Text: Romans 8:31-39 ESV
INTRODUCTIONOur society is dominated by a little game in which there are celebrity “winners” in sport, finances, entertainment etc. and “losers”, people like addicts, the homeless, the imprisoned and many Indigenous people.
The “winners” enjoy “success” and the “losers” are thought of as failures.
In its testimony that “all have sinned and fall utterly short of the glorious life God wills for us” (Rom 3:23 ESV) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23 ESV) Romans brings God’s verdict on society’s game pronouncing the only victor in life is Jesus.
In a day when we have fallen into the culture’s trap of marketing celebrity churches and pastors God in his marvellous wisdom is marginalising Christianity from mainstream influence calling us back to the radical life of the Early Church in which every social norm was crucified and raised with Christ.
One Roman critic said, ““only foolish and low individuals, and persons devoid of perception, and slaves, and women, and children”, i.e. people without dignity in his culture, become Christians (Celsus).
The book of Romans radically redefines life’s deepest meanings; “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” is a prophetic proclamation over every faithful believer.
Since, “in all things God is working for the good of those who love him” (Rom 8:28 ESV) nothing can defeat God’s eternal purpose to make us like Jesus. Paul placards the triumph of God’s plan in Christ by putting forward a series of unanswerable questions;
vs.31 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
“God is for us” summarises the whole argument of Romans so far, in justification, sanctification and the gift of the life-giving Holy Spirit our Father (Rom 8:14-16 ESV) is totally for us and never against us.
Our adversaries can never prevail over us.
As David, who knew something about the stresses of life, put it so poetically and powerfully in Psalm 23 ESV, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”1)See Biblical References Ps 23:4 ESV; cf. Ps 56:9, 12 ESV; Ps 118:6-7 ESV.
This is a great word but when Christians let their prayers and Bible reading slide and stop regular worship because they life feels too hard in practice they are denying that Jesus has mastered all our struggles. Paul gets right to the very heart of what matters by holding up the cross.
vs.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?”
Since the Father freely gave Jesus up as a sacrifice2)See Biblical References cf. Gen 22:12,16 ESV; Isa 53:6, 12 ESV, Isa 70 ESV; Rom 4:25 ESV he will surely give to us lesser things as a gift of his grace3)See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:12 ESV; Gal 3:18 ESV cf. 2 Cor 9:15 ESV.
The limitless height, length, breadth and depth of the love of the cross (Eph 3:18 ESV) is unconquerable; we need to see that in the End such will surely supersaturate all things.
The “all things” we are told God will give us include the “all things” in which he is working for our good (Rom 8:28 ESV) plus all present and future blessings of salvation.
At the End we will share with Jesus his Lordship over the whole created universe4)See Biblical References 2 Tim 2:12 ESV cf. Rom 8:17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-23 ESV.
As Jesus was became Lord of all (Acts 10:36 ESV) by overcoming in his own life the temptations, conflicts and sufferings which destroy our quality of existence Paul goes on to expound the adversities of the Christian life.
vs.33 “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”
In this court room scene no accusation can ever succeed against God’s chosen people because the Judge has already justified us/declared us to be in the right with him in Christ5)See Biblical References Rom 5:1 ESV; Rom 8:1 ESV cf. Isa 50-8-9 ESV.
I know from multiple personal experiences that to be accused falsely can be extremely painful, but in Christ such blamings provide opportunities to receive revelations of the glorious justifying love of God.
vs.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.”
Demonic powers, human enemies, and even our own conscience’s might try to condemn us (1 John 3:20 ESV) but the authority of our Saviour renders every accusing voice null and void.
With our sins are covered by the blood of Christ (Rom 3:25 ESV) we are free of all condemnation (Rom 8:1 ESV).
More than this, Jesus is constantly praying for us (Heb 7:25 ESV) and seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven (Ps 110:1 ESV) his prayers cannot fail because his victorious life mediates on our behalf6)See Biblical References 1 Tim 2:5 ESV cf. Luke 22:31-32 ESV; John 11:41-42 ESV.
Paul is about to open up to us a God-eyed view of what the Lord is doing in the world. “At the right hand of God” all Christ’s enemies are being placed under his feet (Ps 110:1 ESV); and this victory procession (2 Cor 2:14 ESV) primarily takes place through the faithfulness of a suffering Church.
As Jesus was attacked by sin, Satan, suffering and death it is necessary (Luke 24:26 ESV) for us to be attacked in order that we might triumph over these powers for his sake.
vs.35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? vs.36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.””
No adversity can separate us from Christ’s love because his love has proved itself unfailing in death and resurrection. The List of afflictions Paul lists were all part of his apostolic labours in which the life of Christ had proved triumphant7)See Biblical References 2 Cor 11:26-27 ESV; 2 Cor 12:10 ESV.
In the eyes of the world a Christian may merely be a “sheep to be slaughtered” (Ps 44:22 ESV) but through the eyes of faith we know this brings us into glorious union with the conquering Lamb of God ruling from heaven8)See Biblical References Rev 3:21 ESV; Rev 5:5-6 ESV. Suffering for the sake of the gospel9)See Biblical References 2 Tim 3:12 ESV; 1 Pet 4:12-13 ESV etc. is a normal part of following Jesus.
Recently the Coptic Christians of Egypt were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Last year 128 were killed and more than 200 driven out of their homes because of their faith.
Despite numerous brutal attacks and church bombings they have refused to retaliate but pursue peace with all (1 Pet 3:11 ESV). By having a cross tattooed on their wrist each Copt is a suffering sign to the world of the victory of Christ.
As Paul expounded earlier in Romans pain faithfully borne doesn’t separate us from Christ’s love, it brings us closer to God, vs.3 “suffering produces endurance, vs.4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, vs.5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:3-5 ESV).
vs.37 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Christians don’t just win the battle of life they are “superconquerers”. As Romans 5 testifies about Jesus victory, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20 ESV) grace “superabounded”.
Astounding victories in all life’s trials e.g. Australian evangelist Nick Vujicic’s life testimony, “No arms, No Legs, (literally!) No Worries”, can come only “through him who loved us”. Now the passage moves to a tremendous climax.
vs.38 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, vs.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.”
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. He has conquered all evil10)See Biblical References cf. Ps 139:8 ESV; Eph 1:21 ESV; Eph 6:12 ESV; Col 1:16 ESV; Col 2:15 ESV so that in him we might never be lost from the grasp of God’s love.
As Lord of all (Acts 10:36 ESV) Jesus is right now demonstrating his victory to a hostile world11)See Biblical References Eph 3:10 ESV; Phil 2:15 ESV through the triumphs of his people.
In preparing this sermon I was reminded of the testimony of Pastor Samuel Lamb who I met decades ago in China. He’d been imprisoned for over twenty years under conditions so dangerous that his trainee replacement didn’t survive his training period. Lamb pointed to various mementos, “that’s from Billy Graham, that was sent by Ronald Reagan, that’s from the astronaut Buzz Aldrin” and so on. His sharing held no trace of boasting because he understood himself to be more than a conqueror solely through Jesus.
Through God’s love on our side there’s no situation of rejection, illness, tiredness, ageing, poverty, or whatever, that we cannot conquer in Christ.
Paul testifies, vs.13 “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”(Phil 4:13 ESV)12)See Biblical References cf. 1 John 5:4-5 ESV; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:3 ESV; Rev 21:7 ESV.
Christ’s triumphant reign in us grows as we humbly follow him in all our afflictions.
Some years ago I said to a pastor in a church I was working in that after a long string of exhausting disasters I felt that if things didn’t work out there it would be the end of my ministry.
Guess how that situation ended…. Catastrophically; but by God’s grace it became another source of overcoming so that the testimony of Jesus was intensified in my life to his honour praise and glory.
I have learned that the meaning of life’s struggles is the vindication of the name of Jesus in the world, “making Jesus famous” as some would say.
Christians should never whinge, murmur and complain about life just like other people because Romans defiantly testifies that as justified, sanctified and Spirit-gifted we are not just like other people.
In Jesus you are not just another human being and you are called to live the life of a super-conqueror (Rom 8:29 ESV)!
Early this morning I was aware of catastrophic pain – in our family, in our relatives’ families, in the families of our church, a network of underlying pain right across our nation which none of our culture’s games can ever heal.
In his death and resurrection Jesus’ has borne, mastered and overcome all our pains.
Only Jesus can transform suffering from the sphere of defeat to the sphere of boundless victory.
Not by giving us a pain free life but through the supernatural gift of the life-giving Spirit (Rom 8:18 ESV ff.) pouring into our hearts the loving presence of God (Rom 5:5 ESV) even as we groan.
Since the teaching of Romans about the Christian life is so great we must ask ourselves, “Why are we so stuck spiritually?”
Geoff Bingham, who lived in constant pain from a war wound for over 50 years, supplies the answer, “We are overcomers because Christ has overcome us and our rebellion” (2 Cor 2:14 ESV).
To the degree I have been conquered by Christ to that degree I will be “more than a conqueror through him who loved us”?
Let’s choose to be much more conquered today.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 2nd December, 2018 Location: St Mark’s
Author: Dr. John Yates
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See Biblical References Ps 23:4 ESV; cf. Ps 56:9, 12 ESV; Ps 118:6-7 ESV|
|2.||↑||See Biblical References cf. Gen 22:12,16 ESV; Isa 53:6, 12 ESV, Isa 70 ESV; Rom 4:25 ESV|
|3.||↑||See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:12 ESV; Gal 3:18 ESV cf. 2 Cor 9:15 ESV|
|4.||↑||See Biblical References 2 Tim 2:12 ESV cf. Rom 8:17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-23 ESV|
|5.||↑||See Biblical References Rom 5:1 ESV; Rom 8:1 ESV cf. Isa 50-8-9 ESV|
|6.||↑||See Biblical References 1 Tim 2:5 ESV cf. Luke 22:31-32 ESV; John 11:41-42 ESV|
|7.||↑||See Biblical References 2 Cor 11:26-27 ESV; 2 Cor 12:10 ESV|
|8.||↑||See Biblical References Rev 3:21 ESV; Rev 5:5-6 ESV|
|9.||↑||See Biblical References 2 Tim 3:12 ESV; 1 Pet 4:12-13 ESV etc.|
|10.||↑||See Biblical References cf. Ps 139:8 ESV; Eph 1:21 ESV; Eph 6:12 ESV; Col 1:16 ESV; Col 2:15 ESV|
|11.||↑||See Biblical References Eph 3:10 ESV; Phil 2:15 ESV|
|12.||↑||See Biblical References cf. 1 John 5:4-5 ESV; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:3 ESV; Rev 21:7 ESV|