This portion of scripture has been called the Christian’s Triumph Song because it shows in ultimate terms that victory belongs to the redeemed. As believers we sometimes forget to step back from the day-to-day trials and discouragements that make up life in a fallen world and remember that our biggest problem has been solved. We may face tough times and hardship but our sins are forgiven and our eternity is sure. This passage enables us to adjust our perspective and do just that. It allows us to see the glory of the forest in the midst of the discouragements of the trees. It tells us that we ultimately win. We stand in the presence of God fully justified and nothing can remove us. We bask in the love of God through Christ and it’s a love nothing can separate us from. We’re justified and loved and because of our Savior our status can’t change. This text is the perfect way to end a glorious chapter and summarize everything in the book thus far. There is no better news and no better truth to contemplate when life disappoints. Jesus paid it all, relationship with the Father is ours, and glory awaits. If Romans 8:31-39 is true, what do we ultimately have to worry or be discouraged about?
31-34 – Nothing Can Separate Us From the Presence of God
The passage breaks down into two parts. The first half, 31-34, could be entitled “Nothing Can Separate Us From the Presence of God.” The second half, 35-39, could be “Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of God.” In both cases, Paul seeks to conclude his incredible treatise on what it means to be justified and living in the Spirit by celebrating all that is true of the redeemed.
Paul begins the first half with a rhetorical question, “What then shall we say to these things?” It’s hard to know for sure what these things refers to. He could be referring to what he just said in verses 29-30 that God calls those He predestined, and justifies and glorifies those He calls. His scope, however, seems to be bigger. That he immediately launches into a discussion of justification and how we can’t be removed from the presence of God argues for these things referencing either the whole section from Chapter 5 on (Chapters 5-8 go together as an explanation of how to apply the good news of Chapters 1-4) or perhaps everything in the letter to this point.
Regardless, Paul wants a response to what we now know. We know the gospel, we know we’re justified, we know we live under God’s grace, we know there’s no condemnation for us in Christ, we know we live in the Spirit, we know we have the promise of glory, we know the Spirit we live in actually prays for us, and we know God works all things for our ultimate good (our sanctification). Knowing all this, how do we respond? We’re in the presence of God because of Christ (a status not available to us under the Law we couldn’t keep), can anything threaten us? Is our position sure?
Paul answers those questions with more truth. God is the one who’s for us. The omnipotent Creator of the universe is on our side. If that’s the case, does it matter who’s against us? Is there anyone or anything that can threaten HIM? Not only that, but the Creator also gave us His Son to redeem us (He freely delivered Him up for death). Since there’s no gift greater than His Son, doesn’t it make sense that He’ll also grant us the privileges that come along with the gift (the all things that God freely gives likely refer to the ramifications of our redemption – the Spirit’s presence, access to God, God’s superintending our sanctification through circumstances, our future glorification)? God freely gives us these things along with the gift of His Son and we can know they’re ours because the gift was so extraordinary. How could God hold something back after He’s already given us the most amazing gift of all?
As to anyone who would oppose our position before God, it is God Himself who justifies us through the death of Christ (ultimately, our justification means we stand in the presence of the One who can’t allow sin in His presence – we justifiably come before Him because we stand in the perfect righteousness of Christ – we don’t slink in, we come boldly because God’s justice now requires our admittance – justification means we legally have a record that meets the standard of perfection required to enter). If God Himself justifies us, how can anyone possibly threaten that justification? Even more, our Redeemer didn’t just die; He rose from the dead (which means we don’t have to fear death because it’s been conquered on our behalf) and is now at the right hand of God interceding for us. His position shows His supremacy over all things and likely defines His intercession (meaning that He doesn’t intercede by pleading our case as much as He intercedes simply by showing that the redemptive work required for our justification is complete). [The Spirit intercedes with groanings – as we studied in verse 26 – but that appears to be in regard to our sanctification. Nowhere in scripture does it say Jesus intercedes on behalf of our justification by pleading our case before the Father. Intercession makes more sense if we see it as a product of Jesus’ position next to the Father showing His redemptive work to be complete.]
We also know that Jesus Himself will judge the living and the dead (II Tim 4:1). That means our Redeemer will be our Judge. He is Judge and Justifier. That bodes well for us, yes? It’s another reason we can know our position is sure and that there’s no condemnation for us in Christ (8:1). It doesn’t matter who opposes us (Satan, the world, our conscience); God is for us. And since we’re justified and we’ll someday be glorified because of Christ, our position is unassailable.
Nothing can separate us from the presence of God.
35-39 – Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of God
Paul continues to heap on the encouragement. He does so, however, while acknowledging the hardships of life in a sin-fueled world. First the encouragement – nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Christ’s death was the ultimate act of love. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (Jn 3:16) and there is no greater love than One giving up His life for another (Jn 15:13). Just as we know that God will give us all things because He gave us His Son, so we know that His love for us is sure because of the same reason. And if God loves us – in Christ – it makes sense that His love can’t be thwarted. God doesn’t love imperfectly or variably. His love doesn’t ebb and flow and nothing can change it.
That said, we sometimes need reminded that it exists. When we go through tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword it may be hard to remember that God loves us. And to a greater degree, when we’re actually put to death for God’s sake, God’s love may seem distant. But Paul says none of these things can separate us from it. Not only that, we overwhelmingly conquer in all these things through Him who loved us. So yes, God allows things into our lives that seem hard to reconcile with His love, but since we know they’re ultimately for our good (vs 28) we can actually thrive in their midst and not allow them to make us doubt His love.
From a purely human standpoint, this a bizarre text, isn’t it? Paul seeks to encourage us by listing all the hardships that our Father in heaven who loves us with a perfect and absolute love (expressed in the death of His Son) allows in our lives. It doesn’t exactly fit with the idea of, “God loves you!” that we so often say to each other. And if another person in our acquaintance said to us, “I love you so much that I’m going to make your life a living hell,” it would seem a little odd and perhaps a bit psychotic, wouldn’t it? But in this case it’s Paul once again hitting us where we live. He deals with life as it really is in this world. And in this world we have trials. It’s in those trials, however, that Paul wants us to remember that no matter how hard or discouraging or dark things become, God loves us and His love is absolute and not based on circumstances. The trials don’t change His love, they don’t annul His love, and they don’t mean we’re removed from His love. Nothing can do that. When things are at their worst, we have to ultimately keep three things in mind: God is sovereign (this isn’t out of His control, He isn’t surprised by this); God is good (He can’t do something against His perfect and just nature, He doesn’t act in spite); and God loves us (He redeemed us and He works all things for our sanctification and usefulness in His kingdom).
He ends with a restatement of the same idea but from a different angle. Nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (it’s based on redemption, not on our performance or how loveable we are). There is no power on earth or above earth or under the earth that can make a difference in God’s love for us. From the highest height to the lowest depth, nothing can separate us from it. God didn’t spare His Son on our behalf so we know His love is unquestioned. And just as it doesn’t matter who opposes us since God is for us, so we know that it doesn’t matter what trials befall us because it’s God who loves us.
Nothing can separate us from the Love of God.
God is for us so it doesn’t matter who’s against us.
God justified us so it doesn’t matter who accuses us.
God justified us so our position before Him is secure.
God justified us so our future glory is assured.
God delivered up His Son for us so we know He loves us.
God loves us because of Christ, not because we earned it.
God loves us because of Christ, so His love doesn’t change.
God loves us because of Christ, so nothing can separate us from that love.
God loves us in the midst of hardship.
God loves us, so He sends circumstances to complete us.
God loves us and enables us to thrive in the midst of trials.
As we said in the introduction – if Romans 8:31-39 is true, what do we ultimately have to worry or be discouraged about?