“If God Is for Us” (Romans 8:28-39)

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 24, 2011

“If God Is for Us” (Romans 8:28-39)

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Well, indeed, if God is for us, then it really wouldn’t matter who is against us, would it? I mean, who could be greater and more powerful than God? No one. By definition, no one or no thing can be more powerful than God; otherwise, that person or thing would be God.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” But that question then raises another question, one that could be a little ominous, depending on the answer: Is God for us? How can we know whether he is or not? Is God for us? How can we be sure that he is?

“Yeah, well, I’m sure that God must be for some people. But how can I be sure he is for me? Because, I tell you, there are times when I begin to wonder if he really is. Things don’t look like God is for me a whole lot of the time. It sure would give me a lot more confidence, a lot more joy, if I could be certain that God is for me. Can you help me out on that, Pastor?”

Yes, I think I can. In fact, I know I can, I’m sure of it. And our Epistle today will do the job. It’s the conclusion of Romans 8, that great chapter we’ve been looking at these last few weeks. This passage is one of the most famous, most reassuring, and best-loved passages in all of the Bible. And it conclusively and emphatically answers, in the positive, the question that may haunt us in the back of our mind–and sometimes in the front of our mind: “Is God for us? Is God for me?” And so our theme this morning: “If God Is for Us.”

Are there things that could cause us to wonder whether or not God really loves us? You bet there are. The circumstances of our life don’t always look like an all-powerful God is taking good care of us. What are those circumstances that could cause us to feel like we’re being cut off from God’s love, that he doesn’t really love us anymore? In other words, what can separate us from God’s love–or at least, what can lead us to think we’re being separated from God’s love?

Paul lists some of them: “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” These are hardships, afflictions, sufferings, that can beset us in this life. Tribulation and distress: All the various troubles and pressures that weigh heavily upon us. What are the troubles and pressures you face that may cause you to doubt God’s close and tender love? Famine and nakedness: This is talking about economic adversity in the extreme–not having enough to eat, not having clothes to wear. None of us, thankfully, is having to face famine or nakedness. But by covering extreme conditions, Paul is at the same time taking in everything less dire than that, including the kind of economic hardships that you and I face. Persecution, danger, and sword: Again, thankfully, these are not things that we as Christians living in America are having to face. But many Christians around the world do face, and have faced throughout the centuries, persecution and even death by the sword. When you are being burned at the stake in first-century Rome or being hacked to death in twenty-first century Sudan, you just might be tempted to think that God is not watching out for you. Is God for us? If he is, then why are we suffering so?

It’s a perennial perplexity for God’s people. Why do the righteous suffer? Where is the good and loving God when his faithful people endure such affliction? And not only these hardships that we may be experiencing at the moment, but there are even bigger threats to our future and our eternal security that can weigh on our mind. Paul lists some of these also: death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, and so on. The whole unknown future looms out before us like a gray heavy fog. We can’t see ahead, what’s coming. What will happen to me as I get older? What will happen to my marriage, which is kind of shaky at the moment? What if I lose my job? Thing present, things to come. Death, there’s a biggie. What will the hour of death be like, how painful and awful will it be? What will happen to me when I die? Will I keep my faith? What if this whole Christianity business was a giant hoax after all? Doubt and uncertainties prey upon our minds. Things present, things to come, things I don’t know, things I don’t understand. Is God for me? Will he be for me in the future?

If God is for us. . . . But then here is what may be the biggest thing of all that could cause us to wonder if God is really for us. And that is, our sins. My sins. How can God love me when I keep sinning against him? I mean, if I was God, I would have pretty much given up on me by now. Why can’t I ever seem to get this living-for-God business right? I keep messing up, falling back into old sinful patterns of behavior. My thoughts are not pure, I know it. My words hurt and offend. Will my sins separate me from God’s love? When is God going to say, “I’ve had enough”?

There are other Christians I see who are a lot better Christians than I am. Maybe God is for them, but how can he put up with me? With all the hardships and afflictions that Christians face, with all the sins that I at least keep doing, how in the world can we ever be sure that God still really does love us?

Is God for us? Paul gives us the answer, and it is an emphatic “Yes!”: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

There is one, and only one, way you can be absolutely sure that God really is for us in any and every circumstance. And that is, by looking at what God has done for us in Christ. Christ Jesus himself is the most emphatic yes, the once-and-for-all yes, to that sometimes perplexing question, Is God for us?

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. . . .” This is Paul’s version of “For God so loved the world that he gave his one-and-only Son.” Friends, God did not spare his own Son but indeed gave him up for us all on the cross. Remember how the Father said, both at Jesus’ baptism and at his transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son”? And so Christ Jesus is. And yet God’s love for us is so great, so deep, that he would yield up his own beloved Son to death on the cross, in order to save us unworthy sinners. Amazing!

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Yes, if God did the one, he will surely do the other. God will give us all things beneficial to our salvation–indeed, he will make us inheritors of all his riches in glory–because he has given Christ to be our Savior. Do you doubt God’s love? Look to the cross of Christ, and that will give you the answer.

But what about our sins? What about my sins? Are they not too great, too stubborn, for God to forgive? Will my sins accuse me and condemn me and lock me out of heaven? No. For that is precisely why Christ came, to win forgiveness for all of your sins. God has justified you, that is, pronounced you “not guilty” in his court of law. Your sins–what sins are you talking about? Christ took them off of you and took them on himself, and then took them to the cross and paid for them. And in exchange, Christ Jesus gives you his own righteousness to enable you to stand before God at the judgment seat. The penalty has been served–Christ paid it for you–and so God is being a perfectly just judge when he acquits you, justifies you, declares you not guilty.

And now when your sins weigh heavy on your mind, confess them, receive God’s forgiveness in the Absolution and in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, and know that Christ your Savior is even now interceding for you, pleading your case before God’s throne in heaven. “You see that sinner down there?” Christ is saying. “I shed my blood for her! I died on the cross for him! Satan, you accuser, you must depart!”

In our text, Paul puts it like this: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Truly, as Paul said at the beginning of Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

And so, dear friends, you can be sure–God wants you to be sure, to be absolutely certain–that no one or no thing will ever be able to separate you from his love. “If God is for us. . . .” Make that, “Since God is for us”! “If God is for us”–meaning, since God is for us–“who can be against us?” Answer: No one! Who shall bring any charge against you? Who is there to condemn? Again, same answer: No one!

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” Hey, you know the answer: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Published in: on July 23, 2011 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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