“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shalt be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
In the Epistle to the assembly at Rome we have set before us, by the Holy Spirit of God, the putting forth of Almighty power for the deliverance of His creature from the consequences of his sins and from sin’s dominion. Ephesians gives us the other side of the gospel, and that is the unfolding of Divine counsel, and the putting forth of the same power for the fulfilment of this counsel. But in both, the spring and fountain of all God’s activities toward us are seen to lie in His unfathomable love (Rom. 5:4; Eph. 2:4-10).
The greater part of the first three chapters is occupied with the state in which man is found, after all the help that in the mercy of the Creator had been extended to him, before God rose up, if I might so say, to take the whole matter into His own hand, and to lay an unshakable foundation in righteousness, upon which all who would submit to His intervention might be set in eternal and happy relationships with Himself. When the story of that intervention of God is told we find the believer in the most blessed relations with God in Christ.
But first of all, man is proven to be absolutely lost. There is no power of recovery found in the creature. Left to himself he must inevitably perish. Put into the most favourable circumstances, given the best education, given the most perfect religious training, brought up in the most moral environment: he is still a sinner. He is under death and wrath on account of his sins, he loves sin, and serves it with every member of his body; he is a slave to his lusts, and an inveterate hater of his Maker.
Only by the direct interposition of God can man be recovered out of his sinful and lost condition. And in this epistle we have a treatise by the Holy Spirit upon the way which that interposition of God has taken. He has taken upon Himself the justification of the ungodly. He asks no help from the creature. He invites not the cooperation of the sinner. He will do the whole work Himself, and He will get all the glory to His great name.
He sent His Son, who submitted to the judgment that rested upon sinful men, and bore that judgment Himself on the tree. The blood of the One who made His soul an offering for sin is on the mercy-seat, and is the witness that God has not been indifferent to the sin of which man was guilty, nor forgetful of the judgment that had gone out of His own mouth against it; and neither was He regardless of the miserable state into which sin had plunged His thoughtless, foolish, and erring creature.
We have a foreshadowing of this in the blood-sprinkled lintel on the night in which the destroying angel passed through the land of Egypt slaying the first-born son. The judgment which the angel was executing had earlier in that night passed upon the first-born Israelite, in the lamb that was slain on his behalf, and whose blood met the judicial eye of the merciless executioner.
Now the blood of God’s Lamb is on the mercy-seat on high, and is the righteous ground upon which God can justify the ungodly sinner, who in the sense of his own hopeless condition turns to God, and puts his trust in Jesus. In the cross sin is seen in its true character, for the murder of the Son of God is the climax of its frightfulness; but there its judgment comes to light in the abandonment by God of Him who represented it on the cross, in the hour in which the wrath of God broke loose against it. There also His determination to open up a way of salvation for all is manifested, for “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
In chapter 4 we come to the antitype of the crossing of the Red Sea, by which the Israelites passed out of Egypt into the wilderness, and where both the might of the Sea and of Pharaoh were destroyed. Death, and him that had the power of it, that is, the devil, were annulled in the death of Christ (2 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 2:4), who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
In the resurrection of Christ God declares His acceptance of the work of the cross, and the glory He has given Him is the witness to the value of that work in His estimation. And risen from the dead and before the face of God He is the believer’s subsisting righteousness, immaculate, untarnishable, unalterable, in spite of all the failure that may be found in the people of God down here on earth.
Now we have peace with God, who has dealt with every disturbing element that had come in between us and Himself. The foe has been defeated, our liabilities have been met, the atmosphere has been purified, nothing now remains to occupy us but that has come to light in the accomplishing of our deliverance. Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have been justified by faith, we stand in pace, we rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and with the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us we are conscious of having been led out of the world of godless lust, and from under the oppression of the devil, to the habitation of the holiness of our God (Ex. 15:13).
We come now into the wilderness, for the world is that to the redeemed of the Lord. It can yield him no support. He is not only justified, but he lives in the life of the One who is his righteousness before God. The world can yield nothing towards the support of that life. To the redeemed it is a place where there is neither sowing not reaping. Our sustainment comes from above. Christ, who has died for us, is everything to us: our life, our righteousness, our bread, the rock from which we drink, our light, our leader. His cross is for the old life and nature inherited from Adam, and which still yearns after the fleshpots of Egypt. Death to all that we were as slaves of the oppressor must be drunk. The water is bitter indeed, but the love of Christ manifested in His cross makes the most bitter water sweet, if by drinking it we may live and walk with Him.
And we are alive to God in His life, and we are to reckon it so. What is true of Him we are to reckon true of us. Therefore the Spirit of God brings before us that which is true of Him, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death has no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.” This is what is true of Christ; but as we are in Him we are to come out down here in moral correspondence with Him. Therefore we are exhorted to “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (chap. 6). Our members are no longer to be used in the service of sin, but in the service of God; and to be rendered as free men to One whom we love with all our hearts, and whom service is sweet to our souls.
Justified in the power of the blood of Jesus, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, and alive to God in Him, we are when condemnation can never reach us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” Our eternal place is in the results of His work, and in the acceptability of His person, and condemnation is a thing utterly unknown there. Our sins can never rise up against us, nor can sin any more dominate us. We are justified from our sins, and we are delivered from sin’s dominion; the love of God is in our hearts in the power of the Spirit, and the quickening of our mortal bodies is the only thing necessary to place us with our Saviour in the glory of God. This will take place at His coming again.
What a salvation! How complete! How glorious! The darkness, the distance, the bondage, the enmity, the condemnation, the fear: all gone, and gone for ever. The light in which our souls live is the light of God, the light of His eternal love. The life, the salvation, the righteousness, the relationships, the heavenly position; all are set before us in Christ where He is in the presence of God for us, and to whom we are as certain to be conformed as we are certain that He has taken us up at all: for “whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
In the end of this chapter we come to the persuasion of the Apostle. We are very ready to quote this as our persuasion. That it should be I very readily admit; but it is another thing to say that it is. The Apostle says, “I am persuaded”; he does not say that the Romans were. Still, as has been often remarked, he was as truly persuaded concerning them as he was concerning himself. He says, “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, not powers, nor things present, nor things to come, not 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.”
That love is the very nature of God, and is the source from which have sprung all His activities toward us. It was declared to us when we were yet sinners, when we were ungodly and helpless, and it was manifested towards us in the death of His only-begotten Son. This is the measure of it. Immeasurable by the creature! Like to the sun in the heavens, we may bask in its beams; we may rejoice in its living light, and comfort our hearts with the thought that it knows no change, and if it cannot be greater it can never be less toward us than it was in its manifestation in the death of Jesus. Its expanse is beyond the vision of our souls, its depths are infinite; it is higher than the heavens, it encloses in its rayonnant and ravishing embrace the utmost limits of redeemed creation. We may bathe in its life-imparting depths, we may endeavour to comprehend its illimitable vastness, we may occupy ourselves with its glorious infinitude, but its shoreless tides shall laugh at our finite creature efforts: those tides that flow from the heart of the eternal God, and which break forth before our mental vision amid the darkness of cloud-swathed Golgotha, and which have only been prevented from deluging a fallen world by the unbelief of a devil-deceived creature.
O the blessedness of having seen its manifestation, of having believed it, of knowing it, of having felt that we are the objects of it, of having it set before us in Jesus, of tracing its footprints in the dust of this world, of beholding its movements amongst the senseless multitude of wondering spectators, of seeing its invasion of death’s domain, of gazing upon its triumphs over all our enemies, of contemplating it gone back victorious to the Father’s throne, of knowing that it came not to make any demand upon me, but to give me all I needed as a free gift, and not only what I needed, but going infinitely beyond all my need as a sinner, or as a creature, that I might be all that it desired me to be for itself and for its own delight for ever and for ever! What fathomless love!
“Love that no suffering stayed!
We’ll praise true love divine;
Love that for us atonement made,
Love that has made us Thine.”
And from this love nothing can separate us.