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John Barton – The four ‘who’ questions Romans 8:31-39

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John Barton brought the word this week. He reminded us just how much God loves us and is on our side. The sermon notes are included below. You can also download the powerpoint presentation here: Sermon Romans 8

or listen again here:

 

If God is for us

Perhaps better “Since God is for us”, because God is for us.  There is no question about it. Rather like, “Is the Pope a Catholic?”

However, as Christians, as believers, we can be certain that God is on our side.  God is for us.

1.     Who can be against us?

‘My dad’s bigger than your dad.’ We may have an enemy, but he is defeated. We may have others who mistreat us, abuse us, but who can be against us? No one. Why?

God gave his Son for us.

He won the ultimate battle.  His death brought us victory. Paul says, “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

If he gave us his Son – the ultimate gift, the ultimate sacrifice – he will graciously give us all things. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have a difficult life.  In verse 35 Paul talks about us possibly enduring trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword. But he gives us good things. Not because we deserve them, but because he is gracious. He gives to us what we can’t earn or deserve. He doesn’t give things which are bad for us – that would not be gracious.  But he does give things that are good for us – rather like Brussel sprouts!

2.     Who will bring any charge against us?

No one. The Devil is called “the accuser of the brothers and sisters” in Revelations 12:10. It is one thing to accuse: an entirely different thing to charge someone.  Since 1985, in England and Wales, the decision to charge someone for a major crime has been made by the Crown Prosecution Service.  The Devil may accuse you, but he cannot charge you. It is not his job. Only God can bring a charge against you.  So, why doesn’t he?

God has chosen us

I don’t understand election and free choice.  Both are taught in the Bible, so I accept both.  I’m an Armenian Calvinist! There are lots of things I don’t understand, but I accept them.  I sort of could understand how I could phone someone on their home telephone and it get through; but I totally fail to understand how I can phone someone on their UK mobile phone, who happens to be at the other side of the world, and the phone rings almost instantly. We don’t need to be able to understand things to use them.

I know that Jesus said to the 12, “You did not choose me, but I have chosen you.” (John 15:16).  We are his children.  He takes responsibility for our crimes, our sins.  He took responsibility when Jesus died on the cross. “He took my sins and my sorrows. He made them his very own.” John the Baptist said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1: 29). Not only has he chosen us –

He justifies us

To be justified means to be treated “just as if I’d never sinned.” Incredible.  Isaiah 1:18 says,

Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

(By the way, the Bible never describes sin as being black). This is complete cleansing that is offered. Red was a colourfast dye. It was not removed by washing.  Meer ritual cannot deal with our sin. Mary is a stain queen – she can get almost any stain out of anything! But, the only way to deal with sin is through what Jesus did for us on the cross. If Jesus is your Saviour, you have been justified. No charge can be brought against me, because I am perfect – and so are you, if you have given your life to Christ and received the forgiveness he offers.  If you haven’t, you need to do so.

3.     Who condemns?

Condemnation usually comes at the end of a trial.  The trial can be very short if the person admits guilt or there may be a lengthy trial.  The Bible says that sometimes we condemn ourselves. 1 John 3:20 says, “if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” We are not to think ourselves as better than we are, but we need to recognise that salvation has given us freedom from condemnation. We are not in a condemned cell awaiting our execution.

Romans 7 (the previous chapter) is all about our struggles with sin.  In verses 18-19 Paul states,

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.

But at the beginning of chapter 8, in the first verse, he says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Charles Wesley, in that great hymn And can it be, says, “No condemnation now I dread.”

In John 8, we have the story of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees bringing a woman to Jesus who had been caught committing adultery. Leviticus 20:10. There is no sign of the man, but the woman is clearly guilty. John 8:6-8.

But after all her accusers had left Jesus said, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.

He was the one who could have condemned her, but he chose not to. How must that woman have felt. It is the same for you and me.  Why would he condemn us?

He has died for us, been raised, has ascended and intercedes for us right now. (Similar to Died, Buried, Raised, Appeared of 1 Corinthians 15:12-13). He would not condemn us. He will never condemn us.  We are his life’s work!

4.     Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

It is easy for us to think it is all right for everyone else.  I knew a lady who had the ability to hear a completely encouraging sermon and to pick up one little negative remark and to decide that this remark applied to her and none of the positive did. It reminds me of one of my favourite characters in the Tales of Narnia, Puddleglum.  A couple of quotes will suffice:

The bright side of it is that if we break our necks getting down the cliff, then we’re safe from being drowned in the river.

On another occasion, they are in a tunnel which is getting darker when suddenly the lights go out. He says, “And you must always remember there’s one good thing about being trapped down here: it’ll save funeral expenses.”

Perhaps you’re not as bad as Puddleglum and the lady I knew, but it is easy to become discouraged and to think that God has left us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? No one. To make sure we understand, Paul then sets out things which we perhaps think can separate us.  He talks about bad experiences in our lives.

Trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword.  

Most of these are not a problem in the UK, but we can still feel separated from God. Listen to David in Psalm 139:7-10:

No matter what comes our way we cannot be separated from the love of Jesus. Last week Graham asked us to think about how we know that God loves us.  My initial answer was based on a children’s song: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so! That’s true, but sometimes we need to feel God’s love. The song Lord I come to you has the line: Hold me close. Let your love surround me. As we sing those words I usually hold myself tightly and feel God loving me.

But Paul goes beyond saying that we can know God’ love in the difficulties of life.  He says that in those time, when we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered (!), we are more than conquerors.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way: Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us].

An overwhelming victory. This is not winning 1-0, but 31-0. These troubles may seem like defeats, but they are part of the victory.

Death, life, angels, demons, present, future, powers, height, depth, nothing in all creation

He now moves into a more ‘spiritual’ realm. Death has lost its sting.  There is no fear for the believer. Angels and demons, even Satan himself, cannot separate us from the love of God. There have been spiritual and human powers that have tried, but have failed.  I think of China, but also of the Soviet Union and Albania where powers tried to suppress the Christian believers, but they ultimately failed.  The Authorised Version used to say “nor any other creature”, but the newer versions say, “nothing in all of creation” can separate us from the love of Christ. Wow!

So what?

Who can be against us?  No one.
Who can bring any charge against us? No one.
Who condemns? No one
Who can separate us? No one.

We can have confidence in this coming week.  

  • When you feel under attack.  Remember you are on the victory side.  No weapon formed against you can prosper.  God gave his Son for you and will graciously give us all things.
  • When you stand accused of a charge.  Remember that you have been chosen by God and that you have been justified.  You are not guilty.
  • When you feel condemned.  Maybe you have sinned or not stood up for the truth.  Remember that Jesus died, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and he intercedes for you,  His very presence before the Father means you are not condemned.
  • When you feel alone, separate from Jesus. Just let his love surround you. You are more than a conqueror and absolutely nothing in all creation can separate you from God’s love.

To close, let’s read those last 2 verses out loud as a declaration about God’s love. Not just his love for humanity, but his love for YOU.

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