Romans 8

In this conversation, Mitch Wiggains and Wes McAdams discuss Mitch’s preaching series on Romans 8. They explore topics such as the evidence of transformation in the life of a Christian, the assurance of salvation, the difference between justification, sanctification, and glorification, and the importance of understanding the love of God. They also delve into the concept of adoption and the unshakable inheritance that believers have in Christ.

They briefly explore the importance of interpreting scripture consistently and honestly, emphasizing the need to acknowledge biases and assumptions when approaching the text. Wes and Mitch discuss the significance of considering the whole council of scripture to gain a deeper understanding of specific passages.

Mitch Wiggains is the preaching minster for the Western Heights Church of Christ in Sherman, Texas. You can find Mitch’s sermons on the Western Heights YouTube channel or on their website.


  • When you say no to sin, it is not helping your salvation. It is evidence that you are saved. 
  • Understanding the assurance of salvation is crucial, as it is not based on our own efforts but on the work of Jesus Christ.
  • Justification, sanctification, and glorification are three aspects of salvation that should be understood and embraced by believers.
  • The love of God is demonstrated through adoption, where He chooses to love and accept us as His children.
  • The hope of victory over death and decay should lead Christians to live with confidence and trust in God’s promises.

Links and Resources

Transcript (Credit: Beth Tabor)

Radically Christian Bible Study Podcast

Studying Romans 8 with Mitch Wiggains

WES: Welcome to the Radically Christian Bible Study Podcast. I’m your host, Wes McAdams. Here we have one goal: Learn to love like Jesus. I want to start today by reading from Romans 8:1‑5. Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, 

He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” 

Today we’re going to talk about Romans 8 with my friend, Mitch Wiggains. Mitch is the preaching minister at the Western Heights Church of Christ in Sherman, Texas. He and his wife, Katie, have three daughters, and he is a good friend of mine, and I know that you will appreciate his thoughts on Romans 8, and I hope that this conversation will help all of us learn to love like Jesus. 

Mitch, welcome to the podcast, Brother.

MITCH: Well, thanks for having me, Wes.

WES: I’m so excited to have this conversation. I’ve been listening to some of your sermons and I’ve been really enjoying it. One of my favorite chapters ‑‑ I know I’m not the only one that this is one of their favorite chapters of the Bible, but definitely one of my favorites, and for those that listen to the podcast a lot, they’ll know that it’s one that I frequently reference, so I’m excited to talk about it with you, and I was really excited to listen to it. But why don’t you go ahead and tell us about what you’ve been preaching.  

MITCH: So I’ve been focusing the past several weeks in the book of Romans, specifically in Romans 8. And, again, yes, you’re right; this has been one of the ‑‑ considered one of the biggest and most impactful chapters in all of scripture. Many scholars throughout history have said, right here, this is the passage. This is the section of scripture that really contains ‑‑ every theological movement in all of scripture is somehow referenced, or at least implied, in that one short ‑‑ well, it’s not short, but one chapter. So, yeah, it’s a favorite and it’s delightful to go through. 

WES: Yeah. Well, there’s so much ‑‑ you said so many wonderful things, there’s no way I’m going to be able to get to all of the notes that I have from the three sermons that I listened to. I’m tempted to start with what I think was probably your most recent one. Your most recent one was on hope? 


WES: I won’t start there. That’s my favorite place to talk about, is that sort of eschatological hope that we have, but let’s go back maybe to the one “Unshakable Life.” You talked about ‑‑ I love this idea, that too many of us accept his death ‑‑ talking about the death of Jesus. Too many of us accept his death but shun his life, and you asked the question, how can someone claim to be a Christian and yet there is no visible evidence that their life has been in any way affected by that claim? Talk us through that for just a second, if you would.

MITCH: All right. So, yeah, that is a mystery to people of faith. In all reality, people who have genuinely held the faith and internalized the faith, we recognize there’s a change that has happened and that needs to happen because my life does not look the same as it used to. Now, granted, I grew up in the church, and I grew up with Godly parents and Godly family, wonderful Godly influences, but even with all of that, it’s an understanding that I have a propensity towards sin and I have desires towards sin, and left to my own devices, I’m going to head in that direction. But whenever I fully embrace and have the Spirit of God within me, then that really does change things. And it may just be an understanding of conscience, as long as my conscience isn’t seared, but this idea that so many people are willing to say, “I want Jesus as savior. I want him to save me from my sins so I don’t go to hell, so I don’t end up in that.  I want to go to heaven. I want to ‑‑ like I’ve heard the preacher talk about how glorious that might be. I want to go there.” We want Jesus as savior, but another way of saying this is, we’re not sure we want him as our Lord. We don’t want him to get into our business of day‑to‑day affairs. We just want him to affect our eternity, and that’s not what Jesus asks of us even.

WES: You know, and you did an amazing job of pointing out that while there has to be that transformation, that it is not ‑‑ it is not us saving ourselves by transforming ourselves. We’re not pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We’re not transforming ourselves and changing ourselves to be more and more like Jesus, but it is evidence ‑‑ in fact, you said it something like this. You said, “When you say no to sin, it’s not helping your salvation; it’s evidence that you are saved.”

And I think, so often, we get that backwards and, really, a lot of this begins with the idea that there is no condemnation. I know you preached an earlier lesson that I didn’t get to hear, on “No Condemnation in Christ,” but so much of it flows from that, doesn’t it? I mean, I think that sometimes we think that this ‑‑ if we’re going to keep people obedient and get them to do the right thing and act like Jesus and be good Christian people, then we have to sort of scare them with condemnation. We have to scare them with, “If you don’t get your act together, then you’re going to be lost,” rather than understanding that right obedience, right living is the evidence that the grace of God has transformed us and the Spirit of God is living in us, and that it’s him doing that work internally and manifesting itself in our behavior rather than the other way around.

MITCH: Agreed. And that’s ‑‑ you know, that’s kind of a common rhetoric that I will tell my congregation over and over, something to the form of we don’t do these things, whether it be, you know, these acts of worship or whether it be the do’s and don’ts that we sometimes will proclaim ‑‑ we don’t do them in order to be saved, because we can’t add into our salvation, not, at least, into our justification, that’s for sure, but we do them because we’re saved.

And so the understanding of justification, sanctification, and glorification, the three aspects of what we squish down into one word called “salvation,” has been one of the most transformative things to me ‑‑ and I see it over and over in Romans 8 ‑‑ is that there’s an understanding of justification. Verse 1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That’s good news, and way too many people live in the place of saying, “Well, I hope I’m good enough and I hope I’ve done enough good.” And the thing is, if there’s no condemnation, then your enough doesn’t matter, and, by the way, you have not done good enough. You are not good enough. You can’t do it on your own. So justification is a huge part of understanding I am justified; there is now no condemnation. 

And we can get into some questionable ‑‑ like some did ask me, after I preached on that, saying, “Are you saying that ‑‑ you know, the once saved, always saved?” Like, not as you might typically think, but if that’s the question that you’re asking, then you’re hearing me correctly. If there is no condemnation, that means no. And if we could just sit in that and understand that, then when we come to sanctification ‑‑ our daily living, life in the Spirit, that Spirit‑indwelling life ‑‑ that sanctification will have new purpose and meaning because we understand we’ve already been justified.

WES: So walk me through that. I’m going to put you a little bit on the spot. That answer is kind of interesting. Walk me through that conversation where somebody asked you ‑‑ because I wondered about that, that idea of ‑‑ you know, did he get pushback? Were there people wondering, are you sort of promoting kind of a Baptist theology or a Calvinist theology that says, you know, once you’re saved, you can’t lose your salvation? And so you said if that’s ‑‑ walk me through exactly how you responded to that again.

MITCH: So, yeah, it is difficult ground because we have made our ‑‑ we’ve drawn our lines in the sand between the Baptists or the Calvinists, or whatever, and so anytime that we start saying anything that sounds remotely like them, people question, and rightfully so. I think that’s wonderful whenever we have congregations and people in the congregations that are questioning what the preacher says and are like, “What are you ‑‑ what does that really mean?” But the thought is, if we really take the “no condemnation” seriously, then ‑‑ and Paul’s very clear about it in verse 1. At the very end, he says there’s no separation for ‑‑ no separation with Christ. The only way you can have no separation is if there is no chance of condemnation to those who are in Christ.

And so walking through that, it can sound a little bit like, well, if someone fell away, then they must never have had Christ in their life. I’m not sure that that’s the case, because even in Romans 8 Paul will even get into more of the question of what sin does and just the problems with that. But a lot of times that’s where I’m saying the line between justification, sanctification, and glorification is really important for my explaining this and understanding it. So just to kind of dumb that down, justification is a one‑time event, and that’s an event that I can’t do on my own. It’s what God has ‑‑ well, all of these I can’t do on my own; it’s what God is doing. It’s all parts of salvation. But justification is what he does, saying I am now justified. I am a child of God. I am his son. I can cry out, “Abba, Father” with the help of the Spirit. These are all things that are my right because of what he has done. 

Skip over to glorification. That’s the part of salvation that I’m waiting for still. I have been justified. Glorification is whenever I get to enjoy the fullness of the reward. We might talk about this in saying “I’m in heaven. I’m in the presence of Jesus always.” All those pictures that come to mind with glorification, that’s it. 

So in the middle ground, which is the rest of my life, is sanctification, and it’s the daily renewal of looking more and more like Christ. And so some might say that that is striving, and the problem is, we might lean upon grace for justification, but a line that I used in one of the sermons was, we often head towards grit for sanctification. We think that somehow we have to earn our sanctification, and the issue is it’s actually a partnership. Whenever we think about it, it’s a partnership between what God is doing in me and what I’m responding toward God with. I don’t know if that fully answered your question, but maybe that’ll ‑‑ 

WES: Oh, that’s so good. Yeah, no, it’s so good, and I think you’re exactly right. I think that there’s so much beauty and depth here, that when you oversimplify any area of scripture ‑‑ when you oversimplify salvation, when you oversimplify apostasy, whatever it is, and you oversimplify that, then anytime someone starts to touch on the nuances or to go a little bit further explaining this area or that area makes some people really uncomfortable. 

And I think, for so long, we have ‑‑ so many of us have drilled down so hard on obedience, and, you know, with good reason, but at the same time, drilling down on obedience with the understanding that you’re probably going to be lost, or giving the impression that a person is probably going to be lost, and not ever allowed anyone to rest in this beautiful, wonderful work that God has done for us, that as long as we remain in Christ ‑‑ and yes, is it possible to no longer be in Christ, to walk away from Jesus? Of course I think it’s possible to walk away from Jesus. But as long as you remain in Christ, there is no condemnation. 

I think this analogy can be stretched too far, but since the Rangers won the World Series the other day I’ve been using it as much as I could. But my wife is a huge Rangers fan ‑‑ I’m a moderate Rangers fan ‑‑ but people have been congratulating her on the Rangers win. And I joked Sunday from the pulpit, I said, you know, y’all realize, like, she never went to spring training. She never played a single game. She wasn’t actually on the Rangers team so I’m not sure why you’re congratulating her. But the truth is, you really do congratulate the fans because they are in the team. And they were not the ones on the field, they didn’t do the work, but the victory belongs to them because it belongs to the one who won it on their behalf. 

And so because of what Jesus has done for us, victory is ours. I don’t have to do the work; Jesus did the work. He bought this for me. He purchased this for me, so as long as I remain in him, the victory is mine. Now, again, just like with the Rangers, it’s possible to walk away and to say, “I don’t trust in them. I don’t believe in them. I’m not going to follow them. I’m not going to do their thing. I’m not going to wear their clothes. I’m not going to live that life” and walk away, and then you forfeit the victory. But as long as you remain in Christ, the victory is yours. 

And there is no, “Well, you did this much, but you didn’t do quite that much.” And so many people ‑‑ and, I mean, I don’t know another minister ‑‑ I’m sure you’ve had this experience. Every minister I know, we’ve sat with elderly Christian people at the end of their life wondering if they’re lost because they, quote, “haven’t done enough,” and just like you said a minute ago, I tell people all the time, “Of course you haven’t done enough. You haven’t done enough. Jesus has, though, and you’re saved, not because whether or not you’ve done enough, but because of the good that he’s done for you.” So thank you for preaching that message of there is no condemnation in Christ and helping us to realize that that truth and reality leads to our obedience and transformation.

MITCH: Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s just preaching the word with that, and the “now” is a big word for me. I didn’t realize how big it was until I was preaching through it this time, was “There is now no condemnation.” I had it in my head, well, yeah, that’s talking about a future thing, right? You know, it’s ‑‑ condemnation is a thing to do with glorification. But whenever he says “now,” and it’s clearly ‑‑ I mean, that Greek word is talking about the present tense, current situation, “There is now no condemnation.” It kind of makes you just rest in the Lord a little bit more. That peace that passes understanding that we often talk about is ‑‑ it’s tangible. It’s there.

WES: Amen. Well, the next lesson I listened to was your lesson on “Unshakable Inheritance,” the idea of the Holy Spirit being in us to testify and give evidence to the fact that we are God’s children. And I love your metaphor or your analogy. You said, “There’s no such thing as an accidental adoption.” You said, “There’s such a thing as an accidental pregnancy but not an accidental adoption,” that if you adopt a child, you are doing this on purpose. You are doing this intentionally and that God has adopted us as his children, and it wasn’t an accident; we belong to him. Talk through that for a second, if you would.

MITCH: Right. Yeah. So the idea that ‑‑ I mean, we all get ‑‑ we’ve seen, we’ve heard, and often with ‑‑ sometimes with shame and just often with surprise, the accidental pregnancy idea. It’s like, well, yeah, it does happen. We didn’t intend for it to happen, we weren’t planning for this, whether it’s in a marriage or even not. Those are ‑‑ we hear those stories. But it does sound kind of silly talking about an accidental adoption because there is no such thing. It takes time. It takes work. I’m not someone who is experienced in it. I have not adopted a family myself, and I’m not necessarily directly connected to it, but I know the stories of those who have. It’s a long process, it’s costly, and you have to ‑‑ like you are making a choice. 

You know, if given a lineup, I would choose my girls to be in my family again, you know? Like if I had the ability to choose, I would choose them again. But the thing is, adoption is looking at that and saying, “I can see you with all your warts and all your problems and all the graces and beauties that you have, and despite the problems, and sometimes despite the good things that you have currently that may not always be good, I’m still going to choose you and I’m going to choose you forever,” and that ‑‑ knowing that God has done that for us willingly, that he knows us and knows our propensity for sin, he knows our rebellion, he knows the human story is that we’re going to turn our back on him more often than we would care to admit, but, especially as a father, as God the Father, that he would want us to, yet he still chooses. And that is a powerful message, no doubt.

WES: Yeah. When you said ‑‑ I love the way ‑‑ and, again, you have such a wonderful ability, when you preach, to bring it to something practical, to a practical concept, a practical idea, both in the things that we need to change in the way that we’re thinking, but also in how we’re living, that this should lead to a transformed life, this should lead to something new, a new way of doing life. And you said, “God doesn’t want the dutiful obedience of a bunch of slaves. He wants the love of his children.” Why do you think that that is a different kind of obedience? The difference between the obedience of slavery versus the obedience of childhood, how have you seen that lived out in real life sometimes, I guess, maybe?  

MITCH: Well, the obedience of slavery is what ‑‑ if we’re going to be honest with ‑‑ or at least maybe if I’m going to be honest, with a lot of my upbringing with the teachers that I’ve had, and even how I may have even started in the ministry, I wanted to not just encourage, but, I don’t know, like, implore, but I really wanted to force Christians to do or don’t do certain things. I wanted to recreate not just the 10 commandments, but the 613 commandments from the Old Testament in our modern context, in light of the New Testament. There is a part of me that thinks it would be easier to say, “Well, here’s all the things to do and here’s all the things not to do, and so do all these and don’t do all those.” And the thing that I realized is I can do checkmark mentality, I can do checkmark salvation ideas and never have my heart in it. I can go through motions, I can do all those things, and if my heart’s not in it, that’s problematic because God is looking at the heart. 

In fact, that’s where ‑‑ my sermon this coming Sunday is right there in Romans 8:27. I have to look it up now that I say that. Yeah. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, and so the song, “Listen to our Hearts,” that ‑‑ our heart needs to be in it, and that, to me, is what it looks like, then, to be a child, is that as a child of God ‑‑ even as a child of my parents, I didn’t do everything right. I didn’t do everything according to their will and plan, but I never wanted to dishonor their name and I always wanted to please them. And part of that may be personality, but I think it proves some of the point of saying ‑‑ because my kids do the same thing with me. They don’t want to disappoint their dad. That’s a different way of living that I hope makes the transition to not just they’re not doing this because they don’t want to disappoint their dad; it’s more so that they come to it and say this is because I love and I am loved. And in the relationship of love ‑‑ we look at it just within marriage. In the relationship of love with my wife, there are certain things that I’m not going to do. It doesn’t mean that those things are wrong. It’s just I love my wife too much to even venture toward that kind of path, and I know I have her love, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. If we understand our relationship with God as being one of love, as a family love rather than a dutiful servant or slave, then it really does ‑‑ we may do a lot of the same things, but it changes the why, the why we do those.

WES: Yeah. Oh, that’s beautiful. You know, going back to that idea where you said that it’s almost easier to think of things as a checklist ‑‑ and I’m a checklist person. I sometimes joke that I will write things down on my to‑do list that I’ve already done just for the joy of checking it off afterwards. I love a list, and I grew up thinking of religion as a list, as five acts and five steps and things to check off of a list because, that way, you know you’ve done it. You know you’ve accomplished it. You know that you’ve won the race. You know that you’ve accomplished these things. 

But so much of the way we’re told to live in the New Testament is not quantifiable. The things we’re told to do ‑‑ love your neighbor, like, at what point can you say ‑‑ it’s kind of the whole ‑‑ the whole impetus behind the question of “Who’s my neighbor” that Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan in response to, because if somebody says, “Have you loved your neighbor,” well, what does that require of me? When do I get to say I’ve checked that off the list? The answer is never. You just continue to love. And you understand that when you’re in a marriage or in a parent/child relationship. You don’t say, “Well, listen, I can do whatever I want to as long as you haven’t explicitly told me not to do these things,” or, “I don’t have to do any of these things of kindness or love or generosity because you never specifically told me I had to do them.” That’s the way an employee operates or the way that a slave operates, not the way ‑‑ a person who has been brought into the family. 

And I love the emphasis there in Romans 8, and so much of Paul’s language throughout all of his epistles is the language of inheritance, that ‑‑ what I often say is that everything that belongs to Jesus by nature and by merit, because of who he is and what he’s done, belongs to us by grace, which is phenomenal that we are co‑heirs with Jesus, that we get to inherit ‑‑ everything that belongs to him is going to be shared with us. And you made that point in your sermon so well, that God sent his son to die for a mess that we made in order to adopt us as his children ‑‑ that’s phenomenal ‑‑ in order to give us an inheritance. And you’re so right; that really should change the way we live our lives.

MITCH: Yeah, I agree.  That ‑‑ I mean, I wish that was ‑‑ it was that simple in people’s minds. I’m just like, if you totally internalize that, that’s enough, to know that the God of the universe died in your place for the mess that you are. You know, not because, “Well, he’ll turn out good someday.” No. He came to save us in our mess so that he could walk with us through it all so that we could be family.

And, yeah, the family aspect, being adopted into this family, co‑heirs of Christ, verse 17, man, that is a ‑‑ that’s powerful, because whenever we look at Christ and ‑‑ well, yeah, everything’s his. You know, I didn’t use this in the sermon, but one of the thoughts ‑‑ I’m a Disney fan ‑‑ well, old‑school Disney fan, for sure, of The Lion King, you know, and so Mufasa taking Simba up there and saying, “Everything the light touches is yours,” and it’s just this big ol’ picture. Well, that’s what comes to mind whenever I hear “co‑heirs with Christ.” It’s like Christ does everything, and then he looks at us and says, “Well, this is yours, too.” This is what it looks like to be in the kingdom of heaven. You can’t not be moved by that, I think.

WES: Yeah. Well, you’re so right. And that is a good segue to the lesson you brought last week about the “Unshakable Hope.” And, again, you tied this into the practicalities, that it’s not just this pie‑in‑the‑sky idea about what is to come, but that both ourselves and the creation ‑‑ this is Paul’s whole language ‑‑ is groaning, that we are anticipating something better, that we ‑‑ and I love the way that you contrasted the idea of groaning with the idea of whining. What was the other one that you used? Whining and ‑‑ 

MITCH: And griping, yes. Actually, I tried to combine the two and it didn’t work, so yeah. 

WES: Yeah. But we are groaning because we do hurt and we are in pain, but something better is coming, and the whole creation is groaning along with us in anticipation of something better.

MITCH: Yeah. So just if, you know, someone doesn’t go and listen to the sermon, which is totally fine, just to give the definitions ‑‑ 

WES: They should.

MITCH: Well, I appreciate that. But the definitions that I used, “griping” is to complain about something in a persistent, irritating way. “Whining” is to make a long, high‑pitched complaining cry or sound. And the point that I made is ‑‑ both of those are about complaining, but notice “groaning” is to make a deep, inarticulate sound in response to pain. And so I love just looking at the definitions, that “griping” and “whining” are complaining, but “groaning” is responding, and that, to me, gives reason and also gives permission to groan because it’s an appropriate response to the ache of this life.

WES: Yeah, yeah. Oh, it’s so, so wonderful. And I don’t know ‑‑ because I had a certain idea, eschatologically, of what is going to happen when Jesus comes that has changed a lot over the years. And because it’s changed a lot over the years, going back to some of those passages, like this one, that teaches a more robust definition to the word, even “salvation” ‑‑ you pointed out so well that salvation is not just this individualistic thing where it’s “I get saved so that I can go be with God away from everyone else and away from everything else,” that salvation is about God restoring all things. That’s what the book of Acts says, that there is coming a day of restoration, that God is going to redeem creation. 

And what that did ‑‑ it did a number of things, but one of the things was that it allowed me to appreciate all of scripture more, because I think there were passages like Romans 8, especially this part about the creation groaning and the redemption of creation, and I would just kind of ‑‑ I like to say, you know, “practice the Passover.” I would just pass right over it. I was like, I don’t know what that means; seems kind of weird, and I would just kind of skip over it. But you miss out on ‑‑ you lose so much hope. You lose so much hope of your own inheritance. 

It’s like if somebody ‑‑ you know, if you had a lawyer come to your house and say, “This relative left you this gigantic inheritance,” and you said, “Well, listen, that’s really complicated. You know, I don’t really understand all that stuff. Just please don’t bother me with all of that. It sounds complicated. I don’t know how inheritances work.” No, you wouldn’t say that. You would say, “Tell me more. Tell me everything there is to know about that.” I think that we should be the same way with our own inheritance.

MITCH: Right, right.

WES: Because, again, as you said, it changes our life when we understand that inheritance.

MITCH: Agreed. And that’s ‑‑ if we understand ‑‑ again, fast‑forward to the book of Revelation, and what’s going to happen there is, you know, in the end, there’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem, and then tie in a little bit more in Thessalonians, and others, a new body for this person ‑‑ for Mitch Wiggains and for all believers, a new ‑‑ like all this new stuff, and the point is all of those things are decaying. Because of sin ‑‑ this is back to Genesis. Because sin entered the world, creation is subjected to human sin. Creation didn’t choose to sin but it is part of the fallout of our sin, and yet creation, it seems, doesn’t hold it against us. It just longs for the things to be set right. And I find great redemptive power in that, especially the idea that sometimes I may want to hold things against someone else that have ‑‑ they’ve done me wrong, and then every once in a while, in those moments, I look at a rock and go, well, I’ve cursed this rock, but this rock isn’t cursing me and it’s just waiting for me to do my job so that ‑‑ so that, as Roman says, it will all ‑‑ it will all be transformed the way that it should be. 

And so it really takes the picture off of an individual salvation, or even the individual implications of sin, to say, “Well, my sin only affects me.” No, it doesn’t. It affects your family. It affects the next generation. It affects your neighbors. It affects creation, all of it. And that’s ‑‑ whenever we realize that, we begin to really see the bigness ‑‑ that’s a wonderful preacher word there, but the bigness of salvation.

WES: Yeah. Yeah, well, and the idea that you said at the end of your sermon there, that death and decay will not get the last word. And I love that, and what a word of hope that is, whether we’re just groaning with the way our body is hurting or the way sin is affecting us, our own sin or someone else’s sin, or because somebody that we love has died and we’re grieving, we know that death and decay won’t have the last word. But I think that the way that you preach that, the way that Paul presents it, it allows us to acknowledge ‑‑ it allows us to acknowledge the pain. And you pointed that out, that so often we try to ‑‑ what did you say, fake the ache? You know, we try to pretend like it’s not there. We deny that it’s there. And I think that we have to ‑‑ if we’re going to be faithful to scripture, we have to allow people to lament. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn,” “Blessed are those who weep.” It’s only when you weep that God can wipe away your tears, and sometimes we don’t allow people to groan. We don’t allow people to lament and mourn, and we try to just tell everyone to put on a happy face, but that’s not Biblical hope. Biblical hope allows us to hold joy in one hand and pain in the other because we know that it won’t always be this way.

MITCH: That’s right. And Paul’s illustration ‑‑ and I mentioned this in the sermon ‑‑ is about ‑‑ childbirth is this intense pain, but it’s only temporary, and when it passes ‑‑ that’s probably a horrible way of talking about childbirth, but when the pain is relieved, it is fulfilled with a joy that is almost as indescribable as the pain that was previous, and so that idea is, hey, we’ve got to be able to let people groan well. 

Now, I do think we need to be holding people accountable for when they’re just complaining, and there’s a difference. But when we groan well, we are joining in the course of all creation of groaning, waiting for the Messiah to return and set things right. The reason we complain even is because we don’t think something’s right. Well, if we change our complaining into Godly groaning, it not only blesses our life and our situation, because we then are connected to the hope that it’s not always going to be this way and that God is eternal and he’s the king over all of it, but it also affects those around us because they get to hear and witness how we can walk through some of the hardest things of our lives and still have hope. I mean, this is why the ‑‑ you know, the elderly sister or brother that’s walking through cancer ‑‑ they don’t have to be older, but the ones that do it well, everyone notices. Everyone notices, sees that, and goes, wow, that is ‑‑ how can you do that? And in a word, it’s hope. It’s the only way we can navigate those things.

WES: Yeah. Amen. Well, let me kind of shift gears just a little bit, Mitch, and ask, what made you want to teach this? This is ‑‑ I love the idea of doing a whole series in Romans 8, but what made you want to dig into it that way?

MITCH: Well, it’s honestly for that reason. So I’ve been preaching now 13 years consistently, and as I was looking back at all the series that I’ve done, I had yet to do one just in Romans 8. I’ve referenced so many things from that chapter in so many sermons, probably in numerous ways, but I’d never just said I’m going to stick to Romans 8 and talk through that. And it kind of floored me because I was like, seriously? Like this is a great chapter, and I’ve never done this? So that’s part of it, you know, and, also, it’s ‑‑ and the other side of it is, there’s those conversations with members, and just with people in general, that we live in a world that is lacking hope. We live in a world that is not asking the right kind of questions. It’s getting hamstrung on moving forward with anything, it seems. And so to be able to just read a passage that is just drenched in hope and assurance and life is ‑‑ gives us the same.

WES: Yeah, yeah. Amen. Have there been any passages within the chapter that you’ve focused special attention or come back to frequently, things that have given sort of a lens through which to see other parts of the chapter?

MITCH: So I mentioned it earlier, but I do go back to the beginning and end. I do think how ‑‑ I know the chapters are a later addition, but I do think that the rabbis, whoever added this, whenever they did, they have a pretty good connection of Romans 8, a pretty good start and finish. So I look at the start verse and then kind of the finish idea ‑‑ and we love to head to that finisher. I mean, there is no separation for those ‑‑ you, know, and it’s neither height or depth or angels or demons or things above, things below ‑‑ like this whole list of things that cannot separate us from the love of Jesus, and that’s ‑‑ that is wonderful truth, but if that’s true, then we reverse that and go back to verse 1, the only way that no separation is true is if there is no condemnation. And so I keep on reading everything through Romans 8 with that lens of just the assurance ‑‑ this assurance that we have that nothing can separate me because there is nothing ‑‑ no condemnation, which “condemnation” is really basically saying, oh, yeah, here’s something that can separate you. Two times in this chapter, “No, you can’t.”  “No condemnation, no separation.” If you get those truths right, then everything in the middle is going to make a little bit more sense.

WES: Yeah, yeah. So good. Have there been other things, other writings outside of scripture that have been helpful? Any resources that you would recommend outside of scripture that might be helpful if somebody’s studying Romans or studying this chapter in particular?

MITCH: Oh, boy. You know, I’m not necessarily going to have anything off the top of my head. I’ve heard others ‑‑ oh, who is it that ‑‑ is it “Reading Romans Backwards”?  

WES: You know, I was going to ask you if you’d read that. 

MITCH: I have not.

WES: I think that’s Scot McKnight’s book.

MITCH: Yes, and I’ve heard so many good things, so that is one that is on my list to read. Now, that’s kind of a broader picture of Romans.

WES: Sure.

MITCH: You know, I’ve kind of jumped around.  I haven’t laid upon one with this series that I’m like, yeah, this is one that everyone ought to read. I’ve kind of jumped around to different commentaries and different things, so I’m not sure I have a great answer for that one.

WES: Yeah, no worries. You know, it’s amazing how much is there in the text, and I’m that way when it comes to commentaries, is I tend to draw from a lot of different ones. I’m not even sure where I’ve drawn some of the information from. You know, I tend to have a bunch open in front of me. 

Let me ask you this. This is probably the most important question I like to ask guys about what they’re preaching and teaching: How has this study changed you? How have you seen this study breathe new life into you or make a transformation in you personally?  

MITCH: So this study ‑‑ I guess another reason I wanted to do this is I just got off of doing a series about the tabernacle because our church hosted a thing called this Tabernacle Experience. A life‑sized replica of the tabernacle was on our grounds, and it was a lot of work, and that series was very heady, as it were. Like I was making some connections and dots that not everyone’s going to see, and it was a joy, but it also was a lot. 

And so coming into Romans 8, like I’m taking the same kind of passion and same kind of study into it, but what I’m finding more is I’m not having to work at crafting this. I’m just being able to preach this word, and so that has filled my cup as a preacher because sometimes, I mean ‑‑ I know you get this. There are some things that you’re going to preach that you have to work at. You know you need to say this, and sometimes it’s subjects that you’re like, “I’m going to read this from my preparation because I want to say this right and I don’t want to mess this up.” But then sometimes it’s just, “Guys, you gotta, like, listen to this. This is amazing. This is what it’s doing to me.” So Romans 8 is one of those passages that if you haven’t read it in a while, I highly encourage you to go back and just read it. Let it fill you, because that’s what it’s been doing for me. It’s just continually filling me. Some things that I forget are in that one chapter. I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s here, too, and I’m just going to enjoy that, so…

WES: Yeah. Well, I think N.T. Wright said the other day ‑‑ I heard him in a video say that if he only had one book on a desert island, of course it would be the Bible. And if he only had one book, it would be the book of Romans. And if he only had one chapter from one book, it would be Romans 8, and I couldn’t agree more. 

MITCH: Yeah, I saw the same thing. 

WES: There’s so much there. Yeah, you could teach almost ‑‑ you pointed this out in one of your sermons. You could teach almost any New Testament subject by drawing from Romans 8. There’s text there to sort of briefly explain so many things, and he really is pulling from the whole narrative of what God has done for his people and what God is preparing to do for his people. 

So let me ask you this, Mitch: As you’ve been preaching this, what have you seen that it has already done, or what are you hoping that it has done, in the lives of the congregation? What do you hope that they’re learning intellectually, or what do you hope that they’re putting into practice in their daily life?

MITCH: So I really hope they’re indwelling this confidence, that ‑‑ this confidence that God loves me. And just as we have the children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me” ‑‑ I mean, we make it formative for them, but sometimes we forget that that song is just as powerful for us as adults because he loves us that much, loves us that he would give his life for us, loves us so much that he wants what’s best for us, and he loves us in ways that whenever we’re dealing with the pain of this life, he’s not absent. 

And so what I hope that people walk away with this ‑‑ with this whole series is just the simple reality of how much God loves them and if they can truly internalize that his love is not just some ‑‑ oh, yeah, it’s a checkmark kind of ‑‑ “He loves me; great.” It is whenever I mess up and whenever I walk into that sin that ‑‑ I swore I wouldn’t go back to that sin, and I think that, in that moment, God doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, I hope that this series is just that reminder of saying, wait, but Romans 8 ‑‑ Romans 8 says he loves me even in this, that even in this mess and even in this struggle, he has adopted me, and there’s a Spirit within me that is saying, “Hey, look, that’s Dad. That’s Abba, Father.” And if my dad taught me anything, and if I hope to teach anything to my girls, it’s that they can come to me with their mess. I’m not distant whenever they’re in pain. When they’re in pain, I want to be right there, and I’m convinced that God is the same ‑‑ or I’m that because God is that, maybe is a better way of saying, so…

WES: That’s good. That’s very good. So this is kind of a bonus for those that are listening. You said when you ‑‑ when we went back and forth just a little bit earlier, you said, about ‑‑ in my e‑mail, we were talking about what you were preaching, but you also mentioned a class that you were doing, and so let’s talk about that just briefly before we close. What’s the class that you’re doing? ‘Cause I got to listen to one of the lessons. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to listen to more of that, but it seems incredibly powerful and interesting and something that Christians desperately need to understand.

MITCH: Yeah. So the boring idea is that ‑‑ we’re talking about hermeneutics, which is really just the study of scripture and how we do that. That’s ‑‑ and I’m co‑teaching with our associate minister, Rusty Sherry, and which is, for one, a delightful experience in and of itself. Just co‑teaching with someone like that is great. But the whole purpose in this was, really, we were looking at a lot of the questions that people have about scripture, or like, “I just don’t understand this.” A lot of people, you know, will throw up their hands and say ‑‑ well ‑‑ you know, do the Passover, as you were talking about. “Let’s just skip that and go on to something else.” And ‑‑ or they’re coming to some conclusions that ‑‑ they’re making assumptions and they don’t realize it. 

So what good hermeneutics does is it encourages us with questions ‑‑ questions to ask ourselves ‑‑ like “What am I bringing into this text?” “What are my biases?” “What are my preconceived notions?” And then questions to ask the text, things about context. “Who was this written to?” “Who was the writer?” “What is the time period?” “Is there anything within the ancient‑world context that might be applicable into this situation and this setting?” And then, you know, looking further at other questions and diving into a broader way of studying scripture. And this is something that a lot of people do individually, but we wanted to take it to a class format, saying, let’s do this together. Do it, as a lot of church history has, is that ‑‑ don’t leave Bible study to the professionals. Let’s have Bible study together and let’s have no other agenda than to just open up this word and study together. 

And so after kind of a synopsis of walking through ‑‑ we spent a couple of classes saying, okay, here’s how maybe traditionally we’ve done it. Command, example, necessary inference was a predominant hermeneutic among the churches of Christ for a while, among other groups. Talking about that, what it meant.  We then gave another method, another tool in that toolbox of hermeneutics, which John Mark Hicks lays out in his book, “Searching for the Pattern,” and, you know, we take that, and then what we’ve done now is just said, “All right. Give us some scriptures that you want us to talk about,” and they haven’t held back any punches. You know, we’ve had to deal with Romans 13, you know, how do we ‑‑ what does it mean to submit to the government? What does that look like? We’re like, “We asked for it,” you know? And then, I Corinthians 11 is what we’re currently in, which is laced with a bunch of difficult things, but it’s great to study together.

WES: Yeah, absolutely. Well, the one I listened to was on I Corinthians 11 about head coverings, and y’all handled that really well. And I just think that it’s so important for us to acknowledge that we’re not always consistent with how we’ve tended to interpret scripture. We brought up Scot McKnight earlier, but Scot McKnight has another book called “Blue Parakeet.” I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all of his conclusions, but I don’t necessarily think he wants you to agree with all of his conclusions. One of the goals of the book is simply to bring out how we pass over certain passages, how we ignore certain passages, how we interpret certain passages in one way, and other passages, that are very similar, we’ll interpret a totally different way because we don’t want to come to the same conclusions. And just being honest with how are we reaching these conclusions and what are some of the tools by which we can reach better conclusions is such an important question. 

And even what you said a minute ago ‑‑ you said people make assumptions and they don’t know that they’re making them. We all make assumptions, but I think the more honest we can be, say, “Now, listen, I’m assuming this is the case,” or, “I’m coming to this text with a bias,” or, “Here’s what I think the answer might be or how I tend to read this, but I might be wrong.” And just in that one class that I heard you and Rusty do, you both were so honest about those kind of things, and it’s refreshing to see preachers to approach the text that way, to say, “Listen, we don’t know all of the historical background. We don’t know exactly what was going on here, but here are some things that might help us to reach a better conclusion about this passage.”

MITCH: Right, and honesty. I mean, I think ‑‑ I’m convinced that the more honest we approach scripture, the better off we’re going to be. I think that leaves more room for the Spirit to work within study. Sometimes we forget that the Spirit needs to be involved within study. A lot of times we think it’s just our head, but if the Spirit lives within us and is going to convict us of things, which is his job, then he needs to be part of the whole process. So asking good questions. 

One of my favorite questions about what John Mark Hicks brings up is really what he calls step two, is this ‑‑ this kind of broader picture of ‑‑ oh, how does he say it? Step two is really the normative substance of the text, which is, you know, a fun way of saying, okay, let’s look at the whole council of scripture. Let’s look at all of scripture. How does ‑‑ what is being said in this particular passage? How does it fit within Nehemiah? How does it fit within Job? How does it fit within Revelation? Part of the answer is, well, it doesn’t; it’s not really addressing that. But whenever ‑‑ going back to Romans 13 about submitting to authority, well, that’s a great one to go back and look at Daniel. Daniel ‑‑ how did he submit to authority? I mean, multiple times he went up against authority but was willing to suffer the consequences of his challenge, and it ‑‑ I mean, every ‑‑ there’s nothing in here that’s subservient in Daniel. He’s under their authority over and over and over again. And so just tying that one passage back to Daniel gives some more depth of understanding of ‑‑ Paul isn’t just kind of throwing things out there in a vacuum. He’s throwing it within a broader story of scripture, of God’s story, and so seeing those connection points is really a helpful way for me to study scripture.

WES: Yeah. Amen. Well, Mitch, I’ve known you and your family for a very long time, and I have had a long appreciation for everything that you and your family do for the kingdom of God. So thank you for this opportunity to have this conversation with you, but thank you for the overall work that you’re doing, Brother. I so appreciate you.

MITCH: Well, Wes, I appreciate this, as well, and this has been a great time.

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