• Jamie McClanahan

The Good Life: The Love of God and the Security of the Believer (Rom. 8:31-39)

One of the stories that always captured me from the Bible is when Jesus and Peter walk on water together. It was a moment in time that both would never forget. As a child, I was spellbound when Jesus came walking out to the disciples on the stormy sea. My eyes widened as Peter asked Jesus if he could come out on the water and join them. The movement from tantalizing to terrifying did not take long. Peter took his eyes off Jesus and onto the stormy gales and seething surf. In Matthew 14:30-33, the story reaches a climactic end. It says, "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

The story reminds us that God knows our lives are like Peter on the Sea of Galilee. We, like Peter, vacillate from moments of bold faith to doubt and despair. However, in that time of fluctuation, we must remember that nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul communicated a similar truth to the church in Rome. It was a church that had been justified by faith in Christ. And, with that justification, they had been adopted and made co-heir with Christ. Paul wanted believers to embrace these tremendous personal redemptive happenings as transcending the suffering, persecution, and groaning they experienced. How could this be? Paul reminded the church in Rom. 8:28, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." God works all things together for good by working things out according to his purposes. In Rom. 8:29-30, Paul reminds believers that God predestines, calls, justifies and glorifies those who respond to the call of salvation.

Now, in Rom. 8:31-39, believers are to be reminded that, although they will face external terrors and internal accusers, they cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The main question and answers are given in Rom. 8:31 act as the main idea of verses 32-39. Paul writes, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" God is for us primarily because he did not withhold his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for our sins. When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, we take hold of our election through justification by faith. God cannot condemn us, for we are now the beloved in Jesus. Verse 33-34 explains, "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."

We have an inseparable union with God through faith in Jesus. There is much and many who will try to separate us from the love of God in Christ. In Rom. 8:35a, Paul asks, "Who shall separate us from the Love of God in Christ?" From verse 35b-39 he answers this question by giving a survey of natural and supernatural enemies that try to threaten God's love for us in Christ. However, these attempts will be thwarted. The list includes natural disasters to human-made calamities. The believer must be convinced that nothing in "life or death" can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

There is much that can happen in a person's life. Paul lists the following: tribulation, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, demons, matters of the present and matters of the future, and anything above or below the earth. These bad things are to be expected as we live for God. However, it does not mean that God is incapable of "working them out for good" (Vs.28). Leon Morris explains:

Christians might be tempted to think that because the love of Christ is so real and so unshakable, they need not fear that they will run into trouble. Scripture shows that, while the love is sure, so are troubles.” [1]

One example of someone who was tortured for Jesus, but remained faithful to the end, is Perpetua of Carthage [2] She was a new and growing believer in 203 A.D. She was 22 years of age with an infant who came from noble parents who were wealthy. She lived during a time when Rome was persecuting believers for refusing to partake in emperor and empire worship of deities. Perpetua and those who were a part of her prayer group were arrested and thrown into prison. She kept her baby with her in jail. On one occasion, her father visited her and begged her to recant for her baby's sake. In an emotionally charged dialogue with her father, it is said that she refused to recant in prison. She was then tried for her faith in Jesus Christ. When asked by the tribunal leader to recant her faith, she refused. Soon after the Christians were led to the amphitheater, stripped of their clothes and tortured to death in the arena by wild beast and gladiators. In Perpetua's case, the bear, leopard, and bull did not kill her, so she had to face the gladiators. It was eventually a young gladiator that wounded her with his blade. He was physically torn at the thought of killing her. It is reported that she gently guided his sword to her throat and embraced her death.

What are we to think about those who have received their eternal reward? Like Perpetua, men and women have had all things worked out for them in the end. The love of Christ never left them and guided them from earth to heaven. Hebrews 11:35-38; 12:1 records the journey of these men and women. It says, "Some were tortured, refusing to accept release so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."

The end of Romans 8:39 gives us the comprehensive assurance we are looking for from God. It says, "…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Today, you may need to be reminded that our security in salvation comes through faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. We may be tempted to look outward for help or and hope. However, the help and hope we seek is upward first, and inward second. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and the Spirit of Christ is within us interceding on our behalf.

[1] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 339. [2] https://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/witness/perpetua

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