We return for one more time today to the beautiful passage in Romans 8, looking at the last two verses: “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 creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” A tremendous and wonderful statement of our assurance of salvation by grace in Christ.
I would have you remember with me one more time that the purpose of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8, and especially beginning at verse 28 in the chapter, is to build within our hearts a massive assurance. And to build this massive assurance so that we will endure suffering in the path of an obedient life to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit sees our life as children of God in this world as one now of suffering and of many trials, as did Jesus while on the earth. John 16:33: “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” And, again, the apostle Paul in Romans 8 has written in verse 18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time….” And again, in verse 36, “As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long.” In order to build massive assurance in our hearts, Paul concludes Romans 8 with a series of questions or challenges that he wants us to answer. His purpose is that we come to a rock-like certainty of faith in our salvation. If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, how shall he not also freely give us all things with him? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemneth? And then there comes one last question in verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of God?” And if that question can be answered “no one,” then our security is sure and absolute.
Picture it this way. We stand in God’s courtroom and God declares: “No condemnation for you. A perfect work has been done in your behalf, by grace. I favor you in Christ.” But outside of the courtroom, a lynch mob is waiting for us. Is there anything out there, is there any experience at all that is able to separate us from the power of Christ’s love? And the answer is: No, nothing. Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We stand here upon the mountaintop, the glorious mountaintop of faith. Despite the circumstances that you may be enduring right now as a child of God, this word is true: Nothing is able to separate you from the love of Christ Jesus my Lord. And the purpose of the Holy Spirit is exactly that, that we say, “For I am persuaded,” not just the apostle Paul long ago, but I! Who shall separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord? If we do not make this personal, we have not heard it. For Paul is not speaking simply of himself. He is speaking here as the representative of the saved and justified, those who have been loved of God. God says that we are to experience deep, unshakable confidence. We are to be secure in the love of Jesus Christ. To know, by faith, the love of Christ is to know that nothing can separate me from that love.
We know that life, very often from our human perspective, does not look that way. It often looks like there are many things that may indeed tear us away from the arms of Jesus Christ. It looks, at times, that some even are separated. So there must be hammered into our hearts by the Spirit of God this absolute assurance: The love of Jesus for me is inseparable. Nothing can take me from it.
We need to know that. Why? So that we can live in carnal indifference, live a sinful life? God forbid! That is the blasphemy out of the bowels of hell. No, so that I can suffer well in the path of obedience to Jesus Christ.
This question is perhaps the most serious question that the apostle has asked. In verse 35, Can something cause God to stop loving us? And the answer is given in verses 38 and 39 of the chapter: No, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could it be that, perhaps, there is something about me that nobody else knows about, and if it becomes public, this horrible thing about me, it can take me from the arms of Christ? Or is there some event, some deep darkness, some death or trial, something so heavy and so dark that, while God may want to love me in this trial, His love will not be able to break through the darkness and the enemy will succeed in cutting me off from the love of God? Can I be estranged from God’s love to me—so that either God decides to stop loving me, or there is shown to be a power, an event, a circumstance, a tragedy that will succeed in interrupting and blocking God from doing what He wants? And the answer is: No, that cannot happen! For the Scriptures declare (II Tim. 2) that He abides faithful, He cannot deny Himself. The Scriptures declare that He is not a man, He is the Almighty God, who will not suffer the righteous to be moved (Ps. 55).
But the question is a persistent one, and a personal one. For I am a sinner, and the Holy Spirit shows that there is no sin that I cannot commit. Still more, as a child of God, I experience that my faith becomes weak, and at times I despair. And so, we ask again, is there a conceivable thing that could cause God’s love for us to change or to cut us off from that love? And the answer is: No, that is impossible. Verse 37 has answered: Upon the work of the cross (Rom. 8:37), “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” There the answer was, “Look to Christ and His work. That’s the proof that the love of Christ for us cannot be broken.”
But now, in Romans 8:38 and 39, the emphasis is shifting to the character of God, to the love of God. The answer now becomes this: Because of who God is and because of what it means that He loves us. Because it is God’s love, there is nothing that is able to stop it or to cut us off from it.
Now, since the question is ultimately about the character of the love of God, notice with me three things mentioned in these verses about the love of God.
Number one: It is the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is, in verse 35, the “love of Christ.” And then, in verse 37, “Him that loved us.” And now, in verse 39, “the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now, all of that—the love of Christ, the love of Him that loved us, and the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord—all are the same love. But the point being made is that the love of God is revealed in Jesus Christ. It is decidedly the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. It is shown or revealed to us in Christ. It reaches us in Christ. In other words, the apostle is saying, Do you want to know the love of God? Do you want to measure it? Do you want to come to some kind of estimate of this love—what it is like, its power, and its beauty? Well, then, you have to look to Jesus Christ. The love of God is shown in Christ Jesus our Lord. See Christ, the eternal Son of God, the Lord of glory, humble Himself and be found in the humility of our human nature, born in a manger. See Him walk all His lifelong under the load of our sin and guilt. See Him mount the cross and suffer silently in obedience to the Father. See His great heart of love for God as He falters never and hangs willingly upon the cross to atone for all of our sins. See Him arise, see Him ascend into heaven, and now, at the right hand of God, intercede for us. All of this is the revelation of the love of God.
Do you say, “Where is the love of God for me today? I don’t see it. How can God love me if these things happen to me?” And the answer of the Bible: Where is the love of God? Come see it. It is where it always has been. It is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Number two: The love of God is a love for the elect, or it is a particular, sovereign (that is, decided by God) love. This passage is talking about the security of the elect of God (v. 33): “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” It is not talking about everyone. You must not read this chapter in the way of our age of religious inclusivism—a wishy-washy, feely thing that would cause all men, of every conceivable faith and persuasion, of every possible religion known among men, to stand together in a big celebration and say, “Isn’t it wonderful that the God whom we call by different names loves us and holds us all in His arms, each according to his own particular persuasions.” If that is what you believe, then you desecrate the Bible. There is one God. Jehovah is His name, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is God alone, Creator and sole-Redeemer through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “No man comes unto the Father but by me.” I call you, in the love of God, to acknowledge this Lord Jesus and to bow before Him.
The love of God is a particular love. It is for those (v. 28) who are called according to His good pleasure. It is, according to verse 29, for those who are predestinated, pre-determined by God, to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. It is not a wishy-washy, touchy-feely thing that levels all religions and all sacred books into one and says, “We all have this comfort of the love of God in the face of tragedy.” That is not true. It is a love of God solely and only for the elect.
This is the unshakable assurance belonging to the God who loves graciously and freely out of divine election. This God’s love cannot be broken. God’s love is only to the elect in Christ Jesus, to those redeemed in His precious blood. Is that you? You can know by the fruit of His grace worked in you, a dead sinner, a fruit of grace bringing you to repentance over your sin, to a trust in Jesus Christ, but, above all things, to humility—the wonder that God would love me. That is entirely gracious.
Number three. It is the love of God in Christ Jesus for the elect, but it is personal. And that is the question. Can that love for me, personally, ever be interrupted or extinguished? The question is not simply: Can our love to God be extinguished, can something make me feel that I am separated from His love? Can something happen that I begin to have hard thoughts of God? That can happen. The question is not: Is there something that can remove from me the consciousness of loving God in my heart? That can happen. But the question deals with God’s love unto me. Is it possible that something can cut us off from God’s love to us? And the answer there is: No, there is nothing that can step between God’s love and me and cause God to stop.
So the apostle speaks of the triumph of the love of Jesus Christ—a love that triumphs over everything that we could possibly think of, everything that would appear on the scene to separate us from His love. Paul, in verses 38 and 39, if you count them, mentions ten things. He mentions life and death, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, or any other creature. And he says: None of these things can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
Now, if you look at those verses very carefully, you will note that the apostle speaks in pairs. He mentions death and life (or life and death) as the first pair. He mentions death first because death is first. Death is separation, after all. As far as we are concerned, that is exactly what death is—separation, from every point of view. Separation of the body and soul, separation of loved ones from our arms (a child from our arms—they do not come back). It cannot be undone. It is a separation from this life and everything that we know.
And then in life. Life, too, for us now is a series of separations. Life is a continued series of changes, of not being able to go back to how it was. Life has separations—riches are lost, friends forsake, health is gone, hope is lost. Change and decay, says the hymn, in all around I see. If I die, and I will, am I separated from the love of God? If my loved ones fall away in death, are they separated from God? Is there an event in life of all of these ends and separations that can separate me from God?
Paul says, No. Death is not only not a separation from God, but, in Christ Jesus, it is the way whereby we come closer to the love of God. In fact, we can say that of all the things that the apostle mentions. These things do not separate us from, but, in the hand of God, draw us to Him. Death—that is especially so of death. Death, the last enemy, cruel, apparently invincible, tearing us apart. Nevertheless to die, now, through Jesus Christ, is to be brought safely home to be with God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.” II Corinthians 5:8: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Death is not separation, but it is to be drawn close to my Savior and my God. And so the apostle says in II Corinthians 5:9: “Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” We labor, we so live, as those who look forward to going home to be with our Savior and God when we die. Death and life cannot separate us from the love of God.
But then the apostle says that no demon, evil, or power can separate us from the love of God in Christ. He says, “nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers.” Paul has in mind the devil and his dominions and his demons and his powers. We read in Ephesians 6:12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The devil and the wicked world and his evil powers are operative in the world. Can they separate us from our Savior? Peter says that the devil goes about as a roaring lion, seeking to devour whom he may. And these devils and demons are being loosed. Can they strip me of my faith? Can they tear me from the grip of my Savior? The answer is: No, they cannot. Colossians 2:15 declares that Christ has spoiled principalities and powers. He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His cross. It may gall, it does gall, Satan right now to hear this. But, Satan, you and your hordes are helpless. You cannot separate one of Christ’s own from His love and power of salvation.
And so we sing with the great Reformer Martin Luther, “The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word [the words of Scripture] shall fell him.”
Then the apostle comes to two more pairs: nothing in time or space can separate us from the love of Christ. Nothing in time (not things present or things to come). Nothing now. Nothing in the future. And then he speaks of space (nor height nor depth). Perhaps where you live right now, your life is very comfortable. But for you there is something in the distance. Perhaps you fear it, the distant future that is menacing and will surprise you and leap upon you. Will it be able to destroy your faith? Or, you think, if God brings me to that place of trial and testing, if God brings me to the waiting room after the news of a sudden car crash of my loved one, if God brings me to the graveside of my dear loved one, if God brings upon me ridicule, scorn, torture, suffering for my confession of Him, will God be there? Will He be with me? The answer is: Yes. As He said to Joshua, so He says to you: “I will not fail thee. Nor will I forsake thee.” Psalm 139: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” Go as high, go as far, go as deep. Come to the place where you are cut off from all of your loved ones, where none know where you are, where you are alone, lost. It will not separate you from His love. No mental anguish, no depression, no experience that anybody can relate to—nothing—can separate you from His love.
And, finally, the apostle says, “No creature can separate us from the love of God.” There he is referring to everything created, everything that is not God. He is including everything. No created entity, no created power—nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, including yourself.
I mention this because many Christians abolish the text with the belief of free-will. John 10:29—No man is able to pluck them out of my hand, said Jesus. Some say, Yes, that is true, but you can jump out of God’s hand yourself. It is a great dishonor to God to come to this text and say that the redeemed and renewed child of God can nevertheless still separate himself and jump out of the hand of Christ, out of election. To say that you can be loved of God, elected, called, justified, redeemed; that God may want, truly want, to bring you to heaven, but you will fall away—what a terrible insult upon God Himself. The Scriptures declare: Nor any other creature. That includes you.
And that is the comfort that is left to us. The love of God is the power that cannot be broken. Not even by me, by my sin, by my often sin, my evil nature. This does not mean, if you hear it that way, as an excuse to go on in your evil. That is blasphemy, as I said, the blasphemy right out of the bowels of hell itself. To think and to live that way, the only thing that you can conclude, then, is that you have not tasted, personally and experientially, the wonderful saving grace of God in Christ Jesus. If we cherish evil, and excuse our evil on the basis of God’s election, and we are not brought to repentance, we will perish. For God’s elect are brought to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ. And to them, saved by grace alone, to them is the promise: Even your sinful nature is included in this list. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God. I am persuaded, I am confident. Because of Christ? Yes. But because of God—almighty, gracious, faithful God. Because of who God is.
We have this massive assurance of our security in Jesus Christ, not so that we may live an indifferent and careless life like the devil, but so that now we can do two things. We will suffer well, hold fast in trial, not give up in despair. And we will live every day a holy and a thankful life because the risen Christ is in us, because the love of God is upon us, because His Spirit surges with divine power in our souls. Though we go through grief and sorrow, though we stumble and fall, we shall triumph over all, for there is nothing that can separate us from the power of the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the Word. And we pray that the Holy Spirit of Christ may indeed seal this word to our heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.