READ : Romans 8:31-39
What are some of the things you’re afraid of? There is a passage in the Bible that explains why we never have to be really afraid of anything.
“I’m not afraid of anything!” The line is delivered with bluster and bravado, chin jutting out – usually by a little boy. It is a childish thing to say. Anyone who claims they’re never afraid is either lying or ignorant. They just don’t know enough about the scary stuff that’s out there. Life is full of terrors that could take from us everything we need and love. There is disease and accident and disaster; there’s suffering and pain and loneliness, and above it all is the empty coldness of the universe, and at the end of it all the gradual decline that leads to death. Is it really possible in a world like this to learn how never to be afraid? It is! Listen:
What, then, shall we say in response to this? 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? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . 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 8:31-39, NIV
A SERIES OF QUESTIONS
He answers his own question with a series of more questions, all of which serve to underscore one conclusion: that all is well and all will be well for those who belong to Christ. Paul’s questions are rhetorical. A rhetorical question is one that doesn’t expect an answer, either because the speaker wants to answer it himself, or because the answer is so obvious everyone can see it plainly. What Paul’s questions do is put to rest the commonest fears that arise whenever we begin to think about all the things that could destroy our happiness. In the questions Paul asks at the conclusion of Romans 8, we are given four keys which can release us from even the most powerful fears.
- Question 1: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31).
The first fear we face is the fear of attack, the fear of people or forces that are against us. It’s the fear that God will somehow be unable, or perhaps unwilling, to protect us from all the dangers a malevolent world holds. Christians in the first century faced all sorts of opposition. To become a believer in Jesus Christ meant to join a beleaguered and unpopular minority. Usually the friends and associates and even the families of converts would turn against them, and looming in the background was the constant specter of official harassment or persecution. Today it’s not much different. Unbelievers still despise the Lord Jesus and those who follow him; laughter and ridicule and discrimination are their means of attack, and sometimes actual weapons as well. And there are other forces of evil in the world that can do us hurt. Often we’re afraid of what we think of as fate, or bad luck, or life itself. We live in dread at the possibility that it will deal terrible blows. The Bible doesn’t say there’s nothing at all to be afraid of. It doesn’t claim that nothing is against us. It says, “If God is for us, what can be against us?” There was a man in the Bible named Jacob who had all sorts of things go against him. He lost his wife and then his favorite child. A famine struck the land, and his sons went to get grain in Egypt. One of them was held hostage by the governor, and the rest were told they couldn’t return unless they took their youngest brother with them. When old Jacob heard that news, he cried out in despair, “Everything is against me!” (Gen. 42:36). But he was wrong. The opposition in his life was more apparent than real. God was about to deliver him into joy, and give him his heart’s delight. The key to overcoming our fear of attacks by people or powers or events is found in four little words: God is for us. That’s a pretty good summary of the gospel – God is for us! He is on our side, and he’s proved it in everything that Jesus has done. If God is on our side, what does it ultimately matter who or what else may be lined up against us?
- Question 2: “Will God not graciously give us all things?” (v. 32).
The second fear is the fear that God might not give me everything I need to be happy, that Christianity might be a losing proposition, that I might have to give up more than I receive. There’s no question that it costs something to be a Christian. You have to pay with your selfish way of life. You must sacrifice your single-minded pursuit of personal comfort and prosperity. Jesus said you have to give up your self in order to find it, and lose your life to keep it. By becoming a Christian you might lose your job, or your family, your friends, your reputation, even your life. Is it worth it? How do you know you’re not giving up everything for nothing? Christians sometimes have the reputation of being a joyless, pleasure-less bunch; is it well-deserved? Once when I wasn’t feeling well I took some medicine called Beecham’s powder; it may have done me good, but it was bitter stuff to swallow. Is that what Christianity is like? The answer is a resounding No! God is going to give us all things, at least everything that’s really worth having. “He’s a hedonist at heart,” said C. S. Lewis’ devil Screwtape disgustedly. It’s Satan that’s the kill-joy; God delights in every good thing and healthy pleasure. He’s going to shower them all upon us, and the incontrovertible proof of this can be seen in what he has already given. He’s already given us his Son, his only Son, his best-beloved. He did not spare him, but gave him up for us all as the sacrifice for sin. Follow the logic: If God has already given us the most valuable and precious gift in the universe, do you think he would ever hold back any lesser gift? Missionary Jim Elliot wrote these words in his journal shortly before he gave his life for the gospel: “It is no sacrifice to give what we cannot keep in order to gain what we cannot lose.” So don’t be afraid of losing anything. The truth of it is that there is no real sacrifice in the Christian life, no matter what we have to give up. The key is to see what God has already given us, and realize that he’s going to give even more.
- Question 3: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen . . . Who is he that condemns?” (vv. 33-34).
Anyone with a conscience is afraid of judgment. What’s going to happen when all the bills for all our moral failures come due? Here’s the third fear: What if God won’t forgive me? What if the voices of my accusers drown out all other sounds, and condemn me everlastingly? That can’t happen, because God the Judge is the very one who justifies, who declares, “Not guilty!” – no matter what anyone else has to say. And who could possibly overturn the verdict of this judge? In fact, there’s even more to it, for in the courtroom of the last judgment, Jesus Christ himself is our defense counsel; yes – the same Jesus who died and rose again from the dead to pay for the very sins that would condemn us. He is pleading on our behalf. His wounds are the most eloquent argument for our acquittal, and it can turn out no other way than that. So if guilt is dragging you down, and condemnation is what you fear, the key is to remember that God himself says, “You’re forgiven” and Christ himself intercedes, and who can condemn the person whom God has acquitted?
- Question 4: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (v. 35).
One of the most primal fears is the last one, the fear of being lost, of being separated from those who love us. What if something shakes my hold on God? What if I fall away? What if disaster or tragedy strike and I lose my faith? What if I am left alone in the end as the cold creeps in and the darkness descends? Can that happen? No, nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ. The point isn’t that we’re holding on to God by our faith in Christ, but that in Christ God is holding on to us. And nothing can break his grip. Paul looks around for an answer to his own question. He searches backwards and forwards in time and eternity; he considers heaven and earth, powers and principalities, dangers and calamities and death itself, and concludes that it’s just not possible. God is sovereign. God is gracious. God loves us and won’t let go. When the famous theologian Karl Barth was in his last illness, he wrote in a letter to a friend:
Somewhere within me there lives a bacillus with the name proteus mirabilis, which has an inclination to enter my kidneys – which would mean my finish. . . . But the main thing is the knowledge that God makes no mistakes and that proteus mirabilis has no chance against him.
That’s it! Nothing has a chance against God, and that means nothing has a chance against us.
So here are four magnificent questions that really are the answers to all our deepest fears. You notice here that everything depends upon God. Every key to putting down fear turns us away from ourselves and towards Him. He is for us, he will give us all things, he acquits us, he will hold us always. Ah, but you’re saying, I wish I could be sure of all that. I wish I could have that same confidence. Well, you can! The secret is that the certainty is found in Christ. It is in Christ Jesus that the inseparable love of God is experienced. When you come to him, put your faith in him, believe in him and call upon his name, God’s unconquerable love will be yours, and then you won’t ever have to be afraid again.