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35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;

we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor 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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35. Who shall separate us, etc. The conviction of safety is now more widely extended, even to lower things; for he who is persuaded of God’s kindness towards him, is able to stand firm in the heaviest afflictions. These usually harass men in no small degree, and for various reasons, — because they interpret them as tokens of God’s wrath, or think themselves to be forsaken by God, or see no end to them, or neglect to meditate on a better life, or for other similar reasons; but when the mind is purged from such mistakes, it becomes calm, and quietly rests. But the import of the words is, — That whatever happens, we ought to stand firm in this faith, — that God, who once in his love embraced us, never ceases to care for us. For he does not simply say that there is nothing which can tear God away from his love to us; but he means, that the knowledge and lively sense of the love which he testifies to us is so vigorous in our hearts, that it always shines in the darkness of afflictions: for as clouds, though they obscure the clear brightness of the sun, do not yet wholly deprive us of its light; so God, in adversities, sends forth through the darkness the rays of his favor, lest temptations should overwhelm us with despair; nay, our faith, supported by God’s promises as by wings, makes its way upward to heaven through all the intervening obstacles. It is indeed true, that adversities are tokens of God’s wrath, when viewed in themselves; but when pardon and reconciliation precede, we ought to be assured that God, though he chastises us, yet never forgets his mercy: he indeed thus reminds us of what we have deserved; but he no less testifies, that our salvation is an object of his care, while he leads us to repentance.

But he calls it the love of Christ, and for this reason, — because the Father has in a manner opened his compassions to us in him. As then the love of God is not to be sought out of Christ, Paul rightly directs to him our attention, so that our faith may behold, in the rays of Christ’s favor, the serene countenance of the Father. The meaning is, — that in no adversities ought our confidence to be shaken as to this truth — that when God is propitious, nothing can be adverse to us. Some take this love in a passive sense, for that by which he is loved by us, as though Paul would have us armed with invincible courage 275275     According to Poole, several of the Fathers entertained this opinion, such as Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Ambrose: but even Hammond and Grotius, great admirers of the Fathers, regard this love as that of God or of Christ to us. Wolfius says, that all the Lutheran divines give this exposition. It is indeed impossible rightly to view the whole passage without seeing that this explanation is the true one. In verse 32, it is incontestably evident that God’s love to us is what is spoken of: then in verse 37, it is expressly said, “through him who loved us;” and the last verse seems sufficient to remove every possible doubt. The difficulty of Barnes, in thinking it “not conceivable how afflictions should have any tendency to alienate Christ’s love from us,” arises from a misconception: for when we speak of not being separated from the love of Christ, the obvious meaning is, that nothing can separate us from participating in the effects of his love, that He, on account of his love, will sustain us under the greatest trials, and make “us more than conquerors.” The substance of what is here said, is contained in the last clause of Romans 8:32, — “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” It was the assurance of this truth that the Apostle obviously intended to convey. — Ed. but this comment may be easily disproved by the whole tenor of Paul’s reasoning; and Paul himself will presently remove all doubt by defining more clearly what this love is.

Tribulation, or distress, or persecution? etc. The pronoun masculine which he used at the beginning of the verse, contains a hidden power: for when he might have adopted the neuter gender and said — “What shall separate us?” etc., he preferred ascribing personality to things without life, and for this end, — that he might send forth with us into the contest as many champions as there are of temptations to try our faith.

But these three things have this difference: tribulation includes every kind of trouble or evil; distress is an inward feeling, when difficulties reduce us to such an extremity, so that we know not what course to pursue. Such was the anxiety of Abraham and of Lot, when one was constrained to expose his wife to the danger of prostitution, and the other, his daughters; for being brought to straits and being perplexed, they found no way of escape. Persecution properly denotes the tyrannical violence by which the children of God were undeservedly harassed by the ungodly. Now though Paul denies in 2 Corinthians 4:8, that the children of God are reduced to straits, στενοχωρεῖσθαι, he does not yet disagree with himself; for he does not simply make them to be exempt from anxious solicitude, but he means that they are delivered from it, as also the examples of Abraham and Lot testify.

36. As it is written, etc. This testimony adds no small weight to the subject; for he intimates, that the dread of death is so far from being a reason to us for falling away, that it has been almost ever the lot of God’s servants to have death as it were present before their eyes. It is indeed probable, that in that Psalm the miserable oppression of the people under the tyranny of Antiochus is described; for it is expressly said, that the worshippers of God were cruelly treated, for no other reason but through hatred to true religion. There is also added a remarkable protestation, that they had not departed from the covenant of God; which Paul, I think, had especially in view. It is no objection that the saints there complain of a calamity which then unusually pressed on them; for since they show, that they were oppressed with so many evils, having before testified their innocence, an argument is hence fitly drawn, that it is no new thing for the Lord to permit his saints to be undeservedly exposed to the cruelty of the ungodly. But this is not done except for their good; for the Scripture teaches us, that it is alien to the righteousness of God to destroy the just with the wicked, (Genesis 18:23); but that, on the contrary, it is meet for him to requite affliction to those who afflict, and rest to those who are afflicted. (2 Thessalonians 1:6, 9.) And then they affirm that they suffer for the Lord; and Christ pronounces them blessed who suffer for the sake of righteousness. (Matthew 5:10.) By saying that they died daily, they intimated that death was so suspended over them, that their life differed but little from death.

37. We do more than conquer, etc.; that is, we always struggle and emerge. I have retained the word used by Paul, 276276     “Supervincimus“ — ὑπερνικῶμεν; Beza’s version is, amplius quam victores sumus;” Macknight’s, “we do more than overcome;” Schleusner gives this as one of his explanations, “plenissime vincimus — we most fully overcome.” Paul commonly uses ὑπὲρ in an enhansive sense; so the version may be, “we abundantly overcome,” as though he said, “We have strength given us which far exceeds the power of evils.” Some say that the faithful abundantly overcome, because they sustain no real loss, but like silver in the furnace, they lose only their dross; and not only so, but they also carry, as it were from the field of battle, chapter spoils — the fruits of holiness and righteousness. Hebrews 12:10,11. It is further said, that the victory will be this, — that Christ, who has loved them, will raise them from death and adorn them with that glory, with which all the evils of this life are not worthy to be compared.
   Beza says, “Not only we are not broken down by so many evils nor despond, but we even glory in the cross.” — Ed.
though not commonly used by the Latins. It indeed sometimes happens that the faithful seem to succumb and to lie forlorn; and thus the Lord not only tries, but also humbles them. This issue is however given to them, — that they obtain the victory.

That they might at the same time remember whence this invincible power proceeds, he again repeats what he had said before: for he not only teaches us that God, because he loves us, supports us by his hand; but he also confirms the same truth by mentioning the love of Christ. 277277     “Per eum qui dilexit nos — διὰ του ἀγαπήσαντος ἡμᾶς — through him who has loved us.” The aorist participle, says Wolfius, extends to every time, “who has loved and loves and will love us.” From the fact that believers are overcome by no calamities, he draws the inference, that God’s love is constant and most effectual, so that he is present with the distressed to give them courage, to strengthen their patience, and to moderate their calamities. See 1 Peter 5:10. — Ed. And this one sentence sufficiently proves, that the Apostle speaks not here of the fervency of that love which we have towards God, but of the paternal kindness of God and of Christ towards us, the assurance of which, being thoroughly fixed in our hearts, will always draw us from the gates of hell into the light of life, and will sufficiently avail for our support.

38. He is now carried away into hyperbolic expressions, that he might confirm us more fully in those things which are to be experienced. Whatever, he says, there is in life or in death, which seems capable of tearing us away from God, shall effect nothing; nay, the very angels, were they to attempt to overturn this foundation, shall do us no harm. It is no objection, that angels are ministering spirits, appointed for the salvation of the elect, (Hebrews 1:14:) for Paul reasons here on what is impossible, as he does in Galatians 1:8; and we may hence observe, that all things ought to be deemed of no worth, compared with the glory of God, since it is lawful to dishonor even angels in vindicating his truth. 279279     Some of the Fathers, Jerome, Chrysostom, etc., have taken the same view, regarding the Apostle as speaking of good angels, as it were, hypothetically, as in Galatians 1:8. But Grotius, and many others, consider evil angels to be meant. Probably, angels, without any regard to what they are, are intended. — Ed. Angels are also meant by principalities and powers, 280280     Grotius considers the words as being the abstract for the concrete, Princes and Potentates; being called ἀρχαὶ, as some think, as being the first, the chief in authority, and δυνάμεις, as having power. “By these words,” says Beza, “Paul is wont to designate the character of spirits, — of the good in Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16, — and of the bad in Ephesians 6:12, Colossians 2:15.” Hence the probability is, that the words designate different ranks among angelic powers, without any reference to their character, whether good or evil. — Ed. and they are so called, because they are the primary instruments of the Divine power: and these two words were added, that if the word angels sounded too insignificant, something more might be expressed. But you would, perhaps, prefer this meaning, “Nor angels, and whatever powers there may be;” which is a mode of speaking that is used, when we refer to things unknown to us, and exceeding our capacities.

Nor present things, nor future things, etc. Though he speaks hyperbolically, yet he declares, that by no length of time can it be effected, that we should be separated from the Lord’s favor: and it was needful to add this; for we have not only to struggle with the sorrow which we feel from present evils, but also with the fear and the anxiety with which impending dangers may harass us. 281281     “Neither the evils we now feel, nor those which may await us,” — Grotius; rather, “Neither things which now exist, nor things which shall be.” — Ed. The meaning then is, — that we ought not to fear, lest the continuance of evils, however long, should obliterate the faith of adoption.

This declaration is clearly against the schoolmen, who idly talk and say, that no one is certain of final perseverance, except through the gift of special revelation, which they make to be very rare. By such a dogma the whole faith is destroyed, which is certainly nothing, except it extends to death and beyond death. But we, on the contrary, ought to feel confident, that he who has begun in us a good work, will carry it on until the day of the Lord Jesus. 282282     The words, “neither height nor depth,” are left unnoticed ὕψωμα. The first, says Mede, means prosperity, and the latter, adversity. Grotius regards what is meant as the height of honor, and the depth of disgrace. “Neither heaven nor hell,” say others; “neither heaven nor earth,” according to Schleusner. “Things in heaven and things on earth,” is the explanation of Chrysostom The first, ὕψωμα, is only found here and in 2 Corinthians 10:5. Like מרום in Hebrew, it means what is high and elevated, and may, like that, sometimes signify heaven: and βάθος is not earth, but what is deeper; it means a deep soil, Matthew 13:5, — the deep sea, Luke 5:4, — and in the plural, things deep and inscrutable, 1 Corinthians 2:10; it may therefore be very properly taken here for hell.
   That the words are to be thus taken seems probable from the gradation evident in the passage. In the first catalogue in Romans 8:35, he mentions the evils arising from this world, its trials and its persecutions, and those ending in death. In the second, after repeating the utmost length to which worldly persecutors can go, “death or life,” he ascends the invisible world, and mentions angels, then their combined powers, then the powers which do and may exist, then both heaven and hell, and, that he might include everything, except the uncreated God himself, he finishes with the words, “nor any created thing.”

   The whole passage is sublime in an extraordinary degree. The contrast is the grandest that can be conceived. Here is the Christian, all weakness in himself, despised and trampled under foot by the world, triumphing over all existing, and all possible, and even impossible evils and opposition, having only this as his stay and support — that the God who has loved him, will never cease to love, keep, and defend him; yea, were everything created, everything except God himself, leagued against him and attempting his ruin. — Ed.

39. Which is in Christ, etc. That is, of which Christ is the bond; for he is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. If, then, we are through him united to God, we may be assured of the immutable and unfailing kindness of God towards us. He now speaks here more distinctly than before, as he declares that the fountain of love is in the Father, and affirms that it flows to us from Christ.




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