“The Power of the Source”
Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
This morning, there are times when God’s people need “pick me ups” through the storms of life. Because of the weakness and fickleness of our natures, we sometimes lose sight of things that we once held in firm view. Consider the disciples that followed Christ. Could any of them say they had not seen enough? Yet, so many times they were cast down in despair and seemingly without hope. So it is – sadly – with us in our lives. God has blessed us with so much, and we have seen so many wonderful things from His hand. Yet, we still fall into despair and overmuch sorrow. There are passages in Scripture that specifically address the reality of these situations. Though bad things and hard times are a reality of life, they do not change what is truly important and what is an eternal reality.
Certain portions of Scripture seem to hold special places in people’s hearts, and the 8th Chapter of Romans is one such place for many of the household of faith. It is completely understandable. The chapter begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation. Everything in between is rich and precious as well chock full of comforting truths of God’s love and salvation. However, no matter how long I study Scripture, I am always amazed at discovering things in well-worn places. Every time someone thinks they have rubbed a passage smooth, there is always more there than we will ever find. Let us consider a fresh perspective from a well-worn passage of Scripture.
As Paul brings his message home through the latter portion of Romans 8, we see him engage a question and answer session that ultimately brings the conclusion that nothing can or will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. During these questions and answers, Paul is building and building so that when the conclusion is reached, it is beyond contestation. In our study verse, Paul opens the thought of separation. He has just finished describing how we cannot be charged or condemned with anything because of the legal work of Christ. Since we are legally justified, is separation possible? Paul will ultimately conclude that it is not possible for us to be separated, but notice something interesting in his question.
Paul lists 7 things to consider. I know these are things because Paul in verse 37 calls them that. These things are unpleasant and sometimes dire. Yet, Paul’s question is not really phrased for “things.” Paul did not ask, “What shall separate us…” Rather, he asked, “Who shall separate us…” Paul phrases the question in reference to persons but uses examples of things. Why? Paul is inviting us to consider not the thing itself but the power behind the thing. These things are what we might consider the “worst” that men and devils could do to us. Whether it is self-inflicted distress, manmade persecution, or devilish peril and sword, Paul assembles a list of dire situations. However, rather than focus solely on the things, what power do men and devils really have?
Christ makes the point in Matthew 10:28 that fear should not be granted to those that can kill the body only. Real fear should be reserved to someone that holds eternal consequence in their hand. God alone has the power to alter the course of eternal destinations, and He did that through the work of His Son to HIs people. We are held in the Eternal One’s hand based on His work and His alone. What can the devil do? I would posit that the devil did as much to Job as was devilishly possible. He brought destruction to his family and possessions so that we can say the devil attempted persecution, sword, and peril. Job’s wife and three miserable comforters brought distress upon him, and Job himself bemoaned his condition through nakedness in ashes and scraping his skin to relieve the pain of the boils.
None of these trials changed the reality that Job is God’s and will always be God’s. No matter how Job stood up or did not stand up to the trials he faced, Job lives in heaven right now with God Almighty. No matter the trials we face or how we stand up to them, we shall live in heaven some sweet day with God Almighty. The worst the devil can do is wreak havoc in our lives. The worst we can do to ourselves is make ruin of things here. Nothing that happens here changes the eternal reality of being part of God’s family. So, when Paul invites us to consider the source of these things, he is really charging us to consider the power behind the movement.
Would any of us foolishly posit that the devil has equal or more power than God? Would any of us posit the same for ourselves or our fellowman? God forbid! Yet, when we give the circumstances of life too much place, we unwittingly charge the power sources of these things with more power than God. God is the source of our deliverance, and men and devils are the source of our miserable situations. Who is stronger? No contest. So “what” in life could separate us? Nothing, because there is not a “who” that can. When I hear people say that we can keep ourselves out of heaven because of unbelief and/or _______, I am always amazed at the logical conclusion of that reasoning. People ultimately are saying that people have more power than God, because God wants them there, but they keep themselves from it. Friends, thank God that our unbelief does not change reality. Thank God that the devil’s work cannot undo God’s redemptive love. Thank God that eternal things are secure in Him, so that one day we will see Him as He is and be satisfied.