If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? - Part I
In Romans 8:31, the apostle Paul made one of the most powerful statements in the Bible: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”
The “things” Paul referred to were the “sufferings” (Rom. 8:18) —“tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (Rom. 8:35) that believers in Rome were experiencing and would continue to experience in the future. “These things” also include our own “flesh,” which wars against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17) and the frailty of our abilities to do God’s will (Rom. 8:26).
Actually, the theme of Paul’s exhortation to them beginning in Romans 8:18 and throughout the rest of the chapter is the reality that believers will go through times of great difficulty and trials from within and without. But believers have been made “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (v. 37).
The truths that Paul laid out in Romans 8:18-39 apply very much to believers today. We will inevitably go through times of trial and great affliction. Those seasons of trial are unavoidable if we are going to truly follow Christ. Even if we are faithfully applying the knowledge of our identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-13) to our daily lives, problems will still come—they are inevitable—but so is the grace that comes through Christ.
Paul began with the question, “What shall we say to these things?” Paul may have used the word say in a non-literal way, but I believe it can be taken literally. To verbalize the promises of God is an expression of faith in Christ and His victory on the Cross. One of the psalms sung by Israel of old states, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Ps. 107:2), and this principle is given: if we have been redeemed, then it should come out of our mouth. Every hindrance to our walk with God, whether it comes from within or without, is an opportunity to express our faith in Christ as the solution to every adversity that comes against us.
The answer Paul gave to his question came in the form of a rhetorical question. The word if translates the Greek first class conditional particle ei, indicating a fulfilled condition. In this case, “if” can be translated as “since,” or “in view of the fact that.” The preposition for in this verse means “on behalf of; for the benefit of.” As our Father, God’s relationship to His children is that He is constantly working on behalf of and for the benefit of His children.
Even though not stated as such, this is a spiritual law to those “that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). We can take courage because God Himself, with all of His power, wisdom, and love is for us! The idea of this question or statement is this: In view of the fact that God is working on our behalf, what difference does it make who is against us?
It’s interesting that Paul wrote “who” and not “what” can be against us. On a practical level, both apply. The reason the word was translated “who” is because it’s an indefinite pronoun meaning that it can refer to a person or people. Normally, when opposition comes against the believer, it comes through a person or people, even Satan is a person. To take it a step further, the opposition can be our own flesh, which wars against the Holy Spirit within us (Gal. 5:17). It can even be our own weaknesses (Rom. 8:26). Paul connected this thought with the preposition against which means “come down on; against; in opposition to.”
We can take courage because He is working for our benefit. This spiritual principle applies to all “that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28), and those who are “justified” (Rom. 8:30). It doesn’t matter who is working against us—a person, people, Satan, our flesh, or even our own personal weaknesses—God is for us!
The legalist has a difficult time with this verse. Why? The legalist believes that God is for us because of his good works, church affiliation, or his determination. Even the preaching of the Cross or affiliation with those who do preach it, can be a subtle, self-righteous staff that we lean on as the means by which God is for us. The legalist says, “God is for me because I do.” But Paul does not give a list of do’s as the reason for God working on our behalf. It is implied in the context that the “us” Paul refers to are those who believe in Christ, His death for our sins, and His resurrection. We have a tendency to believe that God is for us when we’re doing well spiritually, at least from our own perspective.
The big questions are these: Do we believe God is for us even when we’re a mess? Do we believe God is for us when we’re confused, discouraged, and full of questions? Do we believe God is for us when there is active sin in our lives, and we’re believing in the Cross to the best of our abilities but to no avail?
The truth is that God is for us even when we’re weak, frail, and failing (although this is not a license to sin). Believer, if God was waiting on you to get your life and your problems all straightened out before He worked on your behalf, then Paul’s declaration of victory would be false. The truth still stands: Since God is standing with you and working on your behalf, then there is no person or situation that can stop God who is with you.
Know this truth, believe Him, abide in this truth, and keep going forward with Christ.