All right, church. Good to see you here this morning. We're going to be in Romans 8, so grab your Bible and turn there. If you don't have a Bible, there should be one underneath the seat in front of you. That's our gift to you. We'd love for you to have that. We're going to be in the latter half of Romans 8. We've been taking the last few weeks here looking at A Theology of Suffering.
Probably the only thing more painful than going through suffering is maybe having to sit through four weeks of sermons on suffering, so thanks for your patience there as we walk through this. The hope is, as we build forth a framework or a theology of suffering, it becomes useful for you now in the midst of suffering, or maybe this is something you tuck away for the day when suffering comes. And it will.
What we've seen so far over the last three weeks… We've looked at God's purpose in trials, his overarching purpose of using trials for his glory, for our good, as a way to mature within us a righteousness we could not gain of our own and to increase within us a sufficiency in Christ rather than clinging to a sufficiency of our own selves in the midst of trials, that we would hold tightly to God and understand he is working something out in the midst of this.
Then we saw our response to trials is not that we would hold God in contempt in the midst of trials, that somehow he's this puppeteer of evil, seeking to work out maliciousness in our lives to lead us downward toward despair and hopelessness, but instead, that we would sit under the wisdom of God and his instruction in the midst of trials, that we would do so in humility, listening to what he wants to say and show us in the midst of this, that we might walk away from these trials transformed by the Spirit's power, useful to minister to others in their trials, bringing them the gospel of hope, and that we would leave so in such a way that makes us different than how we first entered into those trials.
Then what we saw last week was ultimately our hope in trials, that in the midst of suffering, in the midst of grief and pain and sorrow, to recognize for the believer in Jesus Christ this is not the end. This is not our home. There is a glory that awaits us unlike the sufferings we know now, a day where there is no more suffering, no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain, no more death.
That day is coming. In the meantime, we are to keep our eyes fixed on that eastern sky, and that in the meantime, we would persevere well, as Paul said, knowing even the worst of sufferings we might encounter today are not even worthy to be compared to the glory that is to await us. So we wait in hope.
Now we want to wrap up here this week with what it means to have a sense of security in the midst of trials. I don't know about you. I've alluded to this the past couple of weeks. There are some temptations and some dangers for the believer in Jesus Christ in the midst of trials. That is, to start believing things that are untrue about who our God is and what our God has done. What I've found is, typically, there are four distinct lies the Christian tends to believe in the midst of suffering.
One of those is the lie of opposition, the lie that because the whole world is against me right now, because all of the wheels have fallen off and all this storm is raging in against me right now, somehow my opposition is greater than my God, somehow all this that is against me opposes me more than God is for me. We can begin believing that in the midst of our trials.
The second lie is the lie of accusation. Somehow we begin believing these whispers in our ears from the Enemy that "This is all your fault. That stupid thing you did in the past… This is all your fault, and the reason you're being judged right now is because of what you've done." These accusations come, and they begin haunting us, and we begin living in a continual sense of shame in the midst of trials, that somehow God's tether of love is being lengthened from me right now.
These accusations are coming, and I begin to believe these accusations of my past are actually more powerful than God's promises of forgiveness for my present or his promise of security for my future. I begin having shifting sand put underneath my feet in the midst of trials, and we can fall into those temptations.
The third lie is the lie of condemnation. That is, because of the sufferings I'm going through, the accusations and the opposition all around me, it's just evidence of the fact God has judged me, I'm not forgiven, and then I continue to walk in this habitual sense of condemnation. Trials have a real distinct way of making us somehow believe God's grace isn't really grace. We can fall to that lie as well.
Then the fourth lie is the lie of separation. It's probably the worst and easiest of all temptations to believe. "Since I'm suffering and there is all of this opposition and all of these accusations and I'm drowning in condemnation here, ultimately, what God has done is he has detached himself from me." It's that sense of "God has forsaken me. He has abandoned me."
Ultimately, for a believer, there is a genuine temptation to begin believing, somehow, "Have I lost my salvation in this? Is this happening because I'm not a believer anymore, because Christ has detached himself, cut himself off from me?" You can begin believing that. Again, I'm not speaking to the nonbeliever here.
For the nonbeliever there isn't security there when you're apart from Christ, when you're in this thing just on your own. I'm talking to the believer, the one who has been saved, who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ. In the midst of these trials, we can begin to have these temptations overtake us.
If you notice there, all four of those lies are in sequential order, typically. "If this opposition against me is real, then the accusations against me must be true. If those accusations against me are true, then maybe, indeed, I stand condemned before God. If I stand condemned before God, then I must be separated from his love for all eternity." It leads to this downward spiral of despair. What the apostle Paul is going to do here in Romans 8 is begin responding to all four of those lies. He's going to counter them with four assurances every believer has been given in Jesus Christ to hold onto in the midst of your suffering.
He's going to tell you for the believer in Jesus Christ, the one who was chosen by God before the foundations of the earth, the one who has been predestined in love, who has been redeemed, who has been saved by the blood of Christ, if that's what you're believing in the midst of your storms, it is a lie from the pit of hell. Instead, he'll say if you are in Christ, then you are secure.
There is no amount of suffering or hardship, no amount of persecution you may endure, no amount of opposition or accusation or condemnation that could ever separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. He will carry you through, guaranteed. We're going to spend our time this morning in verses 31-39. This is Paul's poem. This is Paul's anthem, his song of response on the heels of what he just got done teaching in Romans 8, specifically in Romans 8:28-30, about the election of God, about the fact God has chosen you in salvation, predestined you in salvation to be his.
"Those whom God has predestined, those whom God has chosen, he cannot lose." John, chapter 10. Now let me just be real clear, because I know anytime we use the "P" word here or the "E" word here, election or predestination, it can stir up this tension in Christianity. Romans 8-9 are the benchmark passages on teaching about the election of God. You need to understand something when you read those passages.
When you read Romans 8-9, it's not as if when Paul woke up that morning, whenever he penned this, as he was being inspired by the Holy Spirit he thought to himself, "Man, what are two good chapters I can write in this Bible that can really just screw up Christianity for the next several thousand years and lead them to frustration and despair of wondering, 'How can God choose some and not others'?" That's not why he wrote this.
If you walk away from Romans 8-9 as a believer in Jesus Christ mad at God, you didn't read it right. The reason this was penned was to show the believer (we'll call this the family secret) if God has chosen you (and he has), then he can never lose you. What he has saved, he will sustain, he will secure. That is your hope. That is your assurance. In other words, in the largest game of red rover that has ever been played, you got to come over. All right? That's not to make you mad at those who didn't; it's to make you worship.
God didn't have to save anyone and he still would have been just. The fact he saved any is an act of mercy and grace beyond what we would ever deserve. The fact you are chosen, if you are a saint, a redeemed one in God, your security in Christ is fixed, and you don't have to keep going on this roller coaster of "Am I saved; am I not?" You can rest in the assurance of what Christ has provided for you. That's where he just got done showing us.
Then in verse 31 and following, he's going to talk about the security of what that election leads to. Four questions followed by four assurances. Again, if you're a note-taker in this, here's what you want to write down. By verses 31-32 you can write the words "No opposition." He's going to speak to that lie. By verse 33 you can write "No accusation." By verse 34 you can write "No condemnation." Then by verses 35-39 you can write "No separation." He's going to speak to each of those four lies we are prone to believe that create doubt and insecurity in us.
This is what he said. Let's jump right in. Verse 31: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Let me just ask this question: Is there such thing as opposition to Christ followers? Is there such thing as people out there who do not like what Christ is doing in and through you? They don't like the fact you're a Christian. Is there such a thing as enemies or opposition to Christianity? Absolutely. For anyone in this room that is true.
If you look at church history, it's especially true. All throughout church history we have had physical enemies who have opposed Christianity, who have put Christians to death and are still to this day across this globe putting Christians to death for their faith in Jesus Christ. So yeah, there is opposition to God's elect, to God's chosen ones. Even for us in this room, though some of that form of persecution may be foreign to us, certainly there are those in this room who feel opposition to your faith right now from your own family members, your own coworkers, your neighbors, and your friends.
Probably even worse, maybe it's your own flesh that is your greatest opposition. It's your own fallen mind that opposes what Christ wants to do in you. Then no doubt the greatest Enemy of all is what the Bible would call our Adversary, the Devil, who opposes the work of Christ at all turns. Paul says here, "In the grand scheme of things, yes, there is opposition, but is there really anyone out there who can truly oppose our salvation or oppose our security more than God is for it?" Is there anyone out there who can oppose you more than God is actually for that salvation and that security?
Let's look at exhibit A. He says in verse 32, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" In other words, if God was willing to give you the greater, that is his own Son, can you not trust him to give you the lesser, that is, eternal security with him in heaven?
What do you think is harder for God to give you? Was it harder for God to give you his own Son and lay down his Son's life for you and give up his own child for your salvation, or is it harder for him to give you eternal security? The answer is his Son. His Son is his standard of love for you and me, and it is the distance he will go for us in giving up his Son for us.
Now listen. I'll be honest with you. I love you guys in this room. As a pastor, I love this church, I love you, but I'm probably not going to be taking a bullet for most of y'all, all right? I'm sorry. It's just how it's going to play out. Maybe for a few of you I'd take a bullet. I almost certainly am not going to give my own child for you. If it comes down to you and my child in front of a train, I'm pushing you in front of the train, all right? I'm sorry. Don't send an email later. Now if it's for my enemies, I dang sure am not giving my child. That's just me.
But what about God? God did. God gave his own Son for all of us while we were enemies of his. That's how much he loved us. That's how far he went for us. He gave us his own Son, the ultimate gift. In fact, Paul put it this way. Earlier in Romans 5, he said, "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person––though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die…"
In Jewish nomenclature, a righteous person was somebody who just did right by the law. Whatever the law said to do, they obeyed it. They were a good, moral person. But in Jewish nomenclature, the person who was better than that was what was called a good person, someone who didn't just do the letter of the law but understood the spirit of the law, who actually had a heart that wanted to do it. They said for a righteous person, somebody who just did right, you're probably not going to die for them, but for a good person, maybe.
But what about God in verse 8? "…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God didn't wait for us to become good. God didn't even wait for us to become just righteous before he laid his Son down. He laid his Son down while we were still sinners, while we were still in our own rebellion toward him. That's when he said, "I love you, and I'll give you my Son so I can reconcile you to me." There was no depth he was not willing to go to reconcile us, as evidenced by giving up his own Son to save us.
What Paul is arguing here is if he was willing to give you his own Son, do you think somehow he's just going to hold out for you on eternal security? Do you think he's going to go that far to give you his Son to save you and then somehow lose you on the back end? That's impossible. It's like God giving you a Lamborghini and saying, "Here, drive it. However, we're going to park it on the side because I'm too cheap to put gas in it for you." God is not going to do that. He gave you his Son. Certainly, what God started he will finish for the elect. For his chosen ones, he will finish what he started.
He says, "No, if God is for you (and he is for you; he gave you his Son), then who really can be against you? What opposition out there opposes you more than God is actually for you? He has gone to the great lengths of giving you his Son." You say, "Wait a minute! But this guy over here… I mean, he's against me, and this circumstance is… I mean, certainly that means I've lost some ground with you, God." He says, "Stop. I gave you my Son. Case closed. You're mine. You are secure. No more. I gave you my Son." There is no opposition for those who are in Christ Jesus. You can count on him forever.
The second question, verse 33: "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?" Now I read that and I say, "Well, Paul, thanks for asking, but I can think of a number of people who could bring a charge against me. I can think of a number of accusations that could come against me for things I've done. In fact, they'd come and say, 'Man, God, if you knew what I knew about Shea and his past, you would never let him in. Certainly this can't happen.'" There are a number of folks out there.
In fact, if you want something sobering sometime, try being a candidate for an elder in a local church, especially in The Village Church, where they put you up on stage and say, "Hey, here's Shea Sumlin. He's candidate to be an elder here. We need all ten thousand of you here at The Village to give us 30 days to let us know if you have any problem with him, and this is going to go out on a podcast to hundreds of thousands of people. So if you have any beef on Shea, you have 30 days to let us know."
Those are probably 30 of the most sobering days you'll ever walk through in your life, thinking, "Okay, what did I do in third grade? If any ex-girlfriends are going to walk in right now I haven't apologized to in the past…" All of these things start coming against you, all of these accusations. There are plenty of folks for you and for me on any given day who could go digging through our garbage and try to pull something up and put it back in our faces.
There's nobody worse than our Adversary, the Devil, who the Bible says does this every day. Look at this in Revelation, chapter 12: "And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come…'" Amen. That day is coming. Salvation is coming, but listen to how he describes Satan at the end of that verse. "He is the accuser of our brothers, and he accuses them day and night before God."
Do you understand, theologically speaking, what Satan does? He stands before the throne of God, 24 hours a day, day and night, taking your sin and my sin and putting it up before the throne and saying, "See, God? See what she did? Do you know what she did two years ago? Do you know what he did just the other day? And you're going to let them in?" He accuses you, and he accuses you, and he accuses you, over and over and over again.
In moments of trial and suffering, it can begin to get easy to listen to those accusatory thoughts, thinking, "I'm not worthy. The whole reason this is happening to me… All of this suffering is certainly because of something I've done, my own sin, and God must not love me." You can begin believing the lie of those accusations. Paul says, "No, no, no. Wait a minute. Is there anybody out there who can really bring a charge against you once God has saved you?"
Is there any accusation that will be heard just because of some shameful thing that's done or is being done? Is there really an accusation that can be heard? Paul says, "No." At the end of verse 33, who is the one who declared you righteous in the first place? Was it your own track record of performance for God and what you could or couldn't do, or was it God himself who justified you? He says in verse 33, "It is God who justifies." God laid down the final verdict, and he said, "Not guilty."
Now let me ask you a question. If the Supreme Court in our country makes a decision, can we appeal it any higher? No. Once the Supreme Court lays down its verdict, it's done. In the same way, the Scriptures tell us whenever Satan or anyone else comes accusing you in an attempt to make an appeal toward God of whether you really are or aren't his, God tells us those accusations aren't heard. Why? Because it's not on the basis of your track record or your performance that you got justified, that you got declared righteous before God.
It's not your own efforts that clean you up before God. It's God who justifies you, and it happened to be on the basis of his Son and his righteousness. In fact, remember that verse I just read you from Revelation 12, where Satan accuses us day and night? Do you know what the very next verse says that tells us how we conquer those accusations? It says in verse 11, "And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…"
Think about that. When the accusations come against God's elect, when all of those lies creep in that "This is all your fault, and shame on you, and God will never love you, and that's why this is happening right now, and certainly you're not his," John tells us here in Revelation in those moments the reason you can conquer those accusations is because of the blood of the Lamb.
It's not on the basis of your own performance that makes you acceptable to God. It's on the basis of Christ's shed blood on that cross that atoned for your sin that was poured out to forgive you of sins. Therefore, you stand clean before God, even though you're not. And notice it's by the word of their testimony.
What is our testimony? It's the blood of the Lamb. It's not anything I've done. It's the the testimony of Christ that saved me. That's what allows me to stand secure before the Father, even in the midst of the most turbulent storms. Where all the foundation below me is shifting right and left and it brings that uncertainty, Christ says, "No, you are mine. I bought you with my blood. You're mine, and you can never be lost." So there is security. Not only is there no opposition, there is no accusation against the elect as well.
Third question, verse 34: "Who is to condemn?" We know Satan also seeks to condemn us. He doesn't just accuse us; he accuses us for the sake of condemning us, of trying to see that gavel, that decision, reversed on us, that we might lose that salvation, to prove our guilt continually before God. The question is…Can he? Can he actually come through with that? Does he have the power to reverse God's decision? Can you lose your salvation just because there is actually one who seeks to bring your sin before God's throne? Is there such thing as a double jeopardy in God's courtroom, where you can be tried over and over and over again for the same sins? No, there's not.
In verse 34 the answer is no, because your penalty was paid once and for all by Jesus Christ. He says, "Christ Jesus is the one who died––more than that, who was raised––who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." We're not saved because you and I were so innocent in and of ourselves. We're free because of what Christ did on the cross for us. In his death he became our substitute. He took the penalty for our sins, which was death. He died for us and then reconciled us to the Father. That's what his death accomplished.
His resurrection conquered the grave and allowed us to become a new creation, to have new life within us. Right now, John tells us Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he is interceding for us. Listen to this in 1 John 2: "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, [you need to know] we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
John tells us it's because we have an advocate in Christ… An advocate is literally a defense attorney who stands there at the throne, defending us daily against the accusations of the Enemy. When Satan comes and stacks that evidence against us, Jesus Christ stands there and goes, "I have my evidence too. It's called these scars on my wrists, these scars on my feet. He's mine. She's mine. There is no condemnation. You are secure in my blood."
You and I are righteous because of Christ. We are secure because of Christ. Can you lose your salvation? The answer: Can Christ sin? No. Then you're secure. You are only as secure as Christ was able to raise from the dead. Is he raised from the dead? Yes. He's seated at the right hand of the Father right now interceding for you. You are secure. So there is no opposition, there is no accusation, and there is no condemnation against you in the midst of your suffering.
Fourth question and final assurance, verse 35: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Is there anybody out there, anything out there, that can separate you from the love of Christ? Notice he lists here seven different kinds of trials, seven different kinds of sufferings the Christian may encounter. Ask yourself, "Will any of these things separate me from the love of Christ?"
Shall tribulation? The idea of tribulation there is any hard-pressed affliction that may come upon you. Is there any tribulation out there that can separate you from the love of Christ? How about distress? Is there any distress that would separate you from the love of Christ? The Greek word for distress there is a word that literally means narrow place. It's that place where you're pinned in so deep you wonder if there's any way out. Dire calamity has come upon you, and you're tucked into this narrow place where it doesn't look like there's any escape. In that moment, will that distress separate you from the love of Christ?
How about persecution? The idea of persecution there means to harass in such a way as to make one run. Have you ever been in a place where you have been so persecuted, so harassed, it makes you want to just run from Christ, makes you just want to hit eject? In those moments of doubt, in those moments where you just want to flee, can even that separate you from the love of Christ?
How about famine, the idea of being without food or drink leading you to hunger and thirst? How about nakedness? That means the idea of being without shelter, being exposed to the elements. There are people all over this world who are in those conditions right now without any hope of any physical sustenance to take care of them. In those moments, does that separate you from the love of Christ?
How about danger? That's the idea of peril, being right to the brink of death. Then finally, sword, which is death itself. Even in the midst of you being on your deathbed, can that separate you from the love of Christ? Can any of those things separate you from the love of Christ? No. They can't do that. In fact, all of those sufferings listed there… Six of those sufferings are described by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 as what he went through. Then we know eventually he would be put to death. Even the apostle Paul went through all seven of those kinds of sufferings.
Can those things we just read happen to a believer? Absolutely they can happen to you. In fact, what Paul is going to do here in verse 36 is he's going to quote the sons of Korah from Psalm 44, who were lamenting all of the calamities they were suffering from at the hands of their enemies. Paul applies it to his day when he writes, "As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.'"
Can that happen to a Christian? Can a Christian literally be slaughtered for the sake of God? Can that happen? According to the sons of Korah it can. According to Paul it can. The question Paul is getting at here is, as horrific atrocities as those are, when they happen, can they actually separate you from the love of Christ once you are his? Now be careful, because there is a school of theology out there, there are preachers out there who would tell you that's true, that those things will separate you from the love of Christ. They're all over. You turn on cable TV and you have these guys preaching at you.
They will tell you not that these things won't separate you from the love of Christ, but rather, the love of Christ is what will separate you from those things. Did you catch the difference? There's a big difference there. One school of theology will teach if I'm a Christian and Christ loves me, then God will protect me from all of those things. He will not allow tribulation and persecution and danger and famine and nakedness and sword. He will not allow any of those things to happen to me because he loves me too much. He would never let his children go through that.
So if you are going through those things, that's evidence God does not love you, that you are under judgment. They preach that heresy every day on television and in churches all across this country. That's not what Paul says here. Paul doesn't say the love of Christ will separate me from those things. He says those things, which are fact and will happen to a believer, will not separate you from the love of Christ. They will magnify the love of Christ that is with you in those moments.
In fact, he says in verse 37, "No, in all these things…" All those things he just listed. "…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Notice he doesn't say we're just "copers" in our tribulations. He says we're conquerors. And not just conquerors. In the Greek we are super-conquerors. The idea that we might be defeated in our circumstances, but for the believer in Christ there's actually a surpassing victory that is taking place in the midst of it.
Why? Because you know not even the worst of circumstances can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. How? It's Christ's love that sustains you and pulls you through those times. Paul's point here is not that Christ's love would give you an escape from those things, but that in Christ's love you would triumph in those things. How sure is Paul that nothing can separate you from the love of God and salvation? Verses 38-39:
"For I am sure that neither death nor life [that's no event], nor angels nor rulers [that's no being], nor things present nor things to come [that's no time], nor powers [that's no force], nor height nor depth [that's no place], nor anything else in all creation…" Just in case we missed something. "[None of that] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Church, there is no separation in Christ Jesus. At no time, in no place, in no way, can anybody separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus once you are his. You are secure. That is Paul's anthem of praise, that we are secure in Christ, not because we were brilliant enough to find his salvation on our own, but because God stooped down and grabbed ahold of us and saved us. He tells us in John 10, "Once I have you in my hand, nobody can pull you out of it."
Let me ask you something. Are you and I the focal point of any of these verses? No. It's all about God. Why is there no opposition? Because God happens to love you even more than those who would oppose you. Why is there no accusation? Because God has declared you righteous, not on the basis of your performance, but on the basis of his Son. Why is there no condemnation? Because your defense attorney is perfect. Even though the evidence is stacked against you, he intercedes for you with evidence of his own: nail-pierced hands and feet and shed blood that says, "I bought you; I can never lose you."
Why is there no separation? Because God's love for you is not predicated upon your circumstances and your suffering. His love for you is predicated upon his Son Jesus. That is the anchor that holds you. Church, let me tell you something. If you're in the midst of suffering right now and you, as a believer in Jesus Christ, are wrestling with "Am I secure?" let me just assure you from the Scriptures you have a blood-bought security in Jesus Christ that will never let you go. It'll never let you go, and knowing that will help you persevere in faith that he has you and he will carry you through this storm. Let's pray.
Father, we are grateful for the promises of your Word. We're thankful that at least for these four weeks we can just stop and be reminded the afflictions that happen to us as your children were nothing that took you by surprise. Even though they may take us by surprise, they never took you by surprise. Father, you allowed them. You are working in them to produce something in us we could not produce in and of ourselves.
Father, we pray we'd be open and teachable to what you have to show us in the midst of suffering, that you would keep our eyes firmly fixed to the eastern sky, that head turned, knowing one day you will return, and in the meantime, as we walk through these trials, to know we are secure not in our own flesh; we are secure through the blood-bought security you purchased for us through your own Son Jesus Christ, and you will never let us go.
Father, might we relish in that. Might we proclaim the gospel boldly in the midst of our worst sufferings, that you are good and your salvation holds. I pray for that for us. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.