True or false: “all things work together for good?” Everything works for good? Really, everything? That’s hard to believe. Everything includes earthquakes and natural disasters, sickness and disease, human failures, ruined lives, and death. Those things really work for good? It sounds like there is in every cloud a silver lining. It often reminds us of the statement that suffering builds character.
Paul tells us “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Sometimes it may be hard for us to see the good in the evil that happens. Paul doesn’t say “we hope” or “we wish”, but instead says “we know.” It indicates the knowledge that comes from revelation rather than personal experience. We believe it because the Holy Spirit has convinced us that these things are true. And we love God because we have come to understand how He first loved us. We see the love that God has for us in that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to come into the world and to live and die in your place.
God did something great and wonderful for His people. Paul says that He foreknew them, He predestined them, He justified them, and ultimately He glorified them. All of that, God did for you. He foreknew you from the beginning of time. He made you to be in His image, the image of perfection and holiness. Unfortunately, that image didn’t last long, but to restore that image, He sent His Son. Through Jesus, you were justified by His grace, and because of His death and resurrection for you, you were glorified. You were glorified because you received the holiness and perfection that belongs to Christ.
All of that leads to one thing: God is for us. That’s what Paul is saying. There is no “if” about it: therefore, he says, who can be against us? No one can overpower the Lord or trump His authority: if He is for you, who can stand against you? No one. There will be those that try, namely the usual suspects of the devil, the world and your sinful flesh; and among those we need to include all sorts of people who – whether they have the best or worst of intentions – seek to lead you from God, and thus lead you to stand against God.
God is for us. But how do you know for sure? How do you that you’re among the “us” rather than the “them”? The next few questions in the text tell you how you can be certain.
“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” There’s your certainty – it’s Jesus and His cross, a theme that you find again and again throughout the epistle to the Romans. God has already given up His Son for us all: He didn’t spare Him, but rather condemned Him on the cross so that He might spare you – spare you the judgment of hell for your sin. Having already done the far more difficult thing – the damning of His own Son to give you life, why would the Lord not do the comparatively easier thing of caring for you and preserving your life in Him? The price has been paid for your sin, so God no longer calls in the debt from you; and since your sin is gone for Jesus’ sake, what would keep God from helping you? Nothing. That’s why you can be sure that He will graciously give you all things.
God has judged you and you have been judged to be not guilty. All of your sins which you have committed or will ever commit have been forgiven. When the Law is broken, the transgression must be punished. Normally, it is the guilty one who suffers; that is only fair. But what if an innocent man suffered your sentence? If the sentence was already carried out, would it be right to carry it out again?
I have news for you: Jesus Christ is innocent. With His full consent, God has already declared Him guilty of your crimes. In fact, God has already punished Him for your crimes and sentenced Him to death instead of you! The sentence for your guilt has already been carried out upon Jesus; and for His sake, God has no intention of carrying out the sentence again on you. That is the grace of God. He has declared you to be innocent.
If you are innocent, then you are free to go. No one can accuse you before God, who has chosen you to be His own and made you His own through faith in Jesus Christ. That being said, Satan will continually try to tempt you and make you doubt the love and forgiveness that God has shown to you. Satan will tell you that you still sin, and for someone who says that God is for you, some of your sins are downright wicked. He’s right; your sins are downright wicked, every last sin, from the greatest to the least of them. He will use God’s Word to make you doubt. God says that He is for you; but he will tell you that you’re not for God. You’re still sinful. You’re still guilty. He is right, you are still sinful because you never cease to commit sins this side of heaven. However, you’re still “not guilty,” regardless of what Satan says.
Paul gives to you the question and answer to send Satan packing: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Keep that in mind for those times that you are tempted to believe that your sins and failures are too much for God to forgive, that you have to be more faithful before He can forgive you. It sounds noble, but it’s not. It means that Satan has brought a charge against you: but knowing that it won’t hold before God, he’s told you instead. He’s said that you’re too sinful to be forgiven, that you’ve forfeited your standing as a child of God. Thus Paul’s question: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” In other words, the Lord declares to you that though Satan charges you that you’re guilty before God, Satan cannot back that up, because it is God and God alone who justifies and declares you to be not guilty.
Your verdict of “not guilty” stands because of Jesus and His life, death and resurrection. It is by Jesus and His sinless life in your place that you are able to stand before God, sins forgiven. For all of your sins, you have Jesus Christ who intercedes on your behalf. Your sins are damnable. Your sins bring only death. Your sins bring eternal separation from God. Jesus intercedes on your behalf so that you are not damned, but instead receive the keys to heaven. Jesus intercedes on your behalf so that instead of death, you receive everlasting life. Jesus intercedes on your behalf so that instead of eternal separation from God, you have direct access to God because of Christ’s righteousness given to you.
Paul asks the final question to the Romans, a question that he should not need to ask to those who believe, for they already know the answer. He asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The question was not meant to be theoretical. In times of trouble Christians ask this question. Paul is writing about his own troubles as well as those of other Christians. The earthly pilgrimage of the saints of God is accompanied by the adversity Paul lists in this verse as well as in verses 38 and 39. When Christians suffer physical harm it outwardly seems as though Christ has separated Himself from His people and has abandoned them. On the contrary, none of the above things “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God is for you because Christ has died for you. And because Christ is risen from the dead, God is here for you. Troubles will come, but you are not forsaken. In Christ, you are more than conquerors; because you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.