (3:4)[19]
 
God keeps his promises, even when we don’t.[20]
 
God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son.
Where Adam failed, where Israel failed, where we fail,
Jesus Christ was faithful to his father’s plan – even to death.
As a result,
In Christ all God’s promises are “yes” (2 Corinthians 1:20)[21]
 
In particular, the key promise to Abraham: “you will be the father of many nations.”
 
Paul hammers this home in Romans:
Abraham is the ancestor of all who believe (4:11).
It is not the natural children who are God’s children,
but the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. (9:8)[22]
 
This is the concept behind the old Sunday school song,
Father Abraham had many sons
many sons had father Abraham
I am one of them, and so are you.
So let’s just praise the Lord.
 
in Christ, you and I are Abraham’s spiritual children, we are part of God’s chosen people.
 
In chapter 9, Paul lists some of the blessings given to Israel:
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises (9:4)
 
What we find in Romans, is that all these blessings are now given to all believers in Christ.[23]
it would be a good exercise to work through them all, but we don’t have time today.
 
Perhaps the most wonderful is adoption:
even if our own families reject us, we are in God’s family:
You received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” (8:15-17)
 
We belong, we are wanted, we are loved.[24]
 
————–
 
Well, do you like the view from this side of the mountain?
Puts Romans in a new perspective!
 
On our first climb, we saw God’s love and faithfulness and promise keeping to individuals, you and me.
In our second ascent, we saw God’s love and faithfulness and promise keeping on a big historical scale.
For me, it deepens our appreciation of how much God can be trusted.
 
Every infatuated teenager makes the promise, “I will love you for ever.”
In most cases, yeah right…
 
God, as it happens, says much the same to us.
But in God’s case, there are thousands of years of history to prove it.
The foundations of God’s faithfulness, the roots of his love, are deep and unshakeable. [25]
 
 
Maybe you’ve experienced rejection and betrayal and faithlessness
it’s hard for you to believe that you can be loved.
 
Then meditate on what we’ve seen:[26]
Believers in Christ are adopted into God’s family, we’re part of his chosen people.
In God we have a father, who will never fail us.
In Christ we have a lover, and a brother,[27] who will never leave us.
Because our God keeps his promise of love for all time, through all generations.
 
 
Whichever path we’ve taken, whatever face we’ve climbed, we’ll reach the summit at the end of Romans 8.
what, asks Paul, are we to say about all these wonderful things? (8:31).
How can we possibly sum it all up?
 
And here his theological arguments fall silent,
He’s just lost in wonder, awe and praise.[28]
 
It’s been a long hard climb.
So now let’s take off our helmets, put down our packs,
We’ve reached the summit of Romans.  Let’s enjoy the vista of love.[29]
 

No condemnation, no separation!

Reading: Romans 8:31-39.
 
We started today with two big reasons to doubt God’s love:
I’ve done bad stuff, I’m not lovable, I don’t deserve God’s love.
and bad stuff gets done to me, life is cruel, how can God really love me?[30]
Both are answered here.[31]
 
in verses 31-34 we are again in the law court, like the first chapters of Romans.
Again, we hear the accusing, condemning voices:[32]
You’re a failure, a loser,
You’ve broken God’s law, you’re a guilty sinner.
 
 
Think of the woman caught committing adultery.  (John 8:1ff)
The religious leaders dragged her before Jesus – a sort of outdoor trial,.
Moses’ law prescribed death.
They surrounded her, accusing her, condemning her, keen for a kill.
She hangs her head in shame and fear.
She cringes, waiting for the first stone to strike.
 
But Jesus defends her, he intercedes for her.[33]
And then he asks,
“Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”
she looks up.
she looks around
wonder, relief, joy – her enemies are gone
who accuses her?
Who condemns her?
“No one, sir.”[34]
 
 
Four times Paul asks the question,
Who can ever be against us?
Who dares accuse us?
Who will condemn us?
Who can keep Christ’s love from us?  (Living Bible)[35]
No one!
God is the judge, and he’s already given his only Son for us – he is not going to stop loving us now.[36]
he’s been faithful to his people for thousands of years, he is not going to desert us now.
 
God is for us,
And the case against us is thrown out of court,
 
 
The trial is over, and in 35-39, we are left with the language of love.
Bad stuff happens in life – Paul knows all about it.
trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
he experienced all of these himself – read Acts or 2 Corinthians.
All except the sword – a few years later, he would meet that in Rome.
 
In chapter 4, Abraham was convinced that God keeps his promises. (4:21)
Here in chapter 8, Paul is convinced that God keeps on loving (8:38).
 
Nothing, neither death nor life, angels nor demons, today or tomorrow, high or low.
Nothing can drive a wedge between God and his people (The Message).
Not even the sword that cuts off your head or pierces your heart (John Piper).
There can be no separation from God’s love.
 
The Greek word separate is used by Paul and Jesus for divorce.
And Paul’s language reminds me of the marriage vow.
If you doubt God’s love today, imagine God saying to you:
I take you to be my wedded spouse. To have and to hold, from this day forward – present and future,
for better, for worse – in the highs and lows – for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health,
to love and to cherish…
…’till…death do us part?
No, not even that!
 
Even the best human love will pass away, but
God’s love is stronger than death, his passion fiercer than the grave (Song of Songs 8:6)
God makes a promise to each one of us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5)
and God keeps his promises – he means never.
 
Remember the little ice cream girl, terrified that Mum’s abandoned, forsaken, forgotten her.
God says this to you:
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, and have no compassion on the child she has borne? 
Though she may forget, I will not forget you.  (Isaiah 49:15).
 
 
In a way, we’re back where we began:
Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong
they are weak, but he is strong
 
Yes, “the king of love my shepherd is”.
no one – no thief, no wolf, no thing in all creation –
can steal his sheep, can snatch his little ones out of his strong hand (John 10:28)
 
 
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good…
Though the mountains may depart and the hills be removed…
His steadfast love endures forever (Psalms, Isaiah 54:10, Lamentations 3:22)
 

Conclusion

A few months ago, I found a blog by a pastor,
who was overwhelmed at the challenge of preaching Romans.
here are his conclusions:
 
1. Romans is BIG.
2. Paul was a genius.
3. God is BIG.
4. God is a genius.
5. No one can ever “know” Romans.
6. I’m no longer concerned whether I’m justified, glorified, sanctified, or deep fried;
I know that I’m loved, and that’s enough for me.[37]
 
 
Well said.
Over the last months, we’ve covered a lot of ground in Romans.
Today I’ve tried to pull together some of the threads, to show the flow of Paul’s argument, the big picture.
We’ve seen two complementary ways to do that.
I hope it’s made sense, been helpful, you’ve got excited by Romans, and a few people are inspired to read it for themselves.
But if all been a bit much, hang onto this:
whichever path we take to climb the Romans mountain, we come to the same summit:
the faithful, promise keeping, love of God.
 
Our security rests not on ourselves, but on the unchanging character of God.
God is faithful, even when I’m not.
God keeps his promises, even when people don’t.[38]
We are loved.
 
 
The history of your life may be littered
with betrayals, broken promises, shattered dreams, unfaithfulness, untrue love.
 
But if you’re married to Christ, you will never be divorced
if you’re adopted by God, you will never be an orphan.
You are part of God’s family.
Sons and daughters of Abraham, children of God.
“wrapped in love like a blanket.”
 
In Christ, there is no condemnation and no separation!
you are wanted, you belong
God is love, so you are loved.
 
 
I pray that you may have the power, together with all the saints,
to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.   (Ephesians 3:16-19)[39]
 
 
Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood[40]
 
 
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.[41]
 

 


[1] so high you can’t get over it, so wide you can’t get around it, so deep you can’t get under it,
[2] CS Lewis.  Shakespeare summed it up: Ophelia: ‘tis brief my Lord / Hamlet: as woman’s love.
[3] “God is love – I dare say.  But what a mischievous devil love is!”  Samuel Butler
[4] Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end?
Has God forgotten to be gracious,
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?  Psalm 77:8-9
[5] Also, Romans, “is suffused with resurrection.  Squeeze this letter at any point, and resurrection spills out; hold it up to the light, and you can see Easter sparkling all the way through.  If Romans hadn’t been hailed as the great epistle of justification by faith, it might easily have come to be known as the chief letter of resurrection …” giving the Corinthian letters a good run for their money (NT Wright, 2003, 241).
[6] “the effect of righteousness will be peace”.  Isaiah 32:17
[7] If you like big theological words, you could sum it up as condemnation replaced by justification, then increasing sanctification leading to glorification.
[8] as author Phillip Yancey summed up the gospel, “we’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway”.
[9] the unmerited favour of justification, and the transforming power of sanctification.
[10] “love built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies” (Donne).  Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds (Shakespeare)
[11] one meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity, the “circulation of divine love and life and energy into which we are drawn” (Thomas Finger).  One name for the Holy Spirit is the bond of love between father and son.
[12] If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
‘I love her for her smile-her look-her way
Of speaking gently,-for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day’-
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,-and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,-
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet  14
[13] “Paul splashes his verbal paint onto the canvas in huge dollops, and does not stop to touch it up.”(NT Wright, 2003, 250).
[14] Romans is about the gospel of the righteousness of God revealed in the faithfulness of Jesus that issues in salvation for all who believe” (1:16-17)  C Talbert, 2002, in Witherington, 2004, 3.
[15] for Martin Luther, Romans was about God’s vertical grace: how an individual sinner can get right with a perfect, just and wrathful God.  Many now see Romans 1:16 as key-the gospel is “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” – God’s horizontal grace that embraces and unites and reconciles all peoples.
[16] Through Adam’s sin, death – separation from God – spread to all people, and now rules over us all (5:12, 17).  Even nature itself was enslaved, subject to emptiness and futility (8:20)
[17] As God’s special people, Israel was called to be the source of God’s salvation from sin and death, a guide to the blind Gentile nations, a light in the darkness (Romans 2:19), so through Moses, God gave Israel his law to show them how to live his way.  but the problem of sin got worse.  Romans 2 tells us that the Law of Moses just highlighted the fact Israel itself was no better.  God’s chosen people were just as lost in sin as the Gentiles they looked down on.
[18] like the flowers of the field that quickly wither (Isaiah 40:6)
[19] God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19
[20] In Romans, God is supremely a God of justice or righteousness (the same word in Greek, the root comes over 60 times in Romans – eg 1:17).  This is not just an abstract cold balancing of the scales type justice.  In the Old Testament, righteousness is about fulfilling the claims of a relationship: Israel’s righteousness is keeping the laws of God’s covenant, while God’s righteousness is his loyalty to the covenant and saving intervention (Chris Marshall).  The justice and righteousness of God is about “God’s faithfulness to his person and promises” (Moo).  That includes God’s condemnation of sin, but more often, God’s faithfulness to his people seen in saving action, putting them back into right standing, right relationship with himself.  (In the LXX, occurrences of saving to judging are about 4:1 – Witherington). “God’s justice is his love in action” (NT Wright).  In the Old Testament, God’s justice and mercy are mostly in parallel, not in tension.  Romans 3:26 indicates that the gospel both manifests God’s own justice, proving that God himself is just, and is an act of restorative justice, justifying those accused by the enemy and oppressed by law, sin, and death (Chris Marshall).
[21] Christ came “to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs” (15:8)
[22] a person is a Jew who is one inwardly and real circumcision is a matter of the heart (2:29).  Israel is the root of the tree, and we Gentile believers are grafted in (11:17).
[23] God’s glory that was lost, that we fell short of in Romans 1-3, is now regained (8:21).
[24] Believers are so to speak married to Christ (7:1-4).  Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25).  God says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”  “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called children of the living God.” (9:25-26).  What love the father has given us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1).
[25] “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (11:29)
[26] referring to Romans 5:5-8, John Piper points out that God’s love is both a subjective feeling, experienced in the heart (5:5) and an objective fact, demonstrated in history (5:6-8): by meditating on the facts, the experience happens, mediated by the Spirit.  “The Holy Spirit is not a mood altering drug.  He is an illuminator of the glory of God’s love in the work of Christ… a heart-eye opener to ravishing reality…”
[27] e.g. Hebrews 2:10-13
[28] he breaks out with “a poet’s fervour and a lover’s rapture”  (Barclay), in “a purple passage of praise.”  (Dunn).
[29] Romans 8 has been called, “the inner sanctuary in the cathedral of Christian faith.”, and verses 31-39 are like a musical coda, picking up the key themes of the symphony, merging the language of the law court and the marriage contract (Wright)
[30] John Piper sums up the message as, “God in Christ giving massive security for merciful service through many sufferings”.
[31] These verses echo the start of the section at 5:1-11, repeating the central theme of assurance.
[32] The word Satan means accuser. “The Accuser of our brothers, who accuses them day and night before God” (Revelation 12:10).  See Job 1-2.  In Zechariah 3:1-5, the Prophet  Zechariah had a vision.  He saw the high priest Joshua standing before  the Lord.  He was dressed in filthy clothes, and Satan was accusing him.  But then the Lord said, “the Lord rebuke you Satan”.  And  the Angel of the Lord said “Take off his filthy clothes … see, I have taken away your sin and guilt, and I will put rich garments on you.”
[33] Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, and Christ prays for us!  (JB Phillips)
[34] “if we sin, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ, the righteous one.”  (1 John 2:1)  God is love, so we “may have boldness on the day of judgement…. there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment… we love, because he first loved us”  (1 John 4:16-19)
[35] There are six or more ways to punctuate this question and answer sequence.  Cf The Lord GOD helps me…  And I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty? (Isaiah 50:7-9)
[36] As Abraham did not withhold his own son (Genesis 22:12, 16).  God gave Christ over, instead of giving sinners over to wrath (1:24, 26, 28) – the same Greek word.
[37] http://www.parablesofaprodigalworld.com/2008/10/top-10-things-i-learned-while-teaching.html
[38] We don’t deserve God’s love, yet in a way we do have a claim on it, because God has bound himself by faithfulness to his promise (Theological Word of the Bible, 132)
[39] How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
[40] Your love, oh Lord, Reaches to the heavens; Your faithfulness stretches to the sky. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice flows like the ocean’s tide. (Psalm 36:5)
[41] By Fred­er­ick M. Leh­man, 1917, based on the Jew­ish poem Had­da­mut, writ­ten in Ara­ma­ic in 1050 by Meir Ben Isaac Ne­hor­ai, a can­tor in Worms, Ger­ma­ny.  See http://en.allexperts.com/q/Poetry-678/Poetry-9.htm.

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