NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XXXVII)
On a personal note: In my early years, I had no interest in following my father into the ministry. I decided on a military career. But while I was serving in Germany I became involved in the chapel ministry. It was in this climate that God spoke so forcefully to my heart that I should surrender to His will and become a minister. But I was ill-prepared, and I reminded God of His giving Solomon an opportunity to ask for whatever he might need to be king of Israel, and granted it to him. So I asked if He would do the same for me? I told Him, I wanted to have such a hunger for His Word, that no matter how often I read and studied it I would never get tired of learning from it. He did exactly that. Later, when I applied for a ministerial license and passed the first exam, I wrote my mother to tell her the good news. It was then she revealed something to me she had purposely never mentioned to me before.
A few days after I was born, my mom carried me to church for dedication. One of the elders, who was a saintly man, came to my mother, laid his hand on my little forehead and said to her, “Miss Hilda, this boy is going to be a great preacher some day.” When I asked my mother why she never told me, she said she trusted in God to make this prophecy come true in His time. I’ve never lost my desire to study God’s Word to this day, and I’ve never doubted again that this was the path God chose for me. In my eyes, I didn’t become the great preacher Brother Morris said I would be, but I can say, I gave it my best. Yet, had it not been for God’s grace, mercy, patience, forgiveness, and guidance, I would have never made it through all these 80 years. He gets all the honor, praise, and glory.
Remember, Paul told young Timothy: “God’s truth stands firm like a great rock, and nothing can shake it. It is a foundation stone with these words written on it: “The Lord knows those who are really His.”1 And let us recall that the Apostle Peter wrote to his Jewish readers: “Dear friends, God the Father chose you long ago and knew you would become his children. And the Holy Spirit has been at work in your hearts, cleansing you with the blood of Jesus Christ and making you to please Him.”2 What Paul wanted the Roman believers to know is that God was not dealing with strangers who just happened to meet Him. He knew them before they were born.
And because God keeps His eye on all of those He chooses, He makes plans for them so they can serve Him the way He desires. After all, Paul told the Ephesians: “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And He did this because He wanted to!”3 And the Apostle Peter wrote the scattered Jewish believers: “God paid a ransom to save you from the impossible road to heaven which your fathers tried to take, and the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver as you very well know. But He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”4 Even though God knew us and decided to select us for His glory, He still paid a price to make it happen. Can we then who have been chosen not be ready to pay any price to affirm His choice?
That’s why Paul now goes on to say that God’s plan involved allowing Jesus to become the role model and pattern for those who are called out from the crowd to follow Him. We see this in Jesus’ prayer to the Father on behalf of His chosen disciples: “I have given them Your commands. And the world hates them because they don’t fit in with it, just as I don’t. I’m not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from Satan’s power. They are not part of this world any more than I am. Make them pure and holy through teaching them Your words of truth. As You sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world, and I consecrate myself to meet their need for growth in truth and holiness.”5 Jesus goes on to say that this prayer was not just for the original twelve, but for all those in the future who would come to Him by faith through the Word they heard preached.
Paul was so convinced that this calling was everlasting, that he told the Corinthians: “Just as each of us now has a body like Adam’s, so we shall some day have a glorified body like Christ’s.”6 That’s why he encouraged them later: “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.”7 And to the Ephesians Paul wrote: “In the Messiah He chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in His presence. He determined in advance that through Yeshua the Messiah we would be his sons — in keeping with His pleasure and purpose — so that we would bring Him praise commensurate with the glory of the grace He gave us through the Beloved One.”8 Paul was not talking about wearing the same sandals, cloak, robe, and having the same hairstyle that Jesus had. He was speaking of the spiritual virtues, morals, and ethics that Jesus displayed and displayed to those around Him. He points this out later: “Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature.”9
Paul then concludes by saying that God’s purpose in having Jesus be this great example is that by so doing He would be the first for all to emulate. Jesus spoke as an older brother when He said to His disciples: “Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants, that person is my brother and sister and mother.”10 And after His resurrection, He told Mary Magdalene, near His empty tomb: “Go find my brothers and tell them that I will be ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”11 So we can see why Paul told the Colossians: “He is the Head of the body made up of His people—that is, His Church—which He began; and He is the Leader of all those who arise from the dead, so that He is first in everything; for God wanted all of Himself to be in His Son.”12 So we can see why then God wanted us to be like His Son. In so doing, both He and the world could recognize us as His children.
For the writer of Hebrews, there was no doubt about Christ’s superiority. He wrote: “Thus He became far greater than the angels, as proved by the fact that His name ‘Son of God,’ which was passed on to Him from His Father, is far greater than the names and titles of the angels. For God never said to any angel, ‘You are my Son, and today I have given you the honor that goes with that name.’13 But God said it about Jesus. Another time He said, ‘I am His Father and He is My Son.’14”15 He goes on to say: “We who have been made holy by Jesus, now have the same Father He has. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers.”16
To Jews, this structure of those who excel so as to live by the highest standard was not new. In their “Kabbalah Unveiled,” we find that the second branch (Sephira) on the tree is called “Wisdom.” It is part of those things that form the world of thought. They also say that this second Sephira is represented by the Divine Names such as Yahweh.17 We know that “Wisdom” in the OT is often a metaphor for the Son of God. In the language of the Kabalah, it is designated as “the Father.” Since the Father and Son are One, it can apply to either one. Since Paul was writing to Jewish converts, they certainly would understand from what they had been taught that all of this coming of Christ to be the Messiah had been long anticipated. So it only made sense to follow Him who is our Wisdom and is one with the Father.
Then Paul continues with God’s authorship of Salvation, and His requirement that all those who are to be part of the Kingdom of God must be called, and this calling is based on their loving Him, God did not leave them on their own to figure out what to do next. He clearly gave instructions and directions on where to go and how to get there. The outline for this was already seen in what God said to Israel: “O Israel, you are Mine, My chosen ones; for you are Abraham’s family, and he was My friend. I have called you back from the ends of the earth and said that you must serve but Me alone, for I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”18 As Paul sees it, this is still God’s message for the Chosen.
This allowed Paul to address his letter to the Corinthians this way: “To: The Christians in Corinth, invited by God to be His people and made acceptable to Him by Christ Jesus. And to: All Christians everywhere – whoever calls upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and theirs.” Paul goes on to assure them: “Now you have every grace and blessing; every spiritual gift and power for doing His will are yours during this time of waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Therefore, says Paul: “He guarantees right up to the end that you will be counted free from all sin and guilt on that day when He returns. God will surely do this for you, for He always does just what He says, and He is the one who invited you into this wonderful friendship with His Son, even Christ our Lord.”19
This is part of God’s predestination, or predetermination, for every believer. Paul told the Ephesians: “We are all parts of one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future.”20 This means that all those who are the Called according to His purpose, will not be left to find their own way to heaven, and to develop their own form of sanctification, no more than the blossoms on different branches of the same tree can become any type of fruit they want. Paul explains how all those who are called by the same God to the same Savior by the same Spirit, can be used for different purposes. Just like the apples from the same tree can be used to make a pie, a tart, a cake, sauce, a cobbler, muffins, or eaten raw, etc. He says: “Christ has given each of us special abilities – whatever He wants us to have out of His rich storehouse of gifts.”21
1 2 Timothy 2:19
2 1 Peter 1:2
3 Ephesians 1:5
4 1 Peter 1:18-19
5 John 17:14-19
6 1 Corinthians 15:49
7 2 Corinthians 3:18b
8 Ephesians 1:4-6
9 Ibid. 4:23-24
10 Matthew 12:50
11 John 20:17
12 Colossians 1:18-19
13 Psalm 2:7
14 See 2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 17:13
15 Hebrews 1:4-6
16 Ibid. 2:11
17 Kabbala Denudata: The Kabbalah Unveiled, Trans. By S. L. MacGregor Mathers, Introduction 43
18 Isaiah 41:8-10
19 1 Cor 1:2, 7, 8-9
20 Ephesians 4:4
21 Ibid. 4:7