With Dale Ratzlaff
We continue our study in Romans 8:35-39.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced 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 created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul concludes this chapter with a question and a thorough answer to this most important question: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” Then he lists the following:
Tribulation: The Greek word means “pressure” and is the same word used in Mark 13:19 and Romans 5:3:
For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance.
These “pressures” of life come to us in many forms, from the circumstances of life to the work of evil men.
Distress: This word has been variously translated as “hardship” and “trouble”, things that put us into distress. Often the forces of evil and the events of a busy day seem to close in around us until the future looks bleak, and we feel distress.
Persecution: This is physical suffering often caused by evil forces. As I write, the news is filled with Christian persecution in lands controlled by radical Islam. For example, Jay Sekulow, ACLJ Chief Counsel, writes this:
ISIS jihadists bomb churches—slaughtering dozens of Christians as they worship. In Syria, they are crucifying Christian kids. In Iraq, they are burning Christian girls alive. Syria’s Christians—66% decimated. Iraq’s Christians—82% destroyed or displaced (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Christians are not promised exemption from persecution. Rather, as Paul wrote to Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).
Famine: hunger, lack of or absence of food. Few in the western world know famine. However, today there are thousands of people suffering famine. Sometimes famine is caused by evil and selfish dictators, or by the forces of nature preventing a living harvest.
Nakedness: indecency in public resulting in shame and humiliation.
Peril: Danger from many sides, not knowing the extent of the trouble one is facing.
Sword: this was a short, deadly sword used by armed Roman soldiers. This was the only item in Paul’s list that Paul had not personally experienced. However, later he was beheaded, but to the very end he trusted in God and the love of Christ assured him of overwhelming victory even in death.
…I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches (2 Cor. 11:23-28).
But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; (Phil. 1:23).
To show that God’s people should expect hard, trying times, Paul quotes Psalm 44:22.
“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”
We often picture Christ tenderly caring for the sheep of His fold. Here, however, we get a picture of sheep—God’s people—waiting to be butchered.
Yet—and here is the good news,
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
We win a most glorious victory! Note the word “overwhelmingly”. We just don’t squeak out a 49/51 win; no we win 100 to nothing! Notice that no matter what the trouble facing us is, “in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer.” How? Through Him who loved us.
Paul draws this magnificent section to a close testifying of his walk with God, his suffering and his victory.
For I am convinced that neither death, [even a martyrs death] nor life [with all its hardships], nor angels [who may be agents of Satan], nor principalities [earthly rulers], nor things present [whatever we now face in this life], nor things to come [what the unknown future holds], nor powers [storms, floods, earthquakes, supernatural demonic powers] , nor height [anything in the skies, stars, astrology, asteroids] nor depth [with unknown creatures], nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Yes, indeed, nothing can separate us from the love of God manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us etch the imagery of the empty cross, the empty tomb, and the risen Lord who sits at the right hand of the Father into our minds. Let us know for sure that nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the Love of God manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord. With this “song of victory”—overwhelming victory in Christ, Paul concludes this wonderful letter.
We pray for God’s blessings of health, safety and supply as we should. However, we can never forget that we still live in a fallen world where sin and its results take tolls on all mankind. When facing difficulties, whatever their kind or origin, let us never fear that God has forsaken us. We know for sure that nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Father, thank you for the message of grace and love in the book of Romans. Thank you for your free grace and love. May my faith always be centered on your love for me no matter what circumstances I may find myself in.
In Jesus name.
We have come to the end of our study of Romans. The first eight chapters of this magnificent book deal with the details of the gospel as no other book of the Bible. It is indeed a unique masterpiece tightly outlined as it lays out the “order of salvation”. It is broad in the reach of topics covered. These eight chapters are indeed “live” with meaning and are designed so that the readers, whoever they may be, will come to realize that eternal life is a free gift to all who place their faith in Christ Jesus. I trust that you have been blessed in reading these short studies as much as I have been in writing them. Some have emailed me asking if I was going to make a small book out of these lessons. I plan to gather them together in an eBook and make it available on our website. I would love to hear from you if you have been blessed by Romans Live and would appreciate such an eBook.
After chapter eight, Paul will focus attention on the Jews of his day and their future. Then following that, he will give instruction and admonition to the Christians in Rome. These topics are, I think, less important to our readers. Therefore, after praying about what to study next with the readers of the weekly email version of Proclamation!, I have decided to do a study of the Gospel of John. I have been teaching from John in our Sunday school class for several months. Once again I find that I really do not understand something until I teach it. It drives me to study at a deeper level, and therefore I get richer insights and spiritual rewards.
Some may wonder how studies in Romans and John relate to transitioning Adventists. It is my settled conclusion that Scripture, when studied, honestly, inductively, and contextually, will itself not only teach the truth of the gospel, but will at the same time point out our errors of legalism and false religion. This was true multiple times in Romans, and it is also true in John. An honest reader simply cannot hold some of the teachings of historic Adventism if they understand these two books. The Holy Spirit will Himself guide the honest reader into truth as the Word of God is studied.
In His joy,