Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril…
I. THE LOVE OF GOD AS THE GROUND OF THE CHRISTIAN'S SECURITY. This love in ver. 39 he terms "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This is consonant with the general testimony of Scripture. "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead"; and if the fulness, then the love. So that it is useless to seek God's love out of Christ — there is none out of Christ. Now to make this love our confidence, we must bear in mind two things —
1. It has been the spring of all that has been done for our salvation.
(1) We speak of God as acting in this with a view to His own glory. True, but this is what we might almost venture to call an incidental circumstance. The sun manifests his glory as he rises day by day, but it is not the brightness of the sun that causes him to arise; we must look elsewhere for the source of that. So, if we would find the spring and origin of our salvation, we must look for it, not in the glory of the Godhead, but in the love of the Divine mind. Wisdom, justice, faithfulness, power, all shine forth here and are glorified; but how? As love's instruments. But what set love in action? We can give no answer; there is none to give; we are come to the fountain-head; we can go no farther.
(2) The same as to Christ. Various motives are assigned in Scripture for all He did and suffered for us; the hope of reward — "for the joy that was set before Him He endured the Cross"; obedience to His Father — "He became obedient unto death"; but without setting these things aside, we may still say, "He loved us and gave Himself for us." He looked upwards — there was His Father whom He delighted to obey; He looked forwards — there was the glory He was soon to inherit; but no matter where He looked, His heart was with us.
2. The same love that was the spring of all that has been done for our salvation, still exists in God unimpaired and unchanged. The apostle, you observe, does not speak of it as something passed and gone. Many of the great things it has already done, it is not necessary it should do again. If Christ has once died for my soul, His "one oblation of Himself once offered" fully atones for all my sins; if God has once justified me, no other justification do I need; if He has built for me one heaven, I cannot want another; but so much does He love me now, that if my Saviour had not died, if my guilty soul had not been justified, etc., my God would do for me just what He has already done. For six thousand years the sun has shone without suspension, but there will come a day when he will shine no more. But the love of God existed for a boundless period before that sun, and it will exist for as boundless a period after Him. It is not something God has created; it is a part of His own nature.
II. THE CONFIDENCE WE MAY FEEL, IF WE HAVE AN INTEREST IN THIS LOVE, THAT NOTHING CAN EVER SEPARATE US FROM IT.
1. There is a love of God in which we are all interested, for we are all partakers of it. It keeps us in being, it gives us innumerable comforts, it makes to us in the gospel the most gracious offers of salvation; but if we trample on these offers or neglect them, there comes a time when this love turns away from us. It would go farther with us, but it cannot. The question is, then, Are you the objects of God's peculiar, saving love? And the way to answer it is to ask, Have you ever sought to become the objects of it? Most men hold the love of God cheaper by far than they hold one another's love. Do you feel that it is dearer to your soul than all other love?
2. There are two ways in which we can conceive it possible for a separation to be made between us and God's love. One is, for Him to withdraw His love from us; the other, for us to withdraw ourselves from that. The uniting cord, we may say, may break at either end, either at its higher end with God, or at its lower end with us.
(1) As to the former of these cases, we need scarcely say a word. The very supposition seems a dishonour to Jehovah. He abandon me after having once freely loved me, and brought me to love and trust Him? I can feel, with Paul, that the whole universe could not prevail on Him to do it, were the whole universe to try (ver. 38). Other love will often cool and wither away of itself; here is a love which nothing can wear away.
(2) But let us turn to the other case — the drawing of us away from our love to Christ. This, the apostle expresses his firm conviction, is also impossible; and this conviction, he states, is the result of his own experience. There may now and then, he intimates, be struggling and conflict; we may have to put forth our strength, and a strength greater than ours, against these things, the force and pressure of them, but the struggle is sure to end in one way — we overcome. He has made to us new discoveries of His love in it, and these have made us more determined to love and adhere to Him.
(C. Bradley, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?