Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril…
We begin with a Christian's success. First, to speak of the positive supposition, "We are conquerors." But whom or what is a Christian conqueror of? First, he is a conqueror even of God Himself. First, from the reflection of their graces, and that loveliness which is put upon their purposes. Secondly, the children of God they do conquer Him by the efficacy of their prayers. Prayer, it is wonderful victorious. This victory in prevailing with God, it is the ground and foundation of all other victories besides. They which can conquer Him, they may conquer everything else. Secondly, they are their own conquerors; they conquer and overcome themselves. He that cannot conquer his affections will never conquer his afflictions; whereas he that can do that, he will find these by little and little yielding unto him. Take a carnal man, and he is a captive to every temptation: he is like a city without wails, which is easily taken; but a good Christian he is otherwise affected. But thirdly (which is most agreeable to the scope of the text), in regard of all their enemies. First, the children of God are conquerors over their personal enemies; and in particular evil men, they have a great deal the better of them. First, a Christian conquers his enemies by doing of that which is good. Secondly, by suffering of that which is evil; a Christian conquers thus also. Thus the martyrs in ancient times overcame their very tormentors by their patience and constancy. A Christian, he is above all the evils which in this world are incident unto him; and that in three respects especially. First, by prevention of them. Secondly, by cheerfulness under them. And thirdly, by profiting by them. And so much may suffice to have spoken of the success of a Christian, as it is here laid down in the first notion and proposal of it, namely, in its positive supposition, and that is, "We are conquerors." The second is in its comparative amplification, we are so, and somewhat besides — we are conquerors, yea, more than conquerors. It is a very emphatical word, and such as our English language does not easily reach to — over-overcome. First, as to the thing itself, being Christians, we are more than conquerors here, and that again in two particulars. First, as to the disabling of our enemies. A man may conquer his enemy for the present, but yet he may recover again. All the enemies of a Christian shall be at last perfectly subdued unto him, and so as they shall not be able any more to rise up against him. Secondly, "We are more than conquerors," so far forth as we hereby benefit ourselves. A Christian does not only destroy his enemy, but he does likewise divide the spoil. Now secondly, are we so likewise as to the manners of the victory, and that in sundry circumstances in which it may be made good unto us. First, we do more than conquer, because we conquer with a little strength. They conquer many times by very weak and feeble means. It is all one with God to conquer by many or few. Secondly, they do more than conquer, because they conquer in a little time. Thirdly, they do more than conquer, because they conquer with a little loss. Fourthly, they do more than conquer, because they conquer where they do not fight. Stand still, says Moses to the Israelites, and ye shall see the salvation of the Lord. Lastly, God's servants do more than conquer, because they conquer when they are conquered themselves. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us, namely, as to show us the dignity and excellency of all true Christians and believers. The world, for the most part, looks upon God's children as a contemptible generation, as those who of all others are the most easily conquered and overcome. The second is the account or ground of this success unto him, that is laid down in these words, "Through Him that loved us." First, to take notice of his affection, in his great care for the shunning of pride and ostentation, and vainglory in himself, lie had said in the words before of himself, and the rest of believers, "That in all these things we are more than conquerors." This was a big and great word, and it might seem to carry a price of too much self-confidence in it. Now, therefore, does he here seasonably correct it, and qualify it, "Through Him that loved us." So, likewise, Philippians 4:13, a place much like to this at present, there he says, "He can do all things." He can want and abound, and everything; well, but how? "Through Christ that strengthens me." Still he is careful of this, not to give way to a spirit of presumption. First, it is a thing which is easy, if men do not the better look to themselves. But then secondly, it is again very dangerous, and it is that which the children of God smart for, where they are guilty of it. Pride and presumption in assurance is the next way to lose assurance. Now in the next place we may take notice of his expression, in the substance of the words themselves, "Through Him that loved us." "Through Him that loved us"! Who is that? namely, Jesus Christ. And there are two things again which are here considerable of us. First, for the description of Christ. It is by this periphrasis, of "Him that loved us," as that indeed whereby He is best of all known unto us; and as if there were none that loved us but He alone. "Who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). "Who loved us and washed us in His blood" (Revelation 1:5). "Christ loved His Church and gave Himself for it," etc. (Ephesians 5:25). This love of Christ unto us, it was manifested in sundry particulars; that wherein it first showed and discovered itself unto us, was in the business of His incarnation, and taking of our nature upon Him. Especially if we shall further consider upon what terms, and in what circumstances He took it. And so the acts of His mediatorship, which were consequent and dependent hereupon; they were the expressions of the same love. There are two reasons especially why he makes use of this expression in the text, rather than of any other besides. First, it was most comprehensive; when he said, "He that loved us," he said in effect everything else. He that was born for us, that died for us, that redeemed us, that saved us; all is comprehended in Him that loved us, because that all these things were the effects of His love. Secondly, as it was the most comprehensive expression, it was also the most proper expression, and pertinent to the business in hand; for he had made mention before of afflictions and persecutions, and such things as those as unable to separate believers from the love of Christ. The second is the account, or cause, of victory to a Christian, and that is through the help of this Person thus described. Now there are three ways especially whereby Christ does accomplish this victory for us, and help us to be partakers of it. First, I say, in that the Spirit of Christ works the graces and abilities themselves. There are divers graces of this nature; as to instance in one or two of them. First, the grace of faith, that is a conquering grace (1 John 5:4). Secondly, another grace is self-denial; that is another victorious accomplishment. The best way for any man to get victory over his afflictions, is by a restrained affection to his comforts. Thirdly, the grace of humility. As there is nothing which is nearer ruin than pride, so there is nothing which is nearer victory than humility. God Himself resists the proud, pitches battle against them; but He gives grace to the humble, and success with it. Lastly, the grace of patience. This grapples with the greatest evils. Now further, He does also upon occasion actuate those graces in us; and thus He helps us to conquer by His power. Secondly, as by His Spirit, so by His example (1 Peter 2:21). Thirdly, by His Word. In this Christ goes forth conquering and to conquer. It is His chariot of triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14). "Ye are strong, and the Word of God abides in you" (1 John 2:14). One thing more, and so I have done: "Through Him that loved us." These words may be taken not only simply, but reflexively, and by way of reduplication; as intimating unto us whence it is that Christ does enable us to be such conquerors, and that is from His unspeakable love. It is from Him that loved us; and from Him so far forth as He loved us. When it is said here from His love; this does not exclude His power, but supposes, and it takes it in; therefore as in this place it is said, "Through Christ that loves us." So again in another place it is said, "Through Christ that strengthens us"; because indeed they are both concomitant. There is nothing whatsoever we enjoy, if we be true believers, but we enjoy it as a fruit of Christ's love. It is from the love of Christ that He afflicts us, and it is from the love of Christ also that He strengthens us and enables us to endure affliction. It is not from common providence, but from special favour; it is not from the power of nature, but from the privileges and prerogatives of grace.
(Thomas Horton, D.D.)
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?