by Mike Ratliff
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37 ESV)
How often have you heard Romans 8:37 in support of the concept of a “higher Christian life?” I have heard it in that context, but I have also heard it in its proper context, which is found in the entire chapter of Romans 8. In this context we learn that it is only in the context of suffering that Christians can learn what it means to be “more than conquerors.”
I have never been physically attacked because I am a Christian. I have been ridiculed, belittled, falsely accused, branded a troublemaker, shunned, excluded, and misunderstood. I have also not been hired by a former boss of mine because I witnessed to him at lunch one day. When I worked for the F.D.I.C I was at a bank closing in Texas as the Data Manager for the closing team. They assigned me a secretary to do all of my data entry and document preparation. When we weren’t working, however, she wanted to party. I was as nice to her as I could be, but I would not stay out at the motel swimming pool with everyone else drinking beer all night because that was what was expected when people went on these trips. This caused everyone to look at me as someone who thought he was better than everyone else. I have had my writing and comments viciously attacked and smeared with the ugliest of mud. I’m sure there is more, but I have never once been in physical danger just because I’m a Christian.
I believe that we are in some sort of temporary societal phase in the USA right now where Christianity is treated like all other religions in that we don’t have to worry much about angry mobs killing us and robbing us just because we are Christians…yet. However, that is not the case in China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, The Sudan, Nigeria, India, and North Korea. I’m sure I missed some. In these and other countries there is no governmental or societal protection for Christians. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in those countries are in constant danger of abuse and attack simply because of their religion. In many Islamic and Hindu countries there are anti-conversion laws in place that can bring the death penalty for leading people to Christ. What disturbs me though is not the persecution. I get upset with American Christians who want the US government to intervene to stop the persecution. It’s not that I want Christians to be persecuted, I don’t. But, shouldn’t we be taking their cases to the throne of grace? Let’s look at what the Apostle Paul looked at as “normal” for this Christian walk.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)
In Paul’s economy, this physical life was expected to be full of evil things such as beatings, stonings, et cetera simply because one was a Christian. He wrote this passage to show us that we are to look beyond the physical. We are to see the eternal as far more important than the temporal. I am not a betting person, but I would feel very comfortable placing a bet that the vast majority of professing Christians in the USA rarely, if ever, make decisions based within an eternal perspective. However, when we do don’t we look at all of the evil things that beset us here in this life as part of the preparation for the life to come? How can we do that? Didn’t Paul just tell us that nothing can separate us from the Love of God? If that is true and He allows us to suffer horribly at the hands of evil people then we must look at the persecution as something in which He will be glorified. How is that possible? This takes us back to v37. In all of these tribulations we are more than conquerors because by His grace His people can walk through the most wicked of fires in victory into His waiting arms.
William Tyndale was murdered by evil people because of his Reformation work, the translation of the Bible into English, and for revealing the apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church. When we read of how he was betrayed and by whom it outrages us. He was kept in a dark, dank cell from which he could have easily escaped since it was in the jail keepers house. A friend of his was captured and jailed in the same place. When he realized that he was in mortal danger, he simply escaped back to England. Tyndale never attempted to get away. Instead, he ministered to his captors and their families. After his death by strangulation and burning, some of those people he ministered to during those many months in prison wrote glowingly of his grace, his integrity, his devotion to God and his concern for their Souls. He went to his death victoriously. Was God glorified by Tyndale’s life and death. Absolutely! It isn’t easy or fun reading, but I suggest that you get a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. The vast quantity of devout Christians who have died horrible deaths because of their faith is astounding. I heard a few years ago that the 20th Century was, by far, the one in which most Christians who met a martyr’s death were killed. I would not be surprised to learn that the 21st Century will easily beat it.
So, are we to be more than conquerors? I am in agreement with many of you that the end of this age is fast approaching. I have always viewed the Tribulation period as a no-holds-barred time in which there will be no restraints like we see in the USA right now against brutal persecution for being a Christian. I confess that for most of my Christian life I have assumed that society or government would be the persecutors of the True Church, but events over the last few years have revealed that the Compromised Church in the West is probably going to be from where much of the persecution comes. The division between the Remnant of Genuine Christians and the false “Christians” is growing ever wider. What is disturbing is that the Compromised Church is growing ever more powerful and its prophets are becoming superstars in the media and society.
Let us pray that we will remain faithful even in the fires of tribulation that are surely to come upon us. We must gain an eternal perspective in all things. Only God can empower us to live this way. We are told in scripture to be alert and observe the signs of the times. When the restrainer is taken away, we will surely cry out to God, “How Long O Lord?” What we must grasp and understand is, in God’s timing, the evil people in this world will be judged and we will be with our Lord for eternity.
Soli Deo Gloria!