Grace For The Journey
This morning we come to one of the most encouraging texts in the Bible. It is a revelation of God’s sovereignty and character with direct application to His loving relationship and promises to the Christian. Will look at Romans 8:31-36 today, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against 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? 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.”
Paul begins this section with the question, “What then shall we say to these things?” What are the “these things” Paul is referring to? This brings us back to the context of this passage, for the “these things” are the sufferings that we have in this life that he has been speaking about. We suffer in this life because of sin. There are the consequences of our own stumbling. There are the accusations and persecutions made against us by sinful people, and there are the general common hardships of living in a fallen world. Paul addresses our security in Christ as we face each of these situations, but he begins with a general statement of God’s loving actions toward us that provide the foundation of our security in Christ.
GOD IS FOR US.
Paul’s first sentence is not really a question, but an affirmation. The Greek grammar here is not questioning God being for us. It is a clause of simple condition in which the premise is presented as true and therefore the conclusion is also true. In English, we can get a better sense of the meaning by translating this as a statement using “since” or “because.” Thus, it would be correct for it to say, “Since God is for us, no one can be against us.” This same thought is expressed in Psalm 118. This is a Psalm of thanksgiving for the Lord’s goodness in saving the Psalmist. After an opening of giving
thanks to the Lord, the Psalmist speaks of the distress that he was in and how the Lord answered. In verse 6 he says, “The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; Therefore I shall look with satisfaction on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord Than to trust in princes.”
Paul gives the reason we know that the Lord is for us in verse 32.
GOD FREELY GIVES TO US.
Verse 32 says, “He who did not spare His on Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
The Major Gift
God’s love for us is so great that He sent His only begotten Son to die as the payment for the penalty of our sins. This is His great gift. Paul has made it clear throughout Romans that this was not due to something attractive in us, but out of His own love, mercy and grace.
Why did Jesus have to die?
Because it was the only way
For God to remain holy and just
And still have loving compassion
On us to save us from our sins.
God could not overlook our sins, for to do so would make him unjust and unholy. He has set the law and the requirements of the law must be met. For example, what if God decided to just overlook Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden? God would then be a liar for not carrying out His word to them about the consequences of eating the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God could not retroactively change the law, because that would destroy His immutability – i.e. that He is unchanging – and make Him untrustworthy. His judgements would then become arbitrary and therefore unjust.
It is popular in our culture to rename sin to be something else in an effort to either remove the responsibility and therefore also the guilt, or reclassify it as something that is not sinful. Drunkenness is renamed the disease of alcoholism. Homosexuality and other perversions are called “alternative lifestyles.” Teen rebellion is considered normal. Sinful man can call things whatever he wants, but it will not change God from considering them to be abominations and rebellion against Him. God is holy and just and will carry out His condemnation in His wrath against all who violate His laws.
God could not be holy and just if He were to either ignore or rename our sins.
God’s love satisfied
His holiness and justness
By paying the penalty of the sin
Himself through Jesus Christ.
This is His great gift and
There could be no gift greater
For there is nothing more
Valuable than God Himself.
The greatness of the gift
Speaks of the greatness of the love
He has extended in redeeming us from our sins.
I must remind you at this point that the context here limits the “us” to referring only to those who have been justified by God’s grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul makes this even more clear by referencing the “elect” in verse 33. While God makes a genuine universal offer of salvation to all sinners, for He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), it cannot be said that God is “for” everyone. God is against the proud (1 Peter 5:5) and His wrath is against “all ungodliness and unrighteous of men who suppress the truth in
unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
Paul then argues from the greater to the lesser. Since God has given such a great gift, then He will also freely give the lesser gifts needed to live the Christian life. The specific application in the context here would be related to forgiveness of our sin. The Greek word here for “freely give” also implies this.
God gave Jesus Christ as the
Propitiation for our sin so that
We could be restored to
A proper relationship with Him.
Jesus brought about
Our justification through faith
In Him which then granted us
God’s forgiveness and imputes
Jesus’ righteousness to us.
1 John 1:9 tells us that after salvation as we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But the principle in this verse goes beyond just the forgiveness of sins, for in Christ we also receive a new nature, adoption into God’s family, and an inheritance. We have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3) and “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). This encompasses our practical needs for daily life too. In thanking the Philippians for their gift in suppling his needs, Paul not only told them how he had learned to be content in all circumstances, but also that “my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:19).
Even in the midst of suffering, we can trust God to supply our needs, both spiritual and physical, because He has proven His love for us in His gift of Christ Jesus.
GOD JUSTIFIES US.
In verse 33 Paul deals with another aspect of our suffering in this life on this sin filled world.
Paul’s question is not rhetorical, for there are many sources of charges made against God’s elect. Here are some of them. The ungodly will deliberately accuse God’s people. Jesus warned us in Matthew 5:10-11 that we would be insulted, persecuted and have all manner of evil said against us falsely because of our relationship with Him. The godly are concerned about truth and avoiding lies, but the ungodly do not share such a concern. If they can get what they want by telling lies, then that is just another tool to get ahead. If someone stands in their way, then assassinating their character is just a way of clearing the path. If someone’s righteousness exposes their own sinfulness by the contrast, then trashing their character is a way to make themselves feel better, and for the ungodly, it is all about themselves. How much hurt and damage they cause other people is of little concern as long as they are getting what they want.
There are also times when even godly people might charge us with sin. Often this is due to misunderstandings, but sometimes it is due to sinfulness that they have let themselves stumble into. Sometimes is it because we have fallen into sin. Those accusations, especially if false or made without compassion, can hurt a lot because they are coming from people you thought would be more careful, and be more kind.
Then there is Satan, who is also known as “the devil” which means “slanderer” or “accuser.” He is the father of lies and his accusations against the Christian will be numerous. However, the greatest suffering we receive from the devil’s accusations, are when the charges are true. There are times we sin and Satan is quick to capitalize on them and seek to discourage us with his accusations – “You can’t serve God when you have done that” or “You can’t claim to be a Christian when you have done that sin.”
That brings us to the accusations we make against ourselves. We do stumble into sin as Christians. Any claim that a Christian can be sinless in this life is false. 1John 18, 10 tells us that Christians will sin, as does Romans 7. When the Christian does sin, sometimes there also results a discouragement because of the lack of perceived growth in holiness and victory over sin. We then question whether we really can serve God, or at times even if we are a Christian.
How can the Christian deal with such discouragement whether it comes from accusations by others or the feelings of defeat from personal failures? The answer is that regardless of the source or validity of the accusations, God is the one who justifies (verse 33).
Recall again that justification means that God has declared us “not guilty” in His court and has given to us the standing of the righteousness of Christ before Him because we have placed our faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have not justified ourselves. He has justified us through Christ.
The picture here in verse 34 is that of God’s court room. The devil is seeking to condemn us for our sin. The penalty is death and the picture is bleak because the accuser presents his case and it clear that we are guilty. Then our advocate stands up from His seat at the right hand of God the Father who is judging us. Jesus points out that He has already died as the payment for the penalty of the sins we are being charged with. Jesus also points out that He has gained the victory over sin by being raised from the dead. Because of that, He asks for a verdict of “not guilty” on the basis of the law’s demands having already been satisfied by Himself. Jesus intercedes on our behalf with God the Father. No charge can stand against us because Jesus Christ has already satisfied the law and justified us before God.
But let me quickly add here another point . . .
In an earlier study we saw that
We could be comforted in the
Midst of our sorrows because of
The Holy Spirit’s intercession for us.
Now we find that Jesus Christ
Also intercedes for us.
What a blessing! Jesus, having made “one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus is therefore the prefect High priest who “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). We can take comfort that God will not forsake us regardless of what accusations are made against us.
NO CIRCUMSTANCE CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
In verses 35-37, Paul shows that we can be confident in God in the midst of any circumstance, because . . .
There is no circumstance that can
Separate us from the love of Christ.
Hard Circumstances We Face.
Verse 35 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” The answer to the rhetorical question is of course, no! Each of the items in the list is an impersonal circumstance that we could possibly face, yet none of them can separate us from Christ’s love for us. The word for “separation” here means to “leave, separate, divide” or “put asunder.” No circumstance can put a division between the true Christian and the love of Christ. Nothing we may ever face can cause Christ to abandon His love for us and leave us.
The word tribulation” is a general term usually referring to the common troubles and trials of life, though those trials can be severe, such as a woman in labor (John 16:2). It can also refer to specific tribulations of Christians such as in Acts 11:19 where it describes the persecution that caused the church in Jerusalem to scatter. Paul has already said in Romans 5 that the believer should “exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Tribulation does not separate us from the love of Christ because He matures us through it and, as 1 Corinthians 1:4 says, He also comforts us in the midst of it so that we might comfort others. Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation, but we can take courage, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
“Distress” has a root meaning of to “be in a narrow space” or “compressed” and it carries the idea of “affliction, calamity. extreme difficulty.” This takes in more of the emotional element. Paul uses it to describe the distress he had when suffering severe persecution as an apostle of Christ. Distress which came from the beatings, imprisonments, riots, labor, and sleeplessness (2 Corinthians 6:4-5). Yet, Paul was content in this because for Christ’s sake, in his weakness, Christ was made strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
“Persecution” specifically describes the sufferings, (physical, mental, and emotional), the believer receives because he is mistreated by others for his faith in Jesus Christ. Again, Jesus told this would happen in Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But even in the midst of this, we can “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (verse 12).
“Famine” is also translated as “hunger.” Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread,” but this does not mean that at times the Christian will not be hungry as a result of the tribulations and persecutions they face. There were times Paul was hungry and often without food (2 Corinthians 11:27), yet he learned to be content and trust the Lord whether he had a lot or was in need (Philippians 4:12). He understood God’s love for him even in that situation.
“Nakedness” does not necessarily mean without any clothes, but rather to be without adequate clothes. In 2 Corinthians 11:27 this word is translated as “exposure” and is joined with being cold. Paul did not have adequate clothing for the circumstances he would find himself in. Yet again, Paul had learned to be content.
“Peril” or “danger” was also something Paul often faced because of his relationship with Christ and ministry for Him. In 2 Corinthians 11:26 he lists out some of the dangers he faced on his journeys – dangers from rivers, robbers, his countrymen, Gentiles, dangers in the city, in the wilderness, on the sea, and among false brethren. We can face the same dangers ourselves, but like Paul, they are never a sign of any deficiency in Christ’s love for us.
The last circumstance Paul mentions is that of the “sword.” Certainly Christians have faced the dangers that come with war, but the particular word here refers to the short sword or dagger, and so could also be referring to the danger of being murdered. Many Christians have been martyred in such a manner. But even this extreme, does not in any way infer a diminished love of Christ for us. Though we may not understand the circumstances God is allowing us to go through, His love for us is still as sure as ever and it is proven in Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
We do not always understand God’s plan, for sometimes it includes things we consider only as a negative from our own perspective. Paul does not shy away from this, but points it out directly in verse 36 with a quote from Psalm 44:22, “Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” We Christians should not be surprised when we have to endure even severe suffering for the sake of Christ. The Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 includes those
who “experienced mockings and scourgings,” and, also “chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated ([men] of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.”
Paul told Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The cost of following Jesus has always been high. Jesus even said this cost should be considered before being His disciple for it will require carrying a cross (Luke 14:27). Jesus said in Mathew 10:37-39, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” It is that last phrase that causes Christians’ to follow Jesus. In Him, and only in Him, we find true life.
Conquering Through Christ.
It is in the life that we have in Christ that we find we can overwhelmingly conquer the circumstances that come upon us. Our life is no longer tied with strong cords to this world, for our citizenship is in heaven, and we long for our Savior’s return from there to take us to be with Him forever. His love for us has been proven for all time and eternity on the cross in which He bore the penalty of our sins. The true Christian can face even the most difficult circumstance of life with a confidence that they do not in any way reflect a lack of love on Christ’s part for us.
This does not mean that we look forward to such hardships or that we will not struggle in the midst of them. It does mean that we can and will work through them to learn the contentment Paul learned (Philippians 4), and we can even come to the place of the Apostles who rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name (Acts 5:40). We can see God being glorified in our weakness through His strength working through us (2 Corinthians 12:10). We learn to rejoice and exult in our tribulations knowing that God is maturing us and conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ in the process (Romans 5; James 1). Our foundation in the love of Christ remains unshaken.
NO ENTITY CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD.
We can be secure in Christ because there is no circumstance that can separate us from the love of Christ. Neither is there any entity than can separate us from the love of God. Paul states in verse 38,39, “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.”
Paul is convinced because he believes what he has just written to the Christians in Rome is founded in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and in God’s promises to those who have faith in Him. Salvation from sin is a work of God. Therefore, it cannot be lost by man. No circumstance and no entity can disrupt it. It is as secure as God’s promises, and since there is nothing greater than God and because does not lie, there can be no doubt about the final outcome no matter what may occur in this life.
As Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12 as he encouraged Timothy with his own reflections on what he had endured in serving Christ, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
Not Death Or Life.
Death is included as an entity instead of a circumstance because it is so often spoken of in a personified way. It is an entity that each of us will meet as the Lord tarries His return. Death is listed first because it is still our enemy, and one that can cause great fear if we are not solid in our understanding of and belief in Jesus Christ. The godly throughout the ages have always found comfort in God’s promises as they faced this enemy. This was true of David in Psalm 23 as he considered the valley of the shadow of death and found comfort in God’s rod and staff. It was true for Paul as he even considered it a preference to be “absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” We Christians comfort one another with the promise that the “dead in Christ shall rise first, then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Death cannot separate us from the love of God because Christ’s victory over it has made it just a door for the Christian to go through into God’s very presence.
Some wonder why Paul includes life as a threat, but consider how many religions view death as the final conclusion that seals the person in their eternal destiny, but until then, where they are headed is open to question. Paul’s statement is a reflection of the security that believers have in their salvation through faith in Jesus Christ that He will lose none of those given to Him (John 6:39). True Christians will persevere until whichever is first, either their death or the Lord’s coming (Romans 15:4-5).
Not Angelic Beings
No angelic beings can separate us from God. “Angels” here is a reference to the holy angels, and “principalities” are a reference to the evil fallen angels, often referred to as demons (cf. Ephesians 6:12). 1 John 4:4 says, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” James 4:7 says, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Nothing from Any Time Period.
The phrase, “Nor things present, nor things to come” refers to anything that currently exists or that may exist in the future. Obviously things that existed in the past but do not exist now nor will exist in the future could be a threat. Paul adds “nor powers” which includes the thought that regardless of what miracles those things of the present or the things of the future might be able to do.
No Creature of Any Size.
The phrases, “Nor height, nor depth” were common astrological terms of Paul’s day referring to the zenith, or highest point of a star’s path, and to the nadir, or lowest point of a star’s path. In the context of this list referring to various creatures, it could be a reference to any creature that lived up the highest point of the heavens or to any creature that might live to the lowest points of hell. It could also refer to any person that lives with the greatest amount of wealth and power and to any person that lives in the greatest amount of misery.
No Created Thing.
The final all-encompassing phrase, “nor any other created thing,” references anything that could possibly be left out from the previous list.
There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Why?
The Guarantee of God’s Love.
The love of God is guaranteed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus put it this way in John 10:27-30. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
There are difficult things that Christians will face in this life. There is real suffering we will endure because of our own sin, the sin of others and living in a sin filled world. Yet, we have a hope for the future that is a confident assurance of what will take place. God has given us His precious promise of being justified through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
We are forgiven our sins . . .
- His love was demonstrated for all time and eternity in Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself for our sin.
- His victory over sin was demonstrated in His resurrection, which is also the guarantee of His promises to us of a future resurrection.
What God began in the believer in His foreknowledge, predestination and election which stretches back into eternity past, will be accomplished in the present in our justification and finalized in our glorification. Our security of all this is God’s sovereignty. There is nothing greater, nothing more powerful, nothing wiser. No one, no thing, no circumstance can take us out of the Father’s hand and separate us from His love.
Are you secure in Christ Jesus our Lord? If you are, then step forward in faith and live accordingly with His assurance and confidence to face whatever may come in this life. Your future with Him is guaranteed.
If you are not secure in Jesus Christ, you can be today. 1 John 5:12 says that, “He who has the Son has the life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” You can receive Jesus Christ, the Son of God today through simple faith in believing and trusting what He has said about Himself and His promises to those that will seek Him. Will you seek Him? Send me a post, I would love to introduce to you Jesus Christ that you too may know the forgiveness of your sins and have security for the future in Him.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”