An Overview Of Romans Chapter 8
“Million Dollar Baby” is the story of an under-appreciated boxing trainer, his elusive past, and his quest for atonement in helping an underdog amateur female boxer become a professional. Clint Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, the boxing coach who runs the gym. He can’t shake the guilt from ghosts in his past, every letter he writes to his daughter comes back unread and unaccepted with the same message, “return to sender.” Each returned letter is placed carefully in an old shoe box. Even the priest shows little mercy to him except for the one line that stands out, my paraphrase, “Frankie, you go to church more than anyone I’ve ever known. And yet, what’s it done for you if you can’t learn to forgive yourself.”
Hilary Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald . She’s thirty-something trailer trash from southwest Missouri. Her dream is to be a professional boxer. She works as a waitress to make ends meet but spends all her spare time training.
Morgan Freeman (Scrap) plays Frankie’s right-hand man. Once a boxer put out to pasture due to injury, he now helps run the gym. Scrap cleans the toilets, mops the floors and has a little room in the gym that he calls home. Scrap is the narrator of the story. Throughout the movie, Scrap gives the details and puts the pieces together that help you better understand each person’s actions, thoughts, and motives. You would think that Scrap is talking to you, the audience, but he isn’t. It is not until the last scene we notice that Scrap hasn’t been talking to us at all, but was only writing a letter to Frankie’s daughter, to let her know the kind of father she really had. Scrap wanted her to know what her dad had done to help Maggie fulfill her dreams; how he served her to the end, and that maybe now she could forgive him.
Sometimes, quite too often, we read scripture in that way. We just don’t understand who the audience really is and so neglect to take it personally. Try to read Romans, and especially chapter 8, as if the Holy Spirit is personally writing a letter to you, not just some audience in Rome 2000 years ago. In an old Peanuts cartoon, Linus met up with Charlie Brown who asked him, “Where are you coming from, Linus?” And Linus replied, “I’ve just come from Sunday school but I must be honest, I don’t feel very good about it.” “Why is that?” Charlie Brown asked. “Well, right now we’re reading the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. And I feel quite guilty because it seems as if I’m reading someone else’s mail.” When you read Romans and again, especially chapter 8, you are not reading someone else’s mail. You are reading a letter personally sent to you from the Holy Spirit. So take chapter 8 very personally.
Personally accept the promise because you are now a child of God (8:1-17)
The first time I met Brad Davis was in the Fall of 1991. Karen and I had been uprooted from Fort Collins, Colorado to live in Duncanville, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. I would be attending school full time, no less than twenty hours a semester. While I was coming from the Rocky Mountains for an education in advanced biblical studies, Brad was leaving prison to receive the same. My past had been in ministry. His past had been in drugs, as a dealer and a consumer.
As far as the state of Texas was concerned, Brad could be paroled but never pardoned. For Brad this was not enough. He wanted the right to vote again and to have a clean slate. Although he eventually became a Prison Chaplain and worked with the inmates and their families, although he was given an award for his accomplishments in the Dallas prison system by then, Governor George W. Bush and had his picture taken with him at the ceremony, every petition for complete pardon would be denied. As Christians, as children of God, we have not been paroled, we have been pardoned. For those in Christ Jesus there is now, no condemnation. None. Zero. We are his children. We are heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ.
Brad was nothing of the scholar. He made high C’s and sometimes low B’s in his classes. During our tests in Romans or Galatians, while the rest of us would be busy scribbling down our answers or writing an essay on the doctrine of justification or sanctification, Brad could be heard making grunting noises and groans while scratching his head trying to remember what it was our instructor, Ronnie Wiggins had said. And taking a test from Ronnie Wiggins on Romans or Galatians was no easy task. Often I had made the comment to him that even the Apostle Paul would struggle to take his examinations on these two books.
One day before class Brad and I were in the parking lot as Ronnie Wiggins drove up and got out of his car. Brad asked him, “Hey Ronnie. What’s in your hands? Are those our Galatian’s test? How did I do? I studied really hard for that test.” Ronnie just smiled at him and replied, “Not too well. Just remember, Brad. You’re saved by grace, not by your grades.”
Although Brad did not do well on his exams for Romans and Galatians, he lived it. With all his past failures and present struggles, he took the Promise Personally that he was a child of God. Because of this attitude, or better stated, because like Abraham, he believed, God gave him an A. But with the A came an understanding…….. we will share in his sufferings.
Personally accept the struggle and suffering because you are a child of God (8:18-30)
In this section of scripture there are three groans: The Creation groans; The Christian groans; and the Holy Spirit groans. The reason? Suffering. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” No one seemed to understand this better than the guy who received an average grade on the Romans & Galatians test. Brad’s first marriage was ruined due to his criminal past. But after graduation, things began to look up for Brad. For one, he hired on as an associate minister for the Maypearl church and worked with the Dallas prison system. He had received his diploma, was full time in ministry and now was engaged to Kathy, a beautiful young lady he met through a singles ministry.
However, one cannot personally accept the Promise without the struggle and suffering which were only a few years around the corner. Because of Brad’s former drug and alcohol abuse, he had developed serious physical complications, twice almost dying and having to be rushed to the hospital. Kathy’s leukemia returned with a vengeance. On the evening of her death her family and friends had gathered in her room to sing hymns of praise and to say their last farewells. I called Brad up several days later when I had heard of her passing away and this is what he told me.
“After everyone left, it was just Kathy and me. She laid her head on my chest and died in my arms. It was then I decided what I was going to do. The year before her cancer returned we had been in the kitchen talking about where we were going to go to celebrate our wedding anniversary. She told me she actually wanted to wear her wedding dress out to dinner that night but could tell by the look I gave her that I wasn’t too excited about the idea. So that is why I did it. I buried Kathy in her wedding dress, Ernie, but this time to prepare her to meet the real groom, Jesus.”
As Christians, as those who are no longer condemned, as children and heirs of God, we are not Victims we are Victors. As I mentioned in the last chapter, struggle and suffering is in our family genes, it’s in our blood. Our fathers in the faith, such as Abraham struggled. But we are always victorious, because of his blood. We personally accept the struggles and sufferings so that we understand to…..
Personally accept the victory because you are a child of God (8:31-39)
If God is for us who or what can be against us? Is there anything that will separate us from the Love of God? No! We are more than Conquerors! After Kathy passed away Brad met another woman whose husband had died from cancer as well and the two were married. However, after a brief time she told Brad she could never love another man and left him, which, on top of everything else that had happened, threw him into despair. Brad left the ministry and found a secular job and just tried to exist. Now it seemed, at least for me, that for Brad, God was the problem and the solution. Whenever someone sees God in this way, his/her faith in God is not dying but is in horrendous growing pain. It is a situation in which only God and time can heal. And eventually, God and time brought Brad healing. He had run into his first wife and they eventually decided to get re-married. His wife wrote me last year telling me leaving Brad the first time was the biggest mistake she ever had made. We had been having this discussion because of the untimely death of Brad who was killed in an automobile accident in 2006.
Now let me say something here because I have an idea of what some of you may be thinking and if you are thinking what I think you’re thinking, let me say this, “You are greatly mistaken.” Brad was not a victim of life, but a victor in Christ! Satan and sin and death threw everything they could at Brad, but it could never overcome the blood of Jesus. Brad was hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; suffered but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. Brad was and is victorious.
Listen to these words, again……….
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.* Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
More than conquerors; how is that possible? How can you be more if it’s conquered? Personally accept the Promise (8:1-17), the Struggle and Suffering (8:18-30), and the Victory, because you are a child of God (8:31-39).
IN GOD WE M(tr)UST TRUST!
 Romans 8:31-39 NRSV.