Romans 8:31 – God for Us
Few chapters of God's Word can have been more precious to believers down the years of Christian experience than the eighth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. And within this monumental chapter, where every verse is pure gold, there is a sense in which verse 31 rises up above all the others, with its great question, 'If God is for us, who can be against us?'. Here, in the chapter as a whole and in this verse in particular, is solid encouragement for the people of God. It is the sort of encouragement Christians need at all times, and that which we are in special need of just now in our generation.
It is well worth considering what three of the great old divines have had to say about this chapter.
Thomas Watson wrote:
'If the whole Scripture be the feast of the soul, then Romans 8 may be a dish at that feast and with its sweet variety may very much refresh and animate the hearts of God's people'.
Richard Sibbes, speaking directly of verse 31, wrote:
'The words are a glorious conclusion and triumph of faith: the conclusion upon all the former particulars in the chapter, and the foundation of all the comforts that follow after, to the end of the chapter. They are as the centre of the chapter. All the beams of heavenly comfort in this divine chapter, they meet as it were in one, in this (verse)'. What a statement!
John Newton commented:
'In the course of the chapter ... the apostle takes a rapid survey of the work of grace, carried on by successive steps in the hearts of believers, till at length consummated in glory; in this verse (i.e. v. 31) ...he seems to come to a full stop, as sensible that the strongest expressions he could use would be too faint. He makes an abrupt transition from describing to admiring'.
A Glorious Certainty Affirmed
Scarcely any affirmation could afford us greater comfort than that of Romans 8:31. The glorious certainty is this, that 'God is for us'! The triune God is on our side. He is inclined graciously towards us. He is working on our behalf. Is this not a most amazing thing, that God, the One, mighty, glorious, holy and eternal God, is for us? We need not be misled by Paul's 'if’. It is not the 'if' of doubt but rather the 'if' of inference, to express a fact, an assurance. It might be expressed as 'since' or 'seeing that'. But what does the apostle mean? How is God for us? The question, 'If God is for us...' is preceded by another question in the same verse: 'What, then, shall we say in response to this?' The 'this' (or 'these things') calls us to take an overview of the whole of the chapter, for 8:31 is really a response to the whole of Romans 8 (and, for that matter, to the whole of this letter to the Romans so far).
There are in the chapters at least seven solid evidences of God's being for us:
- The divine act of justification (v. 1-4, 32-34);
- The divine control of the Holy Spirit (v. 5-14);
- The divine gift of sonship (or adoption) (v. 15-16);
- The divine assurance of glory (v. 17-25);
- The divine ministries of intercession, both of the Holy Spirit (v. 26-27) and of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ (v. 34);
- The divine cordial of providence (v. 28);
- The divine chain of salvation (v. 29-30).
Well may we ask with all reverence, that if these great statements do not demonstrate that God is for us, and that in the most lavish and magnificent way imaginable, then what does? Yet, do we acknowledge this? Do we appreciate this? Do we rest upon it? And what difference does it make to us in daily life and experience, so full, as it often is, of mysteries and trials?
A Necessary Reminder Given
One might make the mistake of imagining that when Paul says, 'If God is for us, who can be against us?', he means there is nothing at all against the Christian, that we do not meet with any opposition and that we have no troubles. But that would not be true either to the apostle's experience as a Christian or to ours.
In one sense, everything is against us now that we are Christians. The world is against us, just as Jesus warned us beforehand that it would be (John 15:18-19). Because the world hates Him and hates the gospel, it hates us too, even though it often hides that hatred under the cloak of religion. The flesh is against us. Paul has just been agonising over this in the second part of Romans 7. Romans 7 and Romans 8 stand side by side. We must shun that line of teaching which encourages Christians to 'get right out of Romans 7' (struggling with sin) and to 'get right into' Romans 8 (unalloyed victory)! The devil is against us (Ephesians 6:10-12; 1 Peter 5:8-9). And, sad to say, so often is 'the church'. So much that is done in the name of 'the church' is really against the cause of God and truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
So, the fact of the matter is that, far from the Christian being free from all opposition, there is a massive empire of evil arrayed against him. In which case, how are we to resolve Paul's statement, that 'if God is for us, who can be against us?'. How can he so confidently claim that believers have, in a sense, none 'against' them?
A Right Perspective Required
Paul's meaning is that, though there is a very great deal against us (demonic forces, evil men, false religions, an apostate church), yet we are not to look at these forces arrayed against us in isolation. Instead, we are to look at all our trials against the background of the certainty that 'God is for us'.
Only when we maintain this perspective that, 'God is for us', shall we endorse Paul's conclusion: 'Who can be against us?' Can the world be against us? The world is passing away and is reserved for destruction (1 Corinthians 7:31; 2 Peter 3:10, 12). Can the flesh be against us? One day we shall be like Christ. We shall see Him as He is and be purified as He is pure (Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 John 3:1-3). Can the devil be against us? He is a doomed and defeated foe, whose proper home will be in the lake of burning sulphur (Colossians 2:15; Revelation 20:10). And can the false church be against us? A testing and refining time will come, when only the true church of Christ will abide (Matthew 7:21-23).
That is the point. That is the perspective. We dare not live by feelings from day to day, but by what God has done and what God has declared. Whatever forces are against us, what are they — whether viewed individually or taken all together (v. 5-39)? When compared with the almighty and eternal power of the God who is for us they pale into nothing. We Christians need to believe this truth with our whole hearts in order that, whatever our trials, our afflictions, our burdens, our problems, we may overcome all the opposition with this apostolic, holy defiance. Nothing can 'separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord' (v. 39).
Whatever harm the devil or godless men may do to us, and however much the harm might appear to succeed, they cannot deprive us of the love with which God loves us, the grace which God has given to us, the care with which God attends to us or the glory which God has prepared for us. In the strength of this truth let us labour, and conquer knowing that 'if God is for us, who can be against us?'