Summary: At times it appears that a LOT of things are against us. We may have enemies, and often we’re our own enemy; but since God is on our side, nothing can defeat us.
Sermon Series on Romans 8> Reasons to be ENCOURAGED
Reason #8> We’re on the Winning Team! Romans 8:31-39
A little over a year ago I attended a sports banquet in Natick with my next-door neighbor Michael. The event was hosted by Athletes in Action, and featured several members of the New England Patriots. The season was far from decided, and the MC, Joe Castiglione, asked the players what they thought about their chances for making it to the Super Bowl. The players hesitated, smiled, looked at one another sheepishly, and finally one of them said: “Well, that would be great, but right now we’re just trying to play our best.” And doing so without Drew Bledsoe, disabled from an injury. A rather modest statement from tough, professional football players. That evening I don’t think anyone on the team (or the audience) had an idea that the Pats were going to be Super Bowl champions.
We may wonder about our own chances…as we go through various trials in life, it’s hard to imagine that Paul’s words apply to us. “More than conquerors”? It seems idealistic at best when we’re facing difficult times, when we feel defeated. Will we overcome, or be overcome by circumstances? Paul concludes chapter 8 by spelling out the final triumph of the love of God. Let’s consider the scope of God’s promise, verse-by-verse:
God is for us (31)
The first thing we need to recognize is that “God is for us” (vs 31). The word “if” would be better translated “since”. There is no question as to God’s position. Paul wants us to know in no uncertain terms that we’re secure in Christ. At times it appears that a LOT of things are against us. We may have enemies, and often we’re our own enemy. We may face difficult choices, ethical dilemmas, trying circumstances, but since God is on our side, nothing can defeat us. On the other hand, if God is against us, it doesn’t matter who is for us!
Martin Luther was put on trial in the German town of Worms to defend his teachings, in a building adjacent to the town’s Romanesque cathedral. As the hostile crowds jostled him in the streets Luther repeatedly stated, “God will be for me.”
He will give us all things (32)
What “things” is Paul referring to? The “all things” of verse 28, which will “work together for good”. God isn’t obliged to give us everything we ask for, but He gives us all that we need. God can be so generous because He offered His Son as our sin-Substitute. Jesus was punished in our place, in our behalf. God demonstrated His love in one, historic, indisputable act. This is the single most important teaching of the Bible. Nearly every verse of Scripture that mentions God’s love also deals with atonement, the price God pays for our forgiveness. The Father “did not spare His own Son”.
If you visit various churches you’ll find two kinds of crosses—an empty cross that emphasizes our Lord’s resurrection, and a crucifix that emphasizes the sacrificial death of Christ. In military Chapels we use interchangeable crosses. A Catholic theologian spoke of how he would like to take a crucifix into a non-liturgical church and explain, “See—God loved us like that!”
No charges (33-34)
Who can accuse us? Satan can try (he’s called in Scripture the “accuser”), but the charges won’t stick; they’ll be thrown out of court because the Judge has already declared us “not guilty”. There are no longer any grounds for condemnation. Jesus is the Advocate for our defense, standing at the right hand of the Father, pleading our case. He chose us, and intercedes for us, though He doesn’t really need to “defend” us—by dying for us, Jesus took our punishment. In civil trials, cases can be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. The highest court of all has made it’s finding—“no condemnation” (vs 1). No power can challenge or appeal the Father’s verdict. We will all stand one day before the Judge, but thanks to our Savior, we have nothing to fear. We may feel at times like we’re testing the limits of God’s patience, but we’re all “works in progress”. Our eternal destiny is secure. When upon the cross Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” this meant the final debt was paid-in-full. The Spirit is now guiding us unfailingly through the dark paths of life, and we have God’s guarantee that we’ve been permanently pardoned and justified. There is nothing left to fear.
No separation (35-36, 38--39)
I want to skip over for a moment verse 37 and focus on it last. Paul lists things that cause separation in vss 35-36—hardship, persecution, hunger and cold. They have no power over us. Who will separate us from God’s love? These are all “unanswerable questions” in a “breathless, mountaintop paragraph” (Boice). Paul defiantly hurls his questions out into space, and no one can respond. He continues in vss 38-39, affirming that death, life, angels, even the demons of hell can’t keep God’s love away from us. Paul adds, “nor any powers” (vs 38), which likely refers to governments. The word “persecution” means “to be pursued by someone who is relentlessly intent on causing us harm” (Wuest). Persecution is a normal outcome of taking a stand for our faith in Christ. Nero tried his best to persecute the followers of Christ, yet from a small group of harassed nobodies sprang a world-wide fellowship of disciples. Tertullian, one of the early church leaders, stated that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Verse 36 quotes Ps 44:22, citing the risk of faith.