Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril…
To be simply a conqueror is barely to overcome an enemy — to be more than conqueror is to derive absolute gain from the contest. Those Roman Christians were engaged in a struggle so severe that it would often seem doubtful to them whether they could be conquerors at all. They saw corruption reigning unbridled in power, and regal in success, while they were subject to hunger, nakedness, and peril. It is a difficult thing to maintain firm belief in a truth when all circumstances seem to oppose it, and proclaim it untrue. And still more, their danger through the deepening hatred of the populace must have tempted them, daily, to save themselves by denying their Lord. Amid the long, hard struggle they would doubtless think it a great achievement if they could only hold fast till the close, and barely overcoming, enter heaven. Paul tells them they would do more. That phrase, "more than conquerors," etc., was a power to nerve those Roman men to stand fast in the evil day, until death found them steadfast still. But although the peculiar energy of the troubles of that day must have clothed these words with marvellous force, they still present a truth which every Christian needs to learn. For every man has his own temptation to overcome, and his own battle to fight, which no other can fight for him. But, if we conquer, it is better for us to have fought a hard fight, than to have been without one; our struggles become our possessions, crowning us with glory. Our subject becomes — the gain of the Christian conqueror.
I. ITS NATURE. "More than conqueror's." But at the outset we must guard against a perversion of the truth. It is not true to say that by every struggle a man becomes better than if he had had no struggle, for if he allow himself consciously to slide into sin and then afterwards resist it, he is not nobler for that resistance than if he had not sinned at all. It has been said that a man's sins are aids to progress, because by falling under temptation and then overcoming it he is stronger than if he had never fallen. We are told that "young men must be young men"; that by a few outbursts of wild immoral life at first, they give vent to the fierce impulses of evil — which must come forth — and then settle down into a calmer and stronger manhood. Now, every form of that doctrine which makes sin a culture is false, and utterly different from Paul's assertion. Every temptation that conquers us blinds that fine spiritual preception by which we distinguish the right from the wrong. Every sin leaves a ghastly scar on the immortal soul that impedes it from soaring upwards to God. Paul is speaking of temptations resisted; and he affirms that he who conquers thus is greater than if he had never been tried. Let us proceed now to see how this is so — "Through Him that loved us."
1. Every conquered temptation deepens our love to Christ, and thus we are more than conquerors. We come here on the track of that great law, that the trial of principle is its true strengthening. Just as the virtue that stands temptation becomes stronger than the frail thing that has never been tested, so the love of Christ ripens to its manhood through temptations, and therefore our temptations become our possessions, and we are more than conquerors .... But to show this clearly, note that all great emotions render impediments aids to their own growth. Passion catches fire by antagonisms. Men speak of the power of circumstances to hinder a Christian life; of course they have a power, but it is none the less true that a strong love makes the most adverse circumstances the grandest aid to its own progress. Thus, the man of passionate temperament wrestles down the fiery impulse of a great passion, and when the battle-storm is over, he finds in his heart a deep, calm love, which renders the next conquest easier — therefore he is "more than conqueror." The lonely student in his chamber fights through the midnight hours with a subtle doubt which is driving him to unbelief, but when the victory is won, his faith is all the deeper for the struggle, and that struggle is henceforth a possession, rendering him "more than conqueror."
2. The love of Christ to us is a pledge that our conquests will become our gains. Paul evidently had this thought when he said, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died," etc. The living Christ is watching the temptation, and He will take care that its issue is a greater glory than that which could have come from a life of perpetual repose. We may see, in fact, how this is so. Temptations enlarge our capacity of sympathy with the Saviour. In conflict, under slander, in sorrow, we get nearer to the Christ of the wilderness, the judgment-hall, and the garden; and that deeper sympathy is its own great reward God will open hereafter the marvellous book of the human soul, and show how each struggle left its eternal inscription of glory there.
II. ITS ATTAINMENT. How shall we know that we are becoming "more than conquerors"? When the love of Christ is —
1. The strongest power in life.
2. A progressive power.
(E. L. Hull, B.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?