8. The Work of Christ “Now” in His Body (Romans 8:28-39)Related Media
Romans 8:28-39 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 8:29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. 8:31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 8:32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? 8:33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 8:34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 8:37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. NET
This week we turn from the earthly life of Christ to the work of Christ post-resurrection. Here we focus on the same historical time frame as the New Testament epistles—the time in-between Christ’s 1st and 2nd comings. In this context we will ask, “What is Christ doing right now in the lives of His children?” Many passages highlight the current work of Christ in His Body of believers. Romans 8 carries many important themes, and we will add some other passages as well.
Shortly after the birth of our 3rd daughter, we moved to Singapore. A colicky and allergy-prone baby, it was after Ellie’s first birthday before I got my first full night sleep. That fall I found myself in a new country with a new baby and a toddler, and a husband whose job required frequent travel. Others may have met this challenge with more fortitude and finesse, but I was drowning. During a sleepy midnight feeding, I remember reading Psalm 46:10, referring to the Lord as an “ever present help in times of trouble.” I broke down in bitter tears. “What does this mean, Lord? I need someone to knock on my door in the middle of the night to take a feeding! Exactly what kind of help are you offering?” There have been many such moments of struggle where I am tempted to conclude that God’s promises only apply once we make it to heaven. Yet between now and then—what is God doing up there? When I don’t see fruit in my life, is He really working in me? What is He up to right now?
Context for the book of Romans
Some consider Romans the ‘mother’ of all epistles, Paul’s greatest theological contribution to the Church. It contains the most comprehensive and doctrine-rich presentation of the gospel we find in the Scriptures. It is thought to have been written from Corinth at the end of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey, around 57 AD1. It was written to the church in Rome, which had been well established by the time of this letter. A very simple outline is as follows: Chapters 1-8 offer the need for and revelation of God’s righteousness in Christ. Chapters 9-11 detail the particular role of Israel in God’s eternal plan. Chapters 12-16 present specific application in light of the main doctrinal section.
Context for Roman 8:28-39
The end of Chapter 8 comes as a climax of Paul’s comprehensive gospel presentation. Chapters 4 & 5 demonstrate our just condemnation and justification in Christ, and Chapters 6-8—please forgive the simplicity of the summary!—discuss our growth in holiness. In this section, Paul culminates his doctrinal truths with a capstone of final victory and security in Christ.
Suggested Study Schedule
Day 1: Read Romans 1-8
Day 2: Read Romans 12-16 to see Paul’s application points for chapters 1-8
Day 3: Read Acts 28:11-30 to see Paul’s interaction in Rome (after writing Romans)
Day 4: Focus on Chapter 8 noticing the context of 8:28-39 within the section
Day 5: Answer the “discussion questions”
Day 6: Answer “application” questions
Day 7: Spend time in meditation and praise for His current work reflected here.
Discussion Questions: Grasping the Meaning
1. You are likely familiar with Romans 8:28. How do 8:29-30 reflect upon 8:28? What do 8:29-30 reveal about the meaning of “all things work together for good…”? What is His purpose for us and how does He bring it about?
2. What is the meaning of each of these words in 8:29-302?
3. What is the relationship between our being conformed to Christ’s likeness, and Christ being the firstborn of many brothers3?
4. What are the “all things” freely given us by the Father? (Pay attention to context of verses 29 & 30. See also Psalms 84:11, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, Ephesians 1:3; Matthew 6:31-33.) What is Paul’s proof that God really is this generous?
5. What are the four events referred to in 8:34? What significance do they have in light of Paul’s purpose in these verses?
6. Write out the things Paul mentions that cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ. Why do you think he chooses these things? In what sense might the audience have felt these things could separate them from His love?
7. What is Paul’s purpose for quoting Psalms 44:22 in Romans 8:36? What details the Psalm also apply to the Romans’ situation4?
8. What does Paul mean by stating, “in all these things we have complete victory” (8:37)? Conquer what? What is against us? Conquer with what result?
9. Romans 12 begins an application section of the book of Romans. How might Romans 8:28-39 and 12:1-2 be connected?
Application Questions: Grasping the heart
1. Paul emphasizes both our conformity to Christ’s image and the love of Christ together in this Romans passage. How do these two concepts fit together?
2. Like we discussed in our last Hebrews study, this section also mentions Christ’s intercession. Does this passage shed any new light on the purpose or content of His intercession?
3. Is the depth of Christ’s love a personal reality to you? Paul mentions many things he thought his audience might believe could separate them from God’s love. What might you add to this list, in your personal life or in your Christian community? What things tend to cause you to doubt His love? What steps might you take to grow in trust of His eternal, unchanging, abiding love for you?
4. Romans 8 highlights certain elements of Christ’s work in us now, but there are many others. What do these other passages bring to light? (Pay attention to present-tense verbs.) Which most encourage you?
- 1 Corinthians 1:30-31
- Eph 2:19-22
- Eph 4:15-16
- Philippians 2:13
- Colossians 3:1-3
- 1 Peter 1:5
- 1 John 2:1-2
5. Combined with the Romans 8 passage, the verses above can give us a glimpse of what Christ is doing up in heaven right now on behalf of His body. Take a few moments to combine these images and paint a verbal picture of this current work of Christ.
6. How many of these things (His works in us above) are subjectively discernable? In other words—sanctification, His eternal protection, His sustaining love, His preparing us for good works, His serving as our advocate, etc…—can you often feel these? Do you struggle with measuring your growth by what you can ‘feel’ Him doing in you? How can you take steps towards walking by faith and not by sight; trusting in His objective promises which you cannot always measure?
7. In this lesson we have focused on Christ’s activity now. Previous lessons have emphasized some of the things that are yet to come. We want to be careful to hold onto both—He is quite active now, but there is much more to come! How do you hold together this tension between what He is currently doing (asking and believing He hears and answers now,) and what He has yet to do (a healthy longing unfulfilled until we are in His presence)?
8. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
9. Christ, actively working in the lives of His own. What about this week’s study has made Him appear more glorious or beautiful to you? Write a prayer expressing worship in view of your deepening understanding of His current role in His body and one application you will take away from this lesson.
Group Prayer Requests
Thank you for reminding us of the great works you perform in the lives of your children. Sometimes we do not see or feel it and become discouraged. Help us to hold unswervingly to your promises! You are infinitely trustworthy, and we submit our growth to your process and timing. May our lives honor you as we seek to look more like you!
1Nelson’s Bible Maps and Charts, 380.
2 This would be another great time to consult www.bible.org as a resource. Click on “study tools”, then “NeXt Bible learning environment”, then “Study dictionary.” You will find definitions for each of these terms gathered from a wide variety of reliable sources.
3Piper helps us see this more clearly. “Christ died and rose from the dead as the firstborn of many siblings so that he would be seen and enjoyed by them and by others as preeminent, superior, gloriously great. In other words, our destiny to be like Christ is all about being prepared to see and savor his superiority. Without these final words in verse 29, O how easily we would slip into a man-centered view of sanctification that make us and our likeness to Christ the ultimate goal. It is a goal. But it is not the ultimate goal. The exaltation of Christ is the ultimate goal.” Glorification: Conformed to Christ for the Supremacy of Christ, Sermon on August 11, 2002 at http://www.desiringgod.org//, accessed March 14, 2007.
4 Martyrdom was, and has always been, the norm for Christianity. See http://www.persecution.org//, the website of International Christian Concern.
Related Topics: Character of God