These past weeks we’ve spent together in Romans 8 have been nothing short of wonderful. We’ve learned much, we’ve seen much, been reminded of much, and been deeply comforted with the great assurance that is ours in Christ! As we come now to the close of this, the greatest chapter in the Bible, I’m feeling three things simultaneously.
First, as we end Romans 8 I have a sense of sadness because it’s now come and gone, and God only knows when we’ll return to it in the life of our congregation.
Second, I feel an acute irony as once again we’re not gathering together because of Covid. So even though we’re separated once again, our text reminds us there is nothing that can ultimately separate us from the love of God in Christ. Life brings all kinds of struggles and sorrows our way, but nothing is able to separate us. Perhaps God has something especially potent for us to learn from this in our current predicament.
Third and lastly, as we end Romans 8 I feel a great sense of celebration. Why? Because v31-39 is nothing but celebration! What other response could there be to these things? All we’ve seen in Romans 8, and expanding that backwards, all we’ve seen in Romans 1-8 so far should so move upon our souls that we too are filled with joyful celebration and praise to God!
So perhaps here at the beginning today let’s just ask. Is that where you are? Given all that we’ve seen and heard here, are you rejoicing? Or are you unmoved? Do you want to praise God for His great works displayed here? For these great doctrines we’ve been lingering on? Or have these things for you just been matters of debate and controversy? Or perhaps you do agree and you do affirm these great truths but you only treat them coldly and clinically as if they were formulas to dissect with precision. Paul does get precise here, no doubt. But he is not cold in his treatment of them. His heart is blazing with love for and affection for this great God who does such great things! And since Paul, as our guide through Romans 8, has…in v31…arrived at a joyful praise of God, shouldn’t we be arriving there as well? If you’re there, praise God! Rejoice and give God the glory He’s worthy of. If you’re not praising God after coming through this glorious chapter, may these verses today lead you there.
This passage contains many questions and answers, but four big questions frame the whole argument. Let’s take them one at a time.
Question 1: v31
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
v31 begins with the question that forms the title of this message and reveals the theme of this passage, “What then shall we say to these things?” This is the first question Paul asks after 30 verses of rich and weighty doctrine. In a sense he’s making a transition. His teaching is done and he now desires to move onto other matters. But that’s not only in view. He’s calling for a response from us, his readers. After giving us 30 verses of rich and weighty doctrine Paul isn’t content to just end and move on to something else. No, he asks the ‘So what?’ question. “What then shall we say about these things?” Simply put, we can say a lot about these things! Volumes and volumes have been written on these great truths throughout the history of the Church. What these things mean, what they don’t mean, why they matter, how they reveal who God is, how they reveal about who we are, how we apply them in our own cultural moment, and more! And until Christ returns Christians will continue to dwell and write and linger over and meditate on these things, as they ought to! What shall we say?? There will always be loads to say about these precious truths! The moment the Church thinks we’ve said enough about these things, is the moment reformation must begin again!
See Paul’s answer to his own question though, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” He answers his question with another question. But, even though it’s technically a question, it’s a dramatic and powerful statement of truth. The small word ‘if’ is not used here to indicate any kind of uncertainty. No, we get the gist of what he’s telling us. Romans 8 has taught us one great principle: God for us. From before time began to glory in eternity future and all in between God is forever and always for His chosen, called, saved, transformed, and kept people. So, if or since or because God is for us, Paul asks, who’s against us?
There are two ways to answer this question. The first way to answer this question of ‘who’s against us’ is, everyone. The whole world could be against us. Why? Because man is by nature a rebel seeking to dethrone God and enthrone themselves. So naturally, if men hate God, men will also hate us who love God, and in that hatred they will seek opportunity to come against us. This is why the Church has always been, to varying degrees, a persecuted Church. We’ll see some of this in v35-39 in a moment. The second way to answer this question of ‘ who’s against us’ is, no one. This is more of what Paul is getting at. Even if the world comes against us, could they really? NO! That’s the promise here. Nothing can and nothing will ultimately stand against us. Why? Because God stands for us, with us, and in us. Or, let’s not forget v28. Because God is sovereignly working all things out for our good, nothing in life will ultimately work against the good of God’s people.
Question 2: v32
“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”
v32 is an argument from the greater to the lesser. Since God has done the greatest act ever imagined (not sparing His Son but giving Him up for us) God can do the lesser, the easier thing as well (give us all things along with His Son). The idea of sparing is prominent in v32. We know what it is to spare someone. We use this word when someone or we ourselves are saved from something awful happening to them at the last second. It’s natural to think of Abraham and Isaac here.Remember it? God had commanded the sacrifice of Isaac, and as unimaginably difficult that had to be, Abraham obeyed and headed out and up Mt. Moriah with Isaac. Abraham got the altar ready, laid Isaac on it, bound him, and at the last second when the knife was lifted God stopped him and provided another sacrifice. At this both Abraham and Isaac had to rejoice, because God had spared him.
While God did that for Abraham and Isaac long ago, v32 says God didn’t do this with His own Son. God did not alleviate, God did not hold back, and God did not lighten or withhold a single drop of His anger when He poured His wrath out on Christ on the cross. As much as Abraham loved Isaac, it doesn’t compare to how much God the Father loves God the Son. Even so, the Father would not spare His Son, in order to save us. See then who delivered up Jesus to die. Was it Judas, for money? Was it Pilate, for fear? Was it the Jews, for envy? Ultimately, no. It was the Father, for love. That God would do this shows us His great heart abounding in love for those He desires to redeem.
See where Paul goes next in v32. Since God did the greater thing of not sparing His Son for us, God can also do the lesser thing and give us blessings innumerable in His Son. There is much to enjoy here, but caution is needed as well. The phrase “all things” in v32 needs to be interpreted through the phrase “with Him.” The blessings in view then, aren’t just things we desire to have in this life or the next, no. They’re blessings that come to us in Christ. John Calvin has a great comment on this in his Romans commentary. He says, “This passage ought to remind us of what Christ brings to us, and to awaken us to contemplate His riches; for as He is a pledge of God’s infinite love towards us, so He has not been sent to us void of blessings or empty, but filled with all celestial treasures, so that they who possess Him may not lack anything necessary for their perfect happiness.”
Church, God will provide, in Christ, all we need for our life with Him. We will not lack anything we truly need. That’s the promise of v32. The King’s grace is truly greater than we know.
Question 3: v33-34
“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
This third question has some repetition in it. Back in v31 we’ve already seen Paul bring up the fact that none can stand against us because God is with us and for us. In v33 there is similar language but with a difference. Not only is election now mentioned here but justification is mentioned as well. So, it seems what was present implicitly in v31 is present explicitly here in v33. And, as we understood in v31 that many do attempt to stand against us even though no one can ultimately stand against us, here in v33 the same is true. “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?” Well, I’m sure many do. I’m sure many have, and I’m sure many will attempt to bring a charge against God’s elect in the future. But ultimately, will any of these charges stick? Will any of these charges sway the Judge? No! Why not? Because God has already passed verdict on us, “Justified!”, is the banner over us now and nothing or no one can change that.
Think on this further. Many think the main work of the Devil is temptation. Do you think that? I don’t. I think the Devil’s main work is accusation. It’s in His very name. The Hebrew name Satan means the Accuser. So it’s the very nature of the Devil to harass God’s elect, to constantly tell us of our many sins, prodding our conscience, aiming to stir up our guilt and take away our assurance and joy. And you know what’s crazy about his accusations? Many of them are true! We are great sinners, and we have greatly sinned. But you know what’s even crazier? We have a greater Savior! Look at v34. Since God has justified us, who can condemn us? No one! Why? Christ is the One who died for us as our sin-bearer, and more than that, Christ is the One who was raised for us as our sin-defeater, and more than that, Christ is the One seated in victory at the right hand of God ever interceding for us.
In other words, God’s work of redemption, in Christ, is so complete, no one, not the Devil, not anyone, can accuse us or condemn us. God’s verdict stands.
Question 4: v35-39
The melody of Romans 8 now reaches its highest and most triumphal pitch. Hear it Church…
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Beautiful. v35 is the last question in Romans 8 and is it answered emphatically! Shall anything separate us from the love of Christ? The list Paul rattles off in v35 is unsettling isn’t it? “…tribulation …distress …persecution …famine …nakedness …danger…sword?” I’ve recently been reading about what occurred in France when the Protestant Reformation blew through it, and I’m astonished. Thousands of people who left Roman Catholicism for the new evangelical faith were burned in the streets. But, they ran into a problem. They had to stop publicly executing these people because their boldness and courage in the face of death was creating too many new converts! We may not experience these things in our own Christianity in the affluent West at this time, but do not doubt, this list is nothing less than the hard soil God’s Church has grown in throughout the ages.
And Paul even wants to tell us this in v36 when he reaches back and quotes Psalm 44:22. God’s people thought of themselves as those that are killed all day long, as sheep for the slaughter. It was true then, it was true in Christ’s own day, it was true in Reformation Europe, and just ask our Afghani brothers and sisters if this is true today. “It’s no new thing for the Lord to permit His saints to be exposed to the cruelty of the wicked.”
But, by God’s grace His elect Church doesn’t just endure or survive this cruelty, we conquer in the midst of it. See that in v37? Through Him who loved us we conquer! Then Paul rattles off another list in v38-39, answering the question posed in v35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”… “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Well Church, we’re now done with Romans 8. Simply put, I think we have, in part, seen why this chapter is widely held as one of the greatest chapters in the Bible. Beginning in v1 with no condemnation and ending in v39 with no separation…how great is the assurance we have in Jesus Christ?
v38 began with the phrase, “For I am sure…” Here’s the question I’d like to leave you with as we end this chapter. Are you sure of these things? Are you persuaded, are you convinced?
Or are you, maybe even still, unmoved by these things? “If so, bring your heart to Jesus. If you heart is hard, the love of Christ will soften it. If you heart is cold, the love of Christ will warm it. If you heart is sinful, the love of Christ will purify it. If you heart is sorrowful, the love of Christ will soothe it. If you heart is wandering, the love of Christ will draw it back. Bring your heart to Jesus. May you know His love, it’s fullness and it’s freeness.”
 R.C. Sproul, Romans, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2009), 296.
 John Murray, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1968), 323.
 Sproul, Romans, 296–297.
 Octavius Winslow, quoted in Murray, Romans, 324.
 John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries – Romans (accessed via Accordance Bible software 8.26.21), emphasis mine.
 Murray, Romans, 330.
 John Calvin, quoted in Douglas Moo, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2018), 565.
 J. V. Fesko, Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018), 241.
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans – The Law: Its Functions and Limits (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 1985), 258.
 Octavius Winslow, quoted in Fesko, Romans, 242.