All Things for Good: Trusting God and Sanctification
March 10, 2019
In his book Rise and Shine, Chuck Swindoll recounts a significant event from the past century:
When the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was opened by Queen Victoria in 1851, people flocked to Hyde Park to behold what they called the ‘marvels.’ The magic power back then was steam…steam plows, [the] steam organ, even a steam cannon.
Do you know what won the prize? It was a steam-driven invention that had 7000 parts — all kinds of pulleys, bells, whistles, and gears…gears that meshed with other gears that hummed in harmony and whirled in perfect synchronization. It was a sight to behold. Interestingly, it accomplished nothing.
Some of us feel the same way — that our lives are a complex web of activities and people and problems that have no meaning. Our lives feel, at times, futile. Our lives feel empty, or when they are full, they are full only of heartache and trouble that is “worthless.” Our lives may be inundated by burdens that have left us sad, depressed, angry, apathetic, relationally disengaged, disillusioned, and sometimes suicidal — or some combination of two or more of these. We have problems and we want out of them because we just don’t see any value or benefit to our circumstances. Life has become overwhelmingly difficult.
In two short verses, Paul gives tremendous hope to us when we are being especially troubled by life. Romans 8:28-29 is a gift of God to offer comfort, peace, and hope to us when we are suffering.
These verses are about sanctification in every kind of circumstance of life. The context of the chapter tells us they are about sanctification and the stated goal of what God is doing in these verses tell us that they are about sanctification.
While they are about sanctification, these verses are also about God. While al the Bible is God’s revelation about Himself, the book of Romans particularly emphasizes that. The name God appears 153 times in this book, approximately once every three verses, more than any other New Testament book except the much shorter books of 1 Peter and 1 John. These two verses refer to God by name, pronoun, or inference nine times, emphasizing the sovereign power and authority behind the believer’s sanctification. He not only has the power to sanctify, but He has the authority and right to sanctify us. Those references also serve as a means of encouraging the believer to trust the God who is accomplishing the reader’s sanctification.
As we look at these verses, we will find that Paul’s emphasis is —
God designs every circumstance of our lives for our spiritual advantage.
Or to say it even more concisely, God is sovereignly guiding our sanctification. As we consider this passage, we will find five components to our sovereignly-ordered sanctification —
- The Reality of Sovereign Sanctification
- The Limitation of Sovereign Sanctification
- The Extent of Sovereign Sanctification
- The Hope of Sovereign Sanctification
- The Good of Sovereign Sanctification
As we consider this passage, let me remind you of the context in which Paul is writing these words.
There are five major sections to this book (apart from the introduction and conclusion):
- Sin — the gospel and the unbeliever (1:18 – 3:20)
- Salvation — the gospel and justification (3:21 – 4:25)
- Sanctification — the gospel and growth in justification (5:1 – 8:39)
- Sovereignty — the gospel, Israel, and the church (9:1 – 11:36)
- Service — the gospel and ministry (12:1 – 15:33)
Chapter eight is the culminating chapter on sanctification — a chapter that has been called by many, “the greatest chapter in the Bible.” It is great because it contains repeated expressions of hope for the believer and repeated declarations of the greatness of God, culminating in a great benediction of praise to God. In the middle of this chapter on sanctification, Paul deposits an encouragement for the kind of circumstances in which God sanctifies a believer and how those circumstances are good.
There are several key verses in Romans 8 for the reader to remember as he reads verses 28-29. Paul begins the chapter by reminding the readers that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1; contrast 3:9-23; 6:23). While they had been under condemnation, because of Christ’s imputed righteousness (Rom. 3:21 – 4:25), there is no more condemnation for believers, even those who still struggle with the flesh (7:14-25).
Further, Paul reminds the readers that in the flesh, it is impossible to please God (8:8), but the confidence that the believer has is that he is no longer in the flesh if he has been justified (v. 9). Thus, having the Spirit of God, it is possible for the believer to please God in any and every circumstance (as he will emphasize in v. 28).
As believers, Christ is in us (v. 10), the Spirit is in us, we are alive (v. 11), and it is possible to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh (we can put to death the deeds of the body by the power of the Spirit, vv. 12-13). Again, Paul is emphasizing the possibility of change and transformation because of the indwelling Spirit who brings the power of the risen Christ.
Believers in Christ are adopted sons of God and heirs of God (vv. 14-17), pointing to our freedom from slavery to sin (v. 15). The believer does not have to sin because of the power of the Spirit and his position as a son of God.
We have a hope of a glorious life ahead (v. 18), but both we and creation endure sufferings now, awaiting full redemption that far surpasses and present troubles (vv. 18-25). There is trouble in the world that still emanates from Adam’s fall. But there is confidence in a better life in Glory.
In our sufferings and weakness, the Spirit is our helper (vv. 26-27; fulfilling Jesus’ promise of Jn. 14:16-17). He not only equips and empowers us (vv. 14-25), but He also prays for us as our intercessor. He is what we need in our troubling days.
Paul would have the reader know all the realities of God’s provision for him in mind as he reads verses 28-29. Those verses do not stand alone, but they are positioned on the broad shoulders of theological truth concerning the work of Christ, the gift of the Spirit, the adoption of believers as sons, and the hope of eternity. It is particularly because of these realities that Paul is able to affirm what he says in verses 28-29.
Download the rest of this sermon on Romans 8:28-29.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.