The Spirit Speaks Unconquerable Hope - Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Romans 8:28-39
July 26, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to turn your attention to the Epistle reading from Romans this morning. Let us spend some time with the things the Spirit of God caused the Apostle Paul to write in Romans chapter 8.

The context of this chapter is the fact that life can get difficult and trying in many ways, something you know quite well. In verse 18, which was read last week, the Apostle Paul says “[f]or I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).

He speaks of the “sufferings of this present time.” Sufferings happen because “creation was subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20). Creation is in “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21). And we are weak, as Paul says that the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness” (Rom. 8:26). Our bodies, which are certainly part of this creation, are subject to this futility and corruption. So the Spirit recognizes that we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as children of God, namely, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23).

In other places in Paul’s letters, the Spirit through the Apostle teaches us that suffering comes through the evil will that is in the world. In the power of this evil will, human beings do bad things to other human beings against God’s law and God’s kingdom in Christ. The evil will is the will of rebellion against God. It is the will of lawlessness and of giving in to sinful cravings contrary to God’s will. The evil will is the will of loving oneself more than God and one’s neighbor. And ultimately, it is the will that will not concede need for and accept the redemption God has provided in His Son; the Son, whom God gave up for us all, who died for our redemption, who is now seated at God’s right hand, who is interceding for us (Rom. 8:32, 34).

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the Spirit of God identifies the source and power of this evil will as the evil “spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:3). Jesus tells us that this spirit was a liar and murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). And this spirit has corrupted our nature.

This is a rather bleak and dismal picture of what has happened to God’s good and beautiful creation, humanity included. Today it seems we see this picture in stark reality because of what is happening in our country these days. In the midst of this, the Holy Spirit reminds us of our hope. He reminds us that we are grounded now in important realities that are ours in Christ Jesus.

We hear these wonderful words: “All things work together toward the good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his plan” (Rom. 8:28); “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31). Yes, dear Christian God is for you, as you take refuge in Christ Jesus in the Gospel.

Who can rightfully accuse God’s elect? It is God who regards a person as righteous, who then is able to condemn (Rom. 8:33-34)? No one. No one has the authority to condemn the person who has taken refuge in  Christ; no has to the right to condemn you, because in Christ you are not condemned by God.

Who or what shall separate us from God’s love in Christ? No one, nothing has that power: no one, nothing.

We, you and I, in Christ are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37). Oh you and I in Christ don’t just conquer barely enough; No, we are more than conquerors. It’s not even close.

The Spirit says all of these things to you, to encourage you, so that your faith does not die, so that your love is not quenched, so that your hope does not give up. And faith, hope and love are very important for our life now.

The Spirit says all of these things to you in the midst of struggle.

There are two aspects to this struggle. First, struggle comes because what we experience, feel, and see in the course of life in this world, does not seem like all things working together for good; it does not seem like being free from disrespect from other people; often it seems like being separated from God’s love; it often seems like not being more than conquerors. Bad and difficult things happen to us and they bring frustration, pain, and loss. When these things happen, it seems like we are separated from God’s love, because our natural way of thinking teaches us to believe that if bad things happen, then God does not love us, and He has either removed Himself or has no power.

 And so the Spirit of God reminds us that we have this unconquerable hope that what we see and feel and suffer, real as it is, is not the ultimately real. It is not the last word. It is not how it will be forever. There is an ultimate word that this fallen world does not recognize. There is a “forever” that this lost world does not see.

This ultimate word, this forever, has broken into our world in God’s action in Jesus Christ and in the word and Sacrament that connect us to Jesus. The world, however, has not regarded it and accepted it; and the world never will.

But God calls you and I to believe in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer from sin and death God has provided. He is the first fruits from the dead. He is the One in whom the aspirations of all creation and humans beings to be free from bondage to sin and death are fulfilled.

This call of God is the Gospel of Christ. And in this Gospel God grounds us in the ultimate word and in the forever that no power on earth or in heaven can take away. And in this Gospel God calls out from the world a congregation Named by the Name of Christ and claimed by God as sons and daughters in Christ so that Christ could be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). You and I are part of this congregation.

And so we are endowed by God with a knowledge of the last word, the forever, that the world does not recognize. In Christ we inherit the new creation set free from the futility and corruption that the creation is currently subject to. In the Gospel, we are grounded in the hope the Spirit speaks to us in the midst of the trouble and turmoil of this world.

This leads to the second aspect of this struggle. The Apostle says a remarkable thing in verse 28 of Romans 8, it is this: He says “we know.” We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, for those who are called according to God’s plan. We know. We know.

Why am I speaking of this knowing in terms of struggle? It is because we might take what we see and feel and experience in the course of this world as knowing and as the ultimately real thing. And yet the Spirit teaches us to know a reality, to know truth, to know our ultimate destiny in Christ in a way that contradicts what we see and feel and experience in the course of this life and world.

And the Spirit is not just teaching us about this knowing as an opinion we kind of hold; something that may be true, that we hope is true in the sense of maybe its true, or maybe it isn’t, but how can one be sure. No. The Spirit teaches us that we know it. We know it with the full conviction of its truth.

But this knowing is a struggle because it’s certainty is in conflict with what we see and feel and experience in the course of this world. This certainty is something we believe and hope for but do not see, yet, and so it is something we must wait for, and it is something that is not fully realized and consummated until a day when the course of this world is brought to an end by our Lord and the new creation, your inheritance, begins.  

We are in a struggle to believe and hope, and so not to give up on God and Christ and our Christian faith; not to lose the power of love, which is the Spirit of Christ working through faith in Him. This is a spiritual struggle.

To uphold us in this struggle, the Spirit speaks to us that what God has purposed and done in Christ cannot be overcome, but Christ will overcome. To uphold us in this struggle, the Spirit tells us that the one God predestined, he called, and the one he called, he justified, and the one God justified he glorified. Notice the progression of predestination, call, and justification leading to glorification.

How can we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to God’s plan? It is because if it is God’s plan, it cannot fail. If God’s plan in Christ was fore-ordained from the foundation of the world, and it was; if God has called you according to this plan in the Gospel, which he has; and if the Spirit is active in this call, which He is; if God regards you as righteous in His sight as you believe the Gospel, and He does; then the glorification is yours and will come to pass for you. No matter what happens here, glory awaits you in Christ. You are anchored in this glory now in the Gospel. The hope of this glory dwells within you through faith and is like a rock. It is hidden under the experience of life in this world. But it is there and true for you, as you believe in and hope in Christ in the Gospel.

When the storms rage that try to convince you that God does not love you, that God’s purpose will not prevail, that God must not be real at all, the Spirit of God reminds us that God regards as righteous and holy and precious to Him as we believe the Gospel. This is something that no power, no one can take away. And those who believe the Gospel, will be glorified. In this glorification, God speaks the last word and brings the full and complete redemption into reality for you.

In that redemption, there will be no more futility of creation. There will be no more corruption. There will be no more weakness. There will be no more groaning deep down in your soul. The evil we experience in the course of this world will be gone. And the surface and height and depth of all existence, your existence, will live in the righteousness, love, and glory of God. And you will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father (Mat. 13:43). This is who you are in Christ and who you will be. Thanks be to God.

Amen.



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