NO CONDEMNATION IN CHRIST JESUS by Octavius Winslow

"No Separation from Christ Jesus"

    For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

    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. Romans 8:38-39

    And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

This sublime chapter having opened with a strong declaration of no condemnation in Christ Jesus, it was fit that it should close with a declaration equally strong, of no separation from Christ Jesus. In passing through its rich and precious contents, our feelings have resembled those of a tourist coursing his way over an extended and magnificent landscape of varied feature and of exquisite loveliness. We have surveyed the scenery of the Christian life, from almost every point of observation, and in all its variety of form, beauty of coloring, and harmony of design. And now, having reached the loftiest summit of Christian hope, with a rapid survey of the radiant and far-reaching prospect stretching out before the eye, we will conduct our reflections to a close. It is a delightful and animating theme with which the chapter terminates. The last object it presents to the eye is JESUS. The last accents that linger on the ear are of the love of JESUS. Jesus was the beginning, and Jesus is the ending- and Jesus, in his personal glory, in his mediatorial work, in his inexhaustible fulness, in the close and tender relations which he sustains to his people, forms the sum and substance of all that intervenes between these two extremes- no condemnation, and no separation. The central figure is Christ. He is the Magnet which attracts all the affections awakened by these great and glowing truths; and he is the object around which the truths themselves closely, exclusively, and indissolubly entwine. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega- the beginning and the end- yes, Christ is all and in all. Be he all in all to our hearts!
It is of great importance that we have a clear apprehension of the Apostle's leading idea in these concluding verses. He refers to a love from which there is no separation. Of whose love does he speak? The believer's love to Christ? On the contrary- it is Christ's love to the believer. And this view of the subject makes all the difference in its influence upon our minds. What true satisfaction and real consolation, at least how small its measure, can the believer derive from a contemplation of his love to Christ? It is true, when sensible of its glow, and conscious of its power, he cannot but rejoice in any evidence, the smallest, of the work of the Holy Spirit in his soul. Yet this is not the legitimate ground of his confidence, nor the proper source of his comfort. It is Christ's love to him! And this is just the truth the Christian mind needs for its repose. To whom did Paul originally address this letter? To the saints of the early and suffering age of the Christian Church. And this truth- Christ's love to his people- would be just the truth calculated to comfort, and strengthen, and animate them. To have declared that nothing should prevail to induce them to forsake Christ, would have been but poor consolation to individuals who had witnessed many a fearful apostasy from Christ in others, and who had often detected the working of the same principle in themselves. Calling to mind the strong asseveration of Peter, "Lord, though all should forsake you yet will I not," and remembering how their Master was denied by one, and betrayed by another, and forsaken by all his disciples, their hearts would fail them. But let the Apostle allure their minds from a contemplation of their love to Christ, to a contemplation of Christ's love to them, assuring them, upon the strongest grounds, that whatever sufferings they should endure, or by whatever temptations they should be assailed, nothing should prevail to sever them from their interest in the reality, sympathy, and constancy of that love, and he has at once brought them to the most perfect repose. The affection, then, of which the Apostle speaks, is the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
The love of Christ! such is our precious theme! Of it can we ever weary? Its greatness can we ever know? Its plenitude can we fully contain? Never! Its depths cannot be fathomed, its dimensions cannot be measured. It passes knowledge. All that Jesus did for his Church was but the unfolding and expression of his love. Traveling to Bethlehem- I see love incarnate. Tracking his steps as he went about doing good- I see love laboring. Visiting the house of Bethany- I see love sympathizing. Standing by the grave of Lazarus- I see love weeping. Entering the gloomy precincts of Gethsemane- I see love sorrowing. Passing on to Calvary- I see love suffering, and bleeding, and expiring. The whole scene of his life is but an unfolding of the deep, and awesome, and precious mystery of redeeming love.
The love of the Father! Such, too, is our theme; and it is proper that with this truth the chapter should close. "The love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." The love of the Father is seen in giving us Christ, in choosing us in Christ, and in blessing us in him with all spiritual blessings. Indeed, the love of the Father is the fountain of all covenant and redemption mercy to the church. It is that river the streams whereof make glad the city of God. How anxious was Jesus to vindicate the love of the Father from all the suspicions and fears of his disciples! "I say not unto you, that I will ask the Father for you, for the Father Himself loves you." "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son." To this love we must trace all the blessings which flow to us through the channel of the cross. It is the love of God, exhibited, manifested, and seen in Christ Jesus. Christ being, not the originator, but the gift of his love; not the cause, but the exponent of it. Oh, to see a perfect equality in the Father's love with the Son's love! Then shall we be led to trace all his sweet mercies, and all his providential dealings, however trying, painful, and mysterious, to the heart of God; thus resolving all into that from where all alike flow- everlasting and unchangeable LOVE.
Now it is from this love there is no separation. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" The Apostle had challenged accusation from every foe, and condemnation from every quarter; but no accuser rose, and no condemnation was pronounced. Standing on the broad basis of Christ's finished work, and of God's full justification, his head was now lifted up in triumph above all his enemies round about. But it is possible that though in the believer's heart there is no fear of impeachment, there yet may exist the latent one of separation. The aggregate dealings of God with his church, and his individual dealings with his saints, may at times present the appearance of an alienated affection, or a lessened sympathy. The age in which this epistle was penned, was fruitful of suffering to the church of God. And if any period or any circumstances of her history boded a severance of the bond which bound her to Christ, that was the period, and those were the circumstances. But with a confidence based upon the glorious truth on which he had been descanting- the security of the Church of God in Christ- and with a persuasion inspired by the closer realization of the glory about to burst upon her view- with the most dauntless courage he exclaims- "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Let us briefly glance at each of these things which may threaten, but which cannot succeed in separating us from the love of God, and from our union with Christ.
The passage commences with "death." That there is a separating power in death, is a truth too evident and too affecting to deny. It separates the soul from the body, and man from all the pursuits and attractions of earth. "His breath goes forth, in that very day his thoughts perish." All his thoughts of ambition- his thoughts of advancement- his thoughts of a vain and Pharisaical religion- all perish in that day. What a mournful sublimity is there in this vivid description of the separating power of death over the creature! What a separating power, too, has it, as felt in the chasms it creates in human relationships! Who has not lost a friend, a second self, by the ruthless hand of death? What bright home has not been darkened, what loving heart has not been saddened, by its visitations? It separates us from the husband of our youth- from the wife of our bosom- from the child of our affections- from the friend and companion of our earlier and riper years. It comes and breaks the link that bound us so fondly and so closely to the being, whose affection, sympathy, and communion seemed essential elements of our being, whose life we were wont to regard as a part of our very existence. But there is one thing from which death cannot separate us- the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, and all the blessings which that love bestows. Death separate us! No; death unites us the more closely to those blessings, by bringing us into their more full and permanent possession. Death imparts a realization and a permanence to all the splendid and holy anticipation of the Christian. The happiest moment of his life is its last. All the glory and blessing of his existence cluster and brighten around that solemn crisis of his being. Then it is he feels how precious the privilege, and how great the distinction of being a believer in Jesus. And the day that darkens his eye to all earthly scenes, opens it upon the untold, and unimaginable, and ever- increasing glories of eternity. It is the birth day of his immortality. Then, Christian, fear not death! It cannot separate you from the Father's love, nor can it, while it tears you from an earthly bosom, wrench you from Christ's. You shall have in death, it may be, a brighter, sweeter manifestation of his love than you ever experienced in life. Jesus, the Conqueror of death, will approach and place beneath you his almighty arms, and your head upon his loving bosom. Thus encircled and pillowed, you "shall not see death," but passing through its gloomy portal shall only realize that you had actually died, from the consciousness of the joy and glory into which death had ushered you.
"Nor life." The hope of life is meant. The Apostle wrote, as we have remarked, in a peculiarly suffering era of the church- an age of fiery persecution for the Gospel's sake. Under these circumstances, life was not unfrequently offered on condition of renouncing the Gospel, and denying the Savior. This was a strong temptation to apostasy. When in full view of the rack, the cross, the stake, life- precious life, with all its sweet attraction and fond ties- was offered, and which a simple renunciation of the cross, and a single embrace of the crucifix, would purchase back; to some, weak in faith, such a temptation might be well near irresistible. But it shall not succeed in separating the suffering Christian from the love of Christ. Nor shall anything connected with life- its trials, its vicissitudes, or its temptations- dissever us from God's affection. Thus both life and death shall but confirm us in the assurance of our inalienable interest in the love of God: "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." "Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers." Of course, not good angels, but evil spirits, are here meant. And these include, not demons merely, but all evil agencies- men of the world- human governments- civil powers- all that is hostile to the spiritual interests of Christ's truth and kingdom. Such are often found either powerful engines of spiritual persecutions themselves, or else by indifference and connivance, sympathizing with, and abetting the high-handed persecutor. But no human or superhuman power shall prevail to impair the interest of God's saints in his love. Have they in a single instance done so? Has God ever forsaken his people, when the Evil Spirit has stirred up ungodly men and despotic governments to rob them of their rights, to fetter their consciences, to imprison or to slay their people? No, never! Secure in his love, no floods of enmity, no sword of persecution, shall ever displace the church of Christ. The day of her triumph over all her enemies is fast speeding on. A splendid day will that be. Her home had often been the fastness of the rock- the solitude of the mountain- the depth of the cave- the midnight gloom of the dungeon. She had often prophesied in sackcloth and in blood; at one time avowing her faith from the rack, and at another confessing the name of Jesus from amid the flames. But the day of her triumph and glory draws near. Then shall her enemies come bending unto her, and shall lick the dust of her feet. Who shall lay anything then to her charge? Silenced, and condemned, all her foes shall retire to this terrible doom, leaving her enshrined in all the glory of the Church Triumphant.
"Things present." Things temporary and transient, be they sad or joyous, pleasant or painful. Indwelling sin, temporary trial, occasional temptations, the momentary suspensions of God's realized love- none of these, or any other things present, shall separate them from Christ.
"Things to come." What human foresight can predict the future of the earthly history of the child of God? What human hand can uplift the veil that conceals the events that shall yet transpire in his history before he reaches that perfect world where there will be no future, but one eternal present? Oh, what goodness hides it from our view! But be that future what it may, shady or sunny, stormy or serene, God will stand fast to his covenant with his Church, and Christ to his union with his people. Things to come, be they more terrible than things that are past, or that are now, shall not touch their interest in the Lord's love.
"Nor height." No elevation to which he may advance them, no height of rank, or wealth, or honor, or influence, or usefulness, shall peril their place in his love. Thus it was the Lord advanced Moses, and David, and Joseph, and Gideon; but in their elevation to worldly distinction, power, and affluence, they were kept walking humbly with God- and this was the secret of their safety. "The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hind's feet, and he will make me to walk upon high places.
"Nor depth." Oh, how deep those depths may be! From the loftiest height to the lowest depth of adversity, God can bring his servant, yet love him still with an unchanged and deathless affection. But no depth of soul-distress, no depth of poverty, or suffering, or humiliation, shall disturb the repose or peril the security of a believing soul in the love of God.
"Nor any other creature." If there be any other thing or being in the wide universe that wears a threatening or unkindly aspect towards the Christian, Divine power shall restrain its force, saying to the proud waves, "Thus far shall you come, and no farther." And thus all the billows, amid which the Ark has for ages been tossed, shall but bear it gently and triumphantly onward to the Mount of God. On that mount, beloved, where now are gathering all who have the Father's name written on their foreheads, we, too, through grace, shall stand eternally extolling the LAMB, through Him, who- because he died- there is for us NO CONDEMNATION from Divine justice- and through Him, who- because he lives, there is for US NO SEPARATION from Divine love.
"Oh, when my God, my glory, brings
His white and holy train
Unto those clear and living springs
Where comes no stain
"Where all is light, and flowers, and fruit,
And joy, and rest,
Make me among them, it is my suit!
The last one and the least."