What Did Paul Mean by 'If God Is for Us Who Can Be against Us?'
- Stephanie Englehart stephaniemenglehart.com
- 2021 26 Mar
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" - Romans 8:31
In the deep jungles of eastern Ecuador, Jim Elliot, and his wife Elisabeth, were working with the Quichua Indians. In January of 1956, Jim and four of his missionary friends were speared to death while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca tribe. Upon his death, Jim left behind Elisabeth and their 10-month-old daughter. After two more years of continued steadfastness with the Quichua Indians, Elisabeth made contact with the Auca tribe that killed her husband in order to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to them. Her story is a testament to Romans 8:31, as her life exemplified risking all for the sake of the gospel and trusting in God’s promises.
Even though God is for us, many in the world are against us. We should expect persecution, trials, tribulations, and suffering for the sake of the gospel and the name of Jesus (Rom. 8:17). What we hold to in the midst of this, is God being for us—for our good, His glory, and the conformity of us to the likeness of His Son.
What Is Paul's Meaning in 'If God Is for Us Who Can Be against Us?'
Paul authored the book of Romans in order that both Jews and Gentiles would understand Christ’s saving work. The book unpacks the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus as God’s central plan of salvation while making clear that those who are in Christ Jesus enjoy a sure hope of future glory. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), and nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:28-39). Pauls's meaning in Romans 8:31 is found in the preceding texts. There are three points we must take into context in order to gain a fuller picture of Romans 8:31.
First, we must understand that Paul’s stance on salvation comes with an understanding of God’s wrath. In Romans 1:18 he says: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” All people will experience some form of the wrath of God, as it refers to his personal anger against sin—an anger coming from His holy and loving response to human wickedness. Without an understanding of God’s wrath and condemnation, we will not have a true understanding of God’s grace. If we look at this verse without the concept of a penalty for sin, Romans 8:31 will have little effect on us. A true understanding of God’s love and mercy cannot come without a foundation of the coming wrath and judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Second, Romans 8:1-17 speaks to transformed living through the Spirit, with the pinnacle of the verses in 16-17 when Paul says: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” We are transformed from those enslaved to sin to those who are now able to fully please God. God is made known to us as a helper, and loving Father who promises us a crown of glory. However, He makes clear that the way to the crown is through the cross (Luke 9:23) The gospel provides strength through trial, not removal from trial.
Third, Romans 8:26-30 sums up the whole array of gospel benefits when we come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. We receive the Spirits intercession and God’s omniscience (v. 26-27), God’s omnipotence and sovereignty (v. 28), and eternal security as we are being conformed to the likeness of God’s Son (v. 29-30).
No Matter the Circumstance, We Cannot Be Separated
With this in mind, we turn to Romans 8:31-39 and see that nothing can separate or frustrate God’s purposes in salvation for us (v. 31). Because Jesus Christ took on the whole wrath of God in our place, we will no longer face condemnation for sin. No matter what accuser—Satan, circumstance, or the sinfulness of others—nothing can come against the love and security of God for us and win (v. 32-39). We may be mocked, beaten, bruised, or even killed, but that does not bring about the removal from God’s family, condemnation for sin and shame, or a forgotten and forsaken child of the King.
If God is for us, many in the world will be against us. We know we are to expect the same sufferings that Christ endured on earth (1 Peter 4:12-19). What Paul alludes to in Romans 8:31 is that no matter what occurs, no one can come against the power, authority, and sovereignty of God’s plans for His people. Our hope is found in the fact that God will never go back on that which He promised in Romans 8:28-30:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
How Do We Know God Is for Us?
We can rest in the fact that God is for us, simply by trusting in the good news of Jesus Christ. God showed His abundant faithfulness by giving His own Son to die for our sin. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus endured both the mocking, trial, and persecution of sinful people and the separation and full wrath of God in our place. A God who is not for us, would not give up His own satisfaction, crown, and glory to die in such a way that places His own righteousness on us. Pauls's very own story reveals the goodness and grace of God in order to save those whom He has called. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 Paul explains all he endured for the sake and advancement of the gospel:
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
He wrote knowing that more persecution and imprisonment may come, but having such faith in God’s caring hold on Him, he continued to give his life in order that others may know Christ.
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:10
Pauls's strength wasn’t found in his own ability to save himself from condemnation or those from God’s wrath. Instead, His weakness more greatly revealed God’s strength to hold us and keep us no matter what may come our way.
If No One Is against Us How Should We Live?
When I look at the passages presented here, I see three main applications for our life today. No matter what you may be experiencing today, I pray these encourage you to cling to the hope of the gospel every moment of every day.
1. If no one is against us, and God is for us, then we can live in gratitude for the saving work of God in our lives. It is not by accident that we have found faith in Jesus. God foreknew us and has called us according to His purposes. We may not understand the certain situation we are in. We may not know why God is leading us in a certain direction or allowing persecution to come. Despite whatever may be happening, God being for us means we offer our lives in gratitude for the One who removed our condemnation and replaced it with Christ’s righteousness.
2. If no one is against us, and God is for us, then we can relinquish doubt and trust His plan. We understand our suffering is for the good of others, and the good of ourselves as we are conformed more and more into Christ’s likeness. As we experience the world coming against us, we can recall this verse believing that our good and gracious Father is at the very least conforming us to the likeness of His Son, sanctifying us and transforming our hearts from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
3. If no one is against us, and God is for us, then we can proclaim the gospel boldly. We understand the purpose of our life as a believer is not so we can hide behind the power and authority of God, but rather live out of it. Knowing that no one can come against God and win, or separate us from His power and purpose, should spur us to live boldly for the sake of the gospel. We obey Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9), and share the work of God with those around us no matter the cost (Mark 5:1-20). We should make our life count like Paul and Jim and Elisabeth Elliot seeking to reach those that do not yet know the inseparable love of Christ. For if no one is against us, we have nothing to fear in living out the purposes God has revealed for us in His Word.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Made Suta / EyeEm
Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.
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