Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril…
There are two points of consideration before us —
I. THE THINGS IN WHICH WE ARE VICTORIOUS. "In all these things," says the apostle. We may classify these —
1. The condemning power of the law and sin. "Who is He that condemneth?" The Christian never loses sight of the fact that he has been, and still is, a guilty sinner. The power of sin to visit judgment through the law is a fearful thing to an unforgiven sinner; but before it all, the believer can stand in serene triumph and feel himself safe. Looking up, around, and beneath, he can see none that can enforce condemnation against him. The law cannot — for its honour and claims have been satisfied in atoning blood.
2. Further, a whole group of trials is found in the hindering powers of the world and Satan. Look at the array of troubles of which the apostle speaks — "Tribulations, distress, persecution," etc. In our day, the form and manner of opposition, temptation and danger are somewhat different, but they are just as real and almost as numerous. Till Satan and the world cease to be what they are, our Christian life must lie through temptations, opposing powers, influences that imperil and destroy. The forces of sin sometimes charge on men in violent assault — a fierce assailment in an open crisis battle, for supremacy in the soul. We all have our moral Sedans, where we are put to the alternative of winning or losing the crown of Christian character. Such times of mighty peril are more frequent than most persons suspect, for the battles are not always open in their meaning. Men are on trial for life or death, often, when they know it not. It is often a decisive battle between the powers of darkness and light for the soul of the young, when they are to decide their calling in life, between a business safe and pure, and one full of temptation. Sometimes the temptation is insidious and gradual in its approaches and power. Fabius' mode of warfare was that of ever hanging about his enemy and weakening him little by little, inflicting small but continual injuries. This is the commonest way of the warfare of the world and sin on the Christian. A continual pricking of a polished surface with needle-points will ultimately tarnish it. A continual dropping will wear away the solid rock; and the most perilous trials of Christians may be suffered from quiet but continuous touches of evil from the world and sin. It may be an incipient development of a worldly spirit, filling your heart with the love of money and moving you nearer and nearer to the edge of some moral precipice. It may be the growth of a temper of neglect for known duty, till the spirit of duty is eaten all out of your heart, or the plants of grace are all smothered to feebleness or death. So it is, too, as to afflictions, more generally so-called — the things that form distresses to be borne rather than temptations to sin. In the trials of the apostle, there was "a great fight of afflictions." And it is while burdened with trouble and struggling against sorrows that every believer has his victory to reach. But here again, in view of it all, God throws down on you the light and cheer of this experience of the apostle: "In all these things we are more than conquerors."
II. HOW WE ARE MADE CONQUERORS. This is a point of grand importance to us. As the Israelites, imperilled by Pharaoh's pursuing army, were concerned to see how to go forward in safety, we are concerned to know the way to overcome the oppositions and trials in our onward Christian way. How conquerors? "Through Him that hath loved us."
1. Not, therefore, in and of ourselves. Dependence on self alone is a broken reed that here plunges into defeat. However much extolled, and really grand a thing self-reliance is, in some relations in this spiritual work it is inadequate. The fetters of depravity and condemning sin are too strong for human strength alone to wrest off. The power of temptation is too mighty to be withstood without aid.
2. But "through Christ that loved us," we are conquerors. It is surely only by Him that we triumph against the threatening curse of sin, in the matter of justification. And in the matter of temptation and trials, our victory is in Him. With Christ on our side, "they are more that are for us than they that are against us." It is often surprising how Christ and Christ's love give strength to the feeble. "There were giants in those days." In a better sense, there are giants in all days — Christians made mightier than all the powers of evil. They have locks of triumphant strength against all the Philistines of temptation, sin, and harassment that may be upon them.
3. But though through Christ, it is not without our own effort. Christ keeps us by enabling us to keep ourselves. We are strong, not effortless, but by and in effort. Every iota of the might by which the victory is given us must run along spiritual nerves within us — must come into our hearts, go into the will, and flow out into the hands and feet of personal activity and steadfastness. Divine strength is always ready for the needy Christian, but he must use it. How do you overcome the perilous temptation of love of the world? It is by so receiving the grace of Christ as to crucify your affection for its follies and sins. How do Christians in general prove safe against the incessant temptations to evil about them? It is by storing their own minds and hearts with the light, truth, counsel, and quickening force of God's Word. All evils will be powerless against you, if, like the tree that grows strong against storms by receiving the strength that comes up from every root, pours through every vein into every branch, and hardens into firmness and might by the air and sunbeams, you take up into the fibre and nerve of your own Christian life the invigorating influence of all God's grace furnished you, and you grow strong and compact as a tree of righteousness, Christ living and acting in you.
4. But observe — the assurance goes further, With beautiful force it says: "We are more than conquerors." Our victories, in which we remain safe, are a means of increasing our faith, our love, our power. Trials are turned into occasions of development and power. The mind brightens by its use. The heart is enriched by the exercise of its virtues. Idleness and ease enfeeble. The Church is often too indolent and peaceful for its proper development and high glory. There is nothing like war to make soldiers. It is by wrestling with the angels of trial, affliction, and labour, that you become a "prince with God." How blessed is the Christian — the victory given him here, the crown hereafter. It is for us to know whether we are conquering, daily — defeating Satan, subduing sin, proving successful in doing good, in the face of everything that opposes.
(M. Valentine, 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?