What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is not nepotistic!

“He did not spare his own son” (v32). This phrase sounds harsh (or even cruel and brutal) to people. Just look around at culture today, and children have been elevated in value way above anything that of previous generations. We all have a tendency to favour children. The desire to protect our children is exceptionally strong, and there are environments and places where it is very noticeable that parents favour their children. If you are, have been, or know a teacher or some other youth and children’s worker, you will have come across this on multiple occasions. Facing an irate parent is a most unpleasant prospect!

Neglect and abuse of children is, rightly, a criminal offence in the UK, and when the people who have done such things are their children’s own parents, their actions are seen as especially egregious. When people who are expected to nature and protect children fall short of that expectation, they are viewed as pariahs in our culture.

Over the last couple of years, in various contexts, I have come across a very anti-Christian perspective which takes this cultural norm and applies it to God. It views the Biblical evidence as proof that Father God has done exactly that, in fact they call Him a “divine child abuser” and uses this as a reason for not believing in God.

This argument/claim has a couple of inconsistencies in it, namely …

  1. If the atheists’ claim that God doesn’t exist is true, He CANNOT say or do the things they cite for not believing He exists. So, they cannot honestly use those things as a reason for citing His non-existence. (So the use of the argument that God is a divine child abuser as proof He doesn’t exist is, ipso facto, self-defeating). In short, any Biblical evidence an atheist cites for denying the existence of God is intellectually dishonest. And …
  2. The fact that the overwhelming proportion of those same people agree with the conscious, deliberate killing of unborn children in the name of “choice”, undermines their moral superiority. It is at best inconsistent to claim concern for children, and simultaneously promote and approve of what is possibly the largest killer of children in the developed world. (Abortion kills more than 200,000 unborn children every year in the UK alone).

However, we must ask this question…
Do they have a point? Is the death of Jesus the result of a vindictive divine father abusing His son?

A few passages which, I believe, are relevant to the accusation ….

  1. Jesus’ own words from John show that Jesus has the authority to give his life, no one takes it from Him. Jn. 10:17-18 says, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” In other words, Jesus chose to lay down His life, God didn’t kill Him, the men who hated him did, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees the Romans, Pontius Pilate, even the crowds. People who hate Jesus today are trying to do the same, people who hate God are still trying their hardest to eradicate Him from their lives!
  2. When Jesus is arrested, one of His companions, in his effort to defend him, draws a sword and cuts off the soldier’s ear (Jn. 18:10 identifies him as Peter, though the Synoptics don’t name him). Healing the man, Matthew records Jesus as saying this: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). Jesus knows God will act to protect Him if He asks. These are not the actions of a divine child abuser.
  3. Jesus is the son of God, but using the term divine child abuser is an equivocation fallacy. As son of God, Jesus is God’s child, but he is NOT a child, he is a grown man “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Lk. 3:23). This is a cynical manipulation of the word child and the term child abuser.
  4. In fact, Jesus is not just a man — He is God as well. The New Testament clearly teaches this, and is clear about the divinity of Christ. There is not enough time to unpack this now, but for example, “Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”” (Jn. 10:31-33). We cannot surgically separate Jesus humanity from his divinity. God himself died for us, not some vulnerable, helpless child. He did it consciously, by choice.

So, the Gospel’s witness to Jesus is that far from being an innocent child who is a victim of child abuse, He is a volunteer who willingly laid aside his status and divinity in order to come to earth for us. He is never, not for a moment, a helpless victim. Even at the end, on the cross, Jesus consciously gives up His life, saying “father into your hands I give my spirit” (Lk. 23:46).

When Paul says God did not spare His own son, he is speaking to the immeasurable love the father has for him. It is not a description of the hate he has for Jesus, but it is the description of your loving father who loves the world SO much that he did not hold anything back. He gave the most precious thing ever, his one and only son, so that we might have a route to forgiveness and freedom. Jn. 3:16 is not the description of a vindictive father forcing a son to his death, it is the description of such all-consuming love which holds nothing back, not even the Son he loves. For our benefit.

Paul starts with a description and assertion of this immense, powerful and all-consuming love He has for you. And for me.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32).

For me this is an echo of, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (Jn. 3:16-17).

It is God’s love which is the bedrock of the confidence Paul has as he expands on some of the implications of his statement.

There are some “threats” which we can be vulnerable to, which an understanding of God’s love will provide an answer to.

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? (v33) AND, Who is to condemn? (v34).

I’m taking these together since they are so closely related. Charge and condemnation both speak to the same thing. A charge is an accusation which we must defend. Condemnation comes after a charge has been proved, and cannot be defended. It speaks to punishment, so a criminal is charged with a crime, and if found guilty, he or she is condemned. A condemned prisoner is one who has been found guilty and sentenced to the punishment they deserve.

So are WE subject to accusation and condemnation by people around us? Our acceptance of Jesus and the power of what Jesus did on the cross for us not only takes the sting out of death itself, it takes the sting out of these two things as well. People around us do not have the authority to either charge, or to condemn us. When we became Christians and trusted in Jesus, we became answerable to God, not to people around us, He’s the one who has that authority, not them.

Our eternal security doesn’t come from our actions, it comes from the justification of God. Only those who have not trusted in Jesus are vulnerable to a charge and condemnation for their actions in eternity. HOWEVER we have acted in the past (or even now) is irrelevant to our eternal salvation. NB. This does NOT give us licence to live how we want to. (Note Rom. 6:1).

Who shall bring an accusation? Who is the accuser? Ultimately it is Satan who is the source of all accusation, In fact Zechariah 3:1 describes Satan standing before God accusing the high priest Joshua, and Hebrews describes Jesus as our great high priest (incidentally, Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua). The good news though is that we have the end of the story, and Revelation 12:10 says Satan has been cast down:

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

We do, however, live in a world full of condemnation, we see it all around us as everyone clamours to shift the blame from themselves on to other people. People are very quick to say “it wasn’t my fault because” … and then accuse everyone around us, saying … “it’s all your fault because you’re …” (a racist, xenophobe, bigot, transphobe, homophobe, misogynist or any one of a number of other accusations which get hurled about nowadays”). The truth is this. Whatever accusations are thrown at you by man, nothing any human being does or says to you or about you will affect your standing before God. If you are a Christian, you are not accountable to men, you are accountable directly to God himself.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:8-13).

Peter says of everyone that they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Pe. 4:5).

Although anyone can accuse, only those who have authority can condemn. Note that ALL authority has been given to Jesus. No one else has the right to condemn us, and Jesus does not. So, for example, when the woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus and the crowd was baying to stone her, Jesus says “he who is without sin — let him cast the first stone”. The accusers all left one by until, at last, Jesus can address the woman directly and say “where are your accusers?” (Jn. 8:10). The accusation of man is insignificant compared to the judgment of God. Paul says it straight in v33, “It is God who justifies”, not man. So, any charge man brings will, in the final analysis, fail, it certainly won’t impact our eternal security!

Nothing will. Which is what Paul goes on to explain …

Who shall separate us from the love of God in Christ? (v35, 39).

Separation is used in the same sense as it is in divorce (“what God has joined together let no man separate” Matt. 19:6). Paul is not talking about the kind of separation from his readers he is experiencing as he writes his letters. Clearly he is not with his recipients, (the reason he writes his letters) but he talks often about being with them again. So, for example, he writes to the Thessalonians … But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavoured the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18).

Separation from God is the normal state of unregenerate man. Genesis describes the first sin of Adam and Eve and subsequent banishment from the garden … therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen. 3:23-24).

This separation from God is something we all live with every day. The gospel is what repairs that rift, so Jesus’ separation from God on the cross brings us back into relationship with God in eternity. When we proclaim the gospel, we don’t primarily deal with physical issues (though we are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and so on – in fact, doing those things marks us out as his), we are called to a much higher purpose. We are called to be God’s ambassadors proclaiming a means of reconciliation between man and God: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:19-20).

Once we have been reconciled to God, we are reunited with Him, and the separation between man and God is removed, the rift is repaired. Completely. Permanently. Paul says it twice, in v39 he asks what will separate us from the love of Christ, with an implicit answer – nothing, and then he goes with an explicit answer, “nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”.

We are now united in Christ and nothing can impact it. God’s love brought about reconciliation and reunited us into relationship with Him, and nothing on earth or in heaven can separate us from Him. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35).

  • Tribulation – external circumstances.
  • Distress – internal.
  • Persecution – the actions of others.
  • Famine – natural disaster.
  • Nakedness – personal circumstances/vulnerabilities.
  • Danger – threat.
  • Sword – death itself.

Whatever life throws at us, we have the reassurance that not one of life’s events or troubles will have any bearing on our relationship with God if we choose not to let it. The only way our relationship with God might be damaged is if we walk away. (Though note God says in his word that even if we are unfaithful, God remains faithful 2 Tim. 2:13)


Why? Paul gives us a number of reasons we can stand up against these threats, reasons we can have hope and security in our faith …

  1. God. God is for us (v31) and if God is FOR us, who can be against us? He elected us (v33), in other words He chose us, and not as an afterthought either, Ephesians tells us “he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight”. (Eph. 1:4), and He justifies us, (v33). We looked at justify in Romans 3, so I’m not going to go back over old ground, you can just as easily go back to the podcast of when I spoke about Rom. 3:21-31, but briefly, in Biblical terms, justification is the judicial act of God by which, on the basis of our faith in the work of Christ on the cross, He declares us to be absolved from Sin, released from its penalty and restored as righteous. It is a declaration and not an action, the declaration is made when our faith (and not our behaviour) is seen.
  2. Christ. Christ came (v32), this shows us that God does not stand by and watch dispassionately as we suffer. He died (v34), Christ’s death is evidence of God’s love for us and the means by which the devil is defeated and our freedom is won: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15), and He intercedes (v34) for us, 1 Jn. 2:1 says , we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, an accuser brings a charge, and an advocate defends it. Christ defends us before the father! (I love what Louie Giglio says about the account of David and Goliath, that we so often see ourselves as David, slaying the giant. In reality, we are not David, we are the Israelites fearful and unable to act. David is Christ, fighting and defeating the giant on our behalf!).

This is all rooted in God’s love and the love of Christ (v35) & God (v39)

  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
  • Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–—

The bottom line of today’s passage, and the comfort we can all take home, is this …

We are, and we will always be, secure in the love of God. No matter what life throws at us, whether it is direct attack from antagonistic people, whether it is some kind of crisis born of natural disaster or even something created by man, whether it is embedded in some kind of internal issue, whether it hurts us or even kills us, we can live life without fear because the Love of God and the Love of Christ can never be taken from us.

The best prayer, then, is one which asks God to reveal that love to give us the ability to endure such things.

Go home with this ringing in your ears …

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
(Romans 8:35-39)