SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
22ND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
NOVEMBER 1, 2020.
Title: “Who shall separate us from God’s love?”
Text: 35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35,37-38, ASV).
Scripture Reading: Romans 8:31-39.
When I first came to the United States for school, I met a friend who took me to his house. He showed me around and introduced me to his beautiful wife. He took me to the daycare they both owned. His wife displayed a great amount of love for him. Two years later, I ran into this friend at the neighborhood Walmart. His countenance was different. I inquired about how he was doing? He informed me that his wife left him and his wife had taken everything. She told him she did not want him anymore.
Many of us remember the story of the hymn writer, George Matheson. He was engaged to be married when it was discovered that he was going blind. The woman he was to marry broke the engagement because she did not want to be married to a blind man. It was then that he wrote that hymn, O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life l owe, That in thine ocean depths its flow May richer fuller be.
On the other hand we often hear amazing stories of love – the love of a husband for his wife, or of a wife’s love for her husband; the love of some parent for his child, or the love of some person who has stood by his friend in some special time of need. Military history gives us heroic instances where one soldier will risk his life, or actually give his life, in order to save a comrade.
But wherever we find outstanding illustrations of love, there is nothing that can begin to compare with the love that God has for His people, and this is the same love that our Lord manifested when He died for us. The Apostle Paul expressed this in Romans 8 as he was carefully explaining the bond of love between the believers and Christ. It’s the usual portion for you and I, as followers of Christ, in the carrying out of our gospel duties to run into many troubles. But that none of these troubles are able to dissolve the union between them and Christ. (v35-36). And though the troubles are many, they will not slip but will overcome, yes more than overcome. (v37). So Paul is asking, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Like a mountain climber ascending a dangerous precipice behind his guide, secured only by a rope, the Christian walks through life secured by the stout cord of God’s love. Because the way is treacherous, any believer may often slip and fall. But a disciple of Jesus Christ is secure, because every Christian is bound to God by a gracious, unchanging, eternal, and indestructible love. Who shall separate us from this love of Christ?
Paul was not speaking here about our love for Christ, but about Christ’s love for us. Our love can fluctuate, and if we look at ourselves, we can find little ground for peace. It is Christ’s love for us in which we find peace regarding our salvation.
The word “separate” is found in verse 35, and we will see it again in verse 39. It is the verb used by Paul in I Cor. 7:10, II, and in connection with divorce. So the implication here is: What can cause Christ to depart from us so that our relationship would be broken and He would love us no longer?
Paul then mentioned several things which often perplex the people of God when they may have expected different experiences when they first were saved. Paul lists about ten things that would interfere with our love for Christ. Paul asked, “Shall tribulation, anguish, or persecution, death,…? For the sake of time, let us consider one of these things, tribulation. “Tribulation” is really pressure, pressure that is caused by affliction of any kind. It may be in the circumstances of our lives, or some special trial that comes to us.
I listened to the story of a COVID 19 survival. She spent 91 days in the hospital after contracting COVID 19 on a flight from Atlanta. She had to be intubated. She was on a ventilator for 65 of those 91 days. After her release from the hospital, she is struggling with scarred lungs, liver damage, weakened muscles, and significant hair loss. She said, “I can’t even recognize myself, but I thanked Christ who died for me and I love the Lord.”
Tribulation could not separate this lady from the love of Christ because she knows the depth of Christ’s love for her and what it cost Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2). It did not cost him a few bruises, but his life. Tribulation could not separate her because she knew she did nothing to deserve it.
Perhaps you or your family member have gone through or experienced a similar situation. Perhaps you have been abused as a child, or lost your job, deprived of a husband or a wife, or other family members. It may be that you have gone through severe illness. Whatever the issues have been, Paul tells us that nothing so severe shall separate us from the love of God.
Chuck Colson told the story of a group of American prisoners of war during World War II, who were made to do hard labor in a prison camp. Each had a shovel and would dig all day, then come in and give an account of his tool in the evening. One evening 20 prisoners were lined up by the guard and the shovels were counted. The guard counted nineteen shovels and turned in rage on the 20 prisoners demanding to know which one did not bring his shovel back. No one responded. The guard took out his gun and said that he would shoot five men if the guilty prisoner did not step forward. After a moment of tense silence, a 19-year-old soldier almost the age of my daughter stepped forward with his head bowed down. The guard grabbed him, took him to the side and shot him in the head, and turned to warn the others that they better be more careful than he was. When he left, the men counted the shovels and there were 20. The guard had miscounted. And the boy had given his life for his friends.
Can you imagine the emotions that must have filled their hearts as they knelt down over his body? In the five or ten seconds of silence, the boy had weighed his whole future in the balance, a future wife, an education, a new truck, children, a career, fishing with his dad, and he chose death so that others might live. Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” To love is to choose suffering for the sake of another.
Paul wrote our text to a church that would soon go through persecution. This hypothetical situation Paul was speaking about would soon turn into painful realities. This text confirms God’s profound love for us all. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be lost to God’s love. Our suffering or uncertainties should not drive us away from God, but help us to identify with him further. It should allow his love to reach us and heal us. God bless you all.