NO MATTER WHAT WE FACE, SINCE GOD IS FOR US THERE IS NOTHING STRONG ENOUGH TO SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD
John Toews: Paul concludes every major section of the letter with a carefully phrased confessional or hymnic statement. The first major argument, 1:18 – 4:25, concluded with a confessional statement in 4:24-25. The third major argument, chs. 9-11, concludes with a grand poem in 11:33-36. Paul concludes his second major argument in a similar way. Verses 31-39 are a carefully crafted summary statement, really a “victory song of salvation.” With much repetition, the summary makes one basic assertion: God is on our side. . .
The structure of the summary is question and answer. Paul asks six questions, in two different sequences.
- The main theme of the text is framed in the first three questions, 31-32. The second question, v. 31b, states the theme. The third question, v. 32, provides the proof: God has given us the Son.
- The second set of questions, 33-39, repeat the first set of questions and expand the theme.
There is a progression in the length of the questions throughout the series. In the first series, question two is longer than one, and three is longer than two. The same pattern holds in the second series. Paul is clinching an argument by repetition upon repetition. Let no one forget, let no one doubt, God is for us.
Thomas Schreiner: The magnificent and exalted style in these verses is immediately apparent, and the beauty of the text may be unrivaled in all of Pauline literature. These verses function as an inclusio with 5:1–11 since both texts feature the confidence that is characteristic of the hope of believers. The text also brings chapter 8 to a climax. . .
In verses 31–39 Paul reflects back on 5:1–8:30 and considers the greatness of what God has accomplished on behalf of believers. With rhetorical questions he drives home his message about the hope of believers.
Douglas Moo: A call to celebrate our security in Christ makes for a natural conclusion to what Paul has been teaching in these chapters. He adduces two reasons for us to celebrate our security:
- the work of God for us in Christ ( 31–34) and
- the love of God for us in Christ ( 35–39).
S. Lewis Johnson: Our subject for this morning in the exposition of the word of God is, “God for Us or No Separation.” God for us, anything added merely detracts from these words. It’s the moment for silence and for reverence and worship. Even the commentators of the Epistle to the Romans become remarkably reserved and quiet at this point in their exposition. There is an element here of awed silence like that that falls on a group of people who watch the sun rise from a mountaintop, or for the first time, gazes out over the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean at that vast expanse of water, which almost takes away your breath as you think of the illimitable character of it.
Frank Thielman: Main Idea — In this passage Paul summarizes the gospel as he has explained it in 1:18 – 8:30 and draws from his explanation the conclusion that God loves his chosen people, will protect them from all their enemies, and one day will give them eternal life in a restored creation. The proof of God’s commitment to his people in these ways is the death of his own Son on their behalf and the present reign of his Son together with him over the universe. The death, resurrection, and heavenly session of Christ mean that, however difficult existence may become for God’s people, they will always be the objects of his loving care.
Michael Bird: The heart of the argument set forth in Romans 8 is for assurance in the unshakable and sovereign love of God. To this end Paul constructs a rhetorical peroration in 8:31 – 39 to recap the key tenets of his argument about assurance and to make an emotional appeal to his audience for their consent to the pathos of his speech. The main premise, harking back to 5:1 – 11, is that God’s love is a love that comes to us in Christ and triumphs over all adversity. Paul’s words constitute a dramatic crescendo to the discourse as he weaves together the well-worn motifs of cross, resurrection, grace, justification, the priesthood of Christ, the exaltation of Christ, suffering, triumph, and divine love. Paul puts his rhetorical pedal to the homiletical metal as he waxes eloquently about the majestic span of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. Paul is almost hymn-like in his account of how God’s love in Christ Jesus secures a victory for humanity over all things that might conceivably oppose them. . .
And so ends our tour of the cosmic cathedral of Romans 5-8, quite rightly in the spiral of the highest power, looking toward the heavens, choir singing below us, bells ringing around us, reminding us to rest in God’s love for us.
I. (:31-32) NOTHING CAN DEFEAT US SINCE GOD IS ON OUR SIDE
A. (:31) Thesis Statement = God Is for Us
“What then shall we say to these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?”
Frank Thielman: Paul introduces the passage with a series of three rhetorical questions.
- The first question (8:31a) shows that he is about to draw an important conclusion from the preceding argument (“What, then, shall we say in view of these things?”).
- He then provides a pithy summary of that conclusion (8:31b) in a second rhetorical question (“If God is for us, who is against us?”).
- A third rhetorical question supplies the reason why he can say that God is on the side of believers: if God’s Son died for his people, God is not likely to deny believers any other good thing (8:32).
The rest of the passage explains this thesis in greater detail. . .
The question “who is against us?” then does not assume that God’s people have no enemies (cf. 8:35–36, 38–39) but that these enemies cannot be victorious over them, however strong they may seem to be. Paul’s rhetorical question comes out of the same understanding of God’s saving power that prompted David’s rhetorical question about Goliath: “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam 17:26; cf. Pss 27:1; 118:6–7; Isa 50:9; 54:17).
B. (:32) Supporting Argument = God Will Bring Us to Glory
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,
how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
Thomas Schreiner: The evidence of God being for us is supremely manifested in the giving of his Son. And now that he has given us the greatest gift (his Son), he will surely give us every other gift that we need.
Frank Thielman: The term “indeed” (γέ) often appears in combination with other words at the beginning of a clause to emphasize the entire clause. Here it highlights just how dramatically God has shown himself to be “for” his people (8:31). . .
The “all things” that God freely gives his people should be understood within the broader context of Romans 8:17–30. There Paul had said that after God’s people had suffered with Christ they would be glorified with him (8:17) and had then explained that when believers were glorified “the creation” would also “be set free from slavery to decay” (8:21). It is likely, then, that when Paul speaks here of God graciously giving “all things” (τὰ πάντα) to believers “with” (σύν) Christ he refers to God’s gift of a restored universe to his people. This interpretation becomes even more likely in light of Paul’s frequent use of the expression “all things” with the article (τὰ πάντα) to mean “the universe” (cf. 11:36; 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 3:9; 4:10; Col 1:16–17; and especially Phil 3:21).
S. Lewis Johnson: if it is true that Jesus Christ has died for us, all human beings, then every human being must be saved: for everything else is less, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” But, the Scriptures make it plain, not all are saved. Many are lost. Many are lost now and lost forever. It is therefore clear that when we read, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,” he means us all who are believers. Sometimes I have friends say to me, “Where do you get particular redemption in the Bible?” My friend, it’s on every page of the Bible practically. Throughout the Bible it speaks of what God does for his people, for his own, and occasionally for his elect. Here is a text that is plain as day, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Michael Bird: To put it differently, if God is willing to hand over his beloved Son for us (a hard thing), he must surely be willing to give us all things (an easy thing). Paul does not explicitly state the scope of the “all things” that are graciously bestowed on believers. However, the “with him [i.e., Christ]” clues us into thinking that he has in mind the inheritance and glory that believers share with Christ (see Rom 8:17).
Steven Cole: The context is, Do you want to endure faithfully tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword for Jesus’ sake (8:35)? God, who loved you so much that He sent His own Son to die for your sins, will give you the grace and strength that you need to bear up under every trial for the sake of the gospel. God, who has done the most for you by giving His own Son, will help you endure every trial that you go through for Christ’s sake. Because of His great love for you, He will bring you safely to glory. Paul applies three great truths to help us persevere:
- The truth of God’s sovereignty in saving us demands a response of worship and total submission.
- The truth that God is for us in the gospel means that we must evaluate all opposition and difficulties in light of God’s grace.
- The truth that God has done the greatest thing for us in the sacrifice of His own Son means that He will supply us with all that is needed for life and godliness.
- Respond in Confidence
- Trust the Power of God
- Rest in the Unchanging Eternal Love of God
II. (:33-34) NOTHING CAN CONDEMN US SINCE GOD IS ON OUR SIDE
A. (:33a) Remember Our Protected Identity = the Elect of God
“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?”
Frank Thielman: After this introduction, Paul illustrates his thesis by describing two threatening contexts that cannot overwhelm God’s people (8:33–34, 35–37).
- First, he describes a judicial context in which charges are brought against them. Christ’s death, resurrection, and continuing intercession on behalf of God’s people mean that no charge against them can be successful (8:33–34).
- Second, he describes a situation of general social upheaval in which the love of Christ for his people might be obscured by their suffering. Here too, however, the display of Christ’s love in his death for God’s people (cf. 5:8; 8:32) gives them the resources they need to gain a decisive victory over these evils (8:35–37). . .
God’s people need to fear neither the final day of judgment nor the accusations of their detractors in the present. God has accepted them and put them right with himself. His decision in their favor is final and trumps any other negative judgment against them.
B. (:33b) Remember the Judge (God the Father) Is on Our Side
“God is the one who justifies;”
C. (:34) Remember God the Son Is on Our Side – His Fourfold Ministry
“who is the one who condemns?”
- Christ Died for Us
“Christ Jesus is He who died,”
- He Was Raised
“yes, rather who was raised,”
- He is at the Right Hand of God
“who is at the right hand of God,
- He Intercedes for Us
“who also intercedes for us.”
Frank Thielman: Here Paul seems to imagine Christ, the “anointed” (χριστός) king, appealing to his coregent God on behalf of his people and on the basis of his atoning death. The thought is close to Ephesians 1:20–23 where God gives the resurrected, enthroned, and victorious Christ “as head over all things to the church” (Eph 1:22).
Steven Cole: Paul asks two parallel questions: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” And, “Who is the one who condemns?” In answering those questions he doesn’t tell us anything that he hasn’t already said. But he wants to hammer home God’s answer to guilt one more time so that we will know how to win the battle when guilt attacks.
God’s answer to guilt is that He justifies His elect through Christ’s mediation on our behalf.
First, let’s think about who charges us with guilt.
- The world, the devil, and our consciences seek to condemn us with guilt.
- THE WORLD CHARGES US OF BEING GUILTY OF HYPOCRISY, INTOLERANCE, SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND OTHER SINS.
- THE DEVIL CHARGES US AS GUILTY WHEN WE FALL SHORT OF GOD’S HOLINESS.
- OUR CONSCIENCES CHARGE US WITH GUILT WHEN WE KNOW THAT WE HAVE SINNED.
2. After confession, answer charges of condemnation with God’s promise to justify His elect through Christ’s mediation on your behalf.
God has chosen you and justified you through the effective mediation of the crucified, risen, exalted, and praying Savior, then you can answer any charge against you. If God, the sovereign Judge of all has said (8:1), “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” then you are not condemned!
III. (:35-39) NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM GOD’S LOVE
A. (:35-36) Don’t Let Suffering Catch You by Surprise
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, ‘For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’”
Douglas Moo: But Christ not only defends us; he loves us and enters into relationship with us, and nothing will ever separate us from that love.
Frank Thielman: Disasters that normally separate people from the people who love and care for them are not able to distance believers from the sacrificial love of Christ who now lives and reigns with God.
John Toews: Paul’s thesis is that God is for us. The best evidence is Jesus. Therefore, the third and final question, is there anyone who can separate us from the love of Christ (v. 35)? The tribulation list that follows uses the language of religious persecution (suffering, anguish, persecution) and end-time suffering and deprivation (famine, nakedness, danger, sword). The list is supported by the quotation of Psalm 44:22, a text that was also used by Jewish leaders to interpret the deaths of the Maccabean martyrs for the sake of the law. The people of God suffer, are killed and slaughtered for God’s sake. But God’s children triumph, literally win a glorious victory, through the enablement of the one loving them. The one loving them is Christ in v. 35 and God in v. 39. Jesus as the Messiah embodies the covenant love of God so that the two can be cited as synonyms of the divine love for the children of God. Paul has been and is persuaded (perfect tense) that none of the powers of the cosmos will be able to separate God’s children from the love of God.
B. (:37) Suffering Actually Magnifies Our Victory and Security
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”
Steven Cole: God’s great love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord enables us to be more than conquerors through every trial for His sake.
- God’s great love for us is not diminished or terminated by our failures, shortcomings, or sins, because it goes back to God’s choice of us before the foundation of the world.
- God’s great love for us is not threatened or undermined by all sorts of adversity, including martyrdom.
- God’s great love for us is supremely demonstrated in Christ Jesus our Lord, who gave Himself for us on the cross.
- God’s great love for us will be consummated in heaven, but we should experience it now as the foundation for victory as we face trials for His sake.
C. (:38-39) The Strongest Power Imaginable Can Never Separate Us from God’s Love
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.”
Frank Thielman: “Neither angels nor rulers” may refer to types of transcendent beings, whether good (2 Thess 1:7; 1 Tim 5:21) or evil (cf., e.g., 1 Cor 4:9; 6:3; Eph 6:12; Col 2:15), and that is certainly the assumption of virtually all interpreters from early times to the present. Paul can, however, use the term “rulers” (ἀρχαί) unambiguously of visible, earthly governmental authorities (Titus 3:1), and if he uses it that way here, then the rhetorical pairing of opposites would be preserved. Angels would refer to invisible messengers, whether good or evil, and rulers would refer to governmental authorities, whether just (cf. Rom 13:3–4) or unjust (cf. 2 Cor 11:32–33).