Who Shall Separate Us?
Fifth & Sixth Question

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 42c of 83


“…35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39  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” (Romans 8:31-39).

[The apostle Paul Is, in our text, seeking to impress upon our heart that nothing shall separate us from the love of God through a series of six rhetoric questions.As we noted: these six questions are like six light bulbs in our heart. Paul is seeking to have them connected to the battery-power of our own conviction. We have already considered the first four questions. In this final installment of our study of the passage, we shall look at the last two questions and Paul’s triumphant conclusion. —JJL]

5.  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (v. 35a)

Who? No one, no not one! No one can separate us from the love of Christ!

Our Lord himself says concerning His sheep or His elect:

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one” (Jn 10:28-30).

Our heavenly Father is holding us in his loving hands. No one is greater than our Father. No one can pry His fingers open. So no one can pluck us out of His hand and separate us from the love of Christ.

But if no one can separate us, what about things, events and circumstances? Can these things separate us from the love of Christ?

Here’s the sixth bulb:

6.  “shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (v. 35b)

Shall these things separate us from the love of Christ?

All these things daily afflict us in one way or another. In addition to the natural disasters that afflict everyone, as believers, we have to face persecution and suffering for Christ’s sake.

36 As it is written,” says Paul, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Paul is quoting from Psalm 44:22. As Christians living in a hostile world, we will be faced with persecution, tribulation, and distresses beyond the rest of the people in the world. But shall all these separate us from the love of Christ?

The answer is obvious! Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. If God our sovereign Lord is for us, who can be against us? If Christ our king who is the administrator of the universe loves us, what can separate us from His love? Nothing!

Shall tribulation separate us from His love? No, no; tribulations are appointed by our Father to build us up. For as Paul reminds us, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). So we “glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Rom 5:3). No, no; tribulation cannot separate us from the love of Christ.

Shall distress separate us from His love? No, no; distresses in our lives are sent by our loving Father that we might learn to depend upon Him. “I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place” says the Psalmist (Ps 118:5).  Therefore the apostle Paul tells us that he takes pleasure in distresses for Christ’s sake, for when he is weak, then he is strong (2 Cor 12:10).

Shall persecution separate us from the love of Christ, then? No, no; persecution is appointed by our loving Father for all who would walk with Him that we may know we are walking with Him. For “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” says Paul (2 Tim 3:12). And did not our Lord say:

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10).

If neither tribulation, distress or persecution shall separate us from the love of Christ, then what about famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Shall these things separate us from the love of Christ?

The answer is obvious, is it not? Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ!

I trust that your six bulbs have lighted up in your heart.

(1)  If God is for you, no one can be against you;

(2)  If God has given you Christ, He will give you everything that is good for you;

(3)  If you are God’s elect, no one can lay any charge against you;

(4)  And no one can condemn you, for Christ who alone suffered for your sin does not condemn you;

(5)  No one can separate you from the love of Christ;

(6)  Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.

What shall we say? Shall we not agree with Paul’s grand conclusion?

7.  “Nay, [says Paul] in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (v. 37)

We are not just conquerors; we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us so. We are hyper-conquerors, says Paul. It is interesting that the Greek word for “conquest” has been used as a brand name for some sport shoes. The name “Nike” means conquest! If you allow me to use a picture from this brand name, let me say that though all those tribulations, distresses, persecution, etc are chasing after us daily, we will outrun them.

We will more than out run them. We are more than conquerors in all these things through Him that loved us and laid His life down for us.

While we are on our pilgrim journey we will face many battles big and small. But we have been and will be conquerors in every battle.

We are more than conquerors, in the first place because, our losses in every battle is never anything of value. What we lose in these battles is: what is lost when gold is tried in fire. Job says: “when he hath tried me, [when he hath purified me] I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). The only things we lose in the battles we have to fight are dross—things we do not need in heaven.

But secondly, we are more than conquerors, because the spoils that we receive from every battle is exceeding rich. From the battles that we fight we shall receive from our Father, glory, honour, peace and a crown of righteousness that fades not away. With every battle, we only receive more grace, and more strength. With every trial, we only receive more comfort: “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ” (2 Cor 1:5).

What can we conclude but that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus!

It is no wonder that the apostle Paul could so very confidently exclaim:

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 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.

Nothing, whatever ever that exist in this world, whether material or immaterial, whether bodily or spiritual, whether visible or invisible, whether powerful or weak, whether rational or irrational; whether things past or present; whether height of prosperity or depth of despair; or anything whatsoever that is made by God can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s love for us is unbreakable. It is sealed in blood!

Dear Christian reader, you who are the elect of Christ, you who love God, you shall never lose your salvation. Nothing in this world can ultimately hurt you or work evil on you. God will not allow it! You are more than conquerors through Him who have joined you unto Christ with an unbreakable bond.

No man ever hated his own body, says Paul. Christ has made us His body. And He has been appointed as the king over the entire universe. How shall anything in His hand hurt us? Shall not everything, rather, work together for our good?

Conclusion

What more shall we say? If we say more, we will spoil the beauty of the exclamation that Paul made under inspiration.

Can you see the love of Christ for you? You were elected on the basis of His covenant promise to die for you. You were predestinated to be conformed to Christ. Christ rose from the dead, ascended up on high and sent His Spirit to quicken you. You were justified on account of His blood shed for you. You will be glorified that you may share in the glory of Christ.

These facts should lead you to conclude as the apostle Paul did that you are more than conquerors in Christ who loves you and that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ.

But if these theological facts are too much for you that they overwhelm you, then may I suggest for you to put them aside for a moment, and think of what lies at the bottom of all that the apostle Paul is saying. What is it that lies at the bottom of all that Paul is saying?

It is the Cross of Calvary. The Cross is the pivot on which everything that Paul is saying rests on. The Cross is the heart and soul of all that he is explaining to us. The Cross is the foundation stone of the theological edifice that Paul has erected. The Cross is that which gives meaning to all that Paul is saying.

All that Paul is saying is centred on the suffering and death of our Lord’s at the Cross of Calvary. The love of God for His church would be but an abstract concept had it not been that the Son of God died on the Cross. The love of God is the love of Christ demonstrated on the Cross. This is why Paul speaks of the “love of God” (v. 39) and the “love of Christ” (v. 35) interchangeably.

Christ was born for the very purpose of dying on the Cross for us. But His suffering did not begin on the Cross. It began with His birth in a manger. All His suffering was for us who are His covenant people.

·     He lived a life of poverty that we might be rich.

·     He grew weary and tired like us in order that we might have rest.

·     He was athirst that we might drink of living waters and thirst no more.

·     He was hungered that we might have the bread of life and hunger no more.

·     He was forsaken by His friends, that we might be the friends of God.

·     He was falsely accused that no one can accuse us.

·     He was whipped that we might be healed.

·     He was chastised that we might have peace.

·     He was condemned, that no one can condemn us.

·     He was forced to wear a crown of thorns that we might wear a crown of glory and righteousness.

·     He was nailed hands and feet, that our hands and feet might become useful for doing good works.

·     He was forsaken by His Father, that we might be reconciled to Him.

·     He died in order that we might have life.

·     He rose again for our justification.

Oh dearly beloved brother or sister in Christ, you who love the Lord: Surely you cannot fail to see the love of Christ for you in all these things. These are the things upon which all that the apostle Paul is teaching is built.

Let it thrill your heart that He loves you with such an infinite love. It was love that drove our Lord to the Cross. It was not hatred for sin, but love for us. We deserve to be hated for our sin, but God loves us: And oh what great love!

Oh let it thrill our hearts that He has made us more than conquerors through His body broken for us and His blood shed for us. Amen.

—JJ Lim