35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded 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 sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my study of Romans 8. It has re-awakened in me a desire for indepth study; a need to study scripture daily, just as someone needs to drink water daily. And even though I finished chapter 8 several days ago, I feel compelled to revisit it tonight.
This afternoon, we went to watch the movie “Life of Pi”. It’s an incredibly thought-provoking movie. I’ve read the book, which I found (of course) to be much better than the movie, but still yet, the movie is very worth watching.
The main character, Pi, is a “Hindu Catholic Christian”. Listening to him, as a boy, sort out his beliefs was very fascinating. Without giving away too many spoilers, Pi finds himself lost in a lifeboat on the ocean with a tiger. It could be said, of course, that the fact that he survives at all is a miracle.
Sometimes, life is like being stranded in that lifeboat, with a raging tiger. There is no where to go. You can’t escape the situations of life. You can’t escape bills. You can’t escape sickness. You can’t escape danger. You can’t escape hard, difficult things. Sometimes, it seems as if the ocean is calming down and you are making headway in the ocean, progressing–moving forward. Things seem to be finally falling in place and you can see that island off in the distance. You can finally breathe easy. You can finally breathe. But other times, before you can reach that island, a raging storm hits from out of nowhere, and suddenly you are tossed by the waves and wind again.
I think that’s why it’s important to revisit scripture that we’ve studied again and again, but sometimes–oftentimes–we forget. Or at least I do. And that unpredictable ocean is why I am revisiting Romans 8 tonight.
Look at Verse 35:
This is not just some rhetorical question. There is only one answer, and that answer must be no. I find it very interesting that the question starts with the word “Who”, but then the second question does not use “Who’s” but “What’s”. Tribulation. Distress. Persecution. Famine. Nakedness. Danger. Sword. These are not “who’s”, these are “what’s”. But these “what’s” can be caused by “who’s”. For example, persecution is directly accomplished by one person persecuting another person for their beliefs. And so forth. But not one of these things, or people that cause things things, can separate us from the love of Christ. Once we are a believer–once we have experienced salvation–there never is separation from the love of Christ, for all of eternity. There is great hope in that.
I’m going to jump ahead now and examine Romans 8:38-39:
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.
Here we have another list of things that will not be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. But this list is different. More abstract. Yet just because it is more abstract, does not subtract it’s powerful meaning in conjunction with verse 35. I love verse 35, but I cherish verses 38-39. Paul does not ask a question here. He states this list emphatically. He says “For I am sure.” I am sure. There is no doubt in Paul’s mind. And therefore there needs to be no doubt in our mind, though I admit that doubt often threatens to overshadow this list. But when I can push doubt away, I see the words I need to cling to. Neither life nor death. His love for me is eternal. Nor Angels or rulers. I don’t really understand that one, so skip. (Hey, I’m allowed a “skip” here and there!)
Here is a big one for me. A huge one for me, particularly right now: “nor things present nor things to come”. I don’t know what is going to come. My future has been taken from my hands. And placed in God’s hands, which I know is the best possible place it could be, but also a very scary place to be as well, because the unknown is so large. So very large. But the things present, things to come—and I think it would even be safe to say “The things past” will not separate me from the love of my God.
Nor height or depth. I’m not exactly sure of the meaning of this either, but to me it represents the highest heights I can reach in my life–the times that are good, are safe, are forward moving and progressing, compared to the times that are the deepest depths: when depression sinks it’s teeth into me, when I can’t see the hope that is present, when the darkness comes. Neither of these things will separate me from the love of my God.
Let me wrap this up by returning to verse 37:
“No” Paul says. “No”. Instead, we are more than conquerers through him who loved us. What does Paul mean by being “more” than conquerors? I think it may mean that anyone can temporarily win over anything on these lists–whether a believer or not. But for those whose lives have been graciously saved by God, we become even more than conquerers through Him–through God–who loves us. We conquer not just now, not just temporarily, but permanently, eternally. We will never be separated from the love of God or Jesus, because we will eternally be Home with them some day. And before that day happens, even in the very darkest of days–we are still loved and can not be separated from that love.
And when we are stuck in that lifeboat being battered by the waves and wind and a raging, hungry tiger threatening to defeat us and drag us down to despair, there remains hope in the form of the John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life.