Rev. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.
“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, nor 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. “
Two things strike fear in us when we think about our relationship with God. The first is this: will God as Judge condemn me for my sins? The second is this: will something in my life so affect me that I will make myself unworthy of His love and therefore I will lose it?
To express it a bit differently, do I have a right to Gods love, and if I do, can anything snatch me out of the arms of my Heavenly Father?
The thought of condemnation by or separation from Jehovah, the God of my salvation, is overwhelming. By contrast, the guarantee of its impossibility affords for us infinite comfort.
The words of this passage give us such a guarantee.
In Romans 8:33, 34 the Holy Spirit sets forth the challenge, “Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Just imagine for a moment, can your enemy stand before God and produce evidence that you should be condemned for your sins? Can the old devil, can any man, cai1 your own conscience, which is often smitten with guilt, stand before God as Judge and show t Him that you have done something so wrong that you must be sentenced to everlasting condemnation? The answer is no, a thousand times no! The reason is not that we are innocent, but, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34). God as Judge has declared that we are righteous in Christ, and therefore no evidence can be produced before Him that would occasion a sentence of condemnation for us. The judicial aspect is settled for eternity.
Now the apostle is concerned about God’s love for us. Can anything take place in our lives which would occasion a change of heart in God, so that even though we have a right to glory we may never arrive there due to changes that occur in our lives which affect Gods love for us?
It is evident that the burden elf the text is Gods love for us and not our love for God. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? We are “more than conquerors through him that loved us. ” Also, nothing “shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ”
God’s love for us is the heartbeat of the covenant of grace.
Love is the power of the heart which is attracted to another person in such a way so as to form a bond of friendship.
God has said about Himself, “God is love” (I John 4:8). His very Being partakes of the character of love. Just as God is light, God is truth, God is eternal, so also God is love. Because God is all His attributes, they influence each other and determine the very nature of God. Gods love is eternal, infinite, light, etc.
This love of God comes to expression within Himself as the Person of the Father loves the Person of the Son through the Person of the Holy Spirit within the one heart of God. The same is true as the Son loves the Father in the Spirit.
This love is the love that God has for us.
Nothing is more precious to us than to be an object of the love of God. In that love of God, we have been predestinated: “in love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:4, 5). In that love we have been redeemed, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). In that love we are brought to salvation by the gospel: “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).
Who shall separate us from that love? Is there any power on the face of the earth, anything we might experience which could possibly have such an effect on us to cause God to stop loving us?
Such a question is not just interesting and academic; it deals with the only ground for our assurance. If we can possibly be separated from God’s love, we are of all creatures the most miserable. What we cherish most might be taken away. If, however, it is impossible to be separated, then we have the greatest delight.
The answer given by the Holy Spirit is that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Look with me how thoroughly the Holy Spirit explores the various possibilities: tribulation (afflictions such as disease, injury), which produces distress (the inner response to pain, the hurt, the fear, the bitterness of soul); persecution (hurt that comes from an enemy who treats us wrongfully, which is so common to the church in the world that Paul quotes Ps. 44:22, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter”); famine and nakedness (the results of poverty, whether as a result of persecution or natural calamity); peril (dangers we face in life—crime, drunk drivers, civil strife); sword (reference to the state, the authority which holds the power of the sword; war, a legal system which could unjustly imprison or execute).
As if that is not enough, the inspired apostle draws a series of contrasts in verses 3.8, 39 that are presented as areas of possible threat. We have death-life (circumstances we experience while we are alive—but what about the time we die?); angels; principalities; powers (a reference to different positions among the angels and devils—could the spirit world threaten us?); present-future (one thing to deal with our circumstances now—what about the uncertain future?); height-depth (any force that might come down from heaven or ascend out of hell that would endanger us); and finally any other creature (within the whole realm of creation).
Can any of these powers or persons so affect us that we would act in such a way as to cause God to stop loving us?
The answer is not only, no, but that in all these things we are more than conquerors.
What a thrill, what security for us!
The things we fear most will not separate us from the love of God. They will rather bring about a greater victory.
To conquer an enemy is to be able to subdue him. The enemy desires to separate us from Gods love. Even the devil would like to see adversities destroy us so that we give up, we forsake God, we say it’s not worth it. The promise is that, “in all these things we shall conquer.” We shall deal with all these forces and not allow them to take us from God’s love. That is not all, we are more than conquerors in all these things. We experience that these things turn out for our good, they make us stronger in the bond of Gods love. Instead of tearing us away from God, they occasion us to draw nearer to Him.
This is not ivory-tower theology for Paul.
Just read II Corinthians 11:21-28 and learn this is exactly what he experienced.
We experience this as well.
How can that be? The list is fearful. It produces terror in our souls even to think about some of those things mentioned as possible threats.
These words form a doxology of praise which form a conclusion, drawn from the beautiful truths which the Holy Spirit wrote in the preceding verses.
Why will we be more than conquerors and never separated from the love of God?
Two reasons are given.
God will never stop loving us! That is first. This is expressed so beautifully in the golden chain of salvation mentioned in Rom. 8:28-30: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate . . . moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” By the chain of predestination, divine calling, justification we are drawn into glory.
And the heart of it all is foreknowledge. To know is to love. Love moved God to predestinate us in Christ Jesus. We are chosen in love, redeemed in love, called in love. That love of God is firmly grounded in Christ Jesus. God will never stop loving us. With that kind of love flowing in us, we will never be separated from God.
There is more. God will enable us to love Him in return. This is expressed earlier in this chapter (Rom. 8:14-17). We have received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” By the Holy Spirit He energizes us in our love for Him so that, no matter what our outward conditions are in life, we continue to love God.
And the bond of covenant fellowship cannot be broken.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God!
I am persuaded. We may not always “feel” that love, but God does not deal with love on the basis of feelings. Persuasion is a process of the mind whereby we confess on the basis of God’s promises that we believe they are true.
If God be for us, who can be against us!
In all these things, more than conquerors!
What a doxology of praise to our great God!