Dr. Richard L. Strauss
April 28, 1991
Purpose: To help us live triumphantly in time of trial and temptation with the knowledge that God is for us.
As you can see, I am not a very large person--smaller than average. When I was a kid, there were times when the bullies in the school intimidated me. I knew I didn't stand a chance against them, so I stayed out of their way. But when I got to college, things changed. I wasn't significantly bigger or stronger than I had been in high school, but I had a friend. My closest friend during my college days, and roommate for some of that time, happened to be a heavyweight wrestler. We spent a lot of time together. I used to ride to class on the back of his motorcycle. I can tell you for sure, nobody messed with me in college. When you have the right person for you, it doesn't matter who is against you.
That's Paul's point in the last section of one of the greatest chapters in all the Bible. He's been teaching us some great truths about triumphant living. We've learned that it is both desirable and possible--in spite of the temptations and trials we face--because we have:
- The Spirit dwelling in us (Romans 8:1-13)
- An honored position in God's family (Romans 8:14-17)
- A glorious future to look forward to (Romans 8:18-30)
- God on our side (Romans 8:31-39)
"What then shall we say to these things?"--all these things that he's been telling us so far, especially about the guarantee that God is going to turn our groaning into glory. Some might be tempted to say, "Well, you can talk about God having a good purpose in every circumstance of life, and that all sounds well and good. But you have never walked in my shoes. You don't know what I'm facing." Others might be tempted to say, "You can claim that we can conquer sin by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, but I haven't been able to. I've tried everything I know to do, and I've fallen flat on my face over and over again."
Paul's got something to say. And he says it in the form of questions--five of them. They're actually rhetorical questions; they don't require an answer. But in each case, the answers are implied. And the questions, with their implied answers, reveal some great truths about God. The first one describes God as our protector.
God is Our Protector: "Who Can Be Against Us?"
Romans 8:31. "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
Even though the sentence is worded as a condition, there is no doubt about it. It is a condition that is assumed to be true. God is for us! Some Christians don't understand that. They're sure God is against them. It's like they're in a game and God has decided that He's going to be on the other team, and therefore oppose everything they want to do. They see Him as peeved with them, down on them, looking for ways to make them miserable. But that isn't the way it is at all. God is not against us; He's for us! He's on our side. He's on our team. He's our friend.
And when you have a friend like Him, you don't need to be afraid of anyone. "Who can be against us?" Actually, there are lots of people who try to oppose us. Satan is against us, trying to defeat us and destroy us. Our old sin nature is lined up against us, trying to bring us back into our old slavery. Unbelievers may be against us, jealous of our peace and joy, resentful of our separation from sin. Paul isn't saying that the Christian has no opponents. The point is that it makes no difference who is against us. They cannot prevail so long as we are aware of the greatness of our God and resting in His sovereign care.
I like what J.I. Packer says about this verse. "...what is being proclaimed here is God's undertaking to uphold and protect us when men and things are threatening, to provide for us as long as our earthly pilgrimage lasts, and to lead us finally into the full enjoyment of Himself, however many obstacles may seem at present to stand in the way of our getting there. The simple statement, 'God is for us', is in truth one of the richest and weightiest utterances that the Bible contains" (Knowing God, p. 238).
It seems as though we're all afraid of somebody's ridicule, displeasure, or hostility. But Paul is exhorting us to think! Think about it! God is for us! Add up all the opponents on the other side and weigh them against our sovereign, all-powerful God, and you'll discover that it's no match.
It would be like Bo Jackson coming into a peewee football game. The game's over. Who can be against him? The guys on his team have nothing to fear. And we have nothing to fear. Since God is for us, no one can prevail against us.
A man named Frederick Nolan was fleeing from his enemies during a time of persecution in North Africa. Pursued by them over hill and valley, he fell exhausted into a wayside cave, expecting them to find him and kill him. As he lay there, he saw a spider weaving a web. Within minutes, the little bug had woven a beautiful web across the mouth of the cave. The pursuers arrived and wondered if Nolan was hiding there, but on seeing the unbroken web, thought it impossible for him to have entered the cave without disturbing it. And so they went on. Knowing he was safe, Nolan burst out and exclaimed, "Where God is, a spider's web is like a wall, and where God is not, a wall is like a spider's web." That's the truth of Romans 8:31. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" That question reveals God as our protector. The second question reveals Him as our provider.
God is Our Provider: "Will He Not Give Us All Things?"
Romans 8:32. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
I wonder if the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac on the altar wasn't in Paul's mind when he wrote that verse. Of Abraham's sacrifice, God said, "...you have not withheld your son, your only son" (Genesis 22:12), and He used the same word here translated "spared." In Abraham's case, God intervened and provided another sacrifice, a ram. But this time there was no divine intervention. God delivered up His own dear Son, the jewel of heaven, for us. He allowed Him to go to Calvary and there bear in His body the awful pain and suffering that our sins deserved. If He did something that fantastic for us, He will certainly provide all we need to sustain us here on this earth, and all we need to see us through to His presence.
It's the same argument he used back in Romans 5:10--if He did the harder thing for us, He will certainly do the easier. Look at it this way. If you bought a very expensive watch for your spouse at an exclusive jewelry store, you don't think the jeweler would deny you the box, do you? Or if you gave your child a new bicycle for his birthday and the tires were flat, you wouldn't deny him some air in his tires, would you? That would be absurd. If you do the greater, you will certainly do the lesser. Do you think God is any less of a loving Father than we are? If He gave the best that He had for our eternal salvation, He will certainly provide all we need to see us through to glory.
All things! What a marvelous promise! Will He not with Him also freely give us all things? He is obviously not talking about material things. This is not a rallying cry for the health and wealth hucksters. Remember what Jesus said: "...one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15). God is going to supply our physical and material needs. He promised that (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19). But He never promised to cater to our greeds. Paul himself had very little of this world's goods. He's talking about everything we need to complete our salvation and make us ultimately like Christ--"glorified," as he put it in Romans 8:30.
Why is it that more Christians do not follow Christ with whole-hearted commitment, recklessly abandon their own goals and aspirations to do His will? Is it not because they are afraid they will miss out on something, that they won't have some of the nice "things" that other people have, that God is somehow going to deny them what they think they need for their happiness? Packer, again, sums up this great promise: "...one day we shall see that nothing--literally nothing--which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing--literally nothing--that could have reduced that happiness has been left with us" (p. 246).
"...Shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" This second question reveals God as our provider. The third and fourth questions reveal Him as our defender.
God Is Our Defender
The next two questions both have the same general idea. They take us into the courtroom where we stand before the divine Judge. The prosecuting attorney is none other than Satan himself, the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). But we have a defender, a legal defender, a counsel for the defense. Let's tune in to the next question and meet Him.
"Who Shall Bring a Charge Against God's Elect?" (Romans 8:33)
To bring a charge against is a legal term that refers to making a formal accusation, "pressing charges" in other words. That's exactly what Satan tries to do. Just as he did with Job, he goes before the Judge and says, "You can't let that Richard Strauss into your heaven, Lord. Don't you know what a sinner he is, what rotten thoughts he has in his mind, what unkind words come out of his mouth, what awful things he has done?" And the sad fact is that his accusations are valid. Satan knows what we're like.
But the point of the verse is that it doesn't matter. "It is God who justifies." In other words, the Judge Himself has declared me to be righteous. And He did it with His eyes wide open, with full knowledge of all my sins and shortcomings. If God has exonerated me knowing full well how rotten I am, then nobody, but NOBODY, can challenge His verdict. Satan has no court of appeal. He gets nowhere with his charges. The case is closed. "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect?" The next question is similar.
"Who Is He Who Condemns?" (Romans 8:34)
There are plenty who try. Our own consciences try to condemn us at times. Unbelievers will point their finger at our inconsistencies and try to condemn us. And Satan is always there, leveling his charges. And with good reason. We all have our shortcomings. But he isn't going to get anywhere. As valid as his charges might be, he has no right to judge us. He himself has been judged.
Jesus Christ is the Judge of all mankind. He is the only one who has the right to condemn us. But rather than condemn us, He is the very one who died for our sins at Calvary, who rose from the grave to prove that His death was an acceptable payment for our sins, and who intercedes for us with the Father. The one who paid for our crimes is Himself our defense attorney, and He's there as our Friend, pleading our case. Do you think for a moment that the Father is going to refuse to answer the intercessory prayers of His Son. Not on your life. How can we possibly be condemned?
Remember how this chapter started? "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." NO CONDEMNATION! That sums up these first four verses and first four questions. And if there were two words to sum up the last question that occupies the last five verses, it would be NO SEPARATION! This question reveals God as our keeper.
God is Our Keeper: "Who Shall Separate Us from the Love of Christ?"
While Paul asks "who" can separate us from the love of Christ, he goes on in this verse to mention things rather than people. He'll get to people in the last two verses of the chapter. Shall "tribulation"? The word means pressure. Do you feel like you're in a vise, and somebody's screwing it down? It makes you wonder whether God still loves you. Doubt it no longer. Pressure cannot separate you from Christ's love.
"Distress" is the next word. While the first word referred to outward pressures, this one probably refers to inner turmoil. "Persecution" was a constant threat to the early church. "Famine" can mean merely a lack of food, and there folks in our midst who are out of work and who don't know where their next meal is coming from. "Nakedness" simply refers to a lack of adequate clothing. "Peril" or "danger" is something we all face at times. "Sword" means a violent death. I've heard more than one Christian complain when they've faced problems like these, "How could God allow this to happen to me if He really loved me? Why doesn't God love me anymore?" He does! Be assured of it. Problems cannot change that. Trials cannot separate us from Christ's love.
I don't know where we get the idea that Christians aren't supposed to have any problems. Paul quotes a verse from the Psalms (Psalm 44:22) to explode that misconception. Romans 8:36. "As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'"
Trials are nothing new or unexpected for the child of God. They have been part of the lives of God's people since time began. Some have even lived with the daily threat of death, which is what this verse is talking about. But far from being able to separate us from the love of Christ, trials are our means to greater triumph.
Romans 8:37. "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
"More than conquerors!" Literally "super-overcomers!" "In all these things"--not by deliverance from these things, but "in" them--in these very things mentioned in verse 35, we are super-overcomers.
A conqueror is a person who defeats his enemies. So a super-conqueror would be a person who causes his enemies to become his helpers (Hendriksen, 293). These trials not only do not hurt us when truly know that God is for us, they help us. They become our friends that help us grow stronger and more virile in our faith.
Romans 8:38-39. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Paul covers the waterfront. He doesn't leave anything out. Some people are afraid of death. Others are afraid of life, with its uncertainties and sorrows, its hardships and its disappointments. But neither one can shake us when we know that God is for us. Good angels are certainly not going to try to separate us from God's love. And evil angels (or principalities) cannot. In fact, no power in heaven or on earth can do it. Time is powerless against us, whether the present with its problems, nor the future with its uncertainties.
"Height" and "depth" were astrological terms. The ancients were terrified by the tyranny of the stars (Barclay, 124), as are some people today. But they cannot affect our lives. "Nor anything else in all creation."
Have we missed anything? I certainly can't think of it if we have. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. By the way, note the "Love of Christ" in verse 35, and the "love of God" in verse 39. That's another indication of Christ's deity.
God loves you, Christian. He's on your side. Nothing can touch your life that does not first pass through His protecting shield of love that surrounds you. And remembering that can help you live triumphantly in times of trial as well as times of temptation.
No one knew that better than Horatio Spafford. Spafford lived in Chicago toward the end of the 19th century. He was a wealthy Christian who supported the evangelistic campaigns of D. L. Moody. He lost his son at an early age, but never doubted God's love for him. He still had his wife and four fine daughters, and a comfortable income. His wealth was heavily invested in Chicago real estate, however, and then came the devastating Chicago fire of 1871, that destroyed most of his holdings and wiped out much of his wealth. But he never stopped believing that God loved him.
Looking for an opportunity to get away and rest for awhile, he booked passage for his family and himself on a ship to England, where he planned to assist Moody in an evangelistic campaign. Last minute business matters kept him behind, but his wife and daughters went on ahead. On the voyage, their ship was struck by another and sank in twelve minutes. He received a telegram from his wife: "Saved alone." His four daughters were gone. He left immediately to join his grieving wife in England and comfort her. When he reached the place where the ship had sunk, he began to write down his feelings, which were later arranged into a hymn: number 256 in your hymnal.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll--
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
(Sorrows, you see, cannot separate us from Christ's love.)
Tho Satan should buffet, tho trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
(Satan's blows do not separate us from the love of Christ.)
My sin--O the bliss of this glorious tho't--
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
(Not even our sin cannot separate us from His love.)
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump will resound and the Lord shall descend,
"Even so"--it is well with my soul.
(Hurry the day, Lord, when we experience that completion of our salvation you have assured us.)
Horatio Spafford was a "super-overcomer." He knew that God was for him, even through bitter trials. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, you can know that too. And you too can be a super-overcomer, come what may.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
If you've never acknowledged your sinfulness and your need of a Savior, and put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the work He accomplished at Calvary's cross for you, I would think this revelation of God in Romans 8 would draw you to this wonderful Lord, so that He could become your protector and your provider and your defender and your keeper, as well. If you've never made that decision, we invite you to do it today. Commit your life to Christ in faith. Become His dedicated follower--a child of God.
Let's bow together prayerfully in His presence right now. With our heads bowed, let me ask you if you do know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. He said whoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. That's more than just giving mental ascent to the fact that He lived and died and even rose again. To believe, in the Scripture, means to depend upon, to put ones full trust in, or reliance upon. Are you trusting in Him? Not trusting in your good deeds or your religious activities or your church background, but Him--the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did at Calvary for you. And if you're not certain, would you settle that issue today? Just in the quiet of your heart and mind and soul, right where you are. You talk to Him.
"God, I'm a sinner. I don't deserve your forgiveness or your heaven, but thank you for providing it for me through the sacrifice of Your Son. Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Forgive my sins. Give me everlasting life."
He wants to do that for you. The apostle Paul said it: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you'll be saved. Most of you in this room this morning and made that decision, but maybe you've been chafing under the trials of life rather than resting in the loving care of your precious Father. Will you covenant today that by His grace, you're going to trust Him--just rest in Him daily, and find peace for your troubled soul?
Oh, Lord, I pray that you will minister to us right now. Bring us to that place of total dedication to Yourself, where we can find peace. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Continue to ROM 17: A Soul Winner's Heart