by Roger McCay
13 June 2021
Sermon Passage: Romans 8:31-39
Link to Audio Version
The story is told that during a crisis in the Civil War, a timid civilian sought out President Lincoln and said, “Oh, Mr. President, I am most anxious that the Lord be on our side!” Lincoln replied, “That gives me no anxiety at all. The thing I worry about is being on the Lord’s side!”
In the context of the war, the president had the right idea. And it is a sentiment that we should share in any war we find ourselves. It states a spiritual truth, and, as a Christian, Lincoln seems to have understood its wisdom.
Christians have enemies all around. We face attacks from those who would persecute us because of our faith, or who would pressure us not to live in a way pleasing to God. We face spiritual attacks by Satan, the accuser who would charge us before God as we sin. And the enemy constantly brings temptations and all sorts of evil into our lives in an attempt to drive us away from God.
In the midst of the attacks of the enemy, many get discouraged, and wonder if God is there; if his love is real. This can lead to living the Christian life timidly and with a sense of defeat.
Paul counters this tendency in our passage today. He asks seven questions, bringing to light what it means to have the God of the universe on our side, and what it means to be the object of his unfailing love.
Let’s look at these questions. The first two are in Rom. 8:31:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” The fact is we have all sorts of enemies against us. It is a long list, actually. As Christians, we are the target of all who are against God—both people, and fallen angels. Their attacks on us can be vicious and brutal.
But the first part of the verse asks a question, too. “What then shall we say to this?” “This” is referring to the point Paul had just made in Rom. 8:28-30. “This” is the reality that God’s people were foreknown and predestined before the world was even created. And then in history we are called and glorified. Nothing works ultimately for evil to us; in fact God makes all things work together for our ultimate good. Our future is certain. Glory is certain. And understanding this point helps us to understand the question.
Simply put, even our worst enemies’ best efforts are as nothing within the realm of our ultimate interests. They can’t affect it. Paul is pointing out the reality that no-one can be against us in a meaningful way, since God is for us.
Following this remarkable point, Paul helps us understand what this eternal commitment of God looks like in the midst of enemy attacks. First, concerning our needs, he asks, in 8:32:
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?
How are we to take this? Indeed, will he (with him) graciously give us all things? Well, I keep waiting for the 50 million dollars to be deposited into my savings account. Is that what is meant here by “all things”? No, the context does not allow for this to be an all-encompassing “all things.” Otherwise, how could v. 35 mention “famine” and “nakedness” as being situations in which some Christians find themselves. And practical experience confirms that. I don’t know anyone who has “all things.”
So, we need to look a little closer to the context and identify what, specifically, is referred to by “all things.” In the context of ch. 8, up to this point, Paul has reassured us in our hope and confidence of our future glory, which is one clue. And even in this verse, the fact of who and what the Father has already given us (Christ Jesus) is a big clue. In not sparing His Son, in sending him to the cross on the behalf of believers, God’s wrath inflicted the full measure of punishment due. And, in doing so, he sealed for all time the victory over sin and death for his people. As John Murray puts it, Christ was “the supreme expression and embodiment of free gift.”
So, won’t God continue in that vein and give us all the things we need to secure and further our final redemption and glorification? Of course he will. For “all things” are the gifts and blessings of grace bestowed upon us. All that we need or ever will need, for our sanctification and ultimate glorification, are ours. All things.