The High Peak of Romans

Adequacy:  the state or quality of being adequate; sufficiency for a particular purpose.

In J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God, he has painstakingly taken us through chapters dedicated to “knowing our Lord” [part 1], “beholding our Lord” [part 2] and now we are in the last chapter of his book where he has written at length about “if God is for us, who can be against us”?  In fact, this verse from Romans 8: 31 may be the inspiration for the section three title of his book [the final section “If God be for us”].

His final chapter of section three is entitled “The Adequacy of God.”

Is God adequate?  I think about the word adequate and I wonder if it is enough.  Is God more than adequate?  Fully sufficient comes to mind.  Ample is a good word.  Maybe abundant should apply or even liberal or copious.  Is “adequate” adequate?

But no, Packer prefers that word:  adequate.

In my previous commentary, I reflected on Romans as the “High Peak of Scripture”*  He admits that some would object to taking the short cut to the heart of Scripture just by the study of one book of the Bible.  They feel that reading the entire Bible is the only way to really know God.

Now Packer goes even further in “cutting to the bone” of the Bible:  he says Romans 8 is the “high peak of Romans.”

Can we study, meditate, think deeply or focus on one chapter of one book of God’s word and say that is enough to prove the adequacy of God?

He attempts to make the case that we can; sort of.

The reason that I use the phrase “sort of” rests on the idea that some conditions have to be met before we arrive at Chapter 8.  Actually those conditions are dealt with in the chapters that are written before Chapter 8.

First of all, we have to come to grips with the fact that all of us are lost and helpless sinners.  We cannot overcome this “sin” problem on our own.  We need a power much higher than us to help us with our struggles.  We need God.

Secondly, we must believe in the promise [the covenant] that God made with Abraham and its fruition in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, we should understand that the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans about his war with the spirit apply to all of us.  When he bemoans the fact that he lives in an earthly body and says “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do [Romans 7: 15] he is speaking of the battle that we all experience daily.

What is the true springboard to what Packer calls the seminal chapter of the Bible?  Here is that “springboard.”  “Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death?  Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ” [Romans 7: 24].

This is radical…

In Paul’s lifetime context, the law was supposed to be the way to righteous living.  After all, the law was the Jewish way to God.  But Paul writes the words that shock the world: the law is the source of sinning

Paul explains law stirs up the impulse to disobey. How can that be?   The more human beings try to follow a rigid path to righteousness, the more they find they cannot go far enough.  There is no such thing as human perfection and if a “righteous” man thinks he is doing well in holy living, he is sure to fall to the sin of pride [among many other sins].  Paul is just being brutally honest when he pens the words “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out….For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” [Romans 7: 18, 22-23].  Packer says Paul has shared very personal information about himself but he has also spoken for all of us.  We all struggle with this.  We all experience failure and guilt as we try and try and always fall short.  “For sensitive Christians, therefore, who know that God hates sin, to be diagnosed by the law is a miserable and depressing experience” [Packer, 257].  Paul knows that he cannot leave this discussion here.  He has to hold out hope for his readers. 

Romans 8 explains we don’t have to perfect; we don’t have to live a miserable life of trying and trying and trying and failing. 

Here is why God and His Son Jesus Christ are “adequate.” 

God’s grace is adequate.  We have guilt born out of our sin, we face death due to our pitiful behaviors, and we even experience terror as we compare our holiness to the holiness that God expects.  All this causes us to feel weak, to feel despair and unable to pray.  Life can be “meaningless and hopeless.”

Jesus Christ has come so we can live by faith, not the law.  Indeed we can live a righteous life with no condemnation [God knows our human limitations and He still loves us].  God has also given us the Holy Spirit to guide us through our life on earth so He is never far away.  We can consider ourselves adopted into the Divine Family of God [in which Jesus is the firstborn].   Instead of failure and guilt, God has given us security: “a status, plus a dynamic, plus an identity, plus a safe conduct….[this] is more than enough to support a Christian whatever his trouble” [Packer, 258].

Adequate, fully sufficient, ample, abundant, liberal, copious…………..

Let’s not stop with thinking about the gift that we have been given.  Paul calls on his readers to go from gift to Giver.  His theme according to Packer is “the adequacy of the God of grace.”  God becomes as it is written in Genesis 15:1 “your shield, your very great reward.”

Why is Romans the “High Peak of Scipture?”  Why is Chapter 8 the “high peak of Romans?”

Have you ever heard the phrase “saving grace.”  That is what we can begin to understand when we study Romans Chapter 8

Packer and God’s words say it best: “If verses 1-30 [of Romans 8] are saying ‘You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will guide me into glory’ then verses 31-39 are saying, ‘Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever’” [from Packer, 259 and Psalms 73: 24-26].

This is the adequacy of the God of grace.

*see August 26, 2020  St. John Studies.

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