Pondering Extras on Romans 9:1-5

PonderingExtrasJohn Piper writes…

Oh, that we would have more of Paul’s spirit here! Do you grieve? Do you feel sorrow and anguish over your kinsmen, that they are accursed and cut off from Christ? I know that hundreds of you do. That’s good. Nurture that grief with Biblical truth. And remember, Jesus said that we should love not only those who love us, but also our enemies (Matt. 5:43-44). So may Bethlehem (Church) be a place of tears as well as joy. May we be Biblical Christian hedonists! As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

And if anyone should raise the legitimate question: Will we then be sad throughout eternity because of those who are accursed and cut off from Christ in hell? Will heaven be a place of eternal grief? – the answer is no. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes . . . neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore” (Rev. 21:4). Why? Jonathan Edwards put it like this:

With respect to any affection that the godly have had to the finally reprobate, the love of God will wholly swallow it up. And cause it wholly to cease. (The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust], Vol. 2, p. 899)

Those who die in their sinful rebellion – we say it with tears now – will not have the power to hold heaven hostage with their own misery. Here we groan and weep. There we are consumed with the glory of Christ.

Let us learn from Paul. He knows that his kinsmen are lost and ready to be cast into outer darkness forever. But he does not say that with rage or fierceness. He says it with anguish.

Pondering Extras on Romans 8:31-39

PonderingExtrasCorrie Ten Boom was at the Nazi death camp Ravensbruck where roll call came at 4:30 every morning. Most mornings were cold, and sometimes the women would be forced to stand without moving for hours in the bone-chilling pre-dawn darkness. Nearby were the punishment barracks where all day and far into the night would come the sounds of cruelty: blows landing in regular rhythm and screams keeping pace.

But Corrie and her sister Betsie had a Bible, and at every opportunity they would gather the women together like orphans around a blazing fire, and read Romans 8:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Corrie later said:

I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors. It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute in an ever widening circle of help and hope. Life at Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory (2Co 3:18). 

Pondering Extras on Romans 8:28-30


“EXTRAS” is a follow up to the Friday Pondering post. It gives insight, commentary, and illustrations from pastors and scholars who also have spent time pondering the passage.

Howard Hendricks writes that…

The Bible was not written to satisfy your curiosity, but to make you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you a smarter sinner, but to make you like the Saviour. Not to fill your head with a collection of biblical facts, but to transform your life.

On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription:“ James Butler Bonham—no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.” No literal portrait of Jesus exists either. But the likeness of the Son who makes us free can be seen in the lives of His true followers.

Romans 8:28 is an easy verse to believe when the sun is shining, but it’s something else entirely in the darkness of human tragedy. We doubt this verse for two reasons. First, Paul says “we know” when most of us don’t feel like we know. Second, Paul says “all things” when most of us would rather say “some things.” Surely the key word is the word “good.” For us, “good” usually means happiness, health, prosperity, and good fortune. Those things are indeed good, but God’s good far exceeds our limited vision. (Ro 8:29) tells us that God’s good is that we should be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Anything that makes us like Jesus is good. This gives an entirely new perspective to heartaches and tragedies. They are part of God’s plan to chip away little by little at our character until Jesus is fully formed in us.

Pondering Extras for Romans 8:26-27


“EXTRAS” is a follow up to the Friday Pondering post. It gives insight, commentary, and illustrations from pastors and scholars who also have spent time pondering the passage.

Robert Morgan asks…

What kind of weakness? We are weak in many ways, but in this passage the apostle Paul is specific about the particular weakness he is addressing—our prayer lives. We are weak when it comes to prayer. In what way? Well, we are weak in many ways, but here again Paul has something specific in mind. We are weak in our ability to know what we should ask. Many times we really don’t know what we should specifically pray for. We are not omniscient. We don’t know everything, nor can we see into the future. So we don’t know whether the things we’re asking for will turn out good or bad for us.

An old story illustrates: A Chinese gentleman lived on the border of China and Mongolia. In those days, there was constant conflict and strife along the perimeter. The man had a beautiful horse. One day, she leaped over the corral, raced down the road, crossed the border, and was captured by the Mongolians. His friends came to comfort him. “That’s bad news,” they said sadly. “What makes you think it’s bad news?” asked the Chinese gentleman. “Maybe it’s good news.” A few days later the mare came bolting into his corral, bringing with it a massive stallion. His friends crowded around. “That’s good news!” they cried. “What makes you think it’s good news?” he asked. “Maybe it is bad news.” Later, his son, while riding the stallion and trying to break it, was thrown off and broke his leg. “That’s bad news,” cried the friends. “What makes you think it is bad news?” asked the Chinese gentleman. “Maybe it’s good news.” One week later, war broke out with Mongolia, and a Chinese general came through, drafting all the young men. All later perished, except for the young man who couldn’t go because his leg was broken. The man said to his friends, “You see, the things you thought were bad turned out good; and the things you thought were good turned out bad.”

And thus it is with us. We don’t know if the things we want will really be good for us, or bad. We can’t see the future. That’s why James tells to us to pray, saying, “If it be thy will. . . .” But God does know the future. He is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. He knows the end from the beginning, and He knows how all things will turn out. Verse 26 says that the Holy Spirit prays for us according to the will of God with intensity, with groanings that words cannot express. And God answers the Holy Spirit’s pleas on our behalf. The result is Romans 8:28! As the Holy Spirit prays for us, God answers His prayers, therefore all the things turn out for our good in the unfolding providence of the Lord.

Pondering Extras on Romans 8:18-25


No Hope But God— by Cindy Hess Kasper: In his book Through the Valley of the Kwai, Scottish officer Ernest Gordon wrote of his years as a prisoner of war during World War II. The 6′ 2″ man suffered from malaria, diphtheria, typhoid, beriberi, dysentery, and jungle ulcers, and the hard labor and scarcity of food quickly plunged his weight to less than 100 pounds.

The squalor of the prison hospital prompted a desperate Ernest to request to be moved to a cleaner place—the morgue. Lying in the dirt of the death house, he waited to die. But every day, a fellow prisoner came to wash his wounds and to encourage him to eat part of his own rations. As the quiet and unassuming Dusty Miller nursed Ernest back to health, he talked with the agnostic Scotsman of his own strong faith in God and showed him that—even in the midst of suffering—there is hope.

The hope we read about in Scripture is not a vague, wishy-washy optimism. Instead, biblical hope is a strong and confident expectation that what God has promised in His Word He will accomplish. Tribulation is often the catalyst that produces perseverance, character, and finally, hope (Ro 5:3-4).

Seventy years ago, in a brutal POW camp, Ernest Gordon learned this truth himself and said, “Faith thrives when there is no hope but God” (see Ro 8:24-25).

Ray Stedman illustrates Romans 8:2324 with this story:

The other day I gave my oldest daughter a driving lesson, and she wanted to start driving the Oldsmobile because it has an automatic shift. But I said to her,

“No, dear, I think it would be better if you would start with the Chevrolet. It has a stick shift, and a clutch, and it is a little bit cranky and hard to operate at times, but if you will learn how to run this car, you’ll have no trouble at all with the Oldsmobile.”

You know, in a sense, God has done that with us: He has given us these old, cranky, balky, pain ridden bodies of ours, and has told us that, if we learn how to handle these, if we will learn how to make these obey, and present these to him as a living sacrifice, then we will grow ready in spirit to receive those glorious bodies that are now being prepared for us. And Paul says that, with this hope before us, we can patiently wait for God to teach all that we need to know. (Romans 8:14-25 The Joy of Being Grown Up)


Pondering Extras on Romans 8:9-17

PonderingExtrasC H Spurgeon writes…

We are regenerated, by the Holy Spirit, and so receive the nature of children; and that nature, which is given by him, he continually prompts, and excites, and develops, and matures; so that we receive day by day more and more of the childlike spirit. Now, beloved, this may not seem to you to be of very great importance at first sight; but it is so; for the church is never happy except as all her members walk as dear children towards God. Sometimes the spirit of slaves creeps over us: we begin to talk of the service of God as though it were heavy and burdensome, and are discontented if we do not receive present wages and visible success, just as servants do when they are not suited; but the spirit of adoption works for love, without any hope of reward, and it is satisfied with the sweet fact of being in the Father’s house, and doing the Father’s will. This spirit gives peace, rest, joy, boldness, and holy familiarity with God. A man who never received the spirit of a child towards God does not know the bliss of the Christian life; he misses its flower, its savor, its excellence, and I should not wonder if the service of Christ should be a weariness to him because he has never yet got to the sweet things, and does not enjoy the green pastures, wherein the Good Shepherd makes his sheep to feed and to lie down. But when the Spirit of God makes us feel that we are sons, and we live in the house of God to go no more out for ever, then the service of God is sweet and easy, and we accept the delay of apparent success as a part of the trial we are called to bear.

Now, mark you, this will have a great effect upon the outside world. A body of professors performing religion as a task, groaning along the ways of godliness with faces full of misery, like slaves who dread the lash, can have but small effect upon the sinners around them. They say, “These people serve, no doubt, a hard master, and they are denying themselves this and that; why should we be like them?” But bring me a church made up of children of God, a company of men and women whose faces shine with their heavenly Father’s smile, who are accustomed to take their cares and cast them on their Father as children should, who know they are accepted and beloved, and are perfectly content with the great Father’s will; put them down in the midst of a company of ungodly ones, and I will warrant you they will begin to envy them their peace and joy. Thus happy saints become most efficient operators upon the minds of the unsaved. O blessed Spirit of God! let us all now feel that we are the children of the great Father, and let our childlike love be warm this morning; so shall we be fit to go forth and proclaim the Lord’s love to the prodigals who are in the far-off land among the swine.

Pondering Extras on Romans 8:5-8

PonderingExtrasJ Vernon McGee says:

“Flesh in believers is incorrigible, my friend. It is in rebellion against God. It has been carrying a protest banner before the gates of heaven ever since man came out through the gates of paradise in the Garden of Eden.”

“The believer has the Holy Spirit to deal with the flesh, that big bully. I learned a long time ago that I can’t overcome it (FLESH). So I have to turn it over to Somebody who can. The Holy Spirit indwells believers. He wants to do that for us, and He can!… It is humiliating but true that the child of God retains this old Adamic nature (THE FLESH). It means defeat and death to live by the FLESH. No child of God can be happy in living for the things of the FLESH. The prodigal son may get into the pig pen, but he will never be content to stay there. He is bound to say, “I will arise and go to my father.”…There is one thing for sure: if you are living in the FLESH (more accurately “LIVING FLESHLY”), and you are a child of God, you are not having fellowship with God. You can’t.”

“The Law was a straitjacket put on the flesh to control it. The flesh rebelled and chafed under the irksome restraint of the Law. The flesh had no capacity or desire to follow the injunctions of the Law. The flesh broke out of the restraint imposed by law and therefore brought down the irrevocable penalty for breaking the Law, which is death.”

Pondering Extras on Romans 8:1-4

“For the law of  the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:2

Back in the nineteenth century our sixteenth president realized something radical must be done about slavery in our country. Unwilling to look the other way any longer, on September 22, 1862, he presented what came to be known as the Emancipation Proclamation, an official document condemning human slavery. Abraham Lincoln, realizing that slavery is completely against human dignity, officially abolished it from the United States on that day. Tragically, little changed in the daily life of our nation, even though the slaves were officially declared free. You know why; you’ve read the stories. The Civil War was still going on. The plantation owners never informed their slaves. The vast majority of the former slaves couldn’t read, so they had no idea what the news was carrying. There was no mass media then to announce those kinds of presidential pronouncements. And so for the longest time, slavery continued even though it had been officially brought to an end. The war ended in April 1865. Do you know when Lincoln’s declaration was officially enacted? When the people finally began to leave their enslaved lives and make their way toward freedom? December 18, 1865—more than three years after he first released his proclamation. Lincoln had been dead for months. The word traveled out of the streets of Washington and down into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, across the back roads of the Carolinas and into Georgia, then Alabama, then Mississippi, then Louisiana, then Texas, then Arkansas, announcing what had been true for more than a thousand days. Even then the word somehow either wasn’t believed or wasn’t acted upon. Those officially emancipated people, thinking slavery was the way they were condemned to exist, continued to live in bondage though they had been declared free men and women since the fall of 1862.

Now if you think that seems shocking, let me tell you something equally as shocking: believers in Jesus Christ still live enslaved to the domination of a power that no longer has power over them. What has freed us is the great Emancipator, Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross set us free from the law of sin and the fear of death. Like an Emancipation Proclamation, it was made known to the world at large: Satan is defeated! Sin is overwhelmed! Death no longer has its sting! (Charles Swindoll from Embraced By The Spirit)


Pondering Extras for Romans 7:7-25

PonderingExtrasD. L. Moody once said…

“When I was converted, I made this mistake: I thought the battle was already mine, the victory already won, the crown already in my grasp. I thought the old things had passed away, that all things had become new, and that my old corrupt nature, the old life, was gone. But I found out, after serving Christ for a few months, that conversion was only like enlisting in the army–that there was a battle on hand.”

In Our Daily Bread we read about how we can’t but He can – A young boy was at the barbershop for a haircut. The room was filled with cigar smoke. The lad pinched his nose and exclaimed, “Who’s been smoking in here!”

The barber sheepishly confessed, “I have.”

The boy responded, “Don’t you know it’s not good for you?”

“I know,” the barber replied. “I’ve tried to quit a thousand times but I just can’t.”

The boy commented, “I understand. I’ve tried to stop sucking my thumb, but I can’t quit either!”

Those two remind me of the way believers sometimes feel about their struggle with sins of the flesh. Paul summed it up well by crying out,

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

His spiritual battle might have left him in despair if he had not found the solution. Following his agonizing question, he declared with triumph,

“I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Ro 7:25)

Are you struggling to break some stubborn habit? Like Paul, you can be an overcomer. If you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior, victory is possible through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Confidently affirm with Paul,

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Php 4:13)

Pondering Extras on Romans 7:1-6

PonderingExtrasA prayer by John MacArthur on this passage:

“Father, we’re thankful tonight that we’ve been able to look into Your Law, say with the psalmist, “O how I love Your Law.” These are just basic, simple, foundational understandings, but so important for us. And for many of us through the years these are well-known truths, how important they are for those that are new in the faith, or those that have been unclear or untaught. We thank You for the greatness of our salvation and the full deliverance that is provided for us in Christ, deliverance from the law. We thank You at the same time that we’ve been delivered from the threat that it holds over the sinner. We have not been delivered from its goodness, its righteousness, its holiness, its spirituality, its blessings, its potential for…for fruitfulness, but rather we have been placed in a position by Your grace to be free from punishment by the Law and free to fulfill it by Your Spirit. We desire to be obedient and thereby to grow in sanctification to follow the path of Christ, consistently being made more and more like Him who perfectly obeys You. That is our desire. Sanctify us by Your Word and may we be useful to You in bringing honor to Christ, we pray in His name. Amen.”

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