These verses at the end of Romans 8 are among the most comforting and calming in all of Scripture. But before we get to what seem like unconditional promises that St. Paul makes on behalf of Jesus Christ, we should look at the larger context of the passage. At the beginning of Romans 8, Paul makes clear that all that he is about to say in this chapter applies to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (verse 1). When Paul says that all things work together for good (verse 28), he is saying this in reference to those who love God (by living in Christ Jesus and not walking according to the flesh but by faithful obedience to God).
In other words, when Paul makes his astounding claims about the strength of God’s love, they apply only to those who love God by walking in His ways. All bets are off for those who willingly walk contrary to God’s ways or deny Him by either word or deed. To believe otherwise would be to make God promiscuous, applying the blessings of the blood of Jesus Christ equally to those who love Christ and those who trample His holy name.
Having said this, let’s bask in God’s love and promises as He gives them to us through the words of St. Paul.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (verse 31). How blessed these words are! Now, of course, we must understand the first part of this verse before we can receive the second part. If God is for us. God is not “for” all of us, equally. Some of us have rejected Him and made ourselves the enemies of God. But for all of those who have faithfully received Jesus Christ, God is indeed “for us.” He is on our side because He is on the side of Jesus Christ and through faith and faithfulness, we are united to Jesus Christ.
What an amazing thing – that God is for us! Knowing all too well the ways in which I still fail God and disobey Him and sin – God is for me! The God who created the clouds outside and the blinding sun and a galaxy inhabited by 100 billion suns is for me! The God who was for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses and David and Jesus Christ Himself, is for me!
If God is for me, who can be against me? Paul isn’t saying that if God is for us that we can have no enemies. Obviously, God was for Jesus Christ, and He had plenty of people against Him and still does today. But if God is for you, then your enemies don’t really count for very much because their power over you is so limited compared to God’s. If God is for you, because you love Him and serve Him, then Satan has no claim on you. If God is for you, then those who seek to persecute may torture or kill your body but they have no real power over you because you are God’s, even in suffering or death.
It’s not just the Father who is for you but also the Son, and this is where this passage has relevance to the Ascension. Because Jesus Christ died for you, God the Father is for you. Because God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead for you, He is for you. And because Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, the Father is for you. Do you remember what Jesus Christ is doing at the right hand of the Father? Paul says He is making intercession for you (verse 34). Jesus Christ, your High Priest, is praying to the Father for you. He’s pleading to the Father that on account of His sacrifice the Father would find you acceptable and would forgive you for all the bone-headed, thick-skulled, hard-hearted sins you’ve committed. And because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Father is for you, He accepts you.
Now pay attention to what St. Paul says next, and remember it in your trials and difficulties today. For that matter, remember it when things seem to be going well! There is one thing, and one thing only, that can separate you from the love of Jesus Christ: and that is your rejection of Christ’s love. How do you reject Christ’s love? You can reject Jesus Christ by denying who He Is, by saying He was only a man or only a good teacher. But you can also reject Him by refusing to obey Him or follow Him. Remember: it doesn’t do the demons much good to say that they believe who Jesus Christ is. They don’t worship Him or obey Him or serve Him, and therefore they don’t have true faith in Him.But assuming you have not denied or rejected Jesus Christ but have given your life to Him, then there is nothing that can separate you from His love. St. Paul faced terrible tribulation and distress, and he faced famine and nakedness and peril and the sword. But none of these things could separate him from the love of Jesus Christ. True, if Paul had responded to his tribulation by denying Jesus Christ or giving up the good fight, He would also have forfeited his right to the love of Christ. But as long as he remained faithful to Jesus, no stoning or flogging, no imprisonment or shipwreck, no hunger or thirst, no conspiracies or ambushes could separate him from Jesus Christ. In fact, whenever the disciples of Jesus Christ receive tribulation with faith in Jesus Christ, they only get stronger, being united that much more closely with Jesus Christ.
Reflect for a moment on all of the difficult things that are going on in your life at this time. There’s not a single one of them that has the power to separate you from the love of Jesus Christ. It might feel as if He has abandoned you, but that is only a feeling and not a good guide to faith. You might abandon Him in your weakness, but none of the things you find so difficult can ever separate you from Jesus Christ – unless you let them.
There is nothing in this life that by itself has the power to separate you from the Lord of Life. Even death itself is powerless to separate you from Jesus Christ. So powerful is the love of Christ and so complete is His victory over death that death, for the Christian, is only a step closer to Christ!
There’s a lot of interest in angels these days, including Satan and his motley crew of fallen angels. And though I personally wouldn’t want to come up against one, there isn’t a single demon or even a whole army of them that can separate me from the love of Jesus Christ, against whom they are powerless and less than children. No angel, principality, or power can separate me from my Lord. The prince of darkness himself was trounced at his last battle with Jesus Christ at the Place of the Skull, and Jesus Christ has defeated him.
We celebrate in song how strong the love of a man and a woman is for each other. We hear about those who would swim the oceans or climb the highest mountains for their love. Personally, I am very much on the side of my 6 beloved children, and there is very little I wouldn’t do for their good that is within my power.
But what about the One who died on the Cross for those He loved? We should celebrate 1000 times more in song how strong the love of Jesus Christ is for those who love Him. How strong? It’s the strongest force on earth, and He’s in your life.
As you pass through the year and remember the various kinds of love in your life (Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, for example), don’t forget to celebrate the love of Jesus Christ in your life as frequently and as passionately as you can.
Prayer: Father, I thank You for your love in not sparing Your Son Jesus Christ but in sending Him to live and die for us. I thank You, Jesus, for Your love in giving Yourself for me and to me, and I praise You for the incomparable strength of Your love. I know that I am an unworthy recipient of Your love, but that makes Your love only that much more wonderful to me. I ask that You would increase my love for You and others and that You would remember me to the Father today. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- Sing “O, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” or some other appropriate hymn.
- At what points in your life have you been more keenly aware of the love of Christ?
- How can you help communicate the love of Christ to someone else?
Resolution: I resolve to remember the love of Jesus Christ for me today. If I am undergoing some kind of trial, I will especially remember the strength of His love for me in that trial; if I am at peace and happy, I will remember the love of Jesus Christ in that state.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson