Male and female work clothes
Male and female day clothes
This week’s passage – the last 12 verses of Romans 8 – is extraordinary, like a stunning mountain range, “the biblical Himalayas” – with Romans 8:32 as the “Mount Everest” of the book. It will take your breath away with its beautiful reassurance of God’s love.
But those wonderful words of reassurance are preceded by Paul’s straightforward acknowledgement that many of us are contending with very tough times. For now, says Paul in verse 18, we are suffering. But then he goes on to say that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
This week’s passage, beginning in verse 28, continues to elaborate on our confidence in the present, given God’s promise of future glory: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The first two words are key: “We know.” Life is full of uncertainties and mysteries. But we can know this with certainty: God is working out His good purposes for us. Life throws all manner of things at us: good, bad, and ugly. The Bible does not say “all things are good”, but that God works in all things for the good. What is “the good” that God has for us? It is not our comfort, or even what we might deem good. The good God has in view is that we “be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:29b)
No matter what the circumstances we are contending with, and even when we ourselves fall into sin, God is determined to make something of the mess! The Bible is full of examples – from Joseph’s being sold into slavery, but eventually effecting the salvation of all of God’s people (Gen. 50:20) to Jeremiah’s assuring God’s people that the exile was not the end of the story for Israel (Jer. 29:11), to the way God used Jesus’ murder to effect the salvation of the world (Acts 2:23).
In verses 29-30, Paul describes how God goes about making us like Christ: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:29-30)
Verses 29-30 have been likened to a golden chain, forged by God, a chain of five links. Each link is connected to the next to form an unbreakable chain. Let’s look at each of those links:
We’re almost to the summit of these biblical Himalayas! Paul invites us to pause to catch our breath, to reflect on what he has said, by asking a rhetorical question: What, then, shall we say in response to these things? (Romans 8:31) Then he pushes on to conclude with five rhetorical questions:
Question #1 (Rom. 8:31): “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul knows even better than we that we have to contend with enemies – from the world, the flesh, and the devil to those Paul himself referred to in 1 Cor. 16:9 when he observed “many oppose us.” But his point in asking this rhetorical question is that none of those enemies can compare to the greatness of our God. He will not be thwarted in working out his good purposes.
Question #2: (Rom. 8:32) “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” God the Father, and Jesus Himself, were willing to pay any price to effect our salvation. There is no good thing He will withhold from us as His beloved children. In Gal. 2:20, Paul describes the way this truth shaped his life: “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Questions #3 and #4 (Rom. 8:33,34): “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Sometimes it is the Evil One who accuses us; other times it is a judgmental person pointing a finger; and sometimes it is our own conscience accusing us. But God will not entertain any such accusations – because he has declared us “not guilty” in Christ.
Question #5: Paul’s final question (Rom. 8:35a): “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Keep in mind the terrible persecution that Paul’s first-century readers faced. He describes some of those fearsome dangers in the latter part of the verse: “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Rom. 8:35b). Paul answers his question in verse 37: “In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Paul coins a new phrase, to be “super-victorious!” There are winners and losers, but then there are more than conquerors!
Paul concludes with his unqualified assurance of God’s love: “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” (Rom. 8:38,39).
So what can separate us from God's everlasting love?
How do these wonderful truths bear on our lives – individually, and as a church? How can taking these truths to heart make Village a more harmonious, missional, outward-looking church?
The Apostle Paul has been our guide in an ascent to the glorious heights of God’s love. Let’s allow that vista to shape our hearts and lives – and our life as a church!