Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Romans 8:35-39 states several things that cannot separate the love of Christ. Sin is not mentioned. Can sin separate a person from the love of Christ? Can you comment on this?
Formidable is Paul’s list of things that could potentially separate us from the love of Christ: “trouble; hardship; persecution; famine; nakedness; danger; sword; death; life; angels; demons, the present; the future; powers; height; death; nor anything else in all creation.”
Fortunately, Paul makes it clear in his next statement that none of these things are “able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
In answer to your question let me begin by explaining the term, “love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Greek language in the first century had four basic words for love. Only two appear in the New Testament. The word “Eros” is a type of sexual, romantic love which forms the basis of our English word “erotic.” “Eros” does not appear in the Scriptures.
“Storge” refers to the love of a parent for a child, or for a good friend. Neither is this word utilized in the New Testament.
“Philos” was the preeminent word for love during the first century. Once again, this word has more to do with friendship, brotherhood, parenting, and marriage.
The word “agape” was not often used in the Greek world during the time of Christ. When the biblical writers tried to express the depth of Christ’s love, their words were just inadequate.
So they infused new meaning into agape. Agape came to mean divine-like, selfless love which loves the unlovable and never stops loving.
Christ’s Agape love is our salvation security. No matter how severe the attack, or what we do, or what sins we commit, the loving Christ will never take away our salvation because his love is “agape.”
“Agape” firmly withstands every onslaught that we may face.
The reason that sin is not listed in Paul’s list of potential attackers is quite simple. The answer has to do the concepts of relationship and fellowship.
While our closeness, intimacy, and fellowship with God will suffer at times, our relationship with him can never change. When we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we become God’s children (1 John 3:1) and he becomes our father. We cannot change our relationship with God any more than we can change our relationship to our earthly father. Our earthly father will be our father no matter what may come between us. Our heavenly father will always be our father (relationship) no matter what may come between us (fellowship).
Sin is a matter of fellowship, not relationship. While sin is not mentioned in Paul’s list, sin may do more harm than anything else to stifle and impair the loving fellowship we have with God our father.
For example, Paul says that when we grieve the Holy Spirit by our sin (1 John 4:30), or when we quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:13) by living our way instead of God’s way, we impair our fellowship with him. The way to restore this estrangement is 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin, and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”
I hope, Eric, that my thoughts are helpful. May God bless you with good days ahead.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: February 23, 2017