God is For Us
by Ted Schroder
“What, then, shall we say in response to this?” (Romans 8:31)
St. Paul has been arguing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God has a purpose to fulfill in and through us. We are called and chosen to do God’s will. When our bodies are redeemed God will bring us to his glorious presence in his heavenly kingdom. That is our hope, for which we wait patiently in this life, despite our weakness. For our present sufferings, which we share with Christ, are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. In response to all this, in light of this hope, this analysis of our salvation in Christ, what is there left to say? What can he add? He sums up his argument with a series of rhetorical questions, that contain within them unassailable logic.
“He hurls them into space, as it were, 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 whom God has foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified.” (John Stott, Romans, 254)
His first question is: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
If God is for us, then whatever is against us cannot prevail. We have to start with God being for us if we are to overcome anything that opposes us, anything that would diminish us, or seek to defeat and destroy us. All too often we begin with our enemy, that which is against us, rather than that which is for us. When we concentrate on the foe, we can easily be defeated. In military terms, we can be intimidated by the enemy. We have to know the enemy, but we must not allow the enemy to demoralize us. Morale is a key factor for our strength. We are to put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground. (Ephesians 6:13) This is the witness of all the saints of God.
What is it that comes against us, and seeks to defeat us? It may be illness or disease of any kind. I have a magnet with these words on it:
“What Cancer Cannot Take From Your Life
It cannot take away your faith, shatter your hope, or lessen your love.
It cannot destroy true friendship, invade the soul or take away eternal life.
It cannot conquer your spirit.”
It may be financial pressures, retirement plans, family problems, fear about the future, anxiety about change, concerns about actions of Congress, dismay about the direction of our country, apprehension about increased taxes and budget deficits, uncertainty about health care, or worry about our grandchildren. It may be the assault of a secular and immoral culture where nothing is sacred - talk show hosts, movies, authors, artists and comedians who spew out blasphemy, and academics who indoctrinate students into moral relativism and historical reconstruction. It may be doubts about our beliefs, whether there is any life after death, the immensity of the universe and our place in it, if Christ is the Son of God, if there is heaven and hell, if life has any eternal significance, if we have any value, or are we just whistling in the dark?
What is it that is against your wellbeing, against your assurance, that discourages and depresses you? Is it questions about having any purpose to life? Is it the presence of people who are cruel, unkind and self-centered? Is it the prevalence of people who are indifferent to God, who dismiss your faith, who think that Christianity is for the weak-minded and deluded? Is it the existence of millions of people of other faiths or no faith? What is it that comes against you in the middle of the night, and fills you with despair?
The list is endless. All of us have fears that seek to control us. The devil schemes to tempt us to despair and disbelieve. We must resist him and all spirits that come against us. But how?
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” How can we know that God is for us? God is not for everybody. Many times God declares that he is against people and decadent societies. Nahum prophesied against the evils of Nineveh: “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions.” (2:13) Jeremiah prophesied against Babylon: “See, I am against you, O arrogant one,” declares the Lord Almighty, “for your day has come, the time for you to be punished.” (50:31) Ezekiel prophesied, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘I am against you, Pharoah king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams.’” (29:3) Tyre, Sidon and Edom come under the same condemnation for their evils. Even Israel is condemned for her disobedience, idolatry, and false leaders: “I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies.” (Lev.26:17) “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:8)
But Paul confidently affirms that God is for us since, in Christ, God has called and chosen us to fulfill his purpose of redemption. By grace we are saved through faith. We can be assured that we are on God’s side, if we are in Christ. We can do everything through Christ who gives us strength. (Phil.4:13) He stands alongside us to help us when we call upon him. The promises of Holy Scripture assure us of this truth.
“Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.” (Psalm 56:9)
“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.” (Ps.118:6,7)
“Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands.
Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted;
propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” (Isaiah 8:9,10)
“But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior;
so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.” (Jeremiah 20:11)
Life is a battle between good and evil, between hope and despair, between faith and doubt, between love of others and love of self, between humility and pride, between the Spirit of truth and the father of lies: the accuser of the saints. (Rev.12:10) But, because God has shown that he is for us in Christ, we can overcome the accuser, those who come against us, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. (Rev.12:11) Therefore we must arm ourselves with knowledge of the power of the Cross and the word of the Gospel.
We must never allow ourselves to be demoralized by the powers of hell, no matter what medium it uses. If God is for us we believe we can never be finally defeated. “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong.” (Eccl.9:11) Victory is assured to those who trust in the Lord and keep the faith. No matter what the world may do to us, whatever the weakness of the flesh, whatever the assaults of the enemy, we will prevail, because God is for us in Christ. Even death has no ultimate hold over us, because death has been defeated in the resurrection of Jesus.
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November 1, 2009
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