Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril…
This second special question which Paul asks has reference to that final glorifying of believers by God, that perfect conformation to the image of his Son, which is the import of his purpose concerning them, the goal of all his working. The "love of Christ," or the "love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," is represented as laying hold of them with a firm grasp, to rescue them from death, and to raise them to perfect newness of life; and the apostle asks, in view of all possible evils which might seem to threaten the accomplishment of such purpose, assuming, of course, their own continued loyalty of heart, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" and, as he recapitulates all actual or imagined perils, the ready answer still breaks forth from his lips, "Nought, nought shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord I" We have, then, here for our consideration - love; love's hindrances; love's triumph.
I. LOVE. The great truth, great beyond all others, fundamental to all others; the truth to which all the revelations were designed to lead, and in which they culminate; the truth set forth so wondrously in the life and death of Christ, is this, that "God is love." This love was manifest in man's creation, and in the rich resources of man's world, furnished for man's sake with such liberal lavishment; it was manifest yet more in man's redemption, and in the rich resources of man's spiritual world, prepared and furnished for man with infinite tenderness. And how has it not been manifest to each of the called ones, laying hold of them, lifting them from the depths, setting them even now in heavenly places, and destining them, as joint-heirs with Christ, to all the blessedness of an immortal future!
II. LOVE'S HINDRANCES. But this love has its seeming hindrances; shall they obstruct the accomplishment of its designs?
1. Death and life.
(1) Death was no fancied evil then; for, as he tells us, it was only too true that "for God's sake they were killed all the day long, accounted as sheep for the slaughter." And in another place he speaks of being, as it were, "appointed to death" (1 Corinthians 4:9). And again (1 Corinthians 15:31) he says, "I die daily." Not mere talk, for we know how in reality this was the seal of their witness-bearing. The Roman Christians, in after-times - in what terrors was not death arrayed to them? As under Nero. And so whenever the beast - the brute power of ungodliness - has made war with the saints (Revelation 13:7). And even now in the forefront of the conflict there is death for Christ's sake; and to all there is the dread dying that sooner or later must end this mortal strife.
(2) But the life itself is filled with jeopardy. Perhaps really more trying test than any martyrdom: latter once for all, and glory round it; former protracted and commonplace.
(a) Positively: dangers and difficulties of circumstance and event; moral difficulties, as world's reproach, and opposing one's self to stream of custom; and difficulties relating to one's own patient continuance in well-doing.
(b) Negatively: the allurements of temptation; repetition of primal fall. Thus life perpetually tries us.
2. Angels and principalities. Ephesians 6. opens our eyes to the tremendous forces arrayed against us. So Bunyan's allegory no fiction. There is a real, objective opposition of "spiritual wickedness" against us, and of what strength and subtlety who shall say? And through the medium of the strength and authority of the "powers" of this world; as Roman emperors.
3. Height and depth. Great exaltation, of this life or of the spiritual life, has its besetting temptations: so Paul himself (2 Corinthians 12.) in danger of being "exalted above measure." Great depression or abasement has likewise its perils: rebellion, or despair.
4. Things present and things to come. Boding fears often worse than actual fightings. So we may "die a thousand deaths in fearing one."
5. Any other creation. The apostle has been hinting at a new creation, when the true Paradise shall be restored. But if the former Paradise was so perilous, and this creation now has so many perils, what may not the new creation bring? Shall that separate us from the love of Christ?
III. LOVE'S TRIUMPH. Shall these things separate us from God's love? Nay, God's love is too strong; and God's gifts, already given, are too great. And, indeed, those things all enter into the working of God's purpose, and therefore cannot break it. Nay, more: if they enter into the working of that purpose, they shall actually subserve it; and so we shall not only conquer, but more than conquer (ver. 28); for that which is against us shall become for us, evil shall be transformed to good, our enemies shall become unwitting friends. "More than conquerors!" Of our entry into life they swell the triumph (illustrate by triumph of Roman generals), and so an entrance is ministered to us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom. Let this be our persuasion, our faith; so shall we be strong, and at last we shall realize the victory which is even now assured. - T.F.L.
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?