On January 6th 1941, the American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the US Congress on the state of the war in Europe. Much of what he said that day has been long forgotten. But at the close of his address, he said something memorable, that he looked forward “to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” He named them: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. He died in 1945, just three weeks before the Nazi’s surrendered on April 12th 1945. He never lived to enjoy the peace he had laboured to secure. Yet Roosevelt was a man of vision and he dreamed of what the world could be, indeed should be, even in its darkest hour. We remember his vision because 60 years ago on 10th December 1948, just three years after the allies had defeated Nazism and peace declared, those four freedoms became incorporated into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Universally, people aspire to and endorse these four freedoms, even though, as we see in places like China, Iran and Zimbabwe, for example, they have not been realised for all on earth. Yet without them people give up hope.
This evening I want us to consider four of our throne rights as children of God. The rights the Lord Jesus Christ has won for you because he has defeated the source of evil in our universe, and brought peace between God and humanity. Luther called Romans “the clearest Gospel of all”. “If a person understands it”, wrote Calvin, “he has a sure road opened for him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.” John Chrysostom had the Book of Romans read aloud to him once a week. You and I could do a lot worse than that. If Romans is like the Himalayas of the Bible, chapter 8 is the Everest, the highest peak of all. You will not appreciate the view attained from Romans 8, unless you have walked along the path of Romans 1-7, and discovered there that apart from Jesus Christ, you are a lost and helpless sinner. Just as there would have been no Declaration of Human Rights without VE Day, so there would be no comfort, no Romans 8 without the victory of the cross and the realisation of the futility of all other paths to God. Because of the victory Christ has won, described in Romans 1-7, we are able to celebrate and appropriate our “Declaration of Throne Rights”, found in Romans 8.
In Romans 8 we find four incredible freedoms that are ours by rights through Jesus Christ. Four freedoms: The freedom from judgement, freedom from defeat, freedom from despair and freedom from fear.
1. Freedom from Judgement – No Condemnation (8:1-4)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering.” (Romans 8:1-3)
Paul has explained clearly and convincingly that we cannot get right with God by trying to be good, or by trying to be moral, or by trying to be religious. We can only be made right with God on the basis of what Jesus has done for us. Notice there are no conditions for us to meet. The basis of this wonderful assurance? “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In Adam we were condemned. In Jesus there is no condemnation. Condemned or no longer condemned – in Christ or not in Christ. Everyone lives in one of those two states, these two realms. If you drive through South London, through Boroughs like Lambeth you may still see signs declaring them to be, “Nuclear Free Zones.” That is kind of what we are here. Christ Church is a condemnation free zone. There is no condemnation here for those who believe in and trust in, the Lord Jesus. They have been declared not guilty. Because,
1.1 The Law cannot condemn you (8:1)
The OT Law no longer has any jurisdiction over you. It no longer applies as the basis for determining your eternal destiny, because that was decided on the cross. Jesus has acquitted you and set you free. The Law cannot claim you because,
1.2 The Law cannot convict you (8:2)
There is in English Law the “principle of double jeopardy.” (Although qualified by the Criminal Justice Act 2003). It simply means you cannot be charged, tried, sentenced and punished for the same offence twice. Why? Because Jesus has already suffered your condemnation on your behalf on the cross. Therefore, the Law cannot condemn you because the law cannot convict you, so,
1.3 The Law cannot control you (8:3)
The Law never had the power to produce good behaviour.
It could only condemn for failure. But the indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to please God because we begin from a position of security. Freedom from Judgement – no condemnation. This leads to our second freedom:
2. Freedom from Defeat: No Obligation (8:5-17)
“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans 8:9-11)
Every Christian has the Holy Spirit indwelling them. If you have received Christ, you have received His Spirit. Therefore we are under no obligation to live according to our former lives. We are under no obligation to live according to our sinful nature. We can help it. We can change. We can be different. We are obligated to live according to the Spirit. Why? Because the Holy Spirit has hold of you!
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:14-17)
You have been adopted. You were chosen. There is no need to feel defeated or rejected when we know we are adopted. Freedom from Judgement – no condemnation. Freedom from Defeat – no obligation.
3. Freedom from Discouragement – No Frustration (8:18-30)
In this section Paul deals with the very real problem of pain and suffering. To help you remember its content, he uses the imagery of groaning – in fact he uses it three times.
3.1 Creation Groans
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:18-22)
– Creation is subject to frustration (20a) – Creation will be liberated from bondage to decay (21a). The image used is one of a woman in childbirth. There is pain, but the pain ends when the child is delivered. And with the child, safe in the mother’s arms, the sense of relief and thankfulness shows that the pain was worth it. The present sufferings which Paul clearly assumes are the normative experience are nevertheless not worth comparing with what is to come. God will renew his creation. Creation Groans.
3.2 God’s Children Groan (8:23-25)
“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:23-25)
Part of the suffering we endure is due to the fact that we have begun to experience the Holy Spirit which is only a foretaste of what is to come.
That’s why life can be so frustrating sometimes knowing there is a better way, a better life to come in heaven, free of pain and suffering.
Any respite now is but a foretaste, and a temporary one at that. Creation groans, believers groan, and,
3.3 The Holy Spirit Groans (8:26-30)
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
He groans because He identifies with us, indeed he intercedes on our behalf when we don’t know what to pray for. So it doesn’t matter when you don’t know what to pray, or can’t find the words. God knows your heart. The Holy Spirit does it for you. Creation groans. Believers groan, the Holy Spirit groans. For what purpose?
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)
We love to quote Romans 8:28 – to other people who have troubles. I wonder whether you’ve put it to the test yourself? Or rather been tested by it? How can death, accidents, personal failures “work for your good?” Lets see what the Lord is actually saying. Re-read 8:28. “we know” = we have this confident assurance. It doesn’t say ”
In all things God works for good”, but “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” There’s a difference. It means God is at work in all circumstances to bring out good for us who love Him. That means every situation is redeemable, nothing can get in the way of God’s purpose for us, to make us more and more like Jesus.
God assures us that the difficulties in life are working for us and not against us. God disciplines and refines because this is his only way of making us more like Jesus. Read 8:29-30.
Here is the process by which God accomplishes his will: He Foreknew, He predestined, He called, He justified, He glorified. Salvation is God’s sovereign initiative from first to last – to make us like Jesus. That is his accomplished plan and therefore our assured destiny. Freedom from Judgement. Freedom from defeat. Freedom from discouragement. The fourth freedom?
4. Freedom from Fear: No Separation (8:31-39)
The emphasis in this final section is on our security. We do not need to be afraid of the past, of the present or the future because we are secure in the love of Christ. The Scriptures present 5 unshakable convictions to prove there can be no separation between the believer and the Lord because:
4.1 God is for us (8:31)
4.2 Christ died for us (8:32)
4.3 God has justified us (8:33)
4.4 Christ intercedes for us (8:34)
4.5 Christ still loves us (8:35-39)
God cannot, God will not fail us. Sometimes he will chasten us, sometimes he will discipline us. But nothing can separate us from Him. Read 8:37-39. No condemnation; no obligation; no frustration; no separation. This is the declaration of our throne rights as children of God. Lets us claim them, trust in them, and live them to the glory of God.
In his book, Knowing God, Jim Packer asks these questions which I invite you to reflect on:
“Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of – a happy life? – yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and a God-honouring life and these are the aspects of the situation that really matter. May this secret become fully yours, and fully mine.”