Eternal Security

Romans 8:38-39   |   Sunday, December 2, 2007   |   Code: 2007-12-02-PJ

 By Phil Johnson

      I have in my files a letter from a first-time Grace to You listener who wrote to rebuke us for teaching the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. This woman was convinced that Christians can and do lose their salvation, so she wrote a long letter, listing practically every verse in the New Testament that contains a warning or admonition of any kind. She listed, for example, 2 Peter 1:10: "Be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." She listed 2 Peter 3:17, which says, "take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability." She listed Colossians 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." She listed 1 Corinthians 9:27, where the apostle Paul writes, "I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

     She listed a page and a half of warning passages like those and insisted that all of them were written to warn Christians that if we do not discipline ourselves and expend our energies in the effort to persevere, we have no hope of salvation. After all, she said, quoting half of Matthew 10:22, "The one who endures to the end will be saved."

     She said God's grace opens the doorway to salvation, but it is up to us, by our own "free will" and personal efforts, to maintain our salvation through to the end. And until we make it to the finish line, she said, our salvation is not secure. She claimed she found that truth taught everywhere in Scripture, and she wanted to know on whose authority we were teaching otherwise. At the end of her letter, she asked, "How can you possibly justify your teaching that it is impossible for Christians to fall away from God and be eternally lost?"

     As I read her letter, at least two dozen different biblical answers came to mind in answer to her questions. But the one text that best summarizes them all is a text the apostle Paul wrote to answer that very question. It's Romans 8:38-39—and while you are turning there, let me read that woman's final question once more, and I'll respond to it with the answer given in this text. She writes: "How can you possibly justify teaching that it is impossible for Christians to fall away and be eternally lost?" The apostle Paul replies:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,

39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The very issue Paul is writing about in Romans 8 is the security of salvation. This entire chapter (Romans 8) is an extended discourse on the subject of eternal security, and if we had time this morning, I would take you through it verse by verse, systematically showing you all the arguments Paul brings to prove why authentic Christians—true believers in Christ—can never be lost.

     We can't go verse by verse in detail, but here's a quick overview of Romans 8. Follow along with me in the text:

     Paul starts this chapter with a sweeping statement about our justification, which he treats as a settled issue: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (verse 1). He talks about the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, and he says in verses 1-14 that the Spirit of God indwells and energizes every true believer. Verse 9: "You . . . are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you." And, conversely, "anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him."

     So authentic Christians are indwelt by the Spirit of God, and that is the ultimate factor that insures their perseverance to the end. This is the ground of our eternal security. Verse 15: "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" Verse 16: The Spirit bears witness that we are God's children. And if we have been adopted, brought into God's family, then we are heirs. Verse 17: "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ."

     Verse 21 promises that we "will be set free from . . . [the] bondage [of] corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." Our bodies, which are now decaying and fleshly, will be glorified (v. 23).

     The Spirit even prays for us (verse 26) "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

     Indeed, all things work together for our ultimate good, according to verse 28. So there's nothing to fear, no danger that could ever destroy us, no evil that could ruin our salvation.

     Why? Because our salvation is God's work—all of it. Our perseverance isn't left to human free will. But God Himself guarantees that we will persevere. He graciously keeps us from falling.

     What Paul is teaching here is the doctrine of monergism, distilled to its purest essence. In other words, he is making the point that our salvation is God's work, and His alone. We're not saved by cooperating with God; we're saved by His will and His work, and all the glory belongs to Him.

     Look at verse 29, where he gives a list of the major aspects of our salvation: divine foreknowledge, predestination, effectual calling, justification, and glorification. All of it is work God does on our behalf. At no stage of salvation is any believer ever left to his own devices; given over to sheer chance; set loose in the quicksand of human free will; or abandoned by God to work out his own salvation apart from the truth that God is working in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

     Our salvation is fully accomplished by God's work alone, and God guarantees the completion of every step along the way, from His foreknowledge of us to our final glorification. That is the whole point of verses 29-30.

     By the way, the idea of foreknowledge in a context like this speaks of the eternal relationship God established with us even before the world began. It doesn't mean that God peered into the future and decided to save us because He foresaw something we might do to deserve it. It means He knew us, and set His love on us, and sovereignly chose us for salvation, long before time began. He foreknew us—He knew us as His own loved ones before the foundation of the world. It doesn't merely mean that He knew what we would do or how we would react to the gospel. He knew and loved us before the beginning of time.

     Paul also uses that dreaded word predestination—teaching that God chose us and determined our destiny in eternity past. And what is that destiny? Here he says it is final glorification in eternity future. Notice: every aspect of that whole process is God's work. Paul Doesn't describe anything we do for ourselves. In fact, his whole point is that from start to finish our salvation is accomplished for us entirely and exclusively by God's work on our behalf.

     Therefore there is no possibility that God's plan for our salvation could ever be overthrown, defeated, nullified, or left undone. Our perseverance in the faith is guaranteed by God Himself, and no enemy (no matter how powerful), no circumstance (no matter how tragic), no trial (no matter how severe) could ever alter or undo God's plan for us. Those whom he has chosen will be glorified and conformed perfectly to the image of Christ, period.

     And Paul makes that very point, starting in verse 31: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"

     Now, follow the progress of his logic here. If God has undertaken to save us, no enemy, no matter how powerful, how pervasive, or how persistent—no enemy—can overthrow the work of God on our behalf.

     And the supreme guarantee of our security is bound up in the finished work of Christ. God has already sacrificed His Son to save us. He already gave on our behalf what was most precious to Him. And if He already did that, how could anyone ever fear that He might withhold any grace, or favor, or strength, or aid, or comfort, or gift, or empowerment—or anything—that we might need before we reach the finish line?

     Notice, again, what God has predestined us to (verse 29): "to be conformed to the image of his Son." Until that is fully finished and the goal is finally reached, there is no possibility whatsoever that God's work on our behalf will be permanently sidetracked or ultimately overthrown. "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." That's Philippians 1:6—that famous promise that God will always finish what He starts.

     And since God gave everything at the very outset, when He sent His own dear Son to die to pay the price of our sins, there is no possibility that He will withhold any good thing from us now. First Corinthians 3:23: "You are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Psalm 84:11: "the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold."

     So the work of God isn't going to stall.

     But what if we mess up? What about when we sin? God won't fail, but we do fail. What happens then? Do we incur the wrath of God every time we sin anew?

     Remember, Paul started this chapter with a sweeping statement: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Judicially, justification takes care of all our sins—past, present, and future. All our guilt is covered by the blood of Christ. When God justifies us, He doesn't merely wipe the slate clean and say "Go and sin no more." He also imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ—covers us with His own righteousness like a garment. So that we have a perfect standing before Him, and we are accepted in the Beloved One (according to Ephesians 1:6).

     And if Christ has fully paid for our sins and covered us with His righteousness, we cannot be condemned. That is the very argument Paul is making here in Romans 8. Verse 33: "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies." If God has already declared us righteous, who can declare otherwise? Verse 34: "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." Who is going to condemn us? Christ certainly won't. On the contrary, He pleads our case before the throne of God. He intercedes for us.

     Paul is making the case for our security in Christ as airtight as possible. Verse 35: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?" There is no trial, no temptation, no threat, no earthly evil, no danger, and no weapon that can ultimately shake our security in Christ. Paul could not possibly state the case any more plainly or any more exhaustively than he does here.

     Nothing and no one can defeat God's plan of redemption for His people. As Jesus said in John 10:28-29, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [He also said] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." No earthly evil, no earthly enemy, no spiritual foe, no force in the spiritual realm, and no degree of persecution—even at the point of a sword—can ever overthrow a genuine believer who has been grafted into Christ. Verse 37: "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

     Now, inevitably, someone will try to argue that Paul doesn't say we can't overthrow ourselves. What if through stupidity or sloth or sin we stumble and fall? Is it possible for a sinning believer to remove himself from God's hand?

     Not if he is a true believer. If you are a genuine Christian, Philippians 2:13 says "God [is at work] in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Jude 24 says God "is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy." Romans 14:4: "The Lord is able to make [us] stand." So that you and I can say as confidently as the apostle Paul does in 2 Timothy 4:18: "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom."

     Scripture is very clear about this: the only ones who fall away are those whose faith was never even genuine to begin with. Make no mistake; there are people who profess faith in Christ but fall away and abandon the faith. They may appear for a time to have authentic, vibrant faith, but it never bears any real spiritual fruit. Jesus describes such people as seed-sprouts in shallow, rocky soil. Luke 8:13: "When they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away."

     Their faith is shallow and temporary. It is not true saving faith. Like the multitudes in John 6 who followed Jesus because he fed them and did miracles, but who turned away as soon as they understood what He really stood for. They are people who were never genuinely converted in the first place. First John 2:19 says so: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."

     If your faith is real, you don't need to fear that you might lose it. But if your faith is merely a fragile, shallow, skeptical, vacillating, temporary kind of pious assent, you have no salvation to lose. That's the reason Scripture is filled with warnings and exhortations like 2 Corinthians 13:5: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?; unless indeed you are disqualified" [meaning, "reprobate, utterly unredeemed"].

     But genuine believers never need to fear a final defeat at the hands of any spiritual foe. Verse 37: "We are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

     And it's at this very point in Romans 8 where the apostle Paul sums up what he has been saying with the words of our text: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

     That's deliberately poetic. It's an inspired hymn about the security of the true believer and the love that will not let him go. Notice that the stress is on the love of God, not any inherent ability in the sinner to persevere for himself. It's not that we don't let go of God's love, but that His love won't let go of us.

     We are saved because of the love of God, purchased by that love, sovereignly brought into the fold by that love—effectually called, justified, and guaranteed ultimate glorification by that same love. That's the context. That is what Paul has been saying.

     And now he says in the strongest possible terms that nothing—no power, no person, no phenomenon, and no possibility—could ever separate us from the redemptive love of God.

     So let's break the passage down and look at it methodically. Notice how Paul sets up a series of contrasts. It's as if he looks right and left, up and down, back and forth, in and out—in every possible direction—and ultimately declares that nothing in all the universe poses any threat to the perseverance and the security of the believer. He examines every possible arena from which any threat might come, and he declares that nothing in the whole realm of creation is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

     This is the strongest possible statement that those who are genuinely redeemed can never be lost. I can't imagine any words you might add to this text to make it more definitive.

     We'll break it into five sections and look at each one of them individually. Paul considers the human condition, the spirit world, the advance of time, the extremes of infinity, and all the rest of creation. He uses these poetic contrasts to make his points, so we'll follow the points of Paul's outline as we work through these two verses. I'll make it as easy as possible for you to take the main points down. So get ready to write.

     First, Paul deals with—


1. The Human Condition

     Remember this is poetic, and Paul is writing in contrasts. His thoughts come in couplets of ideas. He's making a list of opposites—death and life, angels and demons, things present and things to come, height and depth. And then he sweeps up anything and everything that might be left with the expression "any other created thing."

     And by beginning with the words "neither death nor life," he covers everything that pertains to the human condition. Nothing in all of death or life, he says, can thwart God's redemptive love for us.

     It's significant, I think, that he names death first. He was writing this epistle to believers in Rome, who were living right under the nose of the evil emperor Nero—who was a madman.

     Nero had deliberately and maliciously made Christians the scapegoats for everything that was wrong in the Roman Empire. Nero's own policies were unpopular, because he governed Rome by arbitrary and egotistical whims. He wanted to build himself a palace in the heart of Rome but couldn't because the land was not available. So he set Rome ablaze and blamed the Christians. They were a convenient scapegoat, because they were already despised by everyone else. The Jews hated the Christians because they wanted a different kind of Messiah. The pagans hated them because they didn't worship the mythical gods of Rome. Most people in that culture actually regarded Christians as "atheists."

     So Nero used the unpopularity of Christians for his own selfish political ends—and he began one of the most vicious campaigns of persecution and slaughter ever carried out by an earthly government.

     Nero used to capture Christians, bind them in layers of rags soaked in creosote, impale them on stakes, set them afire, and use their burning bodies as torches to light his garden parties. He fed them to beasts in the gladiatorial arenas. He would sew them up in the skins of animals and feed them to lions. He tortured and killed them in vicious ways, apparently just out of sheer delight because he liked to watch helpless people suffer.

     And that kind of thing is what Paul acknowledges and refers to in verse 36. he is quoting Psalm 44:22: "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

     And yet, Paul says, We are the conquerors, not the conquered. In fact, we are more than conquerors (verse 37). Death may threaten us. It will ultimately claim our earthly bodies for a time. But it cannot conquer us, and it cannot separate us from the Love of God in Christ.

     What about "life"? For many people, it's not death but life that poses the more frightening prospect. Face it: life in this world is fraught with sin and frustration. Earthly life in a sin-cursed world is nothing but a drawn out process of dying. So in some ways life is even more frightening than instant death—including martyrdom at the point of a sword. Remember that the apostle Paul himself came to the point of saying in Romans 7:24, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" He knew the frustrations of earthly life in his own experience.

     Death is the end of sin, the end of temptation, the end of work, and the end of trouble. It's living that's really hard. Spurgeon said, "I am not so much afraid of dying as I am of sinning; that is ten times worse." I agree with Spurgeon. The longer we live, the more we face temptation. I sometimes think it would be nice to see the end of the warfare early. And I'm not just being morbid. Paul himself agreed with that. He said in Philippians 1:23-24: "I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account." He said in 2 Corinthians 5:8: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."

     But here Paul says there is nothing to fear about life—even if you live to old age. Whatever the trials and hardships of life (and I know there are plenty) they are temporary afflictions—"light momentary affliction[s that are] preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17). And don't miss verse 18 of Romans 8: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

     Meanwhile, there is nothing in all of life—even if you should live to be as old as Methuselah—nothing in life that can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

     That's a great truth to know in times when hardships are abundant.

     Here's a second point. Paul now turns from the hardships and trials of the human condition to things we cannot even see. This is point number 2:


2. The Spirit World

     Not only is there nothing to fear from either death or life; he also says we have nothing to fear from "angels nor principalities nor powers." Earlier I read from the ESV, which says "angels nor rulers"). The Greek word there is arche, which speaks of someone in a high place of magisterial authority. Paul often puts that word together with dunamis—"powers" to make it "principalities and powers." And whenever you see that expression, it usually signifies demons. That's what I think the context suggests here—demons in contrast to "angels." But it could also be a reference to the demonic brutality of Nero. In either case, Paul says, we have nothing to fear from them.

     Now, it might seem obvious that we have nothing to fear from the holy angels. They won't separate us from the love of God, because they would have no motive to do so.

     But, remember, Paul is making a list of contrasting extremes: death and life, angels and demons, things present and things future, height and depth. He's showing that no matter which direction you look: in or out; up or down; back or forth—or whatever, you will discover no threat whatsoever to your security. So he includes in that series of extremes and opposites both angels and demons.

     And if you think in biblical terms, you might be able to imagine why Paul would include this. Almost every time anyone in the Bible ever encounters an angel, the immediate result is fear.

     And it's not just a little bit of fear, but the most troubling kind of dread, and terror, and holy horror. People who saw angels in the Bible fell on their faces and sometimes became catatonic.

     A lot of the popular lore and fantasies about angels these days has toned down this concept that the angels are something that often cause fear. Raphael's famous painting of angels has them looking like cute little kids, with their chins resting on their arms, looking bored. The actors who portray angels on programs like "Touched by an Angel" are usually benign, kindly, gentle, elderly, soft-spoken people whom you might want to have for grandparents. Or they are slightly dumb, absent-minded-old-uncle types like Clarence in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life."

     But think about what the Bible says about angels. It describes them as magnificent, imposing creatures, with features like lions and eagles and other beasts. And one of their main tasks is to guard the holiness of God. They are the guardians of His heavenly throne, and they are terrifying to look at—especially if you're a sinful creature.

     And frankly, if it weren't for the fact that God loves us and Christ covers us with His own righteousness, the holy angels would have every right to cast us out of heaven and banish us from the presence of God.

     But that's something we don't need to fear. Verse 33 again: "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies." God has already justified us.

     So what of the demons? Devils are the very same kind of terrifying creatures as the holy angels—except that they have fallen from glory and they want to overthrow us. They are powerful creatures, too, and that is reflected in this expression Paul often uses when he refers to them: "principalities [and] powers." Or, as the ESV has it, "rulers." In the words of Ephesians 6:12, they are "the rulers . . . the authorities . . . the cosmic powers over this present darkness . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" [meaning the celestial realms]. Powers—because they are incredibly powerful creatures.

     Now, that would seem something to fear, and a lot of Christians do live in constant fear of what demons might do to them. But do we need to fear them? Not according to this passage. And not according to 1 John 4:4: "Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." Even Satan himself—the arch-fiend—cannot prevail to separate us from the love of God in Christ. You see that played out clearly in the book of Job, where Scripture gives us a glimpse behind the scenes, and we learn that Satan is powerless to do anything God does not expressly permit him to do.

     There are times when the devil might desire to sift us like wheat—but even if God gives him permission to do that, we have Christ interceding for us, guaranteeing that our faith will never fail.

     Jesus taught us to pray, "lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from [the] evil [one]" (Luke 11:4). And God always answers that prayer. Satan Himself—with all his minions, and with all his evil devices—cannot separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

Martin Luther wrote this stanza that we often sing:

And though this world with devils filled

Should threaten to undo us

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us.

This text at the end of Romans 8 is an explicit promise of that truth.


     Next, Paul moves from the spirit world to the realm of earthly worries. And here he covers a vast assortment of troubles, and says even these can never defeat us spiritually. If you're taking notes, this is number 3. We'll call it—


3. The Advance of Time

     "For I am sure that neither . . . things present nor things to come . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

     "Things present [and] things to come." That covers just about everything you might ever worry about. What is included in "things present"? Whatever burden you are currently struggling with.

     And trust me, I know that every week, people come to Grace Church with almost unbearable burdens—financial worries, heartaches you could barely imagine, depression, sickness, worries about wayward children and other family members, struggles that you have hidden in your own hearts and feel you can't share with anyone—and every kind of human anguish. "Things present"—those are the very things Paul is talking about in verse 18, when he says, "the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Trust me: for some people—many people right here in our midst—the sufferings of this present time sometimes seem overwhelming, oppressive, and devastating.

     Here's a promise you can cling to in the midst of those present difficulties: They can never separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God's tender lovingkindness and compassion may sometimes appear to be obscured from your view and cut off from your experience. And there are times of spiritual darkness when all hope seems extinguished. But nothing can completely separate you from God's love, if you are in Christ. And God promises that you will always triumph in Christ. That's the true reality for every Christian. It's an anchor that will keep you steady in the midst of all things present.

     What about "things to come"?


     No real threat there, either. And that's really good news in an age of uncertainty, terrorism, and worldly prospects that frankly, all look bleak from an earthly perspective. The world is getting darker (isn't it?) and we are often reminded of that fact by the evening news.

     What does the future hold for you and for me? I don't know, but I'm reaching an age where I often am reminded that the future can't possibly all be pleasant. I'm not getting any younger, and neither are any of you. If all you contemplate is this earthly life, things can be pretty frightening. That's why Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19: "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." Because, frankly, even the highest of all our earthly hopes aren't that bright. (I hate to sound like such a pessimist, but that is the reality of life in a world that is cursed with sin.)

     But, thank God, this life isn't our only hope. No matter what the future brings, it cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ. Our future—our ultimate future (which is the only part of the future that really matters)—is secure in Christ. Nothing future can jeopardize us, because God has set His love on us for all eternity. And there will come a time when all the things now future that might frighten you will be distant memories—if you remember them at all in the bliss of heaven where God's love will be poured out on us in undiluted fullness throughout eons and eons of eternity. That's a thought that will give you boldness and security, if you can just lay hold of it.

     And think about this: If you're a believer, that is only because God's love has already laid hold of you. The advance of time cannot bring anything into your experience that will tear you away from that love. That's what Paul is saying.

     Now he moves to the next idea. This is number 4 on our list:


4. The Extremes of Infinity

     He adds two more contrasting expressions at the beginning of verse 39: "Nor height nor depth." I love this expression, because it underscores how utterly infinite our security is. There are no boundaries you can possibly imagine to limit the ideas of height and depth. Paul is saying that no matter how far you go to the furthest reaches of infinity, you will never go beyond the reach of God's love, and you will never discover any real threat to your security in Christ. To borrow words from Psalm 139:8-10:

If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

Now, I'm not the kind of person who is easily frightened by heights. My dad was a roofing contractor, and he would sometimes take me to the tops of high buildings, even when I was very young. I love the views you get from lofty heights. I've never been afraid to fly, and I love to stay on the upper floors in big hotels.

     But some people fear heights. And I mean that in both a literal and figurative sense. There are some people whose fears actually seem to be intensified when they are on the mountaintop. When things in life are going well, fear seems to arise in them. Darlene is a little like that. She always reminds me when things are going well that something is probably going to go wrong. And it usually does.

     And let's be honest: there's a healthy dose of wisdom in that kind of caution. First Corinthians 10:12: "Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."

     There's danger in the heights. But it's not the kind of danger that ought to paralyze us with fear. Paul says God's love itself is infinite, and it reaches to the highest heights, so that no matter what heights you may ascend to, God's love for you is higher still.

     And what about the depths? I think most of us are more familiar with the depths than with the heights. The psalmist had a lot to say about the depths. Psalm 130 is all about this: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!." And Psalm 18:4-6:

The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me;

5 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.

6 In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

I could multiply quotations from David, but I won't. He was familiar with the depths, but he always testified that God's love invariably found him in the depths, raised him up out of the miry clay, and set his feet on a rock. So that he could confidently say, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

     No depth is so deep that it isolates us from the love of God. And that is a source of the greatest kind of security.


     We have to move on. Here's a quick review: Paul has looked at the human condition; the spirit world; the advance of time; and the extremes of infinity. And in none of those realms does he discover anything that can threaten the security of the true believer whose life is hid with Christ in God.

     So now he turns to one final category, in order to make his meaning perfectly clear.

     This is the only category he gives that doesn't involve a contrasting pair of ideas. It's a catch-all category that sweeps up every other conceivable idea, in order to say as plainly as possible that nothing in existence anywhere or at any time poses any threat to the Christian's security. If you're taking notes, this is number 5:


5. The Rest of Creation

     Now, to be honest, all the things Paul has already named would already seem to cover every possible threat to the Christian's security. But just in case, he adds this final phrase (v. 39): "nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

     The Greek expression can be translated literally like this: "nor any other created thing." But I like how the ESV perfectly captures the sense of it: "[nothing] else in all creation."

     That's pretty comprehensive, isn't it? Because if you think about it, when you eliminate all of creation, all you are left with is God. And—(now pay attention, because this is the whole point of Romans 8)—God has already justified us. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

     That passage taken as a whole, in its context, is an amazing statement about our security, isn't it? It always amazes me that there are Arminians who can read this passage and still tell people that if they are not careful, they'll lose their salvation and be separated from the love of God forever. Frankly, that is why I hate this aspect of Arminian doctrine: it is a lie from the pit of hell.

     If you're a Christian, you don't need to fear death or life, angels or demons, time or eternity, height or depth, or anything else in all creation. If you are in Christ, you are secure there. You can live with confidence, and you can function without fear. And you'll discover that there's a great amount of spiritual power in that confidence.

      But what if you're here this morning without Christ? You need to know, and I want to say to you with heartfelt concern, that none of these promises apply to you.

     But in fact, the very opposite is true. Just as nothing can shake the security of the true believer, nothing in all of life or creation can save the unbeliever from the penalty of his sin or the weight of his guilt.

     Only Christ can do that. And the good news is that Christ invites all comers. He promises to give eternal life and therefore eternal security to all who turn from their sin and turn to him in simple faith. You cannot do anything to earn His favor, but He has already gained favor with God on behalf of all who will trust Him as their only Savior. He removes their guilt and covers them with the garment of His own perfect righteousness.

     And I have good news for you: He offers the water of life freely to all who are thirsty.

     My prayer for you is that the Spirit of God will lead you to that stream, so that you will have a full share in the blessed promise of this text.