Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the saints which were at Rome, and more specifically, is found in verses thirty-one through thirty-nine of the eighth chapter. With this final set of verses the eighth chapter draws to a close after a tremendous discourse to the saints which were at Rome concerning the tremendous life that is made available in Christ Jesus according to the Spirit of grace which proceeded from both the Father and the Son. What I absolutely love about this final set of verses is how the apostle Paul makes this transition into the final set of verses located within this chapter. With eight simple words the apostle Paul transitions to a place where he begins to bring everything home for his readers and audience. While this question might very well have been rhetorical in that those who would read these words could not respond to him directly, I am completely and totally convinced this question can and must be answered by any who would read this chapter. In the thirty-first verse the apostle Paul asks the very pointed and powerful question of his audience—“What shall we then say to these things?” It would be incredibly easy to quickly move past that question and continue reading the final set of verses within this chapter, however, I am convinced that by doing so, we rob ourselves of the ability to be challenged. What’s more, is by quickly moving past this particular question, we are essentially allowing ourselves to remain in a place where we aren’t responding and even reacting to all that was written within this particular chapter. The apostle Paul had already thrown a lot of theology and doctrine to the saints which were at Rome, and now he makes an attempt to bring them to a place where they revisit that which they had just read. By asking the question—“What shall we then say to these things?”—the apostle Paul is essentially asking what we are to do with everything that had been written, and how we are to respond to everything that was just said.
WHAT SHALL WE THEN SAY TO THESE THINGS? What shall we say to the tremendous and powerful reality that there is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit? What shall we say to the reality that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death? What shall we say to the fact that what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us? What shall we say then to the fact that they which are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit? What shall we say then to the reality those who are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but those that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit? What shall we say to the fact that the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be? What shall we then say to the fact that which are in the flesh cannot please God? What shall we say to the fact that we are in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God does indeed and does in fact dwell within us? What shall we say to the sobering concept that if any many have not the Spirit of Christ, He is none of His? What shall we say then to the concept that if Christ be in you, the body of sin is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness? What shall we say then to the powerful thought that if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in us, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in us?
What shall we say then to the though that if we live after the flesh you shall die, but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live? What then shall we say to the thought that as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God? What shall we say then to the reality that we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but we have receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father? What shall we say then to the though that the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ? What shall we say then that if we suffer with Him [that is Christ], we might also be glorified together? What shall we then to the difficult—and oftentimes painful—concept that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us? What shall we say then concerning the earnest recitation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God? What shall we say then to the hope that the creature itself shall also be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God? What shall we say then concerning the whole creation groaning and traveling in pain together until now? What shall we then concerning ourselves also, which have the3 firstfruits of the Spirit—even we ourselves—and how we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body? What shall we say then to that thought that we are saved by hope, and that hope which is seen is not hopes? What shall we say then to our hoping for that which we do not see and our with patience waiting for it? What shall we say then to the powerful encouragement that the Spirit helps our infirmities, for when we know not what we should pray for as we ought? What shall we say to the fact that the Spirit makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered?
What shall we say then to the understanding that He which searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God? What shall we say then that all things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose? What shall we say then that those whom God did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Fairborn among many brethren? What shall say then that whose whom He did predestinate, those also did He call? What shall we say then that shoes who He called, those He also justified? What shall say then to those whom He justified, He also glorified? What shall we then say to all of these things? What then shall we say then to the tremendous theology and doctrine that is found and contained within this passage of Scripture? I absolutely love this particular question as it was asked by the apostle Paul, for with, by and through this question the apostle Paul asks for a response—albeit, perhaps within the hearts, the minds, and the souls—from those who would read and have read these words? I am convinced that this question is one that should be asked of each and every one of us, for it’s not enough to read the words contained within this passage of Scripture and simply move on to the next chapter. In all reality, I am thankful that when I made the decision as to what I was going to read this year, and how I was going to spend this year in and with Scripture, I chose to spend an entire year in the epistle found within the New Testament. The reason I love this is not because I somehow have something to boast of, or something to become arrogant over, but because of moments like these when the very first thing I am confronted with when engaging in my time of devotion and reading today is the tremendous need to respond to what I have already read, and what I have already written.
Perhaps one of the single greatest questions that I can’t help but consider at this very moment is how many times we actually engage in responding to that which we have read within Scripture. How many times have we read the words which have been contained within and upon the pages of Scripture and have not given ourselves to any type of response? How many times have we read the words which are contained on the pages of Scripture, and we have not given ourselves to actually attempting to understand and apply it? In all reality, I am convinced that even understanding itself—regardless of how much understanding is in fact necessary—is incredibly shallow and quite honestly is not enough. I am convinced that it is incredibly to have understanding without and apart from application, for understanding is something we can boast of. To understand what we read when attempting to engage the Scriptures might very well be something that engages our mind, and might give us a head knowledge of the Scripture, yet it falls so incredibly short of what Scripture is designed and intended on doing within our hearts, our minds, our souls, our spirits, and ultimately our lives. There are a number of men and women who have an understanding of Scripture, yet that understanding never seems to take them into the place of application. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—what good is understanding without and apart from application? What good will merely understanding Scripture do within your life and for you if you cannot learn and have not learned how to correctly apply it to your life? I am convinced that understanding without and apart from application only takes us part of the way to where we need to be, and there is a powerful and tremendous need for application of what we have read. How many of us are able to move past the place of understanding Scripture to the place where we actually apply what we have read to our lives, and even respond to it? The words which the apostle Paul wrote in this particular verse were intended to bring his audience to the place of response and application, for it was meant to bring them to the place where they revisited everything that was previously written, and to apply it to their lives. I can’t help but wonder when the last time was that I actually paused while attempting to read Scripture, or even once finishing reading Scripture, and not only asked myself how I should respond, but also what I should do with what I’ve just read.
I can’t help but be reminded of the account of Philip, which is recorded in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles, and how he had been led by the angel of the Lord to embark on a very specific journey. Consider if you will what is recorded beginning with the twenty-sixth verse of the eighth chapter of the book of the Acts of the apostles: “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an uncut of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esxaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the Scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea” (Acts 8:26-40).
This particular passage found in the New Testament book of Acts is one that powerfully demonstrates the need for understanding, yet with that being said, it also transitions to a place where understanding leads to a place of application and response. I am convinced that it was the eunuch’s understanding of what he was written—understanding concerning Jesus who was the Christ and the Son off the living God—that brought him to the place where he desired to be baptized as a physical and outward demonstration and manifestation of an inward reality. I do not believe that it was merely this understanding alone that prompted this eunuch to want to be baptized, but also his desire to follow and serve Jesus the Christ. The book of the Acts did in fact describe how this eunuch went unto Jerusalem in order that he might worship the Lord, and that when Philip found him, he was on his way back to his home country and land of Ethiopia. What adds even more weight to what we find in the book of the Acts of the apostles, and what we read in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to the Romans is expressed in the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke concerning the ministry of John the Baptist. Beginning with the second verse we read and find these words: “…the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye that way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? HE answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:2-14).
If you transition to the second chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles you will find the beloved physician Luke writing on the Day of Pentecost—and not only the event of the outpouring of the Spirit, but also the sermon and message the apostle Peter spoke unto all those who were present on that day in the city of Jerusalem. When you come to the thirty-seventh verse of this chapter you will find something much similar to what we found and what we read in the third chapter of the gospel according to Luke. After the apostle Peter had finished preaching his message concerning the events that had occurred on the Day of Pentecost, there were those present on that day who responded—both to the events which took place on that day, as well as to the message which Peter spoke. Consider what Luke recorded beginning with the thirty-seventh verse: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:37-40). With these words Luke records the response of many who witnessed the manifestation of the events which had occurred in the Upper Room, and to the words which the apostle Peter had spoken in their hearing. It is quite clear that those who were present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost desired to know what they should do, and how they should respond to the words and message concerning this Jesus Christ who was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. Very much like the publicans, the soldiers, and the people who came to be baptized by John the Baptist, those present on this day sought to not only understand, but also how to respond to what they now understood. ARE YOU WILLING TO RESPOND TO WHAT YOU NOW UNDERSTAND? UNDERSTANDING CARRIES WITH IT A TREMENDOUS RESPONSIBILITY! THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF UNDERSTANDING? Those present during the ministry of John the Baptist, and those present on the Day of Pentecost bought sought to understand how they should respond to what they were hearing, and what they should now do—not only with their understanding, but also with their expression of faith.
If you continue reading the second chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts you will find a further example of the response that occurred—not only to the events surrounding the outpouring of the Spirit, but also to the preaching of the apostle Peter: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41-47).
The apostle Paul begins this final portion of the eighth chapter by asking the question “What shall we then say to these things?” The apostle then immediately transitions to an incredibly powerful question that is based off everything he had just written within the chapter. IN the very same verse the apostle Paul asked the question “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Pause for a moment and consider that concept as it directly applies to your life. The apostle Paul presented this question by asking if God be for US who can be against US, however, I would encourage you to make this question personal. When asking this question I am convinced that we must do more than simply ask if God be for us who can be against us, but must ask if God be fore me who can be against me. There is an incredibly powerful passage that is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah which I am convinced perfectly illustrates this reality—one that must be carefully considered. If you turn and direct your attention to the fifty-fourth verse of the prophetic book of Isaiah you will find one of the most incredible promises that should provide us with a great source of encouragement and hope. Beginning with the sixteenth verse of this particular chapter we find these words written and recorded by the prophet Isaiah—“Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 54:16-17). It’s worth noting and mentioning that within this passage of Scripture we not only encounter the powerful promise that no weapon that is formed against us shall prosper, but we also encounter the tremendous promise that every tongue which rises against us in judgment we shall condemn. In essence, the prophet not only spoke of weapons that could and would be formed against us, but also of tongues which would rise against us in judgment. It’s absolutely necessary and imperative that when we read these words we understand that the prophet never said or suggested that there wouldn’t be any weapons that would be formed against us, or even that there wouldn’t be tongues that would rise against us in judgment. WEAPONS FORMED AGAINST! TONGUES RISING AGAINST!
Perhaps the single greatest question that can and must be asked when considering this particular verse within the prophetic book of Isaiah is what we do in that moment when weapons are formed against us. What do we do in that moment when it seems like the enemy is forming and fashioning weapons that are formed against us within our hearts, our minds and our lives? How do we respond when weapons are indeed formed against us, and perhaps even on a consistent basis? What’s more, is that do we do when tongues rise against us in judgment, in condemnation, in accusation, and the like? How do we respond when weapons are formed and tongues rise up? WHEN WEAPONS ARE FORMED AND TONGUES RISE! I am convinced it is absolutely necessary to recognize, to understand, to acknowledge, and perhaps even to accept the tremendous reality that there will be weapons that will be formed against us, and there will be tongues that will rise against us. It is absolutely impossible to escape through life without every experiencing a weapon that is formed against us, and/or even a tongue rising against us. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke unto the apostle Peter after his emphatic declaration that Jesus was indeed the Christ the Son of the living God—“Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Joan: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on the earth shall be found in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19). I am also reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his second epistle to the saints which were at Corinth—words which are recorded for us in the tenth chapter of this particular epistle. Consider if you will the words the apostle writes beginning with the third verse—“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every though to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). I am further reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus in the sixth and final chapter of that epistle: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, whereith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with All Prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
I absolutely love the final words of this particular chapter, for with these words the apostle Paul presents his readers and audience with a powerful place of freedom and victory that is and can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ. Within this final set of verses the apostle Paul not only asks who can be against us if God be for us, but the apostle Paul also goes on to ask who they are which would lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect. What’s more, is the apostle Paul goes on to write about those who would seek to condemn the saints, for it is Christ that died, and is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us. Furthermore, the apostle Paul would go on to ask who shall separate us from the love of Christ, and then goes on to provide a list of that which cannot and will not separate us from the love of Christ—tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword. In other words, there is absolutely nothing that can or shall separate us from the love of Christ, for in all those things we are more than conquerors. Please pay close attention to those words written and spoken by the apostle Paul, for by doing so you will recognize and understand in what things, and over what things you are more than a conqueror. Notice the apostle Paul didn’t merely state that in some things, or even in certain things we are more than conquerors, but in ALL these things? Did you know that in tribulation you are more than a conqueror? Did you know that in distress you are more than a conqueror? Did you know that in persecution you are more than a conqueror? Did you know that in famine you are more than a conqueror? Did you know that in nakedness you are more than a conqueror? Did you know that in peril you are more than a conqueror? Did you know that in the sword you are more than a conqueror? Did you know even in judgment and condemnation you are more than a conqueror? Did you know that you are more than a conqueror when weapons are being formed against you and when tongues are rising against you? Did you know that you are more than a conqueror when the gates of hell seek to rise up and come against you? Even more than all of this, it is absolutely critical and crucial that we understand that in all these we are more than conquerors—not because of anything we have, or even anything we are, but in and through Him who loved us. It is possible to be more than a conqueror through and over each and every one of these things, yet it is only found through Him who loved us. What’s more, is the fact that the apostle would go on to write that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God.
Did you notice tremendous list of those things which can separate us from the love of God? In the thirty-fifth verse the apostle Paul lists specific things that shall separate us from the love of God—“tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword. In verses thirty-eight and thirty-nine we find another list of those things which cannot and will not separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus—death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, and any creature. It’s worth noting how the apostle Paul didn’t speak of that which could separate us from the love of God, but only that which could not and would not separate us from the love of God. The question and reality I can’t help but consider when reading this particular passage of Scripture is that there is a vast difference between being separated from the love of God and being separated from God Himself. I am convinced there are a number of individuals who have misunderstood the reality and concept of being separated from God and being separated from the love of God. The apostle Paul emphatically declared that not even height nor depth could separate us from the love of God, and I am convinced that there is absolutely no distance that can separate us from the love of God—even the distance we may very well be creating ourselves. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the fifty-ninth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, and you will learn the powerful difference between being separated from God, and being separated from the love of God: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have his His face from you, that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. They hatch Co Kat rice eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings” (Isaiah 59:1-8).
The apostle Paul declared that there is nothing that can or shall separate us from the love of God, yet the prophet Isaiah declares that our iniquities have separated between us and our God. Is there an apparent disparity and contradiction between the two realities within Scripture? The answer to this question is an emphatic and resounding “No,” for while there is nothing that can or shall separate us from the love of God, there is something, and there are multiple things that can and shall separate us from God Himself. Here’s a powerful and bold statement—one that I am convinced many might immediately reject: Even those who are suffering the torment of Sheol and Hades right now have not been separated from the love of God. Those who have found themselves being separated from the living God for all of eternity have not been separated from His love. Here’s a question I would present to you to ponder and consider—Did God ever stop loving all those who are presently suffering in Sheol and Hades? When all those who at the end of the age are sentenced to spend eternity being tormented by the fires of hell, does that mean that God stopped loving them? I would dare say that even when men and women might find themselves hurdling toward the bowels of hell itself—not even hell itself could separate them from the love of God. Is it possible that not even the suffering of Sheol, and Hades, and Hell itself cannot separate us from the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus? It is possible to be separated from God Himself because of our iniquities, but it is absolutely impossible to be separated from the love of God that is found in the person of Jesus the Christ. Oh that we would recognize and understand the tremendous and powerful words of the apostle Paul which are recorded in this passage of Scripture in order that we might truly understand the love of God within our lives. Oh that we would learn how to respond and how to live when weapons are being formed and tongues are rising against us each and every day. Let us this day recognize and understand the tremendous place of victory we have in this life—not only over weapons which are formed against us, but also over tongues which rise against us. We not only have victory over weapons which are formed and fashioned against us, but also over every tongue that rises against us. In all these things we are more than conquerors, and we are promised a great place of victory that is found in the person of Jesus Christ, and even in the love that is found in God through the person of Jesus Christ.