The Inseparable Love of God
The constancy and loyalty of God’s lovingkindness is displayed in its ability to persevere through all sorts of obstacles and trials. The ultimate expression of this loyal love is seen in Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (vv. 31-39)
In this passage the apostle sets forth the principle that gripped the reformers of the sixteenth century: Deus pro nobis, which means simply “God for us.” The source of Christian comfort is not that we are for God or that we are on His side. Rather it is that God is for us and is on our side. To know that God is for us is to know that no one and nothing can ever prevail against us. Paul’s question is clearly rhetorical: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer is obvious: nobody. Of course this does not mean that the Christian will have no enemies. On the contrary, we will be surrounded by enemies. Multitudes will set themselves against us. But these multitudinous enemies have no chance to destroy us when God has bound Himself to us. We are like Elisha at Dothan, surrounded by invisible angels that fight for us as the heavenly host.
The source of Christian comfort is … that God is for us and is on our side.
What our enemies can never do, specifically, is separate us from the love of Christ. A “separation” means a kind of division. We see it often as a trial step in marriages on the way to divorce. Separation precedes the divorce and is often the harbinger of it. But in the marriage of Christ and His bride, there is neither divorce nor separation. The “love of Christ” of which Paul speaks is not our love for Him but His love for us.
Paul points to the risen and ascended Lord, Who sits at the right hand of God and functions as our intercessor, our great High Priest. It is from His love and His care that we cannot be separated. Paul lists specific things that threaten our security in this love. He speaks of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it calls attention to several things that might cause us to faint or doubt Christ’s love for us. When we suffer persecution or the consequences of a famine, we may be inclined to fear that Christ has abandoned us. But Paul sees these perilous things as those sufferings that accompany our discipleship to Christ. He quotes Psalm 44: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (v. 22).
Even if we are subject to martyrdom, such suffering cannot cast asunder the love Christ has for us. In all these circumstances there is victory because of the love of Christ.
Paul declares that in all these things we are “more than conquerors.” The phrase “more than conquerors” translates a single word in Greek, which may be transliterated as hypernikon. The root of the word refers to the concept of conquest (such as is hinted by our Nike missiles or athletic shoes). The prefix “hyper” intensifies the root. Paul’s point is that because of the love of Christ, we are not only conquerors in the face of all adversity but we reach the supreme level of conquest, the zenith of victory in Him.
The Latin equivalent of the Greek hypernikon is the term supervincimus. This indicates that in Christ we are not merely conquerors but superconquerors.
It is important to note that this apex of victory is achieved through Him. It is not achieved without Him or apart from Him. And the “Him” of Whom Paul speaks here is defined and identified as “Him who loved us.”
Paul then provides another list of things he is persuaded lack the power to separate us from the love of Christ. In this list are included death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, and any other created thing.
Once again the list Paul provides is not exhaustive but illustrative. He uses hyperbole to communicate a truth. Not even the angels have the power to wrest us from the love of God in Christ. There is no clear and present danger nor future threat that has the power to divide us from Him. The forces of nature, the forces of government, the forces of hell—all lack the ability to sever us from Christ. In the face of the love of God in Christ, these creaturely powers are exposed as impotent.
It is important to see that this inseparable love of which Paul speaks in Romans 8 is specifically directed to God’s elect. It is the elect who enjoy the guarantee of this inseparable love. This discussion of the inseparable love of God in Christ takes place within the context of election. When Paul declares that God is for us, the “us” is defined as the elect. Paul asks rhetorically, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (v. 33).
The “love of Christ” of which Paul speaks is not our love for Him but His love for us.
Excerpted from Loved by God.