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Romans 8:35-36 states,

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

I am puzzled by Paul's reference to different dangers believers have faced as not keeping us from the love of Christ. Wouldn't the argument be a stronger case if he talked about Christ's suffering for us as a proof of His great love? How is our suffering relevant to not being separated from His love?

I have an idea of why this suffering is included, but I would like to know what you have read from other authorities on this. James Montgomery Boice's 4-vol. commentary Romans is unsatisfactory on this point.

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Wouldn't the argument be a stronger case if he talked about Christ's suffering for us as a proof of His great love?

It certainly would. That is why Paul says:

Rom 8: 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

The above statements are mind-boggling.

How is our suffering relevant to not being separated from His love?

Because, as all human beings, we live in fear of these sufferings coming upon us, which puts us in bondage. These sufferings will happen to us, but we do not need to fear them because these things will not separate us from Christ.

Having this spirit without fear goes back to being free from bondage in v15.

Rom 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

Fear of these sufferings causes us to be in slavery to vanity, and not live out the abundant life of Christ.

Rom 8: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Suffering with Him qualifies us to be glorified together. It is possible for a Christian to fail the test of suffering. That would be to lose faith in God due to our suffering.

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Paul talks about the same thing throughout the book of Hebrews.

Heb 2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

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According to verses 18-39, every situation we have to face in life has two parts. What we discover from scripture is that there is the experiential side of the situation and the non-experiential side of the situation. This is the side of the experience we cannot confirm with our five senses. There are set limits in any situation beyond which our senses cannot take us. This limitation constitutes a test of our faith, 21-25. The experiential side looks like this. We are assailed with the “present sufferings” of verse 18. We live as part of the created world, 19. We have material bodies, 23. We are plagued with weaknesses, 26. Verses 35-36 tell us that we experience death, trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword. These are things that are real and commonly experienced by all men. These are things that press down upon us and with which we can readily identify. These are things that threaten to separate us from Christ if certain representational controls are not in place.

The non-experiential side of the situation that is hidden from our senses looks like this.

The Holy Spirit helps us, 26.

The Holy Spirit intercedes for us, 27.

The reality of the workings of God which are hidden from our field of observation, 28

The foreknowledge of God, 29

The intercession of Jesus, 34

These are things that are equally real that we cannot see. These are thing that allow us to endure even dreadful human experiences without being psychologically overwhelmed. Biblical faith will not allow us to conceive of any situation strictly in terms of the experience of it. To do that is to abbreviate the situation which eliminates the half of the situation we cannot see. It cuts God out of the situation. This was what Israel did at Sinai when they demanded Aaron make a god of gold.

The experiential side of the situation is only part of the situation, and the only thing we know about the non-experiential side is what we know from faith. The only way we know that this side of the experience exists is because scripture tells is it does. We cannot see the workings of God in all things, 28. We do not experience the intercessory actions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, 26. This has been revealed to us only through revelation. What Paul is doing in verses 18-39 is presenting to us the architecture of the Christian life.

We know that Satan works on the experiential side of the situation. If you need confirmation of this fact, just read the first two chapters of Job. We also know that faith is rooted in the non-experiential side of the situation. The mind controlled by the sinful nature says, “If I cannot experience it, then it is not part of the situation.” The mind controlled by the Spirit knows better. This Spirit controlled mind has an amplified comprehension of life and behaves accordingly. When tempted to sin, the mind controlled by the Spirit looks beyond the immediate gratification of the temptation to the other side where he sees the end result. A weak faith will cancel out the non-experiential side of the situation every time. This is what happened to Abraham and Sarah when they chose to go with the Hagar option.

  Our emotions are affected by how we view a given situation. When difficult situations arise, these often produce fear, anxiety, doubt, and even cowardice. This may be normal but it does not mean the emotions cannot be managed. Emotions can be brought under control so that they do not allow the circumstances to overwhelm us. Emotions must be detached from the experience and then reattached to the amplified comprehension of the situation. In other words, our emotions must give way to our confidence in the Lord. This is uniquely a biblical principle. So, how do we do this? Paul says we do this through prayer, faith, and obedience.

    These verses are directed at the emotions because the emotions have sufficient influence to separate us from the non-experiential side of the situation and entice us to focus on the experience itself. That happens when our emotions are not stabilized, controlled, and disciplined. We are not to allow our emotions, which are created by the situation, to be controlled by the situation. When we do this, we become,

"convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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."

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Here is what St. Thomas Aquinas's Commentary on Romans ch. 8 says:

  1. Then he draws the conclusion, when he says, who then shall separate us. But because this conclusion does not seem credible to the inexperienced, he presents it in the form of a question. Hence he does three things. First, he presents the question; second, he shows the need for this question, at as it is written; third, he presents the solution, at but in all these things.

  2. This question can be derived in two ways from the foregoing. One way is this: So many and such powerful benefits have been conferred on us by God that no one can count them. Furthermore, they all tend toward one thing, namely, that we be rooted and grounded in love (Eph 3:17). Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ, i.e., the love by which we love Christ and neighbor as he commanded: a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another (John 13:34). Another way is this: God bestows great benefits on his holy ones, and when we consider them, such love of Christ burns in our hearts that nothing can quench it: many waters cannot quench love (Song 8:7).

  3. He mentions the evils which might induce one to abandon love of Christ. And first, those that refer to life; second, the one which refers to death. In regard to those which threaten us in the course of our lives, he mentions present evils and evils to come. In regard to present evils he mentions evils to be endured; second, the loss of good things. Evils to be endured can be considered in two ways. In one way as they are present in the sufferer who is afflicted by them in two ways: first, externally in the body. Hence he says, tribulation. This word is related to tribulus, a prickly herb: thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you (Gen 3:18). But the just are not overcome by them: many are the tribulations of the just, and the Lord frees them from all of these (Ps 34:19). A person is also afflicted by them internally in the form of mental anxiety, when he does not know where to go or which way to turn. In regard to this he says, or distress: I am hemmed in on every side, and I do not know what to choose (Dan 13:21). In another way, such evils can be considered as they are present in the one inflicting them. In this respect he says, or persecution, for although persecution in the strict sense would imply pursuit of someone to make him flee: if they persecute you in one city, flee to another (Matt 10:23), yet in a general sense it can mean the infliction of any injury. Many are they that persecute me and afflict me (Ps 118:157). Then he mentions the evils which consist in the removal of good things necessary for life, namely, food and clothing: if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Tim 6:8). In regard to the removal of food he says: or famine; of clothing, or nakedness: to the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad (1 Cor 4:11). In regard to future evils he adds, or danger, threatening at any moment: in danger from rivers, danger from robbers (2 Cor 11:26). In regard to death he says, or the sword: they were killed with the sword (Heb 11:37).

  4. Then when he says, as it is written, he shows the importance of this question, inasmuch as he says that all these things lie at hand to be suffered by the saints for the love of Christ. And he quotes the words of the Psalmist as though spoken by the martyrs. These words mention, first of all, the cause of the suffering: for it is not the suffering but the cause that makes the martyr, as Augustine says. Hence he says, for your sake: he who loses his life for my sake shall find it (Matt 10:39); let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed (1 Pet 4:15). One suffers for Christ by suffering not only for the faith of Christ but for any just deed done for the love of Christ: blessed are those who are persecuted for justice’s sake (Matt 5:10). Second, he mentions the severity of the suffering when he says: we are put to death, i.e., handed over to death: for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed (Esth 7:4). Third, the duration of the persecution when he says, all the day long, i.e., during the whole period of life; while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor 4:11). Fourth, the persecutor’s readiness to kill, when he says, we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered, i.e., marked to be killed in the meat market. So, too, the saints are intentionally killed: the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God (John 16:2); feed the flock doomed to slaughter (Zech 11:4).

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  • This talks about a believer's love not being quenched, and not about being separated from Christ's love: "such love of Christ burns in our hearts" and "evils which might induce one to abandon love of Christ."
    – Steve
    Apr 18 '19 at 4:05

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