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No Separation

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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February 17, 2023 12:01 am

No Separation

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 17, 2023 12:01 am

Though Christians may experience great suffering and even persecution, Scripture reminds us that we have reason to continue in hope. Today, Derek Thomas discusses the sure promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

Today on Renewing Your Mind...

Welcome back to the final lesson in the best chapter in the Bible, Romans 8, and we are in verses 35 to 39, which begins, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? And I want to read to you an extract from Robert Bruce, an account of his death. Robert Bruce was born in 1554, just 10 years before Calvin died, if that helps put it in the context, and then died in 1631. So, he had a long life and lived in Scotland. He was a disciple of John Knox and Andrew Melville, and he died on July the 27th in 1631. And he'd come to breakfast, and his younger daughter was there beside him.

And I'm quoting from an historical account of Master Robert Bruce. As he mused in silence, suddenly he cried, Hold, daughter, hold, my master calleth me. He was dying. He asked that the Bible should be brought, but his sight failed him, and he couldn't read it. Cast me up upon the eighth of Romans, he cried, and he repeated much of the latter portion of this Scripture till he came to the last two verses. I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, this is a King James Version, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Set my finger on these words, said the blind dying man. God be with you, my children.

I have breakfasted with you and shall sup with my Lord Jesus this night. I die believing in these words. Well, there's a moving tale of how these words were used to help someone die in 1631, full of faith and confidence and assurance in the gospel. Now, the context here, who shall separate us from the love of Christ, verse 35, tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword? And one thinks, for example, of times when those terms have had a literal sense for some of God's people. In Somalia, in parts of the world, in North Korea, perhaps in certain parts of the East today, one certainly knows of Christians who are facing these very things of persecution and sword and nakedness and famine.

And so, the context here is one of strife, and it's one of difficulty. Calvin wrote a commentary on 1 Peter, in which he has the words, God has so ordered the church from the very beginning that death is the way to life and the cross the way to victory. It is through many tribulations that we enter the kingdom of God. That was one of the things Paul first learned following his first missionary journey, that God calls upon some of His children to suffer and to suffer much and to suffer even to the point of giving one's life for the gospel.

And so, the question then becomes very pertinent, who shall separate us from the love of Christ? There are Christians today being waterboarded because they want them to deny the Lord Jesus. There are Christians who are being deprived of sleep. There are Christians being psychologically abused. There are Christians to whom mind-altering drugs are given because of their commitment to the gospel. One thinks of Thomas Cranmer, for example, the great English reformer.

During the reign of Queen Mary, he signed a document renouncing certain features of the Reformation, and he was ashamed of what he had done. And eventually, when Thomas Cranmer was executed, because he was executed anyway, he thrust his right hand first into the flames, the hand that had signed that document, and he held it there for some length of time in demonstration of his repentance and of his commitment to the Lord Jesus. But the question remains the same, who can separate us from the love of Christ? And you notice in verse 35, it is the love of Christ, and it's the love of Christ in a tense in the Greek that suggests His love for us at a certain point in the past. Not that He doesn't continue to love us, but it's to the cross that this verse is actually alluding, I think.

The grammar would seem to suggest that. So, let's look at the passage, who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

And you might want to pause and add some of your own. Will Alzheimer's separate me from the love of Christ? Will a divorce separate me from the love of Christ? Will the loss of a loved one separate me from the love of Christ? Will cancer separate me from the love of Christ?

And you can fill in that blank that applies to you. Paul is thinking on the grand scale of trials and tribulations and distresses, and the answer is, nothing can separate us. As it is written, verse 35, 36, as it is written, for your sake we are being killed all the day long.

We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. He's quoting, of course, from the Old Testament that it is through many tribulations that we enter the kingdom of God. 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. And you notice, and let's pick up some of these things as he mentions them in verse 38, neither death, nor life. Death cannot separate us from the love of Christ. When we die, when we stop breathing, when brainwaves cease and we're pronounced dead, our souls will separate from the body, our consciousness will continue. What you think of as you, your self-awareness will continue so that five seconds after your body is dead, you are still alive, you are still conscious, and you are somewhere, and you are in the presence of the Lord Jesus, and you're with the saints who have gone before you, and you're in the company of angels and archangels, and you're in that intermediate state, and the Bible doesn't say a whole lot about it except that it exists.

And Jesus said to the dying thief, today you will be with me in paradise. That's a wonderful thing that Christians have by way of assurance at the time of death. You go to visit someone, and they're dying, and they know they're dying, and they've been struggling perhaps with a disease, and finally that disease has claimed them, and they're a day before their death. They're hours perhaps before their death. They've gone into that breathing mode that says they're on that pathway to decline, and it's going to be hours from now.

It may be tonight. It may be three o'clock tomorrow morning, but they're dying, and the family are called, and sometimes there's a moment of consciousness, and I assume even then, and I always speak to folk who are even in that condition because I don't know whether they can hear me or not. And very often, I've read this passage or the 23rd Psalm, and there's been some physical gesture. Their eyes have blinked, or you felt just a squeeze on your hand that they can actually hear you, and it's that gospel message that they're holding on to, and this ravaging of body and soul, and it's part of the remains of the curse in this world, and it will not be a feature of the new heavens and new earth because we will live forever in resurrected bodies, but death cannot separate me from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And then let's pick up some of the other things that He mentions here. He talks about death, nor life, and why life? Life as He has termed it here, as He has described it here in Romans 8, life in this world, life under the sun, life in this world that is given to futility, life that sometimes, even for Christians, can say, there's not much meaning here.

There doesn't seem to be much purpose here. There seems to be a pointlessness and a frustration, and the thorns and thistles of the curse have infected the way we perceive the world, and God is behind a veil of this meaninglessness of life and the drudgery of it, that life that has changed radically, that life where a husband has committed adultery and has left, and children have rebelled and have gone and you are left, and the dream of your marriage seems in tatters, and the prospects that you had for your future now seem altogether frustrated. But this life of yours won't separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ, and right there in the mess, in the muck, in the mire of your life, God can come with His reassuring word by His Spirit and witness with your spirit that you're a child of God and an heir and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.

Life may not have turned out to be what I thought it would turn out to be, the dreams, the ambitions, but nothing can separate me, and the horrendousness that life can often throw at you cannot separate me from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. And then he talks about angels and rulers, and perhaps he means here, as he might mean, in powers at the end of verse 38, and perhaps he's thinking here of hostile angels and fallen angels and demonic angels and how Satan is often referred to as the prince and power of the air, those powers. And the fact that he's been asking questions that begin with who, four of them in these closing verses, who shall lay any charge against God's elect, who is to condemn, who shall separate, and so on, these questions. And he's thinking of ultimately Satan, Satan the accuser, the accuser of the brethren and how he accuses Christians.

And he'll say, you're not good enough, and that you have failed, and that you've let the master down, and how can you possibly think that he's going to continue with you. And eventually, these accusations take a hold of us, and they stick, and we begin to ponder them. And Paul is saying, nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. And then he talks about height and depth and anything else in all creation. So, name your poison here. What is it you think that can get you down?

What is it that can separate you? And Paul is wanting us, I think, to go all the way back to Romans 8, 1, and work our way down again. And he wants us to be reminded that Jesus has died, and that He has shed His blood, and that He's made atonement, and that God did not spare Him, but freely delivered Him up for us all. And how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things? He wants us to go back to the logic of the cross, that the cross forgives. That's what it does. It doesn't simply give us the potential for forgiveness.

That would be disappointing because we would fail every time if it depended in any way upon something that we did. No, the cross says, Jesus loves us. This I know for the Bible tells me so. Payment God cannot twice demand, once at my bleeding sure at His hand and then again at mine, top lady's hymn or poem, faith revived.

The payment has been paid, and it's been paid in full, and it cannot be demanded again. So, Jesus has paid the price for past sin and present sin and future sin, all of it, all of it, and sins that you don't know and sins you haven't even begun to think about yet, and sins that are grave and are graver than you think they are. And all of them deserved the death of Jesus, all of them, every single one of them. And Jesus took them all, and He took them as a substitute and a sin-bearer, and He made atonement, and He stood in our place, and He offers to us His spotless robe of righteousness. So, think on these things.

Do you remember what He said back in verse 18? I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us. And so, there are the present sufferings. There's the suffering of the present time, the suffering of this age that belongs to this age, this age from the cross to the second coming, this age in which you and I live. And there are sufferings and trials, and some of them are external, and some of them are internal.

Some of them are of our own making, and some of them are psychological, and some of them are because of the way that we were raised, and they set patterns of thought and response and behavior so that we can't think of a heavenly Father without thinking perhaps of an abusive Father. And these things distort us, and they're part of our present sufferings. And there are things that have happened to us that have changed our lives, and they're unchangeable.

They can't be undone anymore, and we have to live with the consequences of it. And Paul says, consider, reckon, think on these things, that there's suffering here, and there's trial here, and there's difficulty here, and there are obstacles here, but there's glory to come. There's marvelous and beautiful and splendid glory to come, and nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. We are, he says, more than conquerors. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

What an enormously wonderful, astonishing thing that is, that God would take ahold of the likes of us and say, I have predestined you for glory, and I've done all that it takes to get you there. And every obstacle, every accusation against you, I've taken away. I've dealt with it.

I've dealt with it in my Son. I did not spare Him. I freely delivered Him up for you all.

And along with Him, I'll freely give you all things. You remember Elisha and his servant at Dothan, and there are those who are on the mountains around him, and he sees the forces that are arrayed against him, and the servant says, we're doomed. We're done for.

There's no hope for us here. And do you remember Elisha's prayer, open his eyes that he might see. There are more with us than with them. And the heaven sort of opened, and the servant sees these tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of angelic forces that are on our side and working with us and for us and ensuring that God's promises will always be fulfilled. They are guardians. And I don't know whether we have one guardian angel or whether we have many guardian angels or whether the entirety of the angels are our guardians.

I'm not sure of the answer to that question, but I know that they're on our side, and they're helping us, and they're ensuring that everything that Jesus has ever done will be completed. Do you remember Luther's famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God? And probably there is a dispute over this, but probably written in 1529 when a plague befell Wittenberg, and many of Luther's friends died, including some that were very close to him, and his secretary's wife died in his arms, and there were other incidents. And he wrote this hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

And do you remember those lines, The prince of darkness grim, We tremble not for him, His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him. And I think that word is tedelestai in Greek. It takes three words to translate it into English. It is finished. It is Jesus' word on the cross. It is finished. It is done. It is complete.

And all of Satan's rage, all of his accusations, all of his taunts, all of his slander, one little word shall fell him. Tedelestai, it is finished. It is done.

It is done. Or I think of top lady's hymn, Adeter to Mercy Alone. Of covenant mercy I sing, Nor fear with thy righteousness On my person and offering to bring.

The terrors of law and of God with me Can have nothing to do. My Savior's obedience and blood Hide all my transgressions from view. The work which His goodness began, The arm of His strength will complete. His promise is yea and amen, And never was forfeited yet. Things future nor things that are now, Nor things below or above Can make Him His purpose.

Forgo or sever my soul from His love. My name from the palms of His hands, Eternity will not erase. Impressed on His heart, it remains In marks of indelible grace. Yes, I to the end shall endure.

As sure as the earnest is given, The earnest of the Holy Spirit, More happy, but not more secure, The glorified Spirits in heaven. And I think top lady is basing that hymn entirely on the closing verses of Romans 8. It is the best chapter in the Bible. This is a chapter to take with you through all of life. It's a chapter to memorize. It's a chapter you'll find yourself going to when you find yourself in want or in need or in distress or in difficulty. It's a chapter that you'll refer to when you hear the accusing voice and the slander of Satan and says to you, you're not good enough, and you're failing, and you can turn and say to him, and you don't know the half of it.

One little word will fail you. Ted Elestai, it is finished. I trust that Romans 8 will be to you, as it has been to me, a source of great encouragement in the knowledge and in the certainty that having begun a good work in us, He, God, will complete it. Romans 8. From the unbreakable chain of redemption to the glorious truth of God's everlasting love, this chapter is an anchor for our souls.

Dr. Derek Thomas has been our teacher over the past few days here on Renewing Your Mind, giving us just a glimpse of his teaching series on Romans 8. There are 12 messages in this series, and we will send them to you on two DVDs when you give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. Plus, we'll provide you lifetime access to the digital download for the series and a PDF of a study guide with lesson outlines and questions for discussion. You can find us online at, or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343.

By the way, this is the final day this offer is available, so I hope you'll reach out to us today. Dr. Thomas is senior minister at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, and chancellor's professor of systematic and pastoral theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and we're grateful for his labors with us here at Ligonier Ministries as one of our teaching fellows. In that role, he's a regular contributor to Table Talk, our monthly Bible study magazine. We invite you to subscribe to it. You'll not only receive the printed edition each month, but you'll also have access to a vast archive at For example, there are more than 50 articles in Bible studies on Romans 8. You can find out more by going to . Renewing Your Mind is the listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Thank you for joining us, and I hope you make plans to be with us again beginning Monday, for Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-22 13:25:02 / 2023-02-22 13:33:20 / 8

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