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Recently Added
to Exposition of Romans:


11:33–36—Glory to God for his unsearchable judgments
(May 16th 2018)
Romans 8:35-39—Nothing can separate Christians from the love of Christ.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress,
or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
39 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.

If a conclusion must be based on premises, what are the premises of this conclusion? Why is Paul so joyously confident that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord? The reasons go back to chapter 5 where Paul made two important points about God’s love.

First, God poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. I pointed out in the message on 5:5 that the Greek verb “pour out” conveys an abundance of supply that will never run out. Resting in God’s inexhaustible love, we can endure troubles with hope and rejoicing. Nothing can deplete God’s love and no power natural or supernatural can keep it from us.

Second, the demonstration of God’s love is Christ’s death for sinners (5:8). The cross signifies the everlasting commitment of God’s love. By giving up his Son to reconcile his enemies, the Father made it possible for those who receive the Son to become his children, forever filled with love and free of fear (8:15).

So the popular hymn is correct: God’s love never fails and never changes. The ultimate reason, of course, is that God is love (1 John 4:8), so to be separated from his love would require that we be separated from him.

Paul’s suffering for Christ
Paul wrote from his own experience in verse 35, for he had suffered all these trials with the exception of the last, the sword, which would come later. See 2 Corinthians 11:25–27 and 12:10.

Throughout history God’s people have been slaughtered for their faith, as Paul makes clear by his quotation of Psalm 44:22. Not only is suffering nothing new for those who are faithful to God, but they have also regarded their suffering as for God’s sake. Paul likely also saw relevance in the psalmist’s closing plea, “Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” (44:26). Redemption has indeed come, and though suffering persists, God transcends it for our good through his sovereign love.

Superconquerors
“More than conquerors” in verse 37 could be translated “supervictors” or “superconquerors.” The Christian, R. C. Sproul says, is “the superman” who alone has the power to conquer all these hardships. “Christianity, instead of diminishing our manhood, our strength and our authentic existence, enhances them.” Satan and his followers might think they defeated the martyrs, but the martyrs conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:10–11).

Nothing can separate
Having cited trials we may encounter in everyday life in verse 35, Paul adds the supernatural in verses 38–39. Whether we live or die, nothing in all creation, earthly or heavenly, present or future, can come between us and the ever-present, eternal love of God.

Only a few items in Paul’s list require explanation. For rhetorical reasons Paul may have paired “angels” with “rulers.” Angels are benevolent beings who serve God and his elect (Hebrews 1:14), whereas “rulers” are malevolent spirits against which we wrestle (Ephesians 6:12). “Powers” likewise are hostile spiritual beings Christ defeated (Ephesians 1:21). “Height” and “depth” may represent heaven and hell.

Draw near to the Lord of love
Most of us can find in one of Paul’s lists something that troubles us most right now. I suggest that you bring your hardship to the Lord and ask him to pour out his love on you. Though your trial may continue, the Lord will guide you through, for we know that his compassion rises in proportion to our suffering: “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:5 NASB).

Important for each of us to know is that Jesus Christ is Lord over everything we have done or others have done to us. My sin was great. God’s love is greater. What can separate us now?


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