Reading Sermon by Rev. Daniel Kleyn
Text: Romans 8:35-39
Scripture Reading: Romans 8:16-39
Psalter Numbers: 353, 100, 187, 283
This chapter, beloved, is a very beautiful passage of the Bible. It is one we often turn to. We do so when our lives are in turmoil. When times are difficult for us. When circumstances are tough. When our heavenly Father’s hand is heavy on us, and we face such things as sickness, pain, tragedy, suffering, family strife, and death.
There is great comfort in this passage. That comfort is found, of course, in the well known words of verse 28, where the believing child of God confesses: “I know that all things work together for my good. For my spiritual and eternal good. For the good of my soul.” What a comfort that is!
But the comfort of the Word of God in Romans 8 is not to be limited just to that outstanding verse. It is also to be found, and we should also find it, in everything else that follows. For the rest of this chapter is also rich in comfort. And our text is part of it. And the reason for the comfort is because Christ is the center and focus of all that is mentioned.
This text is one of those passages of the Word of God that speaks for itself. It speaks in very clear language – so clearly that even the children here can understand it. The children could easily state what the main point of the text is: “Nothing at all can separate us from the love of Christ!”
But although the text is very clear, it is still good for us to consider and meditate on it. We do so with the desire that God would cause the truths here to come alive for us. So that they live in our hearts. And so that, by the Spirit, they are applied to whatever circumstance of life we are in.
May that be true as we now consider this Word of God under the theme: Christ’s Inseparable Love.
We notice three things:
I. A Crucial Question
II. A Comforting Answer
III. A Personal Confession
I. A Crucial Question
This Word of God puts before us a great truth: “Christ loves us!” It is difficult to do justice to that truth. But it is an amazing thing. We are loved by Jesus Christ.
There are a few things that help us appreciate what a wonder that is.
First, the fact that it is the Son of God Who loves us. Just think of that. He Who loves you is God Himself. Who is divine. Who is high above you. Who is exalted to the right hand of God, and has all power in heaven and on earth. And He loves those who, compared to Him, are nothing – nothing at all. Why should He love you and me? Why should He, when what we deserve is to be hated? Yet the divine, eternal, almighty Son of God loves us.
Think too of what His love for you cost Him. It cost Him His own life. It cost Him a death on the accursed cross, under the wrath of Almighty God, His Father. His love for you cost Him the torments of the fires of hell. But so great was His love, He was willing to sacrifice Himself for you and me. Noone else loves you as much as that.
Think, thirdly, of what you have because of the love of the Son of God. Because of His love, you have deliverance. You are no longer destined to get what you deserve for sin, namely, eternity in hell. You no longer have to face the fury and wrath of almighty God. Instead, because of His love for you, you will receive and enjoy eternal life in heavenly glory.
His love is an amazing love. It is an almighty love. And it has accomplished great things for us. His love is therefore very, very precious to the child of God.
And that’s why the believer asks the crucial question of our text: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Is there anyone, or anything, able to take me away from the love of the Son of God? Is anything able to stop His love from reaching me? Does anyone have the power to take the love of the Son of God away from me, so I’m not loved by Him anymore?
This is a crucially important question to the believing child of God.
It is so, first of all, because sometimes we wonder about the love of Christ. Notice in our text that Paul mentions the things we face in this life that can make us wonder about the love of Jesus Christ. Tribulation makes us wonder. So does distress, and persecution, and famine, and nakedness, and peril, and sword.
We face such things. All of God’s people do. They are a reality in our lives. Paul is not speaking abstractly, but describes accurately here the realities of earthly life.
When these things come our way, it is very easy for us to say, “It seems to me that Christ’s love is gone. All I have in my life is tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and peril and the sword. And these things have taken away the love of Christ. I’m not so sure He still loves me. It seems that instead of love, the Son of God hates me. Why else would He make me suffer?”
That makes the question of our text a crucial one.
But it is also a crucial question because there is someone who wants all the troubles in life to separate us from Christ’s love.
You will notice that no individual is mentioned by name in our text. But the Apostle Paul has a specific individual in mind. That is obvious from the question itself in verse 35: “Who?” He does not say, “What?” But he says, “Who?” He is thinking of a person.
That individual is the devil. Satan wants to separate us from our Savior and His love. And he uses the troubles of our lives to try to accomplish this. He knows he cannot actually separate us from Christ and His love, but he delights in accomplishing that at least in our minds – so we think we have been taken away from the love of Christ.
We need to know, therefore: “Can Satan perhaps separate us from the love of Christ?”
Thirdly, the question is crucial because we are speaking here of the love of the Son of God.
It is bad enough to lose the love of another person – a spouse, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a parent, a child. It is an awful thing to lose their love. It is terrible if such a person, instead of loving you, says, “I hate you.”
But so much more is that the case with the love of our Savior. For if we are separated from the love of Christ, we lose everything. Then I lose my salvation. I lose my forgiveness. I lose my hope of life in heaven. I lose my confidence that all things work for my good. If I lose the love of Christ, I have nothing left.
The love of Christ is the all important thing for the child of God. The important thing is not: “Am I ever going to overcome my present struggles?” Nor is it our health. Nor is it that things go well in our families, so that there are no tragedies, no terrible sicknesses, and no sudden deaths.
But the all important question the child of God asks is, “Will anything separate me from the love of Jesus Christ?” We need that love. And we need to know that we have it.
The child of God will even say this: “I can bear to lose everything else in life! But I could never bear to lose the love of Christ! Never!”
II. A Comforting Answer
That question is answered here in our text. And it is answered in a very powerful and striking way. For Paul, through the inspiration of the Spirit, calls attention to all that there is in the universe. And then he says to us: “Not one of these things can take you away from the love of Christ. Not one!”
What Paul does can be compared to what a father might do with a child that is afraid. Perhaps the family is staying in a strange home. The child is frightened when he goes to bed at night. He is afraid of being alone, in the darkness, in a strange room. He cannot sleep.
So the father takes his child by the hand, and leads him through the whole house. They go into every room. The father points out all the items in each room. They look behind the couch. They look inside the cupboards. And when they come to the bedroom where the child must sleep, the father takes special care to show the child everything in it. They look in every corner, every drawer, every closet. They look under the pillow, and even under the bed.
And then the father says to his child, “See? There’s nothing to be afraid of. There’s nothing waiting to get you. There’s nothing that can hurt you!” After that, the child is able to go to sleep. The child knows he is safe.
That is really what the Apostle Paul does here. You could say he takes us on a guided tour of the whole universe. He does so in order to show us that nothing at all can take us away from the love of Christ.
As we tour the universe, the first thing Paul calls us to consider (verse 35) is “tribulation, distress and persecution.”
He says to us, “You will face these in life. You will be opposed from all directions as a Christian. The devil and the ungodly may take away your freedoms. The world may tolerate you less and less – because you confess the name of Christ, and obey His laws, and keep the Lord’s Day holy, and do all the other things your Lord requires of you. In fact, the ungodly may even take away your life itself. You might end up being slaughtered” (verse 36).
These things are real, beloved. The Antichrist and the great tribulation might not be too far away. When that time comes, we will face many evils because we confess the name of Christ (Matthew 24:21).
But will any of these things separate us from the love of Christ? The Apostle says, “Absolutely not.” No matter how difficult your life is because you are a child of God, you will never lose the love of Christ. Never!
Next, Paul mentions famine and nakedness.
Those things happen to us, too. Poverty is a problem for many – perhaps even for some of you here. And things could get much worse. Especially because we are Christians. As Revelation 13 teaches, we are the ones who will be denied the right to buy and sell. We could face hunger. We could face nakedness and famine. The day might come when you are unable to feed your children, and so they starve.
But will these things come between you and the love of Christ? Will the experience of these things mean that Christ no longer loves you? The Word of God is, “Absolutely not!” Poverty and famine and nakedness can never take you away from the love of Christ.
The next thing Paul points out to us in the universe is death (verse 38).
He speaks of death in the broadest sense of the word. He calls us to consider everything that leads up to death, such as sickness, cancer, a heart attack, a stroke, or aging.
He also wants us to consider death itself. Death is always sudden. Suddenly, through death, God can take away someone who is dear to you – a child, a parent, a beloved husband, a beloved wife.
Death also includes our own death. For “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27). We all face it. Some of us might face a sudden death. But others might face a very prolonged process of dying, with much pain and suffering and distress.
But even death can never be a means to separate us from the love of Christ. Death does mean separation. For death takes us away from earthly life, and earthly possessions, and earthly relationships. But there is one thing death will never separate the child of God from – Christ and His love.
The next item Paul mentions, as he takes us on a tour of the universe, is life.
What he has in mind here is especially life’s struggles. The troubles of life that make life seem not worth living. Family strife. Crime. Corruption. Losing possessions. Wicked deeds of men against us. Every earthly distress.
But life with all its ups and downs, life with its good times and bad, is powerless to cause separation between us and the love of Christ. Not one thing, in all that you experience in life, can take you away from the love of your Savior.
Another thing Paul points to in the universe is “angels and principalities and powers.”
This is a reference to the fallen angels. They are evil and very powerful. They are busy using the world to tempt us and to lead us into sin. And they are led, of course, by the devil himself. That devil would like nothing better than to get us to commit the worst sin of all – in the hopes that a terrible sin will cause Christ to stop loving us.
But even though the devil may cause you to commit such a sin, Christ will still love you. And in His love, He will bring you back to Himself through the way of repentance. Not even the devil, and not even all the power he musters to assault the child of God, can take you away from your Savior and his love.
The next thing the apostle Paul mentions is “things present and things to come.”
By “things present” he wants us to consider what is happening now in the world. Wars. Terrorist attacks. Volcanoes. Typhoons. Earthquakes. Flooding. Diseases.
By “things to come” he refers to what will happen in the future. The things that we don’t know about. The things that could surprise us. This includes the persecution we will experience at the hands of the wicked near the end of time. There are future things that could fill us with fear.
But our text states, “None of these things can take you away from the love of Christ. Nothing that is happening now. Nothing that will happen tomorrow, or next week, or at any time in the future. You will always have, to the very end of world history, the love of Christ.”
Another thing that Paul points to is “height and depth.”
In our tour of the universe, we are called to consider also everything in the heavens above us. We must take note of all the heavenly bodies – the sun and moon and stars and planets. And we should also take note of that which is under the earth. All that is in the depths of the sea. And also all that is below the crust of the earth – the fire that will eventually burn and destroy this world (II Peter 3:10-12).
But none of those things can take you from Christ and His love, either.
There is one more thing that Paul wants us to notice. He says, “Nor any other creature.”
It is as though he says, “If in our tour of the universe we missed something, then this will cover it. Every other creature in the heavens. Every other creature on the earth. And every other creature under the earth.”
This covers absolutely everything. It covers anything that has not been mentioned. It includes whatever you yourself might be facing and struggling with right now.
It also includes ourselves – also our sins. It includes our unfaithfulness. Our failure to love God. Our hatred of the neighbor. Our daily disobedience. Our worldliness. Our covetousness. Our complaining against God. And so on. On account of these things, Christ has every right to say: “I’m not going to love you anymore, for you sin against Me over and over again!”
But He doesn’t say that. Not even we ourselves can separate ourselves from the love of Christ.
The amazing conclusion then is this: “There is absolutely nothing in the whole universe that can take you away from the love of your Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing at all!”
III. A Personal Confession
This is not simply meant as a matter of information for us. But it is set before us here as a truth which each of us should personally confess.
It is Paul’s confession, first of all. He says (verse 39), “I am persuaded. I am convinced of this!” And when Paul says that, he is not speaking in a vacuum. He speaks from experience. For he suffered greatly in his earthly life for the sake of Christ. He was imprisoned. He was whipped until his body was bleeding. He felt stones hit his body, and hit him so hard, that he was knocked unconscious and left as dead. And yet he says, “I am 100% sure that none of those things could separate me, or did separate me, from the love of Christ.”
We must say it with him. This should be our conviction. We should boldly confess with the Apostle, “I am persuaded of this. I believe it with all my heart. I am confident that nothing at all will take me away from the love of Christ!”
We are able to say this, and to have this confidence, exactly because of the character of Christ’s love.
The love of Christ for you is so great that He gives you the faith to confess this. And then you believe and confess it, not because you are able to keep yourself in the love of Christ. For no one can do that. But you believe it because the mighty love of Christ keeps you in His love.
So great is His love, that His love works in us the confidence to believe that He, the almighty Son of God, Who is sovereign in all the work of salvation, will see to it that nothing takes us away from Him. His love is mighty. That’s what makes us confident of the truth in our text.
What a difference that makes in the life of the child of God. Then we can be fearless. For we belong to Christ. We have a love that has saved us. We have been redeemed. We have been justified. We will surely be glorified. We need not fear that we will lose our salvation.
We can also be fearless when we face troubles in life. For His love will protect us – protect us from all that would seek to take us away from Him. His is a love that will never let us go.
And in every time of trouble, we can know we have a loving Savior and Lord Who sends those things upon us. It might not seem like it at the time. We might struggle to understand how all things are done in love, and for our good. But we don’t need to understand. For we walk by faith, and not by sight. We believe that He in love has arranged all things wisely, and perfectly, for our good.
In fact, we can also know something more – that instead of anything taking us away from the love of Christ, everything that comes our way is directed by Christ to draw us closer to Him. All these things sanctify us. They bring us nearer to the heart and love of the Son of God, Who laid down His life to save us.
Believe this, beloved. Turn to this truth in every trying circumstance of life. May each of us confess it now: “I am persuaded that absolutely nothing in all the universe can take me from Christ and His love!” May God give us the confidence to say this. And may He comfort our hearts.