Romans 8.31-38 - God's Great Love
The text for today is Romans 8:31 – 39. If you would, please turn there with me and as you are making your way to Romans 8,I would like to share with you a story about my son Caden. You know, kids say the funniest things sometimes:
This past summer, my son Caden spent a few days with my parents in Ohio. After a five hour car ride from Cary to Ohio, Caden was feeling a bit antsy and was ready to get out of his car seat and move around and so he verbalized these feelings to my parents with loud noises of anticipation, which during the last half-hour, wore a bit on his grandpa. Upon pulling into the garage of their home, my father jumped out of the car, opened Caden’s door and unbuckled him as he exclaimed “There – you’re free!” and to which my son responded quite promptly and in an irritated voice “NO GRANDPA! I’M NOT THREE, I’M FOUR!”
Please follow along as I read from Romans 8:31-39
31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? 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, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered 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 convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.”
The end of chapter 8 is a final segment, a climax of the previous 7 chapters of which Paul was inspired to write down. Chapters 1 – 3 expound on God’s holy righteousness. Chapters 4 and 5 explains God’s demand for our holy righteousness and chapters 6 – 8 explains God’s providence and empowerment that He provides to us so that we are able to live up to His standards of righteousness. Paul finishes this nutshell of the gospel message with none other than a series of questions and a statement, which if we didn’t have any other scripture or revelation of God, it would be enough: “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.”
What an incredible statement. Amen? Let’s look at the passage again with a little more scrutiny:
Verses 31 – 34 are a series of questions: “What shall we say then?” What shall we say about what? Here’s a good Bible study tip: If a paragraph in the Bible has the word “If” or “Then” or “Because” or “Therefore” or “since” then it is directly related to the passage above it. These are “cause and effect” transitions. You cannot understand the effect unless you understand the cause. So I need to understand what Paul has written up to chapter eight, verse 31 and since we don’t have the whole day, I will briefly summarize chapter 8 to help give us a context to the question: “What shall we say then?”
Paul begins chapter 8 with this statement: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Wow – ok. And he continues: “ 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” This is starting to help me understand verse 31 now. He then goes on to expound on the power we have through the Holy Spirit, he proclaims that through this Spirit we have become joint heirs with Christ and then he provides us with the hope of the inheritance we have in Christ, that is heaven and eternal life.
This brings us to Paul’s question of “What shall we say then?”, of which he then goes on to tell us what we should say in response to God’s love and providence of His Holy Spirit. And this is what he says:
1. God is for us and nothing else matters. God is for us and nothing else matters.
In saying “If God is for us, who can be against us?”, Paul does not mean that we will not face opposition. He does not mean that we will not face persecution. Of all people he knew this and understood this because he faced persecution daily. If you want a resume of Paul’s suffereings, look at 2 Corinthians 11:24-27: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” Yet he writes this in the same letter, a few chapters earlier in chapter 4:16 – 18: “16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
He does not mean we will not suffer humiliation, persecution, hardships, sickness, danger. He does mean that NONE OF THIS MATTERS compared to the “eternal glory that far outweighs them all”. If God is for us, then NOTHING ELSE MATTERS! NOTHING!
2. 32 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? God gave us all things when He gave us Jesus. God gave us all things when He gave us Jesus.
There is nothing else that we need. That’s it. His grace is sufficient. Only one sacrifice for all sins and it is finished.
There is a book, which has recently been made into a movie, titled “The Last Sin-Eater”. The story is based on an old celtic practice in which a man in a village, usually a beggar, is designated “The Sin Eater”. When a person died, the family and friends would offer bread and wine on behalf of their loved one. This sin-eater would come and take this sacrifice, thus taking the sins of the dead upon themselves to suffer the consequences in their place. This practice went on for hundreds of years, until one day, a Christian missionary came to the village and the missionary shared Christ with a little girl who sought redemption for her sins. When she learned that Jesus was the ultimate “Sin-Eater”, she knew she had finally found redemption and peace with God and shared with the entire village about Jesus – The Last Sin-Eater. The entire village accepted Christ and the most remarkable story of redemption was of that of the village’s sin-eater who felt the greatest weight of sin - the sin of everyone who had died in the village. When he learned that Jesus could take away the sins of the “sin-eater”, that is all he needed to find peace with himself and with God.
Jesus is all we need to find peace. He is all we need to find eternal security. He is all we need to find empowerment from the Holy Spirit. He is all we need to be spiritually healed as Isaiah predicted in chapter 53: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
God gave us all things when He gave us Jesus.
3. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Because of Christ, we no longer suffer condemnation from God. Because of Christ, we no longer suffer condemnation from God.
Turn with me to Zechariah chapter three. Here we see a vision of a scene in heaven before God’s throne:
“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. 2 The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.”
In Christ we are justified. In a court of law, the judge pronounces a sentence. In the great cosmic court of law, God is the great Judge and satan the prosecuting attorney. As he accused the high priest Joshua in the book of Zechariah, so he stands ready to accuse us. What will be our sentence? Spiritual death. Death of the soul. Eternal damnation. But in our corner we have Jesus, the Defense Attorney. Everybody knows that the defense attorney must present some kind of evidence to vindicate those whom he is defending in order for the judge to declare the defendant innocent. What is the evidence that Jesus uses? His own blood. How own life. The Great Judge looks at the defendant through the Defense Attorney’s evidence and declares that defendant, no matter how great the offense, no matter how great the sin, He declares them innocent.
Because of Christ, we no longer suffer condemnation from God.
4. Now that we no longer suffer condemnation for our sins, from the time we put our faith in Christ, nothing will separate us from His eternal promises of justification and salvation.
Let me say this again in a different way: From the time we believe – from that moment that we put our faith in Christ - there is nothing that we can do, there is nothing that satan can do, there is nothing that your family or friends or co-workers or classmates or boss can do to break the promise of God. The only person who can break their own promise is the promise-maker. If you make a promise to someone, you’re the only one who can break that promise. No one else can break that promise for you – only you. God made a promise to us and used His own Son’s blood to secure that promise. Do you think He is going to break it? And if He would – none of this would matter anyway. This whole Bible wouldn’t matter because it is ALL BASED UPON HIS PROMISES. God does not break His promises. And He has provided assurance after assurance that He wouldn’t. He would not be a holy God if He broke His promises.
Turn with me to Numbers, chapter 23:19:
“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.”
“You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,”
It is just not possible for God to break a promise because it would go against the nature of Who God is. If God would go against His nature, the universe would cease to exist because, according to Hebrews 1:3, it is sustained “by his powerful word”.
Don’t raise your hand, but I want to ask you, how many of you have been a Christian for many years, have witnessed great miracles, have seen, first-hand, lives transformed by Christ, have had prayers answered right before your eyes, yet you are in a place where you have little faith. You are downtrodden. You have resigned yourself to a life of spiritual drudgery? Have you ever thought to yourself “I thought the Christian life was supposed to be joyful” and you just don’t have any joy in your life? Has life has got you down?
I know I’ve been there and I bet you have too if you are not there now.
If you are feeling joyless. If you are a Christian who magically paints that smile on your face once you step into the church, but leaves home in the morning with a heavy, joyless heart, then I must ask you – Have you spent time lately pondering God’s promises? Have you spent time contemplating His love?
I am not saying that as a Christian we are to be unaffected by sin. Unaffected by death. Unaffected by the sad effects of a fallen world. But in the midst of this fallen world, are you finding joy in your relationship with God? When you suffer great stress or are in a state of mourning, are you able to fall into God’s arms and seek the shadow of His grace? Or are you on auto-pilot? Are you cruise-controlling your way through life, perhaps even faithfully serving and in obedience, yet you find no joy in your obedience and service? Have you heard your Savior’s words? Have you heard of His love for you? Listen to God as He shares with you His love:
Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies (Psalm 36:5).
How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:7).
But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15).
Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever (Psalm 136:26).
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness" (Jeremiah 31:3).
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2).
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-5).
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:9-10).
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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. (Romans 8:38-39)
Isn’t that great? Just to reflect upon God’s love for us. To know that we deserve spiritual death, yet a Love so great as described in these verses saved us from that certain death.
As I bring the message to a close I want to look at verse 37.
Verse 37 states that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”. I ask you - If we are more than conquerors, then why do I see so many Christians living defeated lives? If we are more than conquerors, as Paul states, then why are so many Christians living conquered lives instead of lives that conquer? I believe there are several reasons:
- Maybe it is because a person who thinks they are a Christian are really in fact not a Christian – they may be going to church and doing all the “Christian” things, but they truly have not come to faith in Christ. You cannot live the Christian life without Christ. You’ve heard it time and time again, but I’ll say it because it is true - Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship. It’s not a moral code. It’s not a club. It’s not a culture. It’s not political or a nationality. It is having a relationship through faith. If you want to live a life that is victorious and that conquers then the first step toward living that life is faith in Christ.
How do you enter into a relationship with Christ? It’s this simple: You confess to God in prayer that you’re a sinner in need of salvation and you believe that Christ died for you.
- Another possibility for why a Christian would not be living a victorious life is because they are not allowing the Spirit to work in their lives, to empower them to live victoriously. You see, the reason that a non-believer could not live a victorious Christian life is because they are not empowered to do so. AND sometimes, a Christian does not live a victorious life because they don’t realize that they are empowered to do so.
Paul speaks of this earlier in this chapter, at verse 9: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”
I remember almost to the day when I discovered what it meant to live a life led by the Spirit. I had been a Christian for about eight years when I went to seminary. Up until then I had tried through my own power to live a righteous life. I failed so much. And the guilt that came from those failures was overwhelming at times, to the point that I thought that I must not be a Christian if I can’t get it right – you know, this moral stuff.
My first semester in seminary I took a class titled “The Spiritual Life” and about half-way through the semester it finally clicked. God wants me to seek His power for living a righteous life. I don’t have to do it on my own. I still fail. But I do not have to deal with the guilt that comes with the failure any longer because I know His grace is sufficient. And because I do not have to deal with guilt, I am free to focus on serving Him and seeking His Spirit and finding joy.
If we want to live a life that is victorious, then we must seek the Spirit’s help.
- Another reason we may not live a victorious life is that we may not have probed the depth of God’s love. We may not have reflected enough upon God’s sacrifice for us “while we were still sinners”. We may not believe it when Paul states that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”. We may be so focused on “working” for our salvation and that we forget it is about what God has already done for us and has nothing to do with what we can do. If we have come to this point, we have entered into a narcissistic religion. We are so focused on what we can do, on what we can give that we think the whole world revolves and depends on us. When in fact, we forget that it is God Who sustains, God Who controls, and God Who delivers.
There are times when I have entered into this way of thinking. Someone once said about me “It seems like you have the weight of the world upon your shoulders”. Ouch! That is just the opposite of what I want people to think of me. But you know, at times it’s true. And if that is how I am coming across to others, then it is a projection of the attitude of my heart. It is an attitude that focuses on what I can do, on what I can give, instead of having an attitude of placing myself into the hands of an all-capable God, allowing Him to work through me, instead of me doing it on my own. As your worship pastor I work hard at putting together the Sunday morning services, but the best worship services I have ever been a part of are usually in spite of me. They usually have nothing to do with any of the work, or lack of work, that I did. Sometimes I will put so much of myself into making a worship service perfect that I forget to allow God to have a part in it. And when I take on this burden by myself, or any other acts of Christian service, and when I fail (and there will be times of failure), I personally suffer greatly with guilt and a low image of myself because it was me owning the burden instead of allowing God to take the burden.
LISTEN: The Christian life is not about me! It’s not about me! It’s not about you. It’s about God working in my life and your life to overcome. It’s about God living victoriously through me and you, it’s not about us overcoming. It’s not about us being victorious. It’s not about us conquering. Did you see what the last part of verse 37 states: “THROUGH him who loved us” We live conquering lives “THROUGH Him”. We live victorious lives “THROUGH Him”. We live a life that overcomes “THROUGH Him”. AND, AS VERSE 39 STATES, NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THIS POWER! AND NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM ETERNAL LIFE!
Turn with me to one final passage, John 8:32. I hear a lot of Christians talking about their freedom in Christ. Have you ever wondered exactly what this meant? There are two views on a Christian’s freedom. One view is that because grace rules, because there is forgiveness for all sins (past, present and future), then a Christian is free sin. Now I don’t have the time, but we could spend a whole series of messages on Romans 6 which refutes this idea to the core. For now, to help us better understand the freedom we have in Christ, please follow along as I read John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free” Of course what people often forget is the “THEN” at the beginning of this verse. Quick quiz – what are you suppose to do when you see “THEN”? That’s right, go to the preceeding verse and in this case verse 31 states this (and this is Jesus talking) “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. THEN you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. And what is Jesus’ teaching? One of Jesus’ teaching is found in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
What we need to understand is that this freedom is freedom to follow the Spirit. We can, like I did for so many years, try to do things on our own, or we can do things with the power that Jesus spoke of here right before He ascended to Heaven.
We can misunderstand freedom, like my son misunderstood his grandpa when my grandpa set him free, or we can freely choose, in faith, that God’s love, embodied in Christ and magnified by the Spirit, will enable us to live a joy-filled, victorious life where guilt has no part and where grace rules. Which will you choose today? A life based on your own love and power or a life based on God’s power-full love? I’ll give you a hint: The love that has the greater capacity will produce the greater joy.