Do you remember your first memory verse? I do. Dorothy Keim taught it to me at a church convention in 1973, when I was seven. It’s beloved by many — Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (KJV). I’ve forgotten plenty in the nearly fifty years since, but not that verse or its message that God is working His purpose in those who love Him.
But what is this purpose, and how is God working it out in us? Let’s allow this popular chapter to answer both of these questions. Becoming is what Romans 8 is all about.
Christ is what
Not only does Romans 8:28 tell us that we are becoming, but verse 29 tells what we’re becoming: “For whom He [God] foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” What a purpose! What a promise that we should be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, who Himself is the express image of God the Father (Hebrews 1:3).
Words can scarcely describe the wonder of becoming that God has planned for us. With nothing more than empty hands and weak knees, I can only utter, Yes! in faith, trusting that God is faithful to perform what He has promised.
The Alpha and Omega of our lives is also the Beginning and End of Romans 8. The name of Jesus is in the first verse and last. And in these verses we see not only who we are becoming but also who we already are in Christ: “There is . . . now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus . . . [Nothing can] separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 1, 39).
We are not condemned because we are loved. God’s love was manifest and condemnation cancelled out when God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh . . . Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen” (vv. 3, 34). We are not condemned, because Christ has condemned our sins in Himself. He is risen, and we with Him. This is the pure love and life that we are becoming.
As we look forward to being conformed to Christ and His resurrection, we cannot forget who Jesus is: the sin offering delivered up for us (vv. 3, 32). The starting line directs us to the goal. We long to be like Him while anchored to what He has done.
Spirit is how
But how is our becoming like Him possible? Something greater than I is needed — much greater: God’s own Spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (v. 14). The Spirit follows closely after Jesus in Romans 8:1. Those who are not condemned in Christ are those who walk by the Spirit.
Romans 8 is Spirit saturated. He is mentioned nineteen times in thirty-nine verses. The sanctified life God has for us is “according to the Spirit” (vv. 1, 4, 5). Like the Shekinah glory with Israel and the wilderness tabernacle, the Spirit not only leads us but also dwells in us. This Spirit is life. And the Spirit gives life to those who follow (vv. 9-11).
Romans 8 tells us where the Spirit of Christ is taking us and what we have left behind. Like Israel’s exodus, the long journey of becoming means forsaking “the flesh” and “carnal mind.” These are at enmity with God. They rebel against God’s holy law; they cannot please God. We know that old way but don’t walk that way anymore: “To be carnally minded is death” (vv. 4-8).
We are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. The Spirit is moving us away from death and toward resurrection life and peace because the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. Amazing! We participate with the Spirit of God in this by following His lead and by overcoming the flesh by the Spirit: “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (vv. 12, 13).
By God’s Spirit we are defeating the flesh and living His righteous law (v. 4). “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (v. 37).
God is why
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel like a conqueror. The good news is that the Spirit is with us every step of the way. When the road is too hard to walk, we cry “Abba, Father,” and the Spirit himself bears witness to us that we are indeed the children of God and heirs of all His promises in Christ (vv. 14-17).
In our weakness, as we groan with fallen creation, unable to even speak and having little more than hope, even here the Spirit is present and makes intercession for us (vv. 18-27). The road of becoming is not always easy. It is often marked by labors and birth pains. But by the Spirit we eagerly, patiently await the delivery to come: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (v. 18).
Praise the Lord! It’s to that glory and glorification that God has destined us through His Son and Spirit (v. 29). God is why we are and where we are heading. When we arrive, He will be waiting.
So don’t lose heart along the way. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And if something tries to, remember: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31).
I learned it at age seven. By His working, we will become all He has purposed us to be.