ROMANS 8: 31- end
What can I say about all this?
If God is for us, who can be against us? The One who did not keep back his only son but handed him over for us all, how will he not with him also freely give us everything? Who can accuse God’s chosen ? It is God who makes them just. Who will pass judgement against us? It is Messiah Jesus who died, or rather was raised from the dead, and is at God’s right hand, who is pleading our cause.
Who will come between us and the love of Messiah? Will affliction or hard times or persecution? Will famine, poverty, danger or war? (As the Scripture says, “For your sake we are being killed every day; we are considered as sheep for the slaughter.” ) No, our victory in all these circumstances outdoes the imperial conquerors, though the One Who Loved Us. For I have been persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, neither things present nor things to come, nor cosmic powers in height or depth, nor any other created thing, can come between us and the love of God that is in Jesus Messiah our Lord.
(Translated M Mair 2016)
There’s a whole tranche of religious behaviour dismissed by Paul’s opening words here: all religious activity designed to seek or to placate God is surplus to the requirements of faith in a God who makes himself known as on the side of humanity. It’s easy to see why superstitious Romans saw Christians as irreligious atheists. Paul explains his confidence in God by designating him/ her as the “One who did not keep back his only Son, but handed him over for us all.” That sentence includes Paul’s view of an older contemporary of his, who had lived in the same small country, engaged in disputes with the religious movement of which he later became part, and was executed as a messianic pretender.
Paul came to see this man as messiah-son-of – God, who could have been kept back by God, but was in fact handed over for the good of humanity. It’s quite a jump. Does it involve absorbing the real Jesus in a religious myth? I don’t think so. Paul is asserting that the real historical Jesus was and is the actualisation of God’s love. Sometimes he describes this as the downward mobility of one who always had the nature of God, but we should not conclude he imagined a divine being floating down from heaven. It is Paul’s way of understanding “where Jesus is coming from”, namely, from God.
His being “handed over” for all people is Paul’s understanding of Jesus’ life and death, a willing surrender by God of his beloved child to the violence of humanity. This is seen as the definitive declaration of God’s love for humanity, a love shared by Jesus himself, who is a willing partner in God’s plan. This definitive declaration creates Paul’s confidence that God can be trusted to complete his plan for creation and liberate all his children.
He expresses this confidence with a splendid piece of rhetoric which dismisses all opposing powers as unable to break the bond between Jesus and his assemblies; the accusing Jewish Law, common misfortunes and uncommon threats, ruling powers of earth and heaven, are unable to break a bond which has been forged by Jesus’ faithfulness to God and to his brothers and sisters, his faithfulness unto death. This enables those who trust in him to be “superconquerers” a term invented by Paul with those accorded a Roman Triumph is mind: the ordinary Roman follower of Jesus, who might well be a slave, is encouraged to see herself as a bigger winner than those given the greatest honour her society could provide.
“I have been persuaded etc..” Most modern translations opt for words like “sure, certain, convinced” and so on. I have kept the King James Version word, persuaded, because it is central to Paul’s theology: God has opted to persuade his creation towards perfection, and Paul’s response along with that of the Assemblies of Jesus is evidence that this may not be a mistake.