The Expository Files


 

If God Be For Us

Romans 8:31-32

 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31–32). We could hardly leave our study of Romans 8:28–30 without noting the powerful practical conclusion that Paul draws from the nature of God’s eternal purpose. The apostle has been moving to this conclusion from the moment he began his epistle. He has told his story of God’s longstanding and costly commitment to His eternally chosen people, and now asks, “What do you make of all this? Can you doubt the faithfulness of His love? Is there any need you will ever have that He will not supply? Is there any sin which His grace cannot cover? Is there any enemy from which He cannot protect you? You who know His story, how could you ever doubt, how could you ever fear, how could you not know that those who love and follow Him are securely kept within the citadel of His grace and power?” Blessed assurance! And that is exactly what it is intended to be.

 

Paul asks in this passage one of those unanswerable questions—“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Yet, we need to chew on it regularly. Perhaps our greatest problem is not with the latter part of this sentence, but with the first. Does it seem inconceivable to us that God could be on our side? In the matter of sin? Do we still see Him as a distant and indifferent deity whose uncaring providence comes out like dice on a gaming table (the lucky ones win), or, even worse, as a “hard man” who delights to catch us in a momentary transgression and rule us out of the game? If that is not so, why do we continually drive ourselves into a state of frenzy with the thought that some of our transgressions are too horrendous to be forgiven, or that we may be sinning in ignorance, or that we might die suddenly in the midst of an uncharacteristic disobedience? What must God do to convince us that He is totally committed to our redemption: that He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”? (2 Peter 3:9). It needs to come home to us that if while we were His enemies He was willing to send His only Son to the cross for our sakes, there must be no way to gauge the determination He has to save us now that we are His children (Romans 5:8–10). A serious concern to know the will of God and to do it needs to be balanced by the assurance that God will provide the time and means to accomplish our cleansing and transformation. Our part is to bring to Him a heart willing to obey every commandment and ready to repent of every wrong. In His gracious providence He will provide the rest.

 

Assurance is one of the vital themes of gospel preaching. Fear and despair can be as great an enemy of the salvation of God’s people as arrogance and presumption. We need to serve the Lord with a confident spirit as well as a sober mind. And Paul does not rest his message of assurance on some mindless moonshine. He addresses the Christian’s challenges head on. The apostle does not say that for the Christian there is no sin, but that there is no condemnation (8:1–4). Sin is still a reality with which God’s people must wrestle (6:12–14), but we are no longer struggling in hopeless despair (7:24–25).

 

But what about suffering? How can we feel secure about the future when pain and anguish are ruling the present? Here again Paul does not try to dodge the bullet. He says plainly that God’s people are destined to play the role of sacrificial lambs, to be mercilessly slaughtered for His sake (8:36). But, then He affirms two things. First, that all this suffering (think of the immensity of this, 2 Corinthians 11:23–28; Hebrews 11:36–38) is nothing compared to the glory that is ahead of us. Heaven will swallow up all present pain as easily as a whale swallows a minnow. And, secondly, that God has chosen suffering as one of the vital instruments of our transformation into His true children. Our present sufferings are but the birth pangs of our deliverance “into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” The pain which seeks to destroy us our Father will turn to our salvation. By it we are tested, strengthened and purified (James 1:2–4; 1 Peter 1:6–8). We can embrace our pain with patience because we know that God will make even that work together for our good.

When God wants to drill a man,

And thrill a man, and skill a man,

When God wants to mold a man,

To play the noblest part,

When He yearns with all His heart

To build so great and bold a man

That all the world shall be amazed,

Then watch God’s methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects

Whom He royally elects;

How He hammers him and hurts him,

And with mighty blows converts him,

Making shapes and forms which only

God Himself can understand,

Even while His man is crying,

Lifting a beseeching hand …

Yet God bends but never breaks

When man’s good He undertakes;

When He uses whom He chooses,

And with every purpose fuses

Man to act, and act to man,

As it was when He began;

When God tries His splendor out,

Man will know what He’s about!

Dale Stone[1]

[1] Earnhart, P. (1989). Mining the Scriptures: Practical Expositions: If God be for Us. In Christianity Magazine: March 1989, Volume 6, Number 3 (27). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.


 

  By Paul Earnhart
From Expository Files 21.3; March 2014

 

 

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