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. God vs God






4. God versus God.


https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/cf/ec/94/cfec9401dc18f976d1a824b3867aa97f.jpgOne of the most glorious promises in God’s Word is found in Romans 8:31 (ESV) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

This is another one of those great verses that appears in the promise boxes, and often the first part is not attached and the promise box will read: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

This verse in context is one of the most glorious verses for a believer. Unfortunately it is used in the same manner people use Philippians 4:13 to imply that with God on MY side I can go into this venture or that venture, enter the stock exchange, or start a business in the wrong economical environment. With God on OUR side we can win the war, with God on OUR side, our sports team will walk away with the cup, with God on my side, I am invincible.

http://www.hipmix.net/pub/god%20is%20for%20us.jpgI have posted an image on the Phil 4:13 study which I post here again. So in certain communities, and mostly prosperous Western Communities we see Scripture used as a kind of guarantee for victory. At least you have a 50/50 chance. The question though when you lose is, where did God go wrong, or was the faith of the other team in these verses stronger and therefore at the end of the day it is God competing against God. The story is told that a platoon were led in prayer by their Chaplain during the second world war while in the trenches. He asked God for victory, and then said: “Lord, I am just worried that the enemy might have Christians who are praying as well, so rather stay out of this and we will fight the battle.”


It has even become a Tattoo in various formats of which I post one.


So far in our studies we have seen a few verses that all turn God into a kind of Genie that is on our side as we wish. The way these verses are presented are extremely positive if it only would work like that. You actually feel guilty for standing up against these people because they seem to have so much confidence in God. You actually come over as the doubter, or the one who lacks faith.

But the sad reality is simply this. As soon as you ignore context, then you have declared faith in the power of positive words and an exaggerated opinion of who you are, because, neither Jeremiah 29:11, or Philippians 4:13 or Romans 8:31 mean what is implied in popular thinking.

Let me give you an example. We all should remember the book written by Bruce Wilkerson entitled “The prayer of Jabez”. This book based on a few Bible verses became an International fad. These verses were posted on Calendars, rulers for kids at schools, coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers etc. He made lots of money by sharing from Scripture what he called the ‘Key to unlocking heaven’s riches’. The prayer of Jabez is found in 1 Chronicles 4:10 (ESV) 10 Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.”

Whoopee, God did what he asked. I will deal with it in a separate article. The issue for today is that this verse and Romans 8:31 are simply used to say the same stuff. Bruce Wilkerson tells the story that he was running late one day and had to catch a plane. Fortunately he had prayed the prayer or Jabez that morning and guess what? The plane left half an hour late. Besides the fact that Wilkerson totally ripped the Prayer of Jabez out of its context, is this really how God functions? Just think if God was your servant, making planes leave late, opening parking bays for you, controlling the stock exchange on your behalf and interest rates, wouldn’t life be a blast. I have two concerns with his statement - that because he prayed the prayer the plane left half an hour late. What is there was somebody who prayed the prayer that the plane should leave on time? Mow it would be God against God. The real miracle will be a plane leaving early because I prayed. That never happens.

Somehow we have relegated Christianity to shallowness when we refuse to read the surrounding verses. For example. Is there a problem with a sport steam praying before the game and afterwards? It depends on two things. 1. Are they all Christians? And 2. What is the content of their prayer? True children of God should understand that it is futile to pray for victory on the sports field, because again, if your opponent is a Christian, then it is God against God. I know two brothers, the one is into farming and the other into forestry. The farming brother would pray for rain for obvious reasons, but the forestry brother does not want rain, because then they cannot collect the wood from the forest.

Is God on the side of political parties? Well, ask Habakkuk. He was looking for a positive Romans 8:31 answer from God for Israel, and what did God do? He caused them to be taken captive by the Babylonians. So, was God not for Israel? Of course He was. I remember Danie Botha claiming victory for the ACDP a few elections ago based on the fact that God is for Christian parties. On the contrary the party became weaker and weaker over the years.

I have spent hours reading sermons once again on this section, obviously not in full detail. What broke my heart again is that so many theologians, teachers of God’s Word ignore the context and simply focus on practical stuff that they can contrive from a plain reading of the text. All this seems to be done from memory and then they find a few verses to attach to their thoughts seeking to prove their point. The meaning of the text cannot be understood without keeping the previous writings and especially chapter 8 in mind. And then also to bear in mind that there are three questions being asked in the closing verses, a) Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?” b) Romans 8:33 (ESV) 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? And then c) Romans 8:35 (ESV) 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

The joining sentence that is of critical value to understanding these three question is contained in the first part of verse 31:


So, we need to put this verse into context to understand its true meaning. Now, we do not have time to go through all of this in detail. We must however remember that verse 31 is nestled between verse 30 and 32 and they are all nestled between everything that precedes them in chapter 8 and everything that follows in chapter 8, and chapter 8 is nestled between chapters 1 & 16. Now, it is not always true that verses far from our verse in focus are always part of the argument, they might be part of a previous argument which might have ended.  The argument might simply be in the immediate verses, while the verses further away might have a greater bearing on the verses surrounding our key text, and the verses still further away, have a greater bearing on the verses surrounding the verses that are surrounding the verses around our key text. I guess you get the point. So, in reality, we sometimes need to dig very deep to understand the riches of the text before us. The problem for this study series that we are doing at present is that we cannot commit the time and space to do full justice to the text before us. But, friends, a simple reading of the text, rather than reading into the text even in English will give us the context. JUST DON’T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS without doing your homework. The text can be so exciting and even in our excitement we water it down.

I am going to deal with the text off by heart so to escape the temptation of doing a full exegesis.

Besides the deeper exegetical issues, Romans 8 is all about life in the Spirit now and the eventual glory we will enjoy. It really makes sense of life now, and why we go through suffering. It is all about eternal security, the perseverance of the saints, and our final glorification, and how everything we experience in between makes sense.

Our starting point is Romans 8:1 (ESV) 1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Besides the other theological issues in Romans 8, there is a real dynamic in the text that I want to call Ecstasy or delight/happiness and Agony. We will stay with Ecstasy (Not the drug). Too many believers believe that the Christian life is all ecstasy and that agony does not belong to us.

Now verse 1 starts with the word ‘therefore’ and when we see the word ‘therefore’ we need to find out what ‘therefore’ is there for. So it is linked to the previous sections as I explained earlier. We sadly do not have the time to devote on all that background.

So let’s start with ‘ecstasy’ in verse 1. ‘No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus’. Wow, this is hallelujah stuff.  And there is no condemnation because of the law of the spirit that sets us free. The next few verses will tell us that those who are not in the Spirit but in the flesh cannot enjoy real ecstasy as they are condemned. It concurs with John 3:18 (ESV) 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

So, those without Christ cannot know real ecstasy, but we can because Romans 8:9 (ESV) says:“9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Hallelujah, again. Ecstasy.

But then, amongst other theology (remember we are only focusing on one angle or facet) there is the reality of Agony. Those who according to verse 15 are children of God, those who by His Spirit cry Abba Father, will experience agony. Romans 8:17 (ESV) 17 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.” Now look at this. Here is my translation. “and if ecstasy, then ecstasy, ecstasy from God, and ecstasy with Christ, PROVIDED we ‘AGONY WITH HIM’ in order that we may enjoy ‘ecstasy with him’. You get the gist. Bottom line, children of God will go through ‘agony’ no matter what those in the health, wealth and prosperity movement say.

Friends that is life. Due to sin coming into this world life has become a strange intermixture of good and bad, of heartache and joy, sin and righteousness that we oftentimes find very hard to understand. But the glory or ‘ecstasy’ of Christianity is that, whether our hearts are aching or rejoicing, there is no incident or circumstance -- no matter how trivial -- that is without purpose or meaning. God has declared this in Romans 8:28 (ESV) 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Now, we will get back to verse 28, because I have skipped a big chunk now. So, back to verse 17 and we march on to Romans 8:18 (ESV) 18 For I consider that the sufferings (agony) of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory (ecstasy) that is to be revealed to us.” Then Paul gives us a theology of suffering from verse 18-30. A simple summary of this section is this. Why do we suffer? We suffer due to sin coming into the world, because God has in a judicial way subjected the whole of creation to frustration. So, all created things are in entropy. However, God did this ‘in hope’: 21 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.” (Romans 8:21 (ESV) The hope is that the whole of creation will enjoy the ‘ecstasy’ that the children of God enjoy. Here is a critical issue. Back in verse 16 we are told that the “Spirit of God testifies with our spirit that we are children of God”. Aha, now in verse 18 we see the ecstasy of the children of God. Okay, we are children of God, but there is something more. Romans 8:23 (ESV) says that 23 …not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly (agony) as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons (ecstasy), the redemption of our bodies (ecstasy).

In the meantime from verse 26-27 we see that as we suffer ‘agony’ the Spirit of God helps us in our ‘agony’ and He intercedes for us before the Father with groaning we cannot express, because He knows the will of the Father.

And what is the will of the Father? Let’s put it in another way. What is the revealed part of the will of the Father? Here is a major Hallelujah verse in the Bible. And we are back at Romans 8:28 (ESV) 28 And we know that for those who love God all things (even Agony) work together for good (ecstasy), for those who are called according to his purpose.” Christian, God has a purpose. There is purpose in life. What seems to be a meaningless jumble of events in history is not meaningless at all; there is a purpose to every event. Everything is moving to accomplish a desired end, and that end is the subject of this whole letter to the Romans. That is what it is all about: How God works through human history to accomplish his one great and enduring purpose.

This is Wow stuff. Now what is the basis for this? Okay, it is great to know that I am not condemned, that I am a child of God, that the Spirit does super stuff in me and for me that I am not even aware of. So, yes – we have agony and ecstasy now, and MAJOR ECSTASY one day in glory. But why? How does this ‘God purpose’ affect me? Here is the answer: Romans 8:29-30 (ESV) 29 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. 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.” Now, if you do not believe in the perseverance of the saints, then you need to explain from Scripture how one becomes unjustified and unglorified. If you don’t believe in the perseverance of the saints then you must believe in justification by works, or the reward of choice. Nothing is an accident. If you are a child of God, you are foreknown, you are predestined to be like Jesus, and because of this eternal, predetermined purpose you are called, justified and glorified. This is Ecstasy to the power 1000000000000000000000000 and ever increasing. It is at this moment that you need to gasp for air. Think of the implications, think of the ramifications. It is WOW, WOW, WOW! Oh, how I wish I had time to stand still and deal with the theological statements made in these verses.

So in spite of agony, all things work together for our good, because we are no accident, but we are part of God’s purpose. Look how Paul summarizes it in Ephesians 3:10 (ESV) 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:21 (ESV) “21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Now, if you still do not grasp the WOWNESS of what we have just spoken about, let me just get back to the foreknowledge of God, and then you need to shout Hallelujah otherwise you are missing the point.

When you consider the fact that at every birth the chances that you and I should be the one that should emerge from that union are somewhere in the range of one to one or two hundred million. Because of the abundance of sperm to one ovum, doctors tell us that the possibility that any one particular person could be foretold and foreknown is fantastic -- the odds are one to two hundred million for every single birth. So, when you consider that, out of all those possibilities, God has seen that we would be the ones who would come -- and not only us, but all believers of all time, in all ages -- you begin to get some staggering understanding of the mind and the wisdom of God. It is simply mind-blowing to think that God would have the ability to do this.

We are impressed by great computers that amass huge numbers of facts and put together amounts of information that none of us as individuals could ever handle. But these computers are nothing! They are children's toys, compared with the greatness of the mind of God, who saw all the fantastic possibilities and yet knew that we would be there. Not only that, but he knew it long before the world was ever called into being! That is the amazing statement of the Scriptures. Before the foundation of the earth, God foreknew that we would be here. Now, I cannot go any further than that. That baffles me, and bewilders me, but, nevertheless, it is fact, and I can simply cry: “WOW, Hallelujah, praise the Lord for His infinite wisdom”. And guess what? According to John 6:65 (ESV) we read: 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus also tells us that none of those that the Father has given Him will be lost. John 6:44 (ESV) 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.” You are drawn by God and kept by God, and not by your own will. The will of man that man was created with is under bondage and will always choose wrong, or away from God. Ephesians 4:1-3 is abundantly clear about our nature outside God. We are saved by grace and not by a personal choice and we are kept by grace and not by a personal choice.

So, now, we come to our text in context. After contemplating the ramifications of ‘agony’ and ‘ecstasy’ and understanding that there is an eternal purpose behind it all, Paul’s next words make total sense in context: 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 (ESV))

Now, before we look at verse 31, and we do not have to do it in too much detail. But verse 31 starts with “What then shall we say to these things?” Which things. Well, everything we spoke about. All this Hallelujah stuff.  So, we can shout ‘hallelujah’, we can shout ‘praise the Lord’, we can shout ‘glory to God’, we can shout ‘Abba Father’.  But there is a little phrase we need to get back to which we saw in Romans 8:28 (ESV) 28 And we know that for THOSE WHO LOVE GOD all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Once again somebody who is opposed to a mind-set where God’s just gets too much Glory in salvation and perseverance will quote John 1:12 (ESV) 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” Aha, there it is, salvation is all your choice based on your self-will. But they will ignore the context once again and not quote John 1:13 (ESV)13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John is clear. Salvation is not OF THE WILL OF MAN. But perseverance. Well we can qoute many verses that seems like it is all of man whether you remain in God or not. A favourite verse is Philippians 2:12 (ESV) 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,…” There you are, check mate, I work out my own salvation based on my will and if I feel like walking away from God I can do it. Again they choose not to deal with the text in context and again ignore verse 13 which says: Philippians 2:13 (ESV) 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

God’s predetermined, purpose was to have children of God who will love Him. No wonder it is the first commandment. To accomplish that, God called the world into being, set up the whole universe, peopled the earth with a race of men, permitted them to fall, sent into this sin-ridden earth his own beloved Son, accomplished the cross and the resurrection, and now, as Paul so clearly says, "works all things together for good to those who love him, who are the called according to that great purpose," (Romans 8:28). In this we have a tremendous statement of what life is all about. We see that God's purpose is to have a race of people, his own children, who will love him. Love is the end and aim of life.


To accomplish this, Paul summarizes the process that God follows. Paul looks back through this letter to the Romans and sums up in five brief steps the process that God takes (Verses 29-30) which we have read a short while ago.  Now, I wish he had time to study the book of Romans, and to look at God’s 1. foreknowledge, 2. election, 3. predestination,  4. justification and 5. glorification. It is all there.

Here is the simple fact in all of this. I believe the first thing we need to say in response to the question in verse 21 is simply this: “Abba Father, I love you”. All, other impulsive responses in response to Paul’s question: ‘what shall we say in response to this” can be egocentric. We need to respond with God as the centre of our response. Paul, now implies an answer: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer is really, nobody, and nothing, because God is for us.

Okay, let’s be fleshly and take it back to sport, politics, business ventures, relationships etc. Is this in mind? NO! I believe the context is clear. All the ‘agony’, however it reveals itself in life, will never remove ‘ecstasy now’ and it will not remove ‘THE GREAT ECSTASY’ forever. There are none lost in the process. Those whom he foreknew, before the foundation of the world, he also predestined to conform to the likeness of his Son; the same number of people he called; and the ones he called, he also justified; the very ones he justified, he also glorified. No one is lost in the process, because God is responsible for it. It is going to involve pain and toil, death and tears, disappointment, bereavement, sorrow, sin – yes even sin, stumbling, failure, falling, and forgiveness -- all these things. But it is going to happen, because what God sets out to do, he does -- no matter what it takes. And because God is for us, nothing and nobody can be against us. Romans 8:32 (ESV) helps us to understand all of this.32 He who did not spare his own Son (agony) but gave him up for us all (agony), how will he not also with him graciously give us all things (agony and ecstasy)? This is critical. Even agony comes our way graciously, as it shows that we are children of God. Somebody once remarked that: “God’s grace often comes riding on a black horse, called ‘mercy’.” Now remember, we saw earlier that we must suffer with Christ. Christian, God has already given you His Son, and He will give you everything you need.

Now, remember again that verse 31 is in the context of the preceding verses, but also in the context of verses to follow.  Without going into it in too much detail. Paul asks two more questions that helps us keep our theology straight regarding the actual theme which is not sport, business, politics, the enemy in the trench etc.

He firstly asked: “What shall we say in response to this,” and I believe we have our theology in check here, as we understand the context. The next two questions will help us keep the context.

Question 2 is found in: Romans 8:33-34 (ESV) 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 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.”

Notice again, that everything is about son-ship, or in other words the elect of God. And as in verse 31-32 again it is God who is the answer to our agony. We suffer the attack of the principalities, the forces of evil, but God foreknew us, elected us and justified us. See, how Paul writes in context and we must understand it in context. Remember that the devil is the accuser of the brethren. He will try to accuse us constantly. This verse tells us that we must not listen to his voice. We must not listen to these thoughts that condemn us, that put us down, that make us feel that there is no hope for us. These thoughts will come -- they cannot be stopped -- but we do not have to listen to them. We know God is not listening to these accusations. Who can condemn us when God justifies us? Therefore we refuse to be condemned. We don't do this by ignoring our sin or trying to cover it over, or pretending that it isn't there; we do it by admitting that we fully deserve to be condemned, but that God, through Christ, has already borne our guilt. That is the only way out. That is why Christians should not hesitate to admit their failure and their sin. You will never be justified until you admit it. But when you admit it, then you also can face the full glory of the fact that God justifies the ungodly, and therefore there is no condemnation.

Church family – the essence of the whole of Romans is that our whole relationship with God rests upon that magnificent person Jesus Christ, and therefore we are willing to ‘agony’ with Him and to enjoy ‘ecstasy’ with Him.  And as I said earlier, we must therefore love God. How do you love God? Well, you love him by reminding yourself of the implications of his continual, unchanging commitment to you. You love him by remembering and trusting the full effect of his work for you.

And finally, you love God by answering this question which is the third question that Paul asks. Romans 8:35 (ESV)35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

Look carefully now. What did we see in verse 31? “What shall we say in response to this?” Besides Hallelujah, and we love God and all of that stuff, we will ask three questions.

So, the first question is: “If God is for us, who shall be against us”.

The second question is: 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?”

And now the third question: 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

Now notice, that all three questions have to do with the fact that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, that those who are led by the Spirit are children of God, Children of God are God’s elect, who have been known before the foundation of the world, they are the once who are called by God, by His Spirit, through His Son, they are justified and glorified, which means that God is on our side, and THEREFORE, who shall be against us, who shall bring any charge against us and who shall separate us from the love of Christ.

To show us how final this is, Paul elaborates on the third question with a sub question.

Romans 8:35 (ESV) 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”

The issue is not what I can do, but back to the context that nothing or nobody can be against us, as it all works together for our good, nothing or nobody can accuse us and nothing or nobody can separate us from the love of Christ, because God is on our side.

Back to reality: 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed (agony) all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered (agony).37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors (ecstasy) through him who loved us (ecstasy). So, to put in plainly, in your agony, enjoy the ecstasy which is more than the temporal as it is eternal. God is for you, even in your trials, because trials exist for believers and there is no guarantee that it will be taken away.  But God will ensure that you are a conqueror in it. Why? Because you are a ‘child of God’, ‘led by the Spirit,’foreknown’, ‘elected’, ‘predestined’ ‘called’, justified’, ‘glorified’ and you love Him. Wow, what a package? No, wonder God loves you and is for you.

Now, have you wondered just how great and effective this really is. Let’s allow Paul to have the final word. Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.”

No wonder Paul could say: Philippians 3:10-11 (ESV)10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Oh, that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection, through which the sons of God will be revealed, namely those who are led by the Spirit of God that we may share in his agony, that by any means possible we may attain ecstasy.

None of us love agony, but agony draws us closer to Him, it makes us cling harder to Him, it makes us run to Him, because we know that in Christ the one whom we love we can never be defeated, so we are more than conquerors and therefore nobody can be against our son-ship, nobody can accuse us as sons, and nobody can separate us from God’s love for us.

We are not Super-immune to agony, but we are Super-conquerors in ecstasy.

Christian you are dearly loved, completely forgiven, and forever free through Jesus Christ and there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Your agony is not there to condemn you but to free you so that you may understand ecstasy.

So God is not against God, by picking sides in earthly matters. But God is for God and His glory, and He is for His own, and if God is for His own, then we can say with confidence:

“If God is for us, who shall be against us”. and33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” and   35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” And the answer is no one or nothing, not even Satan the accuser. So next time somebody qoutes this verse out of context, invite them to read this article, and then to provide a basis why they disagree theologically.


Soli Deo Gloria.