NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XLII)
Bible scholar Charles Hodge believes that this protection provided by God is not to be understood as a guarantee for temporal, material things, but the eternal things that are ours now that we are free from the law of sin and death. Since God openly recognizes us as His children and His heirs and has mapped out our path of holiness that we walk in sanctification to share in His glory, who can stop us from reaching the destiny set for us? It was God’s love that led Him to offer everything so we could enjoy all the gifts and blessings mentioned before, then why should we fear the future? Again, our salvation is not won or lost by our own strength and wisdom but is dependent upon God’s love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and promises.
Hodge also raises the prospect of someone saying that we need not worry about being saved, just go on living the way we want to and God will work it all out in the end. As Hodge sees it, according to the Apostle’s doctrine, holiness is such an essential and prominent part of salvation, that it is not so much a means to an end as the very end itself. It is that to which we are predestined and called and, therefore, if the promise of salvation does not include the promise of holiness, it includes nothing. Why should anyone ask if one of those called should backslide and live in sin, would they still be saved? The question should be, were they regenerated to begin with? Our calling and election cannot be perverted to immorality without a complete denial of their nature. For they not only represent sin and salvation as two things which cannot to be united, but are utterly irreconcilable and contradictory. In other words, one cancels out the other. So it is our free will to choose which one we want to keep.1
Charles Spurgeon exhorted his congregation on this same question and asks if they too have not at times questioned if living the Christian life was worth it. He challenges them to reply on whether or not they have wondered is it worth the suffering. In fact, even after reading the Bible, and studying God’s plan of grace, and the agreement God has made with His children, have they not said to themselves: “O my! What can I say to all this? It’s beyond anything I could have imagined. It exceeds my ability to grasp it all.” Would that not make your heart glad?2 As to Paul’s inquiry: If God is for us, who can be against us? Spurgeon agrees that there have been a great many who’ve stood against the church, but it was all for nothing. In light of the fact that God is for us, what they had to say against believers is not worth mentioning. They really amount to nothing. Now, if God was on their side that would increase the weight of their arguments and opposition. But since He is on our side, when we put all their criticism and hateful remarks on the scale, they don’t even register.3
Karl Barth offers very wise insight into the Latin translation of this verse which reads: “quid ergo dicemus ad haec si Deus pro nobis quis contra nos,” (What then will we [say] to this? If God [is] for us, who [can be] against us?), and concludes that after reading all the things Paul has said about what God did to redeem us, call us, chose us, sanctify us, and empower us, that if anyone where to question who could be against us it would become an altogether ludicrous and disgraceful preposition, which would be beneath and believing Christian to ask. Barth says that those things which happened, must occur because God said they would.4
John Stott also gives further clarification of what Paul is saying here. He notes that Paul does not ask a naïve question here. The essence of his inquiry is contained in the “if” clause: “If [rather, ‘since’] God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul is not claiming that everyone ask, “IS God for us?” In fact, the most terrible rejection any human ears could ever hear are those which God uttered many times in the Old Testament, “I am against you.”5 But this is not the case here in verse 31. It’s just the opposite. Paul envisions a scene in which we can declare, “God IS for us.” How can he say that? Because we are foreknown, predestined, redeemed, called, chosen, justified and glorified. With this being the case, then who can possibly keep us from reaching our goal? For Stott, there is no reasonable answer to Paul’s question. Even if all the powers of hell were to set themselves together against us, they could not stop us. Why? Because with God on our side it’s not who can stop US, but who can stop HIM?6 In fact, this is documented in the next verse.
Verse 32: He who refused to even spare His own Son, but sacrificed Him on our behalf – is it possible that after giving His Son for us He would not then give us everything else as well?
Now Paul begins presenting evidence for his defense in declaring God’s support for those whom He redeemed, called, chose, justified, sanctified, and will one day glorify. As a Jewish scholar, Paul was well aware of how God spared Isaac from death as he lay on the stone altar with Abraham standing over him with a knife in his hand. The angel explained: “I know that you have put God first in your life – you have not withheld even your beloved son from Him.”7 Likewise, Paul says, God the Father was willing to sacrifice His only Son in order to spare us from a sure death. Isaiah spoke of it so forcefully: “It was the LORD’s good plan to bruise Him and fill Him with grief. However, once His soul has been made an offering for sin, then He will have a multitude of children, many heirs. He will live again, and God’s program will prosper in His hands.”8
Jesus of Nazareth was not your average prophet or Rabbi. At His baptism a voice out of heaven declared openly: “This is My beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with Him.”9 And after Jesus spoke to Jewish Sanhedrin member Nicodemus, who had asked Him about the Kingdom of God, He explained that it takes a major leap of faith to experience this life-changing spiritual event. But Jesus detected some doubt and said to Nicodemus: “I, the Messiah, have come to earth and will return to heaven again. And as Moses in the wilderness lifted up the bronze image of a serpent on a pole, even so, I must be lifted up upon a pole, so that anyone who believes in Me will have eternal life.”10 It was at this point that John points out the obvious: “God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”11
Such truth was enough for Paul to tell the Corinthians: “God took the sinless Christ and heaped upon Him our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured God’s goodness into us!”12 And as we saw in John’s letters, he tells his readers: “In this act, we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but His love for us when He sent His Son to satisfy His anger against our sins.”13 So what does this add up to in Paul’s mind? Since God was willing to give the best He had to take away the worst we had, He will hold nothing back to keep us. These words echo what the Psalmist said: “For our God ADONAI is our Light and our Protector. He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will He hold back from those who walk along His paths.”14
As Paul mentioned earlier, all of God’s promises have been verified with a down-payment of His Spirit. He tells the Corinthians: “God has actually given us His Spirit (not the world’s spirit) that we might understand the things God has so freely given us.”15 Then Paul goes on to encourage them: “Don’t be proud of following the wise men of this world. For God has already given you everything you need.”16 And they should all used what they have been given to share the good news with as many as they can. Says Paul: “The more of you who are won to Christ, the more there are to thank Him for His great kindness, and the more the Lord is glorified.”17 And when John had his revelation, he witnessed the scene of a new earth and new sky, and new Holy City being let down by God out of heaven. Then he heard a loud shout from the throne. When he looked, he saw someone sitting on the throne who said: “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty the springs of the Water of Life – as a gift! Everyone who conquers will inherit all these blessings, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”18 This gave Paul all the courage he needed to issue the challenge: who can keep that from happening?
Ambrosiaster makes a vital point here by pointing out that Paul urges us to be confident in the reality that God sacrificed His Son on our behalf. In fact, it happened before we ceased being sinners. Why? Because God knew in advance whether or not we would believe. This was a decision God made long ago. He decided that all those who believed in His Son Jesus would be richly rewarded. Therefore, if God was prepared to give us the best He had, even to the point of sacrificing His only Son in our place, how can we possibly believe that He will do any less now that we are His possession? That means the believer’s rewards are already in storage, waiting to be handed out. Any struggle to share them with us cannot be compared to the extreme agony that went into the Father handing over His Son to murderers in order to pay the ransom for our release.19
Reformer John Calvin acknowledges that Paul is presenting the price for our redemption in order to prove that God has an invested interest in those He has chosen. As such, Calvin sees Paul drawing an argument from the greater to the lesser, that as he had nothing dearer, or more precious, or more excellent than His Son, therefore, He will neglect nothing of what He foresees as profitable for us to endure and survive. Calvin feels that this passage should remind us of what Christ brings to us, and wake us up to think about what all that means. He brought God’s pledge of infinite love into our hearts. He did not come without any blessings but as the heir of all of heaven’s treasures. Therefore, if we have Him, we will not lack for anything that can one day bring us perfect happiness.20
1 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 444-445
2 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
3 Spurgeon: ibid.
4 Karl Barth: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
5 See Jeremiah 21:23; 50:31; 51:25; Ezekiel 5:8; 21:3; 26:3; 28:22; 29:3, 10; 35:3, 8; 39:1; Nahum 2:13; 3:5
6 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
7 Genesis 22:12
8 Isaiah 53:10
9 Matthew 3:17
10 John 3:13-14
11 Ibid. 3:16
12 2 Corinthians 5:21
13 1 John 4:10
14 Psalm 84:11
15 1 Corinthians 2:12
16 Ibid. 3:21
17 2 Cor 4:15
18 Revelation 21:6-7
19 Ambrosiaster: on Paul’s Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.
20 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.