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God is for Us, So Who is Against Us?

Series: Romans

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Jul 29, 2001

Romans 8:31-32

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God Is For Us, So Who is Against Us?
Romans 8:31-32

Please turn with me to Romans, chapter 8. When we come to Romans 8:31, we come to the culmination of Paul's argument in the first eight chapters of the book. From Romans 8:31 to 35 Paul will asked a series of four questions. And those four questions are meant to summarize the main arguments from the first eight chapters of the book. And so when he asks the question in verse 31, what shall we say then to these things, he's not simply referring to verses 28 through 30 as glorious as they are; he's not simply referring to the whole rest of the argument in Romans, chapter 8, as glorious as it is; he's referring back to the whole of the book. And you can see this, for instance, as you look at the question of verse 31, where we find "If God is for us, who can be against us." Now by saying if, Paul is not intending to raise doubt. We could retranslate what he is saying as since God is for you, who could possibly be against you? What is that question answering? It's a rhetorical question. It's meant to be self-answering. It's answering the predicament that Paul had himself pointed to in Romans, chapter 1, verses 18 through 32. God is against us, so how could it be that God could also be for us? Well, he's spent eight chapters explaining how God is for you in Jesus Christ. And if God is for you in Jesus Christ, then Paul raises this question, what could it possibly matter if anybody else other than God were against you? You see, Paul is not saying there is nobody against the Christian. He's not saying that there's no opposition for the Christian in Romans, chapter 8, verse 31. He is saying there is no opposition worth taking account of compared to God being for you. If you've been reconciled to God, if that enmity with God, and God's enmity towards you has been solved in Jesus Christ, then there is no enmity worth even taking into account. See, the rhetorical question is designed to draw your attention to a truth that Paul has explained to you in Romans previously, and bring it to bear upon your heart, so that you gain security and comfort and strength.

Now, Paul knows that it's hard for us to really drink in the message of Romans 8:31 and the rhetorical question. And so he spends verse 32 reinforcing the truth which he meant to evoke from the question in verse 31. You see, the fact of the matter is many of you struggle with really believing that God is for you. You say you believe it, and I don't doubt that you really do. But, many of you have a hard time really taking that in. There are many reasons for that. But sometimes it frankly doesn't seem as if it's so. Sometimes it's your circumstances that make it hard for you to believe that God is for you. Things are so bad that you can't possibly believe that this glorious truth is true. For others of you, it's your background. There may have been a relationship with a parent, father or authority figure that makes it very difficult for you to really accept that you are loved in totality and completeness by the great God of the universe. For whatever reason, it is important for Christian experience that we understand that. And Paul clearly thought it so, for after he had asked the question which he intended for you to supply the answer, he reiterates this truth in verse 32. And we're going to give our attention to verse 32 today. Let's hear God's Holy Word, beginning in Romans 8, verses 31 and 32.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"

Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy and inspired word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts. Let's pray.

Our Lord and our God, we ask that by the Spirit, You would bring the truth of the Word home to us, comforting or convicting, strengthening, and causing us to bless You for the blessing that You have given to us. In Jesus Christ, these things we ask in His Name, Amen.

Paul wrote these words with a very practical purpose in mind. The Roman Christians to whom he was writing were wrestling with great problems, and they needed to be assured of God's love for them, of God's grace towards them, that God was for them. And so Paul points them to this magnificent demonstration of the love and the grace of God. And he says to them, here is the measure of God's love for you. This is how you can know that God is for you. And in those moments when we question the love and goodness of God, and we ask if we have or can find the resources to continue, Paul is waiting for us in these great verses. And he's here to offer to you four conclusive proofs that God is for you. That if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, that have you rested on Him alone for salvation, that God is for you. And I'd like to walk through those four great proofs and helps today. And you’ll see the first one in the very first words of verse 32.

I. We see God's love for us because He was involved in our redemption.

Here Paul tells us that we see how much that God is for us, in the Father's involvement in our salvation. Look at what he says. He says, "He did not spare His own Son. But He delivered Him up for us all." You see these words remind us of the involvement of the Father in our salvation. Now, in what I am about to say, I do not want in any way to diminish the involvement of the Lord Jesus Christ in our salvation. And I do not want to denigrate in any way the unique work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. But I want you to understand that that's not Paul's focus here in Romans 8:32. His focus is on the love of God, the Father. It is He who did not spare. It is He who delivered up His Son. In other words, Paul is focusing our attention on the priesthood of God the Father.

And this is a very important truth for us to learn, because sometimes our whole picture of God the Father is wrong in our salvation, as if, somehow, salvation were wrested grudgingly from the hands of a reluctant deity. As if Jesus were somehow on the cross pleading to get the Father involved in His people's plight, pleading to get the Father to love His people, pleading to get Him involved in the redemption of His people.

But that is not the biblical picture at all, and it's certainly not the picture of Romans, chapter 8, verse 32. Indeed, it all began with the Father's love. He loved. He sent. He helped the Son through His earthly ministry. And in the final analysis, He is the one who renders up His Son as a sacrifice for our salvation. And it's so important that we catch this Biblical emphasis as we contemplate the truth set before us here, and as we contemplate the truth of God being for us. When we allow unbiblical notions to control our understanding of the cross, our appreciation of its glory is dimmed. When we look at the cross, we are moved by what we see happening to the Lord Jesus Christ. We sing about it. And we're moved by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we do not pause to think how the Father was moved by what was happening at the cross. When we go to Old Testament passages like Genesis 22, and we read of Abraham being called to offer up his son, Isaac. And as we hear every syllable of that directive being driven home, Abraham, Abraham, take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and offer him up as a sacrifice to me in the land of Moriah," we know that Abraham's heart is breaking. Moses doesn't have to put in a verse to say, and by the way, Abraham was absolutely brokenhearted at the thought of losing his precious son, Isaac. We know that. Moses doesn't have to tell us that. But Abraham was a mere shadow of the Creator who made him, and Abraham's heart of compassion and love for his son was a mere shadow of the love of the Heavenly Father for His son.

And so how can we think that the Father is looking at Calvary and being unmoved by what he is seeing? When we hear Joab, David's general, come in in 2 Samuel 18:33 to announce that Absalom, the traitorous son, the son who had attempted to take the kingdom away from King David, has been killed in battle by the troops of David, we understand the reaction of David that Joab absolutely didn't get. When David tears his robe, and goes into mourning and cries out, Absalom, Absalom, my son, Absalom, would that it were I who had died instead of you, we understand that kind of love. But David's love for his son, Absalom, was simply a pale reflection of the love of the Heavenly Father for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And if we take that into account, then there is no way that God the Father, Himself, is unmoved by the spectacle of what is happening on Calvary. And not only what is happening on Calvary, but what He is causing to happen.

The Father longs to answer the question, My God, My God why have You forsaken Me? Because it's His precious Son who is on the cross. And we see the Father's for-us-ness in the fact that He is involved in the rendering up of His own Son. We think of the Son losing the Father's face as He bears the wrath of God for us on the cross. But so often we forget to think that corresponding to the Son's loss, there is the Father's loss. And just as the Son comes to that point where He loses the sense of the Father's grace and presence and love, so also the Father comes to that moment, that cry - and how that moment relates to the eternalness of God I have no idea - and He faces the loss of His own Son. And I want to say that the whole glorious principle of the divine compassion is a reflection not only of the suffering of the incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, but that God the Father has been down in that suffering, down in that dereliction too. And He remembers that we are dust. And He is touched by the feeling of our infirmities. And when we pray Abba, and when we say our Father, let us remember how the Father loved and how the Father was involved and how He bore the cost, and how He endured the pain, and how He did not spare. A realization of the Father's involvement in our salvation is absolutely essential to healthy Christian experience.

So here's Paul's first word to you. Do you want to know how God is for you? Do you want to know how much God is for you? Look at the Father's involvement in salvation. The Father didn't have to be coaxed into this work of redemption. It was His plan, and He effected it at every point and was involved at every point along the way. He didn't have to be dragged into it; He produced it. There's the first great word of encouragement that Paul has for us. We know that God is for us because of the Father's involvement in salvation.

II. These words emphasize the divine glory of the Son.

But he goes on, and you see again in these words in verse 32, how they emphasize the divine glory of the Son. He did not spare His own Son. Paul is telling us that we see how much God is for us when we contemplate the exceeding preciousness of the Son. It is His own Son, whom the Father has given up. You know the Father's love for the Son is absolutely unique, and the Son's mutual love for the Father is absolutely unique. The Son was loved as no human Son has ever been loved. And He was loving as no human son has ever loved. When we hear those words of God to Abraham in Genesis 22, "Take your son, your son, your only son, Isaac is his name. The one that you love." Every syllable of that directive pierces our hearts, because we know what is going through Abraham's mind. We know the loss that he is contemplating in this precious son of his. And when we hear those words can we not contemplate the preciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father Himself. After all, we're told in John, chapter 1 that "In the beginning was the Word," and the Word was towards God, with God, mutual relationship, communion from eternity. And in Colossians, chapter 1, verse 13, He's called the Son of the Father's love. Fortunata, the early church hymnist, contemplated that in that great incarnational song that he wrote Of the Father's Love Begotten. I don't see far into those words, but we see here a glimpse of the great love for the Father for the Son, and for the Son for the Father.

But on the cross all that glory, and all that relationship and all that love was obscured. If you and I had been standing at the cross, we would have seen what all the other non-disciples saw. And that is a condemned criminal. Perhaps a thief, or a rebel, or some sort of a lawbreaker. He was in the form of a man. He was scarred, He was marred, He was bruised, He was beaten, and there was nothing of glory about Him. There was nothing about Him which would have indicated that this was the being in the universe that God loved more than everyone else. That this was the most valuable thing in the world to the one true and living God. But that's not what God the Father saw when He looked at the cross. When He looked at the cross He didn't see a man who was despised and rejected and forsaken; He saw His own Son. He saw the Son of His love. He saw the very last person in the universe that He wanted to be there. The very last person in the universe that He wanted to bruise. The very last person that He wanted to forsake.

And I want you to pause, and I want you to reflect that at the moment that the Lord God of Heaven and earth is pouring out His wrath on the Son, the Son is exceedingly precious to Him. He had always been an obedient Son. He had always caused His heavenly Father delight. We read the stories of baptism, and the Father is publicly announcing Him to the world as He speaks from heaven, and He says, "This is my Son, My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Lord Jesus Christ, in devoting Himself to this earthly ministry which would culminate in His own death, pleased the heavenly Father. And the Father broke forth in His love for the Son, and announced it to the world this is the Son of my love, and I delight in Him. At the transfiguration, when just for a moment the veil was pulled back, and the disciples, that inner circle of disciples could see for just a few moments the true glory that was the incarnate Son of God, and Peter begins babbling on about building tabernacles and staying up on top of the mountain, the voice comes again: This is My Son, the Son of My love. Listen to Him, Peter. And then there are those words that come to the Lord Jesus Christ at the beginning of the Passion Week, just a few days before He would die. And the shadow of the cross is already coming to His heart, and He is trembling with the thought of it, and His heart is deeply troubled. And He says, Father, glorify Yourself in this. Don't allow this to go on without You getting the glory for it. And the Father again speaks from heaven, I will glorify it. I will glorify You. I will glorify Myself. I've heard your prayer, My Son. And the Father delighted in the work of the Son.

But on the cross, the Son is exceeding Himself. Greater love had never been seen. There had never been a point in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, where the heavenly Father more wanted to say, This is My beloved Son. Look what He's doing for you. But when the Son cries out from that tree, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" there is no answer. And I want you to think about it.

We think about Abraham, and we think about David, and we think about all those Old Testament parallels, but you know the thing that is so striking about this passage is what's unlike those passages. Because Abraham, as he raises the knife, hears this voice from heaven which says, touch not the lad. And when the death angel approaches Jerusalem, and David has lifted up this prayer, there's this word from heaven, cease, do not destroy. But when the sinless Son of God is on the tree of Calvary, and He renders up the cry in all his perfection, and in all his agony, My God, My God, why have you abandoned Me? There is no voice. Because the Son is bearing sin. He was sin. He was a curse. He was bearing the curse that we ought to have born. And you’ll never understand the cross until you understand how intense the love of the Heavenly Father was for His Son on the cross; or how glorious was the obedience of the Son for His heavenly Father on the cross. My friends, contemplation of the preciousness of the Son in His obedience to the Father, and the cost to the Father leads us to a deeper appreciation of God's for us ness. And so Paul tells us God is for you. Look at the Father's involvement in salvation. God is for you. Look at the preciousness of the Son.

III. The totality of the Son's sacrifice.

But He's still not finished. Look at it again in verse 32 where He says, "He did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all." For we see how God is for us in the severity of the penalty meted out to the Lord Jesus Christ, in the extremity of the punishment meted out to the Son. You see these words emphasize not only the Father's involvement, and not only the Son's preciousness, but they emphasize the totality of the Son's sacrifice. He did not spare but delivered Him up. These words point to the utterly unreserved sacrifice of the Son. The sacrifice of the Son is without limit. There is no sparing, there's no mitigation of the wrath which is visited on him.

And I want you to pause, and I want you to think for a minute about this fact. He was not punished more than we deserved. Now you think of the limitlessness of His punishment, and the unsparing of God, and you contemplate what we deserve in our rebellion against God. But the point here is that He is pushed to the outer edger of the cosmos, and He is left alone. And I want to say it reverently, my friends, but there was no being in the universe who was ever less prepared to be forsaken of God than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Think about it for a minute. You and I, we have walked with the Lord for many years, and yet there are those times in our own experience where we will go for days or weeks or even months, and we will suddenly realize that we have been far from God. And the saddest thing about it is we have never noticed it until the Lord has brought it to our attention. But He had been going out and coming in with the heavenly Father from eternity. There had never been a time when He was not conscious of the Father's favor. And then suddenly there on that cross, there's this hour when this darkness falls, and when the bruising comes, and the penalty comes, and He loses the Father's face. And it's not simply that He's not spared, but He's delivered up. You remember Jesus had told the disciples that He would be delivered up into the hands of His enemies. And they didn't want to believe Him. You’re the Messiah. You’re not going to be delivered up. And after He taught them that He was going to be delivered up, He went on to say something else. And by the way, my friends, He said, I'm going to be delivered up by the most godly men of your time. The religious leaders, the Sanhedrin, the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, they are going to deliver Me up. And His disciples didn't want to believe it. And He said, I've got another thing to tell you. I'm going to be delivered up by one of you. And they said, no, absolutely not, Lord, it's not going to be one of us. We’re going to stick to You to the end.

And then the most horrendous thing we find, we find in Matthew 27, verse 46 where Jesus makes it clear that in the end it was not the Jews, and it was not His disciples, and it was not Judas, it was His Father who had delivered Him up. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? And Paul picks that up. Notice the words that He uses here. He, the Father, delivered Him up for us all. Delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, Peter would say, in Acts, chapter 2, verse 23. Well, my friends, it's not just the negative action, it's not just the not sparing, and it's not just the delivering Him up, it's the positive action of the Father that Paul has in view here. He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, that we might be the righteousness of God in Him. Or as Isaiah puts it, it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He has put Him to grief. We must never forget, my friends, that we can never go where the Lord Jesus Christ went because He went there not with us, but for us, and in our place. And when He bore the bruising, and when He was delivered up, and when He was not spared, He was absolutely singularly alone. No one stood with Him. He took it by Himself.

And I want to say that in your darkest hours and in your blackest nights, and in those times when sorrow and tribulation overwhelm your very souls, and you feel as if the Lord is not hearing your cries and prayers, you are still never where He was, because He stood there alone. And even when God metes out his disciplinary measures against His people, it's always mitigated by the Lord Jesus Christ standing in-between. We never get what we deserve, because He stood there for us. And I also want to say this to you, my friends. It's one of the great solemnities, and one of the great ironies of the faith that when we get to the gates of glory, by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, we may meet every person there. And we’ll never meet one who knows what it is to be forsaken by God, except the Lord Jesus Christ. Because he stood there by Himself receiving the severity of our penalty.

Paul is pointing here to the price of free grace. We rightly sing about the free grace that we have received from the Lord God. But there's a price to that covenant of grace. And Paul's word to us here is that this is the costliest free gift ever given. And you are the recipient of it. You can't imagine a gift more costly, and it's freely offered to you.

IV.

But that's not all. Paul has one last thing. Paul wants us to understand how much God is for us by looking at this matchless substitution, because it's not only that He didn't spare His own Son, but that He delivered Him up for us all. It's one of the great misfortunes of our lives that we have never stood before the angriness and incomprehensibility of the cross. The cross is brutal, the cross is monstrous, the cross is unjust, the cross is immoral. Why am I saying that? Because on the cross, the wrath of God is striking out at the one place in the universe where it has no right to strike. If it had been you and me, it would have made sense. If it had been the whole human race, it would have made sense. If it had the whole of the universe, it would have made sense. But the combination of Christ and cross, that makes no sense. But you see, we have domesticated this cross, and we've gotten it under control, and we've made it manageable, and we think it makes perfect sense. And here when we look at the cross and its brutality, we have to ask the question, how can this be that the sinless Son of God can be on the tree? And Paul has this word for us. For us. You see, that little phrase links Jesus to His people and renders Him vulnerable to the penalty due our sin, and explains the purpose of the cross and vindicates it from injustice, and makes it instead to be the instrument and the stratagem of salvation. Its delivering up of Christ for us as a reminder of the sheer extravagance of God's love. Can you imagine Adam in the Garden after his rebellion? The Lord comes to seek for him in the cool of the day, and He determines what he has done. Can you imagine Adam saying, okay, Lord, I've got a plan. I know I've sinned and plunged the whole of the universe into calamity and fallenness through my rebellion, but why don't you sacrifice Your own Son in my place? Well, that's ridiculous. And that's precisely what God did. You see, that's God's love. It's going too far. It's prodigal, it's wasteful, it's ridiculous. All the angels would have said so. That's God's love. It’ going too far. And in the Lord Jesus Christ He has given the greater, He's given the greatest. And the accumulation of all things else do not measure up to that which He has already given.

And so the apostle is saying, do you want to know how much God is for you? Look at His involvement in your salvation. Look at the preciousness of His Son. Look at the severity of this punishment and look at this divine, this transaction, this substitution which He has done on your behalf. And then you ask yourself a question. Is God for me? Paul says, how can you answer that question any other way. But yes, He's for me. Who can be against me? Since He is for me, who can be against me? With that great encouragement, my friends, we can face anything. May God enable you to do so. Let's pray.

Our Lord and our God, bring home Your word, we pray for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

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