David Jeremiah - Five Unshakeable Promises
"Bill Moyers's documentary film on the hymn, 'Amazing Grace' includes a scene filmed in Wembley Stadium in London. Various musical groups, mostly rock bands, have gathered together in celebration of the changes in South Africa, and for some reason the promoters scheduled an opera singer, Jessye Norman, as the closing act. The film cuts back and forth between scenes of the unruly crowd in the stadium and Jessye Norman being interviewed. And for 12 hours groups like Guns N' Roses have blasted the crowd through banks of speakers, riling up fans already high on booze and dope. The crowd yells for more curtain calls, and the rock groups oblige. Meanwhile, Jessye Norman sits in her dressing room discussing, 'Amazing Grace' with Moyers".
"The hymn was written by John Newton," she said, "a cruel slave trader. He first called out to God in the midst of a storm that nearly threw him overboard". She goes on, "Newton came to see the light only gradually, continuing to ply his trade even after his conversion. Later, though, he renounced his profession, became a minister, and joined William Wilberforce in the fight against slavery. John Newton never lost sight of grace. When he wrote 'that saved a wretch like me,' he meant those words with all of his heart". In the film, Jessye Norman tells Bill Moyers that Newton may have borrowed an old tune sung by the slaves themselves, redeeming the song just as he had been redeemed. "Finally, the time comes for her to sing. A single circle of light follows Norman, a majestic African-American woman wearing a flowing African dashiki, as she strolls across the stage. No backup band. No musical instruments. Just Jessye. The crowd stirs, restless. A voice yells for more Guns N' Roses. Others take up the cry. The scene is getting ugly. Alone, a cappella, Jessye Norman begins to sing very slowly. Several thousand raucous fans fall silent before her aria of grace".
You know, some things are just so wonderful that the only proper response is the response of silence. After presenting the wonderful truths of our relationship with God through the five links of salvation, here in Romans Paul asks for a response, but he knows that there can be none. The only real alternative is the silence of Wembley Stadium. Romans 8:31-36. At the beginning we read these words, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us"? Seems quite obvious the things Paul's talking about here are not the things he's just discussed, not those alone anyway, but all the blessed things that are ours because of Christ. His question might be translated, "What is there left to say"? Paul goes on to ask five questions of his readers, and we shall do the same thing to our listeners, to all of you today.
Notice the questions as I read it. "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 nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'"
John Stott sees Paul's interrogation like this, he wrote, "The apostle's answer to his own question is to ask five more questions, to which there is no answer. He hurls them into space in a spirit of bold defiance. He challenges anybody and everybody in heaven, earth, or hell to answer them and to deny the truth which they contain, but there is no answer, for no one and nothing can harm the people of God whom he has foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified". In answering these five questions, we discover five unshakeable promises that give us courage and hope in the midst of our fallen world. And just as there were five links in the chain of salvation in verses 29 and 30 of Romans chapter 8, here are five convictions that flow out of these wonderful verses. They have never been needed more than in days like these. First of all, for the believer in Jesus Christ there is no intimidation.
Romans 8:31, "If God is for us, who can be against us"? The way Paul asked this question, he's assuming a positive response. We could easily translate it this way: because God is for us, who can be against us? If Paul had simply asked, "Who can be against us"? there would be many answers to that question. But the question is not, "Who can be against us"? The question is, "If God is for us, who can be against us"? and what a big difference that little word "if" makes. In other words, if anyone were able to take away our salvation, they would have to be greater than God himself. In Romans 8:1, he tells us that, for those who are in Christ Jesus, "there is therefore now no condemnation". Who could possibly reverse that statement? I mean, if such a person were to exist, he would have to be greater than God himself. All the powers of hell may set themselves against us, but they can never prevail since God is on our side.
Leon Morris says it this way, "He means with God for us it makes not the slightest particle of difference who is against us. No foe can prevail against people who are supported by a God like that. The Christian's confidence is in God, not in anything he himself does, and for all eternity he can rely on God's gift. Paul is not speaking out of grim desperation, but in joyous elation". Now, listen to these words of encouragement from the Scripture which underscore this point. Psalm 27:1, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid"? You will notice in all these verses that the difference maker is God himself.
Psalm 46:1-3 and verse 11, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with swelling. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge". And then, listen to this montage of verses from Isaiah chapter 40, one of my favorite sections of the Old Testament. "It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; he calls them all by name, by the greatness of his might and the strength of his power; not one is missing. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable".
So, Paul's message is very clear here in Romans 8. If we were not able to do anything at all to recommend ourselves to God in the first place, then what could we possibly do to ruin God's work in our lives? What we could not do we cannot undo. If we could not do anything to be saved in the beginning, how in the world can we do anything to undo what God has done? But somebody may ask, "Could God take away our salvation? Since he did it, could he undo it"? And Paul's answer to that question is powerful. If God did not spare his own Son in order to bring us eternal life, then would he allow his sacrifice to go for nothing? Would God do less for his children than he did for his enemies? Would he do less for us after we're saved than he did for us before we were saved? And, of course, you know the answer to those questions.
So, the first thing we learn, the first conviction from Romans 8:31 and following, is that for the believer in Jesus Christ there is no intimidation. What shall we say to these things? And secondly now, for the believer in Jesus Christ there is no deprivation. Verse 32 says, "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"? Now, I know that most of you have read this verse many times, and it's easy for us to take for granted the truth that it contains, but think for a moment about this thought. God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all. God the Judge has a Son, an only Son. Very precious to him. That Son never committed any sin. In all that he did, he was ever-pleasing to his Father, yet on this precious and beloved Son God now pronounces the sentence we deserved. It is a sentence immeasurable in its severity, and it is carried out in its every detail. He, the Son, fully bore that horrendous curse. He drank the cup of unspeakable agony to the very last drop. That bitter cup, love drank it up. It's empty now for me.
And so, we read in Ephesians chapter 1, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ". For the believer in Jesus Christ there is no intimidation and for the believer in Jesus Christ there is no deprivation. Notice, thirdly, for the believer in Jesus Christ there is no accusation.
Romans 8:33 asked this question, question number three, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies". Even though the world and Satan are always bringing charges against God's people, those charges cannot stick because the one who justifies is also the one who is the judge. Marcus Rainsford does away with every possibility of condemnation when he writes, "There is no ground for condemnation since Christ has suffered the penalty. There is no law to condemn us since we're not under the law but under grace. There is no tribunal for judgment since ours is now a throne of grace, not of judgment. And above all there is no judge to sentence us because God himself, the only judge, is also our justifier".
Little boy was shooting rocks with a slingshot. He never hit his target and as he returned to grandma's backyard he spied her pet duck. On impulse he took aim and let fly, and the stone hit the duck and killed the duck, and the boy panicked and hid the bird in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching him. After lunch that day, Grandma told Sally to help with the dishes. Sally responded, "Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn't you, Johnny"? And she whispered to him, "Remember the duck," so Johnny did the dishes. What choice did he have? For the next several weeks, he was at the sink often, sometimes for his duty, sometimes for his sin. "Remember the duck," Sally would whisper when he objected. So weary of the chore, he decided, finally, that any punishment would be better than washing all these dishes, so he confessed to killing the duck. "I know, Johnny," his grandma said, giving a big hug. "I was standing at the window, and I saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you, and I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave out of you".
What a story and what an illustration. Johnny had been listening to the words of his accuser and had become enslaved by his words. More than a few of God's children have had the same experience. Paul reminds us that for us who have been freed from the death of Christ there can never again be a valid accusation against us. The devil is the great accuser, but his accusations never stick because in heaven we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. He literally is our lawyer. He's never lost a case. He represents us before the Father. So, let's just review. For the believer in Jesus Christ there is no intimidation, and for the believer in Jesus Christ there is no deprivation, and, thirdly, for the believer in Jesus Christ there is no accusation.
Now we come to number four, which is an echo of something we've already studied: For the believer in Jesus Christ there is no condemnation. Notice verse 34. "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 makes intercession for us". Now comes this question. Is there anyone to condemn us? And the answer is no. As believers, we have a fourfold protection in Christ. Watch carefully as we bring these things together. First of all, we are protected by Christ's crucifixion. This verse says that Christ died. Christ died on the cross and took for us the condemnation that we deserved. We cannot be condemned because he's already been condemned in our behalf, and Galatians 3:13 says this, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree')".
We cannot be condemned because Christ was condemned in our place. We are protected by his crucifixion. Notice, number two, we are protected by his resurrection, and the Scripture says, "And furthermore, he is also risen". See, friends, when Jesus Christ came back from the grave, he proved his victory over sin and over death. And it is not just the fact that he rose from the dead, but that he was raised from the dead by the Father. This demonstrates that the Father was satisfied with the sacrifice of his Son as the only basis for our justification. His resurrection is the proof of our justification. So, we're protected by his crucifixion. We're protected by his resurrection. Thirdly, we're protected by his exaltation. "Who is even at the right hand of God," says Paul in Romans 8. He is even now at the right hand of God. The exaltation of Jesus Christ to the right hand of God the Father symbolizes the honor, power, and authority given to him as a reward for fully accomplishing his work.
Philippians 2:8 and 9 wraps all of this up in a couple of verses here in Philippians. "He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name". Did you know that in the Old Testament temple there was never any seats in the temple because the work of the priests in dealing with sin was never done? They could never sit down. They worked nonstop, but here we are told that when Christ was exalted he sat down. The work is done. There will never again be a need for sacrifice for sin. I like to tell people, Jesus did not sit down because he was tired. He sat down because he was finished, and Romans tells us that. Hebrews echoes it. Hebrews 10:11 and 12, "And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God". He sat down because it is finished. Jesus paid it all. All to him we owe. There is nothing left to be sacrificed for sin, for the greatest and most unique sacrifice has been offered.
So, we're protected by Christ's crucifixion, and we're protected by his resurrection and his exaltation. Finally, we are protected by Christ's intercession. "Who also makes intercession for us". The power of Christ's endless life saves us to the uttermost. That's what the book of Hebrews tells us. "Therefore he's also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for us". This is a whole message by itself, but let me just suffice to say we are not left without defense and representation in heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ is our intercessor. He's our advocate. He stands between us and the accusations that are made against us even now. He is the reason why there is no condemnation, and that brings us to the fifth of the five blessings and convictions in Romans chapter 8.
Once again, for the believer in Jesus Christ there's no intimidation. For the believer in Jesus Christ there's no deprivation. For the believer in Jesus Christ there's no accusation. For the believer in Jesus Christ there is no condemnation. And if you're looking for something that maybe is better than all the rest of them, here you find it: for the believer in Jesus Christ there is no separation. Read with me the verses that share this truth, Romans 8:35 and 36. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'"
When Paul speaks of the love of Christ, he's not talking about our love for Christ. He's talking about his love for us, and he points to Christ's love for us as a safeguard against the difficulties of life. Our love for him is fickle, but his love for us is steadfast. 1 John 4:9 and 10 puts it this way, "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation," or the satisfaction, "for our sins". And then again in verse 19 of the same chapter John writes, "We love him because he first loved us".
So, friends, what kinds of circumstances does Paul have in mind as he speaks of being separated from Christ? He lists seven of them in verse 35. Here they are: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword. These are representative, not exhaustive. In fact, all of these are found in 2 Corinthians chapters 11 and 12, where Paul talks about the dangers he experienced in ministry. He wasn't some armchair theologian. What he writes about, he's been there and done that. He'd already suffered the first six of these seven hardships before writing this Epistle to the Romans. By the means of the seventh, the sword, he was going to be put to death. And the apostle was speaking not only by inspiration, but also from experience. Therefore, when he stated that none of these things can bring about separation between believers and their Lord, he knew what he was saying. Not only because it was inspired of God in scriptural format, but because he had experienced it all himself.
When we meet the next time, we will discover that these seven things not only fail to separate us from the love of God. They end up elevating us to the status of more than conquerors. The great apostle ends this section of Romans 8 with a quote from the Old Testament. The passage that he chooses is from the 44th Psalm, Psalm 44:22. "Yet for your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter". Seems sort of a strange way to end such a triumphant passage, but as you get into the understanding of it, it begins to click. Paul cites these words to bring out the truth that for God's people there is a real risk and a call for real devotion.
Friends, Christians might be tempted to think that because the love of Christ is so real and so unshakeable (think of all these five things we've been talking about) they need not fear that they will run into trouble. But Scripture shows us that while the love is sure, so are the troubles. For the sake of God we face death all day long. Actually, Paul said something stronger than this. He says we are being killed all day long. It is real. It is not imaginary, this peril that Christians face, and some of us are beginning to notice that it's heating up here in America. It's heating up in places where we never dreamed we'd ever see it. What an incredible thing. That in the light of all of the challenges we face, I rest in these promises.
For those who are in Christ Jesus, no matter what's going on in your life, listen carefully. There's no intimidation. What shall we say to these things? There's no deprivation. If he would give his own Son, what would he leave out? There's no accusation. Who can accuse you when God is the one against whom the accusations are being offered? And there is no condemnation. Remember what we learned earlier. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus". And there is no separation. Who shall separate us from our God? The sovereign grace of Almighty God is surely something in which the believer rejoices. God is for us.
Harold Voelkel was a missionary in Korea at the time of the Korean War. He was drafted into the army and assigned to prisoner-of-war camps as a chaplain. Tens of thousands of North Koreans were imprisoned in those camps and some were Communists who were active in stirring up riots and rebellion. When Voelkel entered the first camp, he immediately won the men's interest because he could speak their language, and he said he wanted to teach them a song. It was a Korean version of our familiar children's hymn, "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so".
When Chaplain Voelkel had finished teaching this in one camp, he went to a second camp, and so on until he had covered all the POW camps in Korea. Then he went around again, this time teaching a few simple things about this person, Jesus. He did this for a month and thousands of these interred men and women became believers. When the truce finally came and the country was divided at the infamous 38th parallel, thousands of these former prisoners of war refused to return to North Korea and Communism and instead chose to live in the south, where they could continue to learn about and worship the Jesus who loved them. And to all of that we say a glad amen. What a privilege, what a joy it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to be the recipient of all of these great encouragements from the book of Romans, Romans chapter 8, the greatest chapter in the Bible. And I trust that it's spoken to your heart today no matter what's going on in your life.