Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?
Separation from the Lord Jesus Christ and His love for us is impossible. Once we believe in Christ we have God’s righteousness plus the love of each member of the Trinity; in this case, the Lord Jesus Christ who loves us because we possess His righteousness. He loves His righteousness wherever it is located. Nothing can come between God’s love and the believer because the believer possesses divine righteousness. Since we possess the righteousness of God imputed judicially, and since we possess the righteousness of Christ through union with Christ, we are the objects of the love of Christ.
Paul knew a lot about suffering for Christ and he also knew that none of these things could separate him from the love of Christ. Paul was secure in his salvation as we should also be as believers. Paul outlines his many sufferings in II Corinthians 11:23-28. Most of us will never experience the type of sufferings that Paul did, but we will experience suffering in some category. Through it all we must always keep in mind that we can never be separated from God’s love.
Tribulation is the Greek word “thlipsis,” which means pressure or affliction. This was used for pressure due to the circumstances of life or people testing. Pressure from outside sources is inevitable. This does not mean that God does not love us. It means that we have an opportunity to utilize the problem-solving devices to handle the situation.
Distress is the Greek word “stenoxwria,” which is a reference to anguish or mental pressure. It literally means narrowness of place. It came to be used for a condition of being under extreme mental pressure. Squeezed mentally is the concept here.
Persecution is the Greek word “diogmos” meaning to pursue or to drive away. This refers to legitimate persecution because you are a mature believer, not persecution because of your own bad decisions. It means that someone or some organization is pursuing you for the purpose of causing you harm.
Famine is the Greek word “limos,” which means being deprived of food or being hungry. Once again, most of us will never experience this, but it can be a form of suffering and is today in many parts our world for believers.
The Greek word for nakedness is “gumnotes,” which means to be deprived of sufficient clothing. Clothing is an essential part of life, especially when the temperature is very cold. Paul experienced this, as do many believers in the world today.
Peril is the Greek word “kindunos,” which means physical danger. This could mean a person is in jeopardy of losing his or her life. Once again, there are those believers like Paul who had experienced this and many do today.
Sword is the Greek word “machaira” referring to military suffering, war related suffering or crimes of violence.
In the midst of the greatest sufferings of life the mature believer still possesses the righteousness of God and still receives blessing from the justice of God.
Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all the day long. We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Psalm 44:22 is quoted as the prophecy of dying grace to those believers facing martyrdom. Technically, martyrdom is the death of a mature believer through undeserved suffering. This psalm actually contains a description of what the Jews had to suffer for the Lord’s sake, and therefore it is quoted by Paul to interpret comparable sufferings of the Church Age believer. It was used to describe what was going on in the reign of Nero.
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him Who loved us.
The phrase “all these things” refers back to all those things previously mentioned as undeserved suffering. The key “to overwhelmingly conquering” is that we are in perfect union with Jesus Christ. It is actually Jesus Christ Who has already secured the victory for you and me. We are victors because of our faith in Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no true victory in this life. And, for the advancing believer even though he experiences undeserved suffering, through the power and guidance of God the Holy Spirit he comes out victorious.
Jesus Christ won the strategic victory (planning and directing of operations to counter the enemy) over Satan. God told the Serpent (Satan) that He would put “enmity between Satan and the woman; between his seed and the seed of the woman.” The seed of Satan (those who crucified Christ) would bruise the heel of Christ (a non-fatal blow), but the woman’s seed (Jesus Christ) would bruise the head of Satan (a fatal blow). (Genesis 3:15) This prophecy was fulfilled at the Cross when Satan dealt a non-fatal blow to Christ (since He came back from the dead and is alive today). Christ, on the other hand, dealt Satan a fatal blow that will be reality at the end of human history (when Satan and his fallen angels are cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity).
It is because of Christ’s victory over Satan that the believer can win the tactical victory (the method or procedure carried out against the enemy) over Satan, be delivered from the power of the sin nature and be delivered into God’s kingdom. The filling of the Holy Spirit supplies the power to accomplish this. The Christian Way of Life is a supernatural way of life and it requires a supernatural power to live it and to overcome the tactics of Satan, his demons (fallen angels) and his world system. (John 16:33; I Corinthians 15:51-57; I John 5:1-21)
A casual approach to the execution of the Christian Way of Life will result in a casual, powerless relationship with God. It is not enough for a believer to occasionally study and apply Bible doctrine. It must be a deliberate, consistent, persistent, ongoing habit if we are going to win the tactical victory, bring glory and honor to our Heavenly Father and have the happy, wonderful life He wants for us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.
Convinced has the connotation of confidence. For believers who are positive, confidence is one of the things that is being built up in their lives. There will be testing to develop that confidence: adversity and uncertainty in certain circumstances. All of these things combine to give a tremendous sense of security and confidence in life when Bible doctrine is being learned and stored in the mind of the believer. Nothing in life is as great as God and nothing in life is as great as the plan of God. So we now find ten challenges presented by six categories in this passage.
The first category deals with human events in history - “death” and “life.” Neither the events of life nor the cause of dying is a cause of fear or concern to the advancing believer. Therefore this believer has the greatest possible confidence in the midst of unfolding historical events as they relate to his own person, his living or dying.
The second category is angelic intrusion in the life. This would include Satan and the entire structure of angelic hierarchy. This is a reference to the Angelic Conflict. (Ephesians 6:12)
The third category is time – “things present; things to come.” This phrase summarizes the total realm of suffering, both current and anticipated. Imagining or anticipating disaster is overcome by Bible doctrine resident in the soul so that there is complete and total confidence when properly applied.
The fourth category is human organization - “powers.” It is used here for power in human life, power for organization, for people with power and authority over life and death. God’s plan and God’s provision is greater than all the hostile powers of mankind.
The fifth category is space – “height and depth.” Nothing in Heaven or Hell can remove us from the plan of God. The plan of God and the provision of God is greater than anything by way of influential creatures in Heaven or in Hell. Even God Himself cannot remove us from His own plan.
The sixth category is human beings - “any other creature.” It refers to anyone with influence over anyone else. It refers to anyone who is able to bring adversity into your life.
Since God the Father loves the Son with an eternal love, He also loves those who are in union with God the Son. Therefore, once a person is in union with Jesus Christ nothing can separate him/her from that love. God would have to separate His love from Jesus Christ if that were the case, which could never happen. We are secure in Christ and should therefore exhibit that security through the execution of the Christian Way of Life with full confidence in God and His plan.