"WHO SHALL SEPARATE US from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Romans 8:35). As long as the church preaches The Cross, it is preaching the Gospel. If not, what it is preaching is of little or no consequence.
If one is to notice, the heading speaks of the love of Christ for the believer instead of the believer's love for Christ.
In Romans 8:35-39 some have attempted to promote the unscriptural doctrine of unconditional eternal security, to which we have briefly touched on. But due to the great significance of this subject, please allow the repetition.
This doctrine teaches that after one is truly saved, one cannot be lost, irrespective of what he may do, how deep he may go into sin and remain there, or even how much he denies Christ and loses his faith. Of course, this doctrine is not scriptural for many and varied reasons, but the main reason is that it abrogates all personal responsibility, as well as violates the free moral agency of man. In effect, as we have already stated, it is another form of the erroneous doctrine of predestination to be saved or lost, and there is nothing anyone can do to change that situation.
We believe and teach conditional eternal security – conditional on the premise that our faith remain in Christ and what He has done for us at The Cross. Ceasing to believe that is the only thing that will take one out of the bounds of salvation. Sin will not do it; if it did, there would be no one saved. It is faith in Christ and what He did at The Cross that got us in, and it is faith in Christ and The Cross that keeps us in.
A denial of His sacrificial offering of Himself on Calvary's Cross will revert one back to a lost state (Hebrews 6:1-6; 10:28-31).
God Will Not Protect Us From Ourselves
While it is true that God protects the believer (as recorded here) from all outside adversity, that is at least as it refers to one's salvation, there is nothing in these passages which says that God protects the believer from himself. In other words, the believer still retains the power of choice, and it is that choice that decides his eternal destiny. No, it is not that man's choice is greater than God. Such thinking is silly. However, God has given man the privilege of choice, and, in effect, the love spoken of here has to be by choice, or it simply cannot be love, whether it is on the part of God or man.
In other words, the very nature of one's living for God has to be on the principle of choice. It is the same with a husband and wife – one cannot force the other to love; it must be one's own prerogative. It is the same with God. We must freely love Him, or else it is not love. In fact, this is the manner in which God made man in the very beginning. Had he wanted some type of human computer, He would have easily made man without a will. However, to obtain that which he desired, which is that man would freely love Him, man had to be given the power of choice.
SHALL TRIBULATION, OR DISTRESS, OR PERSECUTION, OR FAMINE, OR NAKEDNESS, OR PERIL, OR SWORD?
The heading presents the foe's armory as containing seven weapons – the whole of his resources:
However these weapons may disfigure, deform, degrade, or denigrate the believer, yet Christ will still love and prize him. For instance, Joseph was just as dear to that love when lying in the dungeon as when seated on the throne. It is possible to separate from human love, but not from Christ's love. For instance, a man may love his betrothed very deeply, but if by the power of an enemy her beauty and character were destroyed, it is possible that his love for her would die; but that's not how God is toward those who are His. This text speaks and pertains to the love of Christ for the believer; however, on the other side of the coin, these things are allowed by God, as detrimental as they may seem on the surface, to deepen our love for God rather than the opposite. And so it does. Satan uses these weapons to try to separate us from the love of Christ, not so much regarding The Lord loving us, for the enemy knows that is impossible. However, he does have the mistaken idea that these foes will weaken our love for God.
Satan claimed that Job loved God not because of Who God is, but for what God had done for Job (Job 1). Actually, that is the entire contention of Satan against God. Satan claimed that men loved God because of the wonderful things The Lord did for them, and He continues to do the same presently. He refuses to admit that men love God simply because of Who He is. In other words, we will love Him irrespective of what He does for us in the material and physical sense. Whether it is poverty or riches, we will love Him. Whether it is health or sickness, we will love Him. That and that alone is true Christianity.
Satan refuses to acknowledge that, which actually is the bedrock of serving God. In other words, we serve Him for Who He is rather than for the things He gives us.
One Reason That The Modern Greed Gospel Is So Evil
This so-called gospel, which in reality is another gospel, makes money the priority. In other words, and irrespective as to how much it is denied, money and money alone is that gospel. Jesus Christ and what He did at Calvary plus the entirety of the plan of salvation to redeem humanity from sin's terrible bondage is cheapened to mere things. Hence, Jesus said, "...Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). While God most definitely does bless people, and abundantly we might quickly add, as well as financially, still this is not the main thrust of the Gospel, and in fact has never been. It plays right into Satan's hands with his age old contention that no one truly loves God. Any supposed love, he says, is merely a ploy to get things. So the preachers who claim this as their message are not preaching the Gospel and are not winning people to Christ. They are actually playing into the hands of the evil one. If we forget the true purpose for which Jesus came, which is to redeem man from sin, then we have totally abrogated all that He did at Calvary. And, as stated, we are preaching "another gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
The Entirety Of The So-Called Confession Message
This false message that is prominent today and has been prominent for several decades, claims that if the believer has enough faith and his confession is proper, he can void all of these tribulations, distresses, etc. (This fits right in with the greed message, and in fact, is the greed message.) But the entirety of the tenor of the bible presents the very opposite: the believer is not exempt from those things.
The people and the world who are giving Satan great problems are the true believers – those who believe in Christ and what He did for us at The Cross. Consequently, Satan will use every means at his disposal to attempt to stop the child of God, as should be obvious. In fact, the believer is at war and will be at war with the evil one, at least regarding his faith, until the trump sounds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
However, if one will study church history, one will find that great opposition and persecution by the powers of darkness, in whatever manner these came even to the giving of one's life, have never weakened or hurt the true church of the living God. For all who were snatched from its ranks, several others took their place, even knowing that it could mean their lives, as well. So, persecution has never really hurt the church – it actually only strengthened the church, i.e., the individual believer. To be frank, this is one of the very reasons that persecution is allowed by The Lord. That which weakens, hinders, and stunts the spiritual growth and turns aside the believer is the opposite message with which we have been regaled for the last several decades – the false greed message.
I realize that some readers may think I am overly hard on this particular subject; however, if that is the case, it is not preachers, per se, to whom I address these remarks, but rather the message itself. It is the lie to which I am opposed and not the people themselves. Yet I realize that it is very difficult to separate the man and his message, perhaps impossible. Consequently, it is incumbent upon the preacher of the Gospel not to allow his heart to be adversely affected by the propagators of this false message, butto stay focused on the true task at hand – the evil one who is behind all of this, Satan himself.
Let not the believer think that Satan does not know what he is doing. In fact, his greatest weapon is to make his message sound as near to the true message as possible. So near, in fact, that it takes one truly close to God to actually see the difference. He loads up his lie with truth, which makes it very plausible, but it is the leaven that is hidden in the truth that must be exposed, which causes so much danger respecting the believer (1 Corinthians 5:6). Irrespective as to how small the amount of leaven may be at the beginning, if it is not removed, it will ultimately take over the whole, until there is nothing left but leaven. That is the very nature of leaven. That is Satan's purpose, and he is very good at what he does – mixing error with truth. As someone has well said, "All error rides into the church on the back of truth."
As It Is Written, For Thy Sake We Are Killed All The Day Long
"As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Romans 8:36). If the The Cross is removed from the gospel, there is no gospel left. The Cross of Christ is not something that happened just 2,000 years ago, but in reality was begun before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:18-20). The heading is taken from Psalm 44:22. If one carefully reads that particular psalm, it speaks of God whohad done great things for His people, but then seemingly withdrew His hand of help and protection and allowed His people to be overcome. However, verses 20 and 21 tell us why.
Israel had strayed and "...God (would) search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart" (Psalm 44:21).
The Lord allows tribulation for two purposes:
It is sad that believers need such chastisement, but often we do.
We Are Accounted As Sheep For The Slaughter
The heading proclaims a great truth that we should learn.
When the believing sinner comes to Christ, his life ceases to be his own, and it becomes the property and possession of Our Lord. Consequently, at that moment, we give up our lives, which is exactly what Jesus told us to do. He said, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25).
One might ask how this statement by Christ could be so. If we understand the following, perhaps we can understand it better.
The Lord doesn't look at time factors as we do, but He looks at eternity. If you save your life in this particular life, which means you will lose it, what have you profited? However, if you lose your life for the cause of Christ, you have saved it for all eternity, and there is nothing that can compare eternity with our present lifespan.
One of the great problems of modern believers is that sometimes they are attempting (erroneously, I might add) to build a paradise out of this present life, which makes us not too desirous of the one to come. That is exactly what is happening presently. It's the "me" and "now" instead of the "thou" and "then." If one is to notice the attitude of the early church, their hearts were on things above. And I'm afraid that presently too many of us have our hearts on things below. Once again, even though I am overly repetitive, the modern greed gospel fits perfectly into that scheme.
While the believer has a great work at this present time to do, and while that work is of extreme importance, still, the believer must ever know and realize that the sons of God have not yet been manifested. That will happen only when Jesus comes.
Please allow me to ask this question: how many believers (for whatever reason) truly want Jesus to come at this present time? Some few do, while most know nothing about His coming, or else they have been erroneously taught, thinking that His coming depends on them. Nothing could be crasser, even the height of prideful absurdity. Such is the modern kingdom message.
No, In All These Things We Are More Than Conquerors
"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him (Christ) that loved us" (Romans 8:37). Every soul saved and every prayer answered is because of Jesus and what He did for us at The Cross. The heading means that such has never stopped the true church of God, and such will never be successful in that effort. In the Greek, the phrase, "more than conquerors," is hupernikao, and means "to conquer, to carry off the victory, to come off victorious." However, the Greek word huper attached to nikao, means "above," thus: "to come off more than victorious, to gain a surprising victory." It is a holy arrogance of victory in the might of Christ.
Perhaps it is a mistake to define in what the "more" consists of. If we do, the answer must be sought on the line indicated in the note, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long." These trials not only do not cut us off from Christ's love, they actually give us more intimate and thrilling experience of it.
Through Him Who Loved Us
The phrase, "through him that loved us," means that He allowed these things to come to pass, not to destroy us, but rather the very opposite. It is because of His love, which some have called tough love, that He allows adversities. Such draws the believer closer to God for the simple reason that we know our only hope is in Christ. As well, these great victories won by the child of God, despite the worst of adversities, portray to all of heaven, as well as the darkened host of Satan, that God's people do not serve Him for things, but rather because they love Him. In other words, we are willing to lay down our lives for His sake.
The "conquering" carries the idea, not so much of deliverance from these things, but rather that wedid not allow these adversities to sully our testimony, but to sharpen our testimony.
In other words, these who have gone through such trials (and many have) did not do so because of a lack of faith, but rather because of their great faith. Actually, it was meant to strengthen their faith, which it did.
For I Am Persuaded
"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" (Romans 8:38-39). It was to Paul that the great word of The Cross was given, and He gave it to us in his 14 epistles. Ninety percent of what he gave us has to do with The Cross of Christ, not with salvation, as important as that is, but rather with our sanctification. Yet most modern preachers while having a modicum of knowledge respecting The Cross concerning salvation have none at all as it regards sanctification. The heading over the verse comes from the heart of the apostle, meaning that he had faced the things of which he now speaks.
There are probably few people in history, if any, who have suffered as Paul suffered in order to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a hurting world, which means to establish the church, which he did.
While the victory of his heart, even according to this verbiage was overflowing with strength and power, with Satan making no headway there, still the evil one fought the apostle on every hand with beatings, stonings, shipwreck, and about everything that one could possibly think. So when he says, "I am persuaded," it refers to something, or rather someone, who has stood the test, namely himself.
That Neither Death
The heading means that Jesus has pulled the teeth of that monster. The true believer no longer fears death, with untold numbers down through history having willingly laid down their lives for the cause of Christ. In fact, not long after the writing of the book of Acts, Rome turned ugly toward the church, with the floors of its arenas turning red with the spilled blood of those who died for Jesus.
The world of that day other than Christendom was plagued with a myriad of gods. In other words, there were all types of gods worshiped by all types of people.
Consequently, the Roman senate voted that their Caesar, whoever he might be, would be declared as deity or god. Most of the Caesars, realizing their humanity and consequent frailty, refused to have such a title attached to their names, but Nero demanded to be called "god". Consequently, untold thousands died by wild animals and Roman spears simply because they would not say, "Caesar is lord." Their cry, even unto death, was, "Jesus is Lord!"
What a testimony!
Apostasy Of The Church
As well, through the dark ages, which were brought on by a forsaking of the Gospel, the church itself turned ugly. It forsook Christ, gradually evolved into what became known as the catholic church, and attempted to bring about the kingdom of God by force. As a result, untold thousands, with some even claiming millions, died for the cause of Christ simply because they refused alliegence to the catholic church and the pope. It was called the dark ages for a reason.
So, the great freedoms we presently have did not come cheaply. They were paid for with blood, and not only on the field of battle but even more so in the spirit world.
The phrase, "nor life," refers tot he vicissitudes or difficulties of life which come to the believer, even as Paul has enumerated.
Someone has said, and perhaps rightly so, that at times it is harder to live for God than it is to die for him.
The phrase, "nor angels," refers to fallen angels, who threw their lot in with lucifer, himself an angel, when he rebelled against God in the ages in the past (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28).
These fallen angels are powerful beings, helping Satan orchestrate and manage his kingdom of darkness. Consequently, they are very much involved in the opposition of the child of God, helping to carry out these evil schemes. We are here assured, however, that if we will cling to Jesus, their power is foiled irrespective as to what they may attempt.
The phrase, "nor principalities," refers to the Satanic powers of Ephesians 2:2; 6:12.
These are fallen angels and are of greater power than normal and are, in fact, in charge of certain areas of the world. They are chief rulers of the highest rank and order in Satan's kingdom (Colossians 2:10).
The phrase, "nor powers," again refers to fallen angels who derive their power and execute the will of the chief rulers, i.e., chief angels.
If one is to notice, this speaks of the world being divided into areas, with powerful fallen angels in charge of certain sections, with other angels under them carrying out instructions, all under the chief fallen angel – Satan himself. This is evident in Daniel Chapter 10. The powerful fallen angels which were being fought by Gabriel and Michael – the most powerful angels in God's kingdom – concerns spiritual authority in the world. (For more information on this important subject, please see our Bible commentary: The Book of Daniel.)
Nor Things Present
The phrase, "nor things present," refers to present trials engineered by these "principalities and powers." The believer must understand that what we are up against in the spirit world is so far beyond our particular resources, that if we try to oppose these things in the wrong way, defeat will be our lot.
If we do this God's way, which is the way of The Holy Spirit, which is the way of The Cross, we will find victory. Otherwise, we won't. Unfortunately, the modern church knows almost nothing about spiritual warfare. They are trying to combat these forces of darkness with humanistic psychology, with the power of positive thinking, or any other number of concoctions devised by men. It won't work, not even momentarily. Unfortunately, The Holy Spirit is presently preached in so few churches that most believers don't have the foggiest idea as to the great part that He plays or at least desires to play in our everyday journey with The Lord. Consequently, wreckage is the lot of most believers.
Nor Things To Come
The heading refers to the plans being made at this very moment against the kingdom of God by these fallen beings, which will materialize in the not too distant future. However, we need not fear, knowing that Jesus has defeated all of these powers of darkness. At least, I should quickly say, we need not fear if we do these things God's way, and I say it again: it is the way of The Cross.
Satan and all of his cohorts of darkness were defeated at The Cross (Colossians 2:10-15). This is the reason that Satan hates The Cross. This is the reason that he tries his best to stop the preaching of The Cross. It is because it is the place of his total and complete defeat.
Nor Height, Nor Depth
The phrase, "Nor height, nor depth," refers to Satan as the "prince of the power of the air," and to the horrors of hell itself (Ephesians 2:2).
"Height, nor depth," also refers to the severity of Satan's planned attack against the child of God. It will fail, as fail it must, that is if our faith is conclusively in Christ and Him crucified, which then guarantees the help of The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, and as we are no match for the powers of Satan within ourselves, likewise neither Satan nor any of his cohorts of darkness are a match for The Holy Spirit.
Nor Any Other Creature
The heading is not meant to insinuate that there are other spheres of operation that can oppose the child of God, other than Satan, his fallen angels, and demon spirits, but is meant to cover any and all things that may conceivably oppose the believer. In other words, The Holy Spirit through the apostle is saying that there is absolutely nothing that Satan can originate or institute against the believer that will be successful. That is true, if the believer will cling tenaciously to Christ and what He did for us at The Cross. Always remember The Cross of Christ is the place of Satan's total defeat, and that's why he hates it so much.
Shall Be Able To Separate Us From The Love Of God
The believer must understand that while God at times may be disappointed in us, He never withdraws His love. That we must understand.
Please read the following very carefully: if you as a believer fail The Lord in any way; if you sin –even sin that is terrible one might say – do not run from The Lord, but rather run to The Lord. I know that fear sometimes fills our hearts when we fail The Lord, but please understand that The Lord has never been anything but gracious and kind to all of His children. If we will go to Him in humility and with love and grace, acknowledging our wrongdoing, He will respond accordingly, of that we can be certain.
Which Is In Christ Jesus Our Lord
The heading refers to everything we have, everything we have been given, and every privilege and blessing that has come our way. This includes our salvation, our baptism with The Holy Spirit, our eternal life, our redemption in totality, in fact, all. Of course, He means all being in, through, of, and by The Lord Jesus Christ. He is the manifestation of The Father, and in Him are all things. He is life, salvation, grace, mercy, compassion, and resurrection. He is our Savior today and will be to all who will. However, if He is presently rejected as Savior, men will find that they will have to face Him tomorrow as judge, but face Him they will. It is either The Cross or the Great White Throne Judgment; we must not forget that.
Jesus And His People
His people love Him and believe in the fidelity of His love for us. Trials only assure the hearts of those who know His love, and that nothing can separate them from it. Believers know that being called, justified, and glorified leaves no link wanting in the golden chain that binds us to His heart.
That chain begins in the immeasurable past and reaches into the immeasurable future. It stretches from one eternity to the other, one might say. Love and purpose planned that they should have the one and the same portion with Himself. This faith makes us more than conquerors over "all these things," i.e., these trials. Joseph, Daniel, Simon Peter, and Paul, etc., are examples.
The Enemy Of Our Souls
Let the enemy search death and life and the present and the future. Let him mount to the greatest heights or descend to the lowest depths. Let him turn to all created things and to men, angels, and demons. He will fail to find any power that can separate the redeemed from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A Personal Note
The Lord saved me when I was eight years of age and baptized me with The Holy Spirit a few weeks later. When I was nine years old, I knew that I would be an evangelist, and I knew that this ministry would be worldwide. I didn't understand how, but I knew it would be.
When I was ten years old, I had an experience that was but a portent of that which was to come. The Lord showed me something in a dream. I dreamed I was standing out in front of our house in the little town in which I was born and raised – Ferriday, Louisiana. I looked to my right, and I saw a globe of this planet that was suspended in space, possibly about 10 or 15 feet from me. The globe was slowly turning, and I could see it was a globe of this planet, it seemed to be suspended in space, but as I stated, slowly turning.
All of a sudden, a figure was standing beside it, looking intently at it. I instantly recognized this figure to be Satan. Strangely enough, there was no fear in my heart, as I observed what was taking place.
After staring at the globe for a short period of time, he then turned and looked at me and said, "You will not do it; I will stop you."
He turned back and looked at the globe again, and then turned back to me, saying the same identical thing all over again; "You will not do it; I will stop you."
Satan meant what he said and set out almost from that moment to carry out his threats.
For me to enumerate all of these efforts by the evil one would be pointless at this particular time. All believers suffer opposition from the powers of darkness; however I share the sentiments of the great preacher E. M. Bounds, who said, "Those who are a great threat to Satan feel his opposition keenly."
I may not have his exact words, but that is close to his statement, and it is ever so true.
The Attitude Of The Believer
No, I am not blaming wrongdoing or failures on Satan for the simple reason that all wrongdoing is the fault of the individual, irrespective of the circumstances. However, for anyone to think that the matter is simple, that person is either hypocritical, or else he has never faced the powers of darkness simply because he is doing very little, if anything, for The Lord Jesus Christ.
Some time ago, I read a message by a preacher who lived and ministered in the 1700s. In his message, he made a statement that I think is well worth repeating:
When one hears something negative about a fellow believer, one should treat it as gossip, which means to ignore it, and above all never to repeat such slander, because slander is what it is. If one feels one has firsthand knowledge of the circumstances, still, are you sure that you know and understand the degree of spiritual warfare involved? If you had been placed in the same circumstances, would you have done better or even as well? As I close this book, I want to go back to Romans 8:2 and with great joy and thanksgiving say with the Apostle Paul: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." We must never forget that all victory – and I mean all victory – is ever in Christ Jesus and what He has done for us at The Cross.
As someone has well said: "Satan says things about me, people say things about me, and God says things about me. It is only what God says that matters."
I've seen the lightning flashing, and heard the thunder roll,
I've felt sin's breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul;
I've heard the voice of my Savior, telling me to fight on,
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.
No, never alone, no, never alone,
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone;
No, never alone, no, never alone,
He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.
How The Holy Spirit Works Chapter 11
The Love of Christ