(Read Romans 8:28-39)
Introduction - Independence versus the grace of being receivers (Rom. 8:29-39)
Christmas is often associated with the grace of giving - and it definitely is that. Giving is a glorious thing to learn, and we taught the grace of generosity to our children. But this morning I want to look at a much neglected aspect of Christmas - the grace of humbly receiving. Believe it or not, that can be a hard grace to implement. Let me explain with some illustrations.
When I was in twelfth grade I had a friend who absolutely refused to be treated. I would buy him soda pop, and he would refuse to take it. He would buy his own. I would offer him part of a candy bar, and he would refuse. No amount of insisting could get this young man to receiving anything from anyone. And it was frustrating because I love to serve and to give things to others. But it was too humiliating for him to be on the receiving end of anything. He was willing to give, but he was not willing to receive. Now in the physical realm this is very unusual because social etiquette demands that we be receivers as well as givers. Christmas can have a good effect in this regard.
But in the spiritual realm, no one is a receiver apart from grace. You might doubt that, but according to Scripture you can’t even receive grace apart from grace preparing you to receive grace. Paul said, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God…” That's an absolute statement: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God…” Pride is so entrenched in every human heart that we insist in doing things by ourselves.
Those of you who have little children know that one of the first impulses of children is the desire to "do it by myself." Or if they can’t pronounce “myself” too well, “self” is the word for independence. And even when helped, there is the tendancy to want to take all the credit. “I did it all by myself.” And they can have a temper tantrum if you don’t let them do it. We are so prone to independence even from childhood that even as Christians we have to be reminded that our security does not rest in what we do but in what God does for us.
Paul’s discourse in verses 31-38 our our chapter (Romans 8) contain God's answers to our fears. And the only reason we have those fears is because we need to be reminded of the grace of receiving; we need to be reminded that our security does not rest in our actions but in God alone.
Paul asks in verse 31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” We worry about whether we will be able to stand up against all our adversaries and problems, but Paul’s answer in verse 32 is that God gives us all things. If we have received the Son, we don’t need to worry about any adversary.
In verse 33 he asks, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?” When we look at our sinful hearts we know that plenty of charges could be brought, so we worry that we could lose our favor and our standing with God. But Paul answers by pointing our eyes away from how good or bad we are; away from our actions to God’s action. His answer is, “It is God who justifies.” Our security rests in God and in God alone.
In verse 34 he asks, “Who is he who condemns?” Whether it is your heart that condemns you or Satan or your neighbor or the world, your eyes have to be taken off of self and onto Christ. And so Paul’s answer is, “It is Christ who died [don’t think your actions satisfy God’s justice, otherwise you would have had to die. But it is Christ who died and your security rests in the fact that His death substituted for your deserved death. Sure you deserve to die, but Christ already did it for you. He goes on] and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
But people may worry that there will be something that can drag us away from Christ. Maybe Christ will get tired of dealing with my sins and he won’t love me anymore. Maybe Satan will succeed in taking me captive. But Paul once again takes our eyes off of our own efforts and abilities and says in verses 35-39 that there is absolutely nothing in life or death that can separate us from the love of God which in in Christ Jesus our Lord. It’s a marvelous chapter, written to believers who need to be reminded of the grace of receiving. Your security and joy rests on your understanding this principle.
Our culture tells us in a thousand different ways that we are rewarded simply because of what we do. You get Stars in Kindergarten, Grades in School, and Promotions and Bonuses at work. I always dreaded Field Day at boarding school because I was not an athlete and everyone else got purple, blue, and red ribbons and I felt like a failure with my consolation white ribbon. From early childhood we are all inundated with a performance oriented philosophy that says 1. There is no such thing as a free LUNCH! 2. We make our money the old-fashioned way; we EARN IT! And the age old adage, 3. God helps those who help THEMSELVES! (which you won’t find in the Bible). You’ll remember in the Sound of Music, Maria falls in love with someone she thought would never love her and sings "There you are, standing there loving me, whether or not you should. Someplace in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”
That’s what makes God’s grace so unacceptable to some people; so hard to receive. It is too humbling to our pride to realize that all God has given to us is totally undeserved. God gives to us because He loves His own, not because we are anything great. He gives to us knowing full well that we will never respond with equal giving. In fact, as we will see today, verse 32 teaches us that we can never outgive God. Christmas giving should be about grace, not performance. The world tells kids, “You better be good or Santa won’t bring you any toys.” They are tearing the grace out of Christmas when they do that.
Today I want to focus on verse 32 because it contains principles which can convince us that there is nothing we could do other than give back out of gratitude.
Have you considered the cost of God's Christmas gift? (v. 32 - “He who did not spare His own Son”)
The first point is that God’s gift to us cost Him a great deal more than we could even hope to repay. Verse 32 says, “He who did not spare His own Son.” To think we could even begin to repay God for the incredible sacrifice of His Son is insulting. We can't pay God back. We can only rejoice in His gift, and any giving that we may do must be out of gratitude.
Let’s consider the cost of God’s Christmas gift. Knowing full well all that the incarnation, the life and death of Christ would entail - knowing that His law could not bend but demanded the death of transgressors; knowing that if Christ was to redeem His people He would have to bear the horrible load of their sins, He did not withhold the only Sacrifice which could redeem us. He did not spare His Son.
Don’t ever think of the Father as being a Stoical god without feelings or untouched by what happens to others. It cost the Father to have His only begotten Son born into the humiliation and poverty of Bethlehem’s manger. It cost the Father to let His Son face the ingratitude of men, not having a place to lay His head, the hatred and opposition of wicked men and the relentless attacks of Satan. Yet the Father did not hesitate in giving this gift to us. Even when His beloved Son cried out, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,” God did not spare Him. We can see the pain that the Father felt when as a holy God He had to turn His back on the Son. Christ cried out in agony, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” but the Father experienced agony of separation at that moment as well. The only reason they went through with it was because of the love that Father, Son and Holy Spirit had for us. It was because of their agreement made from eternity past to redeem a people to themselves. It broke their hearts, but God gave to us till it hurt.
When you consider all that was involved on that first Christmas day it will humble you and make you realize that you can never outgive God.
Have you considered the purpose of God's Christmas gift (v. 32 - “But gave Him up for us all”)
But consider also the purpose of God’s Gift of the Son. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.” The Father did not spare His own Son because He wanted to spare us. It was not because there was any lack of love for the Son, but because of the wounderful, matchless love that He had for us. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And God did not make this costly sacrifice grudgingly. He made it freely out of love.
If your heart does not melt when you think of the cost of God’s gift, perhaps it will when you consider the character of those who are spared - the “us” in this passage. In Hosea 11:8 God says to rebellious Israel,
“How can I give you up, Ephraim. How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Zebolim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of My anger.”
He told Ephraim that He could not deliver them up, yet He delivered up His only begotten Son for us all. He delivered up the perfect One and has promised to never give up sinners who put their trust in Him. This is incredible. Matthew 1 tells us that it was for sinners that Christ was born, not for those who had done so much.
When the father of Dr. Harry Ironside lay dying, the Scripture in Acts 10 describing the sheet which came down to Peter filled with creatures was dominant on his mind. Over and over he mumbled, “A great sheet and wild beasts, and ...and...and...” Seemingly he could not recall the next words and would start over again. “A great sheet and wild beasts, and ...and...and...” A friend wispered, “John, it says, ‘creeping things.’” And Ironside’s father's eyes brightened and he said, “Oh, yes, that is how I got in! Just a poor, good-for-nothing creeping thing! But I got in - saved by grace!”
God in that passage describes unsaved man as being unclean like those creeping things Bugs, lizards, centipedes. In God’s sight we were those creeping things prior to salvation. We were defiled, corrupt, sinful, vile, worthless, and an abomination. Romans 3 says,
“There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God, they have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no not one.”
The Father gave Christ for such people. He gave Christ for us who had squandered His substance in a far country; for us who had wandered each to his own way like sheep; to us whose every righteousness is as filthy rags in God’s sight; to us who are called children of wrath just like the others; to us who have resisted His Spirit, rebelled against His laws and pursued selfishly our own wants and desires. God gave freely, not because we had first given Him anything. And we can thank God for the incredible gift of the Son which we will never be able to match; it can only be received with gratefulness. Oh God! Take away pride and give us the grace of humbly receiving!
Have you considered the logical inference drawn from God's Christmas Gift? (v. 32 - “How shall He not with Him freely give us all things?”)
Consider thirdly the logical conclusion that is drawn from God’s great gift of the Son. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” This is a form of logic that argues from the greater to the lesser. If God has given to us that which was the costliest and the grandest, why would he withhold smaller essential needs? When you begin to wonder if God really loves you; or if God loves others more than He loves you, think of this logic. Here is the guarantee of God’s grace when we go through some of the painful difficulties that are listed in this chapter. If God has done the greater, will He leave undone the lesser? And the obvious answer is, "No."
The sad thing is that we tend to focus on what we don’t have rather than on what we do have. We may not have physical health, wealth or security, or approval from others, or worldly success, but Ephesians 1 says that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We may face tribulation as Mary and Joseph did. We may face distress, persecution, famine and death, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us,” says verse 37.
An article by A.W. Pink helped me to appreciate some of the comforts of this verse. He pointed out three logical deductions that can be made to bring comfort. First of all, he says, the great Gift was given unasked. Did you ask God the Son to become incarnated, or to die for your sins? Obviously that answer is "No." That was given long before you were born, let alone before you asked. If God was so generous to give to you without our asking, will He show a less generous heart when we pray to Him?
Secondly, the gift of Christ cost the Father dearly. Pink then says, will He not then give lesser gifts which cost him nothing except the delight of giving? If a friend bought me a $1000 painting, would he begrudge me the Christmas wrapping and string to wrap it in? Or if someone gave you a precious jewel, would he begrudge you the box that the jewel came in? How much less would the Father who spared not His Son withhold any good thing from those who love Him.
Thirdly, the one Gift of Jesus was given while we were still enemies. Let me read Romans 5:10. It says, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” God gave that gift to enemies. Will He not be even more gracious to those who are friends who are cleansed by Christ’s blood? The divine logic of this verse gives us tremendous comfort in the midst of difficulty as we realize that God will provide everything that we need for life and godliness.
Have you considered the freeness of God's continued gift giving? (v. 32 - “How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”)
But finally, look at the freeness of God’s gift-giving. It says, “How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Notice the tense of the verb. He doesn’t say, “how has he not with him also freely given us all things.” That may be true, but this goes beyond that. It is the future tense. It gives us assurance that God will continue to be gracious and will continue to give freely as He has done in the past. This means that every day can have the character of Christmas as we receive from God’s hand. We don’t have to wait for another year for God to be generous to us. He loves to pour out all things into our lives right now. Trust Him. Believe Him for that.
Notice also how God gives. He does not have to be coaxed into giving. We do not have to overcome any reluctance on His part. The word freely speaks of God’s eagerness to give to us. He loves to give.
But this word "freely" also speaks of God’s sovereignty. He is under no obligations to anyone. If He were under obligations to bless men it would be bestowed of necessity instead of freely. God is free to give to whom He pleases because none deserve it and He is a debtor to none, and so when He gives to anyone, He gives freely without necessity - other than the necessity of keeping His promise.
But the word freely also indicates that God’s gifts cannot be purchased. He places no price on His gifts. Sometimes people think that they are going through rough times because they don’t deserve better times; because God is angry at them or doesn’t love them as much as He loves others, but nothing could be further from the truth. This chapter speaks of going through many difficult times, yet none of those things can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. The only reason God could love any of us is because he loves the Son and He sees us in the Son. That’s what verse 39 says. Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our security resides in Christ, not in our performance.
Next, we ought to rejoice over the comprehensiveness of this promise: “how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.” God never leaves His children with less than what they need. He may leave us with less than what we want, but He gives us everything necessary for His glory and our own good. He has just finished saying that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Nothing given to us in life - including the difficulties we face, fails to be for our good. And it is all, without exception, a product of grace. It is free. Are you in need of pardon? Then he has said, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Are you finding it impossible to make ends meet? 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Is it sustaining grace you need for a thorn in the flesh? Christ says, “My grace is sufficient for you." Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory."
But I want to end with a very important qualifying phrase - it says, “how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” The blessings He is talking about here are only given with the Son. If you have never received the gift of Christ’s salvation, then you cannot expect God to give you every other blessing. These blessings only come when we have the Son. And perhaps there are some here who have never put your trust in the free gift of Christ. You have a hard time receiving gifts. You think that you have to do something to deserve heaven. It is too humbling to admit that everything you have done in life is counted as dung outside of Christ. If you are in that category, far from having a gift of God this Christmas, the wrath of God remains on you. It’s never been transferred to the Son. It is not until you cast your sins on Jesus and ask God to accept Christ’s punishment in your stead, and in faith you determine to trust and follow Him, that you will find God’s favor. Accept Him today. Christ is not available to those who want to earn God’s favor. He is only available to those who like beggars are willing to receive Him.
But we as Christians can fall into this trap occasionally as well. We often desire things that would actually come between us and Christ. He doesn’t say that He gives us things apart from Christ, but “with Him.” James says that we sometimes ask amiss so that we might consume it on our own lusts. The Father doesn’t give us all things that we want. All God’s blessings are given with the Son and are consistent with being conformed to the image of the Son. All blessings must work together for our good. But when they are consistent with that purpose, our generous God provides freely.
Come to Him. Trust Him. Pray to Him. Rejoice in His provisions. Embrace the grace of receiving. Amen.
Sadly, I can't remember where I got these principles from. I took notes at some conference and got at least some of these ideas from one of the speakers. But I have so internalized them that they have become a part of me. ↩