Sunday 26 July 2020
Context: Morning Worship Service – medium sized congregation, mixed ages, some of whom are committed Christians and others who are new contacts and enquirers
Aim: to offer assurance and strength to Christians struggling with past and present failure by encouraging them to receive and embrace all that God’s righteous justice offers in Christ
‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …’ (8:1) sets the scene for all that follows in this glorious coronation of the relevance of all the major themes Paul has dealt with in the first half of this magnificent Epistle.
The special, privileged relationship of ‘those in Christ’ is demonstrated by the Spirit’s invitation to address God with the informal ‘Abba’ rather than the formal ‘Father’ (verses 15-16).
While they still await the full benefit of all that adoption will finally bestow, they are not left on their own, for God’s Spirit intercedes for them … according to the will of God, and God will bring all things to work together for their ultimate good (verses 25- 28). The God who fore-knew, called, and justified them is bringing this family to glory (8:30).
Paul, by asking ‘What shall we say in response to this?’ (verse 31a), offers the application of his earlier teaching through a series of rhetorical questions and responses in which he addresses three of faith’s antagonists (verses 31-39): opposition, accusation and separation.
Paul uses the conditional ‘if’ – ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’ (verse 31b) – as a device to proclaim emphatically that God is ‘on our side’. He is for us! In the light of Calvary, God deserves our trust (verse 32).
It was vital for Christians at the heart of the Empire to know whom they could trust and whom they must fear. If God were for them, it mattered not who might be against them; but if God were against them, it would make no difference who was for them.
Using the image of the Court of Law he asks, ‘Who will bring any charge against those whom God chose?’ (verse 33) [cf. Satan, the accuser of God’s servant Job; and Satan’s strategy to undermine the Christian’s confidence that they are truly accepted by God]. To which Paul responds that, ‘It is God who justifies…Who is it who condemns?’ and presumes to challenge the verdict of God Himself, who, in Christ, has acquitted the believer, declaring them ‘not guilty’ and dismissing all charges.
Three aspects of Christ’s saving work further answer these questions of accusation and condemnation: (i) Christ Jesus died for us, (ii) He was raised for our justification, (iii) He intercedes for us from the right hand of God (verse 34). Christ does not now accuse us, and so anyone else’s accusations are thrown out of court. When God justifies, who is there to condemn?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (verse 35). This question captivates Paul’s thought to the end of the chapter. He begins his response in verse 37, when he frames the answer through the implied question, ‘what is it that makes us more than conquerors?’
Paul deals with two lists of possible agents of separation: circumstances of life which oppress us, e.g. tribulation, distress, etc. (verses 35-36); and evil (spiritual) forces, life/death, angels/principalities, etc. (verses 38-39).
The Christian life is grounded solely on the final triumph of God’s love (verse 37) through the death of Christ, the ultimate demonstration that God loves us. It is not because we love him – though this is true – nor because he loves us, though this is undoubtedly true; but because he loved us, shown by the, once and forever, absolute demonstration of his love for us on Calvary, the definitive sure anchor point of faith.
It is not our love of God which secures and offers ultimate confidence in the final and eternal triumph of his love. Our love for him knows fluctuations of feelings, obscured by our emotions and limited by our understanding, comprehension and active faith. However, we can be confident of the truth and validity of his love towards us, manifested, once and for all, on the cross of Calvary.
It is through him who loved us that we are more than conquerors and that nothing in this world or any other world; no power, known or unknown, shall cut us off from the love of God in Christ Jesus or separate us from His inseparable love!
We may be separated from possessions, surroundings, security, health, mental capacity (senility) and even from life itself but not from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There remains the response: verse 37. In all these things we are ‘victorious over-comers through Christ who loved us.’ This is the ‘more than’ justice of the God of Love!
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