April 14, 2024


God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 44

Romans 8:31-39 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney

In his book Light for Anxious Souls, George Cutting talks about a farmer who lacked the assurance of his salvation. He foolishly prayed that as evidence of his acceptance, the Lord would cause 10 sheep of his flock – and only 10 – to gather in a certain shed out in the pasture.  Later that day, when the farmer anxiously approached the shed, he was relieved to find exactly 10 sheep. This gave him a temporary sense of peace. Doubt returned with the shocking thought that it may have been just a coincidence. So he asked the Lord that 10 different sheep might gather in an opposite corner of the pasture. And they did! When the farmer was asked, “Did this give you assurance?” he said, “No, nothing gave me certainty until I got the sure Word of God for it.” Cutting concluded, “He was all in a fog of uncertainty until he planted his foot firmly on the ‘Thus says the Lord.’” 

The truth be known, the farmer is far from alone.  It is human nature to long for security.  That’s why we desire home security, job security, financial security, social security, national security, as well as relational security – all this so we can sleep at night without fear wrapped in our security blanket.  Our greatest need for security though is eternal security.  If we are certain we are going to Heaven when we die, it gives us an enduring hope through life’s inevitable trials.  

There are three questions every believer needs to answer in order to have eternal security.  One, does God fully love and accept me? And two, what is the basis of God’s love and acceptance?  In one way or another, the Apostle Paul says over and over again in Romans that the basis of our complete love and acceptance before God is our faith alone in Christ. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are (Romans 3:22, NLT).  Elsewhere, Paul tells us our salvation is a gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9). Paul is saying, if I did not work to gain my salvation, then how can I work to keep it? If no amount of works could gain my salvation, then no lack of works could lose it. This leads to the third question: How secure is God’s love and acceptance of me? 

Paul’s answer to this question in Romans 8:31-29 is – TOTALLY SECURE!  In these final verses, Paul fires off seven rapid-fire questions.  Each question has the same intent – to strengthen the security of the believer’s faith in Christ.  Like tightening of a bolt with a wrench, each answer turns the bolt more and more until it is completely secure.  Read Romans 8:31-39.  As we reflect on Paul’s stirring words, we need to be reminded his thoughts are not those of a mere textbook theorist – untried, untested. These are not the words a man who doesn’t have a clue what he is really talking about. Not hardly! Instead they flow from Paul’s own trying and proven experiences.  What did he learn in the raging furnace of affliction? God is faithful! And because He is, Paul could say with unfaltering confidence – in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us(V.37).  This was not true only for Paul, but for all believers. No matter the severity of your ordeal, nothing will separate you from God’s love.  The world, the flesh, the devil would have us believe our trials are proof God has ceased to love us.  Hardship, pain, distress have a way of making us feel God has abandoned us. But this in fact is not true.  It is when we feel the most alone in our struggles that God is the most with us. This is all the more significant when you realize he is writing to believers who in a matter of a few short years would experience   All of Paul’s questions can be summed up in his four “who” questions (Vv. 31,33, 34, and 35). His driving conclusion (Vv. 37-39) is that since nothing can separate us from God’s love and acceptance, we are totally secure in Christ!  Let’s look at Paul’s four questions. 

  1. Question #1: Addresses the price of God’s love.  Who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (8:31-32). This verse begins with If God is for us, who is against us?  The “if” here is written in what is called the indicative mood meaning Paul is making a statement of fact (known as a 1st class conditional clause).  Since he is stating a fact, we can translate this, Because God is for us who can be against us?The answer is: No one! Why? Because no one is greater than God!  Paul further answers with telling us the extent God went to show us His love.   God loved you so much He did not spare His Son! I like the way one translation handles this: With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?(Romans 8:31-32, TM). If God paid the greatest price possible to demonstrate His love for us while we were wretched sinners, does it make sense He would anything less He would hold back frm us? No!

Here is what Paul is saying.  Suppose you were car shopping and just for fun happened to stop by a Rolls-Royce dealership.  You take one look at the prices and say, “There’s no way I’m buying a Rolls-Royce!”  While you’re there you see a drawing to win a brand-new Rolls Silver Cloud.  You enter and go on your way, thinking there’s no chance you’ll win.  Then one day you receive a phone call that you’ve won!  When you go to pick it up, they say, “It’s all yours, tax free.  Take it home!” But they refuse to give you the keys.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? If the car is yours, whatever you need to drive it is yours.  Similarly, since we have received the incredible gift of God’s Son and salvation in Him, it would be absurd if God would not give us everything else we need. 

The Bible says Ephesians that God… has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Peter declares, By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life (2 Peter 1:3, NLT).  The “us” includes every believer! That means you!

Jesus said in John 6 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day (John 6:39-40, NAS). God’s complete love and acceptance means He will not lose even one whom He has given eternal life.  The price of God’s love for us is His Son who is both the foundation and security of our salvation. 

  1. Question #2: Addresses the promise of God’s love. Who will bring a charge? God is the one who justifies(8:33).  Paul envisions a courtroom where a prosecuting attorney brings an accusation, whether real or imagined, against a believer.  As long as we remain on this side of eternity there will be no shortage of finger pointing accusations coming our way (Rev. 12:10).  Others will find fault with us.  And if others don’t, we’ll find fault with ourselves.  But we can be certain of the promise of God’s love. 

Why? Paul’s point is not the basis of the accusations that matter, but the verdict of the Judge.  God gave a “Forever Not Guilty” verdict when you trusted Christ (Rom. 8:1).  That’s what God’s justification means – God declares the believing sinner to be forever righteous.  Our guilt is forgiven and we’re now at peace with God (Romans 5:1).  Understanding this gives us the secure peace in God we long for. 

Don’t make the mistake of confusing God’s conviction with His eviction.  There’s a world of difference between the two.  He will convict you because He loves you too much to leave you as you are.  But will never evict you.  God will not change His mind toward His elect since He would have to break His promise (Heb. 7:25).  Hebrews says, God has given both His oath and promise, therefore we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:18-19, NLT).  For God to reverse His verdict would mean He failed in securing our salvation.  So, who’ll bring a charge against us? Some will, but their charges will not stick.  God has made a promise to love us forever and He’ll never change His mind (Phil. 1:6).

  1. Question #3: Addresses the protection of God’s love. Who condemns us?Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us (8:34).  Who condemns us? What legal right do they have to condemn? None. Why? Because the only One who has authority to bring a charge against us is God. He is the One whom the law originated and was given. He both interprets the law and applies the law (McArthur, p. 507).  God is the One who ensures the Law is carried out.  And He did this perfectly through Jesus.  Jesus said in Matthew 5, Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).  All the demands of the law were fulfilled through Jesus for those who trust in Him.  

Jesus’ work of atonement fulfilled the requirements of God’s perfect law.  His rising from the dead proved God’s acceptance of His sacrificial atonement. There is no more work to be done to secure our forgiveness.  Paul says Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father.  This is a picture of His completed work.  There were seats in the Temple for the priest to set down when his work was finished because his work was never finished. But the Bible says Jesus did set down when He finished His work of redemption (Heb. 12:2).  Now, that Jesus’ atoning work is finished, Paul says He continues to intercede for us.  It’s not just Jesus’ pardon that ensures our security, but His prayers as well. 

Jesus’ prayers never fail.  A great example of this is Peter.  On the night of Jesus’ betrayal, Peter denied Jesus three times!  What makes Peter’s denial so shocking is Jesus told Peter in advance he would betray Him, but that He’d prayed for Peter. He knew Peter would fail horribly but because Jesus prayed for him, his failure was not final.  God did not give up on him.  Nor will He give up on you.  Your failure is never final.  1 John 2 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous(1 John 2:1, NLT).  Our assurance comes from where we put our faith.  Like the little boy whose teacher asked: What is faith? The boy exclaimed: Faith is believing God and asking no questions!  We’re protected by God’s love against any and all condemnation.  Assurance is trusting God and asking no questions. 

  1. Question #4: Addresses the power of God’s love.  Who will separate us?Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?(8:35). Paul lists seven potential threats.  They’re actually a short list of Paul’s own personal experiences (2 Cor. 11:23-27)! He felt the overwhelming shock of all these: tribulation – the idea of being squeezed by outward pressures or inward stress. Distress – threatening circumstances in which you’re left feeling helpless and vulnerable. Persecution – hatred, mistreatment, rejection as a follower of Christ.  Famine– hunger that results from persecution. Nakedness – destitution from lack of food and clothing. Peril – exposed to threatening danger.  Sword – a symbol death. It refers to a Roman soldier’s dagger used in close combat, suggesting murder.  Paul had personally experienced all of these – except the sword which ultimately took his life in Rome. It is said the large column you see in the center of the St. Peter’s Cathedral square marks the place where Paul was executed for Christ.  

Paul had followed Christ wholeheartedly; he understood the enormous cost.  He also understood how the pain of our afflictions can tempt us to feel isolated and alone, as though God had abandoned us.  The world will not hesitate to point out that our troubles are proof Christ really doesn’t love us, or that His love is only imaginary.  While Jesus hung on the cross, the Jews mocked Him, He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God(Matthew 27:43).  But the world does not see, nor can it understand what Paul is saying here from experience – all of the suffering and pain of this life will cause God’s love to abandon us.  It is not the grip of our faith that holds God close to us in trials, it is His grip of love on us that will never let go. 

I recently read about a little-known missionary from the nineteenth century.  His name was Captain Allen Gardiner.  As a young man he served in the Royal Navy commanding his own ship by the age of twenty-four.  Somewhere along the way, he decided to give up his successful naval career and become a missionary.  He longed to take the Gospel where it had never been heard.  His decision plunged his life into a great deal of hardship and difficulties.  Despite his troubles, he wrote, “While God gives me strength, failure will not daunt me.”   In 1851, at the age of 57, he died of disease and starvation while serving on the dangerous Picton Island at the southern tip of South America. When his body was found, his diary lay nearby. It bore the record of hunger, thirst, wounds, and loneliness. The last entry in his little book showed the struggle of his shaking hand as he tried to write legibly. It read, “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.” What can separate us from the power of God’s love? Nothing.    

  1. Conclusion: We are totally secure in Christ!  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord(Romans 8:37-39).  Paul’s trials did not cause him to doubt God’s secure love.  They caused him to become all the more convinced of God’s secure love!  Paul is saying because we are secure in Christ, we need not fear being separated from His unchanging love toward us.  But he is saying something else as well.  We do not need to be afraid of suffering.  Why? It is not because God has promised we will never experience suffering, but that our suffering will never separate us from God’s secure love toward us.  

One day C. H. Spurgeon was walking through the English countryside with a friend. As they strolled along, the evangelist noticed a barn with a weathervane on its roof. At the top of the vane were these words: GOD IS LOVE. Spurgeon remarked to his companion that he thought this was a rather inappropriate place for such a message. “Weathervanes are changeable,” he said, “but God’s love is constant.” 

“I don’t agree with you about those words, Charles,” replied his friend. “You misunderstood the meaning. That sign is indicating a truth: Regardless of which way the wind blows, God is love.”

The price, the promise, protection, and the power of God’s love guarantee believers regardless of which way the wind blows in your life, you are totally secure in Christ. 

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