( c ) The blessed condition and assured hope of such as are in Christ Jesus. The summary of the contents of this chapter, which follows the Exposition, may be referred to in the first place by the student, so as to assist comprehension of the line of thought.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ( i.e. the love of Christ to us, and in the same sense "the love of God" below; cf. τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντος ἡμᾶς in Romans 8:37 ). 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 ( ὑπερνικῶμεν —we not only conquer in spite of them; we conquer all the more because of them; cf. Romans 5:3 , etc., and Romans 8:28 ) 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 he able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord . In these two concluding verses the thought is distinctly extended from circumstances of trial to all powers , human or superhuman, that may be conceived as assaulting us through them, or in any way opposing us. But it is still adverse powers and influences, not our own failure in perseverance, that are in view. It is not necessary to define what is exactly meant by each of the expressions in these verses. Enough to say that what is meant is, that nothing whatever, in heaven or earth, or under the earth, can thwart God's good purpose for us, or separate us from his love.
The following paraphrastic summary of this important chapter, free from the encumbrance of notes, may help to a clearer perception of its drift and sequence of thought:—
For I am persuaded that no powers or circumstances whatever, external to ourselves, will ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, or consequently bar our attainment of our final inheritance.
Additional Note on Romans 8:29 , seq.
The view given above of St. Paul's intention and meaning is by no means meant as ignoring the essential mystery of predestination, however regarded. Divine omnipotence combined with omniscience on the one hand, and human free-will on the other, seem indeed to human reason to be incompatible ideas; yet we are compelled to entertain both—the one on the ground, not only of scriptural teaching, but also of our conception of the Divine Being; the other on the ground, not only of our conception of Divine justice, but also of our own irresistible consciousness, and of scriptural teaching too. Such difficulty of reconciliation between two apparently necessary ideas is not peculiar to theology; philosophy has it too; and there are necessitarians among philosophers, as well as predestinarians among theologians, equally contradicting man's irresistible consciousness of having the power of choice. We can only regard the conflicting conceptions as partial apprehensions of a great truth which as a whole is beyond us. The apparent contradiction between them may be due to the failure of finite beings to comprehend infinity. They have been compared to two parallel straight lines, which, according to geometrical definition, can never meet, and yet, according to the higher mathematical theory, meet in infinity; or we may take the illustration of an asymptote, which from a finite point of view can never possibly touch a curve, and yet, in analytical geometry, is found to cross it at an infinite distance. For the practical purposes of life both ideas may be entertained; and it is only human attempts to reconcile them in theory, or to escape the difficulty by denying free-will altogether, that have given rise to the endless controversies on the subject. It is important to observe how St. Paul, though he distinctly intimates both conceptions (as he must needs do as a preacher of God's truth in all its aspects), and though his allusions to predestination have been made a main support of Calvinistic views, never really propounds a theory. When he alludes to the subject, it is with a practical purpose; and when (as in this chapter) he speaks of God's predestination of believers to glory, his purpose is to encourage them to persevere in holiness on the ground of their assurance of God's eternal purpose concerning them, the essential human conditions being all along supposed to be fulfilled (see also note on Hebrews 6:16-20 , in 'Pulpit Commentary').
The uncertainties and certainties of a new year: a new year's sermon.
St. Paul was no narrow dogmatist. He was a man of profound sympathy and charity even for those from whom he differed. Yet there are some strong assertions in his writings. Nowadays it is almost considered a virtue to be in doubt, and a rash presumption to be sure of anything. In the revolt from superstition, men have gone into an unbelief that almost amounts to a superstition in itself. There was no superstition about St. Paul. He was a man of thoughtful mind, of wise judgment. But he did not think it either presumption or dogmatism to be firmly persuaded and convinced of certain things. It is no dogmatism to assert that the sun is shining, when its warm bright rays are flashing down upon us and around us. It is no dogmatism to assert the existence of frost, when the earth grows hard beneath its grasp, and we feel its icy breath upon our faces and in our throats. With all the uncertainties and unrealities of life, there is such a thing as certainty and truth. To St. Paul the love of Christ was such a certainty. He had felt it, not as the frost, but as the warm sunshine in his heart. He had yielded himself to its influence, till it became to him what the steam is to the steam-engine, till he could say, "The love of Christ constraineth me;" or again, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." There are few finer or more complete pictures of that love and its power than this eighth chapter of Romans presents to us. Here St. Paul shows us the Christian, under the influence of that love, gaining the victory over sin and temptation, glorying in tribulation, receiving the Spirit of adoption, standing fearlessly before the judgment-seat in the irresistible conviction that he is a child of God, shielded and strengthened by the love of Christ; and, as he gazes from point to point, from time to eternity, and sees the Christian secure and safe at every point, his conviction, his rapture, increase in intensity till they carry him away in that grand outburst, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?… 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." Here are the uncertainties and the certainties of life contrasted.
I. THE UNCERTAINTIES OF A NEW YEAR .
1. The new year may be a time of prosperity. If it is God's will to give us worldly prosperity and wealth, let us pray for grace and wisdom to use them aright. Prosperity has its dangers. It comes in as a separating barrier between the soul and God. Our Saviour, in one of his parables, speaks of the deceitfulness of riches, and tells us that, along with the cares of this world, it is like thorns that choke the good seed of Divine truth, so that it becomes unfruitful. Let not riches "separate us from the love of Christ."
2. The new year may be a time of trial. St. Paul felt convinced that no trials could separate him from that wondrous love. "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (verses 35, 37). No trial, or the prospect of it, brings dismay or terror to the apostle's heart.
"Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I."
Conquerors! Yes, and more than conquerors of our trials! We do more than vanquish them. We turn them, or rather the love of Christ turns them for us, into our friends. So Paul found it in his experience. So did many a child of God. Martin Luther was sent to prison in the Wartburg, apparently a heavy blow to himself and his friends, and the cause of the Reformation. But the love of Christ was stronger than the castle walls. They could not keep Christ out. Luther was more than conqueror. He not only endured his imprisonment, but while he was a prisoner he translated the Scriptures into that great German version of his, and wrote besides some of his great commentaries. The walls of Bedford Jail could not separate John Bunyan from the love of Christ, and during his imprisonment for conscience' sake he wrote that matchless allegory, 'The Pilgrim's Progress.' Samuel Rutherford, a prisoner in Aberdeen Castle, wrote his beautiful 'Letters,' of which Richard Baxter said that, after the Bible, such a book the world never saw. All of these were more than conquerors through him that loved them. Whatever trials we may meet with, there is the great certainty of the love of Christ. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (verse 31). We may lose our earthly friends, but Jesus remains—the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
3. The new year may be to some of us a year of death. Philip Henry, father of Matthew Henry the commentator, used frequently to pray this prayer, "Fit us to leave or to be left." Whatever uncertainty we may feel about the earthly lot that is in store for us, whether our days may be many or few, let us make sure that we are clinging to the cross of Jesus, and then we have a safety and a security which no trials can ever shake.
II. THE CERTAINTIES OF A NEW YEAR . While there is much that is uncertain about each new year, there is much also that we may with confidence expect.
1. The new year will be a time of opportunities. This is as certain as that the sun will shine, and the seasons come, and the ocean ebb and flow. Every day will bring to each of us its opportunities. Opportunities save souls. John Williams, a careless young man, was persuaded by a friend to go one sabbath evening to a place of worship, and there he heard a sermon on the words, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" That opportunity, availed of, saved his soul and led him to decide for Christ, and he became the famous missionary and martyr of Erromanga. Had he refused that invitation, rejected that opportunity, a similar opportunity might never have returned. Opportunities test character. Some one has said that "opportunities are importunities." Every opportunity appeals to us. It appeals to us to avail ourselves of it, to show what side we are on, to make our choice for time and eternity. Abraham had his opportunity when the call came to him to leave his father's house, and he used it well. It showed him to be a man of faith, a man who would do God's bidding at any cost. Joseph, Joshua, Daniel—each of these had his opportunity, and well he used it. Herod had his opportunity, and seemed to be impressed by the preaching of John the Baptist, for "he did many things, and heard him gladly;" but when the critical and testing opportunity came of making his choice, of choosing good rather than evil, he lost it. So it was with Felix and Agrippa. But let our life be dominated by the constraining influence of the love of Christ, and then the opportunities which the passing hours are sure to bring will only show more and more clearly that we are on the Lord's side.
2. The new year will be a time of duties. It is well to begin the year with a high sense of our obligations and responsibilities. Duties are a certainty which every day brings with it. There are the duties of daffy prayer and daily thanksgiving to God; the duties of parents to their children, of employers to their servants, of all Christians to those who are around them. Here, again, let every duty be discharged in the spirit of love to Christ, and there will be no uncertainty about our faithfulness. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"—C.H.I.
The great persuasion.
This second special question which Paul asks has reference to that final glorifying of believers by God, that perfect conformation to the image of his Son, which is the import of his purpose concerning them, the goal of all his working. The "love of Christ," or the " love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," is represented as laying hold of them with a firm grasp, to rescue them from death, and to raise them to perfect newness of life; and the apostle asks, in view of all possible evils which might seem to threaten the accomplishment of such purpose, assuming, of course, their own continued loyalty of heart, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" and, as he recapitulates all actual or imagined perils, the ready answer still breaks forth from his lips, "Nought , nought shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord I" We have, then, here for our consideration—love; love's hindrances; love's triumph.
I. LOVE . The great truth, great beyond all others, fundamental to all others; the truth to which all the revelations were designed to lead, and in which they culminate; the truth set forth so wondrously in the life and death of Christ, is this, that "God is love." This love was manifest in man's creation, and in the rich resources of man's world, furnished for man's sake with such liberal lavishment; it was manifest yet more in man's redemption, and in the rich resources of man's spiritual world, prepared and furnished for man with infinite tenderness. And how has it not been manifest to each of the called ones, laying hold of them, lifting them from the depths, setting them even now in heavenly places, and destining them, as joint-heirs with Christ, to all the blessedness of an immortal future!
II. LOVE 'S HINDRANCES . But this love has its seeming hindrances; shall they obstruct the accomplishment of its designs?
1. Death and life.
(a) Positively: dangers and difficulties of circumstance and event; moral difficulties, as world's reproach, and opposing one's self to stream of custom; and difficulties relating to one's own patient continuance in well-doing.
(b) Negatively: the allurements of temptation; repetition of primal fall. Thus life perpetually tries us.
2. Angels and principalities. Ephesians 6:1-24 . opens our eyes to the tremendous forces arrayed against us. So Bunyan's allegory no fiction. There is a real, objective opposition of " spiritual wickedness" against us, and of what strength and subtlety who shall say? And through the medium of the strength and authority of the "powers" of this world; as Roman emperors.
3. Height and depth. Great exaltation, of this life or of the spiritual life, has its besetting temptations: so Paul himself ( 2 Corinthians 12:1-21 .) in danger of being "exalted above measure." Great depression or abasement has likewise its perils: rebellion, or despair.
4. Things present and things to come. Boding fears often worse than actual fightings. So we may "die a thousand deaths in fearing one."
5. Any other creation. The apostle has been hinting at a new creation, when the true Paradise shall be restored. But if the former Paradise was so perilous, and this creation now has so many perils, what may not the new creation bring? Shall that separate us from the love of Christ?
III. LOVE 'S TRIUMPH . Shall these things separate us from God's love? Nay, God's love is too strong; and God's gifts, already given, are too great. And, indeed, those things all enter into the working of God's purpose, and therefore cannot break it. Nay, more: if they enter into the working of that purpose, they shall actually subserve it; and so we shall not only conquer, but more than conquer (verse 28); for that which is against us shall become for us, evil shall be transformed to good, our enemies shall become unwitting friends. "More than conquerors!" Of our entry into life they swell the triumph (illustrate by triumph of Roman generals), and so an entrance is ministered to us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom.
Let this be our persuasion, our faith; so shall we be strong, and at last we shall realize the victory which is even now assured.—T.F.L.
Faith rising into assurance.
We have appreciated the paradise of pardon, of acceptance, of sanctification, into which, in spite of this life's sufferings, believers in Jesus come. And now we are to study that hymn of courageous assurance, into which the apostle rises at the close of the chapter. Nowhere does St. Paul rise into nobler eloquence than here.
I. THE BELIEVER 'S SOLILOQUY . ( Romans 8:31 , Romans 8:32 .) In this soliloquy the apostle reviews the whole previous argument. Romans 1:1-32 .-5. is God for us—justification by faith; Romans 6:1-23 .-8., is God in us—sanctification through the Spirit of Christ. What can be said to these things? If God be for us, then we ask naturally and logically:
1. Who can be against us? With God as our Ally, we may safely face the world in arms. Assurance is thus traced to its Divine Source. It is not boastfulness, but humble dependence upon the almighty strength of God. The One is more than a match for all his and our foes.
2. In sparing not his own Son, he has given us the greatest pledge of his good will. In delivering up his Son to the death for us all, God was giving to man his very greatest Gift. It implies that the lesser gifts of the Spirit and of providence shall not be wanting.
"He who his Son, most dear and loved,
Gave up for us to die,
Shall he not all things freely give
That goodness can supply?"
It was a similar argument through which Abraham passed, tie journeyed to Mount Moriah to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. He found there that God had provided a substitute in the ram caught in the thicket, and that, therefore, Isaac could go free. He accordingly called the place "Jehovah-jireh"—the Lord will look after everything, and I shall not want any really good thing from his hands ( Genesis 22:1-24 .). Christ crucified is thus the foundation of the believer's assurance.
II. THE BELIEVER 'S CHALLENGE . (Verses 33-36.) And here we have a challenge:
1. To all who may dispute his right to salvation. (Verses 33, 34.) For:
2. We have a challenge to all adverse circumstances. (Verses 35-37.) The believer can defy his environment, as it is now called, as well as his enemies. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword,—one and all shall be found to be powerless in separating him from the love of Christ. Jesus, with his loving and almighty arm, can hold his people safe in every trial and difficulty. What have these adverse circumstances been but opportunities for the exercise of preserving power? They are golden opportunities which Christ embraces for exhibiting his power to save. And so here we have the true Christian evidence, that Jesus can preserve his people in spite of all apparently adverse things.
III. THE BELIEVER 'S SUPREME PERSUASION . (Verses 38, 39.) In these verses the apostle exhausts the category and declares his persuasion that not one of the things or persons embraced shall be able to separate the believer from the Divine love. Let us glance at them in order.
1. Death shall be no separating power. So far from this, the believer is enabled to rejoice in the fact that to die shall be gain; absent from the body, present with the Lord. The king of terrors will only usher the emancipated spirit into the near presence of his Lord.
2. Life shall prove no separating power. Even when it is flowing full and free, with all its garish and distracting shows, it will not be allowed to separate us from the love of Christ. Of the two dangers to our union with Christ, life is greater than death, but not so great as to defeat the loving power of Jesus.
3 . Angels, principalities, powers, shall prove no separating power. This must refer to the evil angels, to Satan and his hosts; for the good angels are our helpers ( Hebrews 1:14 ). A risen Saviour is more than sufficient to meet and overthrow them all.
4. Things present , appealing to sense, shall also be unable to separate us from Christ's love. They are subtle and powerful foes, yet Christ can vanquish them. He can conquer the inclination to be over-occupied with such things.
5. Things to come, appealing to fear, shall be unable to separate us from Christ. No possible combination of circumstances can perplex him. He is more than a match for all.
6. Height, depth, or any other creature, shall likewise be unable to separate us from the Lord's love. Neither space nor time, things physical or things metaphysical, shall be able to endanger our union with Christ. £ —R.M.E.