Note: How do we find joy, hope, and peace in our lives? The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans is all about that. He teaches that we do it by having more faith, hope, and love. In the 4th part of this study, we consider, can we trust that God will change us for the better? This is the 4th of an 8 part study of Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. You can read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 .
Key Thought: We grow in joy, peace, and hope by seeing and trusting that God is changing us into something glorious.
If God accepts us and forgives us no matter what, then why worry about what we do? That’s the question with which Paul begins his discussion of transformation in Romans 6:1. The answer? God not only accepts us, but He is transforming us and changing us into something glorious, into loving, patient, kind people of faith. A big part of our growth in joy, peace, and hope is learning to see, believe, and trust that God is changing us.
Four Metaphors for Transformation
Paul says that God not only is changing us, but He has definitively transformed us who believe in Christ into something new. He uses four metaphors to describe this transformation.
First, He compares the change to dying and rising again. Romans 6:4 says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” At our baptism, we made a definitive commitment to break with the world and sin and to live unto God. In addition, the power of Jesus’ resurrection is working in us to lead us to a new way of life and out of the way of the sinful life. That is a sort of death and resurrection.
Second, He compares the change to serving different masters. “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:17–18). We are now serving righteousness instead of sin. That is a definitive transformation.
Third, he compares the change to being released from a legal obligation as in the death of a spouse. He says that when a spouse is alive, a person is bound to that spouse, but when that spouse dies, then that person is no longer bound to the spouse. “So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Rom. 7:5). We are released from the obligation to live for sin and now are bound to that which will bring us life.
Fourth, he compares the change to a law or principle that is at work in us. He calls the old law the law or principle of sin and death. When this law was at work in us, we might have thought that God’s commands were good, but we couldn’t do them (see Rom. 7). Now, there is a new law or principle at work in us. He says that “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). The Spirit of God is at work within us to bring about what is good and right. There is a new principle at work in us, one that drives us to God instead of away from Him.
What we need to believe is that a definitive transformation has taken place. We need to trust what God has already done. We need to see again and again that we have been transformed. We have died to sin and are alive unto God. Learning to see and think this way is what it means to grow in the virtue of faith.
God Is Transforming Us, and We Cooperate in the Transformation
This does not mean that there is no more change to take place. The remnants of sin remain, and God is still working within us. There is a process of transformation. This inward transformation still has to work itself out.
Paul explains this in a variety of ways. There is suffering that has to test and grow our character (Rom. 5:3–5). There is an offering of every part of our body to the service of God (Rom. 6:13). In a later section of the letter, Paul will call it presenting ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). The body is subject to death, but the Spirit is giving life (Rom. 8:10). You must put to death the misdeeds of the body (Rom. 8:13). These are ways that Paul talks about this process.
Notice that this is all work that is done by the power of God. However, that does not mean that we are passive in this transformation. Not at all. We are active. We should use every fiber of our being to join in what God is already doing within us. We offer our bodies. We put to death the deeds of the flesh. We work to change our thinking. We are to think of ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God. This is what it means to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (see Rom. 12:2). In all of these ways, we play an active role. Being changed into the glorious image of God is the highest blessing. Because of that we should do all we can to lean into this transformation, and God invites us and commands us to do so.
God Will Transform Us
We also have to ask, what is God transforming us into? It is something glorious. He is making us like His Son, Jesus. That’s our destiny (Rom. 8:29–30). He is transforming us into light. That’s why when we look at the future, we can have hope. Hope is a firm expectation that our future will be good. That’s what we’ll look at in the next section.
We need to grow in our faith so that we see more and more clearly that God not only has forgiven us and accepts us but is transforming us into something glorious. The more we can believe that, the greater will be our joy, peace, and hope. Note, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This is the virtue of faith. It enables us to see and believe all that God is and all that He is doing for us.
A few months ago, I was thinking about what it would be like to no longer serve as a pastor. It would involve a lot of changes. What would be my place in life? How would I relate to people? What would my life be like? I did not know, and I felt uneasy and unsure about it. But then I found peace. I realized that whatever else happened to me, God was changing me into something glorious, and that was enough. Seeing and believing that fact could give me joy, peace, and hope no matter what happened. That’s the message God has for us in Romans 6:1–8:17.
Outline to Construct Your Own Teaching on Romans 6:1–8:17
- How does Paul describe the old person or the “flesh” in these passages?
- What are the ways that Paul describes the definitive transformation that has taken place in those who have believed in Jesus?
- What passages tell us that this transformation is ongoing?
- How does Paul describe our activity in this transformation process?
- How does Paul work here to increase their faith that God is changing them?
Questions for Application
- Do you believe that God has changed and is changing you? How could you make that more a part of your thinking and life?
- How is this teaching an encouragement to you that would enable you to develop joy, peace, and hope?
- What do you need to do to be more active in joining what God is already doing in transforming you?