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More Than Conquerors! A Study of Romans 8 #13 The Overwhelming Victory! – Romans 8:31-39

18 Oct

About the only time I play golf is when I play with Eric or Gregory. Eric and I try to play at least once each trip to Tennessee.

On one occasion, we were walking to the club house just before we were to tee off. Knowing I had not played for some time, Eric offered me a word of advice: “Dad, until you build up your confidence, why don’t you drive with an iron at first?” “Eric,” I responded, “I have all the confidence in the world. What I lack is ability.”

Confidence can be a very good thing. It can also be a mill stone around one’s neck. Being confident simply is not enough. The crucial issue is in whom, or in what, is our confidence. Ill-founded confidence is deadly. Well-founded confidence is proper and good.

Some Christians have no confidence at all, believing that with one slip, one sin, they are out of the faith. Agonizing their way through life, they hope no sin has gone unnoticed and unconfessed; if so, they fear they will not get to heaven. These Christians desperately need the confidence of which Paul speaks in Romans 8:31-39:

 

Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)
31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
33  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
36  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39  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.

(Romans 8:31-39 NASB)  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? {32} He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? {33} Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; {34} who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. {35} Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? {36} Just as it is written, “FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” {37} But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. {38} For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, {39} nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

8:31 What then are we to say about these things?NRSV Paul’s questions fall into three categories:

  1. Will opposition from people or Satan be too great? (8:31-32)
  2. Will we fail because of our tendency to sin? (8:33-34)
  3. Will we be overcome by difficult times? (8:35-39)

In broad terms, Paul may be encouraging specific reflection on the evidences we have that God is for us. One way of doing this is to replace these things with some of the phrases Paul has used earlier in this chapter. For example, what then shall we say in response toNIV the fact that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1)? Or, what then shall we say in response to the fact that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (8:26)? What then shall we say in response to the fact that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (8:28)?

The other option for considering what to say in response is the choice Paul makes. He asks rhetorical questions, the answers to which require application of the pattern God has already established for our day-to-day experiences. So, for instance, since God has shown that he is for us, who of any real significance can be against us? Or, since God “did not spare his own Son . . . how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (8:32). Paul wants to let believers know, in no uncertain terms, that their salvation is sure and secure. When we fully realize that God has called, justified, and glorified us, we can do nothing but fall before him in humble gratitude.

If God is for us, who can be against us?NKJV Satan and those under his power are against us, but in the end, God promises the victory. No one will oppose God and his followers forever; their dreadful end is also sure.

8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.NIV How much is God “for” us? So much that he gave us his only Son to die for us. (The Greek word behind “for” is huper, a benefactive pronoun meaning “on behalf of.”) Only through Christ’s death are we been made acceptable to God. The word for spare is the same word for “withheld,” used in Genesis 22:12, when God said to Abraham, “You have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (niv).

Our major struggle with prayer is not that God doesn’t answer. What upsets us is that he seldom answers in line with our plans or schedule. At those times we may think that God is intentionally withholding something from us. But God has already given us the greatest gift of all. Remembering God’s gift will help us see that God is working for our good even when we can’t immediately see it. So when we are most tempted to doubt God’s love for us, we ought to express our love to him. This allows us to apply the lesson of verse 28, trusting that God is working in all things for our good.

How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?NIV God sacrificed his Son to save us; will he now invalidate that sacrifice by refusing to help and guide believers? No, instead, he promises to give us all things to bring us to the ultimate goal—our sanctification and glorification. These things come under the guideline as the things in verse 28; they are experiences God will give us as he “works for the good” that he has planned for us (see also Matthew 6:33). When the Bible promises that God will answer our prayers, it does not oblige God to give us anything we ask of him. Rather, these promises are reminders that we are presenting requests to someone who is infinitely free and powerful to act. The fact that his grace motivates his giving ensures that his gifts are best for us.

8:33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?NIV Paul’s next question is, Who can press charges or accuse us? At first we might think of Satan because he is our accuser (Revelation 20:10). And his charges will contain truth, because despite being saved, we still will sin. But the charges won’t stick—God will throw Satan’s accusations out of court because he has chosen us. The word chosen (eklekton) has been transliterated from Greek and Latin into English as the word elect. In the Bible, election refers to God’s choice of an individual or group for a specific purpose or destiny (see 9:10-13). God is the one who chooses us, and he is also the Judge who has already declared us “not guilty.” When Satan accuses us, Jesus, the advocate for our defense, stands at God’s right hand to present our case (8:34). Thus, the result is that no one can bring a charge against God’s chosen ones. (See also Isaiah 50:8-9. For more on the concept of Christ as our advocate, see the notes in Hebrews 4:14-16.)

8:34 Who is he who condemns?NKJV Like the last question, this one focuses on charges, but in Greek it carries a future tense: Who will condemn? Jesus Christ has been appointed by God to judge the world (John 5:22, 27; Acts 17:31), but Christ Jesus, who died . . . is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.NRSV This is a divine court. God has already declared us “not guilty.” Any further charges of guilt are thrown out of court. Jesus would not condemn those for whom he died. Because he was raised to life,NIV Christ Jesus is at God’s right hand interceding for us in heaven (see also Psalm 110:1; Mark 12:35-37; Hebrews 4:14-16). The Spirit intercedes for us (8:27) and Christ intercedes for us. How much more advocacy do we need?

 

A LETTER TO YOU
Do you ever think that because you aren’t good enough for God, he will not save you? Do you ever feel as if salvation is for everyone else but you? At those times, make verses 31-34 your constant companions. If God gave his Son for you, he isn’t going to hold back the gift of salvation! If Christ gave his life for you, he isn’t going to turn around and condemn you! Christ will not withhold anything you need in order to live for him. The book of Romans is more than a theological explanation of God’s redeeming grace—it is a letter of comfort and confidence addressed to you.

8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?NIV The next questions help seal our assurance in God. Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love for us. Then Paul lists several situations we might think could come between us and God. Paul knew from experience that these could not separate believers from God—he had already experienced them (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). This means that the love of Christ doesn’t separate us from these experiences, but that even in the most devastating of these, the love of Christ is with us.

Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?NIV These words are almost eerily prophetic. The Roman church would face severe persecution within just a few years. But no matter what happens, believers can never be lost to God’s love. When suffering comes, it should not drive us away from God, but rather help us to identify with him further and allow his love to reach us and heal us.

8:36 As it is written . . . Paul quotes from Psalm 44:22 to remind the believers that people who trust in God must expect to face persecution, even death. In that psalm, the poets made the specific point that difficulties and suffering were coming to people who had been faithful. The two verses preceding the one that Paul quotes say, “If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?” (Psalm 44:20-21 niv). Believers who suffer are the rule, not the exception.

8:37 We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.NRSV No, instead of being separated from Christ through all these things (the trials and hardships mentioned in 8:35), we are the conquerors. This does not mean that we will be superheroes, but that our victory will be intensified by virtue of our union with Christ.

 

WHAT MEANS MORE THAN VICTORY?
Paul tells us that through Christ we are more than conquerors. Paul is saying that we surpass Alexander the Great and Caesar because of our faith in Christ. For high achievers, this is good news indeed. There is something better than winning. Perhaps the best way to grasp what Paul means is to realize that the experience of victory can be extremely selfish. To be more than conquerors means that our moments of spiritual achievement coincide with moments of realization that we have succeeded through him who loved us. The glow of the greatest victory dims in the light of Christ’s love for us.

8:38 I am convinced.NIV Or, “I have been persuaded,” implies a deep and settled frame of mind. When we express our beliefs, we may say, “I think.” When speaking of the most important matters of time and eternity, we need to become not people who happen to think a certain way, but people who are convinced. ‘For Paul, conviction was a matter of faith confirmed by God’s Word, experience, and a transformed mind. In a similar context, when Paul is explaining to

Timothy the tension between being a servant of the gospel of Christ and yet experiencing suffering, he shares his conclusions: “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12 niv; see also 2 Corinthians 5:11-15; Galatians 5:7-9; 2 Timothy 3:14-17). It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced . . . but a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that something proves it. He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it.

G. K. Chesterton

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers.NIV Yes, we are secure in Christ—Paul was convinced, and so should we be. Nothing will separate us from God’s love for us (8:39). In both death and the trials of life in this evil world, we will be in God’s presence. No spiritual forces, such as angels or demons, are powerful enough to undo what God has done for us. Nothing in the sphere of time itself can threaten us; nothing that can happen in the present and nothing that can happen in the future, such as persecution and hardship, would cause God to leave us. No powers that exist (Satan, human governments, etc.) are more powerful than God; they can have no effect on our relationship with him.

8:39 Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.NIV Nothing in space, from height or depth, can take us away from God’s love; these words denoted astronomical terms that cover the entire heavens; thus, no supposed astrological powers that might have been thought to determine people’s fate have any power over God. Nothing in all creation can take us away from God’s love or thwart his purposes for us.

Here Paul defends the claim of Christ’s love against all that might seem to offer a threat. Elsewhere, he describes that love itself: “And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself’ (Ephesians 3:17-19, tlb). Paul’s point is simple and compelling: once in his care, it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death for us is proof of his unconquerable love. Nothing can stop his constant presence with us. God tells us how great his love is so that we will feel totally secure in him.

Other Christians have great confidence but in the wrong thing. The lyrics of a popular “Christian” song say something like: “I have determined … to be invincible …” This song writer has far too much confidence—in himself.

The writer should spend some time in Romans 7 and 8 where the fallibility of the Christian is in view. When the reality of Romans 7:24 settles in on the believer, self-confidence is seen to be both foolish and sinful.

In our text, Paul gives us every reason to be confident, not in ourselves but in our salvation and in the sovereign God who is accomplishing it. Heed well Paul’s words here. They offer hope and confidence in the midst of a fallen world. To everyone who is in Christ by faith, they are words of comfort and reassurance.

Paul makes two main points in our text which provide us with the key to the structure of his argument. In verses 31-34, the emphasis is on “no condemnation.” In verses 35-39, Paul stresses “no separation” from the love of Christ our Lord. The structure can be outlined in this way:

(1) No condemnation (verses 31-34)

(2) No separation (verses 35-39)

Beginning with some general observations of our passage as a whole will provide additional insight to our study.

(1) This passage is a conclusion. These verses are the final verses of Paul’s argument in Romans 5-8 dealing with the present and future outworkings of justification by faith. In Romans 9-11 Paul will deal with Israel and the Gentiles in God’s eternal plan of salvation. These final words of chapter 8 are thus the conclusion, not only to chapter 8 but to the first 8 chapters.

(2) The closing verses return to the theme with which Paul began chapter 8—“no condemnation.” Verse 1 began by assuring the Christian that there is “no condemnation.” Verses 31-39 close with that same assurance.

(3) The mood of the passage is that of confident praise.

(4) This passage is God-centered. Paul speaks of a confidence and assurance based in God.

(5) The confidence and assurance is for Christians, for those who are in Christ. “We” and “us” refer to Christians. Paul is writing to Christians concerning the confidence they have in Christ. No confidence or assurance is offered to the non-believer here or elsewhere in the Bible.

(6) Those things which are dreaded, and from which the Christian is delivered, are all the consequences of sin. Accusation, condemnation, and separation from God are all divine judgments for sin. Our text thus offers the Christian assurance that he is delivered from the consequences of sin.

(7) The cross of Jesus Christ is the basis for our deliverance and confidence. God’s love for us is evidenced at the cross. Our justification was achieved at the cross. Our confidence is in God and in the cross of Christ.

(8) Paul uses a question and answer format. Verses 31-35 all contain one or more questions. The questions are personal, “Who?” rather than impersonal, “What?” The confidence and comfort Paul wishes his Christian reader to experience results from the fact that there is no answer. The question, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” (verse 33), gives great comfort because there is no answer. No one will bring a charge against us. This is true also of his other questions.217

What Then Shall We Say to These Things? (8:31)

What things is Paul referring to by the expression, “these things”? Since verses 31-39 serve as the conclusion to all of chapters 1-8, we could rightly think of “these things” as Paul’s teaching on the sinfulness of man, the salvation of God, and the hope of the Christian. In the more immediate context of Romans 8, we could include the promise of no condemnation (8:1), the provision of the Holy Spirit (8:4-27), and the sovereignty of God in salvation (8:28-30). I personally believe Paul is referring primarily to the sovereignty of God in our salvation which he has just taught in Romans 8:28-30.

The question Paul asks here explores the implications of what he has been teaching to this point. It also conveys a very important inference: REVELATION REQUIRES MAN’S RESPONSE. Paul does not ask, “Shall we say something?” Instead, he asks, “What shall we say …?” In Paul’s mind, it is necessary for us to say something in response to what God has revealed through him. God’s Word is not information to be filed away. It is not given to us as an academic exercise. The Word of God is given to us to act upon and to obey. Romans 8:31-39 is the bottom line of the doctrines taught thus far.

God is for us (v. 31). The Father is for us and proved it by giving His Son (Rom. 8:32). The Son is for us (Rom. 8:34) and so is the Spirit (Rom. 8:26). God is making all things work for us (Rom. 8:28). In His person and His providence, God is for us. Sometimes, like Jacob, we lament, “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36), when actually everything is working for us. The conclusion is obvious: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

The believer needs to enter into each new day realizing that God is for him. There is no need to fear, for his loving Father desires only the best for His children, even if they must go through trials to receive His best. “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope'” (Jer. 29:11, nasb).

Christ died for us (v. 32). The argument here is from the lesser to the greater. If when we were sinners, God gave us His best, now that we are God’s children, will He not give us all that we need? Jesus used this same argument when He tried to convince people that it was foolish to worry and fear. God cares for the birds and sheep, and even for the lilies; surely He will care for you! God is dealing with His own on the basis of Calvary grace, not on the basis of Law. God freely gives all things to His own!

God has justified us (v. 33). This means that He has declared us righteous in Christ Satan would like to accuse us (Zech. 3:1-7; Rev. 12:10), but we stand righteous in Jesus Christ. We are God’s elect—chosen in Christ and accepted in Christ. God will certainly not accuse us since it is He who has justified us. For Him to accuse us would mean that His salvation was a failure and we are still in our sins.

Understanding the meaning of justification brings peace to our hearts. When God declares the believing sinner righteous in Christ, that declaration never changes. Our Christian experience changes from day to day, but justification never changes. We may accuse ourselves, and men may accuse us; but God will never take us to court and accuse us. Jesus has already paid the penalty and we are secure in Him.

Christ intercedes for us (v. 34). A dual intercession keeps the believer secure in Christ: the Spirit intercedes (Rom. 8:26-27) and the Son of God intercedes (Rom. 8:34). The same Saviour who died for us is now interceding for us in heaven. As our High Priest, He can give us the grace we need to overcome temptation and defeat the enemy (Heb. 4:14-16). As our Advocate, He can forgive our sins and restore our fellowship with God (1 John 1:9-2:2). Intercession means that Jesus Christ represents us before the throne of God and we do not have to represent ourselves.

Paul hinted at this ministry of intercession in Romans 5:9-10. We are not only saved by His death, but we are also saved by His life. “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25, NIV). Peter sinned against the Lord, but he was forgiven and restored to fellowship because of Jesus Christ. “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has asked permission to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed especially for you that your own faith may not utterly fail” (Luke 22:31-32, wms). He is interceding for each of us, a ministry that assures us that we are secure.

Christ loves us (vv. 35-39). In Romans 8:31-34 Paul proved that God cannot fail us, but is it possible that we can fail Him? Suppose some great trial or temptation comes, and we fail? Then what? Paul deals with that problem in this final section and explains that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ.

To begin with, God does not shelter us from the difficulties of life because we need them for our spiritual growth (Rom. 5:3-5). In Romans 8:28 God assures us that the difficulties of life are working for us and not against us. God permits trials to come that we might use them for our good and His glory. We endure trials for His sake (Rom. 8:36), and since we do, do you think that He will desert us? Of course not! Instead, He is closer to us when we go through the difficulties of life.

Furthermore, He gives us the power to conquer (Rom. 8:37). We are “more than conquerors,” literally, “we are superconquerors” through Jesus Christ! He gives us victory and more victory! We need not fear life or death, things present or things to come, because Jesus Christ loves us and gives us the victory. This is not a promise with conditions attached: “If you do this, God will do that.” This security in Christ is an established fact, and we claim it for ourselves because we are in Christ. Nothing can separate you from His love! Believe it—and rejoice in it!

A review of this wonderful chapter shows that the Christian is completely victorious. We are free from judgment because Christ died for us and we have His righteousness. We are free from defeat because Christ lives in us by His Spirit and we share His life. We are free from discouragement because Christ is coming for us and we shall share His glory. We are free from fear because Christ intercedes for us and we cannot be separated from His love.

No condemnation! No obligation! No frustration! No separation!

If God be for us, who can be against us!

This is one of the most lyrical passages Paul ever wrote. In Rom 8:32 there is a wonderful allusion which would stand out to any Jew who knew his Old Testament well. Paul says in effect: “God for us did not spare his own Son; surely that is the final guarantee that he loves us enough to supply all our needs.” The words Paul uses of God are the very words God used of Abraham when Abraham proved his utter loyalty by being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command. God said to Abraham: “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen 22:12). Paul seems to say: “Think of the greatest human example in the world of a man’s loyalty to God; God’s loyalty to you is like that.” Just as Abraham was so loyal to God that he was prepared to sacrifice his dearest possession, God is so loyal to men that he is prepared to sacrifice his only Son for them. Surely we can trust a loyalty like that for anything.

It is difficult to know just how to take Rom 8:33-35. There are two ways of taking them and both give excellent sense and precious truth.

(i) We can take them as two statements, followed by two questions which give the inferences to be made from these statements. (a) It is God who acquits men—that is the statement. If that be so who can possibly condemn men? If man is acquitted by God, then he is saved from every other condemnation. (b) Our belief is in a Christ who died and rose again and who is alive for evermore—that is the statement. If that be so, is there anything in this or any other world that can separate us from our Risen Lord?

If we take it that way two great truths are laid down. (a) God has acquitted us; therefore no one can condemn us. (b) Christ is risen; therefore nothing can ever separate us from him.

(ii) But there is another way to take it. God has acquitted us. Who then can condemn us) The answer is that the Judge of all men is Jesus Christ. He is the one who has the right to condemn—but so far from condemning, he is at God’s right hand interceding for us, and therefore we are safe.

It may be that in Rom 8:34 Paul is doing a very wonderful thing. He is saying four things about Jesus. (a) He died. (b) He rose again. (c) He is at the right hand of God. (d) He makes intercession for us there. Now the earliest creed of the Church, which is still the essence of all Christian creeds, ran like this: “He was crucified dead and buried; the third day he rose again from the dead; and sitteth at the right hand of God from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” Three items in Paul’s statement and in the early creed are the same, that Jesus died, rose again, and is at the right hand of God. But the fourth is different. In the creed the fourth is that Jesus will come to be the judge of the quick and the dead. In Paul the fourth is that Jesus is at God’s right hand to plead our case. It is as if Paul said: “You think of Jesus as the Judge who is there to condemn; and well he might for he has won the right. But you are wrong; he is not there to be our prosecuting counsel but to be the advocate to plead our cause.”

I think that the second way of taking this is right. With one tremendous leap of thought Paul has seen Christ, not as the Judge but as the lover of the souls of men.

Paul goes on with a poet’s fervour and a lover’s rapture to sing of how nothing can separate us from the love of God in our Risen Lord.

(i) No affliction, no hardship, no peril can separate us. (Rom 8:35.) The disasters of the world do not separate a man from Christ; they bring him closer yet.

(ii) In Rom 8:38-39 Paul makes a list of terrible things.

Neither life nor death can separate us from Christ. In life we live with Christ; in death we die with him; and because we die with him, we also rise with him. Death, so far from being a separation, is only a step into his nearer presence; not the end but “the gate on the skyline” leading to the presence of Jesus Christ.

The angelic powers cannot separate us from him. At this particular time the Jews had a highly developed belief in angels. Everything had its angel. There was an angel of the winds, of the clouds, of the snow and hail and hoarfrost. of the thunder and the lightning, of cold and heat, of the seasons. The Rabbis said that there was nothing in the world, not even a blade of grass, that had not got its angel. According to the Rabbis there were three ranks of angels. The first included thrones, cherubim and seraphim. The second included powers, lordships and mights. The third included angels and archangels and principalities. More than once Paul speaks of these angels (Eph 1:21; Eph 3:10; Eph 6:12; Col 2:10, 15; 1 Cor 15:24). Now the Rabbis—and Paul had once been a Rabbi—believed that they were grudgingly hostile to men. They believed that they had been angry when God created man. It was as if they did not want to share God with anyone and had grudged man his share in him. The Rabbis had a legend that when God appeared on Sinai to give Moses the law he was attended by his hosts of angels, and the angels grudged Israel the law, and assaulted Moses on his way up the mountain and would have stopped him had not God intervened. So Paul, thinking in terms of his own day, says, “Not even the grudging, jealous angels can separate us from the love of God, much as they would like to do so.”

No age in time can separate us from Christ. Paul speaks of things present and things to come. We know that the Jews divided all time into this present age and the age to come. Paul is saying: “In this present world nothing can separate us from God in Christ; the day will come when this world will be shattered and the new age will dawn. It does not matter; even then, when this world has passed and the new world come, the bond is still the same.”

No malign influences (powers) will separate us from Christ. Paul speaks about height and depth. These are astrological terms. The ancient world was haunted by the tyranny of the stars. They believed that a man was born under a certain star and thereby his destiny was settled. There are some who still believe that; but the ancient world was really haunted by this supposed domination of a man’s life by the influence of the stars. Height (hupsoma, <G5313>) was the time when a star was at its zenith and its influence was greatest; depth (bathos, <G899>) was the time when a star was at its lowest, waiting to rise and to put its influence on some man. Paul says to these haunted men of his age: “The stars cannot hurt you. In their rising and their setting they are powerless to separate you from God’s love.”

No other world can separate us from God. The word that Paul uses for other (heteros, <G2087>) has really the meaning of different. He is saying: “Suppose that by some wild flight of imagination there emerged another and a different world, you would still be safe; you would still be enwrapped in the love of God.”

Here is a vision to take away all loneliness and all fear. Paul is saying: “You can think of every terrifying thing that this or any other world can produce. Not one of them is able to separate the Christian from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, Lord of every terror and Master of every world.” Of what then shall we be afraid?

If God Is for Us, Who Is Against Us? (8:31)

The “if” here is not “iffy.”218 It could just as well be translated “since.” The New Jerusalem Bible renders Paul’s question this way: “With God on our side, who can be against us?

The first part of the question is therefore the premise. The second part of the question is the conclusion. Let us consider the premise first.

God is for us. In the context, the “us” must mean, “those of us who are in Christ.” God is “for” His children. He is “for us” in the sense that He has chosen us, predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, and He has called and justified us (Romans 8:28-30). He is at work, causing all things to work together for our good. Our “good” includes our present process of sanctification and our ultimate destiny in our adoption as sons of God. God is bringing about the good which He has purposed for us.

This statement, “God is for us,” cannot be interpreted or applied apart from His purpose (8:28). God is not “for us” in some nebulous, undefined way. We do not have the promise that God will deal with us in any way that we ask or desire. The prosperity gospelizers promise a God who is a kind of magic genie, as though we need but inform Him how He can serve us. God is “for us” in a way that produces the “good” He has purposed and prepared for us in eternity past. It is God’s prerogative to define “good,” not ours.

Based upon the premise that God is “for us,” Paul presses us to consider the implications. “If God is for us [as He most certainly is], who is against us?” Paul is not suggesting that we have no opposition. We all know that the Christian will have many adversaries. Paul’s question is designed to point out the puniness of any opponent in light of the fact that God is our proponent.

One of my favorite movies, “The Bear,” has in the final scenes a little grizzly cub being attacked by a mountain lion. The life of the little cub seems to be in great danger as the mountain lion moves in for the kill. Suddenly, the baby bear rears up on its hind legs letting out the fiercest growl it can muster. Amazingly, the mountain lion shrinks back! The camera then slowly draws back to reveal just behind the cub a massive grizzly, reared on his hind legs, delivering a fierce warning to the mountain lion. The cub’s enemy was great. But in the protective shadow of the great grizzly, that mountain lion was nothing. With the giant grizzly as its protection, who was this mere mountain lion? With God on our side, who could possibly be an opponent who would cause us to shrink back in fear? The sovereignty of a God who is “for us” provides a new perspective on anyone or anything which threatens to oppose or destroy us.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32).

The certainty of God’s faithful provision for all of our needs is in view in this question. It is an argument based on the greater and the lesser: if God did not hesitate to give us the greatest gift of all, certainly He can be counted on to freely give us lesser gifts. The New Jerusalem Bible renders Paul’s words this way:

Since God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give.

Mortal minds will never fathom the sacrifice which the Father made to bring about the redemption of His chosen ones. For the Son, it meant the rejection of the nation Israel, the physical agony of the cross, and the ultimate pain, the separation from His Father which was the penalty He paid for our sins. For the Father, it meant giving up His Son, allowing sinful men to nail Him to a cross, and having to pour out His wrath on His beloved One.

The Son willingly endured the agony of the cross in order to do the will of His Father and to bring glory to Him. The Father willingly gave up His Son so that by means of His sacrifice the Son might be glorified (see John 17:1-5; Philippians 2:5-11). Imagine the heart of the Father as He heard the plea of His Son in the Garden of Gethsemene. Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, My God, should die for me?

Contemporary theology, using the term loosely, tries to make the cross of Christ the measure of our worth to God: “We were worth so much to God that He sent His Son to die for us.” This misses the point altogether. It turns the spotlight, the focus, from God to man. The cross of Calvary is not the measure of our worth; it is the measure of God’s love. That is what Paul wants us to see here. The cross imputes worth to sinners who receive the gift of salvation. The cross is not the evidence of our worth but the source of our worth. We are worthy because Christ died for us. Christ did not die for us because we were worthy.

Having gone this far, allow me to question another popular, but erroneous, theme in contemporary Christian thinking. How many times have you heard someone say something like: “If I were the only one in the world to believe in Him, Christ would have died for me.” This is man-centered thinking. This is sentimental foolishness! It is not biblical truth.

We know from Romans 8:28-30 and other biblical texts that it was a sovereign God who purposed to save men. It was this God who chose some for salvation. Those whom He foreknew, these He called, justified, and glorified. Christ did not die to save an unknown group of people. Christ died to save those whom He chose. Thus, Paul writes here in verse 32 that God “delivered Him up for us all.” He died to save “all” those whom He purposed to save. For any Christian to think that God sent His Son to save only one is to give oneself far too much credit. God knew whom He would save, and when He gave up His Son, it was to procure the salvation of “all” those whom He chose. Let us realign our thinking with the Scriptures, and cease to rearrange the Scriptures to suit our self-centered preferences.

If God gave up His beloved Son, His precious Son, then it is not difficult to believe that He will “freely” give us “all things.” The “all things” must, however, be limited to all those things which are essential to bring about the “good” He has purposed for us. And these things are freely given “with Him.”

In a cafeteria, you may take any item of food you like and pay for each one. In a restaurant, various main dishes are listed, usually under a meat dish. Whether you order fish, pork chops, or a T-bone steak certain foods come with it. With your meat order, there is the choice of a salad or soup, some form of potato or rice, a vegetable, rolls or bread. You pay for the meat, as it were, and the rest is given freely.

That is the way it is with the blessings of God. The “meat” is justification by faith, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Along with Christ’s provision, God supplies every other need, “all things.” This He does freely. We dare not ask for the extras if we have not ordered the meat. We dare not expect God to bless us and provide for our needs unless we have received His gift of salvation in Christ. There are some who like their religion “cafeteria style.” They would like to pass up the meat, Jesus Christ, and take those blessings of God which fulfill their desires. It cannot be done. God will not allow it. We must, as our Lord said, seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, in Christ, and then all these things will be added (see Matthew 6:33).

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:33-39).

These verses have a distinctly judicial flavor. We are being taken into a court of law so that we may be shown that there is no condemnation for those who are “in Christ Jesus” (see 8:1). Imagine that we are in the courtroom as we attempt to grasp the message Paul conveys in these verses.

Most of us know what the courtroom is like from watching Perry Mason on television. At the front of the courtroom, the judge is seated. He will be the one who hears the testimony, views the evidence, and pronounces the verdict.219 To the left of the judge, the prosecution is seated. The task of the prosecutor is to make accusations against the accused and to prove that they are legitimate charges. To the right of the judge sits the defendant—the one who is to be accused. And at the side of the accused is seated the counsel for the defense, whose job it is to argue on behalf of the accused in his defense.

Before considering the courtroom scene Paul describes here, we must first be reminded of a fundamental truth without which Paul’s words fail to make their point. Just as God has ordained that there is no other Savior than Jesus Christ, so there is no other Judge than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has two roles. The first is that as Savior. The second is that of Judge. All who receive Him as Savior need never fear facing His sentence of condemnation as the Judge of all the earth. Those who reject Him as Savior most certainly will be condemned by Him as their Judge. These two roles of our Lord—Savior and Judge—are both claimed by our Lord:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

“And He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27).

And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11).

“And if anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:47-48).

At first it seems that our Lord’s words are contradictory. He did not come to judge, and yet He will judge. This difficulty is easily explained in the light of our Lord’s two comings. The purpose of our Lord’s first coming was not to come as the Judge to condemn sinners. The purpose of His first coming was to make an atonement for the sins of men. When He came the first time, He came to save. This is why He would not condemn the sinful woman caught in the act of adultery. But when He comes again, He comes to judge the earth and to condemn all who have rejected God’s salvation through His shed blood. The Lord is either one’s Savior or one’s Judge. If He is your Savior, He will not be your Judge, who will pronounce God’s condemnation upon you. If you reject Him as Savior, He will most certainly be your Judge. In fact, you are already condemned according to our Lord.

It is this truth—that God has made Jesus either one’s Savior or his Judge—that Paul builds upon in verses 33 and 34. Ponder this courtroom scene for a moment. Outside of faith in Jesus Christ, every man is a guilty sinner. When judgment day comes, he must sit in the defendant’s seat, the seat of the accused. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Judge, the One whom the sinner has scorned and rejected. The Lord Jesus is also the prosecutor. The accused sinner has no defense. He is, as Paul has said earlier in Romans, “without excuse” (1:20; 2:1).

But salvation changes all this. The courtroom scene becomes vastly different. The forgiven sinner need not sit in the defendant’s chair. This is because the prosecutor cannot press any charges. The Father, the Judge, has already pronounced us to be righteous, justified by faith. How could the Judge condemn us? Jesus Christ has already been condemned in our place. He was raised from the dead, and He now is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

The picture is something like this. The Father’s beloved Son, who would have been our prosecutor, has taken our place and has paid the penalty for our sin. More than this, having been raised from the dead, the prosecutor has left His seat and has seated Himself beside us, committed to our defense and pleading with the Father on our behalf.

The force of Paul’s argument now begins to emerge. The only One who could have accused us has resigned His post. The only One who could have condemned us as a righteous Judge has brought about our salvation. Our dreaded foe, viewed from the perspective of the unbeliever, has now become our beloved Defender. The only one who can mete out divine punishment has meted it out on His own Son so that we might be saved. Who, then, can accuse us? Who, then, can condemn us? No one can legitimately accuse us. No one can rightfully condemn us. The One who was our Judge has become our Justifier.

  1. K. Barrett, in his commentary on Romans, has caught the force of Paul’s argument. It is reflected in his translation of these verses:

Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? God—who justifies us? Who condemns us? Christ Jesus—who died, or rather was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who actually is interceding on our behalf?220

Paul’s theology and terminology are hardly new and not exclusively New Testament. Note the similarity in thought of these words, found in the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah:

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient, Nor did I turn back. I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. For the Lord God helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I shall not be ashamed. He who vindicates Me is near; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other; Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me. Behold, the Lord God helps Me; Who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them. Who is among you that fears the Lord, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God (Isaiah 50:4-10).

The important thing to notice in this passage is that the One who is the “disciple” is none other than Israel’s Messiah. His confidence in God is the basis for His boldness in enduring the rejection of men. Because God is on His side, he does not fear ill-treatment from men. He is willing to commit His life to the God who is His Defender. With God on His side, the Messiah was both willing and able to face a world that would reject and persecute Him. This confidence, which sustained our Lord, is that same confidence which is also able to sustain every saint.

In Deuteronomy 28, God tells Israel that the very things Paul has named are those which God has promised to bring upon His people, if they do not obey His Word:

“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord shall send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you (Deuteronomy 28:47-48).

Adversity in the life of the believer should stimulate him to some introspection, to give thought as to whether God might be disciplining him for some known sin. This, I believe, is implied in the New Testament as well:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him (James 5:14-15).

Even when God does bring adversity into our lives because of sin, it should not result in doubts concerning the love of God. Discipline is an evidence of God’s love as the writer to the Hebrews makes clear (see Hebrews 12:1-13).

But besides correction for specific sins, God has yet another purpose for affliction and calamity. It is a constructive purpose. It is a purpose designed to produce our good, just as Romans 8:28 says. God has not only purposed adversity for correction but also for the advancement of the gospel. Paul’s quotation from Psalm 44 in verse 36 emphasizes the role of the suffering of the righteous in the accomplishment of God’s purposes. Note the broader context of the verse which Paul has cited:

Psalm 44 (For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah.) O God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us, The work that Thou didst in their days, In the days of old. Thou with Thine own hand didst drive out the nations; Then Thou didst plant them; Thou didst afflict the peoples, Then Thou didst spread them abroad. For by their own sword they did not possess the land; And their own arm did not save them; But Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy presence, For Thou didst favor them. Thou art my King, O God; Command victories for Jacob. Through Thee we will push back our adversaries; Through Thy name we will trample down those who rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me. But Thou hast saved us from our adversaries, And Thou hast put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted all day long, And we will give thanks to Thy name forever. Selah.

Yet Thou hast rejected us and brought us to dishonor, And dost not go out with our armies. Thou dost cause us to turn back from the adversary; And those who hate us have taken spoil for themselves. Thou dost give us as sheep to be eaten, And hast scattered us among the nations. Thou dost sell Thy people cheaply, And hast not profited by their sale. Thou dost make us a reproach to our neighbors, A scoffing and a derision to those around us. Thou dost make us a byword among the nations, A laughingstock among the peoples. All day long my dishonor is before me, And my humiliation has overwhelmed me, Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles, Because of the presence of the enemy and the avenger. All this has come upon us, but we have not forgotten Thee, And we have not dealt falsely with Thy covenant. Our heart has not turned back, And our steps have not deviated from Thy way, Yet Thou hast crushed us in a place of jackals, And covered us with the shadow of death. If we had forgotten the name of our God, Or extended our hands to a strange god; Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart. But for Thy sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. Arouse Thyself, why dost Thou sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever. Why dost Thou hide Thy face, And forget our affliction and our oppression? For our soul has sunk down into the dust; Our body cleaves to the earth. Rise up, be our help, And redeem us for the sake of Thy lovingkindness.

In verses 1-3, the psalmist expresses confidence in God based upon His past deliverances. It was God who brought Israel into the land, drove out their enemies, and planted His people in their place. In verses 4-8, the psalmist expresses confidence in God to do the same in his own time. Verses 9-16 introduce the dilemma. The psalmist’s experience has not been that of his forefathers as described in verses 1-3. God has not delivered His people as expected (verses 4-8). Instead, Israel has been defeated and oppressed. Many of the calamities listed by Paul in Romans 8:35 have come upon Israel.

The psalmist’s great problem is now laid before God in verses 17-22. If Israel had sinned, then these calamities would be understandable. If Israel had rejected God and rebelled against His law, then the defeat of Israel at the hand of her enemies would be understandable. But Israel had not rebelled, for once. Israel was trusting in God and obeying His law. In spite of their trust in God, the psalmist described their condition:

But for Thy sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered (Psalm 44:22).

The solution to the psalmist’s agony is to be found in the words “for Thy sake.” Suffering is not always for sin’s sake (discipline). Suffering is also for God’s sake. Suffering is one of the means through which God achieves His purposes. It must be so if God causes “all things” to work together for good. It was true for the Messiah. He must suffer much at the hands of His people in order to make an atonement for sin. The experience of our Lord was not an exception, but rather a pattern, an example:

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, (1 Peter 2:18-21).

Paul’s words in verse 37 of our text spell out the principle which underlies Psalm 44: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

It is a paradox, but it is true. It is consistent with the way God works. We save our lives by giving them up. We lead by serving others. We conquer by being conquered. Our Lord’s death at Calvary seemed to be a defeat, but in God’s wisdom it was the defeat of Satan, sin, and death.

Christians want to think of victory in terms of winning. We like to think that Christ’s power and purposes are most evident when we win, when we overcome our opponents. Paul simply underscores a principle which has always governed God’s work: God uses apparent defeat to produce ultimate victory. God uses the suffering of His saints to make them conquerors—more than conquerors.

We overwhelmingly conquer “in all these things”; we conquer through these things. We are victorious when we suffer the calamities of life, in faith, trusting in God, knowing that He is accomplishing His purposes through our affliction. If suffering was God’s will for His sinless, beloved Son, is it not also His will for His sons, the sons of God? And the very One who is giving us the victory is the one “who loved us,” who loved us through the suffering and death of His Son. Our confidence must not end when the going gets tough. The testing of our faith really begins here.

The expression “overwhelmingly conquer” needs to be pondered. The Bible does not promise to make “copers” of us, but conquerors. It is not enough to muddle through life merely enduring our adversity. God does not promise to take us out of our afflictions, but He does promise that we will emerge from them victorious. We will be victorious in the sense that we will grow in our faith, hope and love. We will conquer in that we will become more like Christ due to our sufferings. We will conquer in that God’s purposes will be achieved through us and others will see the grace of God at work in our lives.

But we do not just conquer; Paul says that we will “overwhelmingly” conquer. How does one overwhelmingly conquer? I think I have a small grasp of what this means. I believe we overwhelmingly conquer as the sons of God. When God created man, Adam and Eve, and put him on the earth, he was created to reflect God’s image. The fall greatly marred this image of God in man. God has purposed our salvation to restore this image. Paul has written in verse 29 that we are predestined to become conformed to the image of Christ. Man was originally to reflect the image of God by subduing the earth and ruling over it, in God’s name. We, as the sons of God, with Christ, will have a part in the conquest and restoration of the earth. This is that for which all of creation eagerly awaits (8:20-23).

Paul now tells us that no created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ (8:30). Creation will not overcome us, Paul is saying; we shall overcome it. Not only will we safely endure and grow in the midst of any opposition or suffering which part of this fallen creation imposes on us, we will eventually overcome it and have a part in ruling over it, with Christ. That is what I believe Paul means when he says “we overwhelmingly conquer.”

Verses 38 and 39 list some of the dimensions of created things which will not overcome us. The list is intended to be all-inclusive, and so it is. Neither “death” nor “life” shall overcome us.221 For some, death is the dreaded enemy. Christ came to deliver us from the “fear of death” which holds men in bondage (Hebrews 2:15). For others, life is the dreaded enemy, and death seems to be a door of escape. Those who think this way are tempted by suicidal thoughts.

The next category of created things is that of “angels and principalities.” If Paul is following the pattern he established above with death and life, then he is attempting to encompass the entire spectrum of celestial beings. He would especially be referring to those angelic beings which are fallen and which seek to destroy us. Satan would be included in this category.222

The next category of created things is that of events, whether “present” or future (“things to come”).223 It is interesting to think of events as something created, but in a very real sense they are. If God is sovereign, as He surely is, and He has mapped out history from eternity past then we must say that God created history. Prophecy is based upon this fact. Thus, in light of Romans 8:28, we must say that the events we presently face, along with those we shall face in the future, have been created by God for our good. And so it is that these things cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ.

The list of created things ends with “powers, height, depth, nor any other created thing.” There is considerable question as to what Paul meant by the term “powers.” It may refer to mighty works of power, miraculous works, or it may refer to powers. I am presently inclined to understand Paul’s words as Barrett does when he renders Paul’s words here,

For I am confident that neither death nor life, neither angels nor their princes, neither things present nor things to come, nor spiritual powers, whether above or below the level of the earth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.224

God is the Creator. He is also the sovereign ruler over all creation. Nothing happens but that which He has ordained to bring about His purpose. Nothing in all creation falls outside of His control, and thus we can be assured that His purposes will be achieved. We can have absolute confidence that we will be more than conquerors regardless of what may come our way.

This confidence is the possession of every Christian, of every one who is the object of God’s love. And this love of God is manifested only in and through Jesus Christ. We cannot be assured of His love apart from faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the evidence of God’s love. He is the sole expression of God’s love with regard to salvation. To reject Jesus Christ is to spurn the love of God. To receive Jesus Christ as Savior is to be confident that nothing in all the world can separate us from His love in Christ.

Conclusion

Having studied our text of Romans 8:31-39, let me leave you with some avenues for future thought, study, prayer, and application.

First, the sovereignty of God is the basis for our security. We dare not be confident in ourselves. This would be folly. We dare not doubt that we shall be more than conquerors. This would be to deny His Word and to distrust God. We, like Paul, should be absolutely convinced concerning these things, based upon the Word of God. Our security is rooted in God, in His sovereignty, and in His unfailing love.

Today self-confidence is looked upon as a virtue and lack of self-assurance as a vice. Even in Christian circles we are being told how we can raise our children so that they feel good about themselves, are self-assured, and confident. The Bible calls for humility, not pride; for dependence on God, not self-sufficiency. Let us beware of seeking that which God’s Word condemns. Let us look to God, to God alone. He is our refuge and strength. In Him, and Him alone, is our confidence.

Second, our security and confidence in God is the basis for our service. It is not doubt, nor fear, nor guilt which should motivate our service, but a confidence in God mixed with deep and abiding gratitude. Because we are secure in Christ, we may serve. We need not focus on ourselves but on Him. Since He is the “author and finisher of our faith,” we must “fix our eyes on Him” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Third, our security is never an excuse for sloppiness. Some would abuse the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and the believer’s security. They would sinfully suggest that since God is in control, it matters not what we do. This is just the opposite of the truth. God’s sovereignty is the basis for our diligence and obedience. If we trust in ourselves, this would be folly, because we will fail. But when we trust in God, we know that we ultimately cannot fail and that our efforts are not in vain.

Fourth, the Scriptures never raise any doubt that God will finish what He started at salvation (see Philippians 1:6). The question raised in Scripture is not, “Will the saints endure to the end?” The question is rather, “Are we sure that we are in Christ?” The security of the believer is never brought into question in the Scriptures. Whether or not we are a believer is a question which is raised, and rightly so.

Fifth, the basis for our salvation and our security is found in the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. Did you notice that every fear, every dread, in this text is the result of sin? And did you notice as well that every cure goes back to the cross of Calvary? Here is God’s means of redemption. Here is the measure of His love. Here is the assurance and confidence that God’s purposes and promises will never fail. No wonder we must continually go back to the cross. We should never grow weary of going back to the cross. Here is where our salvation began. Here is where it was finished. That God sent Jesus to the cross is the measure of His love for us. That God would raise Jesus from the dead is the measure of His power. When such love and power meet, we, as sons of God, have every reason to be confident.

Finally, the security of the believer requires a response. Paul’s conclusion reminds us that biblical revelation requires a response. The security of the believer in the sovereign love of God should produce humility, gratitude, dependence, confidence, and praise. Let us ponder these closing words of Romans 8, especially in contrast to the agonizing cry at the end of chapter 7. Let us savor our security, and let us stand fast, knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.

(8:31-33) God, Work of—Assurance—Jesus Christ, Death: God has acted for the believer, not against him. This is the fourth assurance of deliverance. This is the greatest truth in all the world. God did not have to act for man, but He did. God loves every man, no matter his condition or sin and shame. Therefore, believers can rest assured that nothing, absolutely nothing shall ever separate them from the plan and purpose of God. God’s love is absolute. It is perfect. And God shall have His perfect love expressed by completing His perfect plan and purpose for each life. The believer can have absolute assurance that God will work all things out for his good, even things that fail and are painful to the heart. God shall deliver the believer from the struggling and suffering of this world. The true believer shall be conformed to the image of Christ and glorified with Him (Romans 8:29-30).

The point is this: God Himself is the believer’s assurance. God Himself has acted for the believer; He has done everything necessary and then more: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

  1. God is our Savior. It was God who “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). The words “spared not” (ouk epheisato) mean that God did not hold back or refrain from giving His Son; He did not refuse or even hesitate to give His Son. The picture is that of God weighing man’s eternal separation from Him against the sacrifice of His Son. He had a choice to make and He made it; He deliberately chose to sacrifice His Son for us. God knew exactly what He was doing. He wanted man delivered from this struggling and suffering world, and there was only one way for man to be saved:

Someone had to bear man’s penalty for transgression and sin, which was the judgment of death.

Therefore, God handed His own Son over to die for us—in our behalf, in our stead, in our place, as our substitute. God spared not His own Son; He delivered Christ Jesus up for us all. What a glorious, marvelous, wonderful love! And just how wonderful His love is can be clearly seen in this: it was while we were sinners, acting and rebelling against God, that He gave His Son to die for us.

  1. God is our Provider. Since God has done such a great and glorious thing, how shall He not also give us all things? Giving His own Son for us was the greatest gift in all the world; therefore, He is bound to give us everything else. Nothing could ever cost God anything close to the price He has paid in giving up His Son; therefore, God shall give us everything else. Note three points.
  2. God’s provision includes spiritual, eternal, and material gifts.

The spiritual provision is the fruit of the Spirit.

The eternal provision is deliverance from the struggling and suffering of this sinful world. It is the gift of eternal life, of living gloriously conformed to the image of His dear Son, Jesus Christ (see note, pt.2— Romans 8:29 for just what this means).

The material gifts are the necessities of life (see outline— Matthew 6:25-34, and notes— Matthew 6:25-34).

  1. The provision is freely given. God’s gift of His Son was freely given; therefore, all that God provides for man is freely given. No man can merit or earn God’s provision. God provides and meets the need of the believer because He loves the believer.
  2. The provision of God comes through Christ and through Him alone. Note the words “with Him.” It is with Christ that God gives us all things. If we are with Christ, then all things are given to us. We shall be delivered from struggling and suffering. Believers can rest assured of this. No matter how much we struggle and suffer through the sin and shame of this world, God will see us through it all. He is is going to conform us to the glorious image of His Son.
  3. God is our Justifier. This is the most glorious truth: God does not charge us with sin. In fact, He does not lay anything to our charge; He justifies us.

Note the question: Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God; only God can charge us with sin and shame. But note: if we have truly trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior, if we are one of God’s elect, he does not charge us with sin. He justifies us. He forgives our sin and counts us righteous in Christ Jesus. If we are God’s child, no one can charge us with anything. We are God’s; we belong to God. No one can charge, count, or doom us to be…

       a failure

a detriment

a shame

a sinner

lost

unusable

       an embarrassment

hopeless

helpless

defeated

unworthy

of no value

Man is not our judge; therefore, man cannot judge these things to be true of us—only God can. God is our Judge, and this is the glorious truth: God does not judge His elect. He does not lay sin and shame against His children; He justifies His children. No matter how much we have struggled and suffered through the sin and shame of this world, God delivers us. No matter how far we have fallen, no matter how discouraged we have become, if we are truly God’s child, He picks us up and justifies us in Christ Jesus and continues to conform us to the image of His dear Son. God does not leave us down and defeated, nor does He go around charging us with sin and shame. God justifies us and continues His work of forgiveness and grace in our lives.

 

(8:34) Jesus Christ, Work of—Salvation: Christ does not condemn the believer. This is the fifth assurance of deliverance. Note how direct and forceful the question is: “Who is he that condemneth?” It is Christ; only Christ can condemn us for our sin and shame. But the glorious news is that Christ does not condemn us. On the contrary, the very opposite is true. Christ does four wonderful things for us.

  1. Christ has died for us. Christ is our glorious Savior. When we honestly come to Him, He does not condemn us for our sin and shame; He forgives us. He is able to forgive us because He died for us.

Our sins are a shame, for sin is rebellion against God. Sin acts against God, fights and struggles against God. Sin goes against all that God stands for. Sin is insurrection against God; it is the crime of high treason against God. Sin is the most terrible act that can be done against God.

Therefore, we deserve to be condemned by God and put to death for sin. But we do not have to face condemnation. Christ has already paid the penalty for sin. Christ has already been condemned and executed for our transgression against God. This is the glorious love of Christ. He has already died for us: in our place, in our stead, as our substitute. Therefore when we sincerely come to Christ, He does not condemn us; He loves us and forgives our sin and shame. This is the very purpose of His death—to free us from sin, from its penalty and condemnation.

  1. Christ has risen from the dead for us. Christ is our risen Lord. His resurrection does two marvelous things for the believer.
  2. The resurrection of the Lord proves that God was perfectly satisfied with the death of Jesus Christ. What Christ did—His dying for our sins—was acceptable to God; therefore, God has accepted Jesus’ death for us. God has approved His dying for us. God’s divine justice was perfectly satisfied with Christ dying for us. This is clearly seen in the resurrection of Jesus Christ: if God had not been satisfied, He would have left Jesus in the grave. But thank God, God was satisfied, so He raised up Jesus to live forever as the Sovereign Savior of the world.
  3. The resurrection of the Lord gives the believer a new life, making the believer a new creature and a new man.
  4. Christ has been exalted for us. He is our exalted Lord. He sits face to face with God at His right hand. This gives two assurances to the believer.
  5. The believer shall also be exalted into the presence of God. Just as Christ lives face to face with God, the believer shall also live face to face with God throughout all eternity.
  6. The Lord Jesus Christ is exalted as the Sovereign and majestic Lord of the universe. He is the Ruler who reigns and rules over all, who possesses all might and power and is full of all wisdom and truth. He is the One who is going to destroy and utterly eliminate sin and evil in the world. He is the One who is going to establish a kingdom of righteousness and justice, love and truth in the new heavens and earth.

Note: it is Jesus Christ (and not another) who rules and reigns over the universe. This stirs enormous assurance in the hearts of genuine believers. Why? Because Jesus Christ has demonstrated His glorious love and care for the world. He not only can, but He will look after us and work all things out for good until He returns (Romans 8:28). The control of evil in the world and our lives are under His care. He is working all things out for good to those of us who truly love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

  1. Christ makes intercession for us before the throne of God. He is our great Intercessor, our Mediator and Advocate who stands between God and man. It is Christ Jesus who brings us to God and who makes redemption, even the forgiveness of our sins, possible (Ephes. 1:7).

It is His advocacy, the advocacy of His death and resurrection for us, that forgives our sins.

It is His intercession, the intercession of His death and resurrection for us, that saves us.

It is His presence in heaven and His plea, the plea of His death and resurrection for us, that opens the door of heaven to us.

The point is this. The believer has the greatest assurance imaginable: he shall be delivered from the struggling and suffering of this world. No matter the sin and shame of his life, if he truly comes to Christ, he is not condemned. He is not judged for sin, no matter how terrible or how far he has fallen. If he will only come to Christ, Christ will deliver him. Christ will not leave him down and discouraged and defeated. Christ will not even scold or reproach him. Christ will receive His dear child with open arms.

(8:35-37) Trials, Deliverance from—Salvation—God, Love of: Christ protects the believer from the severest circum-stances. This is the sixth assurance of deliverance, and it is the most wonderful assurance imaginable. “Who [or what] can separate us from the love of God?” Too many people, even believers, feel that God does not love them, that He just could not love them. They feel unworthy of His love, for they come too short, are too disobedient, and fail too often. How could God possibly love them when they go against His will so much? The results of such feelings are…

a sense of unworthiness

a downing of oneself

a sense of discouragement

An accusing of oneself

a low self-esteem

a defeated life

Note a crucial point: such feelings totally contradict Scripture. Look at the verse: “Who [or what] can separate us from the love of Christ?” There is no circumstance, no situation, no event that can cause Christ to turn away from us. No matter how terrible or severe the situation, it cannot separate the true believer from the love of Christ. Christ loves the believer regardless of the circumstance, and He longs to be reconciled to the believer. No more severe circumstance can be imagined than the ones given:

Tribulation: to undergo struggle, trials, temptation, suffering, or affliction.

Distress: to suffer anguish, trouble, strain, agony; not knowing which way to turn or what to do.

Persecution: to be abused, mocked, ridiculed, shamed, mistreated, ignored, neglected, harrassed, attacked, or injured.

Famine: to have no food, to be starving and have no way to secure food.

Nakedness: to be stripped of all clothes and earthly comforts; to be bare, having all earthly possessions taken away.

Peril: to be exposed to the most severe risks; to be confronted with the most terrible dangers to one’s body, mind, soul, property, family, and loved ones.

Sword: to be killed; to suffer martyrdom.

Just imagine a person experiencing all this. What would his thoughts be? Would he feel that he had been forsaken by God? In the midst of so much dark trouble, would he believe that God loved him?

Scripture declares loudly and clearly that God does love him. There is absolutely nothing—no matter how dark and depressing, no matter how severe—that can separate the believer from the love of Christ. Circumstances are not evidence that God does not love us. God loves us no matter what the circumstances may be.

But believers must always remember: they are going to suffer while they are in this world. In fact, the world is going to count them as sheep for the slaughter, rejecting and persecuting them (Psalm 44:22). The world is going to persecute believers as long as believers continue to live for Christ. Their lives of godliness convict the world, and the world rejects godliness. (See note, Persecution Matthew 5:10-12 for why believers are persecuted.)

However, note what is said. No matter the circumstances, we are more than conquerors through Christ who has loved us (Romans 8:37). No matter the circumstances and their severity, Christ will carry us through all, strengthening and encouraging us. We cannot lose, no matter the severity of the situation. Christ loves us and is going to look after and take care of us. The believer can rest assured, Christ protects him from the severest circumstances:

  • Christ meets all the material necessities of life.
  • Christ gives us rest.
  • Christ gives us peace.
  • Christ provides an escape from temptation.
  • Christ comforts us through all trials.
  • Christ supplies all our needs.
  • Christ delivers us through persecution.
  • Christ delivers us into His very presence, giving us eternal life if we are martyred.
  • Christ cares for us no matter the situation.
  • Christ enables us to overcome the world.
  • Christ shows Himself strong in our behalf.
  • Christ delivers us from fear.
  • Christ sustains and supports the aged believer.

(8:38-39) Trials, Deliverance from—Salvation—God, Love of: Christ protects believers from the most extreme experiences and forces. This is the seventh assurance of deliverance. There is nothing in the universe that can separate the believer from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The believer can be fully persuaded of this glorious fact. Just consider the experiences and forces mentioned by Scripture:

  • Not death: confronting death and leaving this world cannot separate us from Christ and His love (John 5:24).
  • Not life: no trial or pleasure or comfort of life, not any person nor any thing in this life can separate us from Christ and His love.
  • Not angels, principalities, or powers: no heavenly or spiritual creature, no being from any other dimension can separate us from Christ and His love.
  • Not any thing present or any thing to come: neither present events, beings or things, nor future events, beings, or things—absolutely nothing in existence or any thing in future existence—can cut us off from Christ and His love.
  • Not height or depth: nothing from outer space or from the depths of the earth can separate us from Christ and His love.

Note the grand finale: if there be any other creature than the ones named, that creature cannot separate us from “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

217 This is the basis for the title of this lesson, “Comforting Questions.” Usually we think of questions for which there are no answers as disturbing questions. That is not so here. The very lack of any answer is the basis for great comfort and confidence for every Christian.

218 The Greek language quite precisely indicates the degree of certainty or the “iffiness” of some occurrence by the uses of three different grammatical constructions. The “if” here is a first class condition indicating certainty.

219 I am assuming that this is not a trial by jury, since God’s judgment will not be such.

220 C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), p. 171.

Stifler expresses the more common view: “It is God that justifieth His own elect; can wicked men or lost spirits or Satan himself call again to account those whose case has been favorably decided in the highest place of judicature? Even to speak against God’s people impeaches the Judge and is contempt of court—Heaven’s court.” James M. Stifler, The Epistle to the Romans (Chicago: Moody Press, 1960), p. 150.

221 It is interesting, is it not, to think of life and death as created things? But they are. God created life as we see in the Book of Genesis. God also created death as the consequence of sin.

222 It is noteworthy that Satan is not mentioned by name. Satan, I believe, is a publicity-seeker. Paul is not willing to give him any press here. In the final analysis, this angel who wanted to take God’s place is left unnamed, lumped in with all other created beings. Satan, the glory-seeker, must not like this at all.

223 Paul does not mention events of the past. This is especially noteworthy in the light of the present psychological emphasis on past events as the source of our present problems. I believe Paul does not mention the past because the cross of Christ has dealt with our past. Old things have passed away, and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

224 Barrett, p. 174.

 

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2021 in Romans

 

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