Usually when I sit down to write my message each week, I look for something in the text that is visible or tangible, something we can touch or see, that I can use to illustrate the Kingdom of God or the way God is at work in the world. Jesus did it in his parables, so, as a student or disciple of Jesus, I believe that I can learn from his teaching methods. For example, last week Jesus talked about wheat paddocks, the previous week the image was rain from Isaiah, and the week before that was a yoke.
This week’s New Testament reading, Romans 8:26-39, is an amazing passage with so much great news for us. The part that really spoke to me was verse 32 where Paul writes,
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (NIV)
However, this text presented a serious challenge: how can I use to illustrate ‘all things’ visually for my message?
This is an incredible thing for Paul to say. His message is that God loves us so much that he gave up the most precious thing he had to redeem and save us: his only Son. Value is determined by what people are willing to part with to make something their own. The first section of Romans 8:32 tells us that God values each of us so much that he willingly parted with his Son whom he loves, so we can be reconciled to him and restored to a new relationship with him as members of his family. God willingly gave up the most treasured thing he has, his own Son, so that we can live in a new relationship with him as his children.
Paul goes on to ask that, since God loved us enough to give up his Son for us, won’t he also give us ‘all things’ in his grace towards us? Paul is saying that if God hasn’t held back what he treasures most, then is there anything he won’t be willing to give us? If there is nothing that is as precious or valuable to God as his Son, and since he has already given him for us as evidence of his love, then ‘won’t he also give us everything else?’ (v32 NLT)
When I read these words, to be honest, my natural reaction is to start putting limits around God’s grace by thinking about what I don’t think God will give me. We can start to remember the things we have wanted in the past, but we didn’t get. Maybe we can think about things or people who have been taken away from us. Or we can think about things we’d like in the future that we don’t think we will ever have.
A big question to help us understand this text is what does Paul mean by ‘all things’? Do we take that as literally meaning ‘all things’? Because that’s a lot! Or is Paul talking metaphorically, that God will extend his generosity to some point, but will start to decline our requests when we reach a limit?
One thing we can do to help us understand what words or phrases mean in the Bible is to look at other places those words or phrases are used and what they mean in those passages. I looked up where Paul talks about ‘all things’ and I found that he uses it more than 20 times in his letters. For example, in 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul writes,
… for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (NIV)
So here ‘all things’ means everything that God has created, which is also the way Ephesians 3:9 and Colossians 1:16 use it. Another place Paul talks about ‘all things’ is in Colossians 1:20 where he says that God reconciled ‘all things’ to himself through Jesus’ blood which was shed on the cross. A third example is 2 Corinthians 9:8 when he writes,
God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (NIV)
This text helps us understand Romans 8:32 better because Paul is also giving us a reason why God would make such an extravagant promise to us. God doesn’t promise to give us ‘all things’ for our own sake, so that we can life safe, comfortable or self-satisfied lives, but so that we can ‘abound in every good work’ and bring the goodness of God into the world.
It is easy for us to hear God’s promise to give us ‘all things’ and think about what we want for ourselves, kind of like children who are looking forward to what they are going to get at their birthday or Christmas. In the faith that God has already given his best for us in the death of Jesus, and for his sake will also give us ‘all things’, God wants us to trust this promise so that we can do good in the world and extend God’s goodness which we find in Jesus to people around us who need his goodness. God doesn’t promise to give us ‘all things’ for our benefit, but for the benefit of others as we follow Jesus in faith and love.
What do we need to do that? Or, more specifically, what do you need from God so that you can ‘abound in every good work’? It might be something to help you with your family or in your work. It could be something with your health or a relationship which might be difficult or challenging. What might happen if we took this promise literally: that God, who gave up his Son for us, will also ‘graciously give us all things’? Sometimes I wonder if we don’t receive good things from God because we don’t trust him enough to ask. If you were to believe what Paul wrote in Romans 8:32, that God will graciously give us ‘all things’ for the sake of Jesus, what would you ask for? What would you hope for from God?
As I sit and write this message, I’m still struggling with what I can use as a visible, tangible example of the ‘all things’ Paul is talking about. This is a massive promise, one that’s hard for us to get our heads around, let alone trust it enough to live like it is true. But that’s what faith is – trusting that God gave up his own Son for us because he loves us that much. If he gave up his most precious Son, then he will also give us ‘all things’ for his sake.
What might that mean for you?
More to think about & discuss:
- What do you think of when you hear the words ‘all things’? What do you think Paul may have meant when you hear him write about ‘all things’ in Romans 8:32?
- When you read 1 Corinthians 8:6, how do you understand ‘all things’ in this passage? What do you think it might mean in Colossians 1:20? What about in 2 Corinthians 9:8? How can the way Paul uses the words ‘all things’ in these passages help us understand what Paul means by them in Romans 8:32?
- What do you find difficult about Paul saying that God will ‘graciously give us all things’ (NIV)? In what ways can this be a hard promise to trust?
- If you were to take ‘all things’ literally, what are some of the things that might include? How might this promise make a difference in your life or help you in some way?
- What is something you need most in your life right now? How could God giving you what you need help you to ‘abound in every good work’ (2 Corinthians 9:8)?
- What are some other ‘all things’ from God you hope for? How might they make a difference in your life and help you ‘abound in every good work’?
If you would like to watch a video version of this message, you can go to https://youtu.be/jhNmgEdKtc0