For 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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, motivations to live for God is absolute assurance of eternal life. Paul said, “The love of Christ constrains us” (2 Cor. 5:14). Christ’s love compels us to serve Him.
C. T. Studd gave up fame and fortune to serve God as a missionary on three continents in the wild days of mid-nineteenth century missions. What prompted him? He said, “If Christ be God and died for me, then there is nothing too great that I can do for Him.”
There is a strange teaching circulating today. Actually, it has been around for a long time. This is the idea that a saved person can lose eternal life by ceasing to believe in Christ or by departing into a life of moral impurity. I call this teaching strange because it is completely antithetical to the Gospel of Grace and to the clear teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.
I have selected one passage which I believe incontrovertibly proves that once a person becomes a part of the family of God, nothing, absolutely nothing, now or forever, can separate him from the love of God in Christ. That passage is Romans 8:38-39.
At the end of Romans 8 Paul asks, What can separate believers from God’s love in Christ? Verses 38 and 39 form the heart of his answer.
There are three pairs in these verses: 1) death/life, 2) things present/things to come, and 3) height/depth. These pairs were selected by Paul because each represents the extreme of something dear to us (i.e., existence, time, and location).
Paul is using a figure of speech called merism. That is where one pictures something by presenting both ends of it. For instance, when Jesus refers to Himself as the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 21:6; 22:13), He means that He is eternal, that He was before anything was created and that He will be forever, long after the present creation, the present heavens and earth, have been destroyed.
Neither Death Nor Life
Nothing in this life and nothing in death can separate a believer from God’s love. The two things we fear most, dying and living, are not threats to our eternal life. Whether we live or die, we are in His love. Jesus won’t ever let us go. We have security that is a matter of life and death.
Nor Things Present Nor Things to Come
But Paul did not stop there. He went on to say that nothing in our present experience, nor anything to come, can separate us from God’s love in Christ. That encourages me tremendously. Nothing in all of time, present or future, can separate me from God’s love. Wow! He accepts me like I am and will never desert me. He loves me and will never stop loving me.
Often, when explaining the doctrine of eternal security to someone, I simply show them this pairing and ask, “What does ‘nor things present nor things to come’ mean?” I have not found anyone yet who failed to see what this means–that there is not and never will be a time when we can be separated from God’s love in Christ.2
Nor Height Nor Depth
The third pairing is equally as impressive. Here Paul refers to height and depth. If we were to travel to the “highest” or “lowest” points in the universe, or anywhere in between, we would never arrive at a place where we could escape Christ’s love. There is nowhere we can go where anyone or anything can take our eternal salvation away from us. Nowhere.
By using these three pairs Paul could not be any plainer or clearer. Eternal life is eternal. No one or nothing, at any time or place, can ever separate us from God’s love.
Just like we can’t cease being the children of our earthly parents once we are born, so too we can’t cease being children of God once we are born again. We can no more be unborn spiritually than we can go back and be unborn physically. When we trust in Christ for salvation, by His grace at that very moment we become members of God’s forever family.
Next month I will conclude by discussing the two non-pairs in the list: nor angels nor principalities nor powers” and “nor any other created thing.”
1Bob wilkin is the Executive Director of Grace Evangelical Society.
2However, I have found a few people who thought that the expression in verse 39, “nor any other created thing,” presented an exception. They suggest that while no one or nothing can at any time separate us from God’s love, we can choose to separate ourselves from His love. I will deal with that next month in Part 2.