Proper 12 · Romans 8:28-39 · July 27, 2008
By William W. Schumacher,
We sketched a connected theme in the previous two lessons, both of which dealt with the struggle of faith in a fallen world. The first focused on “Life by the Spirit of Christ,” and the second celebrated “Hope in the Midst of Suffering.” This third of our consecutive readings turns our eyes and hearts vividly to “God’s Final Victory.”
In spite of the sufferings and struggles we face now, God’s victory is sure. His love for us in Jesus Christ will not abandon us or be overcome by any enemy or difficulty. His determination to save us and reclaim us extends from eternity past (predestination), to his present activity (calling and justifying), to the glorious future. Here it is especially interesting to note the aorist verbs in verse 30. We easily grasp why predestination is placed in the past, because that clearly refers to a past decision of God. But how are we to understand the whole string of active aorist indicative verbs? Have all these things already happened? Have we already been called, justified, and glorified? The use of the aorist in this passage is reminiscent of the use of the “prophetic perfect” in Biblical Hebrew, with the same force: even future actions of God are as sure and certain as though they had already taken place.
What this means is that all God’s promises, including His as yet unfulfilled promise of final glorification, are equally sure and certain. Christian hope (in Paul’s sense of the word) is not a pious wish about what God might do or plucky optimism about how things might turn out. It is faith in the future tense, and like faith in any dimension, this hope trusts confidently because it is anchored in God’s word of promise.
Hope in God’s final victory strengthens us in the face of all current difficulties in a way that simply transcends all our experience. Paul’s rhetorical questions in verses 31-35 pile up the certainties that God’s absolute commitment to us simply cannot be shaken, eroded, or compromised. In each case, the “if” (“If God be for us…”) must be understood as “since,” that is, Paul is drawing conclusions based on certainties rather than speculating about possibilities, and therefore the answers to the questions are, so to speak, beyond question. God is for us, therefore no one can prevail against us. He did give His Son for us, so He will certainly give us everything with Christ. He does justify, so no one can condemn us.
There is perhaps no more powerful and beloved expression of confidence and comfort in the face of all struggles and threats and suffering than the final verses of this chapter (w. 38-39). Thousands of millions of Christians have clung to these assurances in the face of the most overwhelming experiences of pain, evil, and death. These verses are the climactic, soaring summary of the whole chapter’s description of our struggle of faith in this very fallen world. In God’s powerful providence and gracious will, what triumphs is ultimately not our endurance, our faithfulness, our insight, or our correctness. The victory is, in the end, God’s victory over everything that would destroy or diminish His creation. And God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord makes His victory our victory.