The Greatest Chapter in the Bible?
What is the greatest chapter in the Bible? Psalm 23? John 15? Revelation 5?
While “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable,” certain sections stand out as especially used by God over the centuries, particularly the book of Romans. Listen to what great expositors have said about this book:
And within Romans, what is the greatest chapter? Opinions differ, of course, but most will answer, “Romans 8.” Think of these familiar verses:
Isn’t it time for you to study Romans 8 and apply these great truths to your life?
This is a 12-16 week, in-depth study of Romans 8, averaging less than 3 verses per week (there are 12 weekly preparation guides, but leaders should allow some discussions to take one and a half or two weeks). We will answer these and other questions along the way:
I encourage you to dive in to this chapter with us. But be forewarned: Your life will be changed by the truths of this passage!
Note on English translations: The New American Standard is generally the best English translation to use for careful, verse-by-verse study. The NIV for Romans 8 has two main problems: first, it frequently leaves out key conjunctions, thus making it difficult to know the relationship between different verses. For example, the word “for” appears at the beginning of 8:5 and 8:6 in the NAS, translating the Greek word gar; the NIV simply leaves out the word. A second problem with the NIV is the translation of the Greek word sarx, “flesh” in NAS. The NIV renders this “sinful nature” or simply “sinful,” which introduces a fair amount of interpretation into the translation. So the NAS is preferred, but by all means look at other translations if you have them. The preparation guides occasionally make notes on translation. In addition, the text of a new translation, the ESV (available September 2001 from Crossway) is printed with each week’s questions.
Week 1: Romans 7:24-8:4
Read 6:15 to 8:11 several times before answering these questions. Look at the translation notes below.
1) Why is Paul wretched in 7:24? What is he referring to when he says “this death”?
2) Why does Paul thank God in 7:25? How would you continue the sentence? “Thanks be to God because . . .”
3) See the translation notes on 7:25. How is this verse related to the theme of slavery found in 6:14-7:6?
4) Paul has not used the word “condemnation” since 5:18. Why does he bring it up in 8:1? What is the link between this statement and the verses at the end of chapter 7?
5) What does being “in Christ Jesus” have to do with our not being condemned? See 3:24, 6:11, 6:23.
6) 8:2 begins with the word “For.” That means verse two provides the logical ground for verse 1, or the reason that verse 1 is true. How does it serve this purpose? In your answer, explain the meaning of the two “laws” mentioned in the verse. In doing so, look back at 7:25 and 7:22-23.
7) Verse 3 again begins with “For.” So we should expect a logical ground for verse 2. Note that verses 3 and 4 are one sentence in Greek, so the two verses together provide the ground. Here is a literal but awkward translation of verse 3: “For the impossibility of the law in that it was weakened by the flesh, God condemned sin in the flesh, sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin” Clearly, all English translations must add words – Paul evidently leaves some words out because he thinks it’s so clear to the readers what those words should be! What words would you add that make this verse (together with 4) a logical ground for verse 2?
8) What is it that the Law could not do? What does God sending his Son in the “likeness of sinful flesh” and “for sin” have to do with this powerlessness of the Law?
9) In what sense did God “condemn sin in the flesh”? Doesn’t chapter 7 teach that sin is alive and well, even in believers?
10) Verse 4 begins “in order that.” Thus, verse 4 provides the purpose for some statement in verse 3. Which statement does it refer to: God sending His Son, or God condemning sin (or both)?
11) In verse 4, the NIV’s rendering “righteous requirements of the law” brings out an important connotation, but the Greek word is singular. What “righteous requirement” of the Law is fulfilled in us? How is it fulfilled? Does the verse mean, “By walking according to the Spirit we fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law”? Why, or why not?
12) Now, once again consider: Why does Paul break out in praise to God in 7:25? Why is this important for you and me, both as we live the Christian life and stand alongside of others?
This week’s translation notes:
7:24 The Greek reads “the body of this death”, not the NIV’s “this body of death”.
7:25 NAS has “serving the law of God”; NIV’s rendering “am a slave to the law of God” is helpful, bringing out an important connotation of the Greek word. But note the NIV’s use of “sinful nature” for “flesh.”
8:1 The Greek emphasizes the word “no.”
8:2 (a) NAS “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is much more literal than the NIV rendering.
(b) NIV has “set me free”, NAS “set you free.” This is a textual problem in the Greek manuscripts – some manuscripts have ‘me’, some ‘you’. Do note, however, that there is no impersonal ‘you’ in Greek; when Paul uses “you,” he is referring to the readers of his letter.
Week 2: Romans 8:5-8
(1) Look back on your notes for verses 1-4. Also look ahead to verses 9 to 11. What purpose do verses 5-8 serve in the flow of Paul’s argument?
(2) This section abounds in the word “for”. See the translation notes. Recall that “for” introduces a ground, or reason why the preceding proposition is true. Specifically, what thought from the previous 4 verses is Paul grounding in verse 5?
(3) What groups of people is Paul talking about in verse 5? How do they relate to groups of people discussed in verse 4? Which of these is the same as the group of people discussed in verse 1? Do you think Paul is talking about two distinct groups of people, or could the same person switch back and forth between being “according to the flesh” and “according to the Spirit”? What in this passage leads you to that answer?
(4) Again, “for” introduces verse 6. What thought in verse 5 is grounded here?
(5) Look back over 6:14 to 8:5. Pick out the verses that refer to death. Use these verses to help explain what Paul means by “the mind set on the flesh is death.”
(6) “Because” introduces verse 7, followed by “for” twice later in the verse. Explain how each statement grounds the preceding.
(7) Evaluate this statement in light of verse 7: “What we need in our society is to remove the historical inequities and then create a just set of laws, based on God’s moral law. Then our problems will be solved!”
(8) Think hard about these four verses, 8:5-8. From your own life or the lives of people you know, reflect on the hostility toward God of the mind set on the flesh. What examples can you think of? Does this help you to understand verse 8? What hope is there for those with minds set on the flesh?
(9) Think again about question 1 and modify your answer if necessary.
Translation notes: The NIV is very loose on verses 5-8; it provides a plausible interpretation of the text, but it really is an interpretation here, not a translation. I strongly recommend for these verses that you work from the NAS or ESV (or King James, for that matter).
Verses 5 to 7: Note the connecting words: “for” (gar in Greek) and “because” (dioti in Greek). These are key to understanding the passage, yet are awkward to translate into English because there are so many of them! The NAS is most faithful to the original here, putting “for” at the beginning of verses 5 and 6, “because” at the beginning of verse 7, and “for” two more times in verse 7.
Verse 7: The beginning of the verse reads, literally, “Because the mind of the flesh is hostility unto God;” or “Because the fleshly thought is hostility unto God.”
Week 3: Romans 8:9-11
(1) Look back on your notes for verses 1-8. Also look ahead to verses 12 to 17. Remind yourself of the purpose served by verses 5-8 in the flow of Paul’s argument. What statement did Paul make in verse 4? How do verses 5-8 support that statement? Given those answers, what purpose do verses 9-11 serve in the flow of Paul’s argument?
(2) There are four conditional statements in verses 9 to 11; indeed, the three verses consist of nothing other than conditional statements. We usually think of conditional statements as “if . . . then” statements: that is, the word “if” followed by a condition; then the word “then,” followed by a consequence of the condition. Paul doesn’t follow that word order here, and is not consistent in the word order he uses. To make the statements clearer, write out these four conditions and their consequences.
(3) Look at the translation notes below for verse 9. All four of these conditions are of the same type: he assumes, at least for the sake of argument, that the condition is true. Rewrite the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th conditions, following the pattern of the paraphrase given in the translation notes.
(4) What is the relationship of the 2nd half of verse 9 to the rest of this section?
(5) In verse 9, why does Paul call the Spirit the “Spirit of God” one time and the “Spirit of Christ” another? What does this imply about Jesus?
(6) In verse 10, in what sense is the body dead? What does this verse say about sin in the life of believers?
(7) In verse 10, should the word “spirit” be capitalized? Whose spirit is alive because of righteousness? Where in this passage have we encountered the concept of righteousness before? (hint: see the translation notes for verses 1-4). In what sense is the spirit alive because of righteousness?
(8) In verse 11, who is said to have raised Jesus from the dead? Who will give life to your mortal bodies? What is the role of the Spirit? Look at Romans 6:1-13, and see the translation notes below.
(9) Explain the relationship between the “if” condition and the result in verse 11. Why does Paul mention Jesus being raised from the dead?
(10) Is the promise that “He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies” fulfilled in this life or in the life to come (or both)? Consider Galatians 2:20, and explain your answer.
(11) Try again to summarize the argument of these 3 verses. Why are these verses important? What relevance do they have for the way we live the Christian life?
(12) A friend comes to you and says: “I accepted Christ as my Savior 10 years ago, but I have been caught up in this terrible sin. Am I really saved?” After your study of these verses, and in light of Romans 6 and 7, what do you say to your friend?
Translation notes: The NIV continues its loose, interpretive translation through the first sentence of verse 9, but in the rest of this section it is fine.
Verse 9: Greek has different ways to state a conditional statement. The following paraphrase helps to communicate the sense of the condition here: “Doesn’t the Spirit of God dwell in you? Then you are not in the flesh (and thus unable to please God), but in the Spirit!”
The last phrase in the verse reads literally, “this one is not his.”
Verse 11: NAS begins this verse with “but”, NIV with “and,” ESV with no conjunction at all. All three are possible translations for this Greek conjunction. Think about which translation makes the most sense, given the thoughts before and after.
ESV, Romans 8:9-11 9 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. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 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.
Week 4: Romans 8:12-13
1) Read over 7:24 to 8:17 several times. Remind yourself of our earlier discussions. Can you summarize in one or two sentences the point Paul makes in 12-17? What title would you put on this section? (Note: just because a title is found in your Bible does not make it descriptive or accurate – the titles are not inspired!)
2) Verse 12 begins with “So then.” That is, this verse is an implication of what comes before. How do verses 9 to 11 provide support for the statement in verse 12? What kind of obligation is Paul talking about? See how he uses this word group in Romans 1:14, 4:4, and 15:27.
3) It seems that Paul never finishes the sentence in verse 12; he tells us we are under obligation not to the flesh – but doesn’t tell us who we are obligated to. Who is it, and why?
4) Verse 13 begins with “for,” so it provides a logical ground for something in the previous verse. What thought in verse 12 is grounded in verse 13? Or, to put it another way, what question based on verse 12 is being answered in verse 13?
5) When Paul uses the word “you” he is speaking of someone reading the letter; there is no “impersonal you” in Greek. What does “living according to the flesh” correspond to in earlier verses? See in particular verse 4, and remember that “walk” is frequently used for “live” in the Hebrew language (see, for example, Psalm 1:1).
6) The words translated “you must die” in the NAS can also be translated “you will die” (NIV, ESV), “you are going to die,” or “you are about to die.” On the other hand, there is no ambiguity concerning the translation of the last words in the verse, “you will live.” Taking into account verses 4-6, what is Paul saying in the first part of verse 13? What type of death is he talking about?
7) Paul contrasts “living according to the flesh” with “by the Spirit putting to death the misdeeds of the body.” What did he contrast with “walking according to the flesh” in verse 4? Does Paul here say that the opposite of “living according to the flesh” is living a perfect life? Explain.
8) How do we go about putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit? Who puts to death the deeds of the body? What instrument does this person use? What is he putting to death? Reflect on this in your own life and in the life of others.
9) The words “flesh,” “body,” “death,” and “dead” appear 19 times in 7:24-8:13 (15 verses); they only appear 3 times in 8:14-39 (26 verses: see 23, 36, and 38), and even those three times are in much different contexts. Paul is moving away now from the question that he has focused on, the relation between sinning and being saved. So try to sum up what he teaches by supposing two friends named Guilt-ridden and Not-worry come to you. Guilt-ridden asks, “I committed this terrible sin yesterday! I don’t know if I’m saved!” Not-worry says, “Oh, don’t worry about that! Sin doesn’t matter! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Never worry about sin!” What do you say in response?
Week 5: Romans 8:14-17a
1) Read 8:1-17 several times; look over the earlier preparation guides, particularly the one for 8:12-13. Recall our discussion of verses 12 and 13. What is the purpose of verses 12 to 17 in Paul’s argument? What topics does Paul draw to a close in verse 13? What title did you give to this section last week? Do you still want to use the same title?
2) Verse 14 begins with our favorite word, “For”, implying that this verse provides a logical ground for something that precedes it. The statement in verse 14 grounds what idea from verses 12 and 13?
3) To interpret verse 14 properly, you need to understand the difference between an action by an agent and an action by an instrument. Think of the difference between saying, “The schoolchildren were led by their teacher into the cafeteria,” and saying, “The schoolchildren were led by hand into the cafeteria.” In the first sentence, the teacher is the agent, the one leading; in the second, the agent is not stated; the “hand” is the instrument by which the children are led. Verse 14 includes this phrase: “all who are led by the Spirit of God”. The English phrase is ambiguous; the Spirit could be the one doing the leading (the agent), or the Spirit could be the instrument by which we are led. But the Greek grammar strongly suggests that the Spirit is the instrument by which we are led, not the agent leading us. If this is the case, who is the agent? Who leads us? How then is the Spirit used as a means of leading us?
4) Verse 15 begins with another “For”. How does this verse ground the preceding one? What is the “spirit of fear” Paul talks about? Fear of what? And what type of slavery does this fear lead to? Consider Hebrews 2:14-15. Is the author of Hebrews talking about the same type of fear and slavery?
5) The NAS and the NRSV translations have “spirit of adoption” while the NIV and ESV capitalize the “S”, “Spirit of adoption.” What is the difference between these translations? Given the context, which do you think is the appropriate translation? (The Greek doesn’t help us here, so our understanding can only be based on the context).
6) What words are used in verses 15 to 17 to describe our relationship to God? How do these words differ from “a spirit of fear leading to slavery”? If you the Spirit of God dwells in you, then all these words apply to you! Write this out in first person, including what the words imply: “I am a . . .” Remember that “Abba” means “Daddy.” Consider these other references as you write (there are many, but this is really rich imagery!): Adoption: Romans 8:23, 9:4, Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5. Children: John. 1:12, 11:52, Acts 17:29, Rom.8:21, 9:8, Phil. 2:15, 1 John. 3:1-2, 3:10, 5:2. Heirs or inheritance: Mat 5:5, Mat 19:29, 25:34, Mark 10:17, Acts 20:32, 26:18, Rom. 4:13-14, 1 Cor 6:9-11, 15:50-53, Gal 3:18, 3:29, 5:19-23, Eph 1:11-18, 3:6, 5:5, Col 1:12, 3:18, Tit. 3:7, Heb 1:14, 6:11-17, 9:15, 11:8-9, Jas. 2:5, I Peter 1:3,4, Rev 21:6-8.
7) Verse 16 says that the Spirit Himself bears witness to or with our spirit that we are God’s children. Most translations use “with;” one of the foremost Greek grammarians alive today argues strongly for “to.” How do those two translations change the meaning of the verse? Which meaning is most consistent with Paul’s argument here? See 1 John 5:6-13 (This passage raises several questions itself – don’t focus on those, but ask yourself how these verses shed light on the meaning of Romans 8:16?)
8) Reflect on the first part of verse 17 (we’ll look at the second half next week with verses 18ff). Who is a joint heir with Christ? What will Christ inherit? Why is this important?
9) Now reflect on verses 12-17 as a whole. What role should the ideas in this passage play in the life of believers? How can you use these truths in your life? How can you use them to help fellow believers?
Week 6: Romans 8:17b-22
1) Read Romans 8:1-30 several times. Recall our discussion of the earlier sections. Now focus on verses 18 to 22. What is the purpose of this section in Paul’s argument? What title would you give to these 5 verses?
2) Look for the terms “glory” and “glorified” in verses 17 to 30. How often do they appear? These words are common in the New Testament, appearing in more than 200 verses. Here are the verses within Romans, outside of chapter 8: Romans 1:21, 1:23, 2:7, 2:10, 3:7, 3:23, 4:20, 5:2, 6:4, 9:4, 9:23, 11:13, 11:36, 15:6, 15:7, 15:9, 16:27. Given the way the words are used, how would you define these two words?
3) Why does Paul link suffering with glory in verses 17 and 18? Indeed, verse 17 says, “we suffer in order that we may also be glorified.” Consider Luke 24:26, Hebrews 2:9-10, 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, and 1 Peter 4:12-5:11.
4) Verses 18 to 22 once again present us with a series of statements beginning with our favorite word, “for:” Verse 18, 19, 20-21, and 22. (The NIV, unfortunately, leaves out three of these; look at the ESV translation below.) Recall our discussion of verses 1-8. For each “for,” try to think of a question that is answered by the statement after the “for.” What is the main idea that Paul is supporting with these five verses? What is the gist of Paul’s argument?
5) In verse 19, what does the phrase “the revealing of the sons of God” mean? Has this already occurred? How do you know? Who is waiting for this revealing to happen? In what sense can we say that creation “waits eagerly”?
6) In verses 20 and 21, in what sense is creation subject to futility or frustration? How does verse 21 (“bondage to decay” or “slavery to corruption”) help you understand this? Who subjected the creation to this futility? Why? (Hint: Paul doesn’t tell us in this verse. See Genesis 3, particularly verse 17). What is the hope of creation?
7) The NIV’s translation of the end of verse 21, “glorious freedom of the children of God,” probably communicates the sense of the Greek text better than the ESV and NAS translations. In what sense are the children of God free? As you consider this question, look back over 7:24 to 8:17 and identify the images of slavery, bondage, and freedom. Why is this freedom glorious? Make sure your answer to this question is consistent with your answer to question 2.
8) Verse 22 asserts that we know something; what do we know? Do you know this? What does Paul mean by saying that the creation suffers pains? What is the creation about to give birth to?
9) Now reflect on verses 18-22 as a whole. Look again at your answer to question 4, and modify it if necessary. What role should the ideas in this passage play in the life of believers? How can you use these truths in your life? How can you use them to help fellow believers?
Week 7: Romans 8:23-25
1) Read Romans 8:1-30 several times. Recall our discussion of the earlier sections. Now focus on verses 23 to 25. What is the purpose of this section in Paul’s argument? What title would you give to these 3 verses? How do these verses relate to verses 17 and 18?
2) In verse 23, there is a strong emphasis in the original language on “we ourselves.” The verb “wait eagerly” is repeated from verse 19; the verb “groan” is repeated (after losing a prefix meaning “together”) from verse 22. What was “groaning” and “waiting eagerly” in the earlier verses? How is our groaning and waiting similar? How is it different?
3) In verses 9 and 11 Paul has made very clear that unless we have the Spirit we are not in Christ. Why then in verse 23 does Paul use the clause “who have the first fruits of the Spirit”? In what sense do we have only the first fruits? Why is that sense important in this verse?
4) What does Paul mean by the redemption (or liberation) of our bodies? What have we learned about our bodies earlier in this chapter? What is in store for us? See 1 John 3:1,2.
5) Verse 24 begins, “For in this hope we were saved.” What hope, or expectation, is Paul talking about? What does it mean to be saved “in hope”?
6) In what sense do we not hope for what we see? Can you think of something that you have seen that you hope for? How is Paul using the words “see” and “hope” in these verse?
7) Verse 25 includes another “if – then” conditional statement. As we have discussed earlier, we can translate this, “Don’t we hope for what you do not see? (Implied, ‘Yes!’) Then we wait for it with endurance!” Explain how the “then-statement” follows from the “if-statement.” The final word can be translated “endurance” or “patience.” What clues in the passage indicate which is the better translation?
8) Look again at your answer to question 1 and revise it. How can you use these 3 verses to help brothers and sisters who are going through suffering?
Week 8: Romans 8:26-27
1) Read Romans 8:1-30 several times, then focus in on 18-27. Recall our discussions of 18-25; you may want to look over the questions we’ve addressed on those verses. Now focus on the transition from verse 25 to 26. Verse 26 begins with a word that means “likewise” or “similarly” or “in the same manner.” How is the Spirit helping us in our weakness similar to an idea found in the earlier verses?
2) Given the second half of verse 26, what does the phrase “our weakness” refer to?
3) Our favorite word “for” appears in the middle of verse 26 (if you’re using the NIV, write in “For” immediately prior to “we do not know”). How does the second half of the verse support the idea in the first half?
4) What is it that we do not know? The phrase can be translated literally either as “how to pray as is right” or “what to pray for as is right.” Given the context of verses 18 to 28, what does Paul mean by this phrase? Think of examples from your own life.
5) How does the Spirit interceding for us with inexpressible groans help us?
6) In verse 27, who searches our hearts (the Greek text only tells us that he is masculine)? Consider Luke 16:15, Acts 1:24, Rev 2:23, Jeremiah 17:10, Psalm 139:23, 1 Chronicles 28:9. Why does Paul include this phrase, “who searches our hearts”? Why is it important to his argument?
7) The next phrase is literally “knows what the mindset of the spirit is”. The word “spirit” could be lower case or upper case (every English translation I looked at uses upper case). The phrase “mindset of the spirit” is identical in Greek to a phrase that we examined in 8:6, where it was translated “the mind controlled by the Spirit” or “the mind set on the Spirit”. Why is it important that “he who searches our hearts knows what the mindset of the spirit is”?
8) In the last phrase, who are the saints? Look at Romans 1:7, where Paul addresses his letter.
9) We’ve looked at a lot of trees; now try to picture the forest. Paraphrase these verses, in your own words writing out what they mean. Keep in mind our discussion of the earlier verses.
10) These two verses are part of a longer section on suffering. How are these verses helpful to those who are suffering? How can they help you when ministering to suffering people?
Week 9: Romans 8:28
1) First, some notes on translation: Because of a couple of strange rules in Greek, grammatically it is impossible to tell in 8:28 whether “all things” is the subject or the object of “works together.” So we can translate the main clause as, “And we know that He works all things together for good” (with the clear implication that “He” is God) or “And we knew that all things work together for good.” Both translations clearly state that God is sovereign, so I don’t think the choice makes much difference. With that in view, read Romans 8:17-39 several times. Recall our discussions of 18-27; you may want to look over those preparation guides. What purpose does 8:28 serve in the longer passage?
2) How many things work together for good? Is there anything that happens that does not work for the good of the people of God?
3) Recall that the chapter begins with Paul saying there is no condemnation for a group of people. And then he defines the group of people in two ways: those who are “in Christ Jesus” and those who “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Paul does something similar here: he defines the group for whom all things work together for good in two ways. What are the two ways? What attitude does this group have towards God? What has God done for them? How can both be true? (You might find Deuteronomy 30:6 helpful. In that verse, what is the equivalent of the call? What leads to the people loving God?)
4) What does Paul mean by “called according to His purpose”? The Bible sometimes uses the word “called” to mean the general gospel invitation given to all (Matthew 22:14, Proverbs 9:1-5), and sometimes to mean only those who are effectually called, those who become God’s people (Romans 1:6-7, 1 Corinthians 1:23-24). Which meaning is used here? Think more about this: What is the difference between a “call” I give to my cat: “Here, Kitty-kitty! Madison, come inside!” and the call Jesus gave to Lazarus: “Lazarus, come forth!” Which type of call is in view in this verse?
5) Why does Paul add the words “according to His purpose”? How do these words help us to answer question 6? Look ahead a few verses to Romans 9:10-12; this passage includes the words “purpose” and “call.” What type of purpose is in view there? What is contrasted with “because of Him who calls”?
6) What does Paul mean by “good”? In what sense are all things working together for good for the called? Does it mean that we will not have sufferings, trials, or pain? Does it mean we won’t die in tragic accidents, or as a result of war? Look back at verses 18 to 27 and ahead to verses 29 and 39 in answering this. Notice that verse 29 begins with “For,” so verses 29-30 provide a logical ground for verse 28. What insight does this ground give us into the meaning of “good”? See also Rom 5:3-5, Gen 50:20 (reflect on the story of Joseph and his brothers), Deut 8:3, 2 Cor 4:7-17, Phil 1:20-21, 2 Thess 1:4-5, 2 Tim 3:6-12, 4:6-8, James 1:2-4, 1 Pet 1:6-10, 5:8-10.
7) Paraphrase this verse in a way that brings out the important points. What are the implications of this verse for how we live? Consider: doing things that make others think well of us; trying to put others down; storing up assets so we will have security. How can we effectively use this verse – and, indeed, the entire passage – with those who are suffering, without belittling the depth of their pain?
Week 10: Romans 8:29-30
1) Read Romans 8:17 to 39 several times. Remind yourself of our earlier discussions: What is the major question addressed in 8:17-30? What are the three answers Paul has already given to this question (in verses 18-22, 23-25, 26-27)? How has he begun to give a fourth answer in 8:28?
2) In verses 29 and 30 Paul makes five statements with God as the subject and His people as the object. List these five statements. Are the five statements sequential in time?
3) Verse 29 begins once again with our favorite word, “For”. So these two verses are a logical ground for verse 28, explaining why that verse is true. You might suppose someone, hearing verse 28, asks, “How do we know that all things work together for good for those who are called by God?” How do verses 29 and 30 answer that question? What is the big picture here? What type of good does Paul focus on? How is that helpful to people caught in the midst of present suffering? It might be helpful to look ahead to verse 32 as you write your answer.
4) Verse 29 says God’s people are predestined to what? What does this phrase mean? How does this relate to our present suffering? Look back at verse 17, as well as 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 4:17 (indeed, the entire passage in 2 Corinthians is helpful).
5) What is God’s purpose in conforming us to Christ’s image? How does this relate to the theme of the passage (look back at verses 16 and 17)?
6) The Greek of verse 30 emphasizes that exactly the same ones whom God predestines to be conformed to the image of Christ are also called, justified, and glorified; not one is lost along the way. Why is this a comfort to those who experience suffering?
7) We looked at calling last week (see the preparation guide). Why does Paul put calling after being predestined to conformity to the likeness of Christ? Why does he put it before being justified?
8) What is justification? See Romans 4:6-7, 5:9, 5:19, and 2 Corinthians 5:21. Why does Paul put justification between calling and being glorified?
9) What is glorification? See Philippians 3:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:42-43. Why is it last?
10) Someone might read 8:30 and say: “I need not obey God; if I’m saved, my glorification is already assured!” Why is that an incorrect inference? Look back at Romans 8:1-13, and recall our discussions. Look also at Hebrews 5:9 and 12:14 as well as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:21. Given these verses, how can Paul be so sure that the justified will be glorified? Mightn’t a Christian who has received Christ rebel, live a life of sin – and thus not inherit the kingdom of God? How does Ezekiel 36:27 help you to answer this question?
11) Pretend that a Christian friend of yours is suffering from both bereavement and illness, and has written you a letter showing that he/she is quite depressed. Using the truths that we have seen in Romans 8:18-30, reply to your friend’s letter.
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 first-born 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.
Week 11: Romans 8:31-34
1) Read all of Romans 8, and recall the structure of the first 30 verses. What was Paul’s major theme in verses 1 to 13? What was his major theme in verses 17 to 30? What is Paul doing in verses 31 to 39? What relationship do these verses have to the rest of the chapter?
2) In verse 31, what are “these things”?
3) In verse 31, is the answer to the second question “no one”? Remember, if you say “no one” the answer must hold for Paul, as well as all those through the years who have suffered and died for their faith. Name those people and powers who opposed Paul. Name those who oppose you. Name those who don’t know you personally but oppose the gospel today. Are these opponents insignificant? Given these thoughts, fashion a response to verse 31 by one of Paul’s readers who is suffering persecution.
4) What is the logic of verse 32? That is, what does the first half of the verse (God not sparing Jesus but delivering Him over to death for us) have to do with the second half of the verse (God freely giving us all things with Jesus)?
5) How then does verse 32 answer the question you fashioned in your answer to (3) above? John Piper calls this the most precious verse in the most precious chapter in the Bible. Why is it so precious?
6) What does Paul mean by “all things” in verse 32? See verses 28 to 30.
7) In verse 33, is the answer to the question “no one”? Who might accuse you of sinning? So what comfort is in this verse?
8) What is the relationship between verses 33-34 and verses 1-13? Recall our discussion of justification when looking at verses 29 and 30. Note that the first phrase of verse 4 can be translated, “in order that the just requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us.”
9) What four statements about Jesus does Paul make in verse 34? What is the relationship between these four statements and the question that begins the verse?
10) Try to paraphrase these verses in a few sentences. Why are these verses a comfort to those with whom Paul has been interacting in the earlier sections of the chapter? Why are they a comfort to you today? What promises can you hold on to from these verses? Why are these important?
11) Reflect on this entire chapter. What has this study taught you about sin? About suffering? About your relationship to God? How do these changes in your understanding affect your emotions? Respond to this chapter in your own personal way. You might want to sing a song, or write a poem, or draw a picture, or write a letter to a friend.
Week 12: Romans 8:35-39
1) Once again, read all of Romans 8, and remind yourself of the structure of the chapter. What was Paul’s major theme in verses 1 to 13? What was his major theme in verses 17 to 30? What relationship do 31 to 39 have to the rest of the chapter? What topics has Paul dealt with in verses 31 to 34?
2) Verse 35 begins by asking “Who” – but then Paul lists not people but types of difficulties. Why does he begin with “Who”? When does Paul finish answering this question?
3) Here is an expansion of Paul’s list of difficulties, which brings out the connotations of the Greek words: “outside pressures, difficulties (tight places) we have to pass through, our being pursued by others trying to harm us, the lack of food or sustenance, the lack of protection from the elements, risky situations in which something terrible might happen, being killed.” Think about these, and how they apply to you and people you know. Why might people facing such difficulties think they are separated from God’s love?
4) What purpose does verse 36 serve in Paul’s argument? Why does Paul talk about being sheep set aside for slaughter? Isn’t this a strange way to bring comfort to those who are suffering?
5) The quotation in verse 36 is from Psalm 44:22. Read the entire Psalm. Summarize each of these sections of the Psalm in a sentence: verses 1-8, 9-16, 17-22, and 23-26. Now think again about your answer to the previous question: Why does Paul quote this Psalm at the end of Romans 8?
6) In verse 37, what is Paul referring to by the phrase “in all these things”?
7) In 37, Paul is still answering the question, “Who will separate us from the love of God?” What role does God’s love for us play in verse 37?
8) Why does Paul say that we overwhelmingly conquer (NAS) or that we are more than conquerors? Why can’t he just say that we conquer? In what sense is our victory over “these things” an overwhelming one? Where have we seen something similar earlier in the chapter?
9) Think about the list Paul gives us in verses 38 and 39. List those things that cause you to become fearful. Are they included in Paul’s list? A few notes: the word translated “demons” (NIV) or “principalities” (NAS) is literally “rulers”, but as it is paired with “angels”, the translators are probably correct that Paul is thinking of evil spirits of some type. “Things to come” may well include the final judgment. “Height nor depth” may refer to the taking of horoscopes, and thus include fate, or impersonal forces.
10) Look back at verse 1. What parallel exists between the first and last verses of this chapter?
11) List the questions Paul asks in 31 to 39, and write succinct answers to each. What is the bottom line of this chapter? Why is that important in your own life? What warning does this chapter include? How can you use these truths in shining the light of the gospel on the lives of others?
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? 36 As it is written,
your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."b
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.
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