As a church, what we believe about the Bible is in accord with what Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:21, namely, that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” That is, when the biblical authors penned the words of Scripture, it was the Spirit moving them, “carrying them along,” working through their personalities, and ensuring that what they wrote were the very words God wanted us to have. For that reason, we have testified many times to the truth that to say “the Bible says” is the exact same thing as saying, “God says.”
The reason I bring that up today is not just to give us a refresher on our doctrine of Scripture but to remind you that the love and affection you see reflected in Paul’s writing that we’ll look at this morning is nothing less than a picture of God’s love and affection. In other words, Paul doesn’t simply write Romans 8:31-39 because he wants us to feel and know and delight in how secure we are in our relationship with our Lord, but he writes these words because God wants us to feel and know and delight in how secure we are in our relationship with him. And that is what I want us to know as well.
And there are three reasons, pastorally, why I want you to know and feel how loved and secure you are in your relationship with the Lord this morning. First, this is the teaching of this text, and my commitment is to teach and preach in line with the teaching of Scripture itself. Second, I simply want us to walk and live with the joy of knowing that we belong to and are loved by the Lord. The second thing Paul mentions when naming the fruit of the Spirit that flows from the life of a believer is joy. And I think that the foundation for joy in the life of a believer is found in recognizing and walking in the secure and loving relationship we have with our God. And, finally, I want this church to be made up of people who feel secure and loved in their relationship with our God this morning because I’m convinced that is the greatest motivation to radical Christian obedience. In other words, I’m convinced that the person who feels insecure in his relationship with the Lord and is always trying to measure up will ultimately pray less, give less, sacrifice less, and commit himself less to the causes of Christ and that the person who knows he is loved and treasured by God, secure in his relationship with God, will pray more, give more, sacrifice more, and commit himself more to the causes of Christ—with joy! And that’s want I want for us as a church. And in light of the truth of God’s love for us and our security in him being emphasized so strongly in Romans 8, I believe it’s clear that this is what our Father wants for us as a church as well.
So, let’s set the stage, then, for diving into this glorious text. Last week our text ended with Paul arguing that the Lord will take every detail of our lives and work them for our good, using everything to conform us to the image of Christ. And then Paul grounds God’s commitment to work all for our good in the fact that he foreknew us, which I argued means much more than the fact that before the foundation of the world God had cognitive awareness that we would exist. Rather, it meant that before the foundation of the world he set his affection on us, directed his love toward us, and committed himself to us (all before we even existed!). Consequently, he set in motion his good plan for us, predestining us to be conformed to Christ, calling us to himself so that we repented and believed, justifying us as we repented and believed, and then making sure that nothing keeps us from being glorified and with him on the last day. And, once more, all of that is rooted in the fact that God set his love and affection on us and committed himself to us before we even existed. He purposed to be for us in love before you and I were ever born or the world was ever created.
But Paul does not want to stop there. He wants us to mine every glorious implication out of this amazing truth of God’s commitment to us and love for us. He wants us to reason together about what this means, and he does it by asking a series of questions for which the answers are obvious (and obviously good). So, in order to follow the teaching of the text, I’m just going to state the truths Paul’s questions are driving at. The first of which is:
No one can successfully oppose us
Paul opens this section by asking, “What shall we say to these things?” meaning the glorious things we’ve been reading about from the beginning of this letter (especially in chapters 5-8). But then he asks this: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31).
Now, when Paul asks this, he doesn’t mean that the believer shouldn’t expect anyone to oppose them. Paul, after all, faced much opposition, and as history tells us, likely died at the command of the evil Roman emperor, Nero, by being beheaded. Obviously Paul did not mean that no one can oppose us as believers, bringing us great harm and even death. But his question aims at a deeper reality than that. Paul is suggesting that if God is committed to our good, then no one can ultimately and successfully be against us.
Paul could write to the Philippians about his potentially being executed and say, “To die is gain” and “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1:21-23). And the early church father, Tertullian, famously said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, meaning that Christians dying for the faith will only lead to more and more people becoming believers.
God is for us. If we are mocked and belittled, he will vindicate us on the final day, revealing that we’re his treasured sons and daughters. If we are condemned and imprisoned before men, he who already justified us will make our righteousness shine before men on that day of judgment. If we are killed, he will raise us up to life. No one can successfully oppose us. A second glorious implications of the truths we’ve seen in these early chapters of Romans is that,
God will give us everything we need
Paul makes this point simply through reasonable deduction based on what God has already done for us. He writes, “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?” (v. 32).
In other words, Paul wants us to consider for a second our life and salvation from the perspective of God. In order for us to be saved and persevere in that salvation, God has to do a number of things. Let me list some of them in no particular order. He had to have us hear the gospel, give us a new heart, put his Spirit in us, keep us believing, turn us from our sins, and on and on. Oh, and I’m forgetting one crucial element. God had to send his divine Son so that he would take on a fully human nature, be conceived in the womb of a virgin, live a perfect life, and die on the cross, bearing the divine penalty for our sins, before being raised from the dead. Now which of those is the most difficult, most miraculous of works? Obviously it’s the Son taking on flesh so that he might be given over as a sin offering for us on the cross. And this is Paul’s point.
If God did that—not sparing his own Son but giving him up for us—how would he withhold anything else we need? How would he not graciously give us all things we need? He’s already done the most miraculous, amazing, and difficult thing in all of history by giving up his Son for us. Can you imagine your Father now, wringing his hands, saying, “I’m just not sure I can give you comfort and contentment during this difficult time; that’s a lot to ask” or saying, “I’m not sure I can provide for you food, clothing, and shelter because that’s a lot to ask.” Of course not. He’s already done the greatest work for us, so rest in the certainty that he’ll give us every lesser thing we need until that glorious coming day.
But Paul wants to explore more glorious implications as well, so he also notes that,
No one will ever be able to charge us with sin or condemn us at the last judgment
Again, Paul makes this point by first asking a question. He asks, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (v. 33). Now, again, we could note that many charge us with wrong. Satan, our great enemy, throws accusations against us often. Also, even among men, in our day when we say that homosexual activity, for example, is sinful, we’re charged with being bigoted or unloving. Needless to say, we’re charged with wrong all the time at every side.
But, again, Paul’s question is, “Who can bring a charge against us successfully?” That is, who can bring a charge that will stick? But instead of merely saying, “No one,” he writes, “It is God who justifies” (v. 33). What a powerful reality to ponder!
Consider who God is. The triune God alone existed when nothing else did. And everything, visible or invisible, that exists was created by that glorious God. Nothing is above him, for everything else is created while he is uncreated. Everything else only has any power or any authority at all because he allows that person or thing to possess that ounce of power or authority. And it is that God who makes our end times judgment known when we repent and believe by declaring us righteous. He has justified us. He has declared us not guilty. That glorious judge has already pounded on the bench and declared us his righteous children through the imputed righteousness of his Son.
Now, if that’s the case, whose charge against us matters? It’s hard to illustrate how glorious of a truth this is because everything falls so far short, but imagine that all the best writers throughout the centuries were able to gather together, read something you’ve written, and their consensus declaration was that you were the best writer the world has ever known. And then imagine that some scoundrel, who only loved evil and hated all good, read it and said, “I’m not that impressed.” Do you think you’d lie awake at night wondering why that one didn’t like your writing? Of course not. His judgment is nothing compared to the collective judgment of all the best writers throughout the history of the world.
Well, that illustration is only hinting in the direction of this glorious truth Paul is holding out, for the one who has declared us righteous is infinitely more glorious than anyone or anything that might bring a charge against us. He has justified us. Who could possibly charge us in his presence?
And Paul’s next question really just makes the same point. To bring a charge that sticks is to condemn, right? Well, Paul wants to show even more how secure we are so he simply begins repeating doubts and questions we might have so that he can remove them. He asks in verse 34, “Who is to condemn?” And, though we’ve already answered by noting that no one can condemn us because the infinitely glorious God has justified us, Paul adds, “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” (v. 34).
In other words, Paul wants us to press our thinking even deeper. Sure, God justifies us, and there is none greater than him. But that’s not our only weapon against our doubts and questions. We can also look to the work of Christ. Imagine Jesus, God the Son incarnate, standing at your side every time Satan, or an enemy, or your heart condemns you. The condemning voice says, “Do you really think that you can be forgiven for what you’ve done? You deserve death and hell,” and Jesus speaks up, “Well, I’ve already died for him, paying the penalty for sin so that there’s no condemnation.” The condemning voice answers, “Well, do you really think that you’re good enough for God to accept you?” and Jesus jumps in, “Well, actually he’s united with me so that what is true of me is true of him, and when I was raised from the dead, it was my Father showing that I’m his righteous Son, which means my Father has already declared him righteous as well.”
Then, the condemning voice says, “Sure, but do you think God wants anything to do with you? He surely wants to keep you at a distance from him,” and once again, “Jesus answers, “I don’t know if you get this reality of union with me. By faith, he’s united with me, and I’m exalted to the place of greatest honor, at the Father’s right hand, so that’s true of him as well. He’s honored and loved and exalted by my Father.” And then finally, the condemning voice says, “But still, you know you’re not good enough,” and Jesus answers, “You may not realize that I was raised from the dead to live forever, and one thing I do, living forever, is serve as his representative (his high priest) before the Father, and I intercede for him forever. So, unless you think I’m not a good enough representative or that somehow the Father doesn’t answer the perfect prayers of his beloved Son, then this one really is beloved, forgiven, treasured, and cherished by my Father as his own Son.”
That’s what Paul is saying in verse 34. It’s as if Paul is saying to us, “Stop feeling condemned and insecure in your relationship with the Lord. Stop and think about the implications of every glorious truth I’ve noted. You’re loved. You’re secure in your relationship with God. And nothing and no one can alter that. Think about it, and then rest in the obvious truth that sounds too good to be true and yet is indeed true!”
And then Paul sums up all of these glorious truths by nothing that,
No one and nothing can separate us from God’s love for us
That’s where this all started. God set his love on us before we even existed. That’s why we will be conformed to Christ’s image. That’s why he called us to salvation. That’s why he justified us. That’s why he will absolutely glorify us. That’s why he works every detail in the universe for our ultimate good. It’s all rooted in God’s love for us. And Paul wants us to know that nothing can separate us from that love that God has for us.
He asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Then, he asks about specific things that you would think could potentially separate us. He asks, “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (v. 35).
But, let’s stop and ask the question, “Why does Paul list these things?” I mean, when you think about being separated from the love of God, I doubt you find yourself worried about nakedness. You probably don’t fret and anxiously lie awake at night thinking, “If I don’t have money to buy clothes will I be separated from God’s love for me?” More likely you’re thinking, “I don’t want my heart to grow hard, a love for sin to take root, bitterness to take hold of me, and coldness to stamp out my love for God.” Those are the things we’d probably like Paul to address. So why does he talk about nakedness and famine?
I think the answer is that Paul is indeed talking about hardness and coldness of heart, unbelief, and bitterness when he mentions these things. In other words, I think Paul is thinking about all the things that could come along in our lives that potentially lead us away from the Lord. What about tribulation or distress or persecution. I mean, if somebody comes along and brings enough persecution against me, will my knees buckle? Will I deny my Lord? If hardship grows so deep that I can’t afford food or clothes and my own life is at stake, will I begin to grow cold and hard and bitter against the Lord whom I confess now as my Redeemer? If I have to live my life as a believer in constant threat and danger that someone might come after me, will I ultimately say, “Enough is enough, I cannot follow my Lord anymore”?
You see, I think Paul is indeed thinking about a lack of love, a presence of coldness and bitterness, and denying the Lord. He’s just addressing it from the perspective of those things that might potentially cause these responses.
And his first answer is that we can indeed expect tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword to come along in our lives. He writes, “As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered’” (v. 36). In other words, God’s answer isn’t to prevent these things from coming our way. But, does that mean, then, that our knees will buckle and these things will be the means of separating us from God’s love for us? Of course not. Paul answers, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (v. 37).
In other words, not only will these things not take us down, we’ll actually find ourselves doing more than merely enduring them. We’ll find that the Lord will strengthen us in faithfulness so that even these threats will serve our good, further conforming us to the image of Christ. In other words, do you really think that God will allow his elect children to lack the strength to endure these things? Of course not. He’s already given up his Son for us; he’ll give us all we need. He’ll make sure we are conquerors and more.
But, wait, we might ask, Paul addressed a bunch of things, but maybe he left something out that may well trip me up and bring me to ultimate unbelief. Well, in case you’re thinking that, Paul ends by writings in verses 38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And when Paul says “anything else in all creation,” he’s counting everything outside of our God. Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love our God has for us. Paul wants us to know that. God wants us to know that.
In the early part of Isaiah, the Lord says through the prophet to his people, “Come, let us reason together.” That’s, in essence, what we see here in Romans 8:31-39. The Lord is saying to us, “Come, let us reason together.” There simply is no reason if you’re trusting in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ as your hope for salvation, longing for him by the work of the Holy Spirit within you, that you should live your life in doubt and fear, always trying to measure up so that you might be approved of and loved by God. So, don’t live your life that way. Instead, ask and answer these questions Paul lays out before us. And then rest and rejoice in the security and love your God has for you and so deeply longs for you to know. Amen.