“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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 8:38–39
Knowledge of God’s creation and sovereign providence, question and answer 28 of the Heidelberg Catechism tell us, enables us to be patient in adversity and thank the Lord in all things (Job 1:20–21; 1 Thess. 5:18). But there are more benefits to knowing God’s sovereignty, namely, assurance of salvation and confidence that we will persevere in a state of grace until the end of our lives.
The Heidelberg Catechism looks to Romans 8:38–39 as a proof text for the benefits of assurance and confidence. It is easy to see why the authors of the catechism chose this passage when we consider Paul’s words in their immediate context. Following his discussion of the believer’s war against remaining sin in Romans 7, the Apostle directs us in Romans 8 to the work of Christ and our justification by faith alone to assure us of our reconciliation to the Father and to give us hope for sanctification (growth in holiness) (vv. 1–16). This faith is sovereignly worked in us by the Holy Spirit and rooted in our Creator’s sovereign predestination of His people, a predestination that also includes our glorification, the consummation of our redemption in the life to come (vv. 2, 15, 29–30). Romans 9 stresses God’s sovereignty in salvation, His right to show mercy and effect the redemption of His elect. The placement of today’s passage between the aforementioned sections of Romans shows the essential link between the Lord’s sovereign providence and the assurance that God cannot stop loving His people. Once our Father decides to set His special, salvific love on us, nothing can separate us from that love (8:38–39).
This special love is “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39), which gives us further confidence that God’s people are forever secure in His love. The Father and the Son are united in their purpose to save the elect. God the Father has loved us in Christ Jesus His Son, and He has given us to the Son. Therefore, to let anything or anyone separate us from His Son would diminish the love He has for His Son. After all, those whom the Father has gifted to His Son cannot be taken from the Son, for the perfectly loving Father would never take back His gift to His Son (John 3:35; 10:27–30). John Calvin comments, “If, then, we are through [Christ] united to God, we may be assured of the immutable and unfailing kindness of God toward us.”
When Paul says nothing can separate us from God’s love, he means that even we cannot snatch ourselves from His hand. If we have true faith, we will maintain that faith until the end. Times of doubt may arise, and it is even possible to fall into grievous sin. Yet if we belong to Christ today, we will belong to Him forever. This should encourage us to draw near to the Lord even when we feel far from Him. If we come humbly, He will not reject us.