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Safe in God’s love
Summer Quarter: Toward a New Creation
Unit 3: Life on God’s Terms
Sunday school lesson for the week of August 7, 2016
By Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr.
Lesson Scripture: Romans 8:28-39
Background Scripture: Romans 8:28-39
In the Old Testament is the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel (Genesis 30:25). Joseph was loved more dearly by his father than all of the other children. This relationship created an atmosphere of extreme jealously (Genesis 37:1-4). His brothers’ lack of love led to Joseph being sold into slavery by them to a group of Ishmaelite traders on their way to Egypt (Genesis 37:28). Many years passed, filled with trials and tribulations for Joseph (Genesis 39-46). His brothers, because of a famine, traveled to Egypt to purchase grain. In the exciting story, the brothers appeared before Joseph, now a ruler of Pharaoh. They were accused of being criminals. Joseph, with deep emotion, reveals to them that he is the brother they sold into slavery. There is neither anger nor revenge from Joseph. The brothers were told by Joseph that the plan and wisdom of God were involved in all that had taken place. “So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:4-8) This episode is one of ancient Israel’s favorite stories. It reinforces the belief that God has the power to intermingle all things for good in the lives of those lovingly consecrated to him. Paul believed those who follow Jesus Christ are eternally safe in God’s love.
Read aloud Romans 8:28-39
Believers in God, through faith in Christ, can depend upon and trust in God’s effective concern for them. This association is available only to those who have repented, accepted grace, and love God. In this love, exercised by a faith relationship through Christ, there exists a plan and a purpose for every human.
Even through pain, suffering, accidents, and misfortune, God uses his will for good for humans. This active, positive process is not universal. It is available to those called according to his purpose. God’s love always wins. Safe in God’s love, the believer never can be separated from that relationship by trials, anxiety, or distress. Faith in Jesus Christ is a fortress of the human soul in which grace resides and is defended by the Holy Spirit.
An all-knowing God has planned ahead for everyone made in his image. God foreknew, predestined, called, and justified those who love him. There is, in Paul’s thinking, the flavor of predestination, but accompanied with the color of human responsibility. Acceptance of grace requires an individual response. God intends for humans to be conformed to the image of his Son. God desires the Son to be the first in a huge family. God’s original purpose in creating humans in his image has not been forgotten. Through Jesus Christ, God desires to make all humans his sons and daughters. Those who hold membership in God’s family already possess a sense of the joy, happiness, splendor, and glory yet to be fully experienced in the kingdom yet to come.
A professor of New Testament often said to his theological students, “Examine yourself after your first year as a pastor. If you have met no opposition, have no critics, no one wants you to leave, and everybody loves you, something is wrong with the gospel you are proclaiming. Go into a closet, get on your knees, and ask God to tell you how to have the courage to preach and be like Paul.”
“Who is against us?” asks Paul. It does not matter, since God is for us. Evil forces assault, but God with us will be the victor. God did not hold back his son from the cross, but gave him to rescue all humans from sin. A God who gives like that on the cross will meet the needs of everyone. Humans can be assured they are secure in such love.
Paul moves his imagery in his epistle into a court of law. Humans have been guilty of sin. Now on trial, God, the presiding Judge, pronounces humans, because of their faith and acceptance of God’s grace, “not guilty.” Only Jesus Christ can bring condemnation, but he has gone to the cross to save humans. He has, by this action, become a defender of humans, not a prosecutor. Acquitted by God, no one is found to condemn them. Jesus Christ died for humans and is raised from the dead. Believers are safe in the love of God. There is not anything capable of separating humans from the love of such a God and his Son. Sinful charges against humans are dismissed.
Paul sees humans being killed like sheep because of their love for Jesus Christ. They are not delivered from this persecution. Christ followers who are persecuted are enabled, however, to find meaning and even blessing in their trials. Humans, under duress, become more than conquerors through the love expressed by God for them in the death and resurrection of Jesus. One who had been sentenced to death for breaking a rule in a prisoner of war compound was heard to say to her executioner, “All for Jesus. All for Jesus. All for Jesus.”
What are humans to do when assaulted by trouble, distress, harassment, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword? They are to recall that overwhelming victory belongs to them because Christ has loved and died for them. At lunch counters, on buses, in restaurants, and on college campuses, African Americans of a past generation joined hands and raised voices to protest injustice and sang, “We Shall Overcome.” They could do so because they were on the side of God who is always on the side of the oppressed and breaks down dividing walls of hostility. God makes victorious those suffering injustices.
Paul now makes a list of 10 items holding the possibility of separating humans from the love of God. There is not anything, however, on the list that can separate humans from God if they remain safe in the love of God given to them by faith in Jesus Christ.
Reflections on Romans 8:28-39 for discussion
Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr. is a retired South Georgia pastor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How can humans know they are safe in God’s love?
- Who, in today’s world, are opponents and oppressors of God?