Prepositions matter. If you don’t believe me, consider the difference between these two sentences.
The criminal judge is with me. The criminal judge is for me.
If you received a text with that first sentence, you wouldn’t necessarily know if this was good news or bad news. Is the judge going to hand down a sentence against me? Or does their presence with me mean that finally, I’ll receive justice for a wrong done against me?
There isn’t enough information. But that’s not the case with that second sentence. If the criminal judge is for you, then you can be confident that the judge is going to act on your behalf.
Likewise, what does it mean to say, “God is with us”? Is that good news or bad news? If God is for us, then His presence is certainly good news. But if God is not for me, then His presence doesn’t necessarily signal good news for me.
This all begs the question; how do I know that God is for me? Or speaking corporately, how can we know that God is for us?
What Does it Mean for God to Be forUs?
One question that is often asked at a Super Bowl party is, “Who are you for?” It means, “Which team are you cheering for”? To be for a team means that you are rooting for your success. Is that what it means for God to be for us?
That’s not exactly what is meant. Let’s keep trying…
A friend is struggling with a cancer diagnosis they just received. In order to give her comfort, you say, “We’re going to get through this. I’m here for you. Our whole family is for you.”
In this instance, to be for her is not only to be a distant cheerleader but to be physically present to hold them up as they walk through a difficult trial in life. Is this what is meant?
We’re getting closer. But we’re still not entirely there.
Let’s go back to the judge we introduced at the beginning and fill out the story. You’ve been victimized by a bad person who also happens to be incredibly powerful. They’ve taken everything and left you vulnerable and broken.
You’ve been trying for years to get justice — but the power of this bad man seems to be far too much to overcome. Until you meet this benevolent judge, he uses all of his power to work healing and redemption on your behalf. He is for you.
Now, that’s a good picture of what we mean by God being for us. But there’s still something missing. I’ve painted us as victims needing rescue.
While that might be part of our story, it’s not entirely the truth of our story. We’re not merely broken victims, and we’re active rebels. This is what it means for God to be for us. We need to hear the story of the gospel.
How Does the Gospel Make God for Us?
Stroll all the way back to Genesis 3 and place yourself in the Garden of Eden. Listen as the serpent drops doubt into the mind of the first couple. “Did God really say? Look at that beautiful fruit tree. Would a good God keep this from you? He’s holding out on you, I say. He doesn’t want you to have what He has. No, take it, eat it, enjoy it” (v. 3).
The serpent latched onto a truth — that God is for humanity — and he twisted it. He uses God’s provision for them to his own twisted ends — surely, He wouldn’t hold out on you? Right?
And while he does this, he simultaneously casts doubt upon the goodness of God. “A good God wouldn’t withhold a good thing,” the serpent convinces them.
We believed a lie. And from that moment forward, this has become our story. God is for us, but because we’ve positioned ourselves on the side of evil, He is also against us. God is against all that is sin.
He’s against all that goes against His good creation, all that harms beauty, all that curses and mars and dismembers His beautiful creatures. And that’s all of us. We’re both those harmed and those who do the harming.
This is the picture that the Apostle Paul paints in Romans. He begins by saying that God’s wrath is upon every one of us because we’ve rejected Him (Romans 1:18-32). There’s not a single one of us who hasn’t “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The wages of sin is death, and we’ve done plenty of work to cash in this paycheck. Death is our inheritance (Romans 6:23). But God has decisively acted by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, in our place.
He swallowed up death by His death. He paid the consequence for our rebellion. And gives us His new life.
This is what Paul has been laboring to show for eight chapters. And then in Romans 8:31, he says this, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
God has decisively acted on our behalf. He has been like the judge in our story — He has used His power and His position to give life to another. But in the gospel, we aren’t harmless victims needing rescue.
We are rebels. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He has acted decisively on our behalf. And that is the main thrust of Paul’s argument in the rest of Romans 8. If God has resolved to dedicate Himself to our redemption, who is going to stop Him? Nobody.
The words of Leon Morris are worth weighing,
“We must bear in mind that it is dangerous to say confidently God is for us, as religious fanatics have shown all too plainly through the centuries in their perpetration of innumerable horrors out of an arrogant conviction that they are completely right and others are completely wrong. But it is dangerous also to avoid it. Paul has been writing about a God who, in order to bring salvation to sinners, works all things for good, foreknows them, predestines them, calls them, justifies them, and glorifies them. It would be wrong to say anything less than that that God is “for” the sinners who are the objects of such love” (The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary).
It is staggering what God has done on our behalf. He is for us simply because He decided to be for us. There was nothing in us that would cause Him to do this. But out of His great love, He decided to dedicate Himself to rescuing us. What does that look like?
How Does God Show He Is for Us?
After Paul says what he does in Romans 8:31, he asks five more rapid-fire rhetorical questions, all meant to come to the same conclusion; namely, if God is working on our behalf to bless and redeem, who can stop Him?
The answer is that nobody can keep God from doing what He intends to accomplish on our behalf. As John Stott so eloquently says it, “All the powers of hell may set themselves together against us. But they can never prevail, since God is on our side” (The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World, The Bible Speaks Today).
That next question in Romans 8:32 is powerful. If God didn’t spare Jesus, what makes you think He wouldn’t give you all things necessary to bring about your redemption? What makes you think He won’t come through for you?
No, God shows that He is for us by doing all that is necessary for us to be eternally satisfied in Him. He will ultimately silence every charge placed against us (8:33).
And the One who holds the keys to our eternity in His hands is the same One who has died for us and is at present interceding for us (8:34). How can we not then come to the conclusion that nothing will separate us from the love of God (8:35)?
Even if we are being slaughtered all the day long by our enemies, and even if it seems in the here and now that God isn’t, in fact, for us — someday, it will all be made clear.
Even these events are causing us to be shaped into the image of Christ. Even these are leading to our greatest good. In all of these things, we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (8:37).
What Does This Mean?
There is only one final question to ask of this beautiful text. Am I part of the “us”?
Throughout Romans, Paul shows who the “us” is. It’s all those who are united to Jesus Christ. It’s why he can say at Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Why? Because when we are united to Christ, we know that God is decisively for us.
Sure, we can ask other questions about election and foreknowledge and all of those other massive concepts Paul addresses in Romans. And those are important.
But the gospel is simple. God saves sinners. If you are united to Christ by grace, through faith, then you can rest assured that God is for you, and He has been from before the foundation of the world.
For further reading:
How Can I Know if I'm Right with God?
What Happens if We Need Immediate Help from God?
'If God Is For Us Who Can Be Against Us' - Bible Meaning of Romans 8:31
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