Selflessness, Holiness, and More Than Conquerors

Following is a transcript of a message from Romans 8:31-39.

In this next section of Chapter 8, there are some verses that have been abused by false teachers. I want to spend a little time considering the false teaching and finding the truth in other passages of Scripture. I do not want to spend a long time on this, but I want to provide the passages where we can find the truth.

One thing that is good for us to consider when it comes to understanding the Bible and to knowing God is that the whole Book works together to tell one story about who God is and what He wants of His people. Countless people have been led astray by focusing on one verse or a section of verses. They pluck them out and create a doctrine based on those few words.

The greatest mistake such people make is not knowing who God truly is. Most often, false teachings provide some freedom to practice sin or to avoid holiness. They go away from the heart of God and His call to righteousness and instead they feed the carnal passions of the old life.

The Bible various times says if we have ears, we should hear. If we have eyes, we should see. If we have minds, we should understand. This is a warning that we so easily choose to be deaf and blind and ignorant to the truth when we would rather follow our own way. But we have the Word of God. We can hear His voice. We can see who He is. And we can understand His ways. But we can do that only if we seek the truth and are familiar with the whole story of the Bible.

Now let’s read these few verses, then we can look briefly at the false teaching that many pull from these verses before we go on to appreciate the beautiful promises these verses hold for God’s children.

Let’s read Romans 8:31-39.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” ) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:31-39‬ ‭NLT‬‬

One false teaching pulled from verses 31 and 32 is that God will give us whatever earthly riches or possessions or power we want. Some people couple the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 7 to support this idea. Jesus says there that if we ask, we will receive; if we seek, we will find; if we knock, the doors will open. Does He mean we can ask for any carnal thing and receive it? Of course not.

This is a simple example of closing your eyes to the truth you don’t want to see. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, He clearly teaches us that our hearts are to pursue holiness and to shun evil.  Jesus taught in many cases that we cannot serve both God and the flesh; we cannot love God and love the things of this world. God honors those who honor Him. He will answer the prayer that reflects the values of His own heart.

James speaks about this false teaching in James Chapter 4. He says that we ask and don’t receive because we are looking to feed our carnal desires. He then asks if we do not understand that to be a friend of this world’s values is to be an enemy to God. God resists the proud and selfish and carnal man, but gives good gifts to the humble and obedient.

Some verses you can look up are Matthew 7:21-23; Luke13:24-30; James 4:3, 15-17; 1 John 3:22 & 5:14.

The next several verses are popularly used to support the idea that once a person is saved through Jesus, that person can never lose his salvation. This teaching is something like eternal life insurance. Such false teachers say that even if you live in sin and even if you die in sin, as long as you were baptized or as long as you committed your life to Jesus at one point in the past, you are saved.

Again, this teaching closes its eyes completely to the rest of the Bible. God has clearly called His people to holiness and obedience from the beginning of time until now. And He has clearly said that the unbelieving and disobedient will not have part with Him in heaven, but they will be punished forever apart from Him.

Jesus loves us. And Jesus has the power to save us from sin and death. But Jesus wants to be Lord as well as Savior. He calls all men everywhere to repent. Sin cannot ever enter into the presence of God; therefore, those who are sinning cannot hope to have His favor at the Great Day of Judgment.

One reason this false teaching arose was because of the translation of one word in verse 35. In that verse, many translations say “who” when it could be better translated as “what.” This sort of small translation error can happen when God’s Word is translated into a new language. But we do not need to fear to find a small translation error when we have the whole rest of the Bible to compare with.

And besides the rest of the Bible, we have the following verses to make sense of this word. Look at the list in verse 35. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword–these are all physical things that can be done to the body. Notice then verse 36 how he quotes an Old Testament verse about being killed for God’s sake.

He does not say that it doesn’t matter if you sin. He doesn’t give a list of sins that cannot separate us from God after we’ve been saved. No, he is speaking of something else entirely, which we will look at in a moment.

The prophets of the Old Testament, the Apostles of the New Testament, and of course Jesus Himself taught clearly that those who choose disobedience and unbelief will be cast out from God’s presence, but those who choose obedience and faith will be saved.

Another repeated teaching in the Bible in many places is that of enduring to the end. Those who endure to the end will be saved. Those who finish the race will win the crown. Those who conquer the battle will be victorious. These are all teaching from God’s Word. There is never allowance for disobedience. In fact, there is much teaching about false teachers who will try to lead us astray.

Again, you cannot believe this false teaching unless you are closing your mind to the rest of the truth of who God is and what He wants from us. This is clearly found throughout the Bible. It is not hidden from us.

Some verses you can look up are Luke 12:4-9; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10;  Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:1-17.

Now we want to consider what Paul was actually teaching in these verses. The promise of verse 31 is tremendous. If God is for us, who can be against us? Another place in Scripture it says, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: What can man do to me?”

Paul and the Christians of Rome were experiencing firsthand severe physical persecution. Hebrews lists some of sufferings God’s people have faced.

Let’s read Hebrews 11:32-38.

“How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:32-38‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Hebrews goes on in Chapter 12 and tells us to consider Jesus who also endured persecution by wicked men. We are to take a lesson from those who faithfully endured suffering and obtained their reward from God the Father. It is true that men can cause us  great sufferings and frustrations and pains in this life, but that is only done to the body. If we endure to the end of life, we will receive a crown of glory. Verse 32 in Romans 8 says that if God was willing to give His own Son to die for us, will He not give us whatever we need to endure?

Verses 33 and 34 ask who can condemn us. Who was condemning Paul and the Roman Christians? Both the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government were condemning Christians to die. They said Christians were guilty of various things. That has been repeated again and again through history. Christians have been criticized and condemned by governments and other religions.

But whose favor are we seeking? This world is not our home. We are pilgrims and strangers here. We may not be loved and accepted by men, but if we are obedient and faithful, we will be loved and accepted by God. There is nothing more we could seek.

So then Paul lists those things that men or life can bring against us. But we remember the words of Jesus in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” We can have peace and great cheer because we know that our Lord has overcome the world, and by His power, we too can overcome.

And verse 37 of Romans 8 says we are more than conquerors. We are not merely fighting a battle. We are not dumbly serving some dictator king. We are not slaves to some unknown god who decides our destiny.

No, we are much more than all that. We are loved! The love of God shown to us through Jesus is above all that we can ask or think. Do we love Him as we should? What great debt of love we owe to Him who first loved us!

Take courage from this Chapter in Romans. God gave everything to rescue us from our disobedience because He loved us. Jesus sacrificed His life because He loved us, and now He is with God, interceding for us. The Spirit works in us and for us to empower us to live righteously. And when we do not know even how to pray, the Spirit intercedes to the Father for us.

In all the things of this troubled life, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.