More Than Conquerors through Christ

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Romans 8:31-39

INTRODUCTION: Today is the last message in our series, and whether or not you agree that Romans 8 is the greatest chapter in the Bible, I trust you will agree with me that Romans 8 is great! Last week we saw that God works all things for good in the life of the believer including the believer’s salvation. Now Paul asks the question: what shall we say in response to this? He shares two beautiful truths in response, and you’ll notice he does so through a series of questions, each of which carries its own answer. (Read Romans 8:31-39 and pray)

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Is God for you, or against you? That’s a pretty important question to answer in life. And if it turns out God is for you, how do you know something won’t come up to separate you from God’s love in the future? These are both important questions, and they are precisely the questions Paul tackles in these final verses of Romans 8.

These final verses in the chapter are some of the most beautiful in Scripture. They have been called “the Christian’s triumph song,” because of their emphasis on the believer’s victory in Christ. But it all depends on the answer to the two questions. There is no victory without Christ, and there is no hope apart from the love of God.

And so, Paul ends this chapter with two precious truths for the believer in Christ. God is for you, not against you. And nothing can separate you from God’s love. Let’s take a look at these two truths together.

I. God is for you, not against you (31-34)

First of all, God is for you, not against you. Look at verse 31: “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Notice how Paul communicates this truth through a series of questions, and how carefully he words these questions. For example, if Paul had simply asked, “Who is against us?” we would probably have come up with all sorts of responses. But instead he asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” That frames it in a whole different light. Everything depends on whether God is for or against you. If God is for you, it doesn’t matter who is against you. But if God is against you, it doesn’t matter who is for you.

This is one of the most comforting truths in Scripture. Those three words, “God for us” – that’s the gospel in a nutshell. Paul confirms this truth that God is for us through three amazing statements that should remove any doubt for the believer in Christ.

   A. God who gave his own Son will graciously give you all things along with him (31-32)
      – Genesis 22:12

How do you know that God is for you, not against you? First of all, because God who gave his own Son will graciously give you all things along with him. Look at verse 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?” (Romans 8:32)

Paul uses language similar to the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Old Testament. Remember when God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on the mountain? Abraham was ready to go through with it out of obedience to God, but at the last moment God interrupted him saying, “Do not lay a hand on the boy…. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12) And then God provided a ram in the thicket as a substitute for Isaac.

The language in Genesis 22 is very similar to what we find here in Romans 8, but there is one big difference between the stories. Isaac was spared; Jesus was not. God did not spare his own Son. Instead, he gave him up for us. Just as the ram was offered in Isaac’s place, Jesus was offered in our place. This was the greatest sacrifice and act of love in all of human history.

And what Paul is saying here is, if God did this, if God has already done for us the greatest thing imaginable, he will most certainly do the lesser things as well. God who gave his own Son will graciously give you all things along with him. That word “graciously” means “freely.” God giving his Son was a free gift of God’s grace, and God giving as all things with him is also a free gift of God’s grace.

We learned earlier in Romans 8 that we are children of God and heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) What Christ inherits, we inherit. What does Christ inherit? All things. God already gave you the greatest gift of all – the sacrifice of his Son on the cross for your sins. How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

How do you know that God is for you, not against you? First of all, because God who gave his own Son will graciously give you all things along with him.

   B. God who justifies you will not allow any charge to be brought against those he has chosen (33)
      – Isaiah 50:8-9

Secondly, because God who justifies you will not allow any charge to be brought against those he has chosen. Look at verse 33: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33)

The word translated “chosen” here is literally the word “elect.” We talked about election last week where we saw that those God foreknew, he also predestined; those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Here Paul jumps straight from God choosing us to God justifying us because he has already worked through the sequence with us earlier in verses 29-30.

The word justification means to declare innocent of all charges. And so, the thought is this. If the God who chose you before the creation of the world has already declared you innocent of all charges, then who will bring any charge or accusation against you? Satan is the ultimate accuser (Revelation 12:10), but he has been defeated. Your own conscience or heart might accuse, but the Bible says God is greater than our hearts. (1 John 3:20) I suppose other people could bring charges against you as well, but what does it matter when God is the one who justifies you?

Paul is probably thinking of these words from Isaiah 50 here: “He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me?” (Isaiah 50:8-9) And the answer is, “No one!” You can have full confidence on the day of judgment, because God is the judge, and he has already declared you righteous in Christ. God is for you, not against you.

   C. Jesus who died for you prays for you and turns away any and all condemnation (34)
      – Romans 8:1; 1 John 2:1

How do you know God is for you, not against you? 1) God who gave his own Son will graciously give you all things along with him. 2) God who justifies you will not allow any charge to be brought against those he has chosen. And 3) Jesus who died for you prays for you and turns away any and all condemnation. Back to Romans 8, look at verse 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.” (Romans 8:34)

In verse 33 Paul asked, “Who will bring any charge?” Now he follows that up with “Who is he that condemns?” The very first verse we looked at in this chapter, Romans 8:1 says: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) This whole chapter started with no condemnation for those who are in Christ, and now Paul is going to explore that idea further.

Who is he that condemns? Paul says Christ will certainly not condemn you. And he gives us four reasons why. First of all, Jesus died for you. That means your sins are forgiven. Not only that, he rose from the dead. That means God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross so that you could be justified. Not only that, he ascended to heaven where he sits at the right hand of God. That means Christ’s work on earth is finished and he sits at the place of highest honor and authority. And what does he do there? He prays for you. If Christ died for you, rose from the dead, sits at God’s right hand and prays for you, how could he possibly condemn you? There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

In other words, God is for you and Christ is on your side. Elsewhere the Bible calls him your advocate, the one who speaks in your defense. We read in 1 John 2: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1)

Jesus is your advocate or defense lawyer. When you are in court, if there’s anyone that’s on your side, it’s your lawyer. He even sits right there by your side during the hearing. Your defense lawyer doesn’t seek to convict you in court. He speaks up for you, and so does Jesus.

Earlier in this chapter we saw that the Holy Spirit prays for you. Now we learn that Jesus prays for you as well. Think about it! God the Son and God the Spirit both pray to God the Father – for you! And when someone is praying for you, you know they are for you, not against you.

How do you know God is for you, not against you? 1) God who gave his own Son will graciously give you all things along with him. 2) God who justifies you will not allow any charge to be brought against those he has chosen. 3) Jesus who died for you prays for you and turns away any and all condemnation. That’s the first truth Paul tells us in this passage. God is for you, not against you.

II. Nothing can separate you from God’s love (35-39)

And then secondly, he tells us that nothing can separate you from God’s love. This truth – along with last week’s truth that God works all things for good for the believer – this is one of the most assuring truths of Scripture. But Paul doesn’t simply state the truth. He exults in it. He rejoices in it. He puts it under the microscope and examines it in minute detail. He puts it through the fire and tests it. These final verses in Romans 8 exude victory, assurance and confidence.

   A. Neither trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger nor sword (35-36)
      – Psalm 44:22

Look at verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35) Notice once again Paul phrases this as a question with an obvious answer. The emphasis in the original language is on the word “us” – who will separate “us?” Who will separate us whom God chose, us whom God justifies, us for whom Christ died, us for whom Christ prays – who will separate us from the love of Christ?

And then, just in case you are still not sure of the answer, he gives us a list of possible suspects, things we might think could separate us from God’s love. Back to verse 35: “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

The first three words refer to different types of trouble or distress. The word “trouble” means the outward pressures of life. “Hardship” speaks more to the inward distress that we feel in our hearts. “Persecution” refers to suffering for your faith. Neither trouble, hardship nor persecution will separate you from the love of Christ.

The next two words refer to physical vulnerabilities. “Famine” refers to hunger or lack of food. “Nakedness” refers to lack of clothing or shelter. Neither famine nor nakedness will separate you from the love of Christ.

And then the last two words refer to future vulnerabilities. “Danger” refers to future risks or threats. And the “sword” refers to death, particularly, violent death or execution. Neither danger nor the sword will separate you from the love of Christ.

Do you know why Paul picked these particular items for the list? Because except for the sword, he had already experienced them all! He would soon experience the sword as well, and he knew that none of these things could separate him from the love of Christ.

And then to remind us that all these things are real threats to the believer, Paul quotes from the Old Testament. Look at verse 36: “As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’” (Romans 8:36) Paul quotes from Psalm 44:22 to show that the Christian is at real risk from these things. In other words, it’s always been this way for God’s people. We are like sheep to be slaughtered.

God’s people have always been at risk, but the trials of life do not mean God has forgotten you, and they certainly don’t mean that God doesn’t love you. Yes, all these things may be realities in the world in which we live, but none of these things can separate you from the love of Christ.

   B. In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (37)
      – Galatians 2:20

In fact, Paul goes on to say in verse 37: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) That’s a pretty big jump from verse 36 to verse 37. In verse 36 we are considered sheep to be slaughtered. In verse 37 we are more than conquerors. We are “conquering sheep.” It sounds like a contradiction, but in Christ both are true.

Paul says “in all these things” we are more than conquerors. “In all these things” means there are no exceptions. In all these things we are not just conquerors; we are “more than conquerors.” We experience complete and total victory in Christ. And why is that? Because we already know from verse 28 that God works all these things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Paul says we are more than conquerors “through him who loved us.” And here the emphasis falls on God’s love for us again. Paul speaks in Galatians 2:20 of “the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Christ loved us so much that he gave himself for us at the cross. When you go through suffering in life, remember Christ suffering for you at the cross, and you will not doubt his love.

   C. Nothing can separate you from God’s love for you in Christ (38-39)
      – Ephesians 3:18

Finally, we come to the climax of this section and indeed of the whole chapter. Verses 38-39: “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)

Nothing can separate you from God’s love for you in Christ. In verse 28 Paul said ,“We know.” Here in verse 38 he says, “I am convinced.” Paul was convinced of these things. How about you? Are you convinced? You should be. But just to make sure, he goes through yet another list to assure us.

Paul lists ten items that people might think could separate us from God’s love. He lists them in pairs as opposites – neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, etc. These are what we call expressions of totality. It means not only are both terms included but also everything in between.

In other words, Paul is going to cover it all. He is out to convince you. When you are done with this list, you will see there is nothing remaining that could possibly separate you from God’s love for you in Christ.

      – neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons

First of all, neither death nor life. That covers the whole range of human experience. You are either dead or alive. Those are your only choices. No matter which, nothing can separate you from God’s love. Donald Grey Barnhouse writes: “Death cannot separate the believer from God’s love because Jesus Christ died for us. Life cannot separate us from God’s love because Jesus Christ lives for us.” Or as Paul put it in Philippians 1: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” and “to depart and be with Christ is better by far.” (Philippians 1:21,23) If you live, you live for Christ. If you die, you go to be with Christ. Neither death nor life can separate you from God’s love for you in Christ.

How about angels or demons? If death and life cover the whole sphere of human experience, angels and demons cover the whole sphere of the spiritual world. Paul says just as there is nothing in human experience that can separate you from God’s love, so there is nothing in the spiritual world that can separate you from God’s love.

      – neither the present nor the future, nor any powers

Next Paul says, “neither the present nor the future, nor any powers.” The present and future cover the whole realm of time. “Powers” has to do with authority. Nothing in all of time can separate you from God’s love, and nothing has the power or authority to separate you from God’s love. Remember, Jesus sits at the right hand of God, the place of highest power and authority.

      – neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation

Next Paul says, “neither height nor depth.” These two terms comprise the whole physical universe. In Ephesians 3:18 Paul prays that the Ephesians might grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:18) Neither height nor depth can separate you from God’s love, because God’s love is higher and deeper and wider and longer than anything else in the universe.

So, nothing in all of human experience, nothing in all the spiritual world, nothing in all of time, no power or authority, and nothing in all the physical world can separate you from God’s love. That pretty much covers it all.

But just in case, Paul adds one more thing to the list: “nor anything else in all creation.” This is what we call “the everything else clause.” You’re probably familiar with it from work? You know, they list all your job responsibilities and at the end, they say, “and everything else!” Right? Well, here Paul basically says, “And everything else!”

And he puts it this way: “nor anything else in all creation.” That is significant, because everything that exists breaks down into one of two categories – either Creator or created. Only God fits the category of Creator. The one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the Creator, and He created everything else.

So, the most basic way to understand reality is this. There’s God, and then there’s everything else. Only God is eternal, and so everything else is created. And Paul just pulled the “everything else” clause. “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)

By the way, the “everything else” clause also includes you. You are part of the “anything else in all creation.” Even you cannot separate you from God’s love for you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And that’s where we end this chapter. The same place Paul ends the chapter. “In Christ Jesus our Lord.” All of this is because of Christ. You cannot know God’s love apart from Christ and the cross. As Donald Barnhouse writes: “In spite of all we are, and because of what He is, we can be fully persuaded that nothing in Heaven, earth, or Hell, nothing in time or in eternity can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.”

CONCLUSION: Romans 8 is great! I believe it is the greatest chapter in the Bible. We’ve already looked at so many wonderful truths in this chapter, and Paul ends the chapter with these two additional truths for the believer in Christ. 1) God is for you, not against you. And 2) Nothing can separate you from God’s love.

Life is hard. We often feel like failures. We often feel defeated or overcome. But you can handle anything life throws at you so long as you have God on your side. And because nothing can separate you from God’s love for you in Christ, God is and always will be on your side. As the psalmist says in Psalm 118:6: “The Lord is on my side. I will not fear. What can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6) We are more than conquerors in life through Christ.

© Ray Fowler

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