Who will separate us from the love of Christ?

by Mike Ratliff

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced 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 created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NASB) 

Probably the number one thing that I have learned while presenting the doctrines of grace is that there are people who simply will not believe nor back away from their own conception of Soteriology. For instance, I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who smirk and roll their eyes back when the topic of Persevering Grace comes up. I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser. Where in the Bible is that one?

Let’s look at some things that we do not mean when we say that God’s People are secure in their salvation through Persevering Grace. First, this doctrine does not mean that Christians are exempted from all spiritual danger just because they are Christians. Look at the passage I placed at the top of this post. All those bad things can happen to God’s people, but none of them can separate them from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Perseverance does not mean that Christians are always kept from falling into sin, just because they are Christians. This is a tough one for some people. When they sin they believe they may have lost their salvation. No, it means that they sinned. Sin is serious business and Christians should be about mortifying it, but as long as we are in these bodies we will struggle with sin. Look at Simon Peter.

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32 (NASB) 

Right after Jesus told this to Peter, he told our Lord that he would die before he would deny Him. Of course we know that Peter failed that very night by denying our Lord three times. Jesus told him that after sinning then repenting that he must strengthen his brothers (the other Apostles). So, we do sin and God uses our failures in our sanctification.

Perseverance does not mean that those who merely profess Christ without actually being born again are secure. This should be obvious. Religiosity buys us nothing. We are told in scripture to make sure we are truly saved.

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 2 Peter 1:10 (NASB) 

What a horrible thing that would be thinking that one was a sheep when all along we are actually a goat whom Christ does not know. Also, many who profess Christ are actually Satan’s seed. These are the ones who actually persecute God’s people, but believe they are serving God much like the Pharisees of Jesus and Paul’s day.

22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. Matthew 10:22 (NASB) 

As we are persecuted, perhaps even unto death, those who are genuine will endure to the end because God perseveres with them. The only genuine proof that one has been chosen by God and truly born again is his or her perseverance to the end.

Perseverance of the Saints is true because of God’s Persevering Grace. This doctrine does not say that God’s people can live as reprobates and hope to be ultimately saved. This isn’t, “Once Saved, Always Saved and we can live any way we want.” No, the ones who endure to the end as God’s genuine children are living sacrifices that have presented themselves to God, holy and acceptable as true spiritual worship.

Here are some passages that support this doctrine:

7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them. Psalms 34:7 (NASB)

3 The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB) 

40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. Jeremiah 32:40 (NASB) 

19 And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20 (NASB) 

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 (NASB) 

51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” John 6:51 (NASB) 

29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29 (NASB) 

8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NASB) 

14 knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. 2 Corinthians 4:14 (NASB)

14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 (NASB) 

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NASB) 

11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:11-13 (NASB) 

6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NASB) 

This passage tells us that God finishes what He started. Genuine Christians are undergoing God’s good work within them. What a blessing this is to know that God will preserve us and perfect us according to His will.

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30 (NASB) 

Our Lord identifies His sheep as having been given to Him by God the Father. The Father elected them and because He loved them, He gave them to the Son. These are the same sheep for whom Christ died. (John 10:15) These sheep are the objects of the atonement. Christ died exclusively for them. He took upon Himself the penalty for their sins. Then by the efficacious work of the Holy Spirit, these sheep repent and believe in response to God’s irresistible grace. These sheep not only listen to their Lord’s voice, but also follow Him.

However, this passage primarily speaks of God’s persevering grace. Just as real sheep are always in danger from predators and the consequences of their own stupidity, our Lord’s sheep are being threatened with being snatched away from salvation. However, our Lord tells us that His sheep are absolutely secure. The promise of their eternal security is emphatic here. First, He gives His sheep eternal life. This eternal life endures forever through the persevering Grace of God. Second, Jesus says that His sheep will never perish. This is speaking of eternal life not life here in the temporal. Again, this depends entirely on God’s persevering Grace. Third, Jesus said, “no one will snatch them out of my hand and no one is able to snatch them our of the Father’s hand”, which are wrapped around His own because our Lord and the Father are one.

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced 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 created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NASB) 

Who is more powerful than God? No one! What is more powerful than God? Nothing! Therefore, once we come to Christ, nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. If you count the threats to our salvation in the passage above you will see that Paul listed 17. None of them poses even the slightest threat to a genuine believer’s eternal security. Why? God’s Persevering Grace keeps them eternally secure.

Now before we close this post I want to make it clear that even though Christians are eternally secure in their salvation, this is not a promise that they will escape from suffering.

10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 (NASB) 

Believers will experience suffering. However, what is the duration of it? It can be no longer than this life. How long is this life in comparison to eternity? In eternity, this suffering here and now will be replaced by an eternal glory.

I have only scratched the surface of this very deep subject. A blog is not the best place for teaching these truths. However, the point of this was to direct you to dig for this treasure yourself. There are many good books by godly men on the doctrines of grace, but the best place to learn the truth is from God’s Word. The good books should be tools to use to direct us to God’s Word. It is the only absolute truth that we have in this sin-sick world.

Soli Deo Gloria!

4 thoughts on “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?

  1. Hi Mike. Your blog has been helpful in maturing my understanding of the Doctrines of Grace. Since Perseverance of the Saints has been a sticking point for me, I especially appreciate this particular post. I’m going to share it in my blog’s weekly curation of articles.

    Having spent 42 years in churches that avoided the issue of eternal security, I believe we need more blogs, podcasts, books and other media drawing people back to Scripture’s teaching on this topic. If churches fail to address it, people need other media to introduce them to the Perseverance of the Saints. Please know this article is incredibly necessary.

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  2. “I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser.” — I ran into someone years ago who said that.

    You quote Romans 8:35-39. That reminds me of the conversation I had with a friend several years ago. She believed that Christians could lose salvation. I quoted the Romans 8 passage to her and her response was that the Christian himself was not in the list. In other words, it would be impossible for anyone or anything to separate us from Christ EXCEPT for the Christian himself. She told me that if SHE decided to separate HERSELF from Christ, to the point of forsaking salvation, then she could do that and there’s nothing that God can do about it.

    I had another conversation with another woman. She told me that “eternal security” only means that IF the Christian makes it to Heaven, then he’s eternally secure from then on, but in the meantime, he can’t really know if he has eternal life. I asked her what John 5:24 means. It says that the believer has ETERNAL life the moment he believes the Gospel/is regenerated by the Spirit. If eternal life can be “lost,” then it’s not eternal is it? But she just kept saying that we can’t know for sure until we get to Heaven.

    These examples of unbelief are sad to contemplate.

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  3. Carol, I totally agree with you. I have encountered similar examples of unbelief. We must not back away from what the Bible says about these people. Their hearts are hard because they actually believe their salvation is in their own hands, which the Word explicitly denies.

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