Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 8.35-39 

Did you know that there are only two religions in the world? That’s right. Only two. If you define religion as a set of beliefs that describe how a person’s relationship with God is established, or how a belief system is embraced, then there are only two different kinds, regardless of all of the names that people use. I’m not suggesting that the various positions and beliefs that distinguish Hindus from Buddhists, Nazis from Maoists, Muslims from Roman Catholics, or Baptists from Mormons, are unimportant. Not at all. I’m just saying that all of these differences are secondary to one aspect of religion in its broadest sense that no one seems to pay a great deal of attention to these days. And that one aspect of religion that no one pays any attention to has to do with the establishment of a person’s relationship with God. On the one hand we have those who believe that each person initiates His relationship with God or instigates his belief system requirements. And on the other hand, we have those who believe that God and only God initiates a relationship with a human being.

Hey Christian. How did you become a Christian? If you have known the Lord Jesus for any time at all, and if you have studied your Bible during that period, then you realize that your salvation and your relationship with Jesus Christ is all of God and none of you. 

Jesus paid it all.

All to Him I owe.

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow. 

And did not the Lord Jesus Christ say, 

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”?[1] 

Then there is Psalm 127.1: 

“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” 

Anyone who disagrees with these truths is practicing the other religion, the false religion, whatever name might be attached to it. But within New Testament-type Christianity there is yet another issue that is important. Realizing that our relationship with God was initiated by God, that it was by God’s grace and had nothing to do with man’s works, the question now remains: “How is this relationship maintained?” God saves you, to be sure. And if you had any part in accomplishing your salvation, then you aren’t saved. 

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”[2] 

But how do you keep your salvation? Do you keep your salvation? It is true that there are only two religions in the world, the right one, and the wrong one, the one that gives the glory for salvation to God and the one that seeks to reserve some of the glory for man.

But even among those who observe and practice the right religion, there is some disagreement. And the disagreement has to do with what is often called eternal security. What role, if any, does the person who had no role in obtaining his salvation have in keeping his salvation? Understand that I do not deny that salvation is experienced only by those who actively trust Christ as their Savior. I am only pointing out that the faith by which the sinner trusts Christ was given to that sinner by the Holy Spirit, Second Corinthians 4.13, and by means of Gospel preaching, Romans 10.17. So, the faith that saves is faith that originally comes from God.

Turning to our study of Romans, as the Apostle Paul concludes the most exciting portion of the most exciting book of the New Testament, he provides evidence to help us answer this question about keeping one’s salvation. But the direct question that he seeks to answer for his readers has to do with any threat to the believer’s relationship with God. God has promised us that we will someday be glorified. But if there is a real danger to our relationship with Christ, then our promised destiny is not assured. So, Paul concludes Romans chapter 8 by reviewing who might threaten our salvation, which we considered last week, and by reviewing what might threaten our salvation, which is what draws our attention at this time.

Please turn with me to Romans 8.31-39. When you find that passage stand and read with me, though my text for today will be verses 35-39: 

31  What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33  Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

34  Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Taking a slightly different approach than in the passage we studied last week, in our text for today we see that Paul asks and then answers a question of critical importance to every heaven-bound person. 


“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” 

Let me make four comments pertinent to this verse:

First, a comment about the word “who.” Let us remember that, first and foremost, the Apostle Paul was a preacher of the Gospel. And here we have something that is a clue to Paul’s realization that this letter is even better heard than read. In verse 31 he asks “who.” In verse 33 he asks “who.” In verse 34 he asks “who” for the third time. Each time he was exploring the possibility of some person being a threat to the believer’s relationship with Christ. And here, for the fourth time, he uses the word “who.” However, for the most part, in this passage Paul is not looking at persons only who might pose a threat to us, but also circumstances. So, Paul writes “who,” but he also means “what.”

Second, a comment about the word “shall separate.” This translates chorisei, which is a future tense verb. It deals, not with something that has happened, or something that is happening, but with something that might happen or could happen . . . hypothetically. And what is being considered, hypothetically? Separation.[3] Our understanding of the context indicates separation would mean a loss of salvation. You see, death is separation from that which gives life. Separation from God means you no longer have spiritual life. So, Paul is asking a question that has to do with the possibility of losing one’s eternal salvation.

Third, a comment about the word “us.” Born-again believers are in view here. These are justified people’s circumstances that Paul is evaluating here, not lost people. These are not typical religious people. These are not people who are depending upon their first communion to get to heaven or their last rights or the mantra. These are people who have had their sins forgiven, not people who are hoping that their sins will be forgiven if they are good enough.

Finally, a comment about the phrase “love of Christ.” Lest we get caught up in unfamiliar grammatical language, let me assure you that Paul is not referring, by this phrase, to the Christian’s love for Jesus Christ, which can wax and wane. What Paul is considering from this point forward is the possibility that something might successfully separate the Christian from the love that Jesus Christ has for that believer. When this issue is pondered with that truth in mind a whole new set of considerations must be evaluated, since we know how unstable our love for Christ is. What Paul considers is the power and the stability of Christ’s love for us. Can anything shake Christ’s love for us? 


Remember how Paul studiously avoided answering the questions he posed in Romans 8.31-34? In those verses, Paul sought to explain so the questions that answers were not needed because the answers were self-evident. But in Romans 8.35-39 he most thoroughly answers this single question he has posed. And he does this in four ways:

First, Paul recommends for our consideration some answers to this question of what can separate us from the love of Christ: 

“Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” 

If you review the book of Acts and Second Corinthians, you will see that as Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, he had already experienced six of the seven experiences that he mentions here. And we know from Church history that several years after writing Romans Paul experienced the final horror of this list when he was beheaded for the testimony of Christ. But each of these recommended answers would prove to be false. Tribulation had not proven to be capable of separating a believer from the love of Christ. Neither distress, or persecution, or famine, or any of the others.

That done, Paul next refers in verse 36 to Psalm 44.22: 

“As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 

The phrase “as it is written” is always an indication of an Old Testament reference. The marginal notes in your Bible may suggest to you that Paul is here quoting Psalm 44.22. And he, in fact, is. But why in the world does Paul interrupt the flow of his argument to quote a passage from the Old Testament that doesn’t seem to have any direct bearing on the issue at hand? Oh, but it does have a direct bearing on the issue at hand. Paul is dealing with the issue of Christians suffering and whether or not anything can successfully pry the believer loose from his relationship with God. So, what does Psalm 44.22 have to do with that? That Old Testament verse reminds us that God’s people have been suffering for a long time. Depending on when this particular Psalm was written, it attests to the fact that God’s people have suffered through things like this for thousands of years. This issue is not new. So, if suffering and dying didn’t destroy or damage the relationships believers of old had with God, it certainly isn’t going to start doing so now.

Can circumstances separate us from the love of God? Verse 35 was a recommended “no.” Verse 36 was an Old Testament reference “no.” Now, in verse 37, Paul replies to the question with a “no” with a reason: 

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” 

Why can we not be separated from the love of Christ? Why is it impossible for anything to counteract the power and potent and preserving love that Jesus Christ has for His Own? Because of the simple and inspired fact that believers are not “hanging on.” We are not “marginally successful.” And we are not only victors. If any danger or threat to our salvation is likened to an athletic event, then the obvious conclusion to describe our situation is “No contest.” We are winners by a knockout! And if this hypothetical threat to our security as believers is likened to a parade, Christians are not the ones who trail at the end with a shovel and a broom. No. We are at the front of the parade marching in clear and decisive victory. But let us not be hasty in falsely concluding that we have anything to do with this great and triumphant victory, for we do not: 

“We are more than conquerors . . . through him that loved us.” 

Our conquest is His doing and not ours. He is the reason the answer to this great question is “no.” Let me point out before we move on that our victory is not the result of the fact that Christ “loves” us. No. It’s the result of that fact that He “loved” us. Though there is no doubt that He presently “loves” us, this word “loved” refers to a specific act of love that took place in the past. It was Christ’s love in dying for us on Calvary’s cross that secured our security, and that assured our assurance. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that it was anything else.

The last time we were in Romans I told you this was a celebration. If you can’t sense the excitement and the majesty of Paul’s dictation to his secretary as he spoke these words, then you are clearly missing something. If there is another passage in the Bible which stands as a Mount Everest, then this is K2. Here Paul concludes this series of answers to this important question with a report of his own inspired “observations.” I say “observations” because you will remember that Paul implies that he was caught up into God’s throne room, in Second Corinthians chapter 13. It may have been from that vantage point that he writes these two verses of his persuasion. First, his persuasion is stated in verse 38: 

“For I am persuaded...” 

When Paul makes a statement like this, he is not dogmatic, like so many Jehovah’s Witnesses or Roman Catholics who have certainties for which they can produce no Biblical support. No. The reason Paul used the word “persuaded” is because he has been shown something. Something has been proven to him. This goes, at least for him if not for you and me, beyond faith to sight. Second, his prospectives are surveyed, verses 38-39: 

38  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Back in verse 35, he suggested answers to his question that he had experienced or would someday experience. Such is not the case here. Whether death or life, whether angels or principalities or powers, whether anything present or yet to come, whether height or depth (meaning perhaps either in heaven or Hell). Folks, why is it that some people refuse to acknowledge that Paul is as sweeping, as all-encompassing, as anyone can be? And if he hasn’t covered it all, he adds “nor any other creature.” Last time we saw that Paul scanned the horizon for any person, natural or supernatural, who could successfully threaten our security in Christ. Today we have seen Paul scan the horizon of circumstances and events, throughout the universe and from the present into the future, but to no avail. Nothing that he has examined, “nor any other creature,” can be successful. So, he ends with a powerful conclusion. None of these things or beings or circumstances or events “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And if nothing can separate you from the love of God and the love of Christ, then nothing will stop you from being glorified. And if nothing can stop you from being glorified, you can’t lose your salvation. 

My Christian friend, your salvation was all of God. Many passages show us that in God’s Word. But your security is also all of God. You see, the critical factor is not your love for Christ. The critical factor is Christ’s love for you; the power of it, the potency of it, the permanence of it, the performance of it.

This is one of those passages in the Bible, but a key one indeed, that causes us to say that “once saved, always saved” is not the bragging of an arrogant religionist who claims spiritual superiority. Rather, it is the informed boasting about the undeserved, yet powerful, love that God has for such as we are.

Some of you here today are not genuinely born-again Christians. And you may have been offended at some of the things that I have said. You may have been offended that I have distinguished between that which is true and that which is false, that which is right and that which is wrong, according to the Bible. And you may take exception to some of the names and titles of religious persuasions that I have used.

Understand my motives. First, I do not attempt to please you and say things that you will agree with and find acceptable. Second, I do seek to draw to people’s attention that which the Bible does most assuredly teach. In fact, I would do you a disservice by not pointing out the differences between what you may believe and what the Bible teaches. You see, what you believe is important. What you believe determines whether you go to heaven when you die or Hell. Finally, I do trust that our study of this passage, and the preceding passage last week, helps you to understand just why Bible Christians are so positive we are sinners forgiven, why we are so positive we are heaven-bound, why we are so strongly persuaded that salvation is the result of what God does for us, not the result of what we do for God.

Do we think we are better, because we are positive we are going to heaven and because we are convinced nothing can threaten our relationship with God? Not at all. We are convinced we are unworthy recipients of God’s love and grace and mercy. Since it is none of us and all of God, therein lies our confidence.

Don’t you want a salvation which you can’t mishandle? Don’t you want a salvation resting in God’s capable hands? Don’t you want a destiny that depends, not on your wavering love for Christ, but upon His steady and eternal love for you?

If you come to know Christ as your Savior, that is precisely the destiny God’s Son provides to His own.


[1] Luke 19.10

[2] Titus 3.5

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 1095.

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