III.10. Romans 8:31-39. Christian Assurance.
St. Paul has brought his great argument to an end. And before he passes to its manifold application in the later parts of his epistle, he applies it in words which spring glowing from a heart on fire with the gospel he loves, to reassure disheartened and nervous Christians. It was a natural feature of the apostolic age that the disciples should lose their first courage and become afraid, when the hard experience they were to expect became plain to them. The Epistle to the Hebrews is written full in face of this failure of courage among Jewish Christians. For the Gentiles whom St. Paul has more particularly in view there were manifold causes of alarm — fears derived from their own weakness, from spiritual uncertainty, and from their precarious position. It was not only that outward calamity — famine and pestilence — might come on them like other people. They plainly felt — St. Paul plainly felt, as he thought of the bitter hostility of the Jews actually ready to break out upon the Church, and of the jealousy of the Empire, not yet hostile but easily capable of becoming so — that times of persecution were at hand: that the Christians were truly in the world as 'lambs in the midst of wolves.' Therefore he would have them realize the whole secret of that invincible strength, that power to endure and triumph, which ought to be theirs.
What is to be our practical conclusion, he asks, from all this theology, from all this consideration of revealed facts and truths? The sum of it all is that God is not our taskmaster and critical judge. He is altogether on our side. And if this be so, whose hostility can by comparison come into consideration at all? God showed His mind toward us by the greatest possible act of self-sacrifice, the giving up of His own divine Son to die for us. And, plainly, if of His free love He gave us His greatest gift, He will not fail to accompany it with everything that love can suggest. Or, to put the matter in another way, if God, in full knowledge of what we were thought proper to take us for His chosen people and to put us in a position of acceptance with Him, who can with any hope of success bring a charge against us or pass condemnation on us? For we know the mind of the only judge. Or, once again, what can be so reassuring as to consider the person of our advocate or mediator? It is Christ Jesus, God's own Son in our nature, who died a sacrifice for our sins, but so far from being conquered by death, was raised from among the dead, and exalted to the right hand of God, and there is occupied in presenting Himself before the Father in intercession for us — covering all our approach to God with His acceptableness. Out of the protecting power of this love of Christ, then, who shall tear us? It is quite true that troubles may beat upon us — outward affliction, or inward trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword. We may find that only the words of the Psalmist suit our case, 'For your sake are we being put to death the whole day: the estimate formed of us is that of sheep meant for slaughter.' But in all these contingencies the love of Christ can supply us with a more than victorious power. For this is St. Paul's conviction, that no conceivable power of life or of death, or of the angelic hierarchy, nothing in present circumstances or future destiny, no possible force, neither the highest height of heavens or the deepest depth of hell, no possible creation of God other than what we now know to exist, shall be able to tear us from that which holds us in a grasp stronger than the strongest — the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, who is our Lord.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that shall condemn? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written,
For your sake we are killed all the day long
We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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.
There is not much that needs comment in these verses. We may notice the contrast between the tone of the Psalmist quoted by St. Paul — weighed down, like many a servant of the older covenant, with the unintelligible experience of the persecution of God's faithful people — and the exultant faith of St. Paul which finds no difficulty in the experience at all. Again, we do well to observe that among the forces enumerated by St. Paul which cannot tear us out of the hand of God, he does not include our own wills, and we could not even conceive him so including them. Once again, we take note how 'the love of Christ' (ver. 35) is resolved (ver. 39) into the 'love of God in Christ Jesus.' Christ's love is God's love, as Christ is truly proper and essential to the being of God, His own very Son.
These words, I say, need very little comment, but they thrill our souls as hardly any other words of St. Paul. They are the real summary of this epistle, and show us how the glorious apostle of Christian liberty would have us view our life. We are not to build the edifice of a life which at the top is to be within sight of God. We are to start from God who from eternity and all along has been beforehand with us: in His external personal love predestinating, creating, calling, pardoning, holding, and keeping us in continual growth for eternal glory. And the one power of religion is therefore faith, that faculty by which we look continually out of ourselves, and starting from God, committing ourselves wholly to God, raise the fabric of life, in the community of a true human brotherhood, upon the secure basis of the love of Him who created us, and will satisfy utterly the being which He has given us. This is the summary lesson of the great epistle.
 Ps. xliv. 22.
END OF VOL. I
From St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Vol. I A Practical Exposition by Charles Gore D.D. Reprinted in 1900. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
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To the Romans, vol I - C. Gore
ON THE BOOK SHELF
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