Paul’s Sorrow Over Israelites and God’s Providence (Romans 9:1-5; part 1 of a 5 part message on Romans 9) 

Paul’s Sorrow Over the Israelites and God’s Providence (Romans 9:1-5; part 1 of a 5 part message on Romans 9) 

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 27, 2021

Martin Luther shared:

My conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God, and to go against conscience or Scripture is neither right nor safe.[1]

We now come to a passage in Romans in which the Apostle Paul shares his heart for his people. From the very beginning he references that he is telling the truth and references his conscience and the Holy Spirit as his witness.

My theme today is:

We see Paul’s passion that his people would be saved and we see all of the spiritual benefits the Israelites were blessed with.

My application:

Do we care about people’s salvation? Paul wanted, desperately wanted, his ethnic group to be saved.

  1. Pauls grief over Israel (9:1–3): The apostle is so burdened over Israel’s unbelief that he is willing to suffer eternal damnation if that would help them come to Christ.
    1. Introduction to the section.
    2. Notice that this is coming after Romans 8. Romans 8 was all about the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 shows that if we are saved, we have the Holy Spirit (verse 9). Romans 8 was about how we can cry out “Abba Father,” that is “Daddy, Daddy” (verse 15). Romans 8 was all about how we have the privileges of adoption (verses 16-17). Romans 8 was about how if God is for us who can be against us (verse 31). Romans 8 was about how our present suffering does not compare to our eternal glory (verse 18). Romans 8 was about how God did not spare His own Son and that shows that He will graciously provide for us all things (verse 32). Romans 8 was all about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing (verses 38-39).
    3. Then, we come to Romans 9.
    4. In Romans 9 Paul begins to deal with Israel. Paul will write about Israel from Romans chapter 9 through Romans chapter 11.
    5. Some think that these chapters deal with Israel but also individual election as well as individual reprobation. In other words, some think that Romans 9 is about Israel, but also how God elects individuals to salvation and then those who are not elect to salvation are reprobate which essentially means that they are elected to hell. This means that some are predestined to salvation and others are predestined to hell.
    6. I talked about my views on this a few weeks ago and how I like the Molinism view, also called Middle Knowledge. HOWEVER, I agree with Bobby Murphy that this passage is not about individuals but nations.
    7. The view that I will be outlining throughout my sermons on Romans 9 will be the typical Arminian view with a flavor of Molinism/Middle Knowledge added. That is where I fall on these verses and the subject of predestination and election.
    8. Remember that election is corporate, and predestination is individuals. God elects corporate groups and God predestines individuals.
    9. The predestined will be saved and then they become part of the corporate church (the elect). HOWEVER, I believe the predestined are predestined based off of their free choice to receive or reject Christ with the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit convicting them they are a sinner in need of a Savior. For a quick review, no one can receive Christ but that the Father draws them to Him (John 6:44 and 65). Therefore, we believe that God’s prevenient grace sends the Holy Spirit to people to convict them they are a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe since God knows what we would do in any situation, God knows whether a person will, or will not, receive Christ given the opportunity and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and those people are predestined. But they are predestined based off of God’s foreknowledge.  
    10. So, we will come back to that in a few weeks. But, I think it is clear that this chapter is saying that God has a right to do with nations as He pleases.
    11. Over the last 17 years I have spent a lot of time studying these topics. About a year and a half ago I was meeting with a ministry leader in the community, and he challenged me on this passage. Since then, I have spent countless hours studying this chapter. I have read several books on this chapter and talked with many scholars about it. In college and seminary I had required reading dealing with this subject, but have only preached a few times, and those very cursory, on this subject. Now, begins a series on some of the most controversial verses of Romans, and I dare say the Bible.
    12. Last fall, I met with a Bible teacher who thought that up until Romans 9 Romans has been about individuals, not nations and therefore this is about individuals.
    13. I STRONGLY disagree. All throughout Romans Paul has been contrasting two corporate groups:
      • Romans 1= Gentiles
      • Romans 2=Jews
      • Romans 3= Jews and then Gentiles with the Jews in verses 23-31
      • Romans 4= example of justification from the Old Testament
      • Romans 5= example of sin nature from the Old Testament and the fix through Jesus; example of Adam to Moses and then Jesus; example of sin reigning in death and grace and righteousness in Jesus (Romans 5:21)
      • Romans 6= believers, the corporate group of believers, dead to sin, alive to God
      • Romans 7= both believers and unbelievers, dead to sin, we don’t need more Law, the Law could not save us, we needed Divine help.
      • Romans 8= the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life= victory in Christ.
    14. As we can see Romans chapters 1-5 are a strong contrast between the Gentiles and the Jews and the Law and grace. Then, Romans chapters 6-8 are more about believers. These are corporate references.
    15. Therefore, I think the case is strong that we are dealing with Scriptures talking about corporate groups, in this case God can do what He wants with nations. That is not to say that God does not have a right to do what He wants with people. He does, He is God.
    16. Okay, it is past time we talk about these verses. These first five verses are fairly straightforward.

Verse 1: I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit

  • Paul is getting into a subject that is very important to him and many people would have questions about.
    • Paul is Jewish, what about the Jewish people? The Savior came through the Jewish line, do they get a free ticket to Heaven? What about the Jews that reject Jesus? Paul has been writing in Romans chapter 2 and 3, and other places, that they need a Savior as well (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
    • Paul says the Holy Spirit is his witness.
    • The genre of these verses is a lament. A lament for his ethnic group.
    • At the beginning of chap. 3 the question was raised about what advantage there was in being a Jew (v. 1). It was occasioned by the previous paragraph, which established that mere membership in the Jewish nation was insufficient to warrant God’s praise. To be a Jew one had to be one inwardly. Real circumcision was inward and accomplished by the Spirit, not outward obedience to a written code. In fact, the entire second chapter of Romans undermined any confidence that Paul’s readers might have had that on the basis of their national identity they would receive favored treatment from God. The obvious question was what benefit there was in being a Jew. Paul started to answer the question in 3:2 but then returned to the major theme of showing that all people, regardless of their national origin, are under the condemnation of sin. It is only now in chap. 9 that we find a full answer to the earlier question. Chapters 9–11 discuss the subject of God’s righteousness in view of his apparent rejection of the Jewish nation.1[2]

Verse 2: that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.

  • Paul has great sorrow AND unceasing unguish, think about that word, Paul has anguish in his heart that does not cease. What is this anguish about?

Verse 3: For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

  • Paul has sorrow for his people. He wishes that he could be accursed and cut off from Christ… hold on a minute. Paul is making a strong statement there. He wishes he could go to hell and they could be saved. He knows that this is impossible and he is likely using a little bit of hyperbole to drive home his emotions. He REALLY cares about the Jewish people.
    • “accursed” MacArthur shares: The Gr. word is anathema, which means “to devote to destruction in eternal hell” (cf. 1Co 12:3; 16:22; Gal 1:8, 9). Although Paul understood the exchange he was suggesting was impossible (8:38, 39; Jn 10:28), it was still the sincere expression of his deep love for his fellow Jews (cf. Ex 32:32).[3]
    • He would be accursed if it would save them, but as one source shares: But he knows this would achieve nothing, for none but Christ could be any person’s substitute to bear God’s wrath.[4]
    • Moses voiced a similar self-sacrificing wish for the Israelites’ salvation (Exod. 32:30–35).[5]
    • In the book of Acts, during Paul’s missionary journeys, his pattern was to go to the Jewish people first and then when they rejected him he went to the gentiles (See Acts 13 and 14 specifically).
    • He calls them “my kinsmen according to the flesh.” This means that the Jews are his family in a genetic/biological way. Paul will expand on this in the next few verses.

There is a story told about a mother who came to Napoleon on behalf of her son, who was about to be executed. The mother asked the ruler to issue a pardon, but Napoleon pointed out that it was the man’s second offense and justice demanded death.

“I don’t ask for justice,” the woman replied. “I plead for mercy.”

The emperor objected, “But your son doesn’t deserve mercy.”

“Sir,” the mother replied, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.”

Her son was granted the pardon.[6]

  1. Gods gifts to Israel (9:4–5)
    • These next few verses talk about who the Israelites are.

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

  • Paul is about to give 9 spiritual advantages of Israel.  
    • They are a special nation (9:4a).
    • They have been adopted by God (9:4b, 5).
    • They have had Gods glory revealed to them (9:4c).
    • They have been given the covenants (9:4d).
    • They have been given the law (9:4e).
    • They have the privilege of worshiping him (9:4f).
    • They have the messianic promises (9:4g).
    • They have a godly ancestry (9:5a).
    • They are the people from which Christ came (9:5b).[7]
    • Now, we could spend time on each one of those 9, but let’s just make a few brief comments.
      • They are a special nation. God chose Abraham in Genesis 12 and reaffirmed the covenant with Him and then Moses and then David throughout the Old Testament. The Messiah, Jesus, came through the line of Abraham, that is from Israel (see Genesis 12, 17; Exodus 19-24; Deut. 28 and 29; 2 Samuel 7).
      • They have been adopted by God. This goes back to Genesis 12 and is re-affirmed by the prophets. In Exodus 4:22 God calls Israel His firstborn son.
      •  They have had Gods glory revealed to them (9:4c). Think of all the miracles in the Old Testament. Think of them seeing God’s glory. Think of the Red Sea splitting (Exodus 14:13ff). Think of the pillar of fire guarding them and the cloud by day leading them (Exodus 13:21). Think of the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16). Think of the miracles with the prophets, the prophets of Baal and Elijah in 1 Kings 18:20-40.
      • They have been given the covenants (9:4d). See verses on number 1.
      • They have been given the law (9:4e). As mentioned Exodus 20.
      • They have the privilege of worshiping him (9:4f). It is a privilege to worship God.
      • They have the messianic promises (9:4g). All of these promises of the Messiah came through Israel.
      • They have a godly ancestry (9:5a).
      • They are the people from which Christ came (9:5b).[8] The Messiah, Jesus came through the Israelites (Matthew 1:17; Luke 3:23-38).
    • As an important note, some of those promises are future as well, one source shares: Some of the privileges in vv. 4–5 have future components as well as past ones. For example, Israel’s adoption as sons is grounded in God’s selection of Israel as the recipient of His covenant blessings (cf. Ex 4:22; Jr 31:9). But Israel’s sonship also has a glorious future component for Jewish believers (see Is 43:6; 45:11; 63:16–17; 64:8–12; Hs 1:10; Mal 3:17, all in eschatological contexts). This suggests, among other things, that God is not finished with the Jewish people yet, the primary point of Rm 9; 10, and 11. The future implications of these blessings gave Paul hope that God had not broken off relations with Israel and would yet keep His promises—all of them—to the people. Verse 5 indicates that Christ shares the divine nature, was incarnate, is absolutely sovereign, but is also worthy of eternal acclamation (blessed forever). Paul’s anguish stems from his awareness that the Jewish people were not (yet!) experiencing everything God promised them, including their own exalted Messiah. Each of the privileges in 9:4–5 belongs to Israel presently (note the present tense are in 9:4a), suggesting that these privileges have not been rescinded. Their experience of these blessings, however, is contingent upon faith in Christ.[9]
    • In the beginning of Romans 9 Paul shares his passion for Israel.
    • Paul shares that it is a privilege to be an Israelite.
    • Most of all the Messiah, Jesus, came through Israel and saves Jews and gentiles all who believe, and Paul wants the Jewish people to be saved.
    • Notice how Paul ends verse 5: who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
    • Since the genre of these opening verses of Romans 9 is a lament, it is probably best to take this as an affirmation of Christ’s deity (as the text renders it). Although the other renderings are possible, to see a note of praise to God at the end of this section seems strangely out of place. But for Paul to bring his lament to a crescendo (that is to say, his kinsmen had rejected God come in the flesh), thereby deepening his anguish, is wholly appropriate.[10]
    • In two weeks we will pick up on verse 6, but look at the first part of verse 6 right now: But it is not as though the word of God has failed.
    • The Word of God has not failed. Remember that.
    • God had a plan for Israel to bless the nations. In verses 23-26 Paul will write about how God used Israel to bless the nations.
    • Realize that God used Israel to bless the nations.
    • God used ethnic Israel to save the gentiles through Jesus. Throughout the whole Old Testament God was watching over Israel for a few purposes, one of them, was that Jesus would come through Israel and save you and me.
    • God wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:8-9).
  • Applications:
    • Can we speak with the Holy Spirit as our witness that we are being honest (verse 1)?
      • We must be about the truth.
      • We must not share anything that is not true.
      • We must check our motivations for what we share as well.
      • We must not forward an email that is not true.
      • We must not forward an email that we cannot verify as true.
      • We must not share a social media post that we cannot verify as true.
      • We must not share a news article that is not true.
      • We must care about the truth and falsehood must bother us.
    • Do we have a passion for our ethnic group to be saved (verses 2-3)?
    • Do we have a passion for our family to be saved (verses 2-3)?
    • Do we recognize all of the spiritual benefits of Israel? We must recognize God’s place for Israel (verses 4-5).
    • We must praise God for Israel and pray for Jewish people to be saved (verses 1-5 and Romans 11).
    • We must accept the Gospel and share the Gospel.  

Let me repeat my theme:

My theme today is:

We see Paul’s passion that his people would be saved and we see all of the spiritual benefits the Israelites were blessed with.

My application:

Do we care about people’s salvation? Paul wanted, desperately wanted, his ethnic group to be saved.

The worst sin is not to hate a fellow creature but to be indifferent toward him. That’s the essence of humanity.

—George Bernard Shaw, quoted in John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations[11]

Salvation is a gift from God:

A young man named Sinner once received from his Father a beautiful, bright-red convertible. He named it Salvation—sparkling, new, clean, modern, powerful.

It delighted the young man so much, especially because it was a gift. He could never have afforded it. So delighted, the boy even changed his name from Sinner to Saved.

He polished his car every week. Took pictures of it. Sent it to friends. Looked it over—front, back, under, top, bottom, inside out. Never—never tired of telling others about the gift. “My Father gave it to me. It was free!”

Some days later Saved was seen out on the highway, pushing Salvation. An individual named Helper walked up and introduced himself and asked if he could assist.

“Oh, no thanks. Just out enjoying my new car,” as he wiped the sweat off his face. “Just had a little trouble because my bumper kept cutting my hands, especially on these hills. But then a nice man helped me. Showed me how to mount little rubber cushions right here, underneath the bumper, and now I can push this thing for hours without a blister. Also, I’ve been trying something new lately. They use it over in England. You put your back against the car, lift, and it works like a charm, especially on muddy roads.”

Helper asked, “Have you pushed the car very far?”

“Well, about 200 miles altogether. It’s been hard, but since it was a gift from my Father, that’s the least I can do in return to thank him.”

Helper opened the door on the right side and said, “Get in.”

After hesitation, he decided it was worth a try and he slid in on the passenger side and rested for the first time since he’d been given the car. Helper walked around, opened the door, slid behind the wheel, and started the car.

“What’s all that noise?” he said. Moments later they were moving down the highway quietly, at fifty, sixty miles an hour. He was taken aback. It all seemed to fall into place. It was even exciting. He knew he needed this Salvation Car to be admitted through the gate at the end of the highway. But somehow he felt that getting there was his responsibility.

—Larry Christenson, The Renewed Mind[12]


[1] Source: Martin Luther, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 2.


[2] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 194–195.

[3] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 9:3.

[4] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2172.

[5] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 9:3.

[6] Source: John Koessler, in the sermon “Blessed Are the Merciful,”

[7] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:1–5.

[8] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:1–5.

[9] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1759.

[10] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 9:5.

[11] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 296.

[12] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 504–505.

On Being a Spiritual Parent (Acts 16:1-3)

This year, my oldest daughter, Mercedes, will be turning ten. This year, I turned forty years old. As much as I hate to admit it, I always wanted to be older. When I turned thirty, I wanted to be forty, people would ask me why and I would say that forty is the perfect age for a pastor. Thirty is too young for people, but forty is just right. I have now served in full time ministry in three older congregations, so forty still does not seem to be the right age, now I want to be fifty. Well, maybe, God is teaching me contentment with my age. In 2017 the average life expectancy of an American man was 76.1 years old.[1] However, it has been going down, not up. Age is relative to the person. Literally, ask a child an age and they will say twenty is old. To most of you forty is young, though it is technically middle age. Over the last several months, and even last few years, I have realized that the desire to be older could make me miss-out on my children’s younger years. My dad tells me his greatest joys were raising his three boys. Likewise, I am really, REALLY enjoying being a dad. Being a dad is greater than any job that I have had. I worked at Lowe’s in the hardware department and the paint department, but being a dad is far greater than that. I worked at Tractor Supply Company, but being a dad beats that job. I worked at a Dayton pet store, but being a dad is greater than that. I worked as a McDonald’s shift manager and being a dad is more important than that. I worked as an associate pastor, in that role I worked with youth and children. I was able to teach the kids, play games with the kids, and send them home. I love being a dad more than that. I am in my eleventh year serving as a lead pastor, but my favorite job, my favorite calling, is dad. I remember when Mercedes was just born seeing my name with “father” or “dad” on the forms. It was a special moment. I think I will always be dad to my two girls, but I want to be careful of rushing the younger years.

For the young dads here, or watching online, as well as for those who are always rushing to the next task and missing the moment I have this illustration:  

Swindoll shares this in “Come Before Winter”:

Someday when the kids are grown, things are going to be a lot different. The garage won’t be full of bikes, electric train tracks on plywood, sawhorses surrounded by chunks of two-by-fours, nails, a hammer and a saw, unfinished “experimental projects,” and the rabbit cage. I’ll be able to park both cars neatly in just the right places, and never again stumble over skateboards, a pile of papers (saved for the school fund drive), or the bag of rabbit food—now spilled. Ugh!

Someday when the kids are grown, the kitchen will be incredibly neat. The sink will be free of sticky dishes, the garbage disposal won’t get choked on rubber bands or paper cups, the refrigerator won’t be clogged with nine bottles of milk, and we won’t lose the tops to jelly jars, catsup bottles, the peanut butter, the margarine, or the mustard. The water jar won’t be put back empty, the ice trays won’t be left out overnight, the blender won’t stand for six hours coated with the remains of a midnight malt, and the honey will stay inside the container.…

Yes, someday when the kids are grown, things are going to be a lot different. One by one they’ll leave our nest, and the place will begin to resemble order and maybe even a touch of elegance. The clink of china and silver will be heard on occasion. The crackling of the fireplace will echo through the hallway. The phone will be strangely silent. The house will be quiet, and calm, and always clean, and empty, and filled with memories, and lonely, and we won’t like it at all. And we’ll spend our time not looking forward to Someday but looking back to Yesterday. And thinking, “Maybe we can baby-sit the grandkids and get some life back in this place for a change!”[2]

Not all men are dads, but all men can have a spiritual paternal influence. That is what I want to talk about today.

The reality is there are many children without a father. There are many children without a spiritual father. In the Bible Timothy was one of those children. He needed a spiritual father and Paul took care of that job.

Theme: I want us to look at Paul serving as a spiritual father to Timothy.

I encourage you to take seriously your role as a spiritual parent. Make disciples of young people, this is most important in your children, then your grandchildren, but also others whom God places in your life.

Let’s read Acts 16:1-3:

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek

  • Let’s talk about Paul and Timothy.
    1. We just read Acts 16:1-3 and in that passage, we see that Paul met Timothy and was obviously impressed. From this passage we see that Timothy’s mother was Jewish, but his father was Greek. Paul wanted to take him along. From all indications Timothy’s father was not a believer in Jesus. After this Timothy goes with Paul. We see Timothy show up much in Paul’s letters.
    2. In 1 Tim. 1:2 Paul writes To Timothy, my true child in the faith
    3. Paul compares Timothy to a spiritual son.
    4. Then in 2 Timothy 1:2 Paul again writes: To Timothy, my beloved child… Again, we see Paul and Timothy’s relationship.
      • They had likely traveled together for 10 years.[3]
      • They obviously had a special bond. 1 and 2 Timothy are written to Timothy from the Apostle Paul while Timothy was serving as the interim pastor in Ephesus.
    5. Then, one more passage I will show you. In Phil. 2:22: Paul writes: But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
  • Let’s talk about serving as a spiritual parent.
    1. What is this like?
    2. It is not meaning simply going fishing together, though spiritual advise can be passed on during a fishing trip.
    3. It is not meaning simply activities. I am not talking about simply hanging out with someone younger than you.
    4. This is talking about discipleship.
    5. This is about mentoring someone younger than you in the faith and in the ministry. The Gospel is at the center of serving as a spiritual parent. However, understand the Gospel must be at the center of being a parent (see Deut. 6:1-9).
    6. Serving as a spiritual parent does begin with a relationship with someone younger than you, but it continues as you study the Bible together. As you model what it means to be a man or woman of God. Serving as a spiritual parent continues as you share life together, but in doing so you are modeling and teaching how to be a man or woman of God. You are modeling service to the church. You are modeling and teaching evangelism, discipleship, worship, ministry, and fellowship. Being a spiritual parent means that the Gospel is everything.
    7. If we do not teach our biological children the Gospel we have taught them nothing worthwhile. If we have relationships with others younger than us but we do not teach them the Gospel we have taught them absolutely nothing worthwhile. They die and it is the end of anything good.
    8. My youth pastor was my spiritual father. He was older than my father and he was living for Jesus and my father was not. He discipled me as he taught me the Bible, but he also discipled me as we served the church together, we had lunch together, we worked together. He modeled integrity and Christian values. I remember going with him to pick up an old truck he was restoring. The man was signing the title over and said, “How much do you want me to put down that you bought this for?” This was because you have to pay taxes on every dollar, so the seller was willing to just put down a dollar. My youth pastor had him put down the correct price. He modeled integrity. He modeled service. He modeled being a Christian father and grandfather.
  • Application: Serve as a paternal influence to others.
    1. Who has God placed in your life for you to serve in that spiritual paternal influence role?
    2. Right down a name in your bulletin and take it home and pray about it.
    3. This may be your children and grandchildren, nephew, or neighbor, or employee.
    4. Slow down and make time.
    5. This is true for all of us. Often times we miss what God wants us to do because we do not allow margin in our time to serve.
    6. Some of the most important moments I have had with my children have been inconvenient. Several years ago, probably 5 or 6 years ago, Mercedes woke up sick. I got up with her and thought I am going to get some work done. I started doing dishes. You know what she wanted? She wanted me to sit with her, not do dishes. There was a time period from when Mercedes was 2 years old until she was 5 in which she would get a bad cough and eventually vomit. It was corrected when she got her tonsils taken out. There were many, many nights I sat up with her watching Curious George. You know what? I would not trade those nights for the world. Some of the most important moments are inconvenient.

I read the following:

Truett Cathy is probably best known for his Chick-Fil-A restaurants, and while I like the food he helped make popular, I’m most appreciative of the work he does to help boys who face the prospect of growing up without a father.

Mr. Cathy has been mentoring youngsters for more than sixty years. He runs a camp and a foster- care program designed to help give children of broken homes a second chance at life. It’s an inspiring program. Boys are matched with mentors and father figures, and some are even placed in full-time Christian foster homes. Many are given the opportunity to work side by side with Mr. Cathy on a beautiful farm in the rolling hills of Rome, Georgia.

Truett Cathy is a well-seasoned Southern gentleman. But he’s more than a nice guy with business savvy. He knows how boys think. Most important, he knows what they need: a father or— at the very least— a strong male role model. Mr. Cathy travels the country with a simple but strong message: you can make a difference! It’s better to build boys than to have to mend men.[4]

So, next time you complain about the next generation, pray. Pray that God would send you a young person to serve as a spiritual parent.



[2] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 410–411.

[3] See George W. Murray, “Paul’s Corporate Witness in Philippians,” Bibliotheca Sacra 155:619 (JulySeptember 1998):316-26. Seen in Dr. Constable’s notes on Phil. 2:22:

[4] John Fuller with Paul Batura. First Time Dad, the Stuff You Really Need to Know. Moody Publishers, Chicago 2011.

God Gave His Son for Us, This Shows that He IS For Us (Romans 8:31-39)

Think about how special it is to give gifts and receive gifts.

Joni Eareckson Tada is a Christian quadriplegic. She writes about Christmas before her diving accident, which made her a quadriplegic, listen to this:

Every Christmas I think about what it was like to be on my feet during the holidays. There were parties and plays, dates and decorating, and hittin’ the malls. My sister Jay and I would traipse through stores, searching for the perfect gifts for everybody.

Then came my diving accident. That Christmas I spent at a rehab center in Baltimore. One of the things that hurt me most was that I couldn’t buy gifts. It added to the hurt I was already feeling. The way I saw it, God was asking way too much of me. Not only was the use of my body taken away at Christmastime, but I was also deprived of the joy of gift giving. Nothing was right; everything was wrong. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve I felt like a martyr.

But Christmas morning my heart softened. Maybe I’m concentrating too much on what God is asking of me and not enough on what he’s given me. Was my relinquishing everything unreasonable? Of course not. He gave more than everything. As Romans 8 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Things like profound peace. A settled soul. Rock-solid contentment.

As I focused on Christmas’s meaning, I realized the best gift I could give him and others was myself. My mother didn’t want a new dress; she wanted to see me smile. My father didn’t need a new bridle for his horse; he needed his daughter to laugh. Jay didn’t need another sweater; she needed to see me grab hold of hope.

What about you? What gifts from your heart—the ones you can’t buy—can you give?[1]

Wow! Realize how profound it is that God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all. God gave for you. Think about that. We all can have a free gift of salvation because God gave for you.

We are walking through Romans and we come to the end of Romans chapter 8.

My theme today is “Our Victory in Christ.”

  1. God gave His Son for us, this shows that he is for us (verses 31-39).
    • Remember, this is in context of God’s logical order of salvation.

Look at verse 31: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

  • Really, think about this, God is for us. Who cares if mere humans are against us? The creator of the cosmos is for us. The creator of the cosmos wants a relationship with us.
    • The argument is from the greater to the lesser.

Verse 32: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

  • God, the Father, did not spare His own Son. What does that show? It shows that He greatly cares about us. He was willing to send Jesus to the cross for us.
    • How will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? This is a question anticipating an obvious negative answer. He will graciously give us all things. That means all things needed for salvation and for our life in Him. God will graciously give us the Holy Spirit and what we need to live for Him. This is not meaning that He will graciously give us all things like a big house and a BMW, or a Mercedes. I prayed for a Mercedes and God gave me one but that does not happen with everyone (sarcasm, since my daughter is named Mercedes). No, God will graciously give us all we need to be saved.
    • Remember the point of Romans. God gifts us with salvation. We could NOT be saved by the law. The gentiles need a Savior, the Israelites need a Savior. God graciously gifts us with salvation.

Piper shares: Romans 8:32 is a quintessential summary of the argument (and argument is the right word!) of the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans. There is a logic to this greatest-of-all letters. I call it the logic of heaven.

This kind of logic has a technical name. You may or may not know the name of the logic, but you definitely know how to use it. You can call it an argument, or a logic, from the greater to the lesser. The technical name is a fortiori, which is Latin for from the stronger. The idea is this: if you have exerted your strength to accomplish something hard, then surely you can exert your strength to accomplish something easier. That’s an a fortiori argument.

So, suppose you say to your child, “Please run next door and ask Mr. Smith if we can borrow his pliers.” But your child says, “But what if Mr. Smith doesn’t want us to borrow his pliers?” How can you persuade your child that Mr. Smith will surely loan you his pliers? By using an a fortiori argument!

It goes like this: you say to your child, “Yesterday, Mr. Smith was happy to let us borrow his car all day long. If he was happy for me to borrow his car, he’ll be very willing for us to borrow his pliers.” Even children grasp a fortiori arguments. Loaning his car was a greater sacrifice than loaning his pliers. Therefore, it was harder to loan his car than it will be to loan his pliers. If he was inclined to do the harder thing, then he will be willing to do the easier thing. That’s the way we use a fortiori arguments.

Now watch Paul use this kind of argument for the greatest event in the history of the world. He says, God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. That’s the harder thing. Therefore, he will most certainly give us all things with him. That’s the easier thing. When this argument penetrates through the callouses of familiarity, it becomes gloriously hope-filled and all-encompassing.[2]

Verse 33: Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

  • This is a question with an implied negative answer. NO ONE can bring a charge against God’s elect. Why? God justified. God has declared us righteous.
    • Once we are saved by the blood of Jesus your sins are washed away. They are gone. The devil can accuse you all he wants but Jesus has paid for your sins. No one can bring a charge.

Piper writes: Paul could have said here, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” and then answered, “No one! We are justified.” That’s true. But that is not what he said. His answer instead is, “God is the one who justifies.”

The emphasis is not on the act but on the Actor.

Why? Because in the world of courts and laws where this language comes from, the acquittal of a judge might be overturned by a higher one.

So what, if a local judge acquits you, when you are guilty, if a governor has the right to bring a charge against you? So what, if a governor acquits you, when you are guilty, if the emperor can bring a charge against you?

Here’s the point: Above God, there are no higher courts. If God is the one who acquits you — declares you righteous in his sight — no one can appeal; no one can claim a technicality; no one can call for a mistrial; no one can look for other counts against you. God’s sentence is final and total.

Hear this, all you who believe on Jesus, and become united to Christ, and show yourself among the elect: God is the one who justifies you. Not a human judge. Not a great prophet. Not an archangel from heaven. But God, the Creator of the world and Owner of all things and Ruler of the universe and every molecule and person in it, God is the one who justifies you.

The point: unshakable security in the face of tremendous suffering. If God is for us, no one can successfully be against us. If God gave his Son for us, he will give us everything that is good for us. If God is the one who justifies us, no charge against us can stand.[3]

  • The next verse builds on this:

Verses 34-36: Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

  • Who is to condemn?
    • If you are in Christ no one can condemn you. Jesus has saved you.
    • Jesus died, and was raised for you. Jesus is at the right hand of God, that is the place of authority, interceding for you.
    • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Remember if God sent Jesus to the cross for us what more can God do to show that He cares? No one can separate us. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, no, nothing can separate us from God’s love. 
    • Paul then cites Psalm 44:22.

Look at verses 37-39: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • We are more than conquerors, but how? Through God, who loved us.
    • Because of the salvation that God freely gives us we are more than conquerors, but not because of what we do, but what He has done. It is all about Jesus.
    • Paul repeats with great detail that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    • Notice the end, “in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

There was a pastor Robert Bruce and this happened in 1631:

In August of 1631 Bruce was very elderly and weak in body. At breakfast one morning having eaten his normal portion of eggs, he asked his daughter for more. As she went to prepare it, he called her to wait for his master was calling. After a short time of meditation he asked his daughter to get his Bible and open it to Romans 8. Having read the chapter he turned to his family and said “Now God be with you, my children; I have breakfasted with you, and shall now sup with my Lord Jesus Christ this night.” He died shortly thereafter.[4]

We have salvation and eternal life freely given through Jesus.

We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus, but we do have to go through life, but WITH Jesus.

In a Leadership Journal article, John Ortberg argues that sometimes stressful and painful situations can actually help us grow. Ortberg creates the following scenario:

Imagine you’re handed a script of your newborn child’s entire life. Better yet, you’re given an eraser and five minutes to edit out whatever you want. You read that she will have a learning disability in grade school. Reading, which comes easily for some kids, will be laborious for her. In high school, she will make a great circle of friends, then one of them will die of cancer. After high school, she will get into her preferred college, but while there, she will lose a leg in a car accident. Following that, she will go through a difficult depression. A few years later she’ll get a great job, then lose that job in an economic downturn. She’ll get married, but then go through the grief of separation.

With this script of your child’s life and five minutes to edit it, what would you erase? Psychologist Jonathon Haidt poses this question in this hypothetical exercise: Wouldn’t you want to take out all the stuff that would cause them pain?

If you could erase every failure, disappointment, and period of suffering, would that be a good idea? Would that cause them to grow into the best version of themselves? Is it possible that we actually need adversity and setbacks—maybe even crises and trauma—to reach the fullest potential of development and growth?

Ortberg contends that God doesn’t always erase all our stress and pain before it starts. Instead, God can use the failures, disappointments, and periods of suffering to help us grow. Ortberg writes, “God isn’t at work producing the circumstances I want. God is at work in bad circumstances to produce the me he wants.”[5]

This is a powerful passage about our awesome salvation.


[1] Taken from More Precious than Silver; By Joni Eareckson Tada; Copyright © 1998

Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids



[4] See reference below but I heard this from Ray Ortlund Jr at the Aug 28 Cedarville University chapel

[5] Source: John Ortberg, “Don’t Waste a Crisis,” Leadership Journal (Winter, 2011)

Our Victory in Christ (Romans 8:26-30)

Our Victory in Christ (Romans 8:26-30)

Prepared and preached for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH by Pastor Steve Rhodes on Sunday, June 6, 2021

Noble Doss dropped the ball. One ball. One pass. One mistake. In 1941, he let one fall. And it’s haunted him ever since. “I cost us a national championship,” he says.

The University of Texas football team was ranked number one in the nation. Hoping for an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl, they played conference rival Baylor University. With a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, the Longhorn quarterback launched a deep pass to a wide-open Doss.

“The only thing I had between me and the goal,” he recalls, “was twenty yards of grass.”

The throw was on target. Longhorn fans rose to their feet. The sure-handed Doss spotted the ball and reached out, but it slipped through.

Baylor rallied and tied the score with seconds to play. Texas lost their top ranking and, consequently, their chance at the Rose Bowl.

“I think about that play every day,” Doss admits.

Not that he lacks other memories. Happily married for more than six decades. A father. Grandfather. He served in the navy during World War II. He appeared on the cover of Life magazine with his Texas teammates. He intercepted seventeen passes during his collegiate career, a university record. He won two NFL titles with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Texas High School Hall of Fame and the Longhorn Hall of Honor include his name.

Most fans remember the plays Doss made and the passes he caught. Doss remembers the one he missed. Once, upon meeting a new Longhorn head coach, Doss told him about the bobbled ball. It had been fifty years since the game, but he wept as he spoke.[1]

Sometimes we get weighed down with our mistakes. Praise God we don’t have to do that with salvation. In Jesus our salvation is great, it is awesome! God does not drop balls. The Holy Spirit draws us to Him. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. We can focus on the optimistic awesome truth of God and not the mistakes we have made.

I decided to divide this message in two parts. This will be a two part message talking about our victory in Christ. First, today, we will talk about the Holy Spirit’s help in our prayer life, we will also talk about God’s good plan in our salvation.

My theme today is: Victory in Christ, the Holy Spirit’s help and God’s good plan. 

  • In verses 26-27 we see the Spirit’s help.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

  • In the previous verses the apostle Paul had been instructing on the Christian hope. Now, he builds on this.
    • We all have weaknesses, correct?
    • The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.
    • We are not alone.
    • For… Paul is explaining.
    • We do not know what to pray for, or we do not know how to pray, or maybe we cannot pray. BUT the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
    • Paul does not leave it at that. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
    • My youth pastor’s daughter died of leukemia. During and after that time he would meet a friend to pray. He would get on his knees to pray, but he could not pray. He would just weep. You know what, the Holy Spirit was interceding for him.
    • Remember that, the Holy Spirit is praying for you!
    • Wow, take that in a moment.

Verse 27 reads: And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

  • “And He” this is about the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit knows you. The Holy Spirit searches your heart and knows what is the mind of the Spirit. What does this mean?
    • To me, this means that the Holy Spirit knows us and the Holy Spirit knows God’s will and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us accordingly.
    • What is God’s will?
    • God’s will is for you and me to be saved and to know Him (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:8-9).
    • God’s will is for us to depend upon Him and grow in Him and walk with Him.
  • In verses 28-30 we see God’s good plan.

Verse 28 reads:And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

  • Remember this all must be read and studied in context.
    • The Holy Spirit is interceding for us according to the will of God.
    • And this verse is about how things work together.
    • For those who love God…
    • Do we love God?
    • Do I love God?
    • If we love God all things work together for good and according to His purposes. The good is about conformity to Christ. God has a salvation plan.

Verses 29-30 read: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

  • This is very straightforward.
    • So, God has a salvation plan.
    • Those God foreknew, God’s foreknowledge is His ability to see the future.
    • God is omnipresent that means that He is present everywhere including outside of time.
    • Those God looked to the future and saw they would be Christians, those He predestined.
    • What did God predestine them for? Did God simply predestine them to be saved and then live like the devil? NO!
    • He predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son, that is Christians are predestined to become like Jesus.
    • This happens in order that Jesus might be the firstborn among many brethren. What does that mean. It means that He is the head of the church. Jesus was not born, but in a metaphorical way, He has the rights and privileges of the firstborn. He is the head. MacArthur shares: [firstborn means] The preeminent one, the only one who is the rightful heir (cf. Ps 89:27; Col 1:15–18; Rev 1:5). Jesus Christ is the most notable one among those who have become “brethren” by being made like Him.[2]

Look again at verse 30: And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

  • Okay, the “predestined” are “called.” To be “predestined” means to “choose out beforehand.” This means that those God foreknew, that is those God knew would be saved, He predestined them, he chose them beforehand, that is in eternity past. Now, at a certain point God calls them (see Acts 16:14). This means the Holy Spirit opens our eyes so that we understand that we are sinners in need of a Savior, and we are saved. Sometimes this “call” does not happen all at once for us. Meaning, God may call you at one time, but it may take some time before you accept Him.
    • Those God calls will be saved and are justified. That means God declares us righteous.
    • Then, lastly, the justified are glorified. That means when we go to Heaven, we are literally sinless. 
    • Now, I stated that the predestined are those God foreknew. That is generally what I believe.
    • Predestination is a broad concept in that what is foreordained can be any number of occurrences such as the Romans and Jews killing Jesus (Acts 4:28), or the elect experiencing fullness of life (1 Corinthians 2:7ff.) (This is a quote from a sermon by Pastor Bobby Murphy). 
    • The elect is a reference to the corporate church.
    • Why do we need predestined for salvation?
    • Jesus says:
    • John 6:44: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.[3]
    • John 6:65: And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”[4]
    • The Bible affirms God’s sovereignty, but also our freewill.
    • Salvation does start with God, but we do have freewill.
    • Salvation is God’s idea.
    • We were dead in our sins, but God wants a relationship with us, and if we are totally depraved, how do we receive Christ? We need the Holy Spirit to draw us to Him. So, that is predestination.
    • What I have stated here is that God predestined those He knows will be saved.
    • Remember that technically God does not look to the future to see who will be saved. Everything is eternally present. So, the term “foreknowledge” is anthropomorphic, meaning it is ascribing to God human attributes. Bottom line, God knows who would receive Him, in their own freewill, given the opportunity, and He makes sure they have the opportunity. The opportunity means that they receive the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Remember, no one can receive Jesus without the Holy Spirit’s conviction. We are dead in our sins. 
    • This is called “prevenient grace.” This means the grace of the Lord coming before-hand giving us the convicting power of the Holy Spirit so we can be saved.
    • I would not be opposed to the idea that the Lord gives everyone, at some time, or many times, the Holy Spirit’s conviction so they can be saved. However, the predestined, and elect, are only those whom God knows will be saved.  
    • Real quickly, there is a view called “Molinism,” or “Middle-Knowledge.” I am leaning towards this view. This would be the view that God knows any choice we would freely make, in any possible circumstance, in any possible world. God knows, in any possible world, if with the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, with prevenient grace, we would freely receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. God then puts us in those situations. Then God providentially orchestrates us into events, but those are the events that God knows we would freely choose.
      • This is called “middle knowledge” because it is based on God’s “middle knowledge.” Williams Lane Craig shares:
        • In the first moment is God’s knowledge of all necessary truths, for example, the laws of logic.
        • To skip ahead, the third moment of God’s knowledge is his knowledge of the actual world which he has created [God’s free knowledge]. In between God’s natural knowledge and his free knowledge, in the second moment of omniscience, omniscience stands God’s middle knowledge. In this moment God knows what every possible creature would do (not just could do) in any possible set of circumstances. For example, he knows whether Peter, if he were placed in certain circumstances, would deny Christ three times. By his natural knowledge God knew in the first moment all the possible things that Peter could do if placed in such circumstances. But now in this second moment he knows what Peter would in fact freely choose to do under such circumstances. This is not because Peter would be causally determined by the circumstances to act in this way. No, Peter is entirely free, and under the same circumstances he could choose to act in another way. But God knows which way Peter would freely choose. God’s knowledge of Peter in this respect is not simple foreknowledge. For maybe God will decide not to place Peter under such circumstances or even not to create him at all. Middle knowledge, like natural knowledge, thus is logically prior to the decision of the divine will to create a world.[5]
      • God knows the middle knowledge and God orchestrates it so that we are predestined and yet free because the predestination is based on our free choice which He knows because of His omniscience.
      • Foreknowledge says God knows what will happen. Middle knowledge means God knows what “could” happen. God knows the subjunctives. God knows what a person will do in their free will in any possible world and God orchestrates that. They do it of their free will but God predetermined it but based on their free will.
      • This means that no one is eternally damned to hell who would be saved given the opportunity.

Theologians use a phrase to talk about how Christ-followers are already redeemed but will not experience the fullness of redemption until they live with God in heaven. The phrase is, “The already and the not yet.” How does that work exactly?

A little girl in England, Josie Caven, was born profoundly deaf. Growing up, she often felt isolated because of her inability to hear, but that changed after receiving a cochlear implant during the Christmas season. At the age of 12, she heard clearly for the first time. The first sound she heard was the song “Jingle Bells” coming from the radio.

Was Josie’s hearing restored? Yes—completely. Was she hearing well immediately? Not exactly. Her mother said, “She is having to learn what each new sound is and what it means. She will ask, ‘Was that a door closing?’ and has realized for the first time that the light in her room hums when it is switched on. She even knows what her name sounds like now, because before she could not hear the soft ‘S’ sound in the middle of the word. Seeing her face light up as she hears everything around her is all I could have wished for this Christmas.”

Josie’s hearing was restored, but that restoration introduced her to the daily adventure of learning to distinguish each new sound in the hearing world. It’s the already, and the not yet.[6]

[1] Max Lucado, Fearless (Thomas Nelson, 2009), pp. 31-32

[2] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 8:29.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 6:44.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 6:65.

[5] Craig, William L.. The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (pp. 128-130). Wipf & Stock, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[6] Source: “Christmas Carols Music to the Ears of Deaf Girl,”

Your eternity and daily living are on Jesus, not you. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Memorial Day was established after the Civil War. All these men served in the War Between the States. All these families sacrificed as the husband was gone, the father was gone. Families were torn apart. What was it like for the soldier? What was it like for the leaders? I wonder if they ever felt the weight of the war was on them?

What about Lincoln? How did he make it through the war? How did he make it through the day? I am sure he felt like the weight of the war was on him. I am sure he felt like the future of the United States was on him.

What was it like for other soldiers and families in other wars? I listened to a “Backstory” program about the history of World War I. At first America was not going in. Funny as it may sound; at first, we even had songs about not going to war. There was a song that had lyrics something like this:

Verse 1

Ten million soldiers to the war have gone,

Who may never return again.

Ten million mother’s hearts must break

For the ones who died in vain.

Head bowed down in sorrow

In her lonely years,

I heard a mother murmur thru’ her tears:


I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier,

I brought him up to be my pride and joy.

Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,

To shoot some other mother’s darling boy?

Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,

It’s time to lay the sword and gun away.

There’d be no war today,

If mothers all would say,

“I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier.”

Verse 2

What victory can cheer a mother’s heart,

When she looks at her blighted home?

What victory can bring her back

All she cared to call her own?

Let each mother answer

In the years to be,

Remember that my boy belongs to me![1]

Within a few years we went to war and the songs changed: Over there:

Johnny,[8] get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.

Take it on the run, on the run, on the run.

Hear them calling you and me,

Every Sons of Liberty.

Hurry right away, no delay, go today.

Make your Daddy glad to have had such a lad.

Tell your sweetheart not to pine,

To be proud her boy’s in line.

Verse 2

Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.

Johnny, show the “Hun[9] you’re a son-of-a-gun.

Hoist the flag and let her fly

Yankee Doodle[10] do or die.

Pack your little kit, show your grit, do your bit.

Yankee[11] to the ranks from the towns and the tanks.[12]

Make your Mother proud of you

And the old red-white-and-blue[13]


Over there, over there,

Send the word, send the word over there

That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming

The drums rum-tumming everywhere.

So prepare, say a prayer,

Send the word, send the word to beware –

We’ll be over, we’re coming over,

And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.[2]

I wonder the burden our soldiers felt?

Do you ever feel burdened? Do you ever feel that the weight of the world is on you?

We can look at this topic two ways. Is our living all about us? Are all the pressures of daily living all on us? We may feel that way? What about salvation? What about our faith in Christ? Is our spiritual condition all on us?

I would say no to both of those statements.

A year ago, I preached on lies we believe versus Biblical Truth. Today, I want to focus on another lie we believe versus Biblical Truth. As we look at these lies we believe some of you may think, “duh, I know that!” But can you justify what you know based off of the Bible. Be schooled by the Bible.

Theme: Your eternity and daily living are on Jesus, not you.

Application: Surrender continually to Jesus. Pray continually.

Let’s read Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

  1. Our Salvation is not all on us.
    • This passage is about salvation, not about daily living. Now, we can make the case that our daily living is not all on us and I’ll come to that in a minute.
    • The people were burdened with the Jewish law. This law did not all come from Scripture. Jesus was saying that He fulfills the law for them. We can’t keep the law, but Jesus did it for us. Jesus died in our place.
    • What is a yoke: ESV Study Note: The wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) for pulling heavy loads was a metaphor for one person’s subjection to another, and a common metaphor in Judaism for the law. The Pharisaic interpretation of the law, with its extensive list of proscriptions, had become a crushing burden (cf. 23:4) but was believed by the people to be of divine origin. Jesus’ yoke of discipleship, on the other hand, brings rest through simple commitment to him (cf. 1 John 5:3).
    • It is not about religion, but about Jesus.
    • It is not about religiously following rules but following Jesus.
    • We will follow one or the other. You will either follow Jesus or a list of moral rules. Are you committing to the church because you are supposed to or because you are committed to Jesus and the church is the bride of Christ?
    • Lean in on Jesus. Christianity is NOT a religion. Christianity is about Jesus. Religion is NOT about earning your way to Heaven, but Christianity is about what Jesus has done to give us eternal life.
  2. We have daily help.
    • John 14:16-17: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
    • We talk about the Holy Spirit a lot, but the point is that you can always place your burden on Jesus. Your eternal life is on Jesus and your life now is on Jesus. It is not all on you.
    • How do you give it to Jesus? First, surrender your eternal life to Jesus; second, keep a constant connection with Jesus.
  3. The weight of the future is on God, not us.
    • So, let me go back to the Civil War, or World War I, or World War II, each soldier made a difference. Was the weight of the war on one soldier or another? No, all the soldiers came together and made a difference. But more than that each soldier had daily help.
    • Memorial Day was originally honoring fallen soldiers. How do families go through pain and loss? We can only go through difficulty with God’s help.
    • God gives us help through prayer.
    • More than that, God is in charge. Amen.
    • God is in charge, right? Do we believe that?
      • NOW, this is where it gets difficult. Was God on America’s side? I think it was Lincoln who said: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”[3]
      • So, we can pray during anything and pray, “Jesus, I hope I am doing the right thing, please help.” We can always ask God for help.
      • We can give our burden to God.
      • I really do not wish to get in the politics of war, but I will say that looking at Scripture God would absolutely NOT be happy with slavery. I can say that God absolutely was NOT happy with the concentration camps.
      • I have recently been studying Winston Churchill more. It is almost as if God setup him as a leader for World War II. I am not saying he was a Christian, maybe he was. I am simply saying that God used him. It would have been easy for Churchill to think the weight of Britain was on him. The man was stubborn and strong willed to begin with. I am listening to an audio book about his younger years, and I watched a documentary about him during World War I. It was like he was happy with war. He would walk right out into the “no-man’s land” in between the trenches. It was like God used him.
      • Here is a strong and true statement. God is in charge. God is available to help us. We can turn our burden over to God. The weight is on God and not us.
      • God is in charge. Your eternity and daily living are on Jesus, not you.
  4. Pray like a child.
    • We are taught to pray continually in 1 Thess. 5:17.
    • Jesus talks about the faith of a child (Matthew 18:3).
    • How do children talk to their parents?
    • When children are talking to their parents, they don’t formulate words, no, they just talk. You know they don’t think about their vocabulary. They just talk. They beg and will repeatedly ask us questions. They don’t try to formulate their words carefully, they just ask. Many times, while they are asking for something they are not making sense, but they ask.
    • My children will ask for help, there is no hesitancy in a young child asking her parents for help. They just ask.
    • Abigail does not hesitate to ask for help. Several years ago, she was once trying to get her coat on at childcare and she turned around and asked a state inspector, “will you help me?”
    • I believe we need to talk to God like a child. Keep an ongoing conversation with God going.
    • Pray specifics to God. You are not alone.

Theme: Your eternity and daily living is on Jesus, not you.

Application: Surrender continually to Jesus. Pray continually.

Here is an idea for application: this week try to pray about everything, seriously everything. Talk to God as your good and loving Father and pray. At the end of the week record in a prayer journal how you have done.




Assurance of Hope (Romans 8:18-25)

Assurance of Hope (Romans 8:18-25)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, May 22 and Sunday, May 23, 2021

In his book The Divine Commodity, Skye Jethani shares a story from a trip he took to India with his father. While walking the streets of New Delhi, a little boy approached them. He was “skinny as a rail, and naked but for tattered blue shorts. His legs were stiff and contorted, like a wire hanger twisted upon itself.” Because of his condition, the little boy could only waddle along on his calloused knees. He made his way toward Skye and his father and cried out, “One rupee, please! One rupee!” Skye describes what happened when his father eventually responded to the boy’s persistent begging:

“What do you want?” [my father asked].

“One rupee, sir,” the boy said while motioning his hand to his mouth and bowing his head in deference. My father laughed.

“How about I give you five rupees?” he said. The boy’s submissive countenance suddenly became defiant. He retracted his hand and sneered at us. He thought my father was joking, having a laugh at his expense. After all, no one would willingly give up five rupees. The boy started shuffling away, mumbling curses under his breath.

My father reached into his pocket. Hearing the coins jingle, the boy stopped and looked back over his shoulder. My father was holding out a five-rupee coin. He approached the stunned boy and placed the coin into his hand. The boy didn’t move or say a word. He just stared at the coin in his hand. We passed him and proceeded to cross the street.

A moment later the shouting resumed, except this time the boy was yelling, “Thank you! Thank you, sir! Bless you!” He raced after us once again—but not for more money but to touch my father’s feet. …

This, I imagine, is how our God sees us—as miserable creatures in desperate need of his help. But rather than asking for what we truly need, rather than desiring what he is able and willing to give, we settle for lesser things.[1]

Do you realize that? God loves us and He sees us with our real needs. God sees our needs. God wants to save us. God gives us the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our salvation (Eph. 1:14). We do settle for lesser things but we have hope.

Today, we will look at Romans 8:18-25.

My theme:

The Assurance of Hope

The believer has a new hope, the final redemption of all things.

  1. Present grief versus future glory (verse 18).
    • Verse 18 reads: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
    • Paul had been writing how we are adopted. Paul had been writing about how we are fellow heirs with Christ. Paul had been writing about how the Spirit testifies that we are children of God. Now, Paul begins to write about how our present suffering does not compare with our future glory. Paul writes about our hope.
    • I notice that Paul acknowledges suffering, do you notice that?
    • For I consider that the sufferings of this present time… Paul mentions “sufferings,” but also “present time.”
    • We all suffer in this present time. We are all going through struggles. We all go through sicknesses, if not ourselves, our friends and family face sicknesses. We all go through mental illness, if not ourselves, our friends and family face mental illness. We all go through spiritual attacks, temptations, and even spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-12). This is true whether we realize it or not. We suffer.
    • Paul here is acknowledging that we suffer.
    • Paul does not say, “the suffering is not real…” Paul does not say, “toughen up…” No, Paul is comparing the suffering with our future with Jesus.
    • Paul says the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
    • Paul is contrasting the two.
    • Paul is referring to the resurrection of the body.
    • We are to make our present pain seem small in comparison to what is coming.[2]
    • 2 Co 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison
    • 1 Pe 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
    • Some day God will make all things new. That is in Revelation 21:1-4.
    • A few weeks ago someone died an untimely death. But the person was a believer in Christ. I was told the person was looking forward to playing cards with family again after COVID. As I prayed I thought, “This person is much happier in heaven.” No matter when we die, if we are in Christ, we will be happier in Heaven. We are always asking the Lord, “Why did You take them so soon?” They are in Heaven asking the opposite. They are in heaven asking the Lord when He will restore all things (Revelation 6:9-11).
    • What is coming? Let’s look at the next few verses.
  2. Paul’s metaphor of creation (verses 19-23).
    • Verse 19 reads: For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
    • Paul now broadens the subject matter.
    • In verse 18 Paul used “I” and “us.” These are both personal pronouns. Now, Paul looks at this from a broader view. Now, he looks at this not from an individual perspective, but rather from a broader perspective. Now, Paul writes about all of creation suffering. All of creation is waiting with “eager” longing… or, literally, “eager expectations.” All of creation is waiting expectantly and how are they waiting “eagerly.” All of creation is earnestly waiting. As one writes: He personified it as leaning forward eagerly in anticipation of the great day in which God will fully redeem it too (cf. Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 9:28).[3]
    • What is all of creation waiting for? Creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.
    • Who are the sons of God? That is us, actually we are sons and daughters of God and that is powerful. Remember verse 16 about this, the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
    • Creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed and this would mean glorifying the sons of God when all is made new and right.
    • What is wrong with creation? Sin. Everything is fallen, all creation is depraved and needs redeemed. “all creation” means all animals, insects, stars, asteroids, rivers, oceans, cells, everything is marred by sin.
    • Look at verses 20-21: For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
    • Everything, all creation was subjected to futility. One source says: This refers to the inability to achieve a goal or purpose. Because of man’s sin, God cursed the physical universe (Ge 3:17–19), and now, no part of creation entirely fulfills God’s original purpose.[4]
    • Bobby Murphy wrote about this in a blog article, he wrote: Those verses reveal when Adam and Eve “fell” in the garden, so did the rest of creation, also called “nature.”  There is a spiritual link between humans and nature so defined that nature’s destiny, from the beginning in Genesis 1:1, was tied up with the destiny of humans, and still is.  When humans sinned and were cursed, so was nature.  As beautiful and joy producing as nature is, therefore, there’s something wrong with it.  It’s futile and corrupt.
    • This futility and corruption are evident in non-living things and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, that is, the Law of Increased Entropy.  Left to itself, our sun, for instance, will eventually “grow cold and die.”
    • As sociologist Tony Campolo points out though, it’s most evident in animals and two obvious characteristics God never intended but they routinely display.  One is their brutality.  So, hawks swoop down and rip open the necks of mice and squirrels or adorable lion cubs with bloody faces chew at the carcass of a Zebra their mother killed. The other characteristic is their fear: the rabbit frozen in its tracks, the wildcat hunching its back, the rattlesnake poised to strike, or dogs slinking to the ground.  Those are without doubt postures of alarm.[5]
    • One source shares: Verses 19–21 are Paul’s commentary on Gn 3. When Jesus returns to earth with His people, the curse will be lifted from the world. Inanimate creation is personified in this passage as looking forward to the restoration of creation.[6]
    • Creation was subjected to futility, but not willingly… how? Who is the “him” who subjected it? This happened at the fall. God ultimately subjected it, but this happened because of sin entering the world, but there is a goal. Verse 21 shows that creation is waiting to be set free.
    • Look at verses 22-23: For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
    • All of creation is waiting for redemption. Look at the language Paul is using. All of creation is going through labor pangs. All of creation is going through childbirth. In verse 23 Paul comes back to us. All of creation is groaning in childbirth and so are we. We, Christians, have the firstfruits of the Spirit. That means that we have the firstfruits, that is a pledge that more is to come.
    • What is the firstfruits? I think the firstfruits would be the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts (Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:22-23).
    • We are first groaning and waiting eagerly for adoption as sons, but we are ultimately waiting on the redemption of our bodies.
    • I think right here Paul means resurrection. We are eagerly waiting until when God makes all things new. Paul will come back to this in verses 29-30.
    • Also, as one source shares: First fruits may have OT offering connotations (cf. Lv 23). The first fruits offering was to show one’s trust in the Lord, that if He has provided early aspects of the harvest, He could be trusted for good provision later. God has given the Spirit to believers at the present time, establishing an unbreakable connection between the initial experience of salvation and its end in eternity. The Spirit is both the first installment of our salvation and the down payment of the pledge that guarantees the remaining stages of the work of God in our salvation.[7]
  3. We wait patiently and confidently (verses 24-25).
    • Look now at verses 24-25: For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
    • Paul talks about our hope. We were saved with the hope of when God will make all things new.
    • We hope, not for what we see, but what we do not see.
    • This is why we wait with patience.
    • Think of this way.
    • Until the last 30 or so years women did not see their babies until they were born, right? For many of you, you did not know if you were going to have a baby boy or a baby girl until the baby came. You know what that was like. You had hope. You had hope for the baby to come. You knew that you had a baby coming, but you had not seen the baby yet. The birth pangs came and eventually the baby comes. You waited patiently and then your baby came. But you had to go through labor first.
    • Paul wrote about our creation in birth pangs in verse 22, and like a pregnant mother, creation is waiting for the baby to come. The birth is when God will restore all things and make all things new.
    • We do not see our hope, but we trust in the promises of God.
    • Our salvation is secure as long as we persevere in the faith, but our salvation is as of yet unseen so it is a matter of hope. We wait in faith and patience.
  4. Applications:
    • Our suffering does not compare to our eternal life (verse 18). We must remember this. We must always remember that this world is the only hell we will experience. We must always remember to keep it in perspective.
    • We must always remember that people in heaven are not thinking that they wished they lived longer.
    • We must remember that God has a better plan, all of creation is fallen (verses 20-23).
    • We must know that we have the firstfruits, we have the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance (verse 23).
    • We must remember that we have hope. In Christ we always have hope.
    • We must patiently wait for when God restores all things (verses 24-25).  
    • We must share the good news of Jesus with others.

The doctor said, “If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.”

The doctor was talking about Alcides Moreno. By every law of physics and medicine, Moreno should have died. Moreno was a window washer in Manhattan. He rode platforms with his brother Edgar high into the sky to wash skyscrapers. From there he could look down to see the pavement far below where the people looked like ants. On December 7, 2007, catastrophe struck the Moreno family. As the brothers worked on the 47th story of a high rise, their platform collapsed, and Alcides and Edgar fell from the sky.

If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.

No, Alcides Moreno didn’t land on a passing airplane or catch his shirt on a flagpole or have anything else amazing happen like you see in the movies; he fell the entire 47 stories to the pavement below. As would be expected, his brother Edgar died from the fall, but somehow Alcides did not. He lived. For two weeks he hung on to life by a thread. Then, on Christmas Day, he spoke and reached out to touch his nurse’s face. One month later, the doctors were saying that he would probably walk again some day.

If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.

In the beginning of the human race, Adam also fell from a great height. From sinless glory in the image of God, Adam rebelled against God and fell into sin and death and judgment, and in this terrible fall he brought with him the whole human race. But “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God the Son left the heights of heaven and descended to the earth to become a man. He lived a sinless life and then willingly went to the cross to die for the sins of Adam’s fallen race. On the third day he rose again, and in his resurrection he made it possible for all to rise again and live forever.

If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.[8]

[1] Source: Skye Jethani, The Divine Commodity (Zondervan, 2009), pp. 113-114

[2] Paraphrased from Piper, Desiring God, pages 283–284

[3] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 8:19.

[4] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 8:20.


[6] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1757.

OT Old Testament

cf. compare or consult

[7] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1757–1758.

[8] Source: “It Wasn’t All Bad,” The Week (1-18-08), p. 4

Life in the Spirit Continued (Romans 8:12-17)

Life in the Spirit Continued (Romans 8:12-17)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, May 15 and Sunday, May 16, 2021

In 1904 William Borden graduated from high school. He was the heir to the great Borden milk fortune. For his graduation gift, his parents sent him on a trip around the world, hoping it would stimulate his global business interests. Instead, for the first time he realized how many had never heard the good news of Jesus Christ, and he committed himself to becoming a missionary. When one of his closest friends heard this news he was outraged and confronted William Borden telling him that he was throwing his life away. Borden made a note of the date and wrote these two words in his bible: No Reserves.

He then went to Yale University and was a top student, the President of the honor society, Phi Beta Kappa. Upon graduation he was offered several high paying, influential jobs. He turned them all down, saying he was committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He made a note of the date in his Bible and wrote the two words: No Retreat.

He eventually set off for China to work with Muslims there. He decided it would be best to learn Arabic before he arrived, so he stopped in Cairo, Egypt, to do language study. It was while he was in Egypt that he contracted spinal meningitis and within a month he was dead, still in his twenties, never having even arrived in China. The news of his tragic death was carried by newspapers across the country. Eventually his belongings were shipped back to the US and his parents opened his Bible to find a date written just weeks before he died with two words: No Regrets.[1]

Today,I wish to continue our trek through Romans as we look at a passage encouraging us with our close relationship with God and challenging us to walk by the Spirit putting to death the deeds of the body. This passage is about perseverance in the Christian life, but not on our own, no the Holy Spirit is within us.  

My theme is:

The Christian life is a life of living by the Spirit persevering to conquer sin and make Jesus Lord of our lives.

  • Live by the Spirit (verses 12-14).
    • Let’s read verse 12: So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
    • Paul begins with “so then…”
    • There is a double connective here that cannot be easily preserved in English: “consequently therefore,” emphasizing the conclusion of what he has been arguing.[2]
    • Let’s put this in context. In the previous verses Paul wrote about our life in the Spirit. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. Wow! He will also give us life through His Spirit. That is a powerful section. This is a powerful chapter.
    • This brings us to these verses.
    • We are debtors…
    • Debtors to what? Paul will answer this.
    • We are not debtors to the flesh; Paul even clarifies more. We are not debtors to live according to the flesh.
    • In the New Testament “flesh” usually means the sinful state, the fallen state, the depraved state that we are in without Christ.
    • In Greek Paul is using the word σάρξ transliterated sárx literally it means Flesh of a living creature in distinction from that of a dead one, which is kréas (2907), meat.[3]
    • Metonymically meaning flesh as used for the body, the corpus, the material nature as distinguished from the spiritual and intangible (pneúma [4151], the spirit). This usage of sárx is far more frequent in the NT than in classical writers.[4]
    • Paul had been writing about how the flesh can’t get us to Heaven. The way of the flesh leads to death (Romans 6:16). The way of the flesh leads to sin now and eternal death later on. Remember in Romans 7:13-24 how Paul wrote about not being able to do the right things. I said that I think he was writing about his fleshly state. Living as a non-believer he just could not do the right thing. He might have also been writing as an objective non-believer, not as himself. Either way, the flesh cannot help us do the right thing. The flesh cannot take care of our sin problem. Paul is saying that we are not debtors to this way. 
    • In verse 13 he continues his thought: For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
    • If you live according to the flesh you will die. This is consistent to what he has already written. Again, this is because “flesh” represents our sinful state.
    • For if you live according to the flesh you will die…Paul is about to show contrast, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
    • Now, this is interesting. So, someone is saved, they are a Christian, they have the Holy Spirit (verse 9 of this chapter), but they still need to make a conscious effort to NOT “in the flesh,” BUT “by the Spirit” put to death the deeds of the body. Then they will live.
    • Listen, as Christians we must walk by the Spirit.
    • As Christians we must put to death the deeds of the body.
    • C. H. Spurgeon said, “The believer, like a man on shipboard, may fall again and again on the deck, but he will never fall overboard,” quoted in A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: Judson, 1907), 885.[5] We must persevere.
    • The Greek verb (translated “put to death”) suggests continuing action.
    • Being a Christian is NOT simply saying a prayer and then living however you want. No, that would be living by the flesh. We still must live John 15, that is “abide” in Jesus (John 15:4).
    • I like what Piper writes:

When Paul says to put to death the deeds of the body “by the Spirit” (Romans 8:13), I take him to mean that we should use the one weapon in the Spirit’s armor that is used to kill; namely, the sword, “which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

So, when the body is about to be led into a sinful action by some fear or craving, we are to take the sword of the Spirit and kill that fear and that craving. In my experience, that means mainly severing the root of sin’s promise by the power of a superior promise.

For example, when I begin to crave some illicit sexual pleasure, the sword-swing that has often severed the root of this promised pleasure is, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). I recall the pleasures I have tasted of seeing God more clearly from an undefiled conscience; and I recall the brevity and superficiality and oppressive aftertaste of sin’s pleasures, and with that, God has killed the conquering power of sin.

Having promises at hand that suit the temptation of the hour is one key to successful warfare against sin.

But there are times when we don’t have a perfectly suited word from God in our minds. And there is no time to look through the Bible for a tailor-made promise. So, we all need to have a small arsenal of general promises ready to use whenever fear or craving threaten to lead us astray.

Here are four of my most oft-used promises in fighting against sin:

Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

And the promise implicit in Philippians 3:8, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

And, of course, Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Be constantly adding to your arsenal of promises. But never lose sight of the chosen few that God has blessed in your life. Do both. Be ever-ready with the old. And every morning look for a new one to take with you through the day.[6]

  1. Paul concludes this thought in verse 14: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
    • One writes: This may be the most succinct and specific answer in Scripture to the question, Who is a child of God? While doctrinal correctness is important, no amount of theological acuity can substitute for the guiding presence of the Spirit.[7]
    • Are you led by the Spirit of God? That brings us to the next section:
  2. Adopted into God’s family (verses 15-17).
    • Verse 15: For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
    • We see that we have intimacy with the Father (verses 15-16).
    • You did not receive the spirit of slavery, No, that was the old way. Paul is now contrasting the way of a non-adopted son in the Greco-Roman world versus the way of an adopted son. A non-adopted son in the Greco-Roman world was just like a slave.
    • The spirit of slavery would give us more fear.
    • No, we have the Spirit of adoption. We have the Holy Spirit Who seals us as children of the Most High God (Eph. 1:13; 4:30).
    • One writes: The Holy Spirit is not an agent of bondage but is instead the means of our adoption into God’s family. By the Spirit we have a consciousness that God is our Father.[8]
    • One source: Roman adoption—which could take place at any age—canceled all previous debts and relationships, defining the new son wholly in terms of his new relationship to his father, whose heir he thus became.[9]
    • This means that we can cry “Abba! Father!”
    • “Abba” means “father” and is transliterated from the Aramaic. Paul writes it in Greek but it is an Aramaic word. To transliterate means to take the word and put it in the corresponding letters of another alphabet, in this case the Aramaic to the Greek.
    • Paul put two words for father next to each other in order to add emphasis.
    • “Abba” means “father.” Then, the second word is “pater.” Pater can mean father, or grandfather, or forefather.
    • ἀββᾶ abbá; In the NT, it is always used to address God and is followed immediately by the translation (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). This double expression was common in the early church.[10]
    • Paul seems to be conveying the intimacy that we can have with God being adopted into His family.
    • In Mark 14:36 during Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane He addressed God as Abba Father. We can pray to God the same way that Jesus prayed to His Father!
    • Paul builds on this in verse 16: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…
    • The Holy Spirit bears witness with our internal spirit, that would be spirit with a lower case “s.” The Holy Spirit tells us that we are children of God.
    • MacArthur: In Roman culture, for an adoption to be legally binding, 7 reputable witnesses had to be present, attesting to its validity. God’s Holy Spirit confirms the validity of our adoption, not by some inner, mystical voice, but by the fruit He produces in us (Gal 5:22, 23) and the power He provides for spiritual service (Ac 1:8).[11]
    • This is powerful, how important this is that we are grafted into God’s family.
    • We have an inheritance from the Father (verses 17).
    • Verse 17 wraps this up: and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
    • We are fellow heirs with Christ!
    • God has appointed His Son to be heir of all things (Heb 1:2). Every adopted child will receive by divine grace the full inheritance Christ receives by divine right (cf. Mt 25:21; Jn 17:22; 2Co 8:9).[12]
    • However, we do have to suffer in this Christian life, but we will also be glorified with Him.
  3. Applications:
    • We need to allow the Word of God to do the Work of God to put to death things of the flesh (verse 13).
    • We need to use the Word of God to put to death deeds of the body. We need to use the Word of God to put to death: lust, envy, greed, idols, lies, pride, and so much more.
    • We must be encouraged of the close relationship we have with God as Christians (verses 15-16).
    • We must remember that the Christian life will include suffering (verse 17).

John newton illustration from John Piper:

I’m going to close with a story from John Newton. I come back to it over and over to convict myself of my murmuring. Paul said in Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without murmuring.” Is there any more condemning verse in the Bible? All things without murmuring?

This is John Newton, writing in the eighteenth century. There are no cars; there are only carriages. So, picture a horse-drawn carriage. A man is on the way to New York to get his inheritance. Here’s what happens:

Suppose a man was going to New York to take possession of a large estate [let’s just say it’s worth $5 million], and his [carriage] should break down a mile before he got to the city, which obliged him to walk the rest of the way [this is where we are in our walkway toward heaven]; what a fool we should think him, if we saw him wringing his hands, and blubbering out all the remaining mile, “My [carriage] is broken! My [carriage] is broken!”

He’s on the way to an inheritance worth millions of dollars. He can fix the carriage.[13]

We as Christian have an inheritance in Heaven that is more than we can ever imagine. Part of that inheritance we have received, we have received the Holy Spirit and life with Him. We will have bumps along the way of this life. We will have struggles with sin and persecution and suffering, but after persevering through this life, by the power of the Holy Spirit persevering through this life, we will be in glory in Heaven.

Let’s pray.


[2] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 8:12.

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

NT (New Testament)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995).


[7] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 181–182.

[8] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1793.

[9] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ro 8:15.

NT (New Testament)

[10] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[11] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 8:16.

[12] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 8:17.


Jesus takes Care of His Mother (John 19:26-27) Mother’s Day Message

Allow me to begin this sermon by saying “Happy Mother’s Day!” I am grateful for all the mothers and all the maternal influences out there. Thank you for your constant work.

Something I read in the past few weeks said the following:

What is a Mother?

Somewhere between the youthful energy of a teenager and the golden years of a woman’s life, there lives a marvelous and loving person known as “Mother.”

A mother is a curious mixture of patience, kindness, understanding, discipline, industriousness, purity and love.

A mother can be at one and the same time, both “lovelorn counselor” to a heartsick daughter and “head football coach” to an athletic son.

A mother can sew the tiniest stitch in the material for that dainty prom dress and she is equally experienced in threading through the heaviest traffic in a station wagon.

A mother is the only creature on earth who can cry when she’s happy, laugh when she’s heartbroken, and work when she’s feeling ill.

A mother is as gentle as a lamb and as strong as a giant. Only a mother can appear so weak and helpless and yet be the same one who puts the fruit cover on so tightly even dad can’t get it off.

A mother is a picture of helplessness when Dad is near, and a marvel of resourcefulness when she’s all alone.

A mother has the angelic voice of a member in the celestial choir as she sings Brahms lullaby to a babe held tight in her arms; yet this same voice can dwarf the sounds of an amplifier when she calls her boys in for supper.

A mother has the fascinating ability to be almost everywhere at once and she alone can somehow squeeze an enormous amount of living into an average day.

A mother is “old fashioned” to her teenager; just “Mom” to her third-grader; and simply “Mama” to little two-year old sister.

But there is no greater thrill in life, than to point to that wonderful woman and be able to say to all the world, “That’s my mother!”[1]

There is always something about mothers, really there is. There has always, even as we study history, we see there is a special place for mothers. Times can change and times do change, but people always need a mother and love their mother. A sad expression of this is when people cry out for their mother on the battlefield. A mother’s voice is the one you long to hear.

As an example, several years ago, when Mercedes was only about 18 months old Meagan and I went together to pick up Mercedes from the babysitter. We went to the babysitter walked in the door and Mercedes ran and gave Meagan a big hug. I waited and Mercedes didn’t give me a hug. Mercedes loved and loves her mom. There is a special place for mothers. Let me also say that there is a special place for those that serve in a maternal role. There are many who never have biological children but mother other children all the same.

In the Bible we do see the idea of taking care of our mothers. Certainly, in the Old Testament we see the commandment to honor our father and our mother in Exodus 20:12. But then we also see the passage which we will look at today. Let me read John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

  1. The passage:
    • In context Jesus is on the cross. He has been beaten beyond recognition and now He is dying on the cross.
    • Jesus is probably gasping for air and struggling to breathe, yet he makes this statement.
    • I wonder what it was like for His mother to watch her son on the cross. This fulfilled Simeon’s prophesy in Luke 2:35: …(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
    • Here He is naked, beaten and dying. This is the boy she raised.
    • Jesus looks down on her. I wonder what it was like for Him to see His mother. Was she grieving? Was she crying? How did that make Him feel?
    • Jesus did feel the need to provide for her.
    • He saw the disciple whom He loved, likely John, and gave a command.
    • Verse 27 says that this disciple did take her in. There was no arguing. This disciple took care of Jesus’ mother.
    • Notice that there are four women at the foot of the cross and one of them is likely the beloved disciple’s mother and the beloved disciple is likely Jesus’ cousin. It says, “his mother’s sister,” possibly Salome, who was the Mother of James and John, Then, it says, “the wife of Cleophas,” “Mary the wife of Cleophas;” and this was possibly Mary’s sister‑in‑law so that you have a family there. Then you have one outsider, Mary Magdalene, Mary from Magdala. Christ had cast seven demons from her (This comes from verse 25).
    • Notice that the beloved disciple is the only disciple who was there. The rest fled. Know that men have no market on courage. In this case the women are way more courageous.
  2. Now let’s apply this idea of taking care of your mother:
    • Taking care of your mother. Jesus makes sure that His mother’s needs are provided for. We also must provide for the needs of others. Today we focus on mothers and those who fill a maternal role in our lives.   
    • When I was a child, we spent many, many, many weekends as my father took care of his mother’s needs. My dad’s father died when I was very young, and my dad’s brother and sisters lived a distance away. So, my dad took care of his mother’s needs. I remember many weekends cutting grass or watching my dad cut grass at her house. My dad repeatedly replaced plumbing and repaired electrical work at her house. He was always fixing her car. He fixed the flooring over there. He helped her with decision making as well. Then when she had to have a hip replacement, she moved in with us for a while. She didn’t want to impose, but my parents, both of them actually, prepared a room for her and she stayed with us. This was all the more important to me because my dad was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused as a child, yet he still took care of her needs. After she recovered from the hip replacement, she still lived with us off and on throughout the year. Later on my grandmother died when I was in tenth grade of high school and that was the only time I saw my dad cry. He was taking me to work and he told me that her death had been hard on him. He further said that over the last few years he realized how much his mother regretted the pain of his upbringing.  
    • I think the Bible affirms, and this statement by Jesus affirms, the need to take care of other maternal influences. We have other maternal influences in our lives. These could be our mother-in-law or a scout leader. They could be pastors or youth pastors. These could be Sunday school teachers or childcare workers.  These could be older sisters or many others. Jesus told John to care for His mother. I wonder if Jesus’ mother could have been like a mother to John or some of the other disciples.
    • I am sure that you have similar stories. We do this because of our love for them.
    • In like manner, many of you have been or are care givers for your elderly parents. You do this because they have meant so much to you.
  3. I believe that Jesus making sure that His mother was taken care of is also showing us that it is important to take care of the needs of others, even if they are not our mother or maternal influence. In Jesus’ dying moment He cares for His mother.
    • My mother was one, and is one, who is also caring for others. She now works in a childcare center at a church. Growing up she always babysat for children in our home. She would make an excellent caregiver because she has a huge heart of compassion. I talk about my dad’s care for his mother, and I have to say it is matched by mom’s care for all people.
      • I remember not having a book properly covered in school. I was in the seventh grade and the teacher called my mom from school. I thought I would be so punished. But really I got home and my mom was ready to help me cover the book properly.
      • I remember having a headache as I forgot my glasses when I was in first grade. I never called my mom but somehow she realized that my glasses were at home and soon she showed up with my glasses.
      • I remember forgetting gym clothes and having to write sentences. I actually didn’t forget them, they were taken from my locker, but regardless I had to write sentences. My mom watched me write sentences and I could tell how bad she felt as I wrote sentence after sentence about remembering gym clothes. Yet, she did not call the teacher and complain about discipline.
      • I remember getting stitches countless times and my mom and my dad took me to the hospital.
      • I remember the sadness when I went away to college. I was the first to go eight hours from home to college and my mom was so very sad.

The following is a list of “I owe you’s” which apply to mothers all over the country, all of which are long overdue. Stop after each one and consider the priceless value of the one who made your life possible—your mother.

Dear Mom:

As I walk through my museum of memories,

I owe you– for your time. Day and night.

I owe you—for your example. Consistent and dependable.

I owe you—for your support. Stimulating and challenging.

I owe you– for your humor. Sparky and quick.

I owe you—for your counsel. Wise and quiet.

I owe you—for your humility. Genuine and gracious.

I owe you—for your hospitality. Smiling and warm.  

I owe you—for your insight. Keen and honest.

I owe you– for your flexibility. Patient and joyful.

I owe you—for your sacrifices. Numerous and quickly forgotten.

I owe you—for your faith. Solid and sure.

I owe you—for your hope. ­Ceaseless and indestructible.

I owe you—for your love. Devoted and deep. [2] 

A cartoon shows a three-year-old, freckle-faced boy in a hallway. His pajamas are unsnapped, his diaper’s bagging, and he’s got a little teddy bear, dangling in his hand. He’s standing in front of his mother and father’s bedroom door, which is shut. On the door is a little sign written by a weary mother: “Closed for business. Motherhood Out of Order.[3]

I have heard a mother’s work is never done and Jesus instructs us to take care of our mother. We have this instruction in the idea that Jesus made sure His mother was taken care of. So, I hope today you are being thanked for your maternal role. I hope today you are able to recognize a mother or someone else for their role in your life.

Jesus made sure his mother was taken care of. This mother’s day take care of your mother. Take care of your children’s mother and encourage others to take care of their mother.

I do realize that this may be a sad mother’s day for you, for your mother has gone to be with the Lord. I encourage you to reflect and maybe even write in a journal about all your mother passed on to you.

Also, you may have had other maternal roles in your life—a grandmother, an aunt, a family friend or teacher. God uses many more people to pass on faith to children and young adults as they grow up. If you can thank them as well and thank God for mothers.

[1] Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 395. He references Fred Kruse.

[2] Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 396. (From his book: Strong Family)

[3] Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 397. (From his book: Laugh Again.

Life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-11)

Life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-11)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2, 2021

I read the following:

One of the more humorous quirks of scientific history is the debate over who should get the

credit for discovering oxygen. Joseph Priestley, an English scientist and clergyman, is often

given that honor because he was the first to publish his findings, doing so in 1774. Interestingly,

Priestley originally called the gas, “dephlogisticated [de-phlo-gis-ti-cat-ed] air.”

However, in 1772, two years prior to Priestly’s find, a Swedish chemist named Carl Scheele

independently discovered the gas that is so crucial to human existence. Strangely enough, the

term oxygen didn’t actually come into use until 1775, when yet another chemist, Frenchman

Antoine Lavoisier (La voi ze), discovered and named the gas we breathe. Lavoisier was also the

first to recognize oxygen as one of our natural elements.

Regardless of who gets the credit, it’s odd to think of a human being “discovering” oxygen. What

did we breathe before this important discovery? Does a fish discover water? The truth is that

oxygen literally surrounds us every day, and even if we choose to call it “dephlogisticated air,”

we can’t live without it.

Well, friends in Christ, the same is true of the Holy Spirit.

As Christians we have new life, we have life in the Holy Spirit. That is our focus today.

My theme and application today is:

We are NOT under condemnation if we are in Christ Jesus, we must set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

We are going to walk through Romans 8:1-11:

The New American Commentary shares the following:

With chap. 8 we arrive at what may be called the inspirational highlight of the Book of Romans. Here the apostle is swept along in a wave of spiritual exaltation that begins with God’s provision of the Spirit for victory over the old nature, breaks through the sufferings that mark our present existence, and crests with a doxology of praise to the unfathomable love of God revealed in Christ Jesus. Nowhere in the annals of sacred literature do we find anything to match the power and beauty of this remarkable paean of praise. Although the pinnacle of this exalted prose awaits our arrival at vv. 28–39, the earlier sections provide the setting against which the culminating truths will break forth with an even greater brilliance. We are not dealing here with mere theology. As Paul wrote, his pen gave evidence that he was caught up in an experience of profound worship and spiritual adoration.[1]

  1. The Believers’ relationship to the Holy Spirit (verses 1-4).
    • No condemnation (verse 1): There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
    • Remember the context, remember chapter 7.
    • In chapter 7 Paul wrote about how we cannot keep the Law. In verse 6 Paul wrote about how the Law exposes our sin. In chapter 7 Paul wrote about how there is a war between the two natures. There is a war between the flesh and the Spirit. I made the case that Paul was writing about either his pre-saved self or writing as a Jewish non-believer.
    • This verse now says there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The verdict is delivered, and we are NOT condemned. That is the past, the trial is over. “On the sole basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed, then a reversal of the court’s verdict is impossible.”[2]
    • The next few verses build on this idea.
    • Verse 2 gives the contrast between the Law of the Spirit and the Old Testament Law. The Law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Verse 2 reads: For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
    • This is why there is no condemnation. Jesus took our condemnation on the cross.
    • God never intended us to go it on our own. Did not Jesus say, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)?[3]
    • Verse 3 builds on this idea.
    • Verses 3-4: God did what the Law could not do. Verses 3-4 reads: For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
    • One could restate the logic this way: Christ accomplished for us the condemnation that the law demands so that he might accomplish in us the sanctification that the law commands. The key phrase for our purpose is the phrase “so that,” or “in order that.” When God put Christ in our condemned place, he did this not only to secure heaven, but to secure holiness. Or even more precisely, not only to secure our life in paradise, but also to secure our love for people.[4]
    • The Spirit is mentioned only in 1:4; 2:29; 5:5, and 7:6, but is mentioned 19 times in chap. 8.[5]
    • He frees us from sin and death (vv. 2, 3); enables us to fulfill God’s law (v. 4); changes our nature and grants us strength for victory over our unredeemed flesh (vv. 5–13); confirms our adoption as God’s children (vv. 14–16); and guarantees our ultimate glory (vv. 17–30).[6]
  2. The Holy Spirit dwells in you (verses 5-11).
    • In verses 5-8 we see the contrast of those according to the flesh versus those according to the Spirit. Verse 5 reads: For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
    • According to the flesh means the fallen, sinful nature. If we are not in Christ, if we do not know Christ, we set our minds on the things of the world.
    • However, if we know Christ, if we live with Him (John 15), if we live according to the Spirit, we set our minds on the things of God.
    • Verse 6 continues the contrast: For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
    • We are to “set our minds” on the things of the Holy Spirit. This is partnering with the Holy Spirit to let Him work within us (Phil 2:12-13). To set the mind on the flesh means to think continually about and constantly desire the things characteristic of fallen, sinful human nature, that is, to think just the way the unbelieving world thinks, emphasizing what it thinks important, pursuing what it pursues, in disregard of God’s will.[7]
    • We receive life and peace by being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. This means peace with God, reconciliation with God.
    • How is the mind set on the flesh death? Verses 7-8 answer this.
    • Then verses 7-8 shows that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. The mind set on the flesh does not submit to God’s law AND IT CANNOT. Verses 7-8 reads: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
    • This is because the mind set on the flesh is focusing on the fallen, depraved things. One could go further that we have eternal death without being regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
    • Notice when in the flesh we CANNOT please God. We must be born-again. We must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
    • Verses 9-11 are all about how the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Verses 9-11 reads: You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
    • Notice the pointedness of verse 9: YOU, however, are NOT in the flesh…
    • You are in the Spirit.
    • That is, if the Spirit of God dwells in you.
    • This means that if we are saved, the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
    • If you do not have the Spirit of Christ, you do not belong to Him.
    • Notice how Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ are used interchangeably. ESV Study Bible: By definition, Christians are not in the flesh, for all who believe in Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Paul alternates between the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ here, showing that Christ and God share the same status.[8]
    • Verse 10: But if Christ is in you the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is alive because of righteousness.
    • Verse 11 is powerful, “if…” this is assuming you are saved. If the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He, who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. How? Through His Spirit who dwells in you.
    • The Holy Spirit Who raised Jesus is in you. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you. Powerful!
    • The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and He will also raise us.
    • Who raised Jesus from the dead: All three members of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were involved in the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is individually ascribed to each one of them.[9]
  3. Applications:
    • We must be encouraged that we do not live under condemnation (verse 1).
    • We must be encouraged that Jesus did what we could not do on our own (verses 2-3).
    • We must give thanks to the Lord and worship the Lord and serve the Lord for His awesome free gift.
    • We must set our minds on the things of the Spirit (verse 5; also Galatians 5:22-23).
    • We must understand that when our mind is set on the Spirit we have life, real life, abundant life, eternal life, and peace, that is, peace with God (verse 6).
    • We must understand that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God (verses 7-8).
    • We must understand the dichotomy between God’s ways and the ways of the flesh (verses 7-8 and James 4:4).
    • We must understand that if we are in Christ we have the Spirit of God in us (verse 9). We must worship God for this awesome truth and walk by the Spirit.
    • Praise God that the Holy Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in me! He will also resurrect my body.   

On the night of March 29, 1848, Niagara Falls completely and mysteriously stopped flowing. The estimated 500,000 gallons of water that customarily rushed over the falls stalled to a trickle. James Francis Macklem, a village justice of the peace in the Niagara area, wrote that he had witnessed the subsidence of the waters and the phenomenon of the Niagara running dry “caused great excitement in the neighborhood at the time.” 
To some, the mystery of this sudden “turning off” of the river seemed to be an ominous portent, and nightfall found most of the churches packed with people praying or talking in frightened voices about the end of the world. Fear grew into the proportions of panic. 
The cause of this unusual event began along the shores of Lake Erie near Buffalo. For several days, the wind had been blowing to the east over Lake Erie, driving much of its ice flow down river. Then the winds suddenly shifted to the west, driving the lake water west and causing the lake’s ice to break up and dam the river. The Niagara River ceased to flow for almost 30 hours until the ice shifted and the dam broke up. 

When we become cold towards Christ and do not let the Holy Spirit flow through our lives it can become disastrous. Has your love for Christ grown cold? Today in prayer, confess any sin to Christ and remember the love you had for Him when you first became a Christian. Walk with Him and do not let your love grow cold.


[1] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 173–174.

[2] Dr Michael Horton in “ For Calvinism”

[3] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 175.

[4] Piper, John. Providence (p. 590). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

chap. chapter

[5] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1756.

[6] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 8:2–30.

[7] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2170.

[8] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2170.


The only way to defeat sin is through Jesus.

The Law and Sin (Romans 7:7-25)

The only way to defeat sin is through Jesus.

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25, 2021

When I was a kid, I remember many times trying to get something done, but it did not work out. This was because I needed my dad’s help. Or, I needed an adult’s help. This is not unique to me. One day when Mercedes was about 18 months old I was awakened in the middle of the night to hear some loud noise and a cry. I came out and saw that Mercedes had woke up, went to the kitchen and stacked a chair on top of a play table in order to reach something in the refrigerator. She was fine, but she needed an adult’s help, AND AN ADULT’S PERMISSION!

Have you ever attempted something that you needed help with? This has happened to me many times when I have attempted automotive work; I am not very good at it and need help. Why do I share this? I share this because I believe the passage we are going to look at is showing that apart from Christ we cannot be good. Sure, we may be okay, we may do good things, but we will mess up. We mess up and struggle with sin knowing Christ, so apart from Christ we REALLY will have issues.

We are going to look at Romans 7:7-25 and I want to show that we need Jesus.

My theme is:

The only way to defeat sin is through Jesus.

  1. In verses 7-13 we see the law and sin contrasted.
    • Paul is picking up from verses 1-6. In verses 1-6, Paul had been writing about how we were released from the law. Paul compared it to being married and once your spouse dies you are free to remarry (verse 3). In verse 4, Paul says that we were meant to die to the Law through the body of Christ…
    • In verse 5, Paul had talked about being in the flesh and in the flesh the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work…
    • In verse 6, Paul says that we have been released from the Law… we serve in newness of the Spirit…
    • Notice that, we serve in newness of the Spirit. As we look at this passage you may think what is the point of talking about this? The point is that without Jesus, and without walking by the Holy Spirit, we are setup to fail. We cannot meet God’s standard, so Jesus did it for us, but even as a Christian we still need to walk with Jesus (John 15).  
    • This brings us to verses 7-13.
    • Verse 7: What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
    • Paul has been writing about the Law, and that would be the Old Testament Law. He has been writing about the Law of Moses, the Torah, the Pentateuch. Though some of the times when “the Law” is written, it is more principle, than “the Law of Moses.”
    • People could easily think that he is saying that the Law is sin.
    • Paul responds emphatically, “By no means!”
    • The law shows us that we are sinners.
    • Paul gives the example of coveting, that is, to desire something forbidden, to lust.
    • Paul gives a quotation from Exod 20:17 and Deut 5:21.[1]
    • That leads us to verse 8: But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
    • Apart from the Law, sin lies dead.
    • What he is saying is that the Law exposes this sin.
    • The Law gives the written culpability.
    • I like what Dr. Ben Witherington shares. Dr. Witherington is a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary. He thinks in Rom 7:7-13 Paul is using the rhetorical device called impersonation. He speaks in the first person but not as himself. This is not biographical either. He is writing as Adam, like in Romans 5. They are present tense words, but he is writing as Adam.
    • He writes that he existed before the law. He writes about when he violated the commandment sin awoke. That would be Adam.
    • Remember in context, Rom 7:5-6, Paul says they used to be this way.
    • This is Paul viewing things from a Christian point of view.
    • I think Dr. Witherington makes some good points and we will come back to the idea of literature devices in the next section.
    • The Moody Bible Commentary builds on this: First, it is possible that Paul uses “I” to describe the experience of Adam, or, second, of Israel before receiving the law. Third, Paul may be saying that sin is so strong in the believer that Christians should expect moral failure and accept it as an inevitability.[2] The authors of the Moody Bible Commentary take the view that in chap. 7 Paul discusses primarily the experience of the Jewish unbeliever (7:1, I am speaking to those who know the law), but what he says is equally relevant for Gentile unbelievers who fail to keep their own moral standards.[3]
    • Skip to verse 13.
    • Verse 13 wraps up this section: Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
    • Paul is writing in a question and answer style. Did that which is good bring death to him? He could still be writing as Adam.
    • This last verse makes very clear that the Law exposes the sin. Sin produced the death, through the Law exposing it. The tail end of this verse is complicated. The commandment might become sinful beyond measure??? This is just saying through the commandment the sin becomes more sinful. The NASB says, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. THE SIN BECOMES UTTERLY SINFUL, NOT THE COMMANDMENT.
    • Did the good law cause death? The correct understanding is that sin used something good to bring human death. God used the law to accomplish his purpose to fully expose sin and point the sinner to God’s only remedy for sin.[4]
  2. Overview of the different views on Romans 7:14-25.
    • I already shared different views on verses 7-13. I favor that Paul was writing as Adam. I could go along with him writing as a Jewish unbeliever.
    • I still do not believe this section is about Paul writing of himself as a Christian. There is the view that he is writing about himself before he was saved, and I could go along with that easier than I could believe that this is Paul as a believer.
    • One sources notes: The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in vv. 13–25 but is referred to 19 times in ch. 8; to say that Christians are “sold under sin” (7:14) and “captive to the law of sin” (v. 23) stands in tension with chs. 6 and 8, which trumpet the freedom of believers from slavery to sin[5]
    • I know that it is encouraging for us to think that Paul had these struggles, but I do not think that is what this passage is teaching. That is NOT to say that Paul did not have struggles, I am sure that he definitely did. This passage needs read and studied in light of Romans 8:1-2 that says Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
    • Respectable Christians hold differing views. You can read the different views in a good study Bible. Some say that Paul uses present tense pronouns referring to himself and that means this is about his current state, but I still think it is noteworthy that the Holy Spirit is NOT mentioned at all. Further, it is important that he continues to talk about the Law, and the flesh, which usually refers to the carnal state. Also, in the context of Romans, Paul is telling people that they cannot keep the Law and they need a Savior. Context is key and notice the striking contrast in Romans 8:1, which I already mentioned.  
    • So, this passage could be 1) talking about his pre-saved life, though Phil 3 says that he kept the law blamelessly. 2) He could be objectively talking about trying to keep the Law. The point would be that we cannot keep the Law. 3) This could be the Christians struggle.
    • Again, Dr. Witherington shares: Remember in context, Rom 7:5-6, Paul says they used to be this way. Then Romans 8:1-2 the Spirit has set us free. Romans 7 is the before and Romans 8 the after. That is probably where I fall.
  3. The conflict of the two natures (verses 14-25).
    • Verse 14: For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
    • A Christian is NOT sold under sin, not anymore and that makes the case that this is about Paul’s pre-Christian state, or he is talking about a non-believing Jewish person trying to keep the Law.
    • 2 Cor. 5:21: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
    • See also Galatians 2:20.
    • Verse 15 is where it really gets interesting: For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
    • Some may think that he is talking about us and as Christians we definitely have struggles. I still think he is saying that we cannot keep the Law. Or, put differently, this is life without the Holy Spirit. The next chapter is all about the Holy Spirit.
    • Verse 16-18: Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
    • He is still saying that sin is ultimately the cause. He says that nothing good dwells within him, but he is talking about his flesh. Paul used sarx [the Greek word translated as flesh] to emphasize the ineffectiveness of human effort in spiritual matters (Rm 2:28; 6:19; 8:3).[6]
    • Why would Paul not be able to carry out his desire to do what is right (verse 18)? This would be because he is talking about an unsaved person without the Holy Spirit.
    • Verse 19: For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
    • Again, he is tirelessly trying to keep the Law.
    • Verses 19-23: Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
    • Notice in verse 19 Paul still says that it is sin that causes him to do sins. It is not the Law.
    • He is captive to the Law of sin.
    • Verses 24-25: Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
    • Who will deliver him? Jesus, only Jesus. He is talking about an unsaved person. As verse 25 says, “thanks be to God…” the end of verse 25 seems to make it look like he is talking about himself in the present, but I still think the case is clear that he is talking about an unbeliever. He could be using impersonation. Or, maybe his pre-Christians state. I probably favor that he is talking about those in Adam outside of Christ.
    • Who will set me free (or “rescue” me) cannot be the words of a believer who knows who his Deliverer is, nor is the future tense appropriate for one who is already freed in Christ.[7]
  4. Applications:
    • We must recognize that if we try on our own we won’t defeat sin.
    • We must be grateful for the Law as it was a teacher to expose our sinfulness and point to our need for Christ (Romans 7:7).
    • We must not blame the Law on our problem, but repent (Romans 7:11-12).
    • We must recognize that the Law is holy (Romans 7:13).
    • We must recognize that apart from Jesus we cannot keep the Law, nor do what is right (Romans 7:14-25).
    • Without Jesus’ help we will do the things we do not want to do and won’t do the things we want to do (Romans 7:15). With Jesus’ help we will still struggle, but as an unregenerate non-believer it is a losing battle.
    • We must understand that Jesus is the power to carry out what is right (Romans 7:18).
    • Only Jesus can deliver us (Romans 7:24).
    • We must walk by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16).
    • We are set free from this by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:2).
    • If we are saved we have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9).  
    • As Christians we will struggle, but we must lean on the Holy Spirit to help us. We must also allow the Holy Spirit to help us through the Word of God and the people of God (Psalm 119:9-11; Proverbs 27:17; Ecc. 4:12).

So, sometimes we need help, right?

As Christians we are never alone. We walk with Jesus. We have the Holy Spirit within us.


[1] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2005).

[2] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1754.

chap. chapter

[3] Ibid. 1754–1755.

[4] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1792.

[5] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2169.

[6] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1792.

[7] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1755–1756.