Now we come to the final verses of this glorious chapter. As I said at the beginning of this study, if I had to choose, this would be my favorite chapter of the entire Bible. To say I’ve inadequately covered it is to state the obvious and indulge in incredible understatement.
Paul ends the chapter with two last questions, which he answers not just from theological knowledge or Divine revelation but from personal experience. When he talked about all these persons and things that tried to separate him from Christ and how they’d utterly failed, he knew whereof he spoke.
First off, just to clear any confusion, when he refers to the “love of Christ,” he’s referring to his love for us, not our love for him. It’s the former that’s all-important here, not our puny love for him. Also, I find it interesting that every single translator I’ve seen renders it as “who,” not “what,” even though he lists such examples as “trouble,” “hardship,” “persecution,” etc., not people. I’m not sure why he put it that way, but of course when we’re tempted to doubt him or even abandon the faith due to persecution, there is someone behind it all, the Enemy of our faith.
Let’s take these one by one.
The first list of things that can’t separate us from him is 1) trouble, 2) persecution, 3) famine, 4) nakedness, 5) danger, and 6) sword. No matter what physical hardships we might face in this life, we can know that they can’t separate us from his love.
What does vs. 36 mean? What’s his point there? I mean, it’s kind of a downer in this glorious context, isn’t it? It’s a quote from Psalm 44:22, as you can tell from the footnotes. According to the NIV Study Bible, it’s there “to show that suffering has always been part of the experience of God's people.” The Psalmists (the sons of Korah) apparently had gone through a lot of persecution for their faithfulness to the Lord, and this was their cry out to him in the midst of their sufferings. The point that the apostle’s making is that suffering for the Lord’s people, the ones he’s chosen and claimed, is nothing new. It’s the norm, not the exception. And if we’re going through it, the last thing we should assume from it is that God has abandoned us. Quite the opposite.
No, in all these things, no matter what the Enemy throws against us, we’re “more than conquerors.” MacArthur says it’s a Greek compound word, emphasizing that we’re doing more than just conquering; we’re super-conquering.
Then Paul gives a pretty comprehensive list of whatever else we might face which would theoretically separate us from him, which we might fear. Death is the great separator, after all; when we die physically, we’re separated from our loved ones and everything we’ve known in this life. In fact, Scripture uses it regularly as a term of ultimate separation: death to sin, etc. Maybe death could separate us from him? Absolutely not! On the contrary, death is now the one who escorts us to the arms of the Savior himself. Or Life: Maybe something in life could separate us? Nope. Nothing we experience in this world will sever us from him.
Or maybe something in the spiritual realm. Angels or demons, each of whom is far more powerful than we, might endeavor to keep us from him. Well, obviously the angels won’t, and regarding the demons? You mean the ones who pled for mercy whenever Jesus came near them? Those guys?
Paul then exhausts his vocabulary to list those things that will never ever ever separate us from the love of our Savior: Nothing in the present, nothing in the future, nothing in the heights, nothing in the depths, nor anything else in all creation. That’s about as clear as he can make it.
Are you getting the message here? Nothing in all of God’s creation can separate you from his love. He might seem distant. He might seem like he’s not listening. Your sin might hinder your relationship with him for a time. But in the end, he is yours, and you are his. And nothing you can do, and nothing he will ever do, will change that.
Wow. Your word is pretty clear, as clear as it could be. Nothing the Enemy could ever throw at me could ever separate me from you. I am yours, and you are mine. Thank you.