Forever Healthy (Romans 8:31-39)
Passage: Romans 8:31–8:39
The Best News Ever
October 23rd, 2011
Way of Grace Church
Listen to the following confession of someone struggling with pathophobia:
“I woke up yesterday morning with a cold. Nothing huge, really… a low-grade fever, an uncomfortable cough, some GI involvement. The kind of thing that would normally be shrugged off as an inconvenience. Instead, I flew into a daylong flurry of anxiety, because the last time I got just a little sick, things went very, very bad. Very bad. Life-support-and-health-care-proxy bad. I just don’t trust my immune system anymore. The mere thought of illness completely throws me off balance, in a way that it never did before….If I allowed myself to think, at all, I would burst into tears, just certain that I was on the verge of another life-destroying infection….Happily, this anxiety has not extended to a full-on OCD-level fear of all germs, so I’m not washing my hands for hours at a time or dipping the kids in bleach when they walk in the door. I recognize that life involves germs and I can’t avoid them. I’m just terrified when one overwhelms my immune system, because I just don’t trust those white blood cells to do what they need to do.”
Although I know nothing about the details of the “life-destroying infection” this writer mentions, an illness that apparently put this woman on life support, it's clear from her words here that even though she had been cured, she was still struggling with the fear of being sick again.
Pathophobia is the fear of disease, the fear of getting sick. Like this woman, a person might find themselves struggling with this kind of fear after a very traumatic illness.
But this morning, as we go together to God's word, I believe God wants to use His word to comfort us in the face of our fears about sickness; not physical sickness, but spiritual sickness.
II. Review: The Sick Need a Doctor
I'd like for you to turn this morning to Romans 8:31-39. Before we dig into this passage together, let me try to give you a comprehensive summary of what we've talked about so far.
Over the past few weeks, God has been teaching us about “the best news ever”. In the Bible, the word gospel literally means “good news”. Everyone likes to receive good news, don't they? What is this “good news” that God wants us to understand?
Well, the first part of the “good news” is the bad news that all of us are sick. Now, most people know something is wrong with the world, and a good number of those people know that something is wrong with them as well.
But because we don't know or won't accept what it truly means to be spiritually 'healthy', we always misdiagnose ourselves. We think that our condition will be cured by things like money or romance or success or education or freedom from physical suffering or freedom from religion or freedom from government or freedom from this or that difficult relationship or freedom from our past.
But God has given us a crystal clear diagnosis of our condition. We have been self-infected by the disease of sin. In fact, sin is both congenital (from birth) and the result of self-infection. That means no one is free from the disease of sin. All of us are sick.
What is sin? Well we were created to live in light of the fact that God is at the center of everything. We were created to think, feel, speak, and act in light of that truth. This means we were created to respond to our Creator with undivided adoration and unceasing praise. We were made for Him. That's how God made the world...until our first parents opened the door to sin.
Sin is a rejection of the truth. It is resisting the worship that God deserves. In fact, sin means we replace God with gods of our own making: success, security, sex, self (just to name a few). And how do truth-rejecting, worship-resisting, God-replacing people live? Well sin always gives birth to sins. We reject God's rules and replace them with our own rules. We live according to our broken compass.
And the consequences of this are fatal. Sin kills. It has already killed us spiritually. It will kill us physically, and one day, if nothing is done, it will kill us eternally in that place of eternal separation from God's presence that the Bible calls Hell.
But as we talked about last week, the best news ever is the reality that God has made possible a cure for our condition. But this cure is not a pill. It is a person. On a Roman cross, Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, Jesus Christ who walked among us in perfect spiritual health, Jesus Christ took the deadly consequences of our disease upon Himself. Jesus took God's fury against sin upon himself and He destroyed the power of sin through His death.
But death could not hold Jesus! Jesus died in order to destroy death and He rose again from the dead in order to give us eternal life.
So how does what Jesus did provide us with a cure? Well, God calls us to 1) admit that we are spiritually sick (that we are truth-rejecting, worship-resisting, God-replacing, transgressors of God's law... 2) admit that we cannot cure ourselves, and 3) put our trust in who Jesus is and what Jesus did on the cross and by rising from the dead.
When we do that, when we repent and believe, God actually places the healthy vital signs of Jesus in our chart. To switch from medical jargon to legal terminology, because Jesus took our guilty verdict we can be acquitted. His innocence can become our innocence.
And when our faith is in Jesus Christ, God not only frees us from the penalty of sin, but if we are in Him, He begins to heal us. After God declares us ‘healthy’ because of Christ, He then begins to make us ‘healthy’ through Christ.
And...listen to this...if all of that were not amazing enough, this cure through Christ is totally free. It is not a cure we deserve. But God offers it because of His grace. It is not a cure we can earn. God simply calls us to believe...to trust that the only thing we can do is believe that Jesus did it all.
III. The Passage: “If God is for Us…” (8:31-39)
But when we talk about the best news ever, when we talk about the news of God's free cure for our desperate condition, I think there is one more thing we need to emphasize.
Let's look together at our passage for this morning, Romans 8:31-39.
A. Who Shall Bring Any Charge Against Us? (8:31-34)
Look first at what Paul is emphasizing in verses 31-34:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
So when Paul talks about “these things” in verse 1 (“what shall we say to these things”), he is talking about God's free cure through Jesus; it's everything he has explained and emphasized, starting way back in 3:21. And God's free cure though Jesus means that God is for us, not against us. And if God is for us, then Paul is rhetorically asking, “Can anyone or anything in the universe really stand against us?”
Notice here all the legal language that Paul is using. Last week we talked about Romans 5:1 where Paul writes, “ Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Through faith in Christ, we can be acquitted before the High Court of heaven. The charges have been dropped because Jesus was condemned in our place.
And of course God's court is not the highest court in the land...it is the highest court in the universe. If God makes a ruling, it can never overturned. God's declarations stand!
Therefore no one and nothing can declare us to be guilty if God has declared us to be innocent. The devil cannot accuse and condemn us. God's law cannot condemn us. Your past cannot condemn you. No person on this earth can condemn you in God's eyes. Why? Because (v. 34) Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Do you know what that means? It means that your chart in heaven will never show any illness ever again. It means the sickness of sin will never again appear in your records. In God's eyes, you will be forever healthy because of Jesus!
B. Who Shall Separate Us from Christ’s Love (8:35-39)
But look at how Paul goes on to drive this home in verses 35-39...
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  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 8:35-39)
So here, Paul is not simply concerned with the accusations and the condemnations that cannot stand against us. Here, Paul has in mind those present realities that might shake our assurance in terms of the effectiveness of God's cure.
If “the love of Christ” (v. 35), or “the love of God in Christ Jesus” (v.39), if this love is the feeding tube by which we are receiving God's power, by which we are being made healthy like Jesus, then is there any tribulation we can face, any distress we can go through, any persecution we can experience, any famine or nakedness or danger or sword that we can be confronted with that will be able to remove that feeding tube? Paul says absolutely not!
Let's be clear. Verse 36 is there to remind us, using a quote from Psalm 44:22, that God's people have always faced these kinds of hardships. God's free cure does not guarantee us a life free of difficulties. But, as Paul points out in verse 37, in all these difficulties “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.
What does Paul mean by that? He means that not only will God help us overcome these things, but that He will actually use all of them for our God. The world's curses actually become God's blessings. He said this explicitly less than ten verses earlier in verse 28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Do you understand what this means? It means that we do not have to be pathophobic when it comes to our spiritual condition in Jesus Christ. We do not have to be afraid that the sickness of sin will come back to 'do us in'. We do not have to be afraid that God will change His mind about us. We do not have to be afraid that we will do something to mess it all up, or that some situation or some force will undo what God has done through Jesus.
Remember what verse 32 emphasized: If God gave what was most precious to Him, if God gave “his own Son” over to death in order to declare you healthy, don't you think He will in fact make you healthy? That He truly will “give [you] all things”?
If someone paid a five-hundred billion dollar ransom to rescue you from an Afghan prison, do you think they would then give you a bicycle and tell you that getting back to America is totally up to you? No way! They would ensure that your costly rescue would result in a glorious homecoming! That's exactly what God is doing for us because of Jesus.
Listen to how Paul confirms this truth in other letters he wrote:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (I Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Look at verses 38 and 39. How could Paul makes this point any clearer?
There is absolutely nothing “in all creation” that can separate us from God's love. There is nothing about death, nothing in life, no angel or demonic ruler, nothing you are presently experiencing, nothing you will experience, no power in this world, nothing in heaven or in hell...nothing that can separate us from our cure, from our healthiness, from the eternal life that has been given to us because of God's love and Jesus' sacrifice.
You see, God’s free cure is not just about forgiveness from God, but also fellowship with God…forever (as Paul put in last week in Romans 5, we have been “reconciled” to God. Because of Jesus’ death, death for the Christian becomes simply a doorway into an eternity in the presence of God, whether in heaven, or one day, in the new heavens and the new earth.
Just when you thought the best news ever could not getting any better, God affirms for us that His cure is not only free, but it is fully effective, fully final, and fully forever. Have you ever heard any news this good?
IV. Living the ‘Cured’ Life
So what does it look like? What does it look like to be cured? What does it look like to live each day in light of God’s amazing cure through Jesus Christ?
Well, let me tell you three things it should not look like:
The ‘cured’ life should not be one of paralyzing fear.
When some people received God’s cure, they are tempted in times of failure, in time of struggle, they are tempted to believe that God is just barely tolerating them. They are tempted to believe that at any moment God could cast them off or squash them. Maybe that’s how they’ve been treated by others in their life. But that’s not how God treats us.
Listen how the Apostle John addresses this. He writes: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment… (I John 4:18a)
God’s perfect love in our life, God’s love that will do His perfect work in us and through us, His love casts out this kind of paralyzing fear. Jesus has secured our acquittal. God will not change His mind. Our cure is secure. We shouldn’t be afraid.
Related to this, we can also say that the ‘cured’ life should not be one of tireless performance.
When we receive God’s cure, many of us struggle with the temptation to turn this ‘cured’ life into something that’s about us and not God. We can so easily slip into that mindset that says, “I need to be a good person, I need to do everything God wants me to do, I need to follow the rules or else He will reject me because I just don’t measure up.”
This mindset actually goes back thousands of years. It’s the mindset of pretty much every other religion. Paul had to confront this mindset in the churches of Galatia. He wrote:
Let me ask you [Galatians] only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law [by the works you can do] or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)
No, we’ve already talked about the fact that God’s cure is a free gift. We do not deserve it. That’s why God gives it in grace. And we can earn it. That’s why it can only be received by faith. The point is we can never measure up. We will never be worthy. That’s why God did what we could not do by giving His Son.
We also need to be clear that the ‘cured’ life should not be one of reckless indifference.
Sometimes, men and women who have seemingly embraced God’s cure begin to see that cure as an excuse to live recklessly in terms of sin. They might think this way about God’s forgiveness, “Wow! Now I have ‘diplomatic immunity’ from the King of heaven. My fate is secure. I can basically do what I want from here on out.”
But Paul already dealt with this twisted mindset two chapters earlier in Romans. He asked, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). You see, while Christians can, do, and will sin, while Christians will struggle with sin, sin will never come to define their lives…because God’s healing medicine is at work in us.
But when sin does come to define someone’s life, when this reckless indifference consistently characterizes a person’s thoughts, words, and actions, the genuineness of that person’s cure becomes suspicious. The Bible tells us clearly that many people will believe that they have been cured by God, but they have in fact deceived themselves.
You see, the ‘cured’ life is one of grateful assurance. That’s the very thing Paul is trying to cultivate in his readers at the end of Romans 8. Those who have received God’s cure should rest in the fact that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). We don’t live for God in order to be accepted by Him. We live for God because we are accepted by Him because of Christ, and nothing can change that.
God does use warnings about sin to sober us up, but the core motivations of the new heart that Jesus gives us are love, gratitude, and reverence. We can live for God confidently because we know that our standing with God does not depend on us. Christ has worked for us on the cross and Christ now works in us through His Spirit.
Though our world is dying from the disease of sin, though each of us is born under and self-infected by sin’s sickness, the best news ever is that God offers all of us His cure. 100% free. 100% effective. Have you received it? Are you living the ‘cured’ life? Let’s pray.