He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)
Inquisitive and tender, vivacious and loyal—that is how I’d describe my son and daughter respectively. They’re both intelligent and fun, undoubtedly two of the greatest gifts the Lord has given my husband and me.
We couldn’t love them more—which is why the stories of Abraham and Isaac and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus are absolutely remarkable to me….
If God was willing to sacrifice his Son for us, why would we ever doubt anything else that God says or does? Why would we not trust his promise to give us ‘all things’?
If God Is For Us
is a six-week study of Romans 8. Grab your copy here: If God Is For Us
We know how to act, and there are things we likely wouldn’t do just for fear of what others might think. But our minds are another story. No one sees what we’re thinking — at least, that’s the lie we tell ourselves. We can have vengeful, angry thoughts; we can lust; we can be anxious; we can judge others — all within the confines of our mind. We don’t have to say a word or make a move to sin.
I share more at the Proverbs 31 Ministries: What You THINK vs. What You DO
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Anytime, anytime while I was a slave, if one minute’s freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute,
I would have taken it—just to stand one minute on God’s earth a free woman—I would. -Elizabeth Freeman
My mind struggles to understand slavery. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to wake up chained—metaphorically or literally—and owned by another human being. When my mind goes there, when I allow myself to try to put my feet in a slave’s shoes, I all but fall down in sorrow.
Slavery was an atrocious institution in the early days of our country, and it didn’t exist only in the South. A slave named Elizabeth Freeman actually took the new state of Massachusetts to court, seeking to be freed. She fought for her freedom. And she won! She became the first African-American slave to be set free under Massachusetts law and is credited with informally abolishing slavery in the state.
Elizabeth Freeman’s burning desire to stand on the earth for even one minute as a free woman isn’t hard to imagine. And once she tasted the sweetness of freedom, surely she would never, ever have desired to return to slavery.
And yet we sometimes do just that, in a sense. Though we are free in Christ, time and time again our hearts return to that time when we were slaves to our flesh, slaves to our fears, slaves to the law and the law’s demands on us. We fall back into old, fearful ways of thinking. In this text we see Paul reminding the church that God doesn’t want that for us. God desires our freedom—and He provides it through His Son and through our adoption as His children (8:15).
To the first-century church, this reminder of freedom from slavery would have great significance. Slavery was a daily reality in that culture, so people in that day would instantly understand the analogy of being released from slavery and not falling back into it. Like Elizabeth Freeman, they knew in their bones that there was a big difference between being a slave in someone’s household and being a free member of the family!
We may not witness slavery on a daily basis anymore, but Paul’s analogy still holds powerful truth for us. We were once slaves to our sin (Rom. 6:20), but once we’re in Christ this is no longer true. We do not have to submit or obey or entrust ourselves to those old ways. God has made us new, and as new creations we have the privilege of adoption. Now we are not only free, but children of almighty God. And not only children, but beloved children who can relate to our Father intimately.
It is no small thing that we can use the word Abba as we cry out to our Father. This Aramaic word for Father is an intimate term, even somewhat childlike—it could also be translated as “papa” or “daddy.” Significantly, it is also the name Jesus used in addressing God. It is a grace to us that we can cry out to the Lord in prayer in such intimate and personal ways. He gives us that access. Theologian Douglas Moo puts it this way: “In ‘adopting’ us, God has taken no half measures; we have been made full members of the family and partakers of all the privileges belonging to members of that family.”
Today remember this great access you have to your Abba. When you have to fight not to fall back into your old ways of thinking, cry out to your heavenly Father, who is available to you and listening. Remember that you are His, that you’ve been bought with a price. And that means you are truly free.
**This is an excerpt from my new study on Romans 8. Find more devotionals like this one in If God Is For Us! Order via Amazon and other retailers.
Leon Morris, e Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 315; Douglas J. Moo, e Epistle to the Romans, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 502.
Moo, Epistle to the Romans, 503.
As I’ve highlighted on the blog, I’m currently teaching a Bible study on Ephesians at my local church. It has been such a joy but last week might have been one of the sweetest. Instead of doing a devotional, I wanted to share with you one thing one woman shared with all of us during that time.
The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize how much I don’t know. Perhaps that seems backwards, but the more I study, the more I realize that the depths of God’s Word and his character are inexhaustible. In many ways, I join Paul in proclaiming, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 11:33). We will be searching the depths for eternity! This had been on my mind and heart for the past few weeks, and then Ms. Anna confirmed what I felt the Lord had been stirring in my own heart.
She told us that when she was young, she prayed to the Lord: “Keep me teachable.” What is wonderful about Anna is she is living out that prayer and the Lord is answering it. She is nearly twice my age and yet is learning from this youngster. She was also teaching us through the discussion. Women hear Titus 2 preached at them quite a bit, that older women should teach younger women. I learned more from Anna’s example of humility, grace, and wisdom last Tuesday night that no amount of advice about being a good wife could replace. Advice is good, but the example of a life well-lived plus hearing biblical teaching is irreplaceable.
It could be tempting to think that one day we might “arrive,” and if we think we have, we will miss out on the wonderful joys of learning and being taught. May we never be puffed up because of our knowledge (1 Cor 8:1). My prayer for you and me is that the Lord would keep us teachable all the days of our lives.
(If you are interested in joining us on Tuesday night you can learn more here: http://www.trillianewbell.com/2018/08/15/lets-study-ephesians/)
(Note: For the next six weeks I’ll be posting short devotionals based on a live Bible study I’m leading on Ephesians. For more information about that study and to join us if you are in the area, take a look here: http://www.trillianewbell.com/2018/08/15/lets-study-ephesians/)
My husband and I had two broken engagements before we were married. Yes, two. I was young and immature. I thought I needed to live it up a bit longer when really what I needed was Jesus. I wasn’t a Christian and neither was he. But my Thern continually pursued me. He never held my sin against me. He lavished care and sometimes, even gifts on me. But it wouldn’t be until the Lord sought me and saved me before I would marry this man I have loved now for over 15 years.
The love and the pursuit of any human being pales in comparison to the love and pursuit of God, yet Thern’s persistence and genuine desire for me reflects God’s character that we see in Paul’s praise in Ephesians 1:1-11.
At least seven times we see Paul referencing God’s pursuit of us. The opening praise sets the stage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…” (3-emphasis mine). It is God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. It is God who chose, predestined, and adopted us. It is God who continually gives us grace and we look forward to an inheritance–all by his own will and good purposes.
In the original Greek the first twelve verses is one long sentence, and for good reason! Paul is overwhelmed by the goodness of God to sinful people. It’s an ocean of praise and adoration. And one thing is clear: we did not pursue God—he pursued us. And we would never be able to earn, let alone think of, the spiritual blessings that the Lord bestows upon us: redemption through the blood of Christ, forgiveness of sin, adoption as sons, everlasting love, an imperishable inheritance, grace upon grace, and so much more. And God achieves this through is own Son.
One commentary noted that Jesus is mentioned fifteen times in the first fourteen verses. Jesus made the way for the blessings we receive. Paul reminds us again later in Ephesians that it is not our own doing—it is a gift of God in Christ Jesus (2:4-9). In Christ Jesus and because of Jesus we have the gift of redemption and all that comes with that amazing gift. The cosmic reality of our union with Christ is worthy of our every praise.
We might be tempted to think that we deserve God’s love and affection. We might believe that we earned it by our good works. We might even think that we were the ones who allowed him to have a relationship with us. These verses tell us a different story and I’d dare say a much better one. The God of the universe thought of us, created us, sought us, adopted us, sent His son to die for us, forgives us, and we didn’t do anything but receive it. Like Paul, we praise God for all his blessings and we thank Jesus for his sacrifice. Let’s look to him for all things—He is the giver of good and perfect gifts, namely himself.