Summary: From the beginning of his letter Paul has explained the necessity of salvation through the intervention of Christ’s sacrificial atonement. Having set forth the golden chain of salvation (8.28-30) he now culminates this portion of his letter with a final e
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.
From the beginning of his letter Paul has explained the necessity of salvation through the intervention of Christ’s sacrificial atonement. Having set forth the golden chain of salvation (8.28-30) he now culminates this portion of his letter with a final exclamatory statement of assurance for every believer. All who love God may face their future with fearlessness. They should anticipate eternity with joy because every possible enemy has been rendered powerless. There are none who can bring any compelling accusation against God’s elect. It is God who justifies and declares the believer righteous, so who can bring any charge against the one he has set free? Paul is emphatic that the faithful Christian is more than a conqueror through the One who loves him. “The truth and the wholeness of God’s relationship with the sinful community is made manifest through the surrender of his Son. He did not spare him, nor did he retain him for himself, which would have happened, had he removed him from the judgment of sin. ‘He gave him up’ cannot be separated from 4:25 [who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification]; here too it describes God as the judge who pronounces his verdict against his Son that imposes death upon him. God did this for the sake of all of us. Through this death everyone` that God leads into the community is freed from his guilt, for now Jesus is with God and God acts jointly with him. Now he pardons everything” (Adolf Schlatter, Romans: The Righteousness of God, p. 195).
Paul, in this short paragraph, brings to a conclusion his thoughts from 5.1-8.30. The language is joyously optimistic and laced with rhetorical questions and appropriately superlative responses. There is a decidedly judicial aspect to the believer’s appearing before God and Paul carefully assures the reader that he has no cause for fear. There is none who can be against the one for whom God sent his own Son to die. Moreover, if one has complete assurance that he will be vindicated of all misdeeds on “last day,” then he may also be assured that between now and then he will continue to be victorious over every opposing force of wickedness. It is the love of Christ that maintains the Christian. So great is the love of Christ that nothing, not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger nor even death can separate the believer from Christ’s love (8.35). The Christian overcomes every adversity through the love of Christ (8.37, 39).
JUDICIAL VIDICATION (8.31-34)
What then shall we say to these things? That is, how is one to respond to this great work of salvation. Paul summarizes everything he has said up to this point about salvation (primarily Romans 5.1-8.30, though some would argue that Paul has in mind everything from 1.16-8.30) with the statement: If God is for us, who can be against us? God has brought about the believer’s salvation through Christ. Nothing can alter this fact. So what is to be said of those who oppose the grace of God that brings about salvation for every believer? Well, at best their resistance to the gospel only serves to accentuate its truth and provides a means for the believer to achieve an even greater blessing as God’s faithful child: Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5.11-12). One ought not to presume from this text that God endorses every activity of every Christian. Obviously, this is not true. What is true is that the Christian has every right to be confident in God’s justifying work of grace.
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? Paul’s third rhetorical question is demonstrative of God’s commitment to secure the believer’s salvation. Paul’s language is reminiscent of Abraham’s offering of Isaac, but unlike Isaac, Jesus was not spared (see my sermon notes from July 14, 2002). William Hendricksen’s comments strike to the heart of the text:
God, the Judge, has a Son, and only Son, very precious to him. That Son never committed any sin. In all he did he was ever pleasing to the Father (John 8:29). On the other hand: We all like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). Yet, on this precious and beloved Son God now pronounces the sentence we deserved. It is a sentence immeasurable in its severity, and is carried out in every detail. God did not spare his Son, did not mitigate the severity of the sentence in any way whatever, the Son himself agreeing with the Father and the Spirit in all this. He, the Son, fully bore that horrendous curse. He drank the cup of unspeakable agony to the very last drop. “That bitter cup, Love drank it up. It’s empty now for me.” See Isaiah 53; Romans 6.6-8; 8; 3, 4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13. It would have been unthinkable for God to reject the demands of his justice. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). We ask, “but why was the curse lifted from our shoulders and transferred to the Son of God?” The answer is: So deeply, intensely, and marvelously did God love the world that his Son, the only-begotten, he gave, in order that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have life everlasting. (William Hendricksen, Romans, p. 287)