On February 2, 2020, something happened that I was unsure I would ever see in my lifetime. That is not to say that it had not happened before, but this event had only happened twice before. And one of those instances did not end as well as many had hoped. Having been 50 years since the previous instance, this event was almost as rare as Haley’s Comet which can only be seen every 75 years.
A few of you may remember February 2, 2020 as the day that the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. It was the first time since I was born that I saw it. Granted, I was alive during their previous championship, but being in my mother’s womb, I could not see it.
Of course, I had seen other teams win championships. I had watched other fans celebrate. And I am actually a bigger Royals fan than I am of the Chiefs, so I had experienced the joy of championships as a fan of a couple of their teams.
But Kansas City has not had many professional championships. We have seen others be victorious, but have not experienced it as fans ourselves very often.
Why am I talking about sports championships on Resurrection Sunday? Well, imagine if you were a follower of Jesus 2000 years ago. You have seen others parade in triumph whether the others were the religious leaders of the day (e.g. the Pharisees) or the Romans (whose empire was vast because of a disciplined army).
But a new message had captured you. It was a message of hope and love. The man who shared that message healed people, told fabulous stories, and drew crowds that made you believe that this man, Jesus, might really be the promised Messiah of Israel. It was your turn to root for a champion. But more than that, you were a close follower. Perhaps, even a trusted disciple. You were able to do more than root for this new champion, you had a role on His team.
And then, just at the peak of His popularity, at the very moment that everyone was poised to see Him ascend to His rightful place, everything – and I mean everything – changed. First, one of Jesus’ close friends betrayed Him. You wanted to be angry, but you didn’t have time because after that moment a whirlwind of events began. And by the time you caught your breath, not only was the pinnacle no longer in sight, but your friend, your leader, the one you thought would be the new, and never-ending champion, was gone. Dead. Buried. Gone.
Just like so many people before Him, Jesus rose up, but someone greater knocked Him down. The Romans exerted their power and killed Him because the religious rulers created a plot to destroy Him. Once again, your hopes, and your dreams were crushed because the one you want to believe can overcome the obstacles, is once again defeated.
But our perspectives can change in a hurry. Just like many Chiefs’ fans will remember the play that changed the game in February 2020 (named 23 Jet Chip Wasp), one event changed the outcome for all of mankind for all of time – the Resurrection of Jesus.
Today, we will review the truth that comes from that fact. It is not that studying the resurrection is unimportant. But the resurrection is not just a moment in history, it is a moment that is still unfolding in history. So, my goal today is to share what we can know about God because of the resurrection with Romans 8.31-39 as our source.
First, this paragraph can be divided into two main parts. First, we see that God is for us. Second, we must realize that God loves us.
God Is for Us
Paul begins this section by asking that if we know God is for us, then who can stand against us? This question must be understood properly.
First, this statement does not mean that we will not be opposed. In fact, Christianity has always been opposed from its moment of inception. Jesus was opposed. Paul was opposed. Peter was opposed. Countless people have suffered and died because of their belief in Christ.
Second, this truth must be considered in light of the previous verses which talk about God’s ultimate plan and destination for us.
Therefore, what we must remember is that no amount of opposition on this earth will keep God from realizing His plans…including His plans for us. As Paul wrote in verse 32, God did not spare Jesus (which means He may not spare us as we might wish either), but we are here today, not because Jesus died, but because He is alive. If that is true, then, just as God made things right by Jesus, and right for Jesus, then why should we believe He would do any less for us (remember, Paul has repeatedly referred to us as God’s children in this chapter (vv15, 17, 29)?
So, if anyone brings a charge against us, including Satan (whose name means “accuser” or “adversary”), then we can know that our justification is not in our own abilities or claims, it is in Jesus, who gave Himself to justify us before God (v. 33; c.f. Romans 3.21-22, 26).
Paul made this evident with a statement about the resurrection in verse 34. “…Jesus died, but
more than that – he was raised…” and is now at the right hand of the Father on our behalf.
The idea that God is for us needs to remind us of what Paul wrote in Romans 8.1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If we are in Christ, God is for us. People may make charges, and even Satan may stand as an adversary against us, but with God being for us, none of those charges stick. God has rendered a permanent judgment by the blood of Jesus. Those who believe are not guilty; those who do not, are guilty as charged.
The charges might have stuck if Jesus remained dead, but with His resurrection, we have proof that love triumphs over everything. And that brings us to the second point.
God Loves Us
We see this truth two different times in two different ways in the last five verses of this passage.
In verse 35, Paul asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Then four verses later, he wrote that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39).
In between these two verses, Paul provides plenty of ideas that might make us think God might not love us. In verse 35, he wrote of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and death (sword). That is, none of these experiences we may have on earth – no matter how much pain or suffering we must endure – can separate us from Christ’s love. After all, Jesus understands. He faced everyone of these items (as did Paul). Again, if Jesus remained dead, then when He died, how could we know that His love is real or that He could overcome any of these items. But Jesus did rise from the dead and therefore, we can have hope that we can overcome any, and all of these experiences as well. More importantly, we can know that Jesus will love us through them.
Then in verses 38-39, Paul mentions other concepts that may not be as tangible. He mentions death or life (which we understand), then angels and rulers (which in context could refer to evil rulers, and even demons), things that happen now or in the future. No power of earth can keep us from God’s love, nor can anything you can imagine in the heights (which may refer to space) or the depths (of the earth, the ocean, etc.), and finally, Paul concludes with nothing in all of creation can prevent God from loving us.
But, we must understand that the “us” here means His children. I will come back to that momentarily.
Between the two lists, Paul uses the phrase, more than conquerors. For those who know Christ, for those who walk in Christ (v. 1), for those that walk according to the Spirit (v. 4), for those who are children of God (vv. 15, 17, 29), we are more than conquerors.
See, a conqueror is one who is victorious. Whether the victory is in a battle like the Roman military was used to winning, or in a football game, like when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, the victor is thought to have conquered the opposition in some sense.
But the problem for a victor is that once you are on top, everyone is out to knock you from your perch. It took a few hundred years, but ultimately, the Roman Empire fell. It took one year, and the Chiefs fell.
But we are more than conquerors. Why? Because we did not have to fight a battle and we can still win. And we do not have to fight the eternal battle now, and we are still winners. We are not conquerors. We are the recipients of what has been conquered for us. We are heirs with the One who is the conqueror.
Jesus is the great conqueror. Certainly, we still have daily battles we must fight. We battle temptation and we fall prey to that temptation all too often. And we will also battle against tribulation and persecution and danger and maybe nakedness or the sword (v. 37). We may feel that others are oppressing us or that the present is dim or the future looks grim (v. 38), but Jesus has already won the battle, and unlike Rome or the Chiefs, Jesus is assured of all victories because He overcame the one opponent that mankind was not supposed to be able to overcome.
As Paul wrote to the church of Corinth (quoting from the prophet Isaiah) – Oh death, where is your victory. Oh death where is your sting.
Jesus is the victor. Jesus is the conqueror. And He did it in the most unlikely of ways. He gave Himself for us. He died on our behalf. Everyone thought that death had won. Everyone thought that the hope of nations had been crushed. But those thoughts did not remain for long. When Jesus emerged from the tomb, death had been defeated. God, through Jesus, showed Himself as the true conqueror.
And beyond that, we are more than conquerors, because we become God’s children. The army may get the spoils of war, but we get the best God has to offer. As Romans 8.17 says, we are “heirs with Christ.” Yes, we are more than conquerors, we are children. And that is possible because of the resurrection. And the resurrection is possible because of God’s love.
Again, nothing can separate God’s children from His love. But if we do not choose God, then we are already separated. Those who do not choose God are trying to conquer sin and death on their own. And the track record for that throughout all of history shows that to be a futile effort. Only one person ever has lived by the standards necessary to gain approval from God, and that was Jesus. And Jesus certainly did not do it on His own. As Jesus said in John 5, He did nothing that He didn’t see His Father in heaven doing.
So, the decision for mankind is to either choose Christ or not. It is a decision that either acknowledges that Jesus has already fought the battle and won, or to attempt to fight it on your own which will lead to certain loss. It is a decision to be more than a conqueror or to fall as someone who has been conquered.
If you have been fighting that battle on your own, you know how tiring it is. You can probably share stories of when you felt like you were gaining ground one minute, but then had lost any progress you had made in the next. That is not what God offers. God offers victory. And for those who claim that victory God offers love.
For those who claim that victory and that love, it is then upon us to share that love. Nothing can separate God’s children from His love. But do you know how powerful that love is? You may know that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers overwhelmed the Chiefs less than two months ago, but do you know what overwhelmed the Roman Empire?
Historians will tell you that the Roman Empire officially fell when the barbarians from Germany defeated Rome in 476 BC. But I am not talking about the fall of the Empire…I am talking about the overwhelming of the Empire. That happened when people who chose to follow Jesus took that seriously enough to love those around them. It happened in the 1st Century when the emperor built a stadium (the Colosseum) and publicly persecuted Christians. It happened in the 2nd and 3rd centuries when massive persecution led so many of God’s children to suffer – both church leaders and otherwise.
But that group knew that NOTHING could separate them from the love of Christ. And they wanted others to know that love as well. In fact, in the first half of the 2nd Century, one of the emperors (Hadrian) received a letter stating that one common characteristic of those who were called Christians is that they love one another.
Ladies and gentleman, if we are children of God, and if nothing can separate us from the love, we need to be sharing that love with others – both within the church and without. We may be ridiculed. We may be tormented. We may be injured. Any number of things could happen. Those things may happen, but I know one thing that is not a maybe…we are “more than conquerors” (v. 37).
And we are more than conquerors because Christ conquered the grave. He did so one morning nearly 2000 years ago. And that truth is still inspiring millions, and perhaps billions, of people today.
At the beginning of this message, I asked you to consider if you had been a follower of Jesus during His time on earth. If you had, your hope might have been shattered when He died. But you would have discovered unknown hope and courage, and had a much better appreciation of love after He returned from the dead.
Well, that hope and that love (and even that courage) is still available today. The questions for us are this:
- Do we really believe that Jesus rose again?
- If so, what will we do about it?
Let us remember that we are, indeed, more than conquerors. And that Jesus conquered the world through love…and that love is still in the world today.