Throughout all of Romans 8, we’re given an expansive view of the gospel. From beginning to end, from verse 1 to 39, it’s all of grace — incandescent grace that fuels our “No Condemnation” and inexhaustible grace, still, that fuels our “No Separation.” The apostle begins by firmly declaring the colossal truth that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), and subsequently spends thirty-odd verses expounding upon this theme. He blazes a trail from there to “nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39)
Romans 8 is truly is the “sparkling Jewel of the New Testament,” possessing all the precious and resplendent truths of the gospel grace. It finds us in the vale of our despondency and lifts us up to the heights of grace. It sweeps down into our despair and there its strength and power isn’t shortened. The hand of grace reaches far beyond our reach of sin. It’s this portion of Scripture that ignites the flame of the “spiritually minded” (Rom 8:6), so that we might ever be burning for Christ.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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. (Rom 8:35–39)
The pillars of the gospel.
Our confidence as believers in Jesus Christ rests upon these two pillars, these two bookends of the gospel, the eternal bastions of “No Condemnation” and “No Separation.” These two bulkheads of grace provide eternal security and present hope, for the mere fact that they’re secured, forever, in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. They serve as our immovable strength and motivation in our pursuit of God and of holiness. We’re made able to “follow hard” after God (Ps 63:8 KJV) because of Christ, because we know that “nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39) I like how John Owen describes this passage, when he comments:
The whole passage is sublime in an extraordinary degree. The contrast is the grandest that can be conceived. Here is the Christian, all weakness in himself, despised and trampled under foot by the world, triumphing over all existing, and all possible, and even impossible evils and opposition, having only this as his stay and support — that the God who has loved him, will never cease to love, keep, and defend him.1
Our confidence and assurance in this “No Separation” arises from the Person of Christ, from who Jesus is. “I and the Father are one.” (Jn 10:30) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (Jn 14:6–7) Our conviction of God’s inseparable love springs from the fountainhead of love itself, the Son of God, who is God. No Separation, writes John Gill, “is founded upon the nature of the love of God itself, the security of it in Christ . . . the unalterable purposes of God . . . upon adoption, and the gracious witnessings, assistances, and inhabitation of the Spirit; and is greatly increased by the consideration of the death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ.” There’s not one thing in creation that can ever separate us “from the love of God” (Rom 8:39), that is, not our love for him, but his love for us.
Its depths cannot be fathomed, its dimensions cannot be measured. It passeth knowledge. All that Jesus did for his Church was but the unfolding and expression of his love.2
Rooted in love.
The “spiritually minded” person is the one who’s “stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel.” (Col 1:23) The one who’s “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” (Col 2:7) The one who’s “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17), the inseparable, indissoluble, indivisible love of Christ, a love that “surpasses knowledge,” and “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” (Eph 3:20) It’s this that serves as a divine and gracious mechanism in our journey of life. The transcendent grace of God so intensely and ferociously displayed for us in Jesus’s atoning work on the cross is the pinnacle declaration and demonstration of love to the world.
Jesus’s cry of “It is finished” is the definitive “I love you.” The cross is the fierce scene wherein love won the ultimate triumph. Golgotha is where a Father’s love and a Son’s sacrifice forever secured “No Condemnation” and “No Separation.” For Jesus’s love is perfect, unwavering, unfailing, unflinching, and unrelenting. It’s not hesitant or timid, but strong and ferocious. It’s the visceral tide in the sea of grace. It’s not reluctant; it’s not hesitant. In fact, it might seem quite vulgar and egregious — an egregious love, not because it is itself marred but because it gets its hands dirty. The love and grace of God reaches into the bowels of our muck, grime, and filth and there it does its remarkable transforming, redeeming, rescuing work. It’s in the stench of your sin — not the sweet savor of righteousness — that love finds you, that grace meets you, that Jesus embraces you.
Our love is nothing like this love. Our love is callous and conditional, selfish and sinister, cold and self-seeking. Our love is concerned only with its own ends and not those of others. God’s love, however, and God himself in the Person of Jesus, is the immaculate embodiment of what love is. So, then, when we read that “Charity [or, Love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth” (1 Cor 13:4–8 KJV) — it is Jesus who does all those things, and, moreover, it is Jesus who is all those things.
Declare and demonstrate.
God alone justifies. (Rom 8:32–34) He alone “is able to save to the uttermost.” (Heb 7:25) In Christ, as his beloved and redeemed children (Rom 8:16–17), we’re never condemned and never separated because Jesus bore all our condemnation and separation for us. As Jesus was hanging there, bleeding, gasping, and dying for you, it was this that was being constructed. And as our Lord “gave up the ghost” (Mk 15:37), he was but finishing the fashioning of the citadel of grace, of the gospel of God’s inseparable love.
The “unspeakable gift” of God is his Son (2 Cor 9:15), whom he freely gives to all who believe. Salvation is divinely bestowed and graciously given. There’s no such thing as winning or achieving or meriting with Jesus’s saving grace. Meriting favor is a categorical impossibility. Salvation, then, isn’t something you’re rewarded, it’s something you receive, thereby making the gospel altogether different and juxtaposed to what we’d intrinsically conclude. Our salvation isn’t a performing work but a proving work. We’re not called to holiness and the pursuit of God to attain deliverance, we’re called to prove deliverance. We’re called to prove the amazing, restorative, redemptive, transformative work of grace. We’re called to demonstrate for all the incomparable wealth of love Jesus has for his people. Being a Christian is all about reflecting, proving, and evidencing the enormous power of the gospel by “walking worthy” of it. (Col 1:10; Eph 4:1; 1 Thes 2:12; Phil 1:27)
It’s this salvation that unites us with Jesus. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which begins the moment we’re redeemed from our sins, we’re forever tied, joined, and bound to Christ, thereby making his life our life, his death our death, his resurrection our resurrection, his righteousness our righteousness. (Rom 6:4–11) This is why we’re confident in “No Separation.” This is why we know that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Rom 8:28 KJV) “If, then, we are through him [that is, Christ] united to God,” writes John Calvin, “we may be assured of the immutable and unfailing kindness of God towards us.”
Mercy in mayhem.
Salvation isn’t a divine decree for you to hang on to Jesus with all your might. Actually, it’s a divine decree that regardless of the circumstances, come what may, God’s eternally hanging on to you. (Jn 10:29) The mayhem of life can’t sever you from the arms of God’s loving embrace. Rather, it reveals more of God’s grace and illuminates more of his mercy. This is why we can suffer honestly, knowing that the unknown outcome of whatever adversity looms in front of us, it is sovereignly planned and divinely designed (Rom 8:28), and that the known end is God’s glory and self-disclosure.
Through it all, the apostle wishes to show us that Jesus is everything to us. He’s our Savior and Rescuer from the pitiful and deplorable depths of our sin. He’s our Sustainer and Guide throughout all the chaos and calamity that life brings. He’s our disciplining Father when we stumble and our tender, compassionate Shepherd when we fall. He’s our righteous Advocate, our holy Attorney, who stands before the divine Judges and shouts, “Me! Put their sin on Me! Put their shame on Me! Put their darkness and filth and wretchedness on Me! I’ll take it all.” Thereby, proving himself to be the One who secures and declares “No Condemnation!” and “No Separation!”
I leave you now with the words of Octavius Winslow, which, I pray, might be your only solace, prayer, and plea.
Jesus was the beginning, and Jesus is the ending . . . [he] forms the sum and substance of all that intervenes between these two extremes — no condemnation, and no separation. The central figure is Christ. He is the Magnet which attracts all the affections awakened by these great and glowing truths; and he is the object around which the truths themselves closely, exclusively, and indissolubly entwine. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega — the beginning and the end — yea, Christ is all in all. Be he all in all to our hearts!3
John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, translated by John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1849), 331.
Octavius Winslow, No Condemnation in Christ Jesus: As Unfolded in the Eighth Chapter of the Epistle to the Romans (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1991), 389.