Love is among the most basic human needs, but apart
from experiencing the love of God in Christ it is impossible to grasp its full reality. Christians alone know true love: a love that belongs in a class by itself because of its utterly unique origin. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul provides the people of God with the exact words they need in order to know the sublime richness of the Lord’s loyal love in Romans 8:31-39.
But first, some context. In the paragraphs that immediately precede verses 31-39, Paul describes God’s chosen ones as those who experience “the sufferings of this present time”, “groan inwardly”, and know “weakness” (8:18, 23, 26). While we are in our mortal bodies, we are subject to the futility of the world (8:20). And yet, at the same time, Paul tells us that we are sons, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ who have the Spirit of Christ (8:9, 14, 17). We groan, but we groan as those who “wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (8:23). And we are told that we have hope—the hope of a sure future lived in loving fellowship with the living God (8:24, 25).
We know our hope is secure, because “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (8:28). Paul provides a panoramic view of the great chain of salvation that is as breathtaking as it is humbling: God takes rebellious, objects of wrath (Rom 3:9-18; Eph 2:3) and foreordains, predestines, calls, justifies, and, at the dawn of the age to come, will glorify them (8:29-30).
Now, onto our verses. In reference to the events in this great chain of salvation, Paul asks in verse 31, “What then shall we say to these things?” As Paul answers this question in the succeeding verses, what do we learn about the Lord and his loyal love?
1) The Lord in his loyal love is for his people.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31). As the context makes clear, being for us means that God exerts his love to keep us in loving fellowship with Him. Surely, the devil, the world, and our own flesh wage war against us—but they can never prevail because God himself is for his people. Nothing can thwart His paternal purposes.
2) The Lord in his loyal love gives to his people.
“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?” (v. 32). The Lord gave his Son, his only begotten Son, for us? Yes, emphatically so. So also, as Paul argues from greater to lesser, God will give us all things, that is, all things necessary to keep us in fellowship with Him. Every sip of water that passes our lips, every moment of sleep that refreshes our bodies, every breath we take in – indeed, everything that comes our way – is given to us by the Lord just so that we will be kept secure in his loving grasp.
3) The Lord in his loyal love grants assurance to his people.
“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?” (vv. 33-35). Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and heavenly intercession for us is proof that no legal charge can stick against God’s people. Assurance is ours because Christ crucified and raised is our surety. Christ loves his own.
4) The Lord in his loyal love enables his people to conquer.
The Lord’s people suffer precisely because they belong to Christ. Paul makes this clear in his quoting of Psalm 44:22, “As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’” Will such troubles separate us from the love of Christ? No, emphatically not. Rather, in an arresting way, just the opposite is true: “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (v. 37). Such conquering involves and is enabled by the profound, immovable union the believer has with Jesus Christ in the midst of, and not in spite of, present woe (cf. Phil 3:7-11 and II Corinth 4:7-12).
5) The Lord in his loyal love can never be separated from his people.
“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” (vv. 38-39). How broad the surveying! Death, never elusive; life, subject to futility; the unseen powers; present and future troubles; the highest heights and the deepest depths; nothing in all of creation (a category which exhausts all that exists save God)—can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Why? Because God himself maintains the bonds of love between himself and his people. God loves his people.
Deeply so, the Lord in his loyal love is for his people, gives his people precisely what they need to keep them in loving fellowship with himself, assures his beloved of her salvation, enables his people to conquer, and is never separated from his people. “May we know this love, O our Great God.”