Lesson 31: Romans 8:31-39
No Worthy Enemy
by Bob Burridge ©2011
We often become separated from the things we come to rely upon here in this world. I remember one day — and its indelibly imprinted on my mind forever – when I got the message that my house had been destroyed by a tornado. I almost lost, in that same moment, my wife, my greatest treasure in all this earth. That morning when I left for a meeting all was well. In a single moment, less than a minute I’m told, the structure that my family counted upon for protection was irretrievably twisted and crumpled. Just as quickly people lose their jobs, their investments, even their loved ones.
We know that we can be separated from anything in this world at any time. In the Book of Job we see a man who learned that lesson most tragically. Someone experiences losses like that somewhere every day.
We can only find true comfort in our losses when we learn to value what we have as first belonging to God, and then only ours as a management opportunity for the true owner’s glory. We who trust in Christ are not our own either. We belong to our Savior who gave himself to redeem us.
In the last study we saw God’s promise in the golden chain of Romans 8:29-30. There are those our Creator has foreknown as his own by eternal grace. He predestined them all to become conformed to the character of Christ. These are the ones he calls by his Holy Spirit, and justifies. All those he justifies he will also, most certainly, glorify.
While we struggle through daily challenges, personal lapses into sin, and occasional tragic losses, we are quite aware that there are things, forces, actions, and people that at times separate us from the things we think of as our own.
When we suffer losses, and know that we are not as holy as we ought to be, it is a common worry that somehow we will be cut off from the care and promises of our God. But this cannot be. There can be nothing, no enemy, able to destroy or to nullify the work of God to redeem his eternally loved children.
Paul shows us how illogical it is to imagine this loss.
Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?”
First he shows us the main point he is trying to make. Since God is for us — no one, no force, no enemy, can be successful against us.
Then the Apostle shows us why such supposed enemies would stand no chance.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
God demonstrated his love by sending the Son to die for those he has determined to redeem. He did that while they were yet sinners (5:8). Once the price is paid and they have become his own children, how much more would we expect him to care for them. Why would he send his son to die to give them life, then not also provide for the life he gives them in the Savior?
When people buy complex things like cars, copy machines, or computers they expect good support from the manufacturer to keep them in working condition, at least for the first few years of use. It would not be much of a company if it left its customers to figure things out and fix them on their own. God, the perfect supplier, always guarantees his workmanship. Those he redeems, he supplies with all they need as he advances them toward glory.
No one could lack what is needed to complete what God has begun in him. It is plainly impossible. Jesus Christ paid the infinitely huge price to redeem his beloved ones through his suffering to remove their guilt. Certainly his continuing care would not be withheld.
No accusation can stand up against those redeemed.
Romans 8:33, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
Since God is our judge, and has already declared us to be forgiven in Christ, who in all the universe could charge us with any remaining crime against God? There is no remaining guilt to condemn us.
See the list of evidences Paul gives to prove his case:
1. We are God’s elect.
This is what he had just explained in the previous verses. If we are known beforehand as his own children, loved by grace for all eternity, and predestined to be made more and more like Christ, then our security is a forgone conclusion. All true believers are as surely glorified, as the mind of God is sure.
2. God our Father is the one who has justified us.
He has declared us righteous in Christ who lived a perfect life in our place, and died an infinite death as our substitute. If the judge says we are innocent, then nothing can be charged against us. Any such accusation must be false, and have no legal foundation. However, the judge does not simply set justice aside. He satisfied justice by becoming our substitute. The penalty was paid. As the Lord said to Isaiah (43:25) “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.”
The next four reasons for our confidence before the judge, rest in the detail of the work of Christ:
3. The death of Jesus fully satisfied the demands of justice for our sins.
Any condemnation would be unjust since the debt is paid in full. The court scene at the great day of judgment will not be to weigh evidence and argue the case. The verdict is already, eternally, known. If the wages of sin is death, and death has been served out to the only one appointed and able to represent us in the eternal plan of God, then the final disposition of the case is not in question. All that is left in that last day is the revealing of the verdict and the entry to glory for all those redeemed by the Savior.
4. The resurrection of Jesus proves that the curse is removed.
The sting of death is gone. Resurrection was not simply to demonstrate the power to bring life back to the dead. It demonstrated that the penalty of death was paid in full.
5. His power and glory are displayed again in the session of Jesus.
He sat down at the Father’s right hand in his ascension. Jesus never lost his power and glory, but he laid aside the full display of them while he accomplished his mission on earth. In his session in glory, he resumed the radiance of all that he is eternally. The rituals of the Old Testament were representations of the real removing of sin. The priests made sacrifices and sprinkled blood on the altar repeatedly, but Jesus did it once for all. He fulfilled the images of the past. Then he sat down showing that the work of atonement for sin was completed. Hebrews 10:12 describes Jesus’ work saying, “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,”
6. The intercession of Jesus continually applies the atonement.
His righteousness is ever credited to the believer’s account. No sin remains on the books. Nothing waits for us or the church to remove it. Jesus in heaven is ever testifying to his completed work on our behalf.
It is this work of Christ that gives us confidence. It’s not any thing we do, nor any attitude we develop. Salvation is the amazing union of justice and mercy. By mercy, the Savior of God’s people met the demands of divine justice completely. The greatest dread for anyone is to face God for the consequences of his sins. If that sin is removed, its consequences paid, then nothing should make us afraid of judgment.
So who can charge us or condemn us? Why should we worry that our sins somehow remain and make us unworthy? No one can find a single fault or sin in any of God’s children that is not paid for in Christ.
Paul next shows how secure we are in our fellowship with God.
Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
The point is that no one, nothing, can cut us off from our Lord who has loved us. No power or calamity on earth can do that.
Separations are major factors in our lives. There are the separations from loved ones and friends, from our belongings when thieves take them, or from our high maintenance possessions when we can no longer afford to keep them. We may be come separated from homes and possessions that give way to fire, storms, earthquakes or mudslides. There is also the separation of soul from the body when we die. The greatest separation is of a person’s soul from God. Those loved by Christ from all eternity and by the infallible determination of God, cannot be separated from the Savior by any created thing or circumstance.
Paul lists a few examples to remind us of some causes for our outward struggles: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword. These certainly disrupt our earthly lives. But they cannot disrupt our fellowship with Christ.
Persecutions come because the world hates the message we represent.
Paul quotes from Psalm 44:22 to illustrate:
Romans 8:36, “As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ “
Even in the Old Testament, the Jews were hated and persecuted for God’s sake. Yes, some were even put to death for their faith. The world was glad to see them die. It is true also of the church in this era after Christ came. The early believers were accused of all sorts of wicked things by an angry world. They cried “The Christians to the lions!” The church today is accused of closed minded bigotry and prejudice for simply holding to what the Bible says. We are called “haters of individual freedom of expression,” “hypocrites,” “old fashioned,” and many other inaccurate labels which come from the real prejudice of those intolerant of those who believe the Bible.
The world may tolerate or even love religion — as long as it doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable, as long as it doesn’t bring them face-to-face with a Sovereign Creator and their need for redemption.
Paul’s point here is to encourage us and give us understanding and patience. We horribly fool ourselves if we expect to be exempt from trials, hatred, and prejudice, or if we think that our suffering is because we are not worthy of God’s love. No one is worthy. Every blessing anyone enjoys is not because they are more sincere, more diligent, or more deserving. All blessing and peacefulness in this life is ours only as a gift of God’s mercy.
We stand in good company when we are hated for Christ’s sake, or when we struggle as imperfect humans in a world belonging to a perfectly holy God.
We are not to give up in despair.
Romans 8:37, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
What an amazing conclusion to draw! Not only do we endure and survive our losses and agonies. Not only do we in the end come out the victors. We are more than conquerors in Christ!
We can live above our earthly losses because we see them as part of a secret but good plan of God for our eternal benefit. We know that our sufferings strengthen us here, lift our eyes above the temporal to heaven, and prepare us for our eternal stay in glory. Instead of being discouraged by our sins, we are humbled to know they are paid for.
Pastor Gordon Girod writes, “How can I be certain that I am a child of God, and that He will never let me go? Have you ever wept for your sin? Have you ever felt deeply and agonizingly that you have failed your God? You see, it is only that man, that woman, who in the agony of their guilt before God – not once but a thousand times – have sought forgiveness, who can know with certainty that God will not allow them to be lifted from the hollow of His hand.” (Pg. 90 in The Deeper Faith)
The Paul lists the most feared powers imaginable.
Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 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.”
We can have the same confidence Paul had when he said, “I am persuaded.” God implants a faith, a confidence, in us. It is not perfectly developed in this life, but it is there none-the-less. We know God’s promise is sufficient and trustworthy. What can separate us from the love of God?
- not death – the great separator that thrusts all men into judgment. Jesus was already judged in our place.
- not life – all the dangers and difficulties we face in life which some see as more unwelcome than death are no threat to the one redeemed in Christ.
- not angels – no spirit beings of any sort can harm us.
- not principalities – all that rule in this world, or in the invisible spirit world, are unworthy of our fears.
- not things present – the trials, and afflictions we see striking around us in this fallen world.
- not things to come – not even the unseen troubles of tomorrow which we worry about today.
- not powers – those with strong abilities.
- neither height nor depth – the highest or lowest danger is nothing before the Almighty God.
- not any created thing – this encompasses all that is! Nothing is left out.
Nothing can prevail against us: no army, demon, devil, circumstance, or temptation. God is our Shield, our Fortress, our Captain, our King — our Father.
Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”
Dr. Haldane writes, “Nothing does happen, nothing can happen, which, from eternity, He hath not appointed and foreseen, and over which He hath not complete control.” (P. 425)
The Apostle Peter assures us in 1 Peter 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
When we see tragedy closing in on us, when it grips our own lives, when we imagine our own sins to be so large that we wonder if God could love us at all, we are foolish to go to the counselor who helps us blame others, to our list of excuses, to our hiding place to anguish in despair and doubt. We go to the word of God with all its wonderful promises, and to the quiet place of prayer. There we remember the golden chain of assurance with which our God secures us by the promise of his own word. There we are reminded of the amazing grace by which we are kept by the hand of God.
Those who speak of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints need to remember that it is not that some have such a good grip on God that they persevere, but that God has such a grip on all his tottering children that he will not let them go. God perseveres with us, so that we will persevere to the end.
There is nothing in all the created universe, nothing in ourselves, nothing in the angry world around us or in the invisible realm of spirits, that can nullify the work of Christ for his people.
The Psalmist wrote, in Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Jesus himself said, John 10:28-29< "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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 My Father's hand." (The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)