Tuesday, July 20, 2010

what shall we say to these things?

What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all,how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or peril, or nakedness, or sword? As it is written: “ For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I love this passage... it reminds me of that part of Psalm 139 which the Jerusalem translation has as "close behind and close in front you fence me around, shielding me with your hand." I think this, and the rest of the chapter, is sort of a summary of all that has gone before, nailing down again the point that as long as we put our trust in God nothing can take us away from him and we will be changed to become like Jesus.

Here is the fence Paul describes, which keeps us safe.

Our all-powerful God is on our side. No-one can beat him.

So, say we sin. Who is going to charge us with it and say we deserve death?

God is the judge, and he already not only pardoned but adopted us.

That sounds like favoritism, not justice. A sin not punished is unjust, and God by definition is just.

But wait! How could someone condemn--that is, say that this sin is deserving of death? Someone already died for it!

Well, he probably died for his own sin, and deserved it. you should still get yours.

no! it was Jesus himself, who had no sin!

Yeah, but he was innocent, and is probably mad about it.

No! in fact, he is the one who is asking God to forgive us. So, justice is satisfied and mercy given, through Christ's love.

Ha! But you are a hopeless case, and besides look at all the bad stuff happening to you. Doesn't that mean that Christ doesn't love you any more?

Well in fact, no.

What does this mean and what does it not mean? It means that when we are on God's side we don't need to be at all afraid of the flesh or the devil... that is, there isn't any sin that we can't bring to God and be delivered from and forgiven for. It also means that even when horrible things happen to us, we don't need to be afraid that it's a sign that God is really mad at us and decided to throw us away.

I think it doesn't mean that:

1. Nothing we can do can lose us our salvation. It seems like all the things mentioned that can't separate us from the love of Christ are external things. Can our own heart inclination separate us from the love of Christ? We are in the category of "any other created thing", so I guess not even that will separate us from his love. But I think we can put ourselves outside the protective fence, if we choose to reject Christ's sacrifice. The fence won't break, but we're free to jump it if we really want to.

2. Because of God's love, nothing really bad will happen to us. It's easy to know this isn't true until something bad happens and then you just think, why did God do this to me? But the passage clearly suggests that famine and nakedness and the sword might very well come to people that Christ loves. They can't separate you from his love, but his love doesn't stop them coming.

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