“For Us and With Us” Romans 8:31-39
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Most cultures recognize a handshake of friendship & greeting; or they respect the idea of making an agreement
with a handclasp. Holding someone’s hand is a different
thing. There is a certain energy about it; maybe there’s
even something kind-of ‘sacred’ about holding someone else’s hand.
Picture in your mind these scenes: /a new parent holding the tiny hand of their newborn baby; /a teacher holding the hand of a timid kindergarten student as they walk the hall to the classroom; /a brave teenager reaching out their hand to help someone who fell down during an athletic event; /a young couple -after a few dates- deciding to hold hands for the first time; /the bride & groom standing at the altar speaking their wedding vows;
…/an elderly person holding the hand of their beloved spouse in the hospital or nursing home. And, of course, /a family member holding the hand of their loved one as he or she passes from this life to eternal life. When you think about it, it’s hard to overestimate the value of one human hand joining together with another. The value is even larger when one hand is more powerful than the other, and brings /support, /protection, /rescue, /mercy, /encouragement.
The Epistle lesson chosen for the theme of LwmL Sunday is familiar to many, from Romans 8. For this passage, the apostle Paul asks two over-arching questions: ‘What then shall we say to these things?’ And ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’
The foundation for these questions is God = mighty & merciful. Our human thinking is often mistaken when it comes to God’s things; sin has clouded our clear view. So, it can be tempting to think that our christian life depends on our good grip, on our strong hold, & on our ability to just hang-on, or hang-in-there with God.
Even some Christian authors or preachers will teach that faith is ‘our grip’ on God; and IF we just hang on to Him, THEN He will hang on to us. Focusing & relying on our strength certainly doesn’t fit with other things the HSp had Paul write for us. Such as when he said: ‘when I am weak, then I am strong.’
Our Christian faith & living are much more supported & clear when we can see things from God’s perspective. Which is this: it is God’s mercy & God’s love that holds us. That’s the right view. /We can be confused, but He is all-knowing; /we can be lost, but He is all-searching; /we are often blind, but He is all-seeing; /we are sinful, but He is all-forgiving. Because we are so insufficient, He needs to be all-sufficient for us = and He is.
In these verses from Romans 8, Paul’s teaching is simple but ‘weighty’ = in 3 parts: 1.+Because Jesus is for us and with us, we have no fear of condemnation. 2.+Because Jesus is for us and with us, we have no fear of separation. 3.+Because Jesus is for us and with us, we are being brought into a victory.
Part one: we have no fear of condemnation. Paul writes: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (vs.31-32).
What things are being given? All the things needed to hold on to us thru this temporary life & into eternal life; that’s why He did not spare His own Son from being condemned in our place. That was the blueprint for man’s salvation, & ours. Now God will not withhold the Gospel message or the HSp or Holy Baptism = the things which bring us to believe in Christ and keep us in Him. Therefore, what shall we say? We must confess this truth: God IS for us. And since God is for us, Paul feeds us the next truths:
“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? Since God justifies us, who is able to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (vs.33-34)
Jesus died to pay for our sins-debt. He was able to rise again because that payment was fully sufficient, and the bill is paid = that check has cleared. By His death & resurrection, we have a new life. And since Jesus has ascended to reign as God’s right hand over all, He is able to walk hand-in-hand with all who are baptized into Him. When Paul reminds us that our Savior IS interceding for us, it means He is fully engaged in the battle with us.
What battle? The battle of living a life of faith in a world that has ripped it’s hand away from God’s good grasp. How safe & secure a child is when they are walking with their hand held by mom or dad. But how many dangers present themselves when that child pulls away and roams around with no guiding hand. The Law of God for living life in His creation is good; His guidance is perfect, His rules are right. But the sinful heart of man is wild & independent. We tend to say things that hurt others, things we later regret. We are driven to have our own way, the way that benefits us first & more than others. We are quick to point out other’s faults and claim to have legitimate reasons for our own faults. Who is it that condemns? Actually, the long-arm of God’s Law condemns us.
And yet, His right hand & His holy arm have worked salvation, that’s Ps.98 The longer arm of the Gospel has reached out to us in the 2nd Person of the Trinity. Jesus is for us and with us. Now, even tho Satan wants to accuse us, and the world tries to condemn us, and even letter of the Law bring charges against us, the powerful hand of the gospel of Christ Jesus rescues us. In Jesus, we have no fear of condemnation. This is the message of the mission that is funded by the mites, as the LwmL walks hand-in-hand with the Church.
Part 2: Because Jesus is for us and with us, we have no fear of separation. Paul wrote: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life , nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vss.35-39)
I hope we don’t hear -in there- that the life of the Christian will be free from tribulation, distress, persecutions & all the rest. That’s not what Paul said. The Church will be attacked for its Bible teaching that Jesus is the only Savior; attacked for believing that God defines morality, & marriage, & God is pro-life. And then, along with unbelievers, believers will face the worldly dangers of hurricanes, the threat from criminals, or the persecution of godless gov’ts. Paul himself faced those very things. We may have health issues that can compare to when Paul talked about the ‘thorn’ in his flesh that he felt was such a hinderance. This life will not always be pleasant or fair. And yet the promise of the all-sufficient One is: nothing can separate you from the strong hand of love from your Savior Jesus.
With no fear of condemnation or separation, we come to our Part 3: Because Jesus is for us and with us, victory is brought into our grasp. Recently on the radio, I heard a preacher say that we cannot rely on a water baptism to save us. And yet, in just one of many places in the Bible, in Romans 6:4, we hear of God’s promise to us in that very way. Paul writes: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
The Baptism of God for us equals victory: the washing away of sin; Baptism brings the new birth & regeneration of the HSp, & the cancelling of the power of the devil over us. In all of these things of God for us we are more than conquerors. How does one become more than a conqueror? By being constantly held up by the One who is absolutely undefeatable.
When the hand of Christ holds on to us, everything against us must fall away.
Our victory in this Christian faith is not secure because of our hold on Christ;
it’s because of His hold on us. That’s the Gospel that is even stronger than God’s Law.
That’s how we are able to live each day, even tho we can fail at things, we can trip-up & fall, we can even be tempted to shake our hand out of God’s hand, and wander around thinking we know a better way. We can do those things, but we pray that the Lord would not let us wander too far before His reaches out to us to hold our hand once again.
The victory belongs to the One who died, who rose, who ascended, and who is coming back again. We are more than conquerors only because the Victor holds on to us. The LwmL is a group of our church body that recognizes that the Savior Jesus is reaching out to hold on to all people = all nations, tribes & languages. And if Jesus is reaching out, then so do we. That means to those of all ages, of both genders, of various ethnic or cultural backgrounds, whether they live far away from us, or just down the street.
Thru the giving of mites, and the support of programs that proclaim that one Gospel message, many souls are receiving the comfort & confidence of living hand-in-hand with the one Creator and one Savior. For that work being done for the kingdom of God, today we are giving thanks. Amen