“If God Is for Us” (Romans 8:28-39)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 26, 2020

“If God Is for Us” (Romans 8:28-39)

In our Epistle reading for today, St. Paul writes, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer, of course, is no one. If God is for us, it doesn’t matter who might be against us, because they are not God. Oh, they may indeed be against us, but that is far, far outweighed by the fact that God is for us. 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. And they’re not.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” But notice that little word “if.” There’s a lot riding on that “if.” “If God is for us”: That “if” raises the question: Is God for us? How can we know whether he is or is not? Is God for us? Is God for me? How can I be sure that he is?

“Yeah, well, I’m sure that God must be for some people. They’re doing fine. 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. A lot of the time, things don’t look very much like God is for me. So it sure would be nice if I could be certain that God is indeed for me. Can you help me out with that, Pastor?”

Yes, I think I can. In fact, I know I can. I’m sure of it. And our Epistle today from Romans 8 will do the job. It’s one of the most reassuring and best-loved passages in all of the Bible. And it conclusively answers the question that may haunt us in the back of our mind: “Is God for us? Is God for me?” And the answer is, very emphatically: Yes, he is!

Now, are there things that could cause us to wonder whether or not God really is for us? You bet there are. The circumstances of our life don’t always look like God is taking good care of us. What are those circumstances that could cause us to feel like God is not for us? Like we’re being cut off from God’s love, that he doesn’t really love us anymore? In other words, what could lead us to think God is not for us, that 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 the hardships, afflictions, and sufferings that can befall 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 care and tender love? Difficult family situations? Conflicts in your relationships? You’re worried about your children or your grandchildren and what the future holds for them. These things can cause you distress. “Famine and nakedness”: This is talking about extreme economic adversity–not having enough food to eat, not having clothes to wear. But by mentioning the extreme, Paul takes in every kind of financial hardship you and I may face.

“Persecution, danger, and sword”: Here in America, things haven’t gotten that bad for us Christians quite yet. But the mobs of rioters have taken to vandalizing churches. And certain tyrannical governors and mayors–like the governor of California and the mayor of Chicago–have been trying to deprive us of our religious liberty, selectively imposing restrictions on churches, while letting other places and groups slide. And “persecution, danger, and sword” are literal realities that many Christians around the world are currently experiencing, in places like China and Nigeria. So, when your church is being shut down or torched, or you’re about to get beheaded for being a Christian, you just might wonder if God is watching out for you. Is God for us? If he is, then why are we suffering so?

This is a perennial perplexity for God’s people. Why do the righteous suffer? Where is the good and loving God when his own people suffer such affliction? And not only these hardships, but there are even bigger threats to our future–and our eternal future–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. We don’t know what’s coming. What will happen to me as I get older? What will happen to my marriage, to my family? What if I lose my job? Thing present, things to come. Death is the big one. What will the hour of death be like, how painful and awful will it be? What will happen to me when I die? Where will I go? What will that be like? What if this whole Christianity business is a giant hoax after all? Doubt and uncertainty 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”: And here’s another thing that could cause us to wonder if God is 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 given up on me long ago. Why can’t I ever seem to get this living-for-God business right? Living a holy life? I keep messing up, falling back into old sinful ways. My thoughts are not pure. My words hurt and offend people. Will my sins separate me from God’s love? When is God going to say, “I’ve had enough”? So with all of the hardships and afflictions that Christians face, with all of the sins that we keep doing, how in the world can we ever be sure that God is for us, that he does really love us?

Is God for us? Paul gives us the answer, and it is an emphatic “Yes!” He writes: “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.”

You see, there is 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 the 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 only Son.” Friends, God did not spare his own Son but 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 yet God’s love for us is so great, it is so deep, that he yielded up his own beloved Son to death on the cross, in order to save us unworthy sinners. That is amazing, sacrificial love!

“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–he will make us inheritors of all his riches in glory–because he has given Christ Jesus to be our Savior. Do you ever doubt God’s love? Look to the cross of Christ, and that will give you the answer you need.

But what about my sins? Are they too great for God to forgive? Will my sins accuse me and condemn me and lock me out of heaven? No. For that is exactly why Christ came, to win forgiveness for all of your sins. God has justified you; he has declared you “not guilty” in his court of law. Not because you are so wonderful or try so hard. Not because God is some old softie who looks the other way. No. It’s because of what Christ has done. Jesus took all your sins off of you and took them on himself. He took them to the cross and paid for them all in full. And in exchange, Christ Jesus gives you his own righteousness, so that you will be able to stand before God on judgment day. The penalty has been served–Christ paid it for you. And so God is being a perfectly just judge when he justifies you, declares you not guilty.

Now, when your sins weigh heavy on your mind, confess them, and receive God’s forgiveness in the Absolution and in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. Know that Christ your Savior is 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.” As Paul said earlier in 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, he wants you 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? That really is saying, “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.”

Published in: on July 26, 2020 at 12:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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