The Certainty of No Separation

Romans 8:31-39

August 27, 2022 | Brian Bill

On Monday night, the City of Rock Island recognized Edgewood’s Celebrate Recovery in the “Organization” category as the “2022 Citizen of the Year!” Let’s pray for God to be glorified as this news spreads so many people will find forgiveness and freedom through the gospel.  This will be announced during the Labor Day Parade.

This fall, Edgewood is celebrating 20 years of Celebrate Recovery, which is a Christ-centered, Bible-based, twelve-step recovery ministry designed to help people connect or reconnect with God through the new birth and find hope and healing from past hurt and pain.  It meets at 6pm every Friday night.

It’s an honor to be part of a church which goes with the gospel to our neighbors and the nations, isn’t it?  All our ministries focus on equipping believers and evangelizing unbelievers as we gather, grow, give, and go with the gospel, all for the glory of God.  That’s certainly true for Celebrate Recovery, and for Second Winders, Awana, Super Summer Slam, the Family Fun Day, Edge Kids, Student Ministry, Mainspring, Women’s Ministry, Men’s Ministry, our Care Ministries, and our Go Team partners as they minister locally and globally.  When you give financially, you do it for His glory and for the spread of the gospel in our community and on the continents.

Since we’re part of the QCA community, we strive to do all we can to make a positive impact in our cities.  That’s why we hosted the Law Enforcement Memorial Service in May and why I serve as the Chaplain for the Missing Person Network.  Another way we can make a practical difference is by locking our cars, even when we’re at church.  As you know, there’s been a rise in cars being broken into and even stolen in our community.

We’re finishing up our mini-series from Romans 8 today.  Here’s what we’ve learned these past four weeks.

  • Your position in Christ deals with the penalty of sin and your practice with the Spirit deals with the power of sin.
  • Followers of Christ have a new focus, a new family, and a new future.
  • To get through your groaning, focus on the glory to come.  
  • We are never alone when we’re in the groan zone.  

As we come to the end of Romans 8, we’re about to be moved by a crescendo of praise which is punctuated by seven questions.  See if you can spot them as we read verses 31-39: “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written: ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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.” 

While most of these questions are rhetorical, they are no less real.  A rhetorical question is a statement intended to give an unforgettable answer in a form of a question.  Paul used a probing Q&A method to get us to personally pause and ponder these amazing truths.  Instead of using connecting words, he utilized a rapid-fire staccato approach, moving quickly from one question to the next.  Jesus did something similar as He utilized questions over 300 times in the gospels, often answering a question with a question.

The first question helps to frame the entire passage.  Paul the preacher gave a lot of information in the first eight chapters of Romans.  Now, in these closing verses he’s moving from information to application so we can experience transformation: “What, then, shall we say to these things?”  He’s tying together everything about justification, sanctification, and glorification and is returning to the theme of “no condemnation” from Romans 8:1.  He’s also linking back to verse 28 where we learned how God makes “all things work together for good.”  

Two answers come to mind in response to this question: “What shall we say?” 

  • I can’t say anything.   Have you ever received a totally undeserved gift and you couldn’t find words to express how grateful you were?  That happened to us when someone gave us a brand-new car about 15 years ago.  Paul was stunned by the gift of salvation and the provision of sanctification.  Considering all God has done, what can we say?  Job experienced this in Job 40:4: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth.”
  • I must say everything.  On the other hand, I should explode with praise and never stop thanking God for all He has done.  I’m reminded of what Jesus said about the crowd shouting “Hosanna” in Luke 19:40: I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.  

Like water cascading over a waterfall, these questions serve to celebrate our security in Christ.  Here’s the main idea: If you are truly saved, your salvation is totally secure!

I see seven reasons why we should explode in worship.

1. Jesus protects us. 

Let’s ponder the question in verse 31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  It’s important to read this question correctly.  If Paul had asked, “Who can be against us?” the answer would be, “lots of people.” But Paul’s question is, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  It literally reads like this: “Because God for us, who against us?”  It’s not really a question, but an exclamation!

One pastor says it well: “There is no truth more fundamental in all of God’s Word than this truth.  God is for us.  God is not against us.  God is not neutral towards us.  Because of Jesus Christ, once and for all the question is settled.  God is for us.” 

The word “for” means, “above, over, on behalf of,” while “against” means, “down upon.”  God is up on you, no matter who looks down upon you!  If you’re a born-again believer, He isn’t angry with you; He is so for you.

Since God is for us, what difference does it make who is against us?  Others may intimidate us, but we have the Almighty on our side.  In elementary school I was on the small side and would get bullied by some of the bigger boys.  I learned quickly that if I hung out with a guy named Dave Theider, the rest of the guys would leave me alone.  Why was that?  Because Dave was the BMOC (big man on campus).  

Friend, with God on your side, there is nothing anyone else can do to you.  Psalm 118:6: “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”  Paul is not suggesting we don’t have any opposition because we all have adversaries.  The point he is making is every opponent is puny compared to how big God is.  

Do you ever get a song in your head, and it becomes like an “earworm” you can’t get rid of?  When I contemplate how Jesus protects us, my mind goes to the Veggie Tales song called, “God is Bigger.”

You were feeling kind of sleepy,
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
God is bigger than the boogie man.
He’s bigger than Godzilla and the monsters on TV.
Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man,
And he’s watching out for you and me.

Many of us judge whether God is for us by how events or circumstances turn out.  If things in life go bad, some of us think God is against us and when things go well, we think He’s for us.  If you’re a born-again believer, God is always for you, no matter what happens.

To make this promise personal, I’d like you to insert your name into this verse right now: “God is for .”  Let’s try it together.  I’ll say the first three words and then you shout out your name to complete the sentence.

If you are truly saved, your salvation is totally secure!

2. Jesus provides for us. 

The next question is asked in verse 32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”  The gift of God’s Son is the promise and pledge He not only protects us – He also provides for us.  He gave Him “up for us all” means Jesus died in our place, for our benefit, on our behalf, as our substitute.

This argument is from the greater to the lesser.  Since God did not hesitate to give the greatest gift of His Son, certainly He will not hesitate to give us lesser gifts, if that’s what He deems good for us.  It would be like a dad building a full-length basketball court for his son and then refusing to give him a basketball to use.  The phrase, “graciously give us all things” does not refer to health and wealth, but to everything we need to handle all the hurts which come our way.  He has promised to meet our needs, not our greeds.  

God protects and He provides.  If you are truly saved, your salvation is totally secure!

3. Jesus purifies us. 

Some years ago, a cartoon showed a psychologist talking to a patient: “Mr. Figby,” he said, “I think I can explain your feelings of guilt this way…you are guilty.”  We’re all guilty of sin and fall short of God’s glory.  When we repent and receive Christ, the Bible says we’re justified, or declared righteous, and now, no one can bring a charge against us.  Check out the question and quick answer in verse 33: “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.”  

My guess is even though you may be saved, some of you hear the accusing anthem of guilt and shame on playback in your mind.  On top of that, according to Revelation 12:10 Satan, whose name means “Adversary,” brings accusations against Christians as he “accuses them day and night before our God.”  Satan brings every flaw, every sin, and every shortcoming up before God all the time.  But none of it sticks because we have been purified positionally.  

Because God has justified you through the sacrificial death of Christ, no charges can be brought against you.  Hold on to Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.”

J.I. Packer writes: “Nobody can produce new evidence of your depravity that will make God change His mind.  God justified you with His eyes wide open.”

If you are truly saved, your salvation is totally secure!

4. Jesus prays for us. 

Another reason to break out into praise is found in verse 34: “Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  

Our sins deserve condemnation, but Christ now commends us

Because no charges can be brought against us, we will not be condemned.  Our sins deserve condemnation, but Christ now commends us.  If Christ died for you, rose from the dead, sits at God’s right hand, and intercedes for you, how could he possibly condemn you?

One of my favorite hymns is “And Can it Be.”  

No condemnation now I dread
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine
Alive in Him, my living Head
And clothed in righteousness divine

1 John 2:1 says we have an Advocate who is interceding for us: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  I’m reminded what Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery in John 8:10-11: “‘Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?’  She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you, go, and from now on sin no more.’”  

According to verse 26, the Holy Spirit is interceding in our hearts while the Son is interceding for us in Heaven.  The perfect one is praying for those He has purified.  

We’re protected, provided for, purified, and prayed for.  If you are truly saved, your salvation is totally secure!

5. Jesus preserves us. 

Verse 35 begins with another question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  Paul can barely contain his excitement as he exults in our security in Christ.

Have you found yourself in circumstances and conditions of life which have made you doubt God’s love?  For some of us there’s a nagging fear that if something goes wrong, we’ll be disqualified and cut off from His love.

To “separate” means “to cut off” and was also used as a synonym for “amputate.”  In Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”  We will never be cut off from Christ, no matter what we go through.  

Paul lists seven troubles which have no power to separate us from the love of Christ.  It’s interesting Paul lists these items in answer to the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  We normally wouldn’t think of these inanimate things as a “who.”  One pastor points out two reasons why “who” and not “what” is used.  First, when these things come at us, it feels like a who.  Second, Paul wants to set up a contrast with a greater Who.  No matter who you have against you, you’ve got a Who on your team Who is greater than any who on the other side.

Listen for how these troubles increase in intensity…

  • Tribulation means, “to break or be squeezed” because of outward pressures.
  • Distress is literally, “a narrow place.”  It is what happens inwardly when we feel hemmed in.  The rollercoaster of experiences and emotions cannot cut us off from God’s love.
  • Persecution refers to suffering because of your faith.
  • Famine is a severe want of food.
  • Nakedness speaks of the need for clothes or shelter and the embarrassment of being exposed.
  • Danger is the idea of living in imminent and incessant peril.
  • Sword refers to the “slaughter-knife” and represents death.

Interestingly, at the time of writing, Paul had already experienced the first six of these and would eventually be martyred with a sword.  He quotes Psalm 44:23 to show suffering should not be strange to us.  It’s a reminder of what to expect because God’s people have always experienced opposition: “As it is written: ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’”  

We all face trouble within and hardship without.  None of this can separate us from the Savior.  Nothing can break the bond between us and God.  Those who are persecuted for their faith will never be severed from the love of Christ.  Many of the Romans who heard these words would see them come true in their own lives as the emperor Nero threw Christians to the lions and burned believers at the stake.  Even death cannot separate us from God.  

One pastor captured this well: “The only things that trouble can take away from you are the things that don’t ultimately matter.  The things that really matter, trouble cannot touch.”

If you are truly saved, your salvation is totally secure!

6. Jesus prepares us. 

According to verse 37, Jesus has prepared us not only to survive, but to thrive; we’re called not to just cope, we’re called to be uber conquerors: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  In verse 36, we are considered sheep to be slaughtered and here we are called more than conquerors. That’s quite a jump going from sheep to conquerors.  But in Christ, both are true.  The word “conqueror” means, “to overcome, dominate, and utterly defeat.”  

This contrasts with “just getting by.”  Psalm 60:12: “With God we will do valiantly.”  We can be more than conquerors because Jesus Christ is the Conqueror according to John 16:33: “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The key is to think less about the power of things over you and more about the power of Christ within you

We’re called to be “more than conquerors” even when we’re dealing with health issues, relational ruptures, financial trouble, stress on the job, and whatever persecution you are experiencing because of your faith.  The key is to think less about the power of things over you and more about the power of Christ within you.

If you are truly saved, your salvation is totally secure!

7. Jesus promises us. 

Meditate on this promise from Romans 8:38-39 when life feels unstable and you wonder what’s going to happen next: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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.” How comforting to know that there is nothing that can sever our relationship with Jesus Christ.  

Paul is personally persuaded and certain of this when he writes, “For I am sure.”  It’s in the perfect tense, meaning, “I stand convinced, and nothing can change my mind.” The words “neither” and “nor” are absolute negatives which can be translated “not even anything whatsoever.”  Next, Paul lists extremes which will never ever be able to separate us from the love of God.  When he’s done listing these opposites, the conclusion is there is nothing remaining which could possibly separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. 

  • Extremes of existence: “Neither death nor life.”  This covers the whole range of human experience.  For the believer, death is the doorway to Heaven and its sting has been removed by the Savior (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-52).  For some of us, life seems more challenging than death.  
  • Extremes of spiritual forces: “Nor angels nor rulers.”  No matter how strong they might be, angels can’t cut us off from Christ.  Rulers probably refers to demons.  Angels would not undo our relationship with God and demons cannot.  Nothing in the spiritual world can separate us from God’s love.
  • Extremes of time: “Nor things present nor things to come.”  There’s nothing happening today which can move you out of the arms of Jesus and there’s nothing you will face in the future which will fracture your relationship with Him.  Nothing in time and nothing in eternity can separate us from God’s love.
  • Extremes of enemies: “Nor powers.”  Every power in the world is subservient to the power of Almighty God.  This likely refers to government authorities who are antagonistic toward believers.
  • Extremes of space: “Nor height nor depth.”  Nothing in Heaven can separate you and Hell has no power over you.  Nothing overhead or underneath can unsettle you because nothing will swoop down to sweep you away and nothing can come up to capsize you.
  • Extremes of creation: “Nor anything else in all creation.”  Paul adds this just to make sure he didn’t miss anything.  This is a “catch-all” phrase to let us know nothing in all creation can sever God’s love for us.  The phrase, “be able” is translated as dynamite.  No amount of TNT can separate us from God’s love.  While it’s hard to feel safe in our world today, if you know Jesus through the new birth, your relationship with Him is completely assured. 

Let’s summarize.

  1. Jesus protects us.
  2. Jesus provides for us.
  3. Jesus purifies us.
  4. Jesus prays for us.
  5. Jesus preserves us.
  6. Jesus prepares us.
  7. Jesus promises us.

If you are truly saved, your salvation is totally secure!

In John Bunyan’s autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, he tells how he went through several years of wrestling with his guilty conscience. He shares this helpful and practical insight.

But one day, as I was passing in the field…with some dashes in my conscience, fearing…all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, “Thy righteousness is in heaven.”  And I…saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, as my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, “He lacks my righteousness.”  I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

God’s love for us is unconditional and sacrificial and is fully expressed in the death of His Son on our behalf.  Romans 8 begins with “no condemnation” and ends with “no separation.”  These promises will never be reversed or revoked.  There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.

As one pastor put it, “God’s purpose is unchangeable, His power is unchallengeable, and His love is unconditional, so there is nothing I have to fear.  I am who you say I am; the Who of my salvation is greater than the who of my opposition and I am more than a conqueror.” It doesn’t get any better than that!

I close with one more question…and it’s a big one.  It’s actually the question.  Have you repented and received Christ?  If you haven’t and if you don’t, God will one day be against you.  Don’t delay a decision.  Receive Jesus Christ into your life right now.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?