What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
I. THE UNCERTAINTIES OF A NEW YEAR.
1. The new year may be a time of prosperity. If it is God's will to give us worldly prosperity and wealth, let us pray for grace and wisdom to use them aright. Prosperity has its dangers. It comes in as a separating barrier between the soul and God. Our Saviour, in one of his parables, speaks of the deceitfulness of riches, and tells us that, along with the cares of this world, it is like thorns that choke the good seed of Divine truth, so that it becomes unfruitful. Let not riches "separate us from the love of Christ."
2. The new year may be a time of trial. St. Paul felt convinced that no trials could separate him from that wondrous love. "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (vers. 35, 37). No trial, or the prospect of it, brings dismay or terror to the apostle's heart.
"Come one, come all! this rock shall fly 3. The new year may be to some of us a year of death. Philip Henry, father of Matthew Henry the commentator, used frequently to pray this prayer, "Fit us to leave or to be left." Whatever uncertainty we may feel about the earthly lot that is in store for us, whether our days may be many or few, let us make sure that we are clinging to the cross of Jesus, and then we have a safety and a security which no trials can ever shake. II. THE CERTAINTIES OF A NEW YEAR. While there is much that is uncertain about each new year, there is much also that we may with confidence expect. 1. The new year will be a time of opportunities. This is as certain as that the sun will shine, and the seasons come, and the ocean ebb and flow. Every day will bring to each of us its opportunities. Opportunities save souls. John Williams, a careless young man, was persuaded by a friend to go one sabbath evening to a place of worship, and there he heard a sermon on the words, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" That opportunity, availed of, saved his soul and led him to decide for Christ, and he became the famous missionary and martyr of Erromanga. Had he refused that invitation, rejected that opportunity, a similar opportunity might never have returned. Opportunities test character. Some one has said that "opportunities are importunities." Every opportunity appeals to us. It appeals to us to avail ourselves of it, to show what side we are on, to make our choice for time and eternity. Abraham had his opportunity when the call came to him to leave his father's house, and he used it well. It showed him to be a man of faith, a man who would do God's bidding at any cost. Joseph, Joshua, Daniel - each of these had his opportunity, and well he used it. Herod had his opportunity, and seemed to be impressed by the preaching of John the Baptist, for "he did many things, and heard him gladly;" but when the critical and testing opportunity came of making his choice, of choosing good rather than evil, he lost it. So it was with Felix and Agrippa. But let our life be dominated by the constraining influence of the love of Christ, and then the opportunities which the passing hours are sure to bring will only show more and more clearly that we are on the Lord's side. 2. The new year will be a time of duties. It is well to begin the year with a high sense of our obligations and responsibilities. Duties are a certainty which every day brings with it. There are the duties of daffy prayer and daily thanksgiving to God; the duties of parents to their children, of employers to their servants, of all Christians to those who are around them. Here, again, let every duty be discharged in the spirit of love to Christ, and there will be no uncertainty about our faithfulness. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" - C.H.I.
3. The new year may be to some of us a year of death. Philip Henry, father of Matthew Henry the commentator, used frequently to pray this prayer, "Fit us to leave or to be left." Whatever uncertainty we may feel about the earthly lot that is in store for us, whether our days may be many or few, let us make sure that we are clinging to the cross of Jesus, and then we have a safety and a security which no trials can ever shake.
II. THE CERTAINTIES OF A NEW YEAR. While there is much that is uncertain about each new year, there is much also that we may with confidence expect.
1. The new year will be a time of opportunities. This is as certain as that the sun will shine, and the seasons come, and the ocean ebb and flow. Every day will bring to each of us its opportunities. Opportunities save souls. John Williams, a careless young man, was persuaded by a friend to go one sabbath evening to a place of worship, and there he heard a sermon on the words, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" That opportunity, availed of, saved his soul and led him to decide for Christ, and he became the famous missionary and martyr of Erromanga. Had he refused that invitation, rejected that opportunity, a similar opportunity might never have returned. Opportunities test character. Some one has said that "opportunities are importunities." Every opportunity appeals to us. It appeals to us to avail ourselves of it, to show what side we are on, to make our choice for time and eternity. Abraham had his opportunity when the call came to him to leave his father's house, and he used it well. It showed him to be a man of faith, a man who would do God's bidding at any cost. Joseph, Joshua, Daniel - each of these had his opportunity, and well he used it. Herod had his opportunity, and seemed to be impressed by the preaching of John the Baptist, for "he did many things, and heard him gladly;" but when the critical and testing opportunity came of making his choice, of choosing good rather than evil, he lost it. So it was with Felix and Agrippa. But let our life be dominated by the constraining influence of the love of Christ, and then the opportunities which the passing hours are sure to bring will only show more and more clearly that we are on the Lord's side.
2. The new year will be a time of duties. It is well to begin the year with a high sense of our obligations and responsibilities. Duties are a certainty which every day brings with it. There are the duties of daffy prayer and daily thanksgiving to God; the duties of parents to their children, of employers to their servants, of all Christians to those who are around them. Here, again, let every duty be discharged in the spirit of love to Christ, and there will be no uncertainty about our faithfulness. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" - C.H.I.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?Psalm 46:7; Psalm 124:1; Psalm 118:6, 7). There are two manner of ways especially wherein God may be said to be for His servants: First, by way of allowance, God is so far said to be with His people, as He does own them and approve of them. And this again extends itself to three particulars more, wherein it is considerable: First, the persons of His servants, God is for them (Psalm 147:10, 11; Malachi 3:16). Secondly, He is for them in their principles; the doctrines, and truths, and graces which are eminent in them, and whereby they are acted and moved. These God does own them in and approve them for; whatever is of God's planting, it is of God's owning; He will maintain His own work. Thirdly, He is for them also in their practices and actions. The ways of good men as good, and as living in the power of religion, are so far forth allowed of by God. He that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men, as the apostle speaks in Romans 14:18. Secondly, God is for all true believers, not only by way of allowance, but also by way of assistance; not only to own them, but to help them, and to be useful to them for their greatest advantage. The ground hereof is laid in two particulars: First, in regard of His interest which He has in them, as they do belong unto Him; interest it does engage affection, and so consequently endeavour and assistance. Secondly, there is not only his relation, but also His covenant; persons who are confederates, they are assistant one to another. For answer hereunto we must say thus much, that God is indeed with His servants, but with these qualifications: — First, in His own time. Secondly, in His own manner. Thirdly, upon His own terms and conditions we must take in that also. And that is of faith, and repentance, and new obedience, and close walking with Him, as we may see (2 Chronicles 15:2). It holds also as to engagement; if God be with us it concerns us to be with Him, and to carry ourselves answerably towards Him we should own Him, and all that is His; it is that which He both requires and expects from us. There are two things in the world which God is especially interested in, and whatever is done for them He counts as done to Himself, His truth, and His children; goodness itself, and those who are good. Now, therefore, when we own these, and are for them, we own Him, and shall have the reward of it bestowed upon us. The second is the inference, or that which is deduced from it, in these words, "Who can be against us?" Who can be against us? What a strange question is this? Who rather cannot be against? There's none who are so likely or ready to have any against them than those who are most for God, or God for them. Let any men look after religion, and they shall be sure to have enough against them. First, who can be against us? That is, who can be rationally against us? It is not so much what any are de facto, but what they are de jure, not what they are in the thing itself, but what they ought to be, and what is fitting for them. Secondly, who can be against us? That is, who can be against us effectually. All the enmity of men, it is a limited and confined enmity, because their hearts, and hands, and affections, and endeavours, are all at God's disposing. First, Satan, the great and grand enemy of all, he shall not prevail against us. Secondly, evil men who are subservient and instrumental to Satan, they shall not prevail neither in all their attempts and endeavours in the Church. Now there is a threefold ground whereupon this truth does proceed and may be made good to us: First, from God's omnipotency. Secondly, from God's immutability; therefore those whom God is for can have none to prevail against them, because those whom He is truly for He is for them for ever. Thirdly, from God's eternity; He is one who ever continues, therefore those whom He is for, they are sure to have none against them. The third and last may be this, Who can be against us? That is, who can be safely against us? who can be against us with any convenience, or peace, or comfort, or contentment to themselves.
(Thos. Horton, D.D.)
I. THE FACT. The world will have much to say against the doctrines of grace. "But if God be for us," then we can afford to have the world against us. The plan of mercy which determines the way of salvation may surpass all human wisdom and experience, but if it be God's plan it will take effect. The method of grace by which the sinner's heart is renewed may surpass the carnal judgment. Yet if it be God's method it will work His purpose in spite of man's ridicule and unbelief. The subserviency of Providence to the purposes of redemption will work itself out, though men may be blind to the issue. Now let us apply this to our —
1. Doctrinal opinions. God is for us when our views are in accordance with the Scripture. Reason, experience, received opinions, learning and wisdom, may seem to be against us, but God is more than all. "Let God be true and every man a liar."
2. The interest and safety of attainments and privileges of the believer's state. The world has much to say upon the subject of the work of grace. There are some who resolve the facts of Christian experience into disease or deception. According to our view this work of grace is God's most beautiful and costly work. Now, if we are indeed God's workmanship, if what we call the work of grace be indeed the work of the Holy Spirit, then we may say in the view of the world's contumely and scorn, "If God be for us, who then can be against us?"
3. The believer's safety. The text does not imply the absence of danger and opposition. Both Scripture and experience teach us the contrary. The meaning is that nothing shall prevail against us (2. Chronicles 32:7, 8).
4. The interest which believers have in the plan of Providence. According to the teaching of the apostle, the entire administration of this present world is determined in the interest of Christ and His Church. Yet how strangely does it appear to be contradicted by the facts around us. How often is the cause of slavery and tyranny seen to triumph over the cause of freedom or piety! But faith, when asked, What shall we say to these things? is still ready with its reply, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
II. ITS INFLUENCE. It will produce —
1. An independence, in matters of conscience and religion, of human authority. Independence of man is necessary to a thorough dependence on God (Acts 4:19). Thus Luther, "Here I stand, I cannot recant; I rest on the Word of God. Let God see to it."
2. A spirit of patience under the pressure of trial. If God is with us, on our side, why should we faint in our minds?
3. Confidence of the final triumph of the Christian's interest, and the clearing up of all the dark clouds that rest upon the ways of God. Iniquity shall not always prevail.
(P. Strutt.)I. THE QUESTION SUPPOSES THE EXISTENCE OF A COMBINED AND POWERFUL HOSTILITY TO THE CHRISTIAN. The Bible declares this, observation confirms it, and experience demonstrates it. The believer may be compares to an individual who has thrown off allegiance to his king, has disowned his country, and refuses obedience to its laws, yet continues to dwell in the land he had renounced, and hard by the sovereign he has foresworn.
1. Satan is against us. All his force, malice, subtlety, and skill, and all his myrmidons are marshalled in opposition to the interests of the child of God.
2. The world, too, is against us. It will never forgive the act by which we broke from it. Nor can it forget that the life of the Christian is a constant and solemn rebuke of it (John 15:18, 19).
3. Our own heart is against us.
II. BUT GOD IS FOR US. It was this assurance that calmed the fears and strengthened the faith of Abraham (Genesis 15:1); Isaac (Genesis 26:24); Elisha's servant (2 Kings 6:15, 16); David (Psalm 27:1); Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:17-19); and Paul (Acts 18:9, 10). And Christ's last words were, "Lo, I am with you alway; even unto the end."
1. God must be on the side of His people since He has, in an everlasting covenant, made Himself over to be their God. There is nothing in God, in His dealings, or in His providences, but what is on the side of His people.
2. Not the Father only, but the Son of God is also on our side. Has He not amply proved it? Who, when there was no eye to pity, and no arm to Save, undertook our cause, and embarked all His grace and glory in our salvation?
3. And so of the Holy Spirit. Who quickened us when we were dead; taught us when we were ignorant, comforted us when we were distressed?
III. It may then well be asked, "WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?" The law cannot, for the Law-fulfiller has magnified and made it honourable. Justice cannot, for Jesus has met its demands, and His resurrection is a full discharge of all its claims; nor sin, nor Satan, nor men, nor suffering, nor death, since the condemnation of sin is removed, and Satan is vanquished, and the ungodly are restrained, and suffering works for good, and the sting of death is taken away. We will fear nothing, therefore, but the disobedience that grieves and the sin that offends God. Fearing this, we need fear nothing else (Isaiah 41:10). Conclusion:
1. The subject, if most consolatory to the Christian, is, in its converse, a solemn one to the unregenerate. It is an awful thing not to have God for us. And if God is not for us there is no neutral course — He must be against us.
2. Would we always have God for us? then let us aim to be for God. God deals with us His creatures by an equitable rule (Leviticus 26:27, 28).
(O. Winslow, D.D.)I. HOW GOD IS FOR US.
1. Because He hath predestinated His people to be conformed to the image of His own dear Son. "No weapon which is formed against thee shall prosper," etc.
2. He has called us. When Abraham left the land of his forefathers and went forth, not knowing whither he went, he was quite safe, because God had called him.
3. He has justified us. All the people of God are wrapped about with the righteousness of Christ, and God regards them with the same affection as that wherewith He loves His only-begotten Son.
4. He hath also glorified us, "for He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." He will also glorify us, for He hath prepared a kingdom for us from the foundation of the world. But though this brings in the context, I cannot bring out the depth of the meaning of how God is for us. He was for us before the worlds; He was for us, or else He would never have given His Son. He has been for us in many struggles — how could we have held on until now had it not been so? He is for us with all the omnipotence of His love and with all His boundless wisdom.
II. WHO ARE AGAINST US?
1. Man. How man has struggled against man! We do not in this age feel the cruelty of man to the same extent as the Reformers did, but in many cases we are misrepresented, slandered, abused, ridiculed for truth's sake. Well did Jesus say, "Beware of men." " Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." But what are they all? Suppose every man were against you, you might say, as did, "I have truth on my side, and therefore against the world I stand." Of what use was the malice of men against Martin Luther? Men are only puppets moved by God's hand; therefore be not afraid of them. Latimer greatly displeased . by his boldness in a sermon, and was ordered to make an apology on the following Sabbath. After reading his text he began: — "Hugh Latimer dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the king's most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life; therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease; but then consider well, Hugh, from whence thou comest; upon whose message thou art sent! Even by the mighty God! who is all-present, and who beholdeth all thy ways, and who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully." He then proceeded with the same sermon, but with more energy. Such courage should all God's children show when they have to do with man. Modesty is very becoming, but an ambassador of God must recollect there are other virtues besides modesty.
2. The world. This world is like a great field covered with brambles and thorns and thistles, and the Christian is continually in danger of rending his garments or cutting his feet. Luther used to say there was no love lost between him and the world, for the world hated him and he hated it no less. Care little for this world, but think much of the world to come. This poor quicksand, get off it lest it swallow thee up; but yonder rock of ages, build thou on it, and thou shalt never suffer loss.
3. The flesh, the worst of the three. We should never need to fear man nor the world if we had not this to contend with. Some have an irritable temper, others a covetous disposition. Some have to fight against levity, others against pride or despondency. But despite all this we shall one day be found without fault before the throne of God.
4. The devil. He knows our weak points, he understands how to cover up the hook with the bait; and how to take one this way and the other the opposite. But what matters the devil when we have this text. The devil is mighty, but God is almighty.
III. WHO ARE NOT AGAINST US.
1. God the Father. He cannot be against His own children.
2. God the Son. How sweetly He has been for us! The Cross says, "Christ is for you," and to-day the tenor of His plea before the throne is, "I am for you." When He shall come a second time the trumpet will ring out, "Christ is for you."
3. The Holy Spirit as the Comforter, the Illuminator, the giver of life.
4. The holy angels, who are our ministers.
5. The law of God, once our enemy, is now our friend.Conclusion: —
1. There is an opposite to all this. If God be against you, who can be for you?
2. But if God be for you, you ought to be for God. If God has espoused your cause, ought you not to espouse His?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. ITS STRENGTH This consists in the grounds on which it rests.
1. The all-sufficiency of God.
2. The covenant relationship of God to His people. "If God be for us."
3. The demonstrations of love which God has already given (ver. 32).
4. God's acquittal and acceptance of His people, as the moral Governor of men (ver. 33).
5. The completeness of Christ's mediatorial work (ver. 34).
II. ITS SPIRIT. This will be illustrated if we contemplate —
1. The circumstances under which the words are uttered. This is the language of a man who says, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."
2. The boldness of his defiance (vers. 38, 39).
3. The objects of his defiance. Death, life, angels, etc.
4. The influence it exerts. — It leads to patience in suffering, and cheerfulness in doing, the will of God.
I. VIOLENCE. Let us look at —
1. The premises of his argument. From which we gather —(1) That God is a Friend. "If God be for us." It is something to have a friend at all, i.e., one who would help us if he could: but the believer's friend is the mighty God.(2) What sort of a friend God has been. "He spared not His own Son," etc. See what a length His friendship carried Him I(3) What sort of a friend God will be. The future may be judged of from the past. "He spared not His own Son; how then shall He not with Him also freely give us all things!"
2. The conclusion — "Who can be against us?" But here occurs a difficulty. "God is for us." Most true. "None can be against us." Is that a necessary consequence? Then, again, a conclusion, though illogical, might yet be a truth. Is that the case here? "None can be against us." Why, our apostle himself speaks of "many adversaries." The seeming difficulty is unreal.(1) The true idea is that the friendship of God shall so completely protect us from all our enemies, that our interests shall be as secure as if our enemies had no existence. You know what desperate attempts were made by Satan to ruin Job; but God was for Job, and he was not ruined. For the same reason he was foiled in the case of Peter, and his messenger in the case of Paul.(2) But sometimes the mere tone of a denial implies an affirmation of the contrary. Had we heard the apostle, his exulting tone would have conveyed the meaning (ver. 28). "Who can help being for us, when God is for us?" God was for Joseph, and so were his unnatural brethren. God was for the Church; and so were the princes of the world when they slew the Lord of glory! God is for the believer; and so is Satan, who but tries his faith. God is for the dying saint; and so is death, which hastens his translation to Paradise.
II. LEGAL PROCESS BEFORE THE BAR OF GOD.
1. The first step in a legal process is to produce a charge; and so the apostle inquires, "Who shall lay anything," etc. What! have not many things, in all ages, been alleged against the righteous? No doubt. But —(1) Irrelevant charges will not do. Sometimes, e.g., the accusation has been that they have kept God's laws and proclaimed His truth. But such charges are irrelevant. They make that an offence which is a duty.(2) Nor will false charges do. Elijah was called a troubler of Israel. But the troubler of Israel was the prophet's accuser. Drunkenness was imputed to the apostles, when they were under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Disloyalty and sedition are hackneyed imputations. And so is hypocrisy. Such charges may be safely despised by the Christian. They are relevant, indeed; but they are false, and God will not listen to them.(3) Has the child of God, then, no sins? Ah, he will never deny it. What then becomes of the text? Stay; it asks, "Who" is to bring the charge? Is a fellow-sinner competent to undertake the task? No. There must be clean hands, in the first place, and a commission and warrant, in the second; and a fellow-sinner has neither the one nor the other. None but God can do it, and He never will; for they are God's elect. Their names would not have been written in heaven if God was going to appear against them.
2. The next stage is that of the verdict — Guilty, or not guilty. The apostle has already shown that there can be no charge; but, if there were one, the believer will not be convicted of it. "It is God that justifieth: who is he that condemneth?" etc. "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."(1) They cannot be condemned, when nothing is laid to their charge. But then God is just, and justice demands the punishment of sin. The charge was made, but Christ bore it. For God made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.(2) But what if no punishment followed? Was God to turn His wrath upon His own Son? Yes, "it is Christ that died" — died in thy room to expiate thy sins.(3) But was the punishment adequate — the expiation complete? If not, the believer may tremble still — he is not beyond the reach of condemnation. Christ "is risen again." But He would not be risen if He had not given justice every jot and tittle of its due.(4) But can we be sure that the sacrifice of Christ was accepted? The circumstance that the Son acted by the Father's commandment, shows that the sacrifice, if in itself complete and sufficient, must have been well-pleasing and acceptable; and to prove it beyond all doubt, Paul says, "Who is even at the right hand of God."(5) But we have not yet reached the end of the believer's guarantees, "Who also maketh intercession for us." Ye must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. And if we are ever condemned, it is Christ that will do it. But an advocate never condemns his own clients. And the apostle announces the happy issue of his advocacy when he tells us, "It is God that justifieth."
3. When a criminal process succeeds there is execution. Suppose the believer condemned, all that remained would be to inflict the punishment. Yes: but there would be an insurmountable obstacle. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" The believer's confidence has no cause to be shaken, unless he can be separated from Christ's love. In order to this —(1) You must prove that love to be nothing but a dream. But surely Christ's death is sufficient to prove its reality.(2) That love must be made to cease. It is not uncommon for the human love to fade. But Christ's love is everlasting. "Can a woman forget her sucking child," etc.(3) One way remains. Who shall prevail against the believer in spite of Christ's love? Love can do little, however great it may be in itself, if it has not corresponding power at its back. But the love of Christ has omnipotence at its command. "Shall tribulation, or distress," etc., separate? Nay. For(a) They are temporary evils.(b) The worst they can do is to separate the body from the soul for a season; but that is the indispensable and immediate preliminary to the full enjoying of the benefits of Christ's love, and therefore not a step towards our separation from it! Like the puny insects which mutilate themselves by striking with their stings, they are incapable of hurting us again.(c) The whole action and influence of these evils will be overruled for our good. Therefore, "in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us."
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