Meditations in Romans : 44: God is For Us – 3
Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
In what turns into a tidal wave of assurance Paul started by declaring that God was for us and had proved it by sending Jesus, had then gone on to deal with two negatives – no charges and no condemnation – and now peaks with this final thought that nothing can separate from God’s love, and the rest of the chapter is given over to this.
When he said that God is for us, it is because God IS love (1 Jn 4:8,16) and love is always FOR the other person. Because everything God thinks, says or does is an expression of love, He always wants the best for us and is always working to bring that to us. In fact our lives are surrounded by His love, energised by His love, motivated by His love, blessed by His love – His love does everything. But then there come times in life when we go through difficulties and in those times we FEEL alone and we feel nothing is going well for us, but at those times we need to remember the FACTS and we need to remember Paul’s words in this passage. So he brings us this assurance.
When he asks this opening question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” it is simply so that he can set off against it a whole range of things that we might think would do so – but don’t! Thus he continues, “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” These are a summary list of things that could go wrong for the Christian, especially in his time. These are the things that we might think would separate us from experiencing God’s love. Indeed he goes on to quote from Psa 44:2, “As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered,” (v.36) as if to confirm that this is a common experience for God’s people.
But immediately he refutes the idea that these sorts of experience will keep us from God’s love: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (v.37) A conqueror is one who has fought a battle and overcome and has won territory. We have been GIVEN the territory! We didn’t have to fight for it, we didn’t have to struggle to be good people, religious people, godly people, we just received it. We are more that conquerors, we are inheritors! And it was all done by God because He loved us and goes on loving us and will always love us. His love is not dependent on anything WE do; it is constant and unchanging and so it doesn’t matter what the experience of life, that love will always be there. We may not, at times, feel it, but it will still be there, regardless of what comes.
And then his pinnacle declaration that caps off all and any thoughts and doubts and worries that we might have: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v.38,39) Look, says Paul, it doesn’t matter whether we are dead or alive, it doesn’t whatever spiritual forces come against us, it doesn’t matter how far you go in any direction, it doesn’t matter what you can show me in the whole of existence, none of these things will be able to separate us from the love of God that has been revealed to us through our Lord Jesus.
Now let’s consider some basic definition stuff. When you separate something from something, you are taking it away from what already exists, you take the one thing from another thing. Our life, our experience is one that is embedded in God’s love. Everything about it pertains to God’s love, we are in it and it is in us. The idea that Satan sometimes sows is that we can be taken out of this love or it can be taken out of us and we can be left without it. Not true! There is only one force in all of creation that is capable of getting us away from this position we now experience – us! We do have the capability of turning our backs on God and when we do that, of course we are no longer living in the wonder of God’s love – but it is still there.
Thus the challenge is all about experiencing this love. It is there and nothing but nothing can stop it reaching us – except us. My heart and pride and unbelief can mean that I don’t appreciate and appropriate it – but it is still there. I have this feeling that a big part of sanctification is about appreciating and appropriating the love of God. It has always been there in my life and will always be there, but have I always appreciated it and have I always appropriated it? I am sure that when I have done both these things it has been in limited measure and I hope and pray that as I live out how ever many years He gives me, I will more and more appreciate and more and more appropriate His love, not merely that I will be more blessed but also that He will be more pleased.
This is the wonderful point that the apostle Paul brings us to at the end of this chapter, so we will leave it there for the moment. Read back through this chapter for it is indeed an amazing exposition. Rejoice in it and worship Him through it. Amen.