If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? - Part II
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” that Paul was referring to was the “sufferings” (Rom. 8:18), “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword” (Rom. 8:35) that we as believers encounter. “These things” also include our own “flesh” that 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 through the rest of the chapter is the reality that believers will go through times of great difficulty and trials from within and without, but that believers have been made “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
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. But just as inevitable the problems, so is the grace that comes through Christ. 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?
Recently in studies on the Reformation (AD 1517—AD 1648), I came across some information that revealed how important Romans 8:31 truly is. No doubt, it is a verse that God has used to encourage countless believers throughout church history more than we’ll ever know. I know God is using it in my life. What I discovered is that Romans 8:31 was the favorite verse of Philip Melanchthon. His name, ministry, and influence are such that most believers would not recognize him; nevertheless, he was a major influence in the great Reformation. Melanchthon was Martin Luther’s closest friend in the ministry. Luther’s personality and approach were rougher, taking on the pope himself; whereas Melanchthon was softer and gentler, yet just as much a stanchion of truth as Luther. It is said that Luther was the activist, and Melanchthon was the theologian. The five main pillars of their doctrine, as with all the true reformers, was the Five Solas:
1. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)
Because of the many people who were learning the gospel for the first time and getting saved through Luther’s ministry, the Roman Catholic Church made every attempt to stop him and anyone associated with him. Throughout all the opposition, slander, and hardships brought on by the Catholic Church, Melanchthon was Luther’s consistent encourager. When together, he would often say to Luther, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” In Melanchthon’s lectures and in his correspondence with Luther, he used Romans 8:31 more than any other verse in the Bible. He put this verse on a plaque on the wall in his study in Wittenberg, Germany, where visitors can still see it today. In his dying days, Melanchthon comforted himself often by reciting, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” With this influence that Melanchthon had on Luther theologically, it can be rightfully said that Romans 8:31 helped changed the course of history through the Reformation.
2. Sola Christo (Christ alone)
3. Sola Fide (justification by faith alone)
4. Sola Gratia (grace alone)
5. Sola Deo gloria (for the glory of God alone)
As stated in Part I of this article, it’s interesting that Paul wrote, “who” can be against us and not “what” can be against us. On a practical level, both apply. The reason why the translation is “who” is because it is 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), and even our own “weaknesses” (Rom. 8:26). Paul connected this thought with the preposition against, which means “come down on; in opposition to.” We can take courage because He is working for our benefit. This spiritual principle applies to all “who love God, to those called according to His purpose” (8:28) and those who are “justified” (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!