Paul is nailing this point down, that because of the love of God, a love that is shown to us through Jesus’s death on the cross, we as believers cannot be separated from that love.
As Paul has made clear, nothing we can do will separate us from the amazing, infinite love of Jesus, including our own failures. The competing Jewish “authorities” are trying to use the threat of rejection (condemnation) to pressure the Roman believers to follow them. Paul argues “You don’t need their affection – if you understand the affection Jesus has for you, their love pales to nothing.” That would mean the Roman believers would experience the suffering of rejection by the competing Jewish “authorities,” and rejection is painful to experience.
Even if we make choices following the flesh, which reap the consequences of death (disconnection, despair), condemnation (we bring on ourselves), and slavery/addiction, Jesus is for us. But Paul does not want us to endure self-inflicted suffering. We have been given resurrection power to walk in the newness of life daily, which continues to deliver us from the power of sin when we choose to walk according to the Spirit.
There is however a suffering of a completely different sort we will endure if we walk in righteousness and follow the path of obedience Jesus staked out for us. We will suffer rejection from the world. Or, as in this case, rejection from religious leaders who have embraced false teaching. This is to be expected, Paul says, and Paul uses a quote from Psalms to prove that it has always been this way for the people of God.
In verse 36 Paul refers to Psalm 44:22, which is about the affliction that God’s people were facing at that time: “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Chapter 44 of Psalms talks about all sorts of suffering that God’s people went through, including being sold into slavery—and even death. Paul is bringing up this passage to remind believers of the affliction and pain that they will face if they walk in obedience, but in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us, we are conquerors through Jesus because no affliction or tribulation can separate us from God’s love. God wants to give us “all things” including the reward of the inheritance of Jesus, if we suffer rejection from the world, as He suffered (Romans 8:17b).
Paul runs through an extensive list of all sorts of extremes that are unable to separate us from the love of God: neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The list ends with the all-inclusive nor any created thing. His point is that, no matter what you put on the list, it is not powerful enough to separate believers (those who have placed their faith in Jesus and His sacrifice) from the love of God. There is absolutely nothing we can do to cause God to reject us.
Paul ends chapter 8 in the same way that he began it, by stating clearly that there is no condemnation for believers before God. That nothing, not the law, not the Jewish “authorities” who made slanderous claims against Paul (Romans 3:8), not death, not our sinful actions, nothing can separate us from God and His infinite love for us.
Chapters 1-7 have been building up to this point. Paul was proving why the slanderous claims from the Jewish “authorities” (3:8) are dead wrong; they claimed Paul was saying that if God’s grace increases when we sin then we should sin more so we can increase God’s grace. This is profoundly incorrect. These “authorities” were arguing that believers are still under the law, and obedience to the law was necessary to attain righteousness. In Chapter 8, Paul tells his audience that the condemnation of the law (which he laid out in Chapter 7) is no longer applicable for believers because of their faith in Jesus and the power of the Spirit. Chapter 8, from beginning to end, makes it clear that believers are now empowered to walk in the life-giving Spirit and not under condemnation from anything whatsoever. We, believers, cannot be separated from the love of God by anything, ever.
With respect to the objections raised by the competing Jewish “authorities,” Paul has now comprehensively demonstrated the theme verse of 1:16-17, that the power of salvation creates righteousness in the presence of God by faith, when we first believe, and in the experience of our daily lives when we walk in faith by the power of the Spirit. So, righteousness does indeed come by faith, from first to last.
36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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