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.
Thus, it comes down to the fact that in the battle we daily face, while our enemies attack, we have an unlimited supply of what we need. The Lord supplies us.
Next, Paul asks about one of the enemy’s attacks, in v. 33:
33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who will bring charges against God’s elect? Well, first off, what is it that separates people from God? Sin, of course. So, what is it that the enemy will want to do to separate God’s people from him? Accuse them of sin. Rev. 12:10 touches on this, calling Satan “the accuser of our brethren,” saying he “accuses them before our God day and night.” And because we still sin, we give him a lot of fuel to accuse us with.
But Satan flaps his lips in vain. This is because “it is God who justifies.” The elect of God (his chosen people) have been justified. All of our sins have already been punished on Christ on the cross. His wrath has been satisfied. We are forgiven and declared righteous in God’s sight, based on Christ’s work. So what is there to accuse us of? And what good is it to accuse us before the very God who justified us?
This brings us to the fifth question in v. 34:
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.
So, who is the one who condemns? It is the judge who condemns with any authority. And the Lord is clearly the authoritative judge, according to the Scriptures.
We know Jesus is right now sitting at the right hand of God, the Father, in sovereign dominion and glory. As such, when Satan brings his accusations against us, when we sin, Jesus intercedes. This is an action of his priestly office, which is elaborated on in Heb. 4, 7, and 8. John writes about it, in 1 John 2:1: “…if anyone [any Christian] does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Jesus speaks in our defense—our advocate. So, when we pray to the Father to forgive us our sins, they are forgiven. Christ Jesus intercedes for us throughout the Christian life.
But what about at the last judgment? Jesus tells in John 5:22 and 27: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son…”; “And he has given him authority to execute judgment…” Then, in 2 Cor. 5:10, Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Hence, we see that God will judge the world by Jesus Christ—the very judge himself is the one who took our punishment, who died and was resurrected for us. Jesus already took care of the condemnation that our sins deserve, on the cross, and we are forgiven. As Rom. 8:1 puts it, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Thus, the accusations of our enemy have no force; no effect; and fall flat as pointless gibberish.
John Chrysostom, whose name means Goldenmouth, was one of the greatest preachers of the Greek Church, and he lived and preached in the 4th century. He suffered tremendous persecution, but his understanding of what it meant to have God on his side sustained him. When he was brought before the Roman Emperor, the Emperor threatened him with banishment, if he remained a Christian.
Chrysostom replied, “You cannot banish me for this world is my father’s house.”
“But I will slay you, “ said the Emperor.
“No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God.”
“I will take away your treasures.”
“No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there.”
“But I will drive you away from man and you shall have no friend left.”
“No, you cannot, for I have a friend in heaven from whom you cannot separate me. I defy you; for there is nothing that you can do to hurt me.” 
Through the power of Christ Jesus, John Chrysostom was able to stand tall and defy the enemies of God. He understood the promises from these passages, and how to stand strong in God’s mighty power.
Do you have it in you to stand tall and defy the enemy? Unfortunately, many a Christian’s walk with Christ seems rather insecure. Have you ever felt that way? Do you join in the chorus of accusations against you with your own accusations, and so turn away from battle, refusing to engage? Maybe you are hung up on some sin, and you allow that sin to keep you from living an effective Christian life.
Over the years, I’ve had numerous people tell me that they are uncomfortable going to church or praying because they have not gone to church in a long time or prayed in a long time. They accuse themselves of not being worthy to do it.
Christians, at times, look to other Christians as the ones who go out and stand tall against the enemy. They see other Christians, who live confident Christian lives, as some kind of super-Christian and as being more worthy than they to take such a stand.
There is so much pressure to not live confident Christian lives. It comes from all over. Even those you might consider your “friends” at times pressure you to not live a life that is pleasing to God. “What, do you think you are better than us?” We must reject those pressures, those accusations. We do this by acknowledging them, denying them, and not letting them have power over us. How could they have power over us unless we give them power over us? For if God is for us, who can be against us?
We should live boldly for Christ, confident in his mighty power. If you are a believer, a disciple of Christ, a true Christian, be confident in the fact that he will give you all the blessings and gifts you need for the battle. No-one can bring charges against you before God, since Christ intercedes, and no-one will condemn you, since Christ is the judge. Our victory is certain.
Because God is for us, we, as Christians, must live confidently in our victory. Verses 35-36:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
In v. 35, Paul puts forth a couple more questions, asking if the seven woes (tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword) can separate us from the love of Christ.
Why is this significant? Well, think about it. It was out of love that God predestined us. It was out of love that Jesus suffered and died for us on the cross. It is out of love that he forgives us and saved us from our sins. It is out of love that he gives us all things. And it is out of love that he protects us from the enemy’s accusations.
He has done, and continues to do so much for us. What are these seven woes to separate us from him? They are nothing. The Lord’s love cannot be shaken by the trials we go through. The thought is absurd. And that absurdity is what Paul is pointing out with his question.
Then in v. 36, Paul quotes Ps. 44:22, where the Israelites suffer for the Lord’s sake. His point in using this quote is that it should not be a surprise that Christians should experience sufferings. God’s people always have. Calvin commented on this passage, saying, “[Paul] warns us, that Christians are appointed to the same afflictions, and should not expect that their condition on earth, even to the end of the world, will be different from what God has made known to us, as it were by way of example, in the case of the Jews.” He then says that although we are redeemed in Christ, “He did not appear, that the flesh should luxuriate in ease upon the earth, but rather that we should wage war under the banner of the cross, until we are received into the rest of the heavenly kingdom.”
In vv. 37-39, Paul finishes this line of thought with a triumphant statement of victory.
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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.
Persecution and suffering can seem at the time to be a defeat. But that is only the outer appearance. As one man put it, “In every encounter with adversity, even with the hostility that is unto death, the victory is unqualified.” This victory comes through him that loved us. It is the “transcendent factor which contradicts all appearance and turns apparent defeat into victory.”  An example of this would be Christ’s victory on the cross. We are victorious through his victory and in him we are super-conquerors.
Neither superhuman agencies, time, space, forces of the universe, nor any power or created thing can take away our salvation and separate us from the love of Christ—not even death. We are invulnerable to it all.
Now, if you are a true Christian, you probably have already had tribulations and attacks from the adversary. There are so many ways Satan will try to make you miserable and hurt your relationship with God. So, if you haven’t had to deal with this trouble, be ready. You will. And when that time comes, look to Jesus and be filled with confidence in him. It is in Jesus that we have victory.
Whatever comes your way, live boldly for Christ. Let it be known you are a Christian. Live your life in the open and let others see the love of Christ in you, in how you share that love with them. Face those who would serve the enemy’s cause without fear. Your relationship with God is secure, and your victory is secure. Because God loves us, we, as Christians, must live confidently in our victory.
If you saw the movie Superman Returns, you’ll probably remember this scene. In it, a bad guy set up this huge machine gun, which was playing havoc on the cops. He was set up on top of a building, providing covering fire for the crime his partners were committing. Well, the cops sent up a couple of men to take him down. But as they opened the door to the roof of the building, he took aim on them and went to pull the trigger. They were guaranteed “toast.”
But then this red blur comes flying in and stops right in between the two cops and the gun, which was being fired. He moved so fast it goes to slow motion and shows him moving faster than the bullets—racing them, then getting around in front of them, and stopping them with his chest.
He then walks towards the machine gun blazing away at him, as if it is nothing. The gun finally runs out of bullets, and the bad guy jumps up, pulls his pistol, walks up to Superman, and pulls the trigger point blank at his eyeball! The scene goes to slow-motion again, and you can see the bullet come out of the gun strike Superman’s eyeball (he doesn’t even blink), and then the bullet dropped to the ground.
Amazing! And yet, that is the type of invulnerability we have against the attacks of our enemies from an ultimate spiritual perspective.
If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, you have access to all the spiritual blessings and grace you need to live for Christ. Your destiny is secure in that no-one can possibly bring accusations against you that will affect your eternal destiny of glory. You cannot be condemned; the judge is our Savior. There is nothing that can possibly separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Because God secures our salvation, we, as Christians, must live confidently in our victory.
 Kent Hughes, Romans: Righteousness from Heaven, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991), 169.
 John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 326.
 Adapted from Hughes, 171.
 ὑπερνικῶμεν (PresActInd1pl form of ὑπερνικάω); Hughes, 171, states: “Literally he says, ‘We are super conquerors!”
 Murray, 331.
 Ibid., 332.
 Superman Returns, dir. Bryan Singer, (Burbank: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 2006), Scene 16, “Bouncing Bullets,” DVD.