Romans 8:28-39 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[c] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We all want assurance that we are on the right track.
I don’t mean that we are right, and not wrong. We’re not mainly worried about our ideas; we are worried about ourselves. We defend the idea because we are defending our path, because in defending our path, we are defending ourselves.
We are defending our track, our path, our hopes, our wellbeing, our legacy—ourselves. We want to know that we are on the right path.
We want to know this when things are good.
When things are just tolerable.
When things are difficult.
But most of all—when things are lamentable.
Lamentable: when things are so bad, you feel “put to shame.” The results are obviously out of your control, you are being crushed, and the way is blocked. All you can do is cry out—groan in the pain, and cling to whatever hope is left, if there is any. It is to sit in the ashes of what you thought was the way—the right track. It makes you question the path, and whether it was ever the right one.
This is the question the apostle is taking up in these verses. Based on what God the Father has done in Christ and the Spirit, what are we to do in times of lamentable suffering? If the gospel is strong enough for lamentable sufferings, it is strong enough for all moments.
Romans 8:35-39 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” g 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 1
Because of God’s unrelenting love displayed in the gospel:
We conquer in lamentable suffering through Christ
Truth and Promise:
We are the ones in question. We are the focus of this passage: Verse 35 “Who can separate US from the love of Christ?”
God’s commitment is already established: Verse 31-34 emphasize the absolute commitment and steadfastness of God’s commitment to our complete salvation through:
- The Spirit’s local help in our hearts (26-27)
- His (Father’s) providence (vs 28)
- Willingness to give his Son (vs 32)
- And Christ is a present, active advocate for us at the father’s side (34)
God’s level of commitment is unrelenting. Everything we need is ours because of the work of his relentless love. (See also: 2 Peter 1:3-11)
So can anything drive a wedge into that connection? Can we be separated from his love on our end? If we cannot be attacked and condemned from HIS end, can we be separated from our end?
There is one main candidate for what could separate us: suffering that leads one to the ashes of lament.
In Lamentable Suffering
We are going to face lamentable suffering that is not specifically or particularly explained.
We can know that everything functions under God’s sovereignty, and that all creation groans under the curse. That sin’s general infection of creation is wreaking havoc on all of us—and we don’t see it. We grab, fight for, and embrace the very thing that’s killing us.
Lament will be the place our heart is in, like in Psalm 44:
- We boast in you.
- You give victory, not us.
- We belong to you and have obeyed you.
- We are humiliated and subject to unjust suffering.
- Where are you? It feels like you are asleep or absent, or don’t care! Why won’t you fight for us? Why won’t you vindicate us?
- We face death all day long, we are considered like sheep for slaughter.
- Where is your LOVE?
You have to prepare for this. not hope it doesn’t happen. Our conquering happens IN LAMENTABLE SUFFERING.
Verse 37: “rather, in all these things…” Not only are we going to be in, and not saved from, lamentable suffering, but we also conquer IN that suffering.
But look close at verse 36: “we face death all day long…we are considered as sheep for slaughter.” Is that TRUE? When we face death constantly, are we what others think we are? Nothing but sheep for slaughter? (What if it is slaughter—but the slaughter of sacrifice? Then would that be different?)
We conquer in lamentable suffering—we are not going to be put ultimately to shame.
Romans 5, 9 and 10 all have references to us not being left to shame, but being vindicated—that we will triumph. This conquering is the opposite of shame (your enemies triumphing over you).
Romans 5:5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Rom. 9:33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
Romans 10:9-11 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”1
Then why do we conquer IN these sufferings—why not OVER them. That would be more glorious, wouldn’t it?
We don’t just conquer, we “over-conquer”—more is happening than traditional conquering. This is why so many people can’t imagine why God doesn’t just give them the victory they think is important.
What is “more” than conquering?
- Winning over some of your enemy.
- Not just killing your enemy—but getting your enemy to serve you.
That is, that we conquer more and better by triumphing as believers in the slaughter of the curse, than in being saved out of it.
WE over-conquer EVERYTHING in all creation.
In faith, through Christ, it all has to work for our eternal good. Our transformation, our reward, our worship, etc.
This all happens “through” Christ. The word “through” is doing 8 chapters worth of work. It is not a general statement; it assumes everything Paul has told us Christ has done for us in all 8 chapters of Romans, but especially in Romans 5-8. This will be really important later.
The way and reason we conquer is not just because Christ loves us, but through what he has done for us because he loved us—in all the parts and aspects of his salvation.
This includes: foreknowledge, election, calling, giving Christ, justification, reconciliation, adoption, giving his Spirit and final glorification—all for the purpose of transforming us into the image of his Son.
All of his work comes because of his love—and is also evidence of his love as a demonstration of it.
For example, what I give someone is both from my love and evidence of my love. So I give two things: the thing I give, and a further evidence of my love.
Shaping this truth for faith, freedom and obedience today
Clarity: two fears are cleared away, and one object of faith remains.
There are 3 possibilities in our lamentable suffering:
- Our wretchedness will overwhelm the long-suffering of Christ’s love—as it has done with others.
- The curse is right that God is not with us, and so does not love us. We are regarded by it, and by many as nothing better than sheep for slaughter.
- Are we part of the conquering of Christ? The curse and our wretchedness has been triumphed over by Christ, and we are, in him, part of his over-conquering of wretchedness and the curse that will lead to the realization of our hope in his promise, assured in the demonstration of his love.
Knowing the truths of Roman 1-8, especially 5-8, put aside possibilities 1 and 2 in our lamentable suffering and leave us with option 3—the questions of trust, promise, faith, hope, love and perseverance. Not abandonment/nonexistence or inferiority/wretchedness.
Narrowing our fears to one option and knowing what can be done is clarifying. And a clear heart is one that can overcome.
Confidence: Knowing Christ’s complete love, we can face the slaughter of the curse with joy and hope.
During Holy Week, we talk about how the death of Jesus is one act with the resurrection of Jesus. His death and his rising are one triumph over sin, the grave and the two together—the curse.
The way of salvation is then described to us that same way—as a death and resurrection. We die to indwelling sin and the flesh so we can be made a new creation in the Spirit—with the mind of the Spirit and of Christ.
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can awe who died to sin still live in it?
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
Romans 6:4-5 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
Colossians3:1-4 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Philippians 3:10-12 “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
This assurance is the ultimate encouragement that you can die the death of faith in Christ. That the death and resurrection are one thing.
We are no sheep for the slaughter of uselessness to be devoured by those opposed to God.
We are the redeemed sheep of God’s sacrifices of redemption—who bear the bloody mark of true sonship.
This is the way of Jesus:
Acts 8:32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
This is the alternative:
James 5:4-5 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.