Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 29, 2018
Let us begin this morning with our April memory verse. This will be our last Sunday focusing on this verse. Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Today will also be our last Sunday in Romans 8, famously known as “Great Eight”, and hopefully after spending several months in this chapter you are finding out why it is called Great Eight. In summary, we can conclude that the purpose of the Apostle Paul, and the purpose of the Holy Spirit, in chapter eight is to reassure Christians of their eternal security in the Lord.
The chapter began by claiming that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. It then proceeds to unpack the reality that every believer has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who intercedes on our behalf. Then we are told that God uses everything for our good. Which mean that all of God uses all of his creation to lead all of us to an ultimate good. So in just that statement alone, Christian, we have assurance, for there is no way that it ends bad for a believer. Chapter eight then moves into what was called the “Golden Chain.” Where we are told that God foreknew us, predestined us, called us, justified us, and glorified us. No one falls out of this chain. The entire point of this passage is to give us assurance of our eternal security. If you are in Christ, you are guaranteed to see glory. Why? Because this is your eternal destiny ordained by an eternal God.
Which leads us to what we unpacked last week. Paul poses the question, “What then shall we say to these things?” To that question, Paul reminds us that God is on our side. That God is for us. That God is so “for us” that he gave the greatest gift that can be given, his Son, Jesus Christ. There is nothing that God can give more than Christ. And if God gave you Christ to save you, your wretched sinner, then you can rest assured that he will see it through to the end. And this morning we are going to continue with these thoughts as we examine verses 35-39, but for purposes of context let us stand and read verse 31-39 in its entirety.
The Love of Christ
In verse 35 we see the Apostle Paul say, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” So let us nail down what is meant by the love of Christ. First, let us say what it is not. The love of Christ is not our love of Christ. Yes, it is true we love Christ. Yes, it is true that God has given us a new heart with new affections and Jesus is the object of our highest affections. However, this is not what Paul is referring to in this passage. The context makes this overwhelming clear. The purpose of Romans 8 is to exult the sovereignty of God from beginning to the end of our salvation. The purpose is to shine the light of God’s glory in your election, justification, sanctification, and glorification. Therefore, what Paul is talking about in verse 35 is not the love of Christians, but the love of Christ, the love that Christ possesses.
As we know, love involves two objects, the lover and the loved. As we said, Paul is talking about Jesus as the lover, the source of love, so who or what is the object of Christ’s love? Who is the beloved? In verse 35 Paul refers to “us.” The “us” are the beloved. So who are the “us”? Last week we unpacked this same exact question. And last week we observed that the “us” were those whom God foreknew, predestined, called, and justified. We saw last week that the “us” are those who God is for. Verse 31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” We saw last week that the “us” are those who God gave the gift of his son to. Verse 32, “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?” We saw last week that the “us” are God’s elect. Verse 33, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” As we saw election is just another word for those chosen.
Therefore, the object of Christ’s love are the foreknown, predestined, called, and justified. The object of Christ’s loves are the elect. The object of Christ’s love are those who were given the gift of Christ.
And what is the gift of Christ? What is this display of love that originates in Christ and is poured out on us? It is his life, death, and resurrection. Verse 34, “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.” The love of Christ is the sacrificial atonement of Jesus. 1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The love of Christ is a love of sacrifice. A love that addresses our deepest problem, sin and death.
Jesus speaks of this sacrificial love in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is the love of Christ; the giving up his life so that you can live. This is what makes Jesus our good Shepherd. John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Who are these sheep that Jesus knows, they are the elect. What does he do for these sheep? He lays down his life for them.
And who is this Good Shepherd? Listen to what Paul says about Jesus in Colossians 1:15-20, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Therefore, the greatest being performs the greatest act of love. And he does this for the purpose of reconciling you to himself. Jesus wants you so bad that he laid down his life for you. As it says in Ephesians 5:25, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” And why did Jesus do this? Because we are awesome? NO. Because he is awesome.
Nothing Shall Separate
But let us turn back to Romans 8 and remind ourselves of the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” To that Paul launches into one of two lists, ” Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
The interesting thing about this list for Paul is that it is not just theological it is experiential. For the things in this list are things that Paul has lived since he gave his life to Christ. Paul’s life as a follower of Christ was far from easy. None of your lives compare to how hard Paul’s life was.
Listen to how Paul describes his life as a servant for Christ. 1 Corinthians 4:11, “To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”
Then in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 Paul gives detail of his life as a missionary, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;26on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,b in cold and exposure. 28And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” The list in Romans 8 is not Paul waxing poetically, it is the testimony of his life following Christ.
But Paul is not alone, for the life of a Christian is not a life of health, wealth, and prosperity. It is a life of trials and tribulations. Listen to these verses.
The Christians life is hard, it is not easy. Just ask our brother Job. Satan took his wealth, Satan took his family, Satan took his health, but do you know what Satan could not take from him? The love of God. God had set his eternal affections on Job and no trial or tribulation could destroy God's love. And this is true for Job and it is true for all of God’s children. God is our loving Father, and he sent his Son to bring you into his family, and nothing can destroy that relationship, for it is forged in the furnace of God’s eternal love.
And just in case we don’t understand that we are eternally God’s through the death of Christ, Paul gives us a second list. Verse 38, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor 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.“
Beloved, ponder that list. Let each word sink in. Your death cannot separate you from the love of Christ. For a believer, death is a doorway into paradise. Nothing in your life can separate you from the love of Christ. Not money, not your job, not your friends, not your family, not wealth, not poverty. Angels and Demons cannot separate you from the love of Christ. They are not more powerful than the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They do not have the authority to rip you out of the hands of God. Nothing that is going on in your life right now, nor anything that is waiting for you tomorrow or the next day can separate you from the love of Christ. Verse 39 says neither height nor depth can separate you, these Greek words were used to describe the celestial space below and above the horizon, therefore the idea is that there is nothing in the universe that way (up), or that way (down) that can separate us from God's love. And just to reinforce this idea, Paul says “nor anything in all creation.”
So once again, ponder that, nothing, absolutely nothing can separated you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Or to say it another way, absolutely nothing can make you lose your salvation. All Christians are eternally secure. If you are born again, you will be saved for all time.
But some of you will say, “But I know a person who fell away from the Lord and stopped believing in Jesus. What about him? He was not eternally secure” Your right, he was not eternally secure, because he was never secure. He was not born again, he was a Judas. His faith was not a gift from God it originated in his own flesh. Perhaps the best text that speaks to this is 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” One of the distinguishing marks of a true believer is that they never fall away, no matter what.
More than Conquerors
So if we, Christians, are not Judas's what are we? Look at verse 37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Christians are “more than conquerors.” What does that mean?
More than conquerors is one word in the Greek. It is hypernikaō (hü-per-nē-kä'-ō). As you can probably tell, it is made up of two words. Hyper, which means over, above, beyond. And nikaō, which means to overcome, prevail, be victorious. The Greek word comes from the Greek God Nike, which we are all familiar with due to the sports apparel company Nike.
So Christians are not just Nike, we are above Nike. We are a people who don't just “do it”, and get through it. We go beyond just doing it. But how? How are we beyond victorious in our lives? Remember, what is Paul talking about. He is talking about things that try to separate us from the love of Christ. These are not good things, they are bad things. Things that make us weep, things that make our souls downcast, things that bring us to the brink. As Christians, we don't just endure hardships and make it to the other side. But instead this hardships are used to make us like Jesus. Remember verse 28? God uses all things for our good. What is our good? Reaching glory? What is glory? Our destiny of becoming like Christ in every way.
This is what it means to be more than a conqueror. That God uses our deepest struggle to make the deepest change in our life to sanctify us, to make us holy, to fulfill our destiny, to become like Jesus. And because we are more than conquerors, we should rejoice in our trials and tribulations, and the Apostle Paul has already said this earlier in Romans 5:3, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”