Romans

8:31-39

Rebuttal of the nomist critique 6:1-11:36

4. Freedom in the Spirit, 8:1-39

b) Bound by God's love

Argument

In developing his fourth rebuttal argument against the nomist critique, Paul digresses by expanding on the glory that comes through suffering, v17. Irrespective of all the troubles of life, troubles within and troubles without, the covenant faithfulness of God, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus and realized in the ministry of the Spirit, stands as a divine bond of love that cannot be broken.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 6:1-14.

 

ii] Background: See 1:8-15.

 

iii] Structure: This passage, serving to argue the absolute nature of God's love in Christ, presents as follows:

Sin cannot separate a believer from God's love in Christ, v31-34:

If God on our side, who is there to oppose us? v31-32;

If God has acquitted us, who is there to condemn us?, v33-34;

Troubles cannot separate a believer from God's love in Christ, v35-36:

If trouble is the norm, what can separate us from God's love in Christ?

Conclusion: In Christ we are more than conquerers, v37-39;

No power, physical or spiritual, can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

 

iv] Thesis: See 3:21-31.

 

v] Interpretation:

In this "hymn of triumph", Barrett, of "purple praise", Dunn, this "victory song of salvation assurance", Schmidt, Paul explains that justified believers, though plagued with sin and the troubles of this world, no longer face condemnation, defeat or separation from God, rather, they possess in full the covenant privileges of the true people of God. "If having done the inexpressible in choosing to provide salvation, will not God (v32) freely give us every gift relating to his salvation? what then can we say to these things? We can only echo with Paul the rhapsodic praise which concludes in v31-39", Dumbrell. As Denney puts it of this passage, "the Christian's faith in Providence is an inference from Redemption."

 

The argument of this passage is shaped by a series of rhetorical questions in two units, v31-34, 35-39. Having established that sin cannot separate us from God, v31-34, Paul, with his final two-part rhetorical question in v35, sets out to establish that neither circumstance (suffering, "trials and tribulations", Best), v35-37, nor any hostile powers (death, persecution and the like, spirit-powers, terrors now and into the future, nor the "influence of the stars in their courses", Hunter, in fact, "nothing in all creation", CEV), v38-39, can separate us from the love of God.

 

The function of this passage in Paul's argument is open to some debate. Its "elevated eloquence", Cranfield, has prompted many to see it as a significant conclusion to Paul's argument on justification. Yet, it is more likely prompted by Paul's discussion of glory through suffering, v18-30. Irrespective of the troubles of life, spiritual or physical, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

 

vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes 8:31-34, and 35-39.

 
Text - 8:31

"Nothing in the world or out of it shall be able to sunder us from God's love in Christ", Hunter: i] With God on our side, everything is ours, v31-32. "Because of what God has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the believer has nothing to fear either in the present condition of the world from evil men and evil spiritual forces, or in the world to come", Denny. Note the common Pauline introduction, "what can we say?"

ti "what" - Interrogative pronoun.

oun "then" - Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion; "Therefore".

proV + acc. "in response to" - to, toward. Here reference / respect; "concerning / in view of", Moule.

tauta "this / these things" - these things. "What shall we say in response to this argument. Possibly "the whole argument of the epistle so far", Cranfield, but more likely v18-30. "With all this in mind, what are we to say", REB.

ei "if" - Paul is developing a logical argument by using a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ..... then ....."

uJper + gen. "[God is] for [us]" - for. Advantage / benefit; taking a participatory sense, as of acting for our benefit; "on the side of", Cranfield.

kaq + gen. "[who can be] against [us?]" - [who] against [us]. Expressing opposition; "against", in the sense of "prevail against." "If God is on our side, who is there to prevail against us", Cassirer. Possibly "there is no one whose hostility we need fear", Cranfield.

 
v32

Paul now exegetes the conditional clause, v31, here the positive side, while in v33 and v34 he gives us the negative side. "If having done the inexpressible in choosing to provide salvation, will not God freely give us every gift relating to this salvation?", Dumbrell.

oJV ge "he who" - who indeed. This construction (rel. pro. + particle ge) is disputed. Best taken as forming a causal clause, "seeing that he spared not", Argyle. Other possibilities include: as NIV, ref. BDF, where the particle is viewed as a meaningless appendage, or "the same God who ..", Lagrange, where the particle serves to give emphasis to the pronoun; "he who even spared his own Son ..."

ouk efeisato (efeidomai) aor. "did not spare" - In the sense of "did not prevent from suffering", TH. Probable allusion to Abraham's intended offering of Isaac, the difference being, that God went ahead with the offering of Christ. "God did not keep back his own Son", CEV.

tou idiou adj. "his own Son" - the son of him. The adjective serves as a substantive, genitive of direct object after the verb efeidomai, "spare". Underlining the filial relationship between the Father and Jesus.

alla "but" - Strong adversative.

paredwken (paradidwmi) aor. "gave [him] up" - gave over. In the sense of "gave over to die", so "offered up as a sacrifice." The verb is used of Judas betraying, giving up, Jesus. The word expresses strong intent.

uJper + gen. "for [us]" - on behalf of. Substitution is probably intended, "instead of us", Lenski, although benefit / advantage / representation is possible, "on our behalf"; "for our benefit", Cranfield.

pantwn gen. adj. "all" - The "all" is all believers, Jew and Gentile believer alike.

pwV ouci "how [will he] not" - how not. In a rhetorical question pwV, "how", will "call an assumption into question, or reject it altogether", BAGD, although here the negation produces the opposite sense, "most surely." So, as a rhetorical question, "how can he now not do the less?", Morris. "Surely he will give us everything besides!", Moffatt.

kai "-" - and. Adjunctive; "how is it possible that he shall not also ..." The argument Paul is running is that given the unbelievable kindness God has shown toward us, it would be absurd to assume that He would avoid following up with even greater kindness.

sun + dat. "with [him]" - Accompaniment / Association.

carisetai (carizomai) fut. "give" - freely give.

hJmin dat. pro. "us" - [all things] to us. Dative of indirect object. What are the ta panta, "all things"? Possibly all things spiritual and material, so Moo, but better, "the sum of all things", Robertson.

ta panta adj. "all things" - The adjective serves as a substantive, the sense being "the sum total of what we now need", Lenski.

 
v33

ii] If God has acquitted us, no one can condemn us, v33-34. The punctuation of v33 & 34 is not overly clear (possibly a set of questions without answers is intended, see Moffatt), but probably v33b answers the question posed in v33a, while v34b+ answers the question posed in v34a. The question in v34a is simply a reworking of v33a. The answer to the first question reads "who dare lay a charge against us when God the Judge pronounces our sentence of acquittal", Hunter. The answer to the second question reads "there may be many who condemn, but their case will not stand in the heavenly court", Schreiner.

tiV "who" - who, what. The question expects a negative answer.

egkalesei (egkalew) fut. "will bring any charge" - will bring a charge. Deliberative future. A legal term referring to a charge brought against someone in a court of law. Paul obviously has in mind a court scene.

kata + gen. "against" - against. Expressing opposition.

eklektwn gen. adj. "those whom [God] has chosen" - the elect, chosen [of God]. The translation "chosen" is misleading. The adjective serves as a noun. The word refers to God's elect people, the faithful remnant of Israel (actually "an old name for Israel", Black), the membership of which is by identification with Christ, through faith. The lack of the article indicates Paul has in mind, not so much this people as such, but those who are such as these, "whose characteristic is to be elect", Morris. "Who will come forward to accuse God's elect", Cassirer.

qeou (oV) gen. "God" - of God. The genitive is adjectival, relational / possessive, "God's elect", ESV. Harvey suggests a genitive of agency, "by God", a rather rare classification, so taking the adj. "elect" as a verbal noun, "chosen by God."

qeoV "God" - The position in the Gk. is emphatic. "God himself declares them not guilty", TEV.

oJ dikaiwn (kidaiow) pres. "who justifies" - [God is] the one who justifies. The gnomic present participle serves as a substantive. The verb "to be" is supplied by the NIV. Again we have this word, so central to the argument of Romans, although this is actually the last time it will be used by Paul in this letter. Of course, we bring to the word our own framework of systematic theology, but leaving aside all the imputed/imparted issues we are left with the base sense of "puts right", either in the sense "God himself declares them not guilty (innocent)", TEV; "gives a verdict of acquittal", Dumbrell, or probably better, "sets right", Jewett. If God sets us right with him, then who dares to bring a charge against us? Jewett rightly notes that the use of the word in this context reminds us that God's justification of the sinner is not simply the forgiveness of the sinner. "Through the death of Christ, God rectifies the relationship between God's self and humans, transforming those who accept the gospel into God's elect", Jewett. Martyn's word choice is "rectification", although there is something incongruous about the word.

 
v34

No one, either ourselves, others, or even the powers of darkness, can bring any sustainable charge against us with Christ as our advocate. In Christ we are perfect, so no charge of imperfection can stick.

oJ katakrinwn (katakrinw) fut/pres. part. "[who] is he that condemns" - [who] the one condemning. In the sense of "pronounce guilty before God." The participle serves as a substantive translated as a relative clause. Sandy and Headlam note that "justifies", v33, being a present tense (although it could be a futuristic present, so Black, "God is the one who will justify"), suggests present, rather than future, here. This can only be determined by the word's Gk. accenting, which markings were not part of the original text. So, either is possible, although future seems more likely. Who is the one condemning? Punctuation is the determinate here, see above. If this verse consists of two questions and a statement, then Christ is in mind, in that he is the only one capable of condemning us and yet his intention is the opposite; "Who is the one with the authority to condemn? Will Christ? No! For he is the One who died for us", LB, cf. Morris, Hunter, Jewett ("that Christ who died for the sake of others should now become a condemner is so preposterous that it would invoke the response of believers in Rome, 'No way!'"), Mounce, Fitzmyer. If we have one question followed by a statement then the reference may be to God, "who alone can give sentence of condemnation", Dunn, or more likely undefined persons/powers who might bring a charge against us on the day of judgment, but whose charge will not stick, since Christ is on our side; "who will condemn? No one [implied]! For Christ Jesus has ......", cf. Dumbrell, Schreiner, Best, Barrett ("Satan must be meant"), Moo. "Who can say that God's people are guilty? No one! Christ Jesus died .....", NCV.

oJ apoqanwn (apoqnhskw) aor. part. "who died" - [Christ Jesus is] the one having died. This participle, as with "having been raised", may be functioning as a substantive standing in apposition to "Jesus Christ." It is also possible to treat both participles as adjectival, attributive, limiting / describing "Jesus Christ", as is also the function of the two following relative clauses "he who is at the right hand of God" and "he who intercedes on our behalf", so NIV. The aorist tense expresses punctiliar action. "Can anyone condemn them [God's elect]? No indeed! Christ died and was raised to life and now he is at God's right side, speaking to him for us", CEV.

de "-" - but, and. Coordinative and possible emphatic; "and yes."

mallon "more than that" - more, rather. Often taken in an alternate sense, "rather I ought to say", Barrett, but better in a surpassing sense, as NIV. "Yes and more, who was raised ...", NJB.

egerqeiV (egeirw) aor. pas. part. "who was raised to life" - the one having been raised. This constative aorist substantive participle is usually taken as a divine / theological passive, God being the agent, although this classification is often disputed. Possibly, although unlikely, Jesus is the agent so "the Christ who died, and yes, rose from the dead!", Moffatt. As is typical of the NT gospel, the resurrection and ascension are both underlined; we are never left at the foot of the cross.

en + dat. "at [the right hand]" - [who also is] in, on, by [right]. Local, expressing space; "at". Expressing the idea of Christ reigning with authority and power because of his privileged position at God's right hand. "Christ reigns in power for us", Phillips.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

kai "[and is] also" - [who] also. Adjunctive, "also", but possibly emphatic, "who indeed is interceding for us", ESV.

entugcanei (entugcanw) pres. " interceding" - intercedes. The present tense expressing a durative sense, thus, ongoing intercession. Intercede here in the sense of speaking on our behalf at the day of judgment. "Pleads our cause", REB, "as our advocate", Bruce.

uJper + gen. "for [us]" - on behalf of [us]. Expressing representation / advantage / benefaction; "on behalf of, for the sake of."

 
v35

iii] Therefore nothing will separate us from the love of God realized in Christ in that "we are more than conquerors, even through many opponents and obstacles are erected against us", Schreiner, v35-39. Paul's answer to the question is that no external pressure can separate us from Christ's love. Paul, referring to Psalm 44:22, reminds his readers that persecution and trouble has always pressed in on God's people, but through all this the child of God is victorious. Such pressure cannot break us away from Christ. A believer's security rests on their relationship with Christ, a relationship dependent on faith in Christ. So, our standing before God is not dependent upon our love, obedience, perseverance or faithfulness, rather it rests on what Christ has done for us. At this moment we stand perfected before the throne of the Almighty God. We are eternally secure and are being daily renewed into the image we already possess in Christ. This is not our doing, but rather it is a gift of grace from a loving and merciful God.

tiV "Who" - what. With the verb "will separate", setting up a question with a negative response. Impersonal "what" is best, even though the pro. is masc, so Jewett; "any conceivable opponent", Harvey. Paul is simply following the pattern established in v33 and 34; "can anything separate us", CEV.

apo + gen. "from" - [shall separate us] from. Here expressing separation; "away from."

tou Cristou (oV) gen. "[the love] of Christ" - The variant, "love of God", may well be original. The genitive is usually taken as subjective, namely "God's/Christ's love for us", against an objective sense, namely "our love for God/Christ." Still, a more natural classification would be adjectival, descriptive or possessive, even ablative, source/origin; "who shall separate us from Christ's love for us", Barclay.

qliyiV (iV ewV) "Shall trouble" - tribulation, oppression ("pressure", BAGD). "Trouble" best expresses the sense of this word.

stenocwria (a) "hardship" - [or] distress, difficulties. From the sense "narrow / confined", so "distress", Barclay.

limoV (oV) "famine" - [or persecution or] hunger. "Lacking food", Phillips; "going hungry", Cassirer.

gimnothV (htoV) "nakedness" - [or] being without clothing. "Poverty", TEV.

kindunoV (oV) "danger" - [or] danger, peril. "Being beset by danger", Cassirer.

macaira (a) "sword" - [or] sword, dagger, knife. "The threat of force of arms", Phillips; "violence", NJB.

 
v36

The quote from Psalm 44:22 serves to indicate that trouble is the lot of God's people.

oJti "-" - [as it is written] that. Forming a dependent statement, direct quote. The usual kaqwV gegraptai, "as it has been written", introduces the quote.

eJneken + gen. "for [your] sake" - because of [you]. The position is emphatic. Causal, expressing the reason for something, here "for Christ's sake", cf. 2Cor.4:11. "On thine account", Berkeley; "for you we face death", CEV; "they kill us in cold blood because they hate you", Peterson.

qanatoumeqa (qanatow) pres. pas. "we face death" - we are being put to death [all the day]. The present tense is durative, expressing a constant ongoing action. Probably in the sense of "we daily face danger."

elogisqhmen (logizomai) aor. pas. "we are considered" - we are counted, reckoned. The aorist possibly expresses "an accomplished fact", Morris, ie., gnomic.

wJV + acc. "as" - Not as a comparative, "like", but here expressing a characteristic quality, "as", ie., used for the Heb. predicate accusative, cf. Morris; "we are considered sheep for slaughter", Berkeley.

sfaghV (h) gen. "[sheep] to be slaughtered" - [sheep] of slaughter. The genitive is usually classified as verbal, objective, but it can be viewed as adjectival, attributive, limiting sheep; "sheep which are destined for slaughter", destined for the butcher. "That are going to be slaughtered", TEV.

 
v37

No external pressure can separate a believer from Christ's love.

alla "no" - but. Adversative, probably strong, so "none of this fazes us", Peterson.

en + dat. "in [all these things]" - Local, expressing space/sphere. Answering the question in v35. In Christ, we overcome all the circumstances of life; "in everything that happens to us", TH, cf. Turner ("with regard to"). The sense may also be "despite all these things", Bruce, "in spite of all these things", Moule.

uJpernikwmen (uJpernikaw) pres. "we are more than conquerors" - we are completely victorious, excessively victorious. "Supervictors", Fitzmyer. Hapax legomenon, once only use in NT. Expressing something more than a complete victory; "not only to overcome these things, but to emerge triumphant over them", Barclay. The NIV, following the AV which followed the Geneva Bible, makes the point nicely.

dia + gen. "through" - through, by means of. Instrumental / agency, "by means of him who loved us."

tou agaphsantoV (agapaw) aor. part. "him who loved [us]" - the one having loved [us]. The participle serves as a substantive. Of course, the reference may be to either the Father or to Jesus. If Christ, the aorist may be referring to a singe event, namely, his death on our behalf, cf. Murray, Schreiner, if God, the aorist may refer to "God's love expressed in the gift of his Son", Dunn.

 
v38

Paul now becomes more personal as he details all the pressures that move against us and try to separate us from Christ. Paul is convinced that none of these pressures can separate us from God's love, expressed and exercised through the person of Christ Jesus, v38-39. The pressures are presented in pairs:

a) "Death". This certainly can't separate us from our friendship with Christ. In fact, it is the passage by which that relationship is consummated. Nor can "life". All its distractions, pressures, pains, persecutions, enticements...... even these can't break the bond we have with God in Christ.

b) "Angels nor demons". No supernatural power, either good or evil, can break the bond of love.

c) "The present nor the future". Neither pressures of this day, nor of tomorrow, no matter how great, can affect our standing before God.

d) "The powers of the heights and the powers of the depths". These are spiritual powers, the powers of the stars, astrological powers. Even they cannot break our bond with Christ.

e) "Anything else in all creation". This completes the list. Nothing in all creation can interfere with God's love for those who, through their relationship with Christ by faith, are his for eternity.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why we are more than conquerors, "because ....."

pepeismai (peiqw) perf. pas. "I am convinced" - I have been persuaded. The intensive perfect expressing a past conviction which persists into the present, "have been and continue to be convinced", expresses a present conviction; "I know for sure."

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul is persuaded of.

oute ... oute .... "neither [death] nor [life]" - This correlative construction is repeated 10 times; "neither .. nor ......"

zwh (h) "life" - living, way of life. "Life", in the terms of existence, as opposed to "death", is all that may be intended; "I am convinced that there is nothing that is able to turn God's love away from us; it makes no difference whether we die or whether we live", cf. TH. Obviously, "live" along with the troubles of life; "life and its dangers or temptations", Fitzmyer.

aggeloi oute dunameiV "[neither] angels nor demons" - [neither] angels nor rulers. The angels may be good or evil angels and the "rulers" my be spiritual ("principalities", AV; "superhuman beings", Barclay) or earthly rulers. "Spirit-powers" may well cover Paul's intended meaning for this pair of words.

enestwta (enisthmi) perf. part. "the present" - [neither] things having been present [nor things coming]. This participle is balanced with the present participle mellonta, "being about to", which follows. Both function as substantives and seem to refer to the tyranny of time, "the present age with its instability and the future age with its uncertainty", Fitzmyer, although the "future" is most likely the immediate future and its "uncertainties", Harrison, ie. what tomorrow may bring. Neither can hinder the outreach of God's love. "The world as it is and the world as it shall be", NEB.

dunameiV (iV ewV) "any powers" - [nor] powers. Paul's pattern of pairs is disrupted at this point. The word is used of "mighty works / miracles" on earth and of heavenly beings (good or evil) influencing world events. There is some evidence (Byzantine text) that the word should go with "rulers" = "principalities and powers" = cosmic forces of evil, but the textual evidence is limited. None-the-less, Cranfield suggest this sense should be accepted given Paul's "rush of impassioned thought." Such a "rush" of "thought" could also tie "powers" with "height and depth"; "no power of the heights and no power of the depths", Barclay. Celestial powers may well be in Paul's mind (ie. an astrological reference, cf. Morris, Fitzmyer, Jewett, etc.). Certainly the supposed authority of the stars was commonly in mind at the time, so the "influence of the stars in their courses", Hunter, has much going for it.

 
v39

uJywma oute baqoV "height nor depth" - [neither] height, exaltation ...., nor depth. "Neither heaven nor hell", Cranfield.

tiV ktisiV eJtera "anything else in all creation" - [nor] any other kind of creature. Probably a wide generalization is intended, "any created thing", Moo, Barrett, .., "nothing in all creation", CEV. Yet, Paul may intend something more specific, eg., no other spiritual power, "conceivable being, even invisible or unknown to human beings", Fitzmyer, cf. Dunn, "any other cosmic factors", Jewett. Possibly "any other mode of being beside those just enumerated", Cranfield.

cwrisai (cwrizw) aor. inf. "to separate" - to remove. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "will be able"; "Is able to part us from", Barrett. apo + gen. "from" - [will be able to separate us] from. Expressing separation; "away from."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the love] of God" - Usually classed as a subjective genitive, ie. God's love for us, but see above.

thV gen. "that is" - The genitive article, standing in agreement with "the love of God", serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase introduced by en into a relative clause; "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

en + dat. "in [Christ Jesus our Lord]" - in [Christ Jesus the Lord of us]. Expressing space/sphere, "focused in on Christ Jesus", or association, "with, in association with" = "in union with", or instrumental, expressing means, "the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord", TEV. God's love for us (his covenanted love to the children of faith) is expedited by means of our relationship with (in union with) Christ through faith, cf. Dunn. Also possibly "the Christ event", Fitzmyer, ie., "the cross", Morris; or God's giving of his Son, Moo; or simply "that it is Christ who reveals and defines the love of God", Jewett.

 

Romans Introduction.

Exposition: 8:31-34, and 35-39.

 

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