Romans 8:31 God is For Us

Romans 8:31       God is For Us                                             WC McCarter

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Let me illustrate this point for you.  Roughly 700 years before Christ, Assyria was the great world empire.  They came down from the north and destroyed the northern nation (and tribes) of Israel in 722 BC.  The prophets of God foretold this event and said that it was the Lord’s judgment on the people because of their rebellion against Him.  In 701 BC, the Assyrians, led by King Sennacherib, went down into the southern nation of Judah and conquered it.  The only city that stood was Jerusalem, and they surrounded it.  There was no chance that Jerusalem and Hezekiah king of Judah could defend or save themselves.  Yet, let me read to you from 2 Kgs 19:9-19, 35-37.  You can turn there too, if you would like.

Time and again, God has fought for His people.  He is sovereign over all things and orchestrates all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  Even when things look very bleak, God shows up for His people, sometimes in miraculous fashion.  Of course, this narrative is only one way that God has been “for” His people in history, but there are several different examples and many ways to consider the fact that God is for us and no one can stand against us in any absolute sense.

Now, let us go back to our main verse today, Romans 8:31.

First Question: What then shall we say to these things?
This question introduces a conclusion.  So, we must decide what section is being concluded.  What does the phrase “these things” refer to?  Three options are before us: (1) it concludes 8:18-30 about hope in the midst of suffering and God’s promise that all things will turn out for good for those who love Him; or (2) it concludes chapters 6-8 about being dead to sin and alive to God; or (3) concludes the entire epistle thus far.  I tend to lean toward this final interpretive option which takes “these things” to refer to the entire epistle.  The NEB translates this question, “With all of this in mind, what are we to say?”  You have heard me say this at the end of sermons before.

*Here is what the apostle is concluding: Chapters 1-8 *Give summary.

Now that we know the whole sweep of God’s work of redemption and love, how do we respond?  Is there even a response that can be given?

Second Question: If God is for us, who can be against us?
There are many who are “against us” in our day.  The culture (especially the sexual revolutionaries); the media; university professors; etc.  Do not let us neglect other things that war against us such as hardships, persecutions, sin, death, and Satan.

The “if” that begins the second question should be taken in the sense of “since it is so.”  It is stated rhetorically.  Let’s not miss the Jewish character of this question: (1) There may be many against us but none compare to the one God (see Isa 40:25-31 and Rom 8:38-39); (2) Many Old Testament saints put there confidence in the Lord even in the midst of their suffering (see Ps 23:4; 56:9; 118:6-7); and (3) There is also the idea of Final Judgment when all God’s people will be vindicated, especially the martyrs.

Conclusion: God is For Us
Not everyone can make the claim that God is for them.  God said many times in the Old Testament, “I am against you says the LORD.”  With God on our side there is no fear of defeat.

Some have attempted to make God out to be a “glory-hog” as if He is only for Himself, but we see here a great summary of the message of the whole Bible that God is also “for us.”  This is the Gospel in one simple verse.  God is no longer against you.  There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  You were once an enemy of God, but He has reconciled you to Himself by the precious blood of Christ.  He is not against you.  He is not angry with you.  He is “for you.”  Therefore, there is no person or thing that we should fear.  Since God is for us, no one can ultimately stand against us.

Philippians 4:10-23 Sweet-Smelling Aroma

Philippians 4:10-23      Sweet-Smelling Aroma                    WC McCarter

The letter began with Paul thanking the Philippians for their sharing in his ministry (SEE 1:3-5).  In humility, Paul comes to the close of his letter with great thanksgiving.  He elaborates on his circumstances and the Philippians’ contributions to his Gospel ministry.

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Need and Contentment (10-14)
In these verses, Paul expresses his joy over the recent gifts that the Philippians had sent him.  It is possible that the Philippians lacked opportunity to give because of several reasons, but maybe the foremost obstacle was Paul’s status which was likely obscured from them.  Without knowing the apostle’s whereabouts or circumstances they were unable to send resources to him.

Paul never denies that he had a need(s).  What he wants to make clear to them is that his needs did not control his mind.  He did not dwell on what he did not have.  He had learned to be content.  Many of us may never learn this significant lesson.  The contentment that Paul speaks of is not a lazy contentment, but a contentment that comes by faith in Christ (we will see v13).

When someone learns to be content, it doesn’t matter if he has much or little.  No matter the state he is in, he is content.  This word “abased” means the same thing as “humbled.”  So he says, “I know how to be humbled.”  (This is the same word used of Christ in 2:8).  For Paul, this is more than experiencing poverty, it is living a life like Christ (SEE Matt 11:29 “lowly” is same word).

In v13 we discover how/why Paul really learned these things.  It was not some self-sufficiency within him that enabled him to endure all things.  He did not “find himself” in the midst of hard times.  He found Christ: the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (3:10).  The Apostle was not expecting the Philippians to help him in his time of need.  He was expecting Christ to empower him as He had before.  Nevertheless, (v14) the Philippians had intervened and Paul wished to thank them and encourage them because they had done well.  God uses His people to relieve sufferings.  The brethren are to bless the brethren.  When we pray to God for daily bread, it may be that God sends one of His own to supply that bread.  We will have seasons when we pray fiercely for our daily bread, and there will be seasons when we are to supply daily bread for others.  Paul recognized the giver more so than the gift.  He was grateful for the Philippians more so than the resources he had just received.  They had done well to share in his distress.  They were practicing things they had learned from Christ.

Christian Giving (15-20)
The Philippians had a special place in Paul’s memory.  When he left from the region of Macedonia, the Philippians were the only ones who financially shared in his ministry.  Specifically, even when he had just left Philippi and arrived in Thessalonica they sent contributions to him “once and again.”

A spirit of joyful giving had grown among the Philippians.  Paul had to be thrilled about such developments in the young church that he had planted.  Spiritual fruit was budding on the Philippian tree.  This activity of giving to Gospel ministry is pleasing to God, and it was surely something that Paul had in mind when he proclaimed and taught the Gospel among the people.  This was a sign of spiritual growth and solid faith.

(1) sweet-smelling aroma (2) acceptable sacrifice (3) well pleasing to God
Equivalent to: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7)

Technical, business/financial language is used throughout these verses:
          1) v15 “concerning giving and receiving”—account of giving and receiving
          2) v17 “abounds to your account”—interest accruing to account
          3) v18 “I am full, having received”—received full payment

A great promise is then made in v19.  The source of our supply is God’s “riches in glory.”  We will always have what we need because we belong to the one who is all-resourceful.  On that note, Paul concludes this passage with a doxology.

Closing (21-23)
There’s not much more that can be said after the great promise of v19 and the doxology of v20.  With the last three verses of the Epistle to the Philippians, the apostle sends his greetings.  This was customary for any letter of that time; so, many scholars have said that we should not read much into the final words.  Yet, as you all know after reading and studying Paul, every sentence has theological significance.  He does not waste one word.  The greetings here at the close of the letter are inspired by the Holy Spirit, just like all the content that came before, and I will show that there is one last plea for unity.

“Greet every saint” means individually.  We are all bound to one another.
“The brethren . . . greet you.”  It is not as if Timothy is the only faithful one left (2:20).  There were many Christians in the company of Paul in Rome.  We tend to lose the big picture.  There are more Christians in our area than are members of our congregation.  In fact, there are Christians all around this globe.  Some are like us: raised in the faith, fairly content with things, have a rather simple life and faith.  We are surrounded by many other Christians and often times we take the name of Christ for granted.  Other Christians in this world suffer many things for His name’s sake; they are tortured for their faith, called on to renounce Christ, forsaken by their families, and even murdered.  We are all Christians no matter our circumstances: red, yellow, black, white.
With the addition of “Caesar’s household” we run into something that is unique among the final greetings of Paul’s letters.  Why does he add, “especially those who are of Caesar’s household?” I propose a couple reasons:

1.  Through Paul’s imprisonment the Gospel had penetrated the heart of the Roman Empire. (1:12-14)
2.  There is a unifying factor: there were wealthy and underprivileged, elite and lowly, Romans and Philippians who bore the name of Christ. [Big Picture]

In some of the best manuscripts this verse reads, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your (pl) spirit (sg)” and literally (in our southern language) it reads “be with y’all’s spirit.”  I tally this up to the unity theme as well.  Although we are individuals, we are on spirit.  May His grace be with us!

Conclusion and Christian Application
We know that this letter served as a thank-you from Paul to the Philippians who had helped him once again with much-needed resources.  Yet, we have learned that it also served as a warning against Judaizers (3:2), and it was a call for unity (2:2).  There was unrest among the Philippians.  Some of the most faithful witnesses in the church could not even get along (4:2).  If the Philippians were going to stand strong, if they were going to be a light throughout Macedonia, if they were going to fight off false teachers they would have to do it together.  Salvation is a corporate experience to be worked out with fear and trembling (2:12).

It is my opinion that JOY can help us to stand strong, united, healthy, and growing.  This is what many Christians do not understand or appreciate: God wants us to have joy/to rejoice, and He wants us to do so together.

          1.  How good it must have felt for Paul to pray with joy! (1:4)
          2.  Paul rejoiced at the preaching of Christ despite injuries (1:18; 2:17)
          3.  He willed to remain for their progress and joy of faith (1:25)
          4.  He put forward his joy as a reason for them to be like-minded (2:2)

There are several verses that utilize both “joy” and/or “rejoice.”  Why is that?

(1) If Paul could convince them to seek the satisfaction of joy in Christ, then there would be no reason for following after false teachings.

(2) If Paul could convince them to seek out the satisfaction of joy in Christ for others, then they would stand united and firm.

Philippians 4:2-9 Rejoice in the Lord

Philippians 4:2-9          Rejoice in the Lord                          WC McCarter


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Final Call for Unity (2-3)
Paul will now give specific application to the message he has taught about unity in the church, and his exhortation in verse one becomes a bridge from the last point into the next. By way of introduction, he says stand fast in the Lord. This allows him to then go on to give practical application of that phrase. Unity is a must for any local church (see 2:2) and the Apostle calls out a few here that will be key figures for that unity in Philippi. Apparently two notable women in the church could not agree with each other on some point. We don’t even know what the argument was or which of the two were really in the wrong. Paul repeats the verb “implore” in speaking to both of the women separately. He does not take sides. The disharmony would discontinue if they would stand fast in the Lord and not in their opinions. It seems to be more of a personality clash than a doctrinal issue.

The church is really the only assembly of people from all walks of life. The Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God, is made up of different genders, different races, different ages, different languages, different levels of education, different levels of financial status…the church incorporates us all. AND there are bound to be some clashes! Yet, we are exhorted “to be of the same mind in the Lord.”

Also, those outside of a “clash” are to help those involved. All of these people are fellow workers alongside Paul. They are Christians. Their names are written in the Book of Life. “Clashes” do not cast us out of salvation, but they have that potential. Do we not know that everything we do and say has an impact? (Especially for those of us who are mature in Christ). We may think that we are standing up for a noble cause, but instead we are inflicting wounds on others that may be difficult to heal. Often, instead of standing fast in our opinions, we need to stand fast in the Lord. After all, we are to be true companions, laborers together in the Gospel, and fellow workers. The word Paul uses for laboring in the Gospel is a word most often used in those days for contending in battle or competing in athletic games. Paul says that these women, and some others, were right alongside him battling for the progress of the Gospel; not physically battling, but spiritually contending for Gospel progress.

The Book of Life actually has Old Testament roots. Moses, David, and Isaiah all referred to it. The Apostle John also referenced it.

Joy and Anxiety (4-7)
(Rejoice) Paul leaves us no space to ask the question, how, after he says “rejoice in the Lord always” because he quickly follows it up by with “again I will say rejoice.” You have heard me say on several occasions that joy is something that can be experienced at all times because it is not an emotion. Emotions change with the weather, but JOY is a rock. I propose to you that the Lord Jesus Christ is Joy, He is our joy. Psalm 95 says, “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods.” Christ is the Rock of our salvation that cannot be moved and all that knowledge can do is cause us to rejoice (shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation). Therefore, when a baby is born we can rejoice; when a Christian dies we can rejoice; when we are struck with an illness we can rejoice; though our eyes begin to fade we will rejoice. With David we will say, “I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”

(Gentleness) It is easy to be gentle with certain people of our choosing, but this word declares that we are responsible for making our gentleness known to all. One person says, “[A] gentle spirit will do much to disarm the adversary” (Kent Jr.).  Thus, Jesus says, “Agree with your adversary quickly. . . .” Now, this word for gentleness is a combination of many ideas including gentle, yielding, kind, forbearing, and consideration. It probably refers to returning good for evil.

“The Lord is at hand” is a promise and word of comfort that the Lord is near to those who belong to Him.

(Peace) How can you be anxious for nothing? In everything let your requests be known to God How do we make our requests known? By prayer and supplication, with/after thanksgiving.

We should not have undue concerns in this life. Should Christians be free from concerns? No, but we must have a godly mind for the things with which God is concerned. On many occasions we concern ourselves with things that are none of our business, or with petty things, or things that are out of our control. Christ says, “…do not worry about tomorrow…” When we finally come to this point in our lives, when we truly make our requests known to God in everything, we will know the peace that surpasses all understanding (SEE Eph 3:20-21). It could also have the meaning of surpassing value rather than the transcending of our understanding (SEE 3:8).  Either way, it will be inexplicable, even incomprehensible… It is the peace of God… And it will guard our hearts and minds. Joy takes the place of our anxiety. The Bible teaches us to look away from ourselves to the needs of our brothers and sisters; yield our wants and even rights for the sake of our brethren. “And as far as your needs are concerned, bring them all before God in an attitude of thankfulness for what he has already given you” (Silva).

A little phrase at the end of verse five puts it all in perspective: “The Lord is at hand.” Specifically of gentleness it can be said that the soon return of Christ is a reminder that He is Judge and we are not (praise the Lord for that fact!). We can be gentle knowing that the Lord will give to each in accordance with his works. Also, this is of foremost importance concerning both joy and peace. We rejoice in the Lord always, knowing that our time here on earth will soon come to an end and the coming of Christ will inaugurate even greater things of joy that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no heart has received. And that is peace. It even surpasses understanding! The Lord will soon return.

Obedience and Peace (8-9)
We Christians should keep on thinking and doing what is morally and spiritually excellent. We need to put into practice what we have learned of God’s word. We need to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. We need to not only store up treasures in heaven, but also set our minds on heavenly things. The Philippians could follow the example of the apostolic witness by what they had seen, we can follow the example of the apostles by reading their word which was inspired by God.

Instead of filling our minds with the worries of this world, we need to fill our minds with the things of God.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) We all need to be of the same mind: thinking the same, same attitude, same opinion, same goals. How can be have the same mind? If we are “in the Lord.”

(2) Peace becomes a major theme as we come to the close of the book. A strong, healthy church is not a perfect church. There are struggles and issues to resolve. Unity and peace are needed.