There are many passages in the Bible that provide God's people comfort and hope. But the words above carry a special encouragement to those who face severe difficulties and trials in life. This is especially true of those Christians who are persecuted because they are Christians.
Romans eight deals with the security of salvation that each faithful Christian enjoys. The background of this passage is found in the whole of Paul's teaching in the book of Romans. If you will look at the first seven chapters of the book, you will see several things taught:
Romans seven speaks of the law of Moses and depicts very graphically the terrible condition of the person who seeks salvation in that law, as many of the Jewish Christians in Paul's day were doing. Paul uses himself as an example of this wretched man who depends on Judaism to save him. In the latter part of Romans 7 (v. 24) Paul calls for deliverance when he says, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" The answer to that question is given in the next verse (v. 25): "I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Jesus is the only one who can deliver people from the body of death. It is in chapter eight of Romans that we find how Jesus delivers one from the body of death. Chapter eight depicts the triumph of truth - the gospel. It clearly states that victory for every faithful Christian is assured in Christ.
In chapter eight, Paul teaches that the faithful Christian does not have to worry about outward circumstances, severe trials, or temptations interfering with the victory promised in Christ Jesus. There is assurance. There is certainty. There is security. The faithful Christian can have confidence that these outward things will never prevent Christ and the Father from loving and saving us.
The only thing that can possibly happen that would prevent our salvation is US letting those outward circumstances, those severe trials and temptations interfere with our faithfulness and separate ourselves from the hope of the promises God has made to us. And yet, even when that happens, Christ and the Father still love us and still gives us time to repent.
SUMMARY OF THE TEACHING OF ROMANS 8
In verses one and two of chapter eight Paul shows the contrast between one who would seek to find salvation in the law of Moses and one who would seek salvation in the gospel.
Notice that it is "in Christ" that people have assurance of salvation. One enters into Christ after he has come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God (John 8:24); Repented of his sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38); Confessed his faith in Christ as being the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 10:32; Acts 8:37); and has been baptized into Christ for the remission of sins and with the purpose of being saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27).
There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus because Christ's law - the gospel - the "law of the Spirit of life" - makes those in Christ Jesus free from the law of sin and death. It is my conviction that the law of sin and death referred to the Law of Moses. The law of Moses could not make one free from sin. It taught people what sin was (Romans 3:20-21; 7:13ff). Under the Old Covenant sins were remembered every year (Hebrews 10:2-3). But God, through Christ, made it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins (Hebrews 10:12).
This is why Paul discusses the flesh versus the spirit in verses 5-17. There are two ways one can live his life: 1) One can walk according to the Spirit; 2) one can walk according to the flesh. Too many Christians are walking according to the flesh. The spiritual is always to take priority over the physical in every Christian's life. When a decision has to be made as to what to put first, the faithful Christian will always put the spiritual first. That's why Paul said in verses 12-13; "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors; not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
Beginning with verse 18, Paul speaks of the sufferings that Christians face while we live on this earth and contrasts that with the "...glory which shall be revealed in us." He sums up the blessings of the trials that we face when he says in verse 28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose." The trials that faithful Christians face work together for good.
Then, in verses 31 and 32 Paul writes, "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 delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" Certainly, since God was willing to send His Son to die for our sins, He will continue to bless us, protect us and help us as we live for Him. No matter what people may do to us, we always have God on our side. If we remain faithful through the trials that we will surely all face on this earth, God will give us the ultimate victory.
TRIALS DO NOT SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST
Paul, in verse 35, asks the question: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Some commentators tell us that the phrase "love of Christ" means man's love for Christ rather than Christ's love for man. The reason they say this is because they know that none of these things can ever cause Christ to stop loving us. We know this is true, but that does not change the fact that sometimes people do come to believe that because they are facing trials it means that Christ does not love them anymore.
In the context, Paul is talking about the things that can hinder the Christian in living a faithful life. He is talking about things that can cause a Christian to become discouraged, disheartened, apprehensive, and disillusioned. He wants Christians to know that none of the things that we face is ever going to cause Jesus to stop loving us. There is no need to become discouraged and disillusioned. Jesus will be with us and He will give us the victory if we just don't let these things cause us to become unfaithful.
Paul lists several things that cannot separate us from the love of Christ. He speaks of tribulation. Tribulation is affliction, anguish, burden, trouble, and hardship. All Christians face tribulation at one time or another in our lives. But this will not separate us from the love of Christ. No matter what we go through we should never get to the point that we come to believe that Jesus has deserted us, or that He doesn't love us anymore. He speaks of distress which refers to anguish, affliction, anxiety, grief, torment, misery and pain. This too is a common lot for all mankind. Faithful Christians face distress too. Sometimes we face physical illness. Sometimes we face family problems. We face the loss of loved ones in death. But we have assurance that Christ still loves us even though we are going through these things. Paul also speaks of persecution. No doubt, this is the kind of persecution brought about because one has chosen to follow Christ. We who live in the United States, don't often face outright physical persecution because we are Christians. However, many times we do face a more passive form of persecution. Yet, that can be just as harmful, discouraging and damaging as outright physical persecution. Paul also speaks of famine (a lack of food), nakedness (a lack of clothing), peril (grave dangers), and the sword (no doubt speaking of the same thing as verse 36 speaks of; "For Your sake we are killed all day long..."). All of these things could be the result of being persecuted because we are Christians. No matter what the circumstances are we all face these kinds of things in our lives.
Some times, when people are faced with these kinds of things, they may be tempted to blame God for their problems. We hear people say, "If God really loved me, He would not allow me to suffer." "If He really loved me, He would not allow my loved ones to die." "If He really loved me, he would not allow me to be alone." "If He really loved me, He would take all the pain, hunger and danger away." "Since He is not taking these things away, He really doesn't love me."
Paul teaches that rather than thinking that Christ no longer loves us if we face these kinds of things, that we should look upon these things as a means to victory. He says, "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (v. 37). We have gained a decisive victory. A victory that can never be taken from us. Rather than Christ not loving us, His love has caused us to gain the victory over these things and the ultimate victory of every faithful Christian. The victory is not won because of our own wisdom or strength. It is won because in facing the trials, burdens, afflictions and temptations, we have learned to depend upon Jesus. We have learned to trust Him. We have learned that we can't make it on our own - that we need Jesus. We have learned that since He can give us victory over the things we face on this earth, then He can give us the ultimate victory over Satan and death - that we can be saved and go to heaven.
Paul is an example of one who faced many trials while he lived on this earth. Take the time to read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Here is listed many of the things that the apostle Paul faced in life. But in facing these things, there is no record that Paul ever doubted the love of Christ. There is no record of his even once questioning God or falsely accusing God. He knew that Christ had not stopped loving him even though he had to face terrible and sometimes almost overwhelming things in his life. Yet he kept the faith. He persevered. And He said at the end of his life "...I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Oh, that each one of us will be able to say these things at the end of our lives. And to be able to receive that crown of righteousness promised to every faithful child of God!
NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD
In verses 38 and 39 Paul speaks of the love of God. He said he was persuaded (convinced), no doubt by the revelation of God's word, but also by what he had personally experienced, that nothing could separate us from the love of God.
He speaks of death. This includes the actual experience of death, the death of loved ones, and death in general. Death cannot separate us from the love of God. He speaks of life. The hard life of persecution; the burdens, toils and persecutions one experiences in this life. These things cannot separate us from the love of God. He speaks of angels, principalities, and powers. No power in the spiritual world or on this earth can separate us from the love of God. He speaks of things present - the circumstances we now find ourselves in; things to come - the circumstances we may find ourselves in in the future. He speaks of height (possibly the height of prosperity), depth (possibly the depth of misery). He's speaking of when times are good and when they are bad. Then he says, "Nor any created thing." In other words, nothing can separate us from the love of God. NOTHING! Then he uses that phrase again "in Christ Jesus." Here Paul goes back to the major point of all that he wrote. Salvation is in Christ Jesus. God's love is expressed in Christ Jesus. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). The totality of all the Christians hope is found IN CHRIST JESUS! The love of God is IN CHRIST JESUS! If you are not IN CHRIST JESUS, you have not experienced the totality of God's love -- YOU HAVE NO HOPE! Hope can only be experienced IN CHRIST JESUS.
The love of God has been amply demonstrated in all He has done, from the beginning, throughout history, on the cross and extending right up to this present time. God loves His children so much that He is willing to make all things work together for good. And we must ever keep in mind that God will always love us. He will always do what is best to accomplish His will in our lives. Let us always remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus!
We must also remember, that unless we let the things that we face cause us to lose our faith, nothing will ever separate us from the blessings and promises in Christ. But it is up to us to remain faithful - to live for Him - to serve Him all the days of our lives, no matter what we may have to face.