Romans: The Clearest Gospel of All
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

#24 – Agape Never Fails
(Romans 8:31-39)

How are we to prepare ourselves to face this time of trouble that is known in scripture and in Theology as the Great Tribulation?  Many answers are given today by many people.  There are some who say to the Christian church, “Don’t worry, there will be a secret rapture so that you will disappear from this earth before it happens.”  Well the Bible doesn’t teach that.  The Bible says that all Christians living in the last time will have to go through this but they will be delivered by God.

Then there is another group who say, “No, you need to store up food for two years.”  Well, that sounds like a wonderful plan, except that, in the Time of Trouble there will still be thieves and robbers, and they will come and take your food before you know it, because they will not use pleading, they will use the point of a gun; so that won’t help.

There are others who say, “No, you must learn how to survive in the wilderness.”  They have this wilderness survival program.  Well, that’s fine, except the devil will simply move you from this mountain to somewhere else in the East, where you have not studied the vegetation there, and you will say, “Boy, I don’t know which of this is edible and which is not.”  So you will be stuck.

And there are still others who say, “You need to overcome every inherited and cultivated tendency to sin because you will have to live without a Mediator.”  Now I have to say something about that.  I believe that the gospel is powerful, that it is possible to overcome every inherited and cultivated tendency.  But there are two things that we must see clearly:

  1. We will not know it; our nature will remain sinful until the second coming of Christ.  So we will always feel that we are sinners.

  2. We may not have a Mediator, but we will not be living without a Savior.  Impossible!  We don’t need a Mediator because the judgment is over, the verdict has been given in favor of the saints.  But we will have to live by faith in a Savior, and the Holy Spirit will not be taken away from us (maybe from the world).

But the question is, how do we prepare for this crisis?  Well, I believe that Paul the Apostle has the answer.  For example, in Ephesians 3, talking to a church that was facing real concerns about a crisis that was coming, his prayerful answer is, “Only those whose faith is rooted and grounded in the love of God will be able to stand” [see Ephesians 3:16-19].

And the reason he gives you is this:  that if you are rooted and grounded in the love of God, you have the fullness of God in you, you have a faith that is unshakeable no matter what happens.  In other words, as the book of Revelation says, “You have the faith of Jesus Christ,” a faith that endured the cross even though He felt God-abandoned.  It is this unshakeable faith, rooted and grounded in the love of God, that Paul is discussing in our passage in this study, in Romans 8:31-39.

This is the last section of Romans 8; our next study will be Romans 9, 10, and 11, which has to do with the question of the Jews and their problem.  But I want to remind you that Romans 8 is the chapter on how Christians should live.  And his answer is that Christians should walk in the Spirit because Christian living is a life by the Spirit.

In our last study I introduced to you the title that Jesus gave to the Holy Spirit in His work for the believer and the unbeliever in this world of ours.  Do you remember that title?  I gave you the Greek name, “Paraclaytos.”  That is the word Jesus gave for the Holy Spirit.

What does it mean?  It means somebody Who is by your side, your Companion, as a Helper.  Jesus did not leave His disciples, His church, without a Helper.  He sent the Holy Spirit to be our Paraclaytos, to be by our side to help us.

In our last study we saw that He comforts us, He teaches us, He guides us, and He intercedes for us.  That is what Paul told us in the previous section.  Now, in Romans 8:31, in view of what he has told us concerning the Spirit as our Paraclaytos, he says:

What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?

Paul is not saying there will be nobody against you.  We know from Scripture that the Devil, for example, is against us.  He is called in Revelation 12:10, “the accuser of our brothers.”

And the world, when it sees Christ in you, will turn against you, will persecute you.  We know that the whole world, which has given itself to Satan, will be the means by which we will have to face the Great Tribulation.  They will be the ones who will put us through the grill.  We will be persecuted, we will have to face famine, we will be hounded like dogs by the world.

So Paul is not saying that there is nobody against you.  But what he’s saying is this, “If God is on your side, does it matter if anybody is against you?”

I want you to look at the word, “God.”  Who is Paul referring to:  the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?  And the answer is:  all three.  He has told us that the Holy Spirit is our Helper.  And, as we go along in verses 33 and 34, he will tell us that the Father and the Son are on our side, too.  And if the Godhead, the Lord of the universe is on our side, does it matter if anyone is against us?

Okay, having made the statement that God is on our side in verse 31, Paul gives the greatest evidence that can ever be given in Scripture, how God is on our side.  What is the greatest evidence that God has given that He is on our side?  Well, look at Romans 8:32:

He [i.e., the Father] who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him [i.e., with Christ], graciously give us all things?

Now I want to look at this verse very carefully.  Turn to Genesis 22.  I want you to turn to this passage because there we will find a word, the very same word that we find in Romans 8:32, the very same word at least in the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint, in Gen.  22:16.  You remember, in chapter 22, God was testing Abraham’s faith, and the test was very severe:  “Take your son, your only begotten son in whom I have promised salvation, take him and offer him up as a sacrifice.”  That, I think you will all agree, was a very severe test.  No greater sacrifice can be found in the Old Testament than the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham.  And in verse 16, after Abraham passed the test, this is what God said:

...I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son....

That word, “withheld” is the same word that you can find in Romans 8:32, “not spared”; it’s the same Greek word.  What is Paul saying in Romans 8:32?  God did not withhold from His Son the full wages of sin that belongs to you and me.  “God spared not His own son but delivered Him up for us all.”

What did He not withhold from His Son?  What is it that He refused to spare His Son from?  Well, we need to turn to another passage and that is in Luke 22 in the New Testament.  I want you to put yourselves in the shoes of those three disciples who witnessed this terrible incident recorded in Luke 22.  We’ll begin with verse 42.  This is Jesus in Gethsemane, a stone throw from the three disciples whom he had asked to watch and pray with Him.  This is His prayer [Luke 22:42, 44]:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

The disciples had never seen Christ in such agony.  The agony was so great that His capillaries burst and the blood oozed into His sweat glands and drops of sweat and blood came out of Him.  What was the issue?  He was facing the wages of sin for our sins, for the sins of the world.  And three times He pleaded with the Father, “If it be possible, remove this cup, remove this cup.”

“No,” says God, “I will not remove that cup, I will not spare You.  I will not withhold from you what you have to go through.”

Do you know why God did not spare His Son?  It is not because there was enmity between Him and His Son.  More than once the Father proclaimed to the world that [Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11]:

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.

Yet God refused to spare Him the cup for one reason:  because He so loved the world.  He so much loved the world that had rebelled against Him that He would not spare His own Son, “but gave him up for us all,” says Paul.

Remember Romans 5:8?

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God demonstrated His love for us that while we were sinners, while we were enemies, while we were helpless, while we were ungodly, Jesus had to die on the cross.  And Paul is saying that, if God did that while we were enemies to Him, if He did not spare His own Son [Romans 8:32]: will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Some translations read he will give us all things “freely,” which comes from the same root word as the word “grace,” which means, “How shall He not graciously give to us undeserving sinners everything in Christ?” Then he asks the question in verse 33:

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.

Some translations read, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect,” but those “chosen” or the word “elect” do not mean those Whom He predetermined to be saved.  He predetermined all people to be saved, but that salvation is a gift, a gift that you cannot enjoy if you deliberately refuse it.  The elect are those who by a heart-appreciation have said, “Thank You God, for Your unspeakable Gift, Jesus Christ.”

“Who shall accuse the believers?” That’s the question in verse 33.  We know Satan accuses us.  Revelation 12:10 says so:  he’s “the accuser of the brothers.”  Sometimes it is your conscience that accuses you, then there are others who will accuse you.  But there is one Person Who will not accuse you, and it is God.

Why does God not accuse you?  Because He is the One Who justifies you.  And He justifies you not because we deserve it, but because He loves us, and He gave His Son to die for us.  I want you to be clear on this, so I want to take you to a text that you have already seen and heard but need to be reminded of.  Turn to Romans 4.  So that you are clear about who does God justify.  Romans 4:5:

However, to the man who does not work...

“To him who does not produce righteousness.”  That’s the context.

...  but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Here is God, Who justifies us rebellious sinners because of His love and His gift in Jesus Christ, which we have accepted.  How can this God, Who has justified you in Christ, turn around and accuse you?  Impossible.  Because God is not a hypocrite; He doesn’t do one thing one time and another thing another time.  If He has justified you, He means it.  He doesn’t change His views.  So, number one, God is on your side because He justifies you.  Now go to verse 34:

Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

What is Paul saying?  Christ died.  Do you know why He died?  That there might be no condemnation for you.  I read in John 3:17:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

And in chapter 8 of Romans, in this very same chapter, verse 1, we read:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....

How can Christ — Who, at infinite cost to Himself, liberated us from the condemnation — how can He condemn us?  Now there is the law that condemns you.  I read in Galatians 3:10:

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

Condemned is the person who does not obey the law, to keep it in every detail.  In this, all of us have failed.  But the good news in verse 13 of Galatians 3 is:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

And it is this that God made Him on the cross.  It is this that God did not spare His Son from.  How can Christ condemn you?  But that is not all.  Paul says that not only is there no condemnation from Christ, but this same Christ, Who has liberated us from condemnation by His death, Who is now risen from the dead, is sitting at the right hand of God, making intercession for us.

Why is He making intercession for us if the Father and the Spirit are on our side?  He’s making intercession for us because you and I have an accuser.  That accuser is Satan.  You and I cannot defend ourselves against that accusation, because His accusations are correct.  We are sinners.  But we have One Who can rightly defend us, because He is our righteousness and He is our Intercessor.  And I know what He will say.  He will say what He said to Satan when Satan tried to rob Christ of the body of Moses in Jude 9:

...The Lord rebuke you.

And He will say the same thing that He says in Zechariah 3:2, which deals with the judgment, where the angel of the Lord has to stand before the Lord, and Joshua, which is the Hebrew word for Jesus, our High Priest is there to intercede for us.  Do you know what He will say?  He will say:

The Lord rebuke you, Satan!  The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!  Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?

So, folks, God is on our side.  The Father is on your side, the Son is on your side, and the Holy Spirit is on your side.  Romans 8:31:

If God is for us, who can be against us?

They have no way to win, we are on the winning side.  All this is because God is love, and so I go to verse 35:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Who will separate us from the love of Christ, the love that led Him to the cross?  The love that said, while He was in agony [Luke 23:34]:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Who will separate from the love of Christ?  And then he gives a whole host of things:

Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

Now some of us have gone through some of these things.  But one thing you must be clear on:  all of these things — tribulation, distress, famine, nakedness, peril — all of it will be heaped on us at one time in the Great Tribulation.  David, who experienced some of this, makes this statement in Psalms 44:22 which Paul quotes in verse 36:

As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

That is how the world will treat the believers in the Great Tribulation.  They will be treated like sheep that deserve to be slaughtered, because the whole world will wonder after the beast, who will receive his power from the dragon.  The dragon is Satan, and Satan and Christ are at war.  We belong to Christ and so we become enemies of Satan, enemies of the world.  In other words, Christians are citizens of heaven living in enemy territory and, in the Great Tribulation, those enemies will make their final effort to destroy God’s people.  But because God is on our side, we can read verse 37 with assurance:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

In ALL these things — not some of these things — in all these things which we will go through, “we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.”  Not through your performance, not through your goodness, not through your might, not through your will power, but:

...through him who loved us.

In other words, if you and I are to be able to endure the Great Tribulation, if you and I are to be more than conquerors through Him, we need to be rooted and grounded in the love of Christ.  Turn to 1 John.  Listen to that Apostle, the beloved Apostle John.  1 John 4 and we’ll begin with verse 16.  And I hope by now this verse 16 is true of each one of you:

And so we know and rely on...

Two things: to know and to believe (or rely on).  What do we know and what do we believe?

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

Now please remember our study on the love of God:  it is unconditional and it is never failing.  God loves us unconditionally.  And His love for us never ceases; our love for Him might, but not His love for us.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.

First is the love that God has for us.  God is love.  And what John is saying is not that one of the characteristics of God is love, but “God is love,” period.  Everything about Him can be defined by that one word, “agape.”  God is love.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

In other words, our anchor is not us; our anchor is not even what God does in us.  Our anchor is in Him Who is love.  Having made that statement, John goes to verses 17 and 18 and applies this to those who know and believe.  1 John 4:17:

In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.

How do you know that God’s love has been made complete, been fully perfected in you?  When you “have confidence on the day of judgment.”  Why should you have confidence, boldness in the day of judgment?  Because, out of love, God has made you to be righteous in His Christ, because “in this world we are like him.”

He is love, so we are love.  We are filled with the fullness of God because we are filled with His love.  We are abiding in His love and, therefore, 1 John 4:18 goes on to say:

There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear....

Now let me be clear.  From the human point of view, we will be afraid in the time of trouble.  But deep down in the inner man, in our converted minds, we know in Whom we believe.  And we know that the love of God is greater than the fear that is in the flesh because [continuing 1 John 4:18]:

...fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Now please note the context.  He is not saying, “He who fears persecution.”  We will be afraid of the persecution, but what we will not be afraid of is the judgment and the torment that comes from the judgment.  Why?  Because the love of God has told us that we belong to God.  He is on our side.  He has justified us and He doesn’t condemn us.  And we have an advocate who will vindicate us and Who has vindicated us in the judgment.

So, going back to Romans 8, having made that wonderful statement in verse 37, which is my prayer for each one of you:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

I read those two beautiful statements which I hope you will memorize, not only in your minds but in your hearts.  Romans 8:28-29:

For I am convinced that neither death or life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“I am convinced without even the slightest shadow of a doubt, I am convinced completely and totally.”

Have you got it?  Nothing above, below or horizontally, nothing in this world, in the universe, anywhere, can separate us from the love of God which, of course, was demonstrated in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Before I came to America, one of my jobs was chaplain of Nairobi University.  We had 250 wonderful young people at that university.

In East Africa, we have the British system:  not everybody can have the privilege of going to college like you have in this country.  Only the cream of the crop go to university.  The government, not the school, gives the 12th grade the state exam, and only those who have done extremely well, probably five to six percent of the whole student body, will have the privilege of going to the university.

We had 250 Adventist young people in the Nairobi University.  I had three young kids there who were excellent men; of these, one was the president of the university group and one was the treasurer.  These three were all studying medicine and they were inseparable.  Not too long ago, I had a phone call from the treasurer, who had been given a scholarship from the World Bank to the University of California to take his Ph.D.  He called me and gave me some sad news:  the other student, who was the president, had left the church.

“Why?” I asked.  He was such a godly young man.  And he told me the sad story.  The student president’s closest friend — the third of the three — had just finished his medicine degree after all those years.  Just after graduation, he was riding in a taxi.  The taxi was in an accident and he died.

This person who was the president of the group said, “Why did God allow that?” And he turned his back on God.

I had to write to him and said, “Please, God never allows anything unless it is for the good.”

We need to remind ourselves of what we read last study in verse 28 of Romans 8:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him....

We may not understand it, but I know one thing:  that young man who died in the crash, died in Christ; heaven is his.  But the thing is this, it’s a tragedy when people fail to understand that God is love.

Things are going to happen to you, folks, and the devil will come to you.  I’m talking from experience.  When you face persecution, when you face tribulation and distress and famine and nakedness and sword, all at one time, I know what the devil will do:  he will come to you and you know what he will do?  He will try and convince you that the reason why you are going through this terrible time is because God doesn’t love you any more.

I can assure you, you will feel that.  You will feel that God has forsaken you.  You will feel that he doesn’t care what you are going through.  And, unless you are rooted and grounded in the love of God, you will not make it.  We need to realize that God is love and His love is unconditional.

The same boy who died, this medical student, came to me one day while I was chaplain at Nairobi University and said, “Pastor, I have a real burden.”

I said, “What’s the burden?”

He said, “I have an uncle in the hospital who is dying of leukemia.  The doctors have given him three months to live.  Would you please go and pray for him?  He is in agony.”

So I said, “Sure.”  I discovered that the uncle was the head elder of his church 250 miles away.

As soon as I approached him, he pleaded with me, “Please, ask God to forgive me.”

“What’s the big problem?” I said.  “I mean, you are a Christian; you are the head elder of your church.”

“Yes,” he said, “but there is one sin I don’t think He can forgive me.  Maybe if you pray, He’ll forgive me.”

“Boy,” I said, “you’ll make a good Catholic.  What’s the problem?”

He began his confession.  It was a terrible thing he did.  His daughter, a teenager in high school, became pregnant.  He was the head elder of the church; it meant disgrace to his family.  So he took her to a witch doctor to have an abortion, to save his name.  The witch doctor did something that killed her, and he felt now, two years later, that God was punishing him for that sin by giving him leukemia.  What a false picture of God he had!

I read to him this text.  “Look, Brother, God did not spare His own Son!  How can you accuse God of being such a person?” So I gave him a Bible study.  I spent about two hours with him, showed him the love of God and the wonderful, unconditional good news of salvation, and his face began to smile and he said, “You mean to say there is hope for me?”

“Yes, Brother,” I said, “there is hope for you.  GUARANTEED.”  And I gave him a whole list of texts and said, “I want you to sit down and read these texts on your own, so that this truth comes to you from the word of God, not from me.”

So I left him.  About two months later I said to myself, “Oh, I better go and visit him and say good-bye to him.”  He had already been anointed by his church pastor, and the doctors had given him three months, and this was two months later.  So I went to see him and, of course, they have big rooms there in the hospital, about 50 beds all squeezed together, and each bed has a number.  So I went to his bed and it was empty.  The first thought that came to my mind was, “He died.  I was too late.”  But there was a nurse there and I said to her, “Where is Brother Okello?”

Before she could answer, at the end of the room, he said, “Pastor, I’m here.”

I said, “What are you doing there?”

Do you know what he was doing?  He was sitting by the side of a Masai.  This may not mean anything to you, but he was of a tribe that were bitter enemies of the Masai.  You see, the Masai have a belief that all the cattle in the world, including America, belong to them.  So they will go to a tribe and take the cows that belong to that tribe because it belongs to them.  And, of course, it ends up in a feud.  These two tribes were at loggerheads; they would kill each other every time they met.  The government had to kind of keep them apart.  And here is this man from the enemy tribe, giving the gospel to this Masai.  I said to him, “What on earth are you telling him?”

“Pastor,” he said, “I am trying to get into this dumb head of his that it is not the blood of cows, which he has been drinking all his life, that saves him, but the blood of Jesus Christ.  But I can’t make him understand the good news.  Can you help me?”

“But,” I said, “you should be in bed.”

“What for?” he said, “I already have peace, thank you for that.  I must give it to Him now.”  You see, he had now a hope, an anchor.  No longer was he afraid to die.  His one concern was to bring the gospel to this poor Masai who was also dying of a terminal disease.

My dear people, when you and I are rooted in the love of God, we will be able to say with Paul, “I am persuaded that nothing in heaven or earth, in this universe, can ever separate me from the love of God.”

That is the kind of faith that you and I have to develop if we are going to go through the time of trouble.  That’s the kind of faith that Jesus had on the cross.  He felt forsaken of God, but He knew one thing:  God’s love never forsakes.  That He knew, and that we must know.

“Agape never fails,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:8.  In John 13:1, I read:

Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of this love.

There will never come a time when God will stop loving you.  Never.  Even if you reject Him, He still loves you.  And, please remember, that love is not simply words.  John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Do you believe that the love of God which led Him to give His Son has given you eternal life?  Do you believe that when you are facing tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, and peril that God has not forsaken you?  Do you believe that?  That is the condition that you and I have to reach.  And that is the great burden that Paul wants his readers of Romans 8 to understand.

Folks, you have the Paraclaytos, the Holy Spirit by your side.  He is there to help you, to intercede, and to convince you that you are a child of God, and that you are joint heirs with Jesus Christ.  It is my prayer that you will receive and develop such a faith, a faith that is unshakable because it is rooted and grounded in the love of God, the unconditional agape of God which was revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is my prayer for each of you.  Amen.

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