There are so many verses I could have used this title for, but this is the first one I’ve come to in this series, so here it is.
We’ve just covered Romans 8 and the wealth of misunderstandings that have come from it. (“You’re Off the Hook” and “It’s All Good”) Now we’re at the end of the chapter and we’ve hit a group of verses that I’ve heard in a lot of silly ways. (See previous links for a summary of Romans 8 – or better yet, read the full text) So, here are the contenders up for discussion:
- If God is for us, who can be against us?
- Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?
- We are more than conquerors!
(Ok, #2 is not so common, but the others suffer rampant misuse on Christian television every day.)
These will be easiest to deal with in chunks as the context directs.
Who Can Be Against Us?
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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? – Romans 8:31-32
Chris Tomlin referenced this popular passage in his song “Our God”. It’s a great passage, but people use it in crazy ways. (Chris did fine, but his use could be misunderstood as well.)
Who can be against us? Well – the police if you speed. The judge if you violate the law. The church if you have mistreated a fellow Christian. Lots of people can be against us, and justifiably so.
They can also be against us for no good reason. I’ve heard people on various mission trips say, “No one can stop us – God is on our side!” yet on one of the trips I went on to Mexico, the Mexican border patrol did just that. It turned out they were just looking to have their palms greased, but they did stop us and God was on our side (so to speak).
But is that what Paul is talking about? Certainly not. Peter, John, Paul, Silas and countless others were put in prison. Stephen was stoned to death by the religious.1 James, the brother of John, was beheaded by the king.2 Thousands of Christians were tortured, crucified, and killed by various means in the first 300 years of the church alone. So it turns out that many can be against us, and they are.
What did Paul mean then?
People can be against us. They can harm us and ruin us in every sense of the words. Well, all but one. There is none who can destroy our soul, if God is for us. To know what “if God is for us” entails, we need to review what came before. The short version is that if we have entrusted our lives to Christ for eternity, there is no power that can stand against that.
Who Will Bring a Charge Against Us?
Clearly, a lot of people! We already alluded to the persecution and martyrdom of the Early Church. Add in the more minor offenses of mistreatment and name calling, and the number of those who will bring a charge against us in not countable. But again, this is not the spirit of the text.
When Paul asks “who will bring a charge”, it is a rhetorical question. He is closing this pericope (cool word points!) with a call back to how he started it. In verse 1 he said that we are not condemned. He then went on to explain that Christ’s work had satisfied the requirements of the law and we now stand blameless. (Read verses 33-36 to see him expound on this.) As Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.”3 There is no one that can separate us from the love of Christ.4
More than Conquerors
This is probably the most misused verse of this bunch. This is not saying we are untouchable. It is not a reference to spiritual warfare. It is not talking about miracles we will work. It does not talk about any ability of ours to conquer anything in this life. This is a verse with a very specific meaning.
In verse 35, Paul just asked whether trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword would separate us from the love of Christ. He quotes the psalmist in stating “For your [God’s] sake we face death all day long”5 His answer: No!6 Why? Because we are more than conquerors! A conqueror would prevail over hardship and danger. Someone who is more than a conqueror would prevail over death itself. How? “Through Him who loved us” He then parallels verse 35 by listing all of the forces that stand utterly powerful against the love of Christ.
We don’t have superpowers. We have a powerful God. He alone has the power to safeguard our salvation and our eternal hope. When compared to him, all the suffering that Paul has mentioned thus far is seen in comparison as “light and momentary affliction”.7
When you are not feeling like a conqueror, that doesn’t mean you aren’t. You’re likely experiencing normal life. In times of trouble, keep in mind Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”8