Romans 8:35
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
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(35) The love of Christ.—That is to say, the love which Christ has for us, not that which we have for Christ.

Shall tribulation?—Comp. 2Corinthians 6:4; 2Corinthians 11:23. The Apostle is speaking from his own actual experience.

Romans 8:35-37. Who shall separate us — By saying τις, who, the apostle personifies the things he is going to mention, namely, affliction, &c.; from the love of Christ — Toward us? By this, some understand the love which we bear to Christ. But to separate us from our own love, seems an unusual expression. Even this, however, may be included thus; — What creature or occasion shall cause us to withdraw our love from him, and consequently cause him, in any degree, to withdraw his love from us? Shall tribulation? or affliction, as θλιψις is generally rendered; or distress?

Στενοχωρια, perplexity, when we know not which way to turn ourselves. The former word, according to Esthius, signifies sickness and other bodily evils; whereas the latter rather means trouble of mind, arising from doubtful and perplexing straits and difficulties. He proceeds in order from less troubles to greater. Can any of these separate us from his protection in the trial, and (if he sees good) deliverance from it? The sword is here put for a violent death. As none can imagine that Christ would love his faithful servants less for enduring such extremities for his sake, the text must of necessity be intended to express the apostle’s confidence, that his love to his people, illustrated already in so glorious a manner, would engage him to support them under all their trials, by vital communications of divine strength. As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day — That is, every day, continually: we are accounted — By our enemies, by ourselves; as sheep for the slaughter — The Psalm from which this quotation is taken, is thought by some to have been written during the Babylonish captivity, when the Jews suffered great persecution for their religion: but at other times also the Jews were exposed to a variety of evils from their conquerors, on account of their adherence to the worship and service of the true God. See note on Psalm 44:22. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors — We are not only no losers, but abundant gainers by all these trials. The original expression, υπερνικωμεν, signifies to obtain a great victory. “The victory which the people of God obtain over their persecutors is of a very singular nature. It consists in their patient bearing of all the evils which their persecutors inflict upon them, and that through the assistance of Christ, and in imitation of his example. For by suffering in this manner, they maintain his cause in spite of all opposition, and confound their persecutors.”

8:32-39 All things whatever, in heaven and earth, are not so great a display of God's free love, as the gift of his coequal Son to be the atonement on the cross for the sin of man; and all the rest follows upon union with him, and interest in him. All things, all which can be the causes or means of any real good to the faithful Christian. He that has prepared a crown and a kingdom for us, will give us what we need in the way to it. Men may justify themselves, though the accusations are in full force against them; but if God justifies, that answers all. By Christ we are thus secured. By the merit of his death he paid our debt. Yea, rather that is risen again. This is convincing evidence that Divine justice was satisfied. We have such a Friend at the right hand of God; all power is given to him. He is there, making intercession. Believer! does your soul say within you, Oh that he were mine! and oh that I were his; that I could please him and live to him! Then do not toss your spirit and perplex your thoughts in fruitless, endless doubtings, but as you are convinced of ungodliness, believe on Him who justifies the ungodly. You are condemned, yet Christ is dead and risen. Flee to Him as such. God having manifested his love in giving his own Son for us, can we think that any thing should turn aside or do away that love? Troubles neither cause nor show any abatement of his love. Whatever believers may be separated from, enough remains. None can take Christ from the believer: none can take the believer from Him; and that is enough. All other hazards signify nothing. Alas, poor sinners! though you abound with the possessions of this world, what vain things are they! Can you say of any of them, Who shall separate us? You may be removed from pleasant dwellings, and friends, and estates. You may even live to see and seek your parting. At last you must part, for you must die. Then farewell, all this world accounts most valuable. And what hast thou left, poor soul, who hast not Christ, but that which thou wouldest gladly part with, and canst not; the condemning guilt of all thy sins! But the soul that is in Christ, when other things are pulled away, cleaves to Christ, and these separations pain him not. Yea, when death comes, that breaks all other unions, even that of the soul and body, it carries the believer's soul into the nearest union with its beloved Lord Jesus, and the full enjoyment of him for ever.Who shall separate us - That is, finally or entirely separate us. This is a new argument of the apostle, showing his strong confidence in the safety of the Christian.

From the love of Christ - This expression is ambiguous; and may mean either our love to Christ or his love to us. I understand it in the former sense, and suppose it means, "Who shall cause us to cease to love the Saviour?" In other words, the love which Christians have for their Redeemer is so strong, that it will surmount and survive all opposition and all trials. The reason for so understanding the expression is, that it is not conceivable how afflictions, etc. should have any tendency to alienate Christ's love "from us;" but their supposed tendency to alienate "our love" from him might be very strong. They are endured in his cause. They are caused, in a good degree, by professed attachment to him. The persecutions and trials to which Christians are exposed on account of their professed attachment to him, might be supposed to make them weary of a service that involved so many trials. But no, says the apostle. Our love for him is so strong that we are willing to bear all; and nothing that these foes of our peace can do, can alienate us from him and from his cause. The argument, therefore, is drawn from the strong love of a Christian to his Saviour; and from the assurance that nothing would be able to separate him from that love.

On the other hand, it is alleged that "the object of the apostle is to assure us, not so immediately of our love to God, as of his love to us, by directing our attention to his predestinating, calling, justifying, and glorifying us, and not sparing his own Son, but delivering him up for us; that in addition to this it contributes more to our consolation, to have our minds fixed upon God's love to us, than upon our love to him, which is subject to so many failings and infirmities." Haldane.

Indeed the whole of this passage proceeds, in its triumphing strain, on the ground of what God and Christ have done "for us," and not on the ground of anything belonging to us. It is therefore improbable, that the apostle, in the midst of such a strain, should introduce the love of the creature to God, as a just reason for such unparalleled confidence. It is more natural to the Christian to triumph in the love of Christ to him, than in any return he can make. He can glory in the strength of the former, while he mourns over the weakness of the latter. As to the objection that afflictions can have no tendency to alienate Christ's love, these are the "very things" that alienate people from us. There are persons who are called "summer friends" because they desert us in the winter of adversity. But the love of Christ is greatly exalted by the fact, that none of all possible adverse circumstances, of which the apostle enumerates not a few, shall ever change his love.

Shall tribulation - θλίψις thlipsis. Note, Romans 2:9. The word properly refers to pressure from without; affliction arising from external causes. It means, however, not infrequently, trial of any kind.

Or distress - στενοχωρία stenochōria. This word properly means "narrowness of place;" and then, great anxiety and distress of mind, such as arises when a man does not know where to turn himself or what to do for relief. It refers, therefore, to distress or anxiety "of mind," such as the early Christians were often subject to from their trials and persecutions; 2 Corinthians 7:5," Without were fightings, "within were fears;" see the note at Romans 2:9.

Or persecutions - Note, Matthew 5:11. To these the early Christians were constantly exposed.

Or famine - To this they were also exposed as the natural result of being driven from home, and of being often compelled to wander amidst strangers, and in deserts and desolate places.

Or peril - Danger of any kind.

Or sword - The sword of persecution; the danger of their lives to which they were constantly exposed. As all these things happened to them in consequence of their professed attachment to Christ, it might be supposed that they would tend to alienate their minds from him. But the apostle was assured that they had not this power, but that their love to the Saviour was so strong as to overcome all, and to bind them unalterably to his cause in the midst of the deepest trials. The fact is, that the more painful the trials to which they are exposed on his account, the more strong and unwavering is their love to him, and their confidence in his ability to save.

35, 36. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?—This does not mean "our love to Christ," as if, Who shall hinder us from loving Christ? but "Christ's love to us," as is clear from the closing words of the chapter, which refer to the same subject. Nor would the other sense harmonize with the scope of the chapter, which is to exhibit the ample ground of the believer's confidence in Christ. "It is no ground of confidence to assert, or even to feel, that we will never forsake Christ; but it is the strongest ground of assurance to be convinced that His love will never change" [Hodge].

shall tribulation, &c.—"None of these, nor all together, how terrible soever to the flesh, are tokens of God's wrath, or the least ground for doubt of His love. From whom could such a question come better than from one who had himself for Christ's sake endured so much? (See 2Co 11:11-33; 1Co 4:10-13). The apostle says not (remarks Calvin nobly) "What," but "Who," just as if all creatures and all afflictions were so many gladiators taking arms against the Christians [Tholuck].

Who shall separate us? He continues his triumph: he does not say what, but who; though he instanceth in things, and not in persons, yet it is expressed personally, because that these things do commonly do us hurt in the improvement of persons, whether of Satan or wicked men, who are instrumental thereunto.

From the love of Christ; understand it either actively, from our love of him; or passively, from his love of us. The latter seems to be chiefly intended;

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ, or from the sense and manifestation thereof?

Shall tribulation, &c. He makes an enumeration of particular evils, of seven in number; and he begins with the lesser, and rises to the greater; placing them in order, not casually, but by choice. The word tribulation signifies any thing that presseth or pincheth us.

Or distress? The word properly signifies straitness of place, and is transferred from the body to the mind, to point out the anguish or perplexity thereof.

Or persecution; the word properly signifies a driving from place to place; banishment is implied therein, if not chiefly intended: see Matthew 10:23.

Or peril; any danger or hazard of life, in any kind whatsoever: see 2 Corinthians 11:26.

Or sword; this is put figuratively for death itself, especially violent death.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?.... By "the love of Christ" is not meant the saints' love to Christ, but his love to them; he is indeed the object of their love, and so strong is their love to him, that it can never be destroyed; for though there may be an abatement in the fervour of it, it can never be lost; yet this is never called the love of Christ: besides, the apostle is speaking not of their love to Christ, but of the love of God and Christ to them, throughout the context; and his design is, to strengthen the faith of God's people, and comfort their souls, under their various afflictions: now nothing more effectually serves such purposes, than the love of Christ; and the things here instanced in are such, as are apt to inject doubts and fears, about interest in the love of Christ, and of the love of God in Christ, as it is interpreted in some following verses: moreover, the separation here interrogated is not of Christ from us, but of us from him; whereas was it our love to Christ, which is here meant, it should rather have been put, who shall separate him from us, and not us from the love of Christ? That Christ does love the elect of God, who are the persons here spoken of, is evident from his undertaking for them, espousing their persons, assuming their nature, dying in their room and stead, paying off their debts, and redeeming their persons, by going to prepare a place for them, by interceding for them, by supplying them with all grace, and using them in the most free and familiar manner; which love of his is wonderful, matchless, and inconceivable, special and peculiar, free and undeserved, exceeding affectionate, unchangeable, durable, and for ever. This is the bond of union to Christ; and the union which is made by it is exceeding near and close; it is real; perfect, and indissoluble, nothing can separate from it: not

tribulation; or "affliction", which springs from his love, and is the fruit of it; and notwithstanding that, he rests in his love; this is not taken away, but is often sensibly enjoyed, in the midst of afflictions:

or distress; whether of body or mind; straitness in the affairs and circumstances of life, or straitness of mind, in the exercise of grace, and discharge of duty; for "though we believe not, yet he abides faithful", 2 Timothy 2:13, to his covenant and promises:

or persecution: from the world; for this is rather an evidence that Christ has loved them chosen and called them, because the world hates them:

or famine: want of the necessaries of life, as food and drink; being exposed to great hunger and thirst, which has sometimes been the lot of the dear children of God:

or nakedness; want of proper clothing, or the use of common apparel; wandering about in sheep skins and goat skins, which has been the case of some, of whom the world was not worthy, and so no proof of separation from the love of Christ:

or peril; dangers from different quarters, by different persons and ways; such as the Apostle Paul had trial of, who was highly in the love of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:26;

or sword; that is, death by the sword; which death James the brother of John died, Acts 12:13, now, though this may separate the head from the body, and separate soul and body, yet cannot separate from the love of Christ.

Who shall separate us from the love of {q} Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

(q) With which Christ loves us.

Romans 8:35 f. τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ; If this verse is to be most closely connected with Romans 8:34, τοῦ Χριστοῦ will appear the more probable reading, for there Christ is the subject throughout; but at Romans 8:28; Romans 8:31; Romans 8:39 the love of God is the determining idea, and at this point it seems to be caught up again in view of the conclusion—facts which favour the reading τοῦ θεοῦ. In any case it is the Divine love for us which is meant. With the list of troubles cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10; 2 Corinthians 11:26 f., Romans 12:10. They were those which had befallen Paul himself, and he knew that the love of God in Jesus Christ could reach and sustain the heart through them all. The quotation from Psalm 44:12 is peculiar. It exactly reproduces the LXX, even the ὅτι being simply transferred. The καθὼς implies that such experiences as those named in Romans 8:35 are in agreement with what Scripture holds out as the fortune of God’s people. Possibly the mention of the sword recalled to the Apostle’s memory the θανατούμεθα of the psalm, and suggested the quotation. The point of it, both in the psalm and in the epistle, lies in ἕνεκεν σοῦ. This is what the Psalmist could not understand. That men should suffer for sin, for infidelity to God, was intelligible enough; but he and his countrymen were suffering because of their faithfulness, and the psalm is his despairing expostulation with God. But the Apostle understood it. To suffer for Christ’s sake was to enter into the fellow-ship of Christ’s sufferings, and that is the very situation in which the love of Christ is most real, near, and sure to the soul. Cf. chap. Romans 5:3, 2 Corinthians 1:5, Colossians 1:24. Instead of despairing, he glories in tribulations.

35. Who shall separate us] He speaks in view of these amazing proofs of the grace and truth of the Father and the Son.—“Who,” not “what;” although the following words are of things, not persons. This is in harmony with the intense and vivid tone of the whole passage. Cp. John 10:28-29; “no one shall pluck them out of my hand; no one can pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”—“Us” is slightly emphatic by position: q. d., “us, thus cared for and pleaded for.”

the love of Christ] Same word as 2 Corinthians 5:14; Ephesians 3:19. It is the love of Christ for us, not ours for Him. The whole context here relates to our security through the goodness of God.—In what sense are the things now to be named viewed as “not separating” us from this love? Probably they are to be taken as so many veils or clouds between us and the (outward) manifestation of the love; things which might tempt the believer to think that his Lord had forsaken him. St Paul assures him that this cannot be really so; the separation is but seeming; the love is indissoluble.

tribulation, &c.] St Paul had indeed a right to use such language as the language of experience. See e.g. 2 Corinthians 11:23-27; 2 Timothy 3:10-12. Cp. Hebrews 11:35-38, (of the O. T. saints.)

It will not be out of place to quote from the letter of a sufferer for his faith, in the French galleys, 1739: “Having, by the grace of God, made a Christian profession, we are bound to be faithful soldiers and submit to the Lord’s will. Our chains are where He has placed them. Our persecutors think to disgrace us by putting us with malefactors; but in this we are honoured of God, who gives us cause for rejoicing that He counts us worthy to bear shame for the name of Jesus.… God has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son, that suffering with Him we may also be glorified together. Our life is hid with Christ in God; but when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory.” (Letter of M. Villevaire, in Bonnefon’s Life of B. du Plan, p. 241, Eng. Trans.)

Romans 8:35. Τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει, who shall separate us) The perpetuity of the union, for the time to come, with the love of Christ and of God, is deduced from the death of Christ, from His resurrection, His sitting at the right hand of God and His intercession, comp. ch. Romans 5:5-6; Romans 5:9-10; Hebrews 7:25. But the who is presently after explained by the enumeration [shall tribulation or distress, etc.], without an aetiology following after: from which again it is evident, that the aetiology, [assigning of the reason] must be sought for before the words, who shall separate us, in Romans 8:34 : and he says who, not what, although he subjoins [shall] affliction, etc., because personal enemies lurk under these adverse things.—τῆς ἀγαπῆς, from the love) towards us, Romans 8:37; Romans 8:39. The foundation of the impossibility of being separated from the love of Christ is love; the foundation of this confidence is love clearly perceived.—τοῦ Χριστοῦ, of Christ) The love of God is one with the love of Christ, Romans 8:39.—γυμνότης) nakedness, the want of clothing, the extreme of poverty, 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 11:27. The enumeration for the most part goes on in pairs, hunger and nakedness, etc.—κίνδυνος, peril) Hypocrites often sink under mere dangers.—ἤ μάχαιρα, or sword) an instrument of slaughter. Paul mentions the kind of death, with which he himself had been sometimes threatened, ch. Romans 16:4; Php 2:17, note. Many martyrs, who survived other tortures, were despatched with the sword, ἐτελειώθησαν [consummati sunt].

Verses 35-39. - Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (i.e. the love of Christ to us, and in the same sense "the love of God" below; cf. τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντος ἡμᾶς in ver. 37). Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (This quotation of Psalm 44:22 may be introduced as showing that such trials have ever been the lot of God's servants, and did not separate the saints of old from God.) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors (ὑπερνικῶμεν - we not only conquer in spite of them; we conquer all the more because of them; cf. Romans 5:3, etc., and Romans 8:28) through him that loved us. 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 creature, shall he able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In these two concluding verses the thought is distinctly extended from circumstances of trial to all powers, human or superhuman, that may be conceived as assaulting us through them, or in any way opposing us. But it is still adverse powers and influences, not our own failure in perseverance, that are in view. It is not necessary to define what is exactly meant by each of the expressions in these verses. Enough to say that what is meant is, that nothing whatever, in heaven or earth, or under the earth, can thwart God's good purpose for us, or separate us from his love. The following paraphrastic summary of this important chapter, free from the encumbrance of notes, may help to a clearer perception of its drift and sequence of thought: -

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