Victories – At The Cross of Calvary

Romans 8:35-39 NLT

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither Angels nor demons, neither the present  nor the future, nor any powers, neither height , nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Let’s digest the scriptures above:

Romans 8:35 NLT                                                                                                  The next questions help seal our assurance in God. Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love for us. Then Paul lists several situations we might think could come between God and us. Paul knew from experience that these could not separate believers from God—he had already experienced them (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). This means that the love of Christ doesn’t separate us from these experiences, but that even in the most devastating of these, the love of Christ is with us.

Let’s get it deeper:

 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NLT – In Verse 23, “Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served Him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again”.

Although Paul had conceded to his opponents their Jewish heritage, he would not agree with them that they served Christ. To prove his point, Paul listed all the trials he suffered for Christ. Could his opponents, who boasted in achievements, accomplishments, and credentials, produce an even more extensive list of suffering and persecution endured for Christ’s name? Were they willing to follow Jesus’ way of the cross, His life of suffering? Were they willing to take up their crosses daily for Christ (Matthew 10:38)? Paul had suffered the hardship of imprisonment; including being whipped (Acts 16:22-24). He had faced death on a number of occasions (see Acts 14:19, when Paul was stoned by a crowd). Since this letter was written during Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 18:23–21:17), his trials weren’t over. He would experience further difficulties and humiliations for the cause of Christ (see Acts 21:30-33; 22:24-30). Paul was sacrificing his life for the Gospel, something the false teachers would never do.

In Verse 24, “Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes”.

According to the Jewish law, forty lashes was the maximum number the Jews could prescribe (Deuteronomy 25:3). The rabbis, however, would only allow thirty-nine, so that if the flogger miscounted he wouldn’t accidentally sin by administering more than forty. These beatings were carried out in the synagogues and were for either moral or religious offenses. The lashes were made of several straps of leather, sometimes with bone or metal tied to the ends to inflict more pain. In Paul’s case, the punishment would have been for preaching the Gospel, what Jews commonly considered blasphemy. He faced this five different times. None of these beatings are recorded in Acts, but the adamant opposition of the Jews to the Gospel message is recorded (Acts 13:45, 50; 14:2; 18:6, 12).

In Verse 25, “Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea”.

Only the Romans could administer beatings with rods. Yet Paul was beaten with rods at Philippi (Acts 16:22). Apparently, government officials had beaten him on two other occasions (these weren’t recorded in the book of Acts, however). At Lystra, Paul had survived being stoned (Acts 14:8-20). Sea travel was not as safe as it is today. Paul had been shipwrecked three times, and he would face another accident on his voyage to Rome (Acts 27). By this time, Paul had probably made at least eight or nine voyages; thus, given the danger of first-century sea travel, he could have certainly experienced that many disasters at sea. The fact that Paul survived twenty-four hours adrift at sea would have been considered miraculous in the first century, a sign of God’s hand on his life.

In Verse 26, “I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not”.

The sea did not present the only danger Paul faced on the many weary miles he had traveled as he took the Gospel all over the Mediterranean world. Robbers were a constant problem in the ancient world. In addition, Paul’s own people, the Jews, were trying to orchestrate his downfall. When Paul first visited Corinth, the Jews had dragged him before the governor of Achaia in order to stop him from preaching (Acts 18:12-17). The Gentiles also had opposed Paul in Philippi and in Ephesus (Acts 16:19-24; 19:23-31). Paul’s list of dangers climaxes in men who claim to be Christians but are not. His point is abundantly clear. Since he had bravely faced all sorts of dangers for Christ, he certainly would have enough courage to face those false teachers who were discrediting his authority and his name in Corinth. On past visits, Paul had not been as aggressive with those who opposed him (10:1). He was planning to confront his critics on his next visit (13:1-5).

In Verse 27, “I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm”.

In order to place his ministry beyond reproach, Paul had supported himself by working at a manual trade. Working two jobs had caused weariness, pain, and sleepless nights. Because of the low wages of itinerant laborers and the hardships of first-century travel, Paul was often hungry, thirsty, and cold. But Paul had endured all these hardships cheerfully to preach the Gospel, to tell men and women all over the Roman Empire that Jesus could save them from their sins.

In Verse 28, “Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches”.                                                                                                                                  Every day Paul thought about the spiritual health of the churches he had founded. There were so many pitfalls and traps into which a young congregation could fall. Persecution could force the church to compromise its theology; quarreling and inner strife could distract the church from its purpose; false teachers could deceive a church. Paul was concerned that the churches wouldn’t persevere in the faith. One indication of his burden was his dedication and persistence in praying for them.

 

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