Anyone who has studied the Bible with care knows that there are times when we come to some soaring pinnacle of revelation and are left nearly breathless by the view. This is what happens when we come to the last great paragraph of Romans 8. This is a mountaintop paragraph. It’s the Everest of the letter and thus the highest peak in the highest Himalayan range of Scripture. We have made our way up the steep ascent of doctrine in the first half of this great letter. We are able to look out over the beautiful but somewhat lower vistas of the book’s second half. Yet now, for the time being, we are on the peak, and the experience is glorious. We have looked at the undeniable affirmations and they are: foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. We will now look at the five unanswerable questions. These questions alone make this a mountaintop paragraph.
The first question is in verse 31: If God is for us, who can be against us?” The second half of this question is not at all unanswerable. Who can be against us? Why of course, many people and many things. Yes, there are plenty of enemies out there who are against us, and there is even an enemy within. But what are these when they are put into a sentence containing the verse’s first half, “If God is for us…”? Who can stand against God? The answer is “nobody.” Nothing can defeat us if the Almighty God of the universe is on our side.
“But what if God should grow weary of us, forget about us, and move on to something else?” Paul deals with this speculation in verse 32, asking, “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?” Paul is challenging us to look at the cross and reason as follows: If God did that for us, sending His own Son, Jesus, to die in our place, is there anything He can possibly be imagined to withhold? Clearly, if God gave us Jesus, the greatest of all possible gifts, He can be counted on to give us all the lesser gifts. The cross proves God’s generosity.
The third of these questions moves into the legal area, as if we were now in a court of law, asking whether someone might exist somewhere to accuse us and thus bring us into final spiritual condemnation. The question is in verse 33, “Who will bring any charges against those whom God has chosen?” Who could do that, Paul asks, since “it is God who justifies”? Apart from the work of God in Christ there would be many to condemn us – the devil, of course, and others, even our own hearts. But consider Paul’s counter: “It is God who justifies,” indeed, has justified us (see v. 30). Who could possibly secure our condemnation when we have already been acquitted by the highest court of all?
The fourth question is so closely related to the third that some have considered them to be asking the same thing. Yet there is a difference. Verse 34 asks the question: “Who is he that condemns?” It answers, “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.” The Bible teaches this truth in a striking image, using the word paraclete (or lawyer) for both the Holy Spirit and Jesus. A paraclete is “one called alongside another to help,” which is also the exact meaning of the word advocate, the only difference being that one is derived from Greek and the other from Latin. This is a picture of a divine law firm with two branches, a heavenly office and an earthly one. On earth the Holy Spirit pleads for us, interpreting our petitions correctly. In heaven the Lord Jesus Christ pleads the efficacy of His shed blood to show that we are saved persons and that nothing can rise up to cause our condemnation by God.
The final, all-embracing, and climactic question is in verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul does what we have been trying to do with his other four questions. He looks around for a possible answer. He brings forward all adversaries he can think of, which might be thought to separate us from Christ’s love. They are real sufferings, painful and perilous and hard to bear. But can they separate us from the love of Christ? No! Verse 37: far from separating us from Christ’s love, “in all these things” – in these very sufferings, in the experience and endurance of them – “we are more than conquerors.”
Jesus was the prototype – the true sheep fit only “to be slaughtered.” He was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). But He was also a super-conqueror, and we are more than conquerors through Him.
Romans 8:31-36 Reflection Questions:
What do you say to “these things”? What is your response?
Do you see these verses the pinnacle of Scripture? Why?
How do these verses encourage you in your Christian walk?