8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
8:29 For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
8:30 Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.
8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
8:32 He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
8:39 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.
SECTION 14 ROMANS 8:28-39
STRUCTURE OF SECTION:
14 (a) 8:28-30 The purpose of God
14 (b) 8:31-37 The preservation of God’s people.
14 (c) 8:38-39 The persuasion of the apostle.
SUBJECT OF SECTION:
14 (a) THE PURPOSE OF GOD
8:28 And we know that all things work together for good- whilst we do not know what to pray for in the perplexities of life in a groaning creation, we do know (the “and” in fact would be better translated “but”) there is One who superintends it all for the ultimate good of His people. Jacob said of his trials, “All these things are against me”, Genesis 42:36, whereas Joseph said of those same circumstances, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good”, Genesis 50:20. All things- the groanings of the present and the purpose in eternity. Work together for good- the good being the blessings of verses 29 and 30. To them that love God- not “to them that God loves”, for the apostle takes it for granted that there will be a response to God from those who are sons of God. To them who are the called according to His purpose- those who are God’s called ones are sure to be genuine, and therefore will love God. The call of the gospel goes out to all men, and those who respond to that call enter into the good of the purpose of God, which is what He determines shall come to pass. It is not that believers have been called with a different sort of call to those who hear the gospel and never believe. Or to put it another way, there is not a general call and an effectual call. The difference in effect when the gospel is preached is because of the response or lack of response of the hearers. The gospel call is thoroughly genuine. “He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”, 2 Thessalonians 2:14. The apostle has described the believers at Rome as “called of Jesus Christ”, 1:6. He clearly does not mean by this all who have heard the gospel call, whether they have responded in faith or not, but rather those who have believed it. It is to these, and these alone, that the assurances of these verses come. Since God’s people are the object of His eternal purpose, the temporary troubles of this life are of little account. Compare 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment…eternal weight of glory”.
8:29 For- the reason why we know all things work together for good. Whom He did foreknow- God knew His people before the events of time came their way. Peter declares that believers are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, 1 Peter 1:2, and Paul declares that His choice of them was before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4. He also did predestinate- “to set out the boundaries beforehand”. Just as God ordained the geographical boundaries of the tribes of Israel when they entered Canaan, so He has set the bounds of our position before Him. To be conformed to the image of His Son- note that the predestination is not to heaven or hell, but rather to a moral position, that of likeness to Christ. It is God’s purpose that ultimately all His people shall be altered so as to fully manifest and represent the moral features that characterise His Son. This involves a change as to the body, for at present we bear the image of the earthy, 1 Corinthians 15:49, and as such have limitations which prohibit the full expression of what Christ is. This is why the change of the body is called the adoption or son-placing in verse 23, for it will be the consummation of God’s purpose to make us like His Son. That He might be the firstborn among many brethren– so the likeness we shall bear is not the likeness of Christ as the Only-begotten Son, for in that He is unique and alone. As firstborn however, He will have many brethren sharing and manifesting His glory, and He will be pre-eminent among them.
8:30 Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called- The reason why the end result, that of conformity to Christ in His glory, is sure to be achieved, is now detailed. The word “them” is emphatic, the very same ones that were predestinated, were also called. The apostle is not dealing with the fact that the gospel call is universal, but rather with the way in which God’s purpose is brought to fulfilment. Note the dignity that attaches to the gospel, for it is the means God uses to work out His eternal purpose. And whom He called, them He also justified- note the repetition of “them…whom” to show that the same people are in mind at each stage, and to show that the link from predestination in the past to glorification in the future is unbreakable. The exercise of faith is not mentioned here, although in fact it is vitally important. The apostle is viewing things from God’s side, for our comfort and assurance. He does not want us to be distracted from these wonderful truths by worrying whether our faith is strong enough. And whom He justified, them He also glorified- The apostle persists with the past tense, even for future glorification, since he is dealing with the purpose of God, which cannot be frustrated. The glory is that of conformity to Christ, and since He has predestinated us to that position, verse 29, nothing can prevent it, “for who hath resisted His will?”, 9:19.
14 (b) THE PRESERVATION OF GOD’S PEOPLE
8:31 What shall we then say to these things?- this phrase occurs seven times in the epistle, for the apostle wants to carry his readers along with him in a united response to the truths he is unfolding. There follows a series of questions with which the apostle challenges all comers to give reasons why God’s people are not secure. If God be for us, who can be against us?- that God is for us is seen from verses 29 and 30. From eternity to eternity he has enclosed His people in His purpose. So whilst there might be adversaries, not one of them can meaningfully be called a real danger. “for the battle is the Lord’s”, 1 Samuel 17:47.
8:32 He that spared not His own Son- if in love for His people He was prepared to go so far as to not shield His Son from suffering, then His determination to bless is proved beyond any doubt. Cf. Malachi 3:17, where it is said of God in relation to His dealings with Israel that He will be like a man who spares his own son that serves him. Israel will be spared, God’s Son was not. His own Son- His Son in a special and unique way; cf. John 5:18, His (own) Father, meaning His Father in a unique way, not in the way God is the Father of believers. But delivered Him up for us all- the opposite of shielding Him is to send Him forth to suffer. Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate and the nation of Israel all delivered Christ up, but beyond all this He was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”, Acts 2:23, the very same counsel that purposed our blessing. How shall He not- what possible reason can there be for the cancellation of His plan? If the suffering which He knew His Son must endure at Calvary was not a strong enough reason for God to change His mind about delivering Him up, then certainly no lesser consideration will make Him alter. With Him also freely give us all things?- since God has freely given Christ to us to suffer on the Cross in our place, then He will surely give us all that His death secured. The “all things” includes the blessings of verse 29 and 30. Cf. the scene on Moriah in Genesis 22, with the father giving up his only son, and then the words “The Lord will provide”, followed by a confirmation of God’s purpose with regard to Abraham because he had offered up his son. Isaac was spared but Christ was not.
8:33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?- Paul’s second challenge. “lay anything to the charge of” means to bring an accusation against. In the face of the undoubted resolve of God to bless His people as demonstrated by Calvary, can it be true that any will still seek to undermine their position? Alas it is so, for the adversary accuses the brethren day and night still, Revelation 12:10. And he does this even though they are God’s elect, such is his resolve to oppose God’s purpose. It is God that justifieth- the only One competent to bring a charge against believers is the One who justifies them. To accuse them now would be to undermine His own actions.
8:34 Who is he that condemneth?- If none can bring charges, then surely none can still condemn- but again the Devil persists. There is a fourfold protection for the believer from the attempts of the enemy to condemn. First, It is Christ that died- and by His death dealt with our sins once and for all. He has dealt judicially with what caused us to be condemned. Second, Yea rather, that is risen again- and His rising is proof of the effectiveness of His death, see 4:25. He brings His people into the sphere where there is no condemnation. Third, Who is even at the right hand of God- the place of control and authority for the Firstborn Son, charged with the care and protection of His own. See Genesis 48:8-20. He has the position of supremacy over all the forces of evil. Fourth, Who also maketh intercession for us- the intercession of One who acts as the advocate for His people with the Father, 1 John 2:1, and who appeals to the value of His propitiatory work, 1 John 2:2. He so intercedes that their faith does not fail under testing. See an example of this in Luke 22:31-32. Note the words “yea rather…who is even…who also…” all expressing a sense of wonder at the strength of the support Christ gives to those who are attacked by the enemy. He died and rose again on earth, where the sins were committed. He is at the right hand of God and intercedes in heaven, the very place where the Devil accuses the brethren day and night.
8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?- if the case goes against the accused, he is separated from those he loves by imprisonment. Note that whilst the apostle says “who”, he goes on to speak of things. But they are things the Devil will use to try to unsettle God’s people, and deprive them of the sense of their Saviour’s love for them. The answer to the one who tries to separate is found in verse 37. All the things listed here were endured by Christ in love for His people, so there is proof from the past that His love will not allow us to be parted from Him. Shall tribulation- but the pressure this involves only serves to develop Christian character, 5:3-5. Or distress=extreme affliction; but who could have been more afflicted then Christ? “I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath”, Lamentations 3:1. Or persecution- “they persecute me wrongfully; help Thou me”, Psalm 119:86. Or famine- “My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.” Psalm 102:4,5. Or nakedness- “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture”, Psalm 22:18. Or peril- “Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help”, Psalm 22:11. Or sword- “Deliver my soul from the sword; My darling from the power of the dog”, Psalm 22:20; cf. John 19:10,11; Romans 13:4. Even if the authorities unjustly use the sword of justice which God has placed in their hand, Romans 13:4, and condemn and execute them, believers cannot be cut off from Christ by the sword of men.
8:36 As it is written- the mention of sword might have seemed extreme, so the apostle supports his idea with an Old Testament quotation. “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter”- the context of quotations should always be studied, for the apostles did not pluck texts from the Scriptures at random. In Psalm 44:1-3 the psalmist recounts the way God had intervened for Israel in the past. In verses 4-8 he appeals to God to intervene again in the present. In verses 9-16 he laments that far from delivering them, God had cast them off. In verses17-22 he asserts that despite this, they had not forgotten God. In verses 23-26 the psalmist appeals to God to intervene again. Paul quotes from verse 22, and it is important to notice that the psalmist claims that they are suffering for God’s sake, and this means the suffering is meaningful and worthwhile. The words are very similar to those used by Isaiah concerning Christ- “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter….” Isaiah 53:7. Far from separating them from the love of Christ, believers will find that their extreme experience only serves to remind them of His deep love for them.
8:37 Nay- on the contrary. The apostle’s response to the idea that believers can be separated from the love of Christ, verse 36 being a parenthesis. In all these things- not when delivered from them, but even when in the midst of all of them. We are more than conquerors- a verb, meaning “we more than overcome”, or “we gain a surpassing victory”. The believer does not simply survive suffering, and defeat the opposition that way, but gains a greater victory by using the trial as a means of glorifying God, as the psalmist did, “for Thy sake we are killed all the day”. Through Him that loved us- the motivation for the believer under trial. Note the past tense, that particular demonstration of the love of Christ when He went to Calvary. See Song of Solomon 8:6,7. The one who strengthens us when we meet the hostility of the enemy is fittingly entitled, “Him that loved us”, for His love took Him into the place where the prince of this world attacked Him so fiercely.
14 (c) THE PERSUASION OF THE APOSTLE
8:38 For I am persuaded- Divine justice at work in verses 31-34, and Divine love in verses 35-37 combine together to give irrefutable evidence that God is on our side. This being so, none of the “creatures” of this verse, veritable monsters as they may seem, can overturn the purpose of the Creator, whose power, justice and love are infinite. Death- believers may fear the process of dying, but they should not fear death itself, for it is a conquered foe, and is a servant who ushers into the presence of God, see 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. Life- can be very dangerous to a believer, with all its temptations and pitfalls. The apostle is confident that no experience in life can separate him from the love of Christ. Nor angels, nor principalities or powers- since we cannot conceive that the apostle would think holy angels would wish to separate him from Divine things, this must mean evil angels, but despite their power and malignant intentions, they cannot succeed against the believer, for they are subject to Christ, 1 Peter 3:22. Nor things present- very present trials can never accumulate to overwhelm the believer. Nor things to come- for coming events are all under Divine control, “known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world”, Acts 15:18. Nor height, nor depth- nothing that looms large on the believer’s horizon, nor any depth of depression and doubt through which he may pass, may serve to affect Christian standing, which does not depend upon what we feel, but on what God says. Nor any other creature- is this a fleeting, grudging reference to the Devil, whom the apostle has not flattered by referring to before in the epistle? The great accuser of the brethren has nothing to say in view of God’s intervention on our behalf. Shall be able to separate us from the love of God- Paul is confident about the future because he is confident about the past. The love of God has endured its severest test at Calvary. “take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and offer him…for a burnt offering…and Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son…” Genesis 22:2,10. God has done what none other has right to do, even introduce love into the proceedings of the Courts of Divine Justice. The Son of the Judge has died for the guilty prisoners in the dock, and they walk free, convinced that they are the objects of His eternal love. Which is in Christ Jesus our Lord- love has been expressed historically, and in that sense is in the Christ of Calvary, but it is also known presently and personally, being expressed to us now in all its fulness by our Saviour. Because He is Lord, having all power in heaven and earth, then nothing and nobody can snatch the believer from His powerful, loving hand.