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“Slaughtered but Unstoppable”

July 23, 2017 Romans 8:31-39


Today we’re covering 3 main points: looming SORENESS; divine FOR-NESS; and our MORE-NESS. First, looming soreness.

      Hudson Taylor was founder of China Inland Mission (later Overseas Missionary Fellowship). Once he was talking to a young missionary who was about to start work in China. Hudson Taylor said, “Look at this” – and then proceeded to pound his fist on the table. The tea cups jumped and some tea spilled out over the top. While the startled young man was wondering what all this was about, Taylor explained, “When you begin your work, you will be buffeted in numerous ways. The trials will be like blows. Remember, these blows will bring out only what is in you.”

      So – what’s in you? When you get shaken and jostled or upset by circumstances, what “spills out”? Is it Jesus’ love and grace, or something less savoury?

      Hardships are bound to come in the Christian life. They’re to be expected. Acts 14:22 “[Paul and Barnabas were] strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.” Did you hear that? MANY hardships.

      As we conclude today one of the most profound chapters in all of Scripture, Romans 8, even at this pinnacle of profundity and exulting in the glories of what God’s done for us and has in store for us, Paul nevertheless is conscious that believers in Christ are going to face tough times. He himself would later be executed in Rome. Under various emperors (Nero, Diocletian) it would be a centre of persecution against Christians. So even in the closing paragraph of this high point theologically in the Bible, Paul reminds the church at Rome there are trials ahead. Rom 8:35f “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."”

      Face death? Slaughtered? Those are hardly endearing catch-phrases designed to draw people to church!! Yet that accurately describes the fate of many martyrs in the early church. Beheaded, crucified, boiled in oil, burned like torches – the prospects were not pretty. Soreness, pain, and death would be the lot of many. Paul catalogues some of these trials in 2Cor 6:4-10 “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; ...through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; ...dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

      A suffering Saviour makes contact with us at the point of our weakness and hardship. In Acts 8, Philip met an Ethiopian eunuch returning home in his chariot, reading from the book of Isaiah. It was the passage: Ac 8:32f “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter...In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants?” This intrigued the eunuch – perhaps he was relating to this figure treated so harshly. It was from this very passage (Is 53:7f) that Philip told him the good news about Jesus. For when it comes to pain and suffering and hardship and soreness, Jesus “gets it” – He understands our human pain.

      A short clip from Voice of the Martyrs tells the story of some Christians in an aboriginal tribe that refused to go along with some of the customs of the others – stealing, excessive drinking, idol worship. Then a volcano erupted and wiped out many homes. The government provided money to the tribal leaders for reconstruction, but the Christians found themselves excluded...(“Colombia: a Place of Their Own” to 4:50 mark)

      Back to Paul’s question: can these things separate us from the love of God? Trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword?


The Bible takes human suffering seriously. It knows how we hurt. Yet the apostle contends that believers in Christ, even though they are persecuted and endangered, can have confidence God is FOR us and will help us overcome.

      Let’s back up to V31: “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is FOR us, who can be against us?” Hear that? God is FOR us! How do we know that? Go back to the “this” Paul is talking about – what he’s been unpacking in the first part of the chapter (and indeed in the whole book up to this point). Our FORGIVENESS, FORCE, and FUTURE.

      Our FORGIVENESS won by Jesus Christ in the past. 8:3 God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” This is echoed in 8:32 “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?” And in 8:34 “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died— more than that, who was raised to life...” Jesus died to pay our sins’ penalty, to save us from being condemned.

      Paul has detailed earlier in chapter 8 the FORCE God puts within us through His Holy Spirit indwelling believers. We noted all these last week: sprung from sin’s grip (freedom) - 8:2,9; standing (righteousness before law) - 8:4; scope (mindset) - 8:5; supply (life) - 8:6,11,13; serenity (peace) - 8:6; sonship (adopted / ‘Abba’) - 8:14-16; strength (help) - 8:26a; and, spokesman (intercedes) - 8:26f.

      So, FORGIVENESS based on Christ’s action in the past, FORCE due to the Spirit’s presence in us now, and a FUTURE of what Paul terms “glorious freedom” awaiting us – all these roll together as evidence “God is FOR us” as Paul claims in 8:31. So much FOR us that the Father didn’t withhold what was most precious to Him, His only Son, but sent Him to die on the cross FOR us.

      And, now that He’s risen from the dead, what’s Jesus doing? There’s another aspect of God’s FOR-ness here. Look at the end of 8:34 “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.” For WHO? FOR YOU! (And me – US.)

      Jesus is not just FOR you on the cross: He is FOR you at the right hand of the Father, beside God’s very throne. Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Heb 9:24 “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” And one more, 1Jn 2:1 “...if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Our heavenly Advocate or lawyer, defending your cause. I was sharing that with someone in prison awaiting trial just this past week: he has not one but TWO lawyers working for him – an earthly one, AND a heavenly one! God is FOR US.


If God is FOR us, as Paul emphasizes, “WHO can be against us?” There is a rhetorical rhythm, a beauty of cadence in the four “who’s” Paul repeats in this passage – did you catch them all? V31 “who can be against us?” V33 “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” V34 “Who is he that condemns?” And V35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Who - who - who - who? NO ONE! That’s his whole point. Nobody can go head to head against God and win. V34 “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God...” Do you realize the significance in a king’s court of that position? That’s the monarch’s “right-hand man”, his CEO, the Chief Executive Officer, the person fully authorized with all power to make things happen and get things done. Peter spells it out more fully in 1Pet 3:22 “who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand— with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”

      Who is he that condemns? If Jesus is on your side, with Satan finally subject to Him, not even the Accuser’s taunts and criticisms can finally stick to you. Your guilt and liability to hell is gone. We are, as Paul puts it in 8:37, “MORE THAN CONQUERORS” – literally “hyper-conquerors”; as a commentator puts it, “We gain a surpassing victory through the one who loved us.” (Robertson) That’s our MORE-ness.

      In vv38-39 Paul uses pairs of opposites, couplets of extremes, to emphasize the vast range over which believers have victory. VV38f “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.” Hear the pairs of extremes? The full extent of TIME - “neither the present nor the future”; the full extent of SPACE - “neither height nor depth”; the full range of unseen spiritual forces - “neither angels nor demons”. NOT A THING can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Hallelujah! What a promise!

      You know the best part of all this? It’s not just the being “more than conquerors”, the “surpassing victory”; it’s what that’s grounded in and drawing us to. Look carefully at the end of V37: “...in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” It’s all because JESUS LOVES YOU! Nothing can separate us V35 “from the love of Christ”, V39 “from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s what can make suffering sweet: realizing even through it that God still loves us in spite of the pain, and is purifying us for an eternity of enjoying His holiness, beauty, perfection and goodness.

      Let Jesus’ love carry you through. Gal 2:20 “...The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” His suffering and hardship proves how greatly He loves you, what He chose to endure just to have you with Him. 1Jn 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”


After 5 years of suffering hardship on account of their faith, being relegated as landless refugees in their own country high in the Andes, the love of Christ became very real to the 47 Paez Christian families as other segments of the Body of Christ around the world stepped in to help them get back on their feet... (conclusion of VOMC.CA clip, “Colombia: A Place of Their Own”)

Let’s pray.