Do you know the most frequent command in the Bible? Do not be afraid. Why is that do you think? Because from the moment of our birth to the moment of our death, our default position is fear. That is why we fit locks on our doors, bars on our windows, security lights, CCTV, why we buy travel insurance, car insurance, indemnity insurance, home insurance, health insurance, life insurance, warranties, guarantees, virus software, backup hard disks, and in some countries more than others, purchase flack jackets, pepper spray, knives, hand guns, shot guns, and semi-automatic weapons. Fear is our default position.
In our three-part journey though Romans 8, following the Revised Common Lectionary, we have so far discovered three of our freedoms as Christ followers: Freedom from Judgement. Freedom from defeat. Freedom from discouragement. The fourth freedom? Today we are going to explore freedom from fear.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 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. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)
We love to quote Romans 8:28 – to other people who have troubles. I wonder whether you’ve put it to the test yourself? Or rather been tested by it? How can death, accidents, personal failures “work for your good?” Lets see what the Lord is actually saying. Re-read 8:28. “we know” = we have this confident assurance. Notice it doesn’t say, “In all things God works for good”, but “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” That means every situation is redeemable. Nothing is wasted, nothing pointless, nothing can get in the way of God’s purpose to make us more and more like Jesus.
God assures us here that the difficulties in life are working for us and not against us. God disciplines and refines because this is his only way of making us more like Jesus. Notice in 8:29-30 the sovereignty of God from beginning to end. Here is the process by which God accomplishes his will: He Foreknew, He predestined, He called, He justified, He glorified. All of salvation is God’s sovereign initiative from first to last – to make us like Jesus. That is his accomplished plan and therefore our assured destiny. That is why we have no reason to be afraid.
The emphasis in this final section in verses 8:31-39 is on our security. We do not need to be afraid of the past, of the present or the future because we are secure in the love of Christ. God makes five unshakable assertions to leave us in no doubt of our security. And each assertion is presented as a rhetorical question. There can be no separation between the believer and the Lord because first:
4.1 God is for us
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31)
Even if we are in a minority of one in an increasingly hostile secular world, with God on our side we are a majority. One of the first verses I memorised was Jeremiah 29:11,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
I encourage you to memorise it and meditate on it frequently.
Hence the rhetorical question in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Answer? It doesn’t matter who is against us because… God is indeed for us.
4.2 Christ died for 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 8:32)
The logic here is from the lesser truth to the greater truth. If while we were still sinners in rebellion against God, God gave his only Son, to die in our place, now that we have been adopted into his family, will he not provide for our needs? Again, a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious. God is for us because He did not spare his Son for us.
4.3 God has justified us
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33)
The word ‘justify’ is a legal term. A person is either innocent or guilty. There are no shades of grey. God has justified us meaning we have been declared not guilty because Jesus accepted our guilt in our place. He paid the penalty for our sin when he died in our place. So when God looks at us, he sees Jesus. That means when Satan, the accuser, uses other people to criticise, caricature or condemn you, remember you have been declared right with God and that is all that matters. What others think of you is completely irrelevant. What matters is what God thinks. God is for us because He did not spare His Son. God has justified us.
4.4 Christ intercedes for us
“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.” (Romans 8:34)
We have already discovered last week that the Holy Spirit indwells us and intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). Here is verse 34, we are told that the Lord Jesus intercedes for us in heaven. He is our Advocate before the throne of God. So when Satan accuses, Jesus defends us, so we do not have to defend ourselves. God is for us because Christ died for us, God has therefore justified us (past tense) which is why Christ can now intercedes for us (present tense) so we are secure.
4.5 Christ loves us
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For 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.” (Romans 8:35-39)
In the preceding verses the emphasis is upon the action of God in Christ to save us, to justify us and advocate for us. In these final verses, Paul anticipates the doubts that may creep in and we begin to ask “but what about…what about…” We have been shown that God will not fail us but what about us? What if we fail him?
Warren Wiersbe observes that,
“God does not shelter us from the difficulties in life because we need them for our spiritual growth… God assures us that the difficulties of life are working for us not against us.”
John Piper insists:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The answer to that question is: No one and nothing. The aim …is to remind you and to awaken you afresh to the unshakable love that Christ has for you. Who shall separate you from the love of Christ?
“Shall tribulation [or any pressure or trouble], distress [or any difficulty or crisis], persecution [or any opposition or ridicule], famine [or any suffering or scarcity], nakedness [or any assault or shame], peril [or any danger or threat], sword [or any injury or violence or death]?” Shall any of that separate you from the love of Christ?” Paul answers, No, on the contrary, as verse 37 says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
The expression “more than conquerors” literally means “Superconquerors” – we are “superconquerors” because Christ loves us, Christ died for us, Christ indwells us, Christ intercedes for us. And observe there are no conditions attached. This promise may be undeserved but it is nonetheless unconditional and unreservedly ours in Christ.
John Piper again…
“We must be wonderstruck that the love of Christ holds us. That he holds us firmly in the grip of his love. The profound wonder—that Christ, the Son of God loves us—must grip us and hold us and fill our minds. We must put it before our minds at the beginning of the day (he loves me), and then again at midmorning (he loves me), and then at noon (he loves me), and then at mid-afternoon (he loves me), and then at supper time (he loves me), and then before bed (he loves me). The roots of our life are firmly held by the depths of Christ’s love. And the foundation of our life is firmly supported by the rock of Christ’s love. We cannot be plucked up or blown over. That is the point of Romans 8:35, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.” God is calling each one of us to new depths of love for each other and for those outside. [May God grant that we], being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. Let us make it a matter of earnest prayer that each of us may grasp more and more what it is to be loved by Christ—that nothing can separate us from his love. Then the power to love others will flow freely and dramatically, and spill from us into a hurting world in great need of God’s love.
There is no condemnation; no obligation; no frustration; no separation. This is the Magna Carta of the children of God. This is why the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question “What is the chief end of mankind?” And the Answer? “Our chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” May you indeed enjoy God as you glorify him, today, tomorrow and forever. Amen.
With grateful thanks to Warren Wiersbe and John Piper for inspiration for this sermon.
 Adapted from John Piper. © Desiring God. http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1995/905_Who_Shall_Separate_Us_from_the_Love_of_Christ