Romans Bible Guide – Day Twenty-three
March 8, 2016
Previously, in Romans: We have wrapped up a long overview of the benefits of being united with Jesus, part of God’s growing family of faith.
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted 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 convinced 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.
Points of Interest:
- ‘What then are we to say…’ – This sounds like a conclusion, and indeed it is. So we can expect some summary and some implications – review of the prior content and some sense of why it matters as well. Let’s notice some of the summary first, and then some of the celebratory punch of what it all means.
- ‘God is for us’ – The law of Moses or the laws of nature can make us wonder if God is against us or if God has abandoned us or never been around in the first place. Paul wants to convince us that God is righteous and active in love for us – good, and faithful, and present for our good.
- ‘did not withhold his own Son’ – Participating in Jesus’ sacrificial love for our sakes is the chief evidence of just how much God is for us.
- ‘also give us everything else’ – The prosperity either of our contemporary moguls and celebrities or of the Roman elite Paul’s readers knew about doesn’t seem to be in view here. The “everything else” is something richer and better, what Paul has been calling glorification. This is a future, only partly experienced in the present, in which we’re united with God’s beauty and love and joy and authority.
- ‘it is God who justifies’ – Paul has used the word justification often in the last several chapters, and I have often referred to it as standing. Here Paul fleshes out that standing by contrasting it to being charged or condemned. To have standing with God is to be above accusation or shame. It is to never fear charges being brought against us. It is to be above rejection and condemnation and judgment.
- ‘who intercedes for us’ – This is the living Jesus, not just praying for us, but standing in the way of anyone who tries to bring charges or to condemn.
- ‘Will hardship, or distress, or persecution… or sword?’ In the middle of this review and celebration, we get a pretty vivid window into the difficulties Paul and other first century followers of Jesus faced. There was an awful lot of rejection and hardship involved. Paul isn’t left asking “why?” but observing that these supposedly powerful forces are impotent. They can’t stop God’s good purposes and they can’t separate us from God’s love. This raises an interesting question for me – given the choice, would I prefer comfort and ease, or purpose and love and belonging?
- ‘will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ – The chapter that began with “no condemnation” ends poetically with “no separation.” God’s love wins again.
Taking It Home:
For you – Take a look at the final two verses. Which of those things can seem to threaten separation from God’s love? For me, ironically, it is life, not death. I don’t much fear being disconnected by God after I die, but can experience present life as overwhelming enough to make me wonder how loved I am. What calls God’s love and power into doubt in your life? Ask God to experience God’s love right there, as greater.
For your city/church – Pray for people who are most facing rejection and suffering to know God’s love for them today. For people in the world who love Jesus and face these kind of first century persecutions and consequences, pray for God’s courage and love for them as well.