26 April 2021
This is a passage that has encouraged many Christians tremendously. In the last days, particularly, the truths revealed in this passage serve as a powerful antidote and ‘tonic’ for all those who seek to do the will of God wholeheartedly, without half measures.
The common lot for all true believers would include material hardship, human hostility, persecutions, famine, the danger of the ‘sword’ and all sorts of deprivation, and these would increase in intensity until the appearance of the ‘AntiChrist’. Paul declared in his first missionary journey, “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
Some of these hardships may take the form of ‘the memory of a moral lapse; the lost of a friend or job because we hold on to our integrity; Christian parents whose children are disappointing them; Christians facing serious problems of health or physical limitation; Christians made to feel like outsiders at home or at work because of their faith, Christians burdened by the death of someone they feel should have lived, or by the continued life and sufferings of a senile relative or child who they feel should have died; Christians who feel God cannot care for them, or life would be less rough and traumatic, and many more. Listing these hardships serve to help us identify and realise that all of us who are believers are not spared from some of these ‘predicaments’.
The current covid-19 pandemic and the tragedies that follow; the impending climate change disasters, the terrible persecutions of believers who refuse to deny the Lord Jesus, even the current physical calamities and the hate crimes and atrocities committed against innocent bystanders who happen to have a different colour in their skins; the real possibilities of outbreaks of nuclear war, and many more bleak scenarios – these are not make-believe but are actual happenings and unfolding events. What shall we say in response to all these as children of the living God? The Apostle Paul responded in Romans 8:31-39:-
Paul exhorted us to think of what we know of God through the gospel; think against your feelings; argue yourself out of the gloom they have spread; unmask the unbelief they have nourished, take yourself in hand, talk to yourself, make yourself look up from your problems to the God of the gospel; let our proper thinking correct emotional thinking – in other words, preach again the gospel of Jesus Christ to yourself and affirm the everlasting truths embedded within.
To help in our thinking, the Apostle Paul brings out four thoughts, each focused in a question; ‘If God is for us, who is against us?…Will He not also give us all things with Him (Christ)? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
1) “If God is for us, who can be against us?
The primary thought here is that ‘no opposition can finally crush us’ Why so?
Because God is for us – it is not just an army which is for us; it is not a strong political dictator or king who is for us; it is none of these things.
This is the God who has spoken to announce His sovereignty: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isa. 46:9). This is the God whose wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men. This is the God who calls, justifies and glorifies those whom from eternity He ‘predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:29).
This God is for us – it is a declaration of the covenant commitment of God. The goal of grace in this covenant is to create a love-relationship between God and us who believe, the kind of relationship for which we were first created. The bond of fellowship by which God binds Himself to us is His covenant. The Bible shows that all (Jews and Gentiles) who put their faith in Christ are incorporated into the seed of Abraham, which is the covenant company. Once the covenant is established, it abides, for it is God who keeps it in being.
‘God is for us’ proclaims God’s undertaking to uphold and protect us when people and circumstances are threatening, to provide for us throughout our earthly pilgrimage and to lead us finally to the ‘rest’ and full enjoyment of Himself, no matter how many obstacles may seem to be in our way. Whatever men may do to us, in the deepest sense they cannot touch us, for our real life is the inward life of fellowship with a loving triune God and God who loves us will preserve that life whatever happens.
Opposition is a fact: the Christians who are not conscious of being opposed had better watch themselves, for they are in danger. True discipleship must face this reality. Knowing God as your sovereign protector, fully committed to you in the covenant of grace would give you freedom from fear and renewed strength to fight the good fight.
2)”He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
The main thought is that no good thing will finally be withheld from us. This points to the adequacy of God as our sovereign benefactor, and to the decisiveness of his redeeming work for us. Ponder over the costliness of our redemption – God did not spare His only precious Son in saving us – He went to the limit – what more could He have given for us? If God has given us His best and most precious, how can we ever doubt that He would withhold all good things from us? It is simply impossible for Him to do this, for Christ and ‘all good things’ go together as ingredients in the single gift of eternal life and glory. The saving purpose of God, from eternal election to final glory, is one, and it is important for both our understanding and assurance that we should not lose sight of the links that bind together its various stages and parts. Following Christ will not mean the loss of all things worth having, uncompensated by any corresponding gain. It means there is no ultimate loss or irreparable impoverishment to be feared; if God denies us something, it is only in order to make room for one or other of the things He has in mind. The meaning of ‘He will give us all things’ can be put in this way: one day we shall see that nothing – literally nothing – which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing – literally nothing that could have reduced that happiness has been left with us. What greater assurance do we desire than that?
3)”Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies, Who is he that condemns?”
The thought focuses on the fact that no accusation can cause us to lose our inheritance in Him. God is adequate as our sovereign champion and His verdict on our justification is decisive.
There are those among believers who are not aware enough of pardon; the conscience of a Christian under pressure can be rattled in the face of continued failure as seen in Romans 7 :14-25. For such a one, doubts of his security as a justified believer still remain and he finds it hard to rejoice. There are of course believers who are not aware enough of sin and this thought of assurance of salvation does not apply to them. Paul does not deny that Christians fail and fall; the memory of sins committed after becoming a Christian is far more painful than are any thoughts of one’s moral lapses before that time but Paul denies that any lapses now can endanger our justified status. The reason is that nobody is in a position to get God’s verdict reviewed – there is no one who will be the accuser of God’s chosen ones.
Why so? Those whom God justifies now were chosen from eternity for final salvation. It is God who justifies; it is the Creator and Judge of all who declares that we have been set right with His law and with Himself and are not now liable to death for our sins, but are accepted in Christ. Nobody then can ever challenge the verdict; nobody can alter God’s decision – there is only one Judge and He accepted us in the beloved and for Jesus’ sake.
We must also remember Christ’s effectiveness as the Mediator. He died to save us from condemnation, by bearing the penalty of our sins as our substitute. He rose and was exalted and enthroned at the Father’s right hand; from there He intercedes for us with authority, intervening in our interest to ensure that we receive all that He died to procure for us . Shall Jesus now condemn us? This idea is impossible – He, the Mediator, who loved us and gave Himself for us, and whose constant concern in heaven is that we should enjoy the full fruits of His redemption surely would not condemn us, His elect.
4)”Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” This thought points to the fact that no separation from Christ’s love can ever befall us;
Whereas human love, for all its power in other ways, cannot ensure that what is desired for the beloved will actually take place, diving love is a function of omnipotence – God, the Father and the Son, would sovereignly keep us and their divine love would settle our destiny. The three Persons in the Godhead are one in loving sinners, and also that the love which elects, justifies and glorifies is love in Christ Jesus. It is the privilege of all genuine Christians to know for certain that God loves us immutably, and that nothing can at any time part us from that love, or come between us and the final enjoyment of its fruits.
This is the final triumphant declaration in verse 38: there is nothing in death or life, in the realm of the spirits or superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be, in the forces of the universe, in heights or depths – nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul displays God’s adequacy to keep us and hold us fast – you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you; your faith will not fail while God sustains it.
And so we have it – look up from our problems to God; refresh and renew our appreciation of the God of the gospel in Christ Jesus, and put away our doubts and fears and ‘anxiety’. This God is always for us; He gave us His very best and He would certainly not withhold all things needful for our journey to the ‘promised land’; He is our judge, our redeemer, our mediator, our creator, our king and nothing can separate us from HIs love for us in Christ Jesus!