What then shall we say to these things? –Paul Romans 8:31
Paul’s question in Romans 8:31 has been asked ever since…and especially this week. We summarize his question into one word, “Why?” Why did this happen? Why do good things happen to God’s people? Paul was asking this very question about the “sufferings of this present time” (verse 19). What then shall we say to the sufferings of this present time? What then shall we say to the events of Sunday, February 2, 2014?
Paul then makes use of rhetoric to persuade his readers. He is so passionate that they “get it” that he uses three different rhetorical devices. Listen.
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Paul doesn’t explicitly say “God is for us.” He poses it as a conditional statement. If God is for us. Why would he say it that way? He wants his readers to know that, if the possibility exists that God is on our side, our enemies don’t matter. The rest of Paul’s argument rests on his high view of God. If you believe God is all-powerful, and if that God is in your side, then no enemy is a threat. Paul then employs his second rhetorical device.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things? 8:32
This is a greater to lesser argument. If God would give us His Son, whom He loves more than you and I love our own children, then will He not also give us every single thing we need? Let me illustrate. Wendy and I are blessed to have a new addition to our family–Fadi. He is an exchange student from Israel. He is well-mannered, funny and a joy to have in our home. Trent has a new big brother. We gave Fadi a bedroom, a closet, a bathroom–we welcomed him like our own son. His first morning at our home he asked if he could eat breakfast! Could you imagine our saying “No!” Of course not! Since we gave Fadi a room, a closet, and a bedroom, we’ll give him a pop tart too! What a ridiculous question!
That’s what Paul is saying. Since God gave us Jesus, arms open wide on the cross, dying for our sins, will He not also give us everything else we need? Does this not prove that God is for us? Does God need to give us anything else, do anything else for us to prove that He is for us? Of course not! This is a greater to lesser argument. Since God has met our greatest need, will he not also meet all our needs?
Then Paul uses his third rhetorical device: he asks one rhetorical question after another. The answers to the question are obvious. He is driving his point home.
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword?
These are all rhetorical questions that now have obvious answers. Once you settle the fact in your heart that God is for you because He gave His Son for you, the answers to the other questions in life become more obvious. Then Paul quotes what appears to be a strange text.
As it is written, for your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. (8:36)
This is a quote from Psalm 44. This Psalm opens with praise to God for who He is, for His greatness and goodness. Then it turns. “Though God is good,” the writer contends, “we’re not experiencing his goodness right now.” As a matter of fact, the writer of Psalm 44 feels like a sheep being led to the slaughter and the shepherd is oblivious. The sheep are crying out for the shepherd and the shepherd is nowhere to be found! In other words, they’re asking, “where’s God?”
What the writer of Psalm 44 didn’t know, Paul knew. Jesus said in John 10:11
I am the good shepherd. The shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
While you and I may at times feel like sheep being slaughtered, we have a Savior who was slaughtered in our place. While we may feel forsaken by God, Jesus was forsaken by His Father on the cross. While you and I may at times feel unfairly treated, Jesus unfairly died on the cross for sins he never committed.
That’s why Paul can close his argument with these words:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (8:37)
What things? Bad things that happen to God’s people. Paul lists them. We’ve experienced them…just this week.
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. (8:38-39)
There will always be a large degree of separation between our minds and the mind of God. His ways are higher than ours. His thoughts are beyond our comprehension. But there is never a degree of separation between our hearts and the heart of God. If you are His, if you belong to Him, nothing in all of creation can separate you from his love. Nothing. Not even what happened Sunday. Nothing.
He who did not spare his own Son…