By Pastor James Burke
Monday, January 16, 2012
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (
Every time I read the whole chapter, though, I felt uncomfortable about what this verse is saying in context about the love of God. So, Christ loves me no matter what my circumstances: I get that. The next verse, however, seems to say that because Christ loves us, He has us killed all day every day. I know God sometimes expresses tough love, but is that the encouragement Paul is offering the suffering church? "Hang on, Christ loves you so much He's having you killed"?
We never doubt the eternal, sacrificial and unconditional love of Christ. Scripture attests to it repeatedly, but not in Romans 8:35. The problem comes from interpreting the genitive tou Xristou (of Christ) without comparing the context. I'm going to get a little bit technical, but I believe this is easy to follow, so stay with me.
When a genitive case (which "of Christ" is, in this verse) follows an action noun such as love, there are three possible functions it can fulfill. Only the first two would fit the grammar of this sentence, so I will leave off the third. The only clue we have to choose which function is appropriate is context. In this place, the subjective function always has been used, making "love of Christ" the subject of the sentence. In other words, Christ is the Lover, the One doing the action. There is no grammatical barrier to this usage, but does it fit the rest of the passage? Possibly, but I believe there is a better way.
The second possibility is the objective function, placing "of Christ" in the position of the direct object of love. In other words, Christ is the One receiving the love or being loved. If we were to use this function, we could translate the verse, "Who shall separate us from our love for Christ?" In other words, after discussing the brevity and insignificance of our suffering compared with the glory Christ has purchased for us, and then going on to consider the help and hope He offers through His Spirit even though we brought suffering on not only ourselves but all His creation, Paul asks, "How much do we love Him?" He then goes on in
It's interesting to compare the lists from verse 35 and
After all Christ has done for you and been for you, what would it take to separate you from your love for Christ?
Pastor James Burke spent his teen years in South East Asia with his missionary family before returning to North Carolina to earn a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Piedmont Bible College. After several years serving in youth and music ministry while also working as an international marketing coordinator, he accepted the call to pastor Grace Brethren Church in Riner, Va., and has led this church since 2003. He has a passion for practical exposition.
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