Tidings for Tuesday

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35

Today’s text, and the rest of the book of Romans, was penned by the apostle Paul around the year 60 AD, while he was visiting the Assemblies of God in the Greek city of Corinth. These are bold words, full of confidence in Christ. Paul has had plenty of experience by this time to confirm these bold words. Only six years later, Paul writes again, this time to his protege Timothy, under vastly different circumstances. No longer enjoying the warm and friendly hospitality of the Corinthian saints, Paul is now in the city to which he penned today’s text, confined to a cold and isolated prison cell, and awaiting Caesar’s invitation to attend a gruesome ceremony at the chopping block. He is disappointed that at his court appearance, none of the Christians showed up to give him their support. All of his friends and Gospel associates, other than Luke, have gone away, and in his loneliness, Paul urges Timothy to come and see him one last time. But even in his loneliness and discouragement, the old apostle finds something to rejoice in: ‘Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me… and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion’ – 2 Timothy 4:17. In the final days of his life, Paul proves the truth of his message to us today.

Paul here lists various circumstances, including those who cause those circumstances, and asks whether these can separate us from the love of Christ. It is a rhetorical question; Paul has encountered every one of these circumstances, and has known the love of Christ through them all. As we consider this great question, can we come up with circumstances greater than any on this list? Thankfully, we have not been called upon to go through all that Paul did. But we are all called upon to go through some trying circumstances. And based on Paul’s experience, we can be confident that the love of Christ will be there with us through it all.

The word ‘tribulation’ carries the meaning of being weighted down or pressured by the afflictions and trials we encounter. The distress Paul speaks of refers to being confined or squeezed with no apparent escape. Persecution has to do with the hostility we encounter from those who oppose our faith. Although we know little here about famine and nakedness, they speak of being deprived of basic needs for our faith. Peril refers to the dangers and risks to our person, our welfare, and our daily lives. The word ‘sword’ takes the peril even further, to the point of physical harm and death for our faith. And it reminds us that somewhere in our world today, dozens of dear saints are shedding their blood because they are Christians. As frightening and ominous as all of these things are, they are no match for the love of Christ!

The love of Christ refers to His love to us: precious to know, wonderful to share, and impossible to measure. – Jim MacIntosh

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