With the question in verse 31, “What shall we then say to these things?” we come to the conclusion of Romans 8, one of the great chapters of the Bible, which we have been considering together for some months now.
The general subject of Romans 8, as you remember, is the new life which is ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. That new life is based on the great truth of the forgiveness of our sins for the sake of the Precious Blood that was shed for us on Calvary. For this reason, and only for this reason, Paul can write. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in… Him!” But to all, and every one who has been forgiven, God has already given the gift of His Spirit to dwell within them, and He is the Bringer of the new life. In fact, this same Holy Spirit is the Source of all our blessings and benefits in Christ. He creates and sustains faith in our hearts. He seals to us our new status with the Father as children and heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. He supports us in all our needs: interceding for us when we know not how to pray as we ought, leading us onward in all our circumstances and preceding us into the eternal glory which God has purposed for us in Christ.
With all this behind us what indeed shall we say? What can we say that is more than this? What can we add? One thing, as Paul, enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit sees it, and that is THE ASSURANCE THAT IS GIVEN TO US, THE ASSURANCE OF THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST, the confidence in Him that is ours now and forever, and it is stated for us in classic and unforgettable form here in verses 31-39 of Romans 8, in these blessed words: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long: we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life or angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1. We observe at once that our assurance is based fundamentally and ultimately on the GRACE OF OUR GOD, for he writes at the outset of the passage: “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Now, unfortunately, for a great many people today, church members and non-church-members alike, it is nothing wonderful or surprising that God should be for us. They have become convinced by certain modern re-interpretations of Christianity which accord very well with their own desires, that, no matter what they may have done, and no matter what they are doing now, and no matter what their beliefs or attitudes may be, God will forgive them, for after all, they seem to say, “That’s His business – to forgive.” Glibly these people will declare that God is always with them and that they feel very much encouraged and comforted by the knowledge that He is on their side. I say that it is unfortunate that so many think and speak this way and base their actions upon such a belief for one very important reason, namely, that it is NOT TRUE. God is not “for you,” my friend, unless you are for Him and in the way in which He has prescribed.
Paul has made this abundantly clear in this great letter: and he has been guided by God Himself in doing so. At the very beginning (1-18) he has declared that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” and this is a fundamental teaching of the Word of God. It is exceedingly dangerous, therefore, to preach the love of Go, as some do today, without making very clear to people the conditions on which that love can be theirs. Many would gladly smile today supposing that God loves them, when in fact they stand condemned in His sight as sinners who have not repented of their sins nor come in faith to the sin-atoning Lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.
God forbid that I should in any way minimize the love of God! I am as glad as any man to sing “O the Love that drew salvation’s plan! O the grace that brought it down to man! O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!” But I want it to be plain to you all that it is at Calvary that we find that love and not just everywhere.
I rejoice with the apostle John when he writes: “Behold, what wondrous love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God (1 John 3:1)” but we must always remember how that love was bestowed! He gave you to know His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life!” That’s not just general love for all men indiscriminately: but particular love and love that is received by faith, true faith, in the blessed Son of God.
We are simply deceived, and tragically mistaken, if we believe that God loves us and is “for us” in any real sense of the word so long as we have not repented of sin and laid hold on the grace of our God that is in Jesus Christ His Son, our Savior. It is then, and only then, that we can say with Paul here: “who can be against us?”
And he makes this perfectly plain when he goes on to day in verse 32: “He that spared not His own son, but delivered Him us for all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” The phraseology here recalls the word of God to Abraham (Gen. 22:12) “For now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me! It points to Christ the Sacrifice, offered up on the cross for us all who by faith have been saved through Him. There’s the proof and the measure of God’s grace to us, Paul seems to say. Is there then any lesser thing that we now need or that we shall need that God will fail to supply?
Dr. Paul S. Rees, in a commentary on a similar sentiment to this found at the end of Philippians, says, “From the cradle to the grave you and I are simply bundles of needs,” and he proceeds to describe some of these at each stage of life. But then he goes on to warn against the danger of electing our wants into needs and to urge us to leave the interpretation of “need” in higher hands than our own! And that’s good advice, isn’t it? “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory” was Paul’s statement in Philippians, and it is right in line with this that he asks here: “How shall He now with Him also freely give us all things?” This is truly amazing grace, the grace of our God in Jesus Christ His Son, and it is the real foundation on which our assurance in this new life of ours is based!
2. But it is not the only basis for that assurance! No, Paul goes on to speak of the DISGRACE OF ALL POSSIBLE SPIRITUAL ENEMIES in addition to the grace of our God as such a basis: Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemneth? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? And to each of these impossible possibilities, he gives the appropriate answer!
Many will accuse God’s people, those whom He foreknew and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, those for whom His Son was offered on the cruel cross as a Sacrifice for their sins, or as he calls them here, “God’s elect.”
The devil will accuse us, just as he accused God’s righteous servant, Job. He will seek to expose our weaknesses. He will look for every chink in our armor. He will work without ceasing to discourage us and to lead us astray. The world will take up his hue and cry. Wordly men will call us “hypocrites” and they will find all sorts of plausible reasons for doing so. Others will name us “fools” and will try to prove us wrong on ever so many counts. It will never be easy to bear their biting words as it never has been in the past. Our own flesh will not help us much, but will say how much easier it would be for us to take another way, and how much simpler and how much wiser.
Why, even our conscience will accuse us (as our Catechism reminds us in Question 60) calling us grievous sinners against all the commandments of God and pointing our to us what we have not kept any of them and that we are still prone to all that is evil but how beautifully and how truthfully that same answer of the Catechism puts it; “Nevertheless, God, without any merit of my own, out of pure grace, grants me the benefits of the perfect satisfaction of Christ, imputing to me His righteousness and holiness as if I had never committed a single sin or had ever been sinful, having fulfilled myself all the obedience which Christ has carried out for me, if only I accept such favor with a trusting heart.” Yes, indeed, it is god that justifieth!”
Who can make these accusations stick? Who is he that condemneth? Christ died for sinners such as we, who have put our trust in Him. And Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more, but ever liveth to make intercession for us. Yes, He is our Advocate at the right hand of His heavenly Father: shall His case on our behalf be lost? Shall His plea for sinners who have cast themselves on Him be denied?
“My Advocate appears for my defense on high; the Father bows his ears and lays his thunder by. Not all that hell, or sin can say shall turn his heart, his love away.”
Shall and sentence then be passed on us? Shall the Judge on that great day say: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and all his angels?” Or shall even present circumstances leave us in daily doubt of our deliverance? Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword? Haven’t God’s people always experienced such things? Doesn’t the psalmist speak of it already: “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter!” No enemy of our souls shall prevail. Every charge will prove false. No condemnation will be ours, no sentence. The slanderer, the accuser must depart in disgrace, having failed – and there’s another ground of assurance: the grace of our God above all, but the sure disgrace of every enemy of ours besides! Thank God for that!
3. Yet even that isn’t all, for our assurance in the new life is based on the grace of our God, made more certain still by the disgrace of our spiritual enemies, and finally also resting now and forever in OUR PLACE IN GOD’S UNCHANGING LOVE FOR HIS OWN. “We are more than conquerors,” he writes, “through Him that loved us.” With a sharp “Nay”‘ to the possibility of any enemy prevailing over us, Paul goes on to this great closing statement of his. He cannot find a word to describe the totality of our final victory and so he calls us “more than conquerors,” not by our might or power, to be sure, but through Him that loved us and that could be the Father who so loved the world that He gave the Son, or it could be the Son who loved us and gave Himself for us. See again how the love of God is so firmly attached to the Cross – no general truth to be taken up without feeling by us but the great blessing of those who come to Him out of their bondage, sorrow and night, out of their shameful failure and loss into the glorious gain of the Cross.
Sermon written by: Rev. Charles W. Krahe, Seventh Reformed Church