Text: Romans 8:31b-39
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, English Standard Version) Such was St. Paul’s conclusion as he wrapped up the first half of his letter to the Romans. We see in Christ’s death and resurrection, including especially at this time His birth, that all things have been accomplished. We have salvation, the forgiveness of our sins, and the Lord of all things fights for us. If the one who created all things is on our side, who can stand against us? No one, that’s who. As fitting for the end of one year and the beginning of another, we confess tonight that – since God is for us – nothing will overtake us.
Really, verse 31 in our text is a sermon in itself. If God is for us, who can be against us? The obvious answer is, no one and nothing. But, upon what does St. Paul base this confidence? He said later in our text, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38-39) St. Paul bases his confidence on the fact that God the Father did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up into death on our behalf. St. Paul’s language here should remind us of the sacrifice of Isaac. God the Father placed the wood of the cross on top of His Son, Jesus. Whereas Abraham’s hand was stopped as he prepared to sacrifice his son, God the Father did not stop His hand. Instead, He gave the only one not deserving of death into death for us.
By His death, Jesus made the perfect and full atonement for all sin. There is no sin for which He did not merit forgiveness. Not only did Jesus win for us the forgiveness of our sins, but He continues to intercede on our behalf before the Father. He does this gracious thing because, even though we have received the forgiveness of our sins, we continue daily to fall into sin. We sin in our thoughts, our words, our deeds. We sin both by the things that we do and the things that we leave undone. In our sinfulness, we make light of the Father’s sacrifice for us; but Jesus pleads our case. He continues to stand between the Father and us, holding up His own pierced hands, reminding them both of their great love for us. When the Father looks down toward us, He sees His Son and is reminded of His great love for us and that He is for us. This is the picture St. Paul gives us, a God who is actively for us: the Son who died, was raised, and pleads our case; the Father, who loved us and gave up His Son for us.
If such is the case – and it is – then what can be against us? What can overtake us? Nothing. However, this isn’t always so apparent, is it? St. Paul listed a number of things, saying, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (v. 35) The words the Holy Spirit uses through St. Paul for tribulation and distress basically mean anything that causes, literally, pressure on us from the outside and turmoil on the inside. I dare say that we’ve had some of that ourselves; all of us. In one form or another, or sometimes, combinations – we’ve all had our bits of pressure and turmoil this year. Some of it comes in general because of the fallen creation. Some of it might be punishment of our sin; although, we should be careful to not peer too deeply into what sin is punished how. Some of it is the Lord disciplining us as a loving father does his children, for their good.
Yes, we have had our bits of pressure and turmoil this year, but we are still here. And you know why? Because He loves us. God has blessed this year beyond what we can know or count. He has preserved us from danger and brought us through it. Our woes have not overtaken us because, as St. Paul said, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (v. 37) Jesus Christ took on flesh; He died for us. If He was willing to die on the cross for us and continually pleads our case in heaven, how could there possibly be anything that would separate us from His love? Well, there isn’t. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38-39) None of us have suffered to the point of death this year, but when that day does come – not even death can separate us from God’s love. We pass with Him through the gate of death into the eternal paradise of heaven and of the new creation.
So, it is fitting as we end this calendar year to be reminded that the Lord was with us through it all. He was with us in our times of happiness and our times of sadness. He was with us in both our times of joy and of sorrow. He is with us now. As we enter a new year in Christ, let this be our confidence, “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 with Him graciously give us all things?” Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.