In Romans 8:31-39, Paul is showing that we are at peace with God who has freely given us everything, so that nothing at all can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. God has justified us. He has declared us righteous because of Jesus alone. Then no one can ever bring a charge against God’s people that will stick (Romans 8:33). We have the Holy Spirit interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27), and the risen Christ interceding on our behalf, pleading the atonement. No one can ever condemn us again. Indeed, Romans 8:1 tells us there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
In the same way, no suffering, even if it appears to thwart our ministry, can ever separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-36). The things listed in Romans 8:35 are Old Covenant curses. Tribulation occurs in Deut. 28:52. Trouble occurs in Deut. 28:53. Both terms appear in Duet. 28:55,57. Persecution appears in Duet. 28:22,45. Famine and nakedness appear together in Deut. 28:48. The word ‘peril’ does not appear in the covenant curses listed in either Deut. 28 or Leviticus 26, but the idea of peril pervades both contexts. Finally, the sword appears in the covenant curses in Deut. 28:22 and Leviticus 26:26-37.
So we see that not even Old Covenant curses can separate us from the love of God. Anyone who was under the Mosaic Covenant who broke or despised the covenant came under God’s wrath: “The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; His wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven” (Deut. 29:20).
Since these sufferings appear in the covenant curses, they are things that under the old covenant separated the sinner from the love of God. Yet now, with Jesus’ work on the cross and at the right hand of God, they cannot separate us from God’s love. In the outworking of God’s plan, He has, by His power, turned the signs of wrath into means of grace. They bring us into the image of Christ. Indeed, all things work together for good for those who love God. God has turned covenant curse into covenant blessing.
Paul tries to help us understand the role of suffering in our lives. He quotes from Psalm 44 to help us see the part played by suffering. The psalmist claims that Israel has been faithful to the covenant, but that God has abandoned them in battle. They are experiencing Covenant Curse even though they have been obedient to the covenant! Paul has explained that suffering is how we come to the kingdom. Its likely that Israel has been subjected to the same kind of thing. Psalm 44:22 gives us some insight to the particular situation they are facing. They have been involved in warfare for God; they were being faithful to the covenant.
God did to them the same thing He did to Abraham and to Jesus, and what He does to us. God set obstacles in the way of their faith. Those obstacles appeared to make it impossible for them to fulfill their God-given ministry. They suffered profoundly in the face of the obstacles, but the obstacles did not weaken their faith. Suffering was not the end of their ministry or of their hope. They did not understand it, but they did not give up. This is the life to which God has called all of His people today.
Suffering for us does not mean that we have been evil. It means that we are God’s children, and He is dealing with us by His love. It is His love that motivates His discipline (Heb. 12:5-6), and suffering is the means of His discipline. God’s loving discipline always results in sharing His holiness, Christlikeness. When God puts obstacles in our way, painful hindrances to our ministries, we need not loose hope.
Romans 8 teaches that all things work together for good to those who are called according to God’s purpose. Then even Satan himself and all his infernal authorities cannot separate us from the love of God. They, like death, can cause us pain. They will cause us sorrow. They have no intention of doing us good. But because of the sovereign, eternal plan of our loving Father, all they can do is help us to become like our Savior. Not even demons can separate us from the love of God that is in our Lord Christ Jesus.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, there is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), and we have peace with God (Romans 5:1) in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why we must learn to receive each other by grace, as Christ received us. None of us deserves what God has done, is doing, or will do for us. We all stand before God without works of law, solely by the meritorious righteousness of Jesus Christ. He makes no demands on us that He does not Himself provide to us. Then in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must demonstrate grace. The “must” of grace is not one of law. It is the obligation of nature. For the recipients of grace, grace is the necessity of our lifestyles and our interrelationships. Nothing else is possible. Then when people do not live grace, we must ask whether they have received grace. Paul has written to confront his readers with their judgmental lives. He longs for them to extend to one another the hope, grace and love they have received in Christ, lest, as he tells the Thessalonians, “our efforts have been useless” (1 Thess. 3:5).