For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers…
Romans 8:38 | NIV (1984) | Other Versions | Context
Romans 8:38-39 is hardly separated when referenced, as they are one long sentence of declaration of the extent of God‘s love, the extent of our faith. However due to the nature of this blog, they are separated in order for us to further dissect and analyse them individually – yet the other part of the verse will not be forgotten – 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 [Rom 8:39]. We will first focus on the first part of this verse – life and death, angels and demons, present and future, and all powers – in reference to separating us from the love of God. The next part of this study will be completed when we study Romans 8:39 one day. I’ve no intention of doing it anytime soon.
Romans 8:37 begins the declaration by saying that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. What are we conquerors of? Romans 8:38-39 elaborate on it and point out the magnitude by quantifying the extent of our natural relationship to God. Just as God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End [Rev 1:8], so is the extent of the power in our relationship with God, which he protects.
neither death nor life – There’s an old Chinese saying that insists on birth, aging and death being the three main inevitabilities of life; birth being the start of life, death being the end of it and aging being the process in between. We humans cannot control the inevitabilities that mark our physical lives, yet Paul says, we are conquerors over life and death, life and death cannot separate us from the love of our God. Death separates us from the world and our worldly possessions, death separates us from our friends and families; but it cannot separate us from the love of God. The fear of death (or the hope of life), the pain in death (or the attachment to life)- none of these can ever obstruct God‘s love for us. Not death, and certainly not this temporal and sinful life of ours.
neither angels nor demons – the NIV translation is perhaps the strangest across the various versions especially when it comes to this – most other versions render this as angels and rulers/principalities/authorities. This is perhaps the hardest to understand pair in 8:38-39. It would be odd if Paul was referring to angels as we normally know – the angels of God who are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation [Heb 1:14]. Why would they separate us from God‘s love? The angels here has thus been interpreted as evil spirits, which has at times been called the angels of the devil in the Bible [Matthew 25:41]. Whether the word demons mean demons or rulers/principalities/authorities as rendered in other translations, it’s probably the same idea. Civil governors, or stronger evil angels, unlike the angels of God who rejoice in the presence of God and minister to us, have no reason not to separate us from the love of God. But try they might, they cannot. Even the top one hundred most influential men and women in Forbes magazines won’t be able to separate us from the love of God. The most outspoken Atheist and the most established scientist – or whoever else cannot pit themselves against the will of God. Ephesians 1:21 tells us that Jesus Christ is far above all principality, and authority, and might, and lordship, and every name named, not only in this age, but also in the coming one;
neither the present nor the future – the present life, the things we fear, our current circumstances, worries, afflictions and suffering; or the things to come, whether trials or blessings, good or bad, our fears of the future, our uncertainty and doubts. It is not an excuse to say that our circumstances has led us away from God. In our afflictions God is with us, and he will, in his own way, aid us through those dark times.
nor any powers – similar to the angels or demons section. It is simple when we understand that God is the greatest power. All other powers are but minuscule in comparison to Him. Boast they might, but they cannot compare. Try they might, but they cannot separate us from the love of God. Not the power of technology. Not the power of science. Not the power of nuclear weapons. Nothing. Angels, authorities and powers are in submission to Christ [1 Peter 3:22].
For I am convinced – It’s not just a belief. Paul was convinced, because there was substantial evidences that could support his belief. It is not an ungrounded or blind belief. This declaration was made with confidence – not a worldly hope that it will one day somehow come true, but a Christian hope that knows that it is definitely true. There is no doubt in this statement. There is no room for doubts in this declaration. Even if there are doubts everything else in the world, you cannot doubt the fact that God‘s love for us is greater than anything else at all and his love is so accessible to us that nothing can obstruct us from it.
This study isn’t completed, of course – the very important analysis of the love of God that is given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ hasn’t been explored. But there have been a lot to ponder in this verse alone. Life and death, angels and demons, the present and the future – these are all really big and heavy concepts that are far too great for our daily lives. Yet these are small in comparison to the magnitude of our Lord. These are powerless in comparison to the might of our Lord. Most importantly, Paul the apostle was convinced enough to make such a bold declaration, and 2000 years later his conviction remains a testament to us today. The question is, are we convinced?
One of my favourite verses in the entire Good Book. Thank you for sharing your insight! Kim+
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